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THIS volume attempts to do justice to a philosopher
who has hardly received in England the consideration
he deserves. Apart from the Life of Giordano Bruno,
by I. Frith (Mrs. Oppenheim), in the English and
Foreign Philosophical Library, 1887, there has been no
complete work in our language upon the poet, teacher,
and martyr of Nola, while his philosophy has been
treated only in occasional articles and reviews. Yet
he is recognised by the more liberal-minded among
Italians as the greatest and most daring thinker their
country has produced. The pathos of his life and
death has perhaps caused his image to stand out more
strongly in the minds of his countrymen than that of
any other of their leaders of thought. A movement of
popular enthusiasm, begun in 1876, resulted, on 9th
June 1889, in the unveiling of a statue in Rome in the
Campo dei Fiori, the place on which Bruno was burned.
Both in France and in Germany he has been recognised
as the prophet, if not as the actual founder, of modern
philosophy, and as one of the earliest apostles of free-
dom of thought and of speech in modern times.

The first part of the present work the Life of



Bruno is based upon the documents published by
Berti, Dufour, and others, and on the personal refer-
ences in Bruno's own works. I have tried to throw
some light on Bruno's life in England, on his relations
with the French Ambassador, Mauvissiere, and on his
share in some of the literary movements of the time.
I have, however, been no more successful than others
in finding any documents referring directly to Bruno's
visit to England.

In the second part The Philosophy of Bruno I
have sought to give not a systematic outline of Bruno's
philosophy as a whole under the various familiar head-
ings, which would prove an almost impossible task, but
a sketch, as nearly as possible in Bruno's own words, of
the problems which interested this mind of the six-
teenth century, and of the solutions offered. The first
chapter points out the sources from which Bruno derived
the materials of his thinking. The succeeding chapters
are devoted to some of the main works of Bruno, the
Causa (Chapter II.), Infinite and De Immense (Chapters
III. and IV.), De Minimo (Chapter V.), Spaccio (Chap-
ter VI.), and Heroici Furori (Chapter VII.), and contain
as little as possible of either criticism or comment, except
in so far as these are implied in the selection and arrange-
ment of the material. I have adopted this method
partly because Bruno's works are still comparatively
unknown to the English reader, and partly because his
style, full as it is of obscurities, redundances, repetitions,
lends itself to selection, but not easily to compact ex-
position. Several phases of Bruno's activity I have left


almost untouched his poetry, his mathematical theories,
his art of memory. The eighth chapter turns upon his
philosophy of religion, about which there has been much
controversy ; while the last attempts to bring him into
relation and comparison with some of the philosophers
who succeeded him. I subjoin a list of works and
articles which are of importance for the study of Bruno.
Throughout I have referred for Bruno's works to the
recent Italian edition of the Latin works, issued at the
public expense, 1879 to 1891 (three volumes in eight
parts, with introductions, etc.), and to Lagarde's edition
of the Italian works Gotha, 1888. Of the latter there
are two volumes, but the paging is continuous from one
to the other, page 401 beginning the second volume.


ibth July 1903.



BIOGRAPHIES ......... xv

















MONADS . . . . . . . . .223




THE HIGHER LIFE ........ 277






Bartholmcss, Christian, Jordano Bruno, vol. i., Paris, 1846 on
the life and times of Bruno; vol. 2, 1847 on his works and

Carriere, Moritz, Die philosophised Weltanschauung der Re-
formationszeit, 1st ed., 1847 ; 2nd ed., 1887.

Berti, Domenico, Giordano Bruno da Nola, sua vita e sua dottrina.
Appeared first in the Nuova Antologia, 1867. Some new documents
were published in Documenti intorno a Giordano Bruno da No/a,
1880. A second edition of the Life, including all the documents,
appeared in 1889.

Dufour, G. B. a Geneve (1578). Documents inedits : Geneve,
1884. Also given in Berti's second edition.

Sigwart, Die Lebensgeschichte G. B's (Verzeickniss der Doctor en,
etc., Tubingen, 1880), a paper which is expanded and corrected in
his Kleine Schriften, 1st series (pp. 49-124 and 293-304) : Freiburg
i. B., 1889.

Brunnhofer, G. B?s Weltanschauung und Verhangniss : Leipzig,
1882. A vigorous eulogy of Bruno and his work.

Frith, Life of Giordano Bruno : London, 1887.

