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to the Spanish Indies two Leghorn merchantmen free of
duty, as a compensation for the loss of Galileo !

The failure of this negotiation must have been a

source of extreme mortification to the high spirit and

" sanguine temperament of Galileo. He had calculated,

however^ too securely on his means of putting the new

D 2


method to a successful trial. The great imperfection of
the time- keepers of that day, and the want of proper
telescopes, would have baffled him in all his efforts, and
he would have been subject to a more serious mortifi-
cation from the failure and rejection of his plan, than
that which he actually experienced from the avarice of
his patron, or the indifference of Spain. Even in the
present day, no telescope has been invented which is
capable of observing at sea the eclipses of Jupiter's
satellites ; and though this method of finding the longi-
tude has great advantages on shore, yet it has been com-
pletely abandoned at sea,, and superseded by easier and
more correct methods.

In the year 1618, when no fewer than three comets
visited our system, and attracted the attention of all the
astronomers of Europe, Galileo was unfortunately con-
fined to his bed by a severe illness ; but, though he
was unable to make a single observation upon these re-
markable bodies, he contrived to involve himself in the
controversies which they occasioned. Marco Guiducci,
an astronomer of Florence, and a friend of Galileo's,
had delivered a discourse on comets before the Florentine
Academy, which was published in 1619-* The heads
of this discourse were supposed to have been communi-
cated to him by Galileo, and this seems to have been
universally admitted during the controversy to which it
gave rise. The opinion maintained in this treatise, that
comets are nothing but meteors which occasionally ap-
pear in our atmosphere, like halos and rainbows, savours
so little of the sagacity of Galileo that we should be dis-
posed to question its paternity. His inability to partake
in the general interest which these three comets excited,
and to employ his powerful telescope in observing their
phenomena and their movements, might have had some
slight share in the formation of an opinion which de-
prived them of their importance as celestial bodies. But,