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From Blackwood's Magazine.
BENVENUTO CELLINI.

323

could be more appropriate than this occu-
pation of the halcyon years which every
laboring man seems to have a right to
before the end. We follow the calm days
of their retired leisure with a pleasant
sense of fitness. It is seemly and natural
that they should discourse to us seated in
the easy-chair of old age, which is a nat-
ural throne and pulpit; and the old man's
narrative of his youth has a tender in-
terest, a suppressed and gentle pathos,
which goes to our hearts. But it is only
a few who have this blessed and beautiful
old age. The majority of men carry their
cares with them to the very brink of the
grave, and only get rid of their burden
when the shoulders fail under it: indeed
the majority of men do not live to old age
at all, and so have neither the means nor
its seclusion and calm. Sometimes
the opportunity of giving us the benefit of
the will and all surrounding circumstances
being in favor of the intended revelation

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"ALL men of every class, who have done something creditable, ought, being trustworthy and honest men, to write their lives with their own hand," says the great artist and extraordinary personage whose name stands at the head of this page. No words more fit could be found with which to begin the discussion of a class of books which, if not altogether so valuable as Ser Benvenuto considers them, have supplied many excellent and more amusing pages to general history.. If his advice had been largely followed, it would scarcely be hyperbole to say that the world would not contain the volumes that might have been written so that we may conclude ourselves fortunate that the impulse only comes to one now and then; yet we have no doubt it comes to a great many who never get the length of autobiography. When old age arrives gently and pleasantly, when the man who has it is postponed too long, till the hand lived an active and important life finds falls powerless and the memory is insuffihimself, without much pain, and with cient to the task. Sometimes just enough many consolations of comfort, and honor, is accomplished to make us feel the exceland observance, put aside from it, and lence of the method, when the pen drops left with a long and wealthy past behind from the feeble fingers, and has to be him, and a somewhat impoverished pres- taken up by somebody who knows the ent thinly filling its place,- it is a very subject only as others know it, from outnatural impulse which bids him find side, seeing the mountains like molehills, amusement and companionship for his and upsetting the perspective of events. old age in making the great public his But yet we have a sufficiently large list of confidant, and telling his own story to the completed and finished efforts to show vague crowds whom he will never see, but their value; and it is an instructive and in whom imagination represents to him somewhat sad pleasure for the student of many an unknown friend and sympathetic human nature to watch those shadows as soul. Whatever there may be of humilia- they appear before him, each anxious to tion in the sense that he has found him- give the best account of itself, some in self, or, still worse, that others have found serene human unconsciousness thrusting him, no longer fit for the charge he has so their own little tale of events between him long held, is softened by the conscious- and the history of the world, finding their ness that he can leave behind a record of infant or their apple-tree of more impormany things worth knowing, clear up, per- tance than the convulsions of nations. haps, some historical mysteries of his Still even an apple-tree, the wonderful period, and keep the incidents of his own crop upon which so excites its owner as life alive among men. An old statesman to confuse his apprehension of the imporin his dignified retirement, an old priest tance of the greatest public event, is of in the quiet of his parsonage or his cell, use in its way as revealing that undercur an old author whose inventions are over, rent of peaceable life which streams seand who finds his experiences more inter-renely on, whatever storms may convulse esting to himself than any effort of ro- the air, and which is the real secret of the spectator feels that nothing national continuance. So long as that

