Зображення сторінки

at once came the inexorable iron railway; and time, money, ingenuity, and good meadow land had been sacrificed in vain. Analogous to this were the phenomena of book-making in the period from 1420 to 1465. There was a rage for collecting libraries and multiplying MSS., and the art of transcription advanced many stages in dexterity, accuracy, and speed. A large class made their ordinary living by it; and it was practised occasionally by many besides, poor scholars, or casual residents in some busy capital, who desired to add to their other means of subsistence. It is said that the copyists at Rome in the time of Nicholas V. were mostly Germans or Frenchmen ; suitors, probably, who had come on temporary business, and had to support themselves during the proverbial waiting time for princes' favour. Copyists who knew the Greek characters were the most prized, and were called scrittori, par éminence. When Cosmo de' Medici wanted to form a library on short notice for the Badia, he commissioned Vespasiano to organise a body of forty-five transcribers, got Pope Nicholas to draw up a list of desirable works, and had two hundred volumes ready for him within twenty-two months. Federigo di Montefeltro kept from thirty to forty copyists at work, both at Urbino and at Florence, fourteen years long, for the formation of his splendid library at the former city; which library now reposes on the shelves of the Vatican, and displays, in the beauty and accuracy of the caligraphy, in the luxury of the crimson satin bindings and silver mountings - the regulation dress for specially prized volumes-in the refined illuminations and the substantial parchment, the homage paid to the matériel of book production in those ardent days. No wonder that this same Duke of Urbino, living to see the democratic innovation of types, should have exclaimed that for his part he should be ashamed to possess such a thing as a printed book! Like our stagecoachmen and innkeepers of the past, the whole legion of copyists mnst have found themselves terribly thrown out of work when the new invention had once taken hold of public favour. It was not long in doing so. The cheapening and multiplication of books was everything to professional scholars and to the public at large. Under Pope Alexander VI., the preventive censure was instituted at Rome, because by that time it had already become impossible to annihilate an obnoxious work: as when Cosmo de' Medici required Filelfo to annihilate his offensive treatise De Exilio.'

Paul II., who reigned from 1464 to 1471, has been all but unanimously stigmatised as an enemy of learning. tain that he came twice into collision with the cultivated classes

[ocr errors]

It is cer

in Rome: first, when he suppressed the Abbreviatori, a college of officials connected with the Roman chancery, and reconstituted by Pius II. with a special view to the encouragement of a good literary style in its members; and again, in his proceedings against the Roman Academy of Pomponio Leto, which was thrown into outspoken disaffection by the suppression of the Abbreviatori. It was unlucky for the reputation of Paul II. that his biography should come to be related by a man of letters who, being connected with both corporations, had the strongest grounds for personal ill-will against him. Platina's animus has been imbibed by subsequent writers, who have almost unanimously reprobated this Pontiff as a barbarian and a persecutor. Von Reumont, who has a strong bias in favour of popes in general, refuses to believe Paul's aversion to culture as such, bringing in evidence his measures in favour of the university, his endeavours to provide for the subsistence of poor scholars, and the antiquarian collections with which he enriched the palace of St. Mark—with which indeed the racked academicians themselves pointed a tu quoque argument against him, as we find from Platina. It seems pretty clear that political fears were the real ground of Paul's hostility to the academicians, The connexion of old Roman reminiscences with new Roman revolutionism in the case of Stefano Porcari when Nicholas was pope, and in the case of the so-called Catilinarian bands when Pius II. was pope— both of them phases of the old Rienzi spirit, peculiar to Rome—was present to his mind, and he was ready to credit the rumours of conspiracy attached to the meetings of men who had dropped their baptismal names for high-sounding Roman appellations, who raised altars to Romulus, and enrolled themselves into a priestly college at the house of one whom they delighted to call their · Pontifex maxi'mus.' When the charge of conspiracy broke down, Paul fell back upon that of impiety. In so doing he overstrained the temper of his age. Public opinion went against him. The tastes introduced by heathen antiquarianism had become too widely spread among the influential ranks of society to make such allegations shocking. The Church was not the awful tribunal of opinion it had once been, and a pope of self-indulgent unscrupulous temper was hardly felt to be in his right place when reproaching men of learning with heterodox views about the immortality of the soul. The severity with which Paul tortured his victims was extreme; some died under the trial.

You would have imagined,' says Platina, “that the castle of 'St. Angelo was turned into the bull of Phalaris, so loudly the hollow vault resounded with the cries of those miserable young

[ocr errors]

men who were an honour to their age for genius and learning.' After all, the utterances of Pomponio and his comrades were but a shade more pronounced than the utterances of men hitherto high in favour of popes --nay, of popes themselves. Had not Pius II. euphemistically remarked, on the death of Nicholas V., that doubtless he had gone to the celestial choirs, there to quaff nectar and the fruit of the vine'?

Certain it is that the persecution of the learned was soon felt to be an anachronism. Sixtus IV. allowed the Academy to be reopened, and officially recognised. Under the safeguard of publicity, its eccentricities were permitted to run their course. The memorial Feast of the City's Foundation was then instituted. Pomponius, the high priest, lived on till 1498, when, after all his extravagancies, he made a Christian end, and was religiously buried in the church of S. Salvatore—though, indeed, it was rumoured that, as a matter of choice, he would much have preferred to rest in an ancient Roman monument on the Appian Way. About this Roman Academy, Von Reumont has a curious passage, which it is worth going out of our way to transcribe. Speaking of the accusations made against it by Paul II., he says:

* The latest discoveries in the old Christian series of graves have produced a special confirmation of the circumstances on which such charges rest. Up to the fifteenth century the cemeteries had lain totally forgotten, with the exception of the Catacombs of S. Sebastian, whose votive inscription is found in Signorili's collection. With the year 1433, traces of visitors commence, first in the cemetery of Calixtus on the Via Appia, afterwards in the neighbouring one of Prætextatus, and in that of SS. Marcellinus and Petrus on the Labicana. At first the names are those of Minorite brothers, pilgrims apparently, some foreign ones among them. All at once we find ourselves among the members of the Roman Academy. The names Volscus, Ruffus, Pomponius, Fabius, Fabianus, &c., are written on the wall. They style themselves "likeminded reverers and explorers of Roman antiquity “under the rule of Pomponius, Pontifex maximus.A certain Roman, Manilius Pantagathus, designates himself, “ Priest of the Roman “Academy." The date, 1475, points indeed to the time of Sixtus IV., when the meaning of all this society was understood, and all danger had passed away. But there can be no doubt that it was a repetition before the eyes of the public of a cultus which had before subsisted as a kind of secret bond. It is certain that these modern heathens were ransacking the Christian cemeteries only for heathen monuments. For in the collection of inscriptions belonging to the latter times of the fifteenth century, in those of Fra Giocondo and Pietro Sabino, which Pomponio Leto had a considerable share in making, cemetery inscriptions are as much absent as they are from the collections of Signorili and Ciriaco. The museum of antiquities in Pomponio's house

contained no Christian monument whatever. The learned consistorial advocate, Andrea Sta. Croce, who died in 1471, in his studies of the inscriptions and their various marks and signs, confines himself entirely to the monuments of classical antiquity.' *

With Sixtus IV. the Papacy struck into that path of territorial ambition in which it was led forward without faltering by Innocent VIII., Alexander VI., and Julius II., and which gave it, for the space of forty years, a character distinct, consistent, sinister. The popes of this period were too much occupied with their nepotical and otherwise worldly schemes to take interest in guiding the march of literature. Yet they were not strangers to culture. The literary movement reacted on them; and when it came in their way to do so, they promoted it. Sixtus collected books, made Platina his librarian, reinstated the Roman Academy, and was eulogised in superlative style by the neo-classic poets. Canute the Dane would have deprecated such flattery as Politian accorded this Pope, when he said, on occasion of a timely shower, that even the rains of heaven fell at the pontiff's bidding. Alexander VI., while making the morals of the Vatican a scandal of scandals, was munificent to scholars, and patronised works of art. It was owing to his intervention that Pico di Mirandola was rescued from the inquisitorial persecution in which his alleged heresies had involved him. Julius II., again, was a conspicuous patron of art; and the substitution of a magnificent temple after the model of the Pantheon for the old ecclesiastical structure of St. Peter's, decided upon and begun in his reign, shows how completely, in that department as well as in literature, the tendencies of classical Paganism were prevailing. Still, a Mecenate, or Court of the Muses, properly speaking, there was none at the headquarters of the Church during this period. With Leo X. we find once more the same relations between the Papacy and the Renaissance as when Nicholas V. and Pius II. wore the tiara.

What had occurred in the interim to give a fresh colouring to either?

On the one hand, the Papacy had become thoroughly secularised by the policy on which it had entered in respect of its position as an Italian power, and by the dying out of even the faintest echoes of crusading zeal. "Mental development, on the other hand, had assimilated two new influences: that of the Neo-Platonic eclecticism, and that of the new vernacular poetry. Both had their fulcrum at Florence—Florence, ever

* Geschichte der Stadt Rom., 3 Band. 1ste Abtheil., s. 342.

athirst for life and novelty, and more than ever abundantly fertilised by the wealth and patronage of the Medici. That from Florence both should make their way to Rome, was, under the sway of a pope himself a Florentine and a member of the house of Medici, inevitable.

On Leo's reign of letters it is not within our province to descant; but the preparations for it come in our way, and must be briefly noticed. In relation to the Humanist studies, this pope represented the tendencies of the third stage, as Nicholas V. and Pius II. had represented those of the first and second. To the poet-philologers had succeeded the historical antiquarians; and now came on the philosophers, bearing to the front the arguments and discussions raised by revived investigation of Platonic and Aristotelian metaphysics. From the time when Gemisthus Pletho indoctrinated Cosmo de' Medici with the charms of Plato's lore, Platonism had become affixed as the science specially in favour with the ruling dynasty at Florence. All the exaggeration incident to Italian fancy seized upon its half-mystical tendencies. The consequences were twofold.

They resulted, on the one side, in the promotion of a modern Paganism of a more defined philosophical sort than that which the reckless profanity of the philologers had introduced. Attracted by the pretensions of Platonic and of Neo-Platonic speculations—for it was even more doctrine of Plotinus than on that of the Athenian sage that the philosophy of the Florentine Academy was erected-many leading minds advanced theories of the soul's emanation, and purgation and re-absorption, and spurned altogether the humilities of Christian doctrine. Others, again, made an attempt to reconcile two systeins coming equally, as they maintained, from a Divine source. Platonism, these teachers held, was a key to Christianity. The leading dogmas of Revelation ought to be brought in line with the mystical abstractions of the sublimest sages of antiquity. It is said that Marsilio Ficino, the doctor whom Cosmo de' Medici had selected to preside over his Academy, kept a lamp burning in his chamber before a bust of Plato and also before one of the Virgin. The combination is, at all events, typical of his own efforts in his elaborate work · De Religione Christiana. The result of such philosophy as this was very attenuating to the positive facts of the Bible. But there were syncretists of yet another sort, with whom Christianity went for more, and Platonism for less, who not only accepted the Scripture narratives, but drew mystical and recondite meanings out of them. Of these the most distinguished genius was Giovanni Pico di Mirandola. The

on the

« НазадПродовжити »