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reigns, among whom was Louis XIV., were so astonished at the accounts they received of him from travellers, that they sent to him for his portrait, and were desirous, for once at least, of appearing in the list of his learned correspondents.
Nothing has come down to us but the lavish, and, perhaps, exaggerated praises of his erudition ; at all events, there was a great deal of pedantry and affectation, not only in Magliabecchi himself, but in the various classes of literati, travellers, and academicians, who continued to hold him up as an object of admiration to the whole human race. It is by no means astonishing, that the memory should attain to extraordinary strength, when it is cultivated to the exclusion of all the other faculties. When the heart is utterly without domestic affections, the imagination free from illusions, and the reason and other faculties of the mind inactive ; when, at the same time, the body is insensible to the appetites or the pleasures of animal, or to the comforts of social, life, the whole man is in a state of profound repose ; and his memory, even without any extraordinary natural strength, finds the ground clear, and acts without interruption or impediment. The mind, in this state, is more inert than is usually imagined. This anomaly of erudition died in 1714, and left his books, and a sum of money, to found and maintain a library, which is now open to the public in Florence, and is called, after its founder, the Biblioteca Magliabecchiana.
Muratori, on the contrary, who, reckoning his own works, in Latin and Italian, and those of the ancients which he edited and illustrated, published a hundred folio volumes, never devoted more than nine hours a day to study; and for two or three months of every year, when he went into the country with his friends, never took up a book. Another of his habits (we know not whether from system or from necessity,) was, never to study in his own house. He went, every morning early, to the Duke of Modena's library, of which he was librarian ; mounted above a hundred stairs, to a room which he had converted into a study, and quitted it before evening. At the foot of this staircase he found a half stupid buon compagnone, who was regularly there waiting for him; they went together to hear the story-tellers and ballad-singers, in the squares, the exploits of policinello, the performances of itinerant musicians, the sermons of friars in the market-place, and to see the various shows and pastimes, of which every city in Italy was then full. The subjects and the merits of the actors, in these exhibitions, was the sole subject of conversation between these two friends. Muratori said that he found, in this kind of society, both diversion and repose to his faculties; and that, if ever, after his studies, he conversed with literary men, or with persons at all superior in intellect to his buon compagnone, they left his mind in a state of
excitement which unfitted him for his usual patient and vigorous' application the following day.
Muratori was the contemporary of all the antiquarians we have named, and the greatest among them. He survived several of them, and died about the middle of the eighteenth century. But the far higher and nobler merit which distin-, gnished him, was, that his studies, and his thoughts, and his writings, were constantly directed to render dry erudition subsidiary not merely to the purpose of illustrating the history of past times, but of purging the Christian religion of many of the superstitions by which it was corrupted, and restoring kings and nations to the independence which had been wrested from them by the church. It may be easily imagined, that he had to struggle against a host of enemies in Italy: the jesuits threatened and attacked him on every side, with every variety of their crafty and cruel arts. This fiendish sect, which is now resorting to every kind of intrigne to re-establish itself, had then just reached the summit of that power which alarmed even monarchs, and, at length, forced them to combine for its suppression. This event happened about thirty years after Muratori's death. Eustace, who professed to make a literary tour in Italy, was guilty of a most glaring anachronism, in reckoning this great antiquary among the suppressed jesuits. The puerile and ridiculous blunders in almost every page of this voluminous tour, afford the best presumption that he inserted this without any fraudulent design. Eustace always appears a literary charlatan, but sincere ; though, perhaps, in this instance, and, indeed, throughout the work, he was the unconscious instrument of impostors, and believed them with the same credulity as the public afterwards believed the pompous fables which he calls his Classical Tour. Be that as it may, the error, ridiculous as it is, about Muratori, deserves serious confutation; especially at this moment, when the jesuits are successfully reviving all their frauds and stratagems, one of which, has always been to assert that all the most eminent men of letters were educated in their colleges, and professed the rules of their order. As nobody in Italy is ignorant who Muratori was, it appears impossible that any but a crafty, priest could have prompted him, after giving the names of several learned men of the order, to add, that Muratori, “ the most learned antiquary, the most inquisitive, and, at the same time, the most impartial historian that the last century has produced," was a jesuit.* Either we are much mistaken, or ignorance and charlatanism were, in this instance, combined
Class. Tour, vol. i., p. 250. 4to.
with the dishonesty and trickery of proselyting jesuitism. The fact is, that one of the offences for which Muratori was in great danger of being cited by the Holy Inquisition, was a treatise calculated to turn the popular detestation against the superstitions inculcated by the jesuits, and the profanation of the sacraments of confession and communion, especially with the boys in their colleges, and women in the churches. Fortunately, the monkish persecutions to which he was exposed, arose in the pontificate of Benedict XIV., better known under the name of Pope Lambertini, who united profound theological learning with philosophical tolerance, great amenity of manners, and an inherent predilection for learned men of every country. He had lived on terms of friendship with Muratori, from his youth. He would not, therefore, permit the holy office, and the priests, to enjoy the satisfaction of burning the author of works which were hostile to their interests. They then endeavoured to indemnify themselves for leaving the author alive, by burning his books by the hands of their hangman. But neither did they succeed in this; and they were obliged to content themselves with preaching the most infamous calumnies against him, and writing articles in journals denouncing him as a heretic, because he had triumphantly adduced the testimony of ecclesiastical history, which they had adulterated or kept from view, in Italy, up to that time.
