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fashionable opera there was, as he himself relates, founded on the loves of Cæsar and Scipio for the daughter of the great suicide of Utica. The philosophic hero killed himself in his library, in which, among other books, were his own biography, by Plutarch, and Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata. Addison laughed, with his usual graceful pleasantry, at these anachronisms of the Venetian Cato of Zeno or others, both in his Travels, and more at length in the Spectator. But it is not the less true, that, very shorly after, the London Cato delivered his stoic philosophy on the stage, dressed in a bag wig and sword. Thus it is that the most eminent writers are obliged to tolerate, and even to introduce into their works, at home, absurdities which they would deride without mercy, if they met with them in a foreign country.
Addison, however, unquestionably contributed to reform the taste of succeeding ages, and to infuse a more refined and a more classical sentiment of civil life and of liberty. But that spirit of freedom, which he lamented to find extinct and forgotten in Italy, was still deep, active, and (as far as times would permit,) courageous, in the hearts and in the actions of many, whom he either had not the inclination, or the good fortune, to know. Apostolo Zeno bequeathed to Italy, especially in all subjects connected with her literary history, an infinite number of minute but authentic facts, dug out of a mass of errors and prejudices, which he had the sagacity to detect and to dissipate. The Church of Rome had then, as ever, her champions; and an antiquarian archbishop, still known under the name of Monsignor Fontanini, traversed Italy with an air of authority, publishing books intended to prove the authenticity of the legends of miracles, and to confute every ancient writer who had spoken the truth. If it had depended on him, all the antiquarians who opposed him would, without doubt, have been sent to an auto-di-fè, since the conclusion of all the learned prelate’s arguments in these controversies is, that his opponents are heretics and atheists; an argument which has been in use from the remotest ages, down to the present day, and always with more or less efficacy, in the hands of any man of any nation, who is endowed with the requisite ferocious hypocrisy to avail himself of it.
A work of Apostolo Zeno's,* more consulted and quoted than read, at once annihilated the sophisms of the persecuting archbishop, and overthrew all his claims to reputation as an authority in matters of literature or erudition. The author, however, left the publication to his heirs, when death should
* Bibliotica del eloquenza di Giusto Fontanini, Arcivescovo d'Ancira, con le anotazione di Apostolo Zeno. Venezia, MDCCLIII.
have put him out of the reach of the arguments of the Holy Inquisition, which are unanswerable. Zeno's most esteemed work is entitled Dissertazioni possiane. They are illustrative of the lives and literary merits of the Roman Historians. His criticisms are of a totally different character from those, on the same subject, of Bayle and others, who plunge into the deepest obscurity and lengthiness; their object being, not to make discoveries, but to exercise their mental strength in endless investigation; and their pleasure, rather the confutation of error than the establishment of truth. Zeno, on the contrary, carries on his disquisitions just so long as is necessary to disentangle some fact, which, though irrelevant to the matter in hand, acquires great importance in his eyes from being positive and undeniable. Few, consequently, of his decisions have ever been questioned up to the present time.
The Italian literature of that day exhibited a singular phenomenon, which has never been noticed. A great many men devoted themselves to the study of pictures, statues, and buildings :-others composed histories, harangues, and sermons, or verses and rhymes, by thousands; yet there was neither real poetry, nor real eloquence, nor excellence in the fine arts. To find them, it was necessary to go back more than a century, to the age of Michael Angelo, Machiavelli, and Tasso. The sciences were in a somewhat better state, but not much; they had advanced but by one step,—the step made by the great Galileo. The Spanish domination, during the latter half of the sixteenth century, had filled Italy with the perverted taste of the concettisti ; and the preponderance of French literature, during the first half of the century following, introduced the over-refinements and fastidious laws, by means of which criticism becomes a bondage to the man of genius, who must always, in some degree, conform to the tastes and opinions of the times for which he writes. The literary language of the nation was barbarized and inflated; and those who endeavoured to repolish it, by study and by rules, rendered it timid, cold, and nerveless. Traditional fame, which is of extensive, lasting, and most powerful authority, has preserved, in high credit, the names of Filicaja and Guidi. Mr. Matthias, in this country, became their editor, illustrator, and imitator, at a time when, in Italy, they were already consigned to that post of respectable reputation to which they were fairly entitled. In the same manner, the English, on the Continent, almost always hear Richardson cried up as the first of novellists, and Young as the greatest of poets. The names of Guidi and Filicaja enjoyed that sort of pre-eminence in Italy, in their day, now enjoyed by Byron in the whole of Europe; with this difference, that Byron raised himself, like the youthful Achilles, above the crowd of tried warriors by whom he was surrounded; while Filicaja and Guidi, and a few others of less reputation but equal merit, had no competitors around them but men of moderate talents ; academicians, whose eternal business it was to recite sonnets, madrigals, and pastoral eclogues, and critics who composed volumes of dissertations on every line of this miserable and wordy trifling.