Riehl, Giordano Bruno, Zur Erinnerung an den 17. Februar, 1600 :
Leipzig, 1st ed., 1889; 2nd, 1900.

Kiihlenbeck ("Landseck ") Bruno, der Martyrer der neuen Welt-
anschauung-. Leipzig, 1890.

Pognisi, G. B. e I* Archivio di San Giovanni Decollato ; Torino,
etc., 1891.

Italian biographies and pamphlets are innumerable. Among the
best are

Mariano, G. B. La Vita e t'uomo: Roma, 1881.



Levi, G. B. o la Religione del Pensiero : Torino, 1887.

Morselli, G. .5., Commemorazione, etc. : Torino, 1888. Morselli
regards Bruno as the precursor of all modern philosophy, and as
prophet of most of the scientific discoveries of the I9th century.

Tocco, G. B. Conferenza: Firenze, 1886. On Bruno's religion
and philosophy of religion.

Of writers in English on Bruno may also be named : Owen, in
his Sceptics of the Italian Renaissance : London, 1893 (pp. 244-342) ;
Daniel Brinton and Thomas Davidson, G. ., Philosopher and
Martyr, Two Addresses: Philadelphia, 1890; Plumptre, in his
Studies in Little-known Subjects : London, 1898 (pp. 61-127) > Whit-
taker in Essays and Notices, 1895 (reprinted from Mind, April 1884
and July 1887) ; the Quarterly Review for October 1902, " Giordano
Bruno in England " ; and R. Adamson, The Development of Modern
Philosophy: Edinburgh and London, 1903, vol. 2 (pp. 23-44).


IN 1548, at a stormy period of the history of Italy, Birth and
Bruno was born in the township of Nola, lying within
the kingdom of Naples, which at that time was under
Spanish rule. His father, Giovanni, was a soldier,
probably of good family, and in deference, it may be
supposed, to the King of Spain, the son was named
Filippo ; the more famous name of Giordano was only
assumed when he entered a religious order. Through
his mother, Fraulissa Savolina, a German or Saxon
origin has been claimed for Bruno ; there were several
inhabitants of Teutonic name in the village of his birth
suggesting a settlement of Landknechts, and the
name, Fraulissa, has a German ring ; l but Bruno him-
self nowhere in the addresses or works published in
Germany makes any hint of his own connection with
the race, while the name was probably a generic term
for the wife of a soldier, borrowed from the Swiss or
German men-at-arms. 2

Their home was on the lower slopes of Mount
Cicala, which rises above Nola, and amid its laughing
gardens Bruno first imbibed a love of nature, which
marked him out from so many of his contemporaries,
The soil of Nola is among the most fertile of all Italy. Noia.
and the pleasant plain in which it lies is ringed with

1 Brunnhofer, p. 321, Appendix. 2 Sigwart, i. p. 118 (note 5).


hills which lie shadowy under the clear sky ; most
prominent and most mysterious is Vesuvius, a few miles
to the south. But the charms of natural beauty in
Nola were surpassed by those of picturesque antiquity :
the half-mythical "Pelasgians founded it before the walls
of Rome were begun ; they were followed by the
Chalcidians of Cuma, from whom the Nolans inherited
a Greek spirit, calm yet quick, eager in the pursuit of
wisdom and in the love of beauty, which down even
to the 1 6th century distinguished them above other
Italians. There followed a chequered history in which
the Samnites, the early Romans, Hannibal, Sulla, and
Spartacus, played successive parts. Nola was the death-
place of Augustus, and to that fact owed its greatness
in Imperial times, when its two great amphitheatres
and multitude of beautiful temples topped a great city,
shut in by massive walls, with twelve gates that opened
to all parts of Italy. Evil times were to come ;
Alaric, the Saracens, Manfred, and others had their will
of Nola, and earthquakes, flood, and plague reduced it
by the end of the I5th century to one tenth of its
former self. It had its own martyrs, for the old faith
and for the new ; one of the latter, Pomponio Algerio,
suffered during Bruno's lifetime a fate that fore-
shadowed his own ; accused while a student at Padua of
contempt for the Christian religion, he was imprisoned
in Padua, Venice, and Rome, and finally burnt at the
stake. Its sons never lost their love for the
mother-town ; Bruno speaks of it always with affec-
tion, as to him "the garden of Italy"; of a
nephew of Ambrogio Leone, the historian of its
antiquities, we are told that, on returning to Nola
after a few days' absence, seeming ill with longing,
he threw himself on the earth and kissed it with


unspeakable joy. 1 Perhaps the suggestion of Bar-
tholmess is not groundless, that the volcanic soil
and air of Nola influenced the character of the
people as of the wine. " Hence the delicacy of
their senses, vivacity of gesture, mobility of humour,
and passionate ardour of spirit. 2