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goes on unaffected, the heart of a country | frankness of his self-revelation. In both is safe though its throne should be upset these points he is as remarkable as in his a hundred times. Thus the narrowest genius, which is saying much for he domestic record widers our experience of was an admirable artist, inexhaustible in human nature, which, of all things in- fancy, and full of the truest instinct, as volved, changes least from one generation well as the most swaggering of gallants, to another; and the spectacle of its in- the fiercest of swordsmen, the most cholsensibility to the great catastrophes and eric of egotists. Involuntarily as we rush revolutions going on around, its calm per- through his stormy narrative, another severance in its own way though the pil- figure comes and stands beside us, suglars of the earth should be shaken, is as gested by the contrast, the neat and interesting and instructive as any other trim figure, in periwig and ruffles, of our part of the perennial drama. To see how English model of secret biography, the little agitated is the race even when it is demure and cunning, yet sagacious and agitated most, to listen to a soft little genial Pepys. Nothing can be more unlove-strain singing itself to all the gentle like the complaisant murmuring of his echoes under the very horrors and fierce own peccadilloes to his own bosom, of excitements of the French Revolution, that most graphic and subtle commentaand to know that the least misadventure tor, his half-amused yet half-remorseful of his son Tom was more important to a confessions, all under strictest lock and village chronicler than the tragic exit of key, than the dashing strut and brag of "the martyr Charles " or the coming of the Florentine, whose passions, both of vio"the hero William," are curious revela- lence and love, are set before us without a tions; but they fill up - better even than thought of apology or any consciousness those narratives of the back stairs and of offence, and who professedly intends records of all the underplots that influ- for the public eye the astounding record ence a great event, to which the world is of a life spent in brawls and turmoils, in so much addicted the full and catho- which his hand was against every man, lic story of human life. Thus, whether it and his own capricious liking the sole rule is the exciting recollections of one who of his conduct. It is the air of reality has been involved in imperial events, and about both men which brings them toholds the clue of historical secrets, or the gether in our fancy, - Pepys, with his leer calm narrative of the rustic, over whose of demure hypocrisy outside, and unhead these events have passed without abashed self-knowledge within; and Benever disturbing his honest rest, every per- venuto, with his unbounded vanity, his hot sonal experience adds to our knowledge. temper, his brag and bluster, as true to Manners and customs alter, governments the fashion of the fierce citizen-artist of are turned upside down, laws are modified the Middle Ages in turbulent Italy, as the or overthrown, but man remains the same other is to that of the judicious and wary from age to age. And there is no better official standing between a licentious court way of recognizing ourselves as brothers and a still partially Puritanical public, and across the continents and centuries than doing his best to serve God and Mamby those individual chronicles which carry mon, with a half-humorous consciousness the chain of kindred feeling from one gen- of the difficulties of that undertaking. eration to another without any material Both men are perfectly frank; to both, change. their own interests and pleasures are supreme; and both have a sense of what is best, in their own way at least, Pepys being invariably honest, and a supporter of honesty, in the most corrupt of ages; while all Benvenuto's virulence of temper and sense of personal superiority never blind him to excellence in art. But we need not follow a comparison which is not

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When we begin our series with such a bizarre figure as that of Benvenuto Cellini, we strain this link of human resemblance almost as far as it can be strained

for to tell the truth, there are not many like him, either in the stormy self-sufficiency of his nature, or the undaunted

so much a comparison as a contrast. For | while, on the other hand, he is as willing while Pepys speaks under his breath, with to work the guns of St. Angelo as to man. traditional finger on his lip, with an age the fine tools of the goldsmith, has alarmed enjoyment of his own candor, yet his hand on his sword at every suspicion mischievous delight in the thought that it of offence, and finds his natural place in can never be profitable to anybody else, every commotion, public or private. How Benvenuto's determination is to proclaim he contrived during this storm of existeverything, so that even the deaf may ence to execute so much fine, delicate, and hear, and nobody suppose that he is not elaborate work, is a problem most difficult ready to stand to any one of his actions. to solve. His art is precisely that which Not a word that is sotto voce comes from we should imagine to have most urgently his hasty lips; his artifices are as frankly demanded unbounded quiet, protection, set forth as his amours, and his murders and peace; but he never rested, quarrelled are accomplished in an open-handed and with every patron he ever had, found matter-of-course way, with which con- rivals and enemies wherever he went, and science evidently has nothing to do. He made them where he had them not, yet neither considers himself blamable, nor all the while went on elaborating the finest expects to be so considered by others, on and minutest work, doubling the value of account of a rival stabbed or a light love the precious metals in which he worked, superseded. These are the customs of making of a salt-cellar a prize for which his time, with which no code of morals princes contended; though all the while has anything to do. What he gives us is a flinging out and in of these same princes' record, not a justification, far less an apol- audience chambers, too touchy to be cenogy, for conduct in which there is nothing sured, too hasty to be guided- a very to be ashamed of so far as he is aware, tempest of a man. This combination of but rather a great deal to applaud, since endless industry with perpetual interruphis always prompt and ready action proves tions seems the test of the capacity of the him a man who never loses an opportu. mediæval artist. Perhaps in strict point nity, never spares an opponent, or relin- of date we are wrong in applying this quishes a pleasure. title to the favorite workman of the advanced Renaissance; but Benvenuto, though he had the advantage of classic models and the new spirit, is in himself as much a man of the Middle Ages as if he had lived two centuries earlier. And though dukes were necessary to his trade, and luxury the very breath of his artist being, yet wherever he went in the pope's chapel or in the French king's gay and splendid court — he was always the same high-handed Florentine, arrogant and dauntless, who might have headed a tumult in the days of the Bianchi and Neri, or brawled in a Parlamento, or schemed and struggled with the fuorusciti. We cannot say that the character is an amiable or even an upright one, but its force and picturesque tumultuous energy are not to be gainsaid.