Muratori has no merit as a writer. It rarely happens that a man who writes a great deal, can combine despatch with elegance of diction, vigour and condensation of ideas, and fervour of style. But, independently of this reason,
and of another to which we have already adverted,- the low ebb of literature in his times,-it appears that nature had denied him the power of writing in a manner to be read with admiration or pleasure. His turn of expression is never dignified, and, sometimes, in attempting to be natural, he is even vulgar. He is, however, an easy, precise, and clear writer; perhaps rather too much so, for he does not stimulate the reader to think. Such a style, when continued through many volumes, never fails to bring upon its author the unpardonable charge of dullness, and thus to deter many readers who, if they read him, would not think himn dull, and would see, that were it not for the materials dug up, discussed, verified, and arranged by Muratori, the history of the Roman Empire in the middle ages would be still perfectly unknown; and the genius, philosophy, and eloquence of later historians would be left to wander blindly in the thick darkness which, until the latter half of the last century, enveloped the history of those remarkable times.
The history of Gibbon traverses the same period as the Annali d'Italia of Muratori; and the eloquent historian, who
sometinies appears to be borne along in the chariot of the sun, and to look down on the transactions of earth, speaks with wonder of the inflexible perseverance of the slow and cautious annalist who proceeds, step by step, and regards his predecessor with the exultation of the youthful David in the presence of his huge adversary. Perhaps he had reason for his triumph; but the question is, whether Gibbon, or any other man, could have treated of that magnificent portion of the history of mankind, if Muratori had not preceded him. Dates are to history what the notes in music are to the harmony of an orchestra. If the dates of two contiguous events are confounded, so that their order of antecedence and sequence is inverted, their natural harmony is lost for ever ;-that which was cause appears effect, and vice versa. But in the convulsions which tore the Roman empire, during the long period of the middle ages, events succeeded each other with such impetuosity, that they overlaid and concealed each other. Emperors and their dynasties appeared, only to be instantly reduced to nothing, and forgotten by the race over whom they had tyrannized. The conquering hordes of the North rolled on, wave after wave; and, after overwhelming and devastating the empire, turned their exterminating arms against each other, often so successfully, that they left posterity no trace of their origin, or of the time and place of their disappearance for ever. Ignorance, which followed in the train of barbarism, diminished the number of writers; despotism, which spread wider and wider, reduced them to silence; and the religion which had gained an absolute ascendancy, diffused, not facts or history, but miracles and legends, and destroyed every record which could furnish impartial evidence of the truth. Let it be observed, that these causes, a single one of which would have sufficed to prevent posterity from coming at any accurate knowledge of those times, were combined; that their growth was simultaneous; and that they co-operated in confounding the order of dates and events; that is, in fact, in rendering it impossible to write history,
Gibbon embraces, during the same period, a greater'extentof territory, and a greater number of people; and describes events and characters which do not come within the plan of the Italian annalist, and which, even if they had, he was quite incompetent to describe. Those circumstances which they concur in relating, assume colour, life, and passion, under the pen of Gibbon, while, in the pages of Muratori, they scarcely excite the smallest interest. We will suppose that the historian, even if not preceded by the annalist, could have dug up that immense multitude of facts which form the basis of his work. But if he had been bound to establish the truth of them, and to assign to them certain or probable dates, he would have been compelled to write, not history, but as many, or perhaps more, volumes of dissertations, discussions, and proofs, in support of his authorities and of his chronology. Without this previous labour, the world could not have trusted to the fidelity of his narrative: nor could he himself. Lastly, if he had interwoven these dissertations with his history, he would have tried in vain to be eloquent, animated, or rapid; his history would, in short, have been no longer the history of a man of genius.; and, with all his powers of writing, he must infallibly have produced one of those books which become, at once, useful and tedious, from the multitude of knotty questions they contain, and the logical manner in which these questions are treated.
This task, so unsuitable and irksome to the historian of the decline of the Roman Empire, was executed for him by Muratori, with an astonishing union of boldness and caution, and in a method entirely new.
In his Annals of Italy he relates the vicissitudes of the Empire, from the reign of Trajan, year by year, in a narrative, the facts of which are so thoroughly sifted and established, that it is rarely possible to controvert their substance or their chronological arrangement. He had already prepared and published his authorities, having printed and illustrated, in two large collections, all the ancient historians of the middle ages, many of whom bad slept in manuscripts, in libraries and monasteries, and the rest had been published without any discrimination or critical design. In these two collections, he examines the authenticity of every manuscript ; the age and character of every old writer of histories or chronicles; the degree of credit due either to their general narrative, or to certain particular and extraordinary facts. Lastly, from these collections he drew all his accounts of the laws, customs, agriculture, commerce, peculiar modes of living, and civil and ecclesiastical institutions, of the middle ages. He examined the origin and the effects of the various constitutions imported by the northern nations, and the causes of the numerous revolutions and conquests which succeeded each other with such rapidity. All these researches he published in separate volumes, arranged in the order of the matter. having thus illustrated the period of the middle ages as a whole, he went over it, through the long course of fifteen centuries, year by year, and step by step. His annals have been taken by all subsequent historians as infallible guides.
His mind, although not very prone to generalization, was more philosophical and analytical than is thought by most of his readers. The truth is, that many reflections are thought new or profound, according to the style in which they are expressed; and a sentiment which appears magnificent in the language of Montesquieu, or in Johnson, would lose all its value in a different dress. The simplicity of Muratoris'