To shew the state of poetry and literature in general, in Italy, it is sufficient to state the fact, that few even mentioned Dante, and fewer still read him; and that the latest edition then known was more than a century old. Yet, even then, did the writers on antiquarian learning explore new mines of knowledge, and accumulate treasures of materials for history; and that, not so much for any fame they could reap from them, as for the sake of leaving them to those writers who might, hereafter, avail themselves of any part of these hoards to acquire popularity. Yet we must not, therefore, presume that they were indifferent to the applauses obtained by lighter literature. Some of them sought, and obtained, readers and admirers of their poetry, which, in a later age, has become the object of ridicule, and left them to enjoy the venerable reputation of writers of those huge volumes of historical criticism, to be found in the libraries of all learned bodies. In their day, however, they passed for excellent poets. The fame of Maffei's “ Merope”: made more noise in Europe than the contemporaneous tragedy of Cato, by Addison. The names of both of them are now ominous to the stage, and Merope has this greater demerit, that it cannot be quoted as a model either of versification or of style. Yet, in its day, it excited the jealousy of Voltaire, who not only wrote a rival tragedy on the same subject, but criticised it with his usual acuteness, and with those tricks of a crooked policy, unworthy of a second-rate littérateur. He wrote, under a feigned name, a severe, but just critique of Maffei's tragedy ; then wrote a reply in his own name, in which he undertakes to confute rather the severity than the justice of the anonymous critic. All these circumstances are now forgotten, and the “Merope” is never mentioned except in Verona, which happens to be Maffei's native city, and which raised a statue to him while yet living; and richly he deserved it. He illustrated the Roman antiquities, and the history of that city with true genius. He built a museum with the munificence of a prince, and the elegance of a classical artist; he furnished it with antiquities and inscriptions, chosen with the profoundest antiquarian learning. In this department of literature, his reputation lives and reigns among scholars; so that Porson, the greatest of their body, when treating of the authenticity of
medals and interpretations of remains of antiquity, refers to the authority of Maffei as infallible.
Another Veronese antiquary, of less reputation, but of much greater genius, was Francesco Bianchini. Italy, perhaps, never produced a man of more profound or more comprehensive mind. He visited the university of Cambridge for scientific purposes, and Sir Isaac Newton acknowledged him to be one of the greatest astronomers of that age, at the same time that he was
the greatest architect then living. In order to reduce architecture to a science, by means of observations on the buildings of the antients, he undertook to discover and to restore the plan of the imperial palace of the Cæsars, at Rome, which, growing under each successive emperor, had covered the whole Palatine hill, and extended itself to the contiguous hills. Bianchini first sacrificed his fortune, and, lastly, his life to this undertaking. The work, which still keeps alive his claims to a great reputation, though it has not been reprinted for a century, and is very little read, consists of the first part of an Universal History, proved by antient remains. The remains of antiquity, which he takes as authority, are chiefly those bearing sculptured figures, which he regards as allegorical, and as historical records of nations, whose name alone has come down to us; he illustrated planetary mythology by astronomical calculations, so that not only he extracted facts from fables, but freed them from confusion, arranging them according to epochs, centuries, and years. That the constellations, and their names, originated in the desire of consecrating and perpetuating, by allusions to the heavenly bodies, the extraordinary events passing upon the earth, has been the opinion of many learned men, supported by the authority of Plato, among the antients, and of Bacon among the moderns. But the attempt to write a history, in which poetical and fabulous tradition was to furnish evidence and demonstration of the existence and of the vicissitudes of nations lost in the oblivion of ages, was, doubtless, as new as it was daring. The work, however, was never finished. Besides, although Bianchini was, perhaps, the only antiquarian who possessed the secret-never common, and now lost in Italy-of combining elegance with force of diction, and of writing Italian without alloy of barbarisms on the one hand, or affectation of purity on the other, yet his style partakes of the severity of his mind; and even the subject of the work demands a class of readers not ordinarily to be found. A work of a more popular language and style was composed about thirty years ago, in France, of the same materials, but with a different object. On examining the two works, it is evident, that the structure of Dupuis' Origine de tous les Cultes, was raised on the plan marked out by Bianchini.
Of another of these self-devoted labourers in the task of bringing to light and accumulating the remains of learned antiquity for the benefit of succeeding ages, not a work, nor even a fragment, has come down to us. He was brought up to the business of a goldsmith, which he followed till the fortieth year of his age, when he suddenly gave up his shop, and devoted himself
, exclusively, to collecting books, and to study. His immense erudition would never have been known, had not several volumes of letters been published after his death from all the men of distinguished learning in Europe, from various universities, and from several courts, thanking him for information he had communicated. His whole time was spent either in answering the queries addressed to him from all parts, or in devouring the books and manuscripts with which he had entirely filled his house, every stair, from the top to the bottom, being encumbered, and every possible entrance by which his friends could gain access to his library, blocked up. It was thought, and the tenor of his life justified the conjecture, that he had devised this extraordinary disposition of his books, as the best expedient for keeping visitors at a distauce. Certain it is, that, when Gronovius, the coryphæus of German scholars, passed through Florence, although he had long kept up a correspondence with his brother antiquarian, he could obtain no other knowledge of his person, than what he got through a little open wicket in his library door. He rarely went out, ate very little, and always of viands which needed no cooking; he drank water, thus combining a sedentary life with health and economy; and, to secure himself from every possible disturbance, he would have no servant, male or female. That he might not be enticed to spend more time in sleep than his literary correspondents could conveniently afford, he had no bed, and slept in a sort of chaise-longue, wrapped in a long woollen morning gown, which served him for blanket and clothing all the year round. In this way did he live, from the day he quitted his trade as a goldsmith, for forty years more, and died at upwards of eighty, in full possession of the powerful and retentive memory for which he had always been remarkable. He never took notes of any thing he read, and he never forgot any thing. He quoted, without hesitation, the volume, page, line, and edition, of any work about which he was consulted. Mabillon, in bis Tour in Italy, speaks of him in yet higher terms.* Some sove
• Virum ex longo literarum commercio nobis jamdudum amicissimum. Is enim ea præditus est sagacitate, nihil est ipsum lateat; ea memoria, ut omnes libros habeat in numero ipse museum inambulans et viva quædam bibliotheca."-Inter Italicum, p. 157.