Of the childhood of Bruno little is to be learned, childhood
Cicala, his home, he describes as a " little village of
four or five cottages not too magnificent." 3 In all
probability his upbringing was simple, his surroundings
homely. We need not go further, and suppose that
his surroundings were not only homely, but degraded
and vicious. 4 His father, although a soldier by pro-
fession, seems to have been a man of some culture ; at
least he was a friend of the poet Tansillo, who excited
the admiration of the young Bruno, and first turned
his mind towards the Muses. Tansillo's poetry, follow-
ing the taste of the age, was not too refined, but its
passion called forth a ready reflection in the ardent
nature of the lad. It was perhaps the only door to
the higher artistic life of the time which was open to
Bruno ; the neighbours, if we may judge from satiric
references in the Italian Dialogues, were of a rough
homely type. Bruno tells, for example, 5 how Scipio
Savolino (perhaps his uncle) used to confess all his sins
to Don Paulino, Cure of S. Primma that is in a village
near Nola (Cicala), on a Holy Friday, of which
" though they were many and great," his boon com-
panion the Cure absolved him without difficulty. Once
was enough, however, for in the following years, with-
out many words or circumstances, Scipio would say to
Don Paulino, " Father mine, the sins of a year ago

1 Berti, Vita di S. B., p. 28. 2 Bartholmess, vol. i. p. 26.

3 Lagarde, 452. 23. 4 V. additional note. 5 Lagarde, Op. Ital., p. 101.


to-day, you know them " ; and Don Paulino would
reply, " Son, thou knowest the absolution of a year ago
to-day go in peace and sin no more ! "

One incident of Bruno's childhood, which has been
thought a promise of extraordinary powers, he himself
relates in the Sigillus Sigillorum. Describing the
different causes of " concentration," 1 (Contractio), he
instances fear among them : " I myself, when still in
swaddling clothes, was once left alone, and saw a great
and aged serpent, which had come out of a hole in the
wall of the house ; I called my father, who was in the
next room ; he ran with others of the household,
sought for a stick, growled at the presence of the
serpent, uttering words of vehement anger, while the
others expressed their fear for me, and I understood
their words no less clearly, I believe, than I should
understand them now. After several years, waking up
as if from a dream, I recalled all this to their memory,
nothing being further from the minds of my parents ;
they were greatly astonished." 2 As well they might
be! It is hardly right, however, to see in the story
evidence of marvellous faculty showing itself in infancy,
beyond that of an impressionable and tenacious mind.
No doubt the drama had been repeated many times by
the parents for behoof of visitors. 3

Superstitious beliefs abounded among Bruno's fellow-
countrymen ; many of them clung to him through life,
were moulded by him into a place in his philosophy,
and bore fruit in his later teaching and practice of
natural magic. Thus we are told how the spirits of the
earth and of the waters may at times, when the air is

1 i.e. Heightening of normal powers. 2 Op. Lot. ii. 2. 184.

3 On Bruno's family v. Fiorentino, in the Giornale de la Domenica (Naples),
for Jan, 29, 1882.


pure and calm, become visible to the eye. He himself
had seen them on Beech Hill, and on Laurel Hill, and
they frequently appeared to the inhabitants of these
places, sometimes playing tricks upon them, stealing
and hiding their cattle, but afterwards returning the
property to their stalls. Other spirits were seen about
Nola by the temple of Portus in a solitary place, and even
under a certain rock at the roots of Mount Cicala,
formerly a cemetery for the plague-stricken ; he and
many others had suffered the experience when passing
at night of being struck with a multitude of stones,
which rebounded from the head and other parts of the
body with great force, in quick succession, but did no
injury either to him or to any of the others. 1 It was
at Nola that Bruno saw what seemed a ball or beam of
fire, but was " really " one of the living beings that
inhabit the ethereal space ; " as it came moving swiftly
in a straight line, it almost touched the roofs of the
houses and would have struck the face of Mount Cicala,
but it sprang up into the air and passed over." To
understand the mind of Bruno, it is necessary to
remember the atmosphere of superstition in which he
lived as a child.

