Page images


there would nevertheless be no prohibition, either human or divine, againft my conftantly cherishing and revering thofe, who have either obtained the fame degree of glory, or are fuccefsfully labouring to obtain it. now I am fure that you with me to gratify your curiofity, and to let you know what I have been doing or am meditating to do. Hear me, my Deodati, and suffer me for a moment to speak without blushing in a more lofty ftrain. Do you afk what I am meditating? by the help of heaven, an immortality of fame. But what am I doing? TTECOU, I am letting my wings grow and preparing to fly; but my Pegafus has not yet feathers enough to foar aloft in the fields of air. I will now tell you feriously what I defign; to take chambers in one of the inns of court, where I may have the benefit of a pleasant and fhady walk; and where with a few affociates I may enjoy more comfort when I choose to stay at home, and have a more elegant fociety when I choose to go abroad. In my prefent fituation, you know in what obfcurity I am buried, and to what inconveniencies I am expofed. You fhall likewife have fome information refpecting my ftudies. I went through the perusal of the Greek authors to the time when they ceased to be Greeks; I was long employed in unravelling the obscure history of the Italians under the Lombards, Franks, and Germans, to the time when they received their liberty from Rodolphus king of Germany. From that time it will be better to read feparately the particular tranfactions of each ftate. But how are you employed? How long will you attend to your domeftic ties and forget your city connections? But unless this novercal hoftility be more inveterate than that of the Dacian or Sarmatian, you will feel it a duty to vifit me in my winter quarters. In the mean time, if you can do it without inconvenience, I will thank you to fend me Juftinian the hiftorian of Venice. I will either keep it carefully till your arrival, or if you had rather, will foon fend it back again. Adieu.

London, Sept. 23, 1637.





I AM glad to hear, my dear Bonomattai, that you are preparing new inftitutes of your native language, and have just brought the work to a conclufion. The way to fame which you have chofen is the fame as that which fome perfons of the firft genius have embraced; and your fellow-citizens feem ardently to expect that you will either illuftrate or amplify, or at least polish and methodize the labours of your predeceffors. By fuch a work you will lay your countrymen under no common obligation, which they will be ungrateful if they do not acknowledge. For I hold him to deserve the highest praise who fixes the principles, and forms the manners of a state, and makes the wisdom of his adminiftration confpicuous both at home and abroad. But I affign the fecond place to him, who endeavours by precepts and by rules to perpetuate that ftyle and idiom of fpeech and compofition which have flourished in the pureft periods of the language, and who, as it were, throws up fuch a trench around it that people may be prevented from going beyond the boundary almoft by the terrors of a Romulean prohibition. If we compare the benefits which each of these confer, we fhall find that the former alone can render the intercourse of the citizens juft and confcientious, but that the last gives that gentility, that elegance, that refinement, which are next to be defired. The one inspires lofty courage and intrepid ardour against the invafion of an enemy; the other exerts himself to annihilate that barbarifm which commits more extenfive ravages on the minds of men, which is the inteftine enemy of genius and literature, by the taste which he infpires, and the good authors which he causes to be read. Nor do I think it a matter of little moment whether the language of a people be vitiated or refined, whether


the popular idiom be erroneous or correct. This confideration was more than once found falutary at Athens. It is the opinion of Plato, that changes in the dress and habits of the citizens portend great commotions and changes in the ftate; and I am inclined to believe, that when the language in common ufe in any country becomes irregular and depraved, it is followed by their ruin or their degradation. For what do terms ufed without skill or meaning, which are at once corrupt and mifapplied, denote but a people listless, supine, and ripe for fervitude? On the contrary, we have never heard of any people or ftate which has not flourished in fome degree of profperity as long as their language has retained its elegance and its purity. Hence, my Beneditto, you may be induced to proceed in executing a work fo ufeful to your country, and may clearly fee what an honourable and permanent claim you will have to the approbation and the gratitude of your fellowcitizens. Thus much I have faid not to make you acquainted with that of which you were ignorant, but because I was perfuaded that you are more intent on ferving your country than in confidering the just title which you have to its remuneration. I will now mention the favourable opportunity which you have, if you wish to embrace it, of obliging foreigners, among whom there is no one at all confpicuous for genius or for elegance who does not make the Tuscan language his delight, and indeed confider it as an effential part of education, particularly if he be only flightly tinctured with the literature of Greece or of Rome. I who certainly have not merely wetted the tip of my lips in the stream of thofe languages, but in proportion to my years, have swallowed the moft copious draughts, can yet fometimes retire with avidity and delight to feast on Dante, Petrarch, and many others; nor has Athens itself been able to confine me to the tranfparent wave of its Iliffus, nor antient Rome to the banks of its Tiber, fo as to prevent my vifiting with delight the ftream of the Arne, and the hills of Fæfolæ. A ftranger from the shores of the fartheft ocean, I have now spent fome


days among you, and am become quite enamoured of your nation. Confider whether there were fufficient reafon for my preference, that you may more readily remember what I fo earnestly importune; that you would, for the fake of foreigners add fomething to the grammai which you have begun, and indeed almost finished, concerning the right pronunciation of the language, and made as eafy as the nature of the fubject will admit. The other critics in your language feem to this day to have had no other design than to fatisfy their own countrymen, without taking any concern about any body else. Though I think that they would have provided better for their own reputation and for the glory of the Italian language, if they had delivered their precepts in fuch a manner as if it was for the intereft of all men to learn their language. But, for all them, we might think that you Italians wished to confine your wifdom within the pomærium of the Alps. This praise therefore, which no one has anticipated, will be entirely yours immaculate and pure; nor will it be less fo if you will be at the pains to point out who may juftly claim the fecond rank of fame after the renowned chiefs of the Florentine literature; who excels in the dignity of tragedy, or the festivity and elegance of comedy; who has shown acuteness of remark or depth of reflection in his epiftles or dialogues; to whom belongs the grandeur of the hiftoric ftyle. Thus it will be eafy for the ftudent to choose the best writers in every department; and if he wishes to extend his researches farther, he will know which way to take. Among the antients you will in this refpect find Cicero and Fabius deferving of your imitation; but I know not one of your own countrymen who does. But though I think as often as I have mentioned this fubject that your courtesy and benignity have induced you to comply with my requeft, I am unwilling that thofe qualities fhould deprive you of the homage of a more polished and elaborate entreaty. For fince your fingular modefty is fo apt to depreciate your own performances; the dignity of the subject, and my refpect for you, will not fuffer me to rate them


below their worth. And it is certainly juft that he who fhows the greatest facility in complying with a request fhould not receive the lefs honour on account of his compliance. On this occafion I have employed the Latin rather than your own language, that I might in Latin confefs my imperfect acquaintance with that language which I wish you by your precepts to embellish and adorn. And I hoped that if I invoked the venerable Latian mother, hoary with years, and crowned with the respect of ages, to plead the cause of her daughter, I fhould give to my requeft a force and authority which nothing could refift. Adieu.

Florence, Sept. 10, 1638.


TO LUKE HOLSTEIN, in the Vatican at Rome.

THOUGH in my paffage through Italy, many perfons have honoured me with fingular and memorable proofs of their civility and friendship, yet on fo fhort an acquaintance I know not whether I can truly say that any one ever gave me ftronger marks of his regard than yourself. For, when I went to vifit you in the Vatican, though I was not at all known to you, except perhaps from the incidental mention of Alexander Cherion, you received me with the utmost affability and kindness. You afterwards obligingly admitted me into the Museum, you permitted me to fee the precious repofitory of literature, and many Greek MSS. adorned with your own obfervations; fome of which have never yet feen the light, but feem, like the spirits in Virgil,

In a green valley the pent spirits lay,

Impatient to behold the realms of day,

to demand the parturient labours of the prefs. Some of them you have already published, which are greedily received by the learned. You prefented me with copies of thefe on my departure. And I cannot but impute it


« PreviousContinue »