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The picture of his time which he sets before us is of the most animated description. It is full of kings and emperors, and reigning dukes and princes the pope himself in all his impious grandeur, with his train of sons and parasites, sweeping by times across the scene; and in the busy streets a swarm of lesser men -painters, goldsmiths, artificers of every kind, even the carpenter singing at his work; but in the front of all, and making even popes and emperors subordinate to his restless, daring personality, this same Benvenuto, the greatest genius in his way, the readiest hand, the keenest tongue,

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In every deed or good or ill, fearing neither cardinal nor bravo. Noth- And this rapidity and precipitate force ing is extenuate in the bold record. He of life are all the more remarkable that is ready to answer Pope Paul himself, and Benvenuto wrote not in the fire of his to rate the great Francis, and to tell the youth, but when years had whitened his Medici that they know nothing of art; | head if not subdued his spirit. He him

self lays it down as a rule that those | Giovanni's heart. When the youth's senwho follow his advice as to writing their timents became known, "as the two own lives should not take up "this fine fathers, from their close neighborhood, enterprise" till they have passed the age of forty. He himself was "approaching fifty-eight," when, "being in Florence, my native place, and contemplating the contrarieties that happen to all," at a moment when he felt himself more free from those contrarieties than he had ever been before, and blessed with more "content of mind and vigor of body" than he had ever known, he set about the composition of his memoirs. But it is evident that he was one of those who never grow old; and the narrative of his declining years is still hot and hasty, with all the force of youth.

The beginning of the story is very characteristic. "Although," he says, "such men as have by their endeavors given assurance of the valor that is in them, ought to be satisfied with being generally known and recognized as men of merit, yet we ought at the same time to do as others do; and as the curiosity of the world directs itself to certain points, the first of which is to know whether we derive our blood from persons of ancient and virtuous descent, I am Benvenuto Cellini, son of Giovanni, of Andrea, of Cristofano Cellini"-and so forth through many generations. Whether we are intended to conclude that the Roman officer Florentius of Cellino, after whom, he declares, Julius Cæsar named the city of Florence, was a direct ancestor, is not quite apparent; but as this hero is brought into the story without rhyme or reason, it may be permitted to us to believe that this is the purpose of his introduction. Enough, however, for all reasonable uses are the three generations of immediate progenitors, who are more easily identified." Cristofano, the first of these, was sent to Florence by his family from the Val d'Ambra, in consequence of a quarrel between him and the son of a neighboring house, which threatened to involve both families. The blood of Cellini thus came hot to Florence, with all the choleric quality which descended to Cristofano's great-grandson. Giovanni, the father of Benvenuto, seems to have been of milder mould. He was a great musician, a good artist, and a disinterested lover, as the following pretty story proves. Next door to the Cellini in Via Chiara, vicino a muro, wall to wall, lived a certain Stefano Granacci, with many fair daughters, and among them one, Elisabetta by name, who took young

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know each other well, it was easy to, conclude the alliance;" but first there was a conversation about the dot- that most necessary preliminary. Ser Andrea, on the one side, boasted of his son that he was the best youth in all Florence nay. in Italy - and worthy of the best-dowered bride; to which Ser Stefano replied, with amiable yet slightly sarcastic acquiescence, "Thou art right a thousand times; but I have five girls, and many sons besides; and, reckoning all things, this and that is as far as I can go." Young Giovanni, with the impatience of a lover, had been listening unseen; and, mild as he was for a Cellini, he was not without something of the family vivacity. sprang out of his hiding-place while the old men talked, and broke in upon their negotiations. "Oh, my father," he cried, "it is the girl I love and long for, and not their money. Woe to him who would make himself with his wife's fortune! If it is true, as you have boasted, that I am good for something, cannot I provide for my wife and satisfy her needs with less money than you ask? I give you to wit that it is the girl that is my desire, and the money yours." At this Andrea, who was "a little odd," un po' bizzarretto, like the rest of them, drew back in high dudgeon. "But a few days after, Giovanni brought home his bride, and asked no fortune with her." This way of making a marriage was no doubt deeply ridiculous, not to say wicked, to the two keen old Florentines, whom one can see in their doorways in the cool of the evening, settling down to a comfortable struggle over the settlements, so to speak, when the hotheaded youngster broke in with his folly, thinking of nothing but Elisabetta. Ser Andrea, the bizzarretto, choleric like his race, flings off in a fury; but Stefano, more wise, seeing his own advantage, laughs in his sleeve, and lets the young couple have their way. With five girls to provide for, he was no doubt well pleased to marry one without a dot; and thus a world of warm human passion, generous love, and hot temper, and wary calculation comes out before us at a word.

In an equally pretty scene the name of the great Benvenuto is accounted for. Madonna Elisabetta had no children for eighteen years, though very desirous of that doubtful blessing. After that time they came in quick succession. Her eldest child was a girl, and by various

signs she had made up her mind that the | making a musician of his boy-who was second would be a girl too. The very taught to play the flute and to sing from name was decided upon. She was to be his earliest years, though much against Reparata, per rifare la madre di mia the urchin's will. Giovanni himself bemadre. The nurse, however,

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came one of the band of the Signoria, until he was withdrawn from it by his who knew that they looked for a girl, when patron, Lorenzo de' Medici, who thought she had washed the creatura and wrapped it in he gave too much of his time to this art, beautiful white clothes, came softly (cheta cheta) and neglected his other gifts. "The to Giovanni, my father, and said, "I bring a beautiful present which you don't expect. "greatest desire he had in the world conMy father, who was a true philosopher, was Cerning me," says Benvenuto, pacing about the room; he said, "Whatever I should become a great musician, and God sends me is always dear to me," and, the greatest annoyance that I had was opening the coverings, saw the unexpected when he talked to me on this subject, boy; then, joining his palms, he raised them saying that if I would, I had so much and his eyes to God, and said, "Lord, I thank talent for it, I should be the first man thee with all my heart. This one is very dear in the world." Then follows a curious to me, and very welcome (è sia il Benvenuto)." little scene, in which old Florence once All who were present joyfully asked him what name he would give me. Giovanni made them more opens before us. Great things were no answer but this, "E sia il Benvenuto;" and going on then, of which the son of the this accordingly was the name given me in architect-musician gives no sign. Savonholy baptism, and which I have lived to bear arola from San Marco was keeping the with the grace of God. city in holy subjection, quando Piero ne fu cacciato, at the time when Piero, the son of Lorenzo de' Medici, was driven out of Florence. The great Dominican might but just have gone out of the hall in the palace of the Signoria when Giovanni, with his little boy on his shoulder, went in with the band, to play before the new dignitaries who had succeeded Piero. The Medici ruler had been succeeded by the Magnifico Piero Soderini, "who knew the marvellous genius of my father." Benvenuto says:

Benvenuto does not dwell much upon his childhood; but one incident of it is often quoted. "When I was about five," he says, "my father was in a little room where the great wash had been going on, and where there was a good fire of oak wood. Giovanni, with a violin on his arm, was playing and singing, according to his custom, beside the fire. It was very cold, and looking at the fire he saw by accident in the midst of the hottest glow a little animal like a lizard playing in the flames. As soon as he perceived what it was, he called my sister and me, and showing it to us children, gave me a great cuff, at which I immediately began to cry. He soothed me gently, saying to me, My dear little son, I have done this not for a punishment, but to make thee remember that this lizard thou hast seen in the fire is a salamander, which has never been seen by any one before, so far as can be known with certainty;' and saying this, he kissed me and gave me a few pennies." This wonderful story is not supported by any further testimony, and must be

taken on Benvenuto's word.

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The excellent father, who thus lost no opportunity of instructing his child, was not only excellent in architecture, which was his hereditary profession, but also a great musician and maker of musical instruments. My father made organs with wonderful pipes of wood, and cymbals, the best and most beautiful that had ever been seen, violins, lutes, and beautiful harps." It was not wonderful, then, that he should have set his heart upon

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At this time I was of tender years, and my father carried me in on his shoulder, and made me play the flute and take soprano parts with the musicians of the palace, before the Signoria, with a little badge round my neck. The Gonfaloniere, who was the said Soderini, took great pleasure in hearing me chatter, and gave me sweetmeats, and said to my father, "Messer Giovanni, teach him your other beautiful arts as well as music." To which my father replied, "I do not wish him to do anything but sion I believe I can make him the first in the play and compose music; for in that profesworld, if God spares him." To these words one of the old Signori replied, "Ah, Messer Giovanni, do what the Gonfaloniere bids you. Why should he never be anything better than a fiddler ?" When these words were told to me, I entreated my father to allow me to draw so many hours a day, and all the rest I "Then playing is would play to satisfy him. no pleasure to thee?" he said. To which I answered no, since it appeared to me a vile art in comparison with that which I had in my head. My good father, in despair, put me into the shop of the father of the Cavaliere Bandinello, a goldsmith in Pinzi di Monte; but when I had been there a few days, he

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