One lesson from nature was early implanted which unity of
gave body and form to Bruno's later views : he had
seen from Cicala, the fair mount, how Vesuvius looked
dark, rugged, bare, barren, and repellent ; but when
later he stood on the slopes of Vesuvius itself, he dis-
covered that it was a perfect garden, rich in all the
fairest forms and colours, and luxurious bounty of
fruits, while now it was his own beloved hill, Cicala,
that gloomed dim and formless in the distance. He
learnt once for all that the divine majesty of nature is

1 De Magia, Of. Lat. Hi. Op. 430, 431. a De Immense, z/. Of. Lat. i. 2. p. 120.


everywhere the same, that distance alters the look but
never the nature or substance of things, that the earth
is everywhere full of life, and beyond the earth the
whole universe, he inferred, must be the same. 1


Naples. When about eleven years of age, Bruno passed from

Nola to Naples in order to receive the higher education
of the day Humanity, Logic, and Dialectic, attend-
ing both public and private courses ; and in his fifteenth

1563. year (1562 or 1563) he took the habit of St. Dominic,
and entered the monastery of that order in Naples. Of
his earlier teachers he mentions only two, " il Sarnese,"
who is probably Vincenzo Colle da Sarno, a writer of
repute, and Fra Theophilo da Vairano, a favourite
exponent of Aristotle, who was afterwards called to
lecture in Rome. Much ingenuity has been exercised
in attempting to find a reason for Bruno's choice of a
religious life ; but the Church was almost the only
career open to a clever and studious boy, whose parents

The DO- were neither rich nor powerful. The Dominican Order
into which he was taken, although the narrowest, and
the most bigoted, 2 was all-powerful in the kingdom,
and directed the machinery of the Inquisition. Naples
was governed by Spain with a firm hand, and the
Dominican was the chosen order of Spain. Just at this
time there were riots against the Inquisition, to which
an end was put by the beheading and burning of two
of the ringleaders. 3 The Waldensian persecution was
then fiercer and more brutal than it had ever been ; on
a day of 1561 eighty-eight victims were butchered with

1 De Immense, Hi. (i. I. 313).

2 Ct. the punning line "Domini canes evangel 'mm latrantur per tctum crbem."
3 Berti, p. 50.


the same knife, their bodies quartered, and distributed
along the road to Calabria. 1 Plague, famine, earth-
quake, the Turks, and the Brigands, under "King"
Marconi, swelled the wave of disaster that had come
upon the kingdom of Naples. Little wonder then that
one whose aim was a life of learning should seek it
under the mantle of the strong Dominican order.

The cloister stood above Naples, amidst beautiful The
gardens, and had been the home of St. Thomas
Aquinas, whose gentle spirit still breathed within its
walls. In its church, amid the masterpieces of Giovanni
Merliano of Nola, " the Buonarotti of Naples," stood
the image of Christ which had spoken with the Angelic
Doctor, and had approved his works. Long afterwards,
at his trial, Bruno spoke of having the works of St.
Thomas always by him, " continually reading, studying
and re-studying them, and holding them dear." On his
entry into the order, Bruno laid down, as was customary,
the name Filippo, and took that of Giordano, by which,
except for a short period, he was thenceforth known.
After his year's probation he took the vows before
Ambrosio Pasqua, the Prior, and in due course, pro-
bably about 1572, became priest, his first mass being 1572.
said in Campagna. 2

It was the age of the counter-reformation which had Processes
been inaugurated by Loyola, its course set by the
decision of the Council of Trent "to erase with fire
and sword the least traces of heresy," and Bruno early
began to feel his fetters, and to suffer from their weight.
During his noviciate even, a writing had been drawn up
against him, because he had given away some images of
the saints, retaining for himself only a crucifix, and
again because he had advised a fellow-novice, who was

1 Cf. Spacc'w de la Bestia, Lag. p. 552, i. 2 Venetian Documents, No. 8.


reading The Seven Delights of the Madonna to throw
it aside and take rather The Lives of the Fathers or
some such book. But the writing was merely intended
to terrify him, and the same day was torn up by the

1576. Prior. 1 In 1576, however, the suspicions of his
superiors took a more active turn, and a process was
instituted in which the matter of the noviciate was
supported by charges of later date, of which Bruno
never learned the details. He believed the chief count
was an apology for the Arian heresy made by him in
the course of a private conversation, and rather on the
ground of its scholastically correct form than on that of
its truth. 2 In any case Bruno left Naples while the

Rome. process was pending, and came to Rome, where he put
up in the cloister of Minerva. His accusers did not
leave him in peace, however : a third process was
threatened at Rome with 130 articles ; 3 and, on learn-
ing from a friendly source that some works of St.
Chrysostom and St. Hieronymus, with a commentary
of the arch-heretic Erasmus, had been discovered he
had, as he supposed, safely disposed of them before
leaving Naples, Bruno yielded to discretion, abandoned
his monkly habit, and escaped from Rome. From this
time began a life of restless wandering throughout
Europe which ended only after sixteen years, when he
fell into the power of the Inquisition at Venice.


Bruno, who resumed for the time his baptismal

name of Filippo, journeyed first to the picturesque little

Noii. town of Noli, in the Gulf of Genoa, whither a more

famous exile, Dante, had also come. There he lived for

1 Docs. 8 and 13. 2 Vide additional note. 3 Doc. I (Berti, p. 378).


four or five months, teaching grammar to boys, and 1576?
"the Sphere" that is, astronomy and cosmography,
with a dash of metaphysics, to certain gentlemen.
Thence he came to Savona, to Turin, 1 and to Venice. ^ avona>


In Venice six weeks were spent, probably in the Venice.
vain attempt to find work the printing offices and
the schools were closed on account of the plague
which was carrying off thousands of the inhabitants ;
but the time was utilised in printing the first of
his books no longer extant on the Signs of the
Times? written, like so many other works of other
people, to put together a few " danari." It was shown
to a reverend Father Remigio of Florence, therefore
was probably orthodox, or its unorthodoxy was veiled.
This work may have been the first of Bruno's writings
on the art of memory or on Lully's art of knowing.
Another work belonging to this early period was the
Ark of Noah. It was probably written before he left
Naples, and was dedicated to Pope Pius V., but is not
known to have been published : its title is that of a
mystical writing of Hugo of St. Victor, but according
to the account in the Cena* it was an allegorical and
probably satirical work, somewhat after the fashion of
Bruno's Cabala : The animals had assembled to settle a
disputed question of rank, and the ass was in great danger
of losing his pre-eminent post, in the poop of the Ark,
because his power lay in hoofs rather than in horns ;
when we consider Bruno's frequent and bitter invoca-
tions of Asinity, we can hardly avoid seeing in the
work an allusion to the credulity and ignorance of the

1 Tasso came about the same time, to be repulsed as plague-stricken from the

2 Doc. 9. Berti, p. 393 (a line is omitted in the 2nd Edition).

3 Lag. 147. 21.


Padua. " From Venice/' * Bruno tells us, "I went to Padua,

where I found some fathers of the order of St. Dominic,
whom I knew ; they persuaded me to resume the habit,
even though I should not wish to return to the order,
as it was more convenient for travel : with this idea I
went to Bergamo, and had a robe made of cheap white
cloth, placing over it the scapular which I kept when
I left Rome." On his way to Bergamo he seems to

Brescia. have touched at Brescia and Milan, at the former
place curing, " with vinegar and poly pod/' a monk
who claimed to have the spirit of prophecy. 2 At

Milan. Milan he first heard of his future patron and friend,

Bergamo. Sir Philip Sidney. 3 From Bergamo he was making

chambery. for Lyons, but at Chambery was warned that he would
meet with little sympathy there, and turned accordingly

Geneva, towards Geneva, the home of exiled reformers of all
nationalities, but especially of Italians. It is uncertain
how the time was distributed among these places,
possibly Bruno spent a winter, as Berti suggests,
at Chambery, having crossed the Alps the previous
autumn ; what is certain is, that he arrived at Geneva

May 1579. in April or May of 1579. Under the date May 22,
of that year, in the book of the Rector of the Academy
at Geneva, is inscribed the name Philippus Brunus,
in his own hand. On his arrival at the hostelry in
Geneva, he was called upon by a distinguished exile
and reformer, the Marquis of Vico, a Neapolitan.
To the court at Venice, Bruno gave the following
account of this visit and of his life in Geneva : " He
asked me who I was, and whether I had come to stay
there and to profess the religion of the city, to which,

Online LibraryJ. Lewis (James Lewis) McIntyreGiordano Bruno [microform] → online text (page 1 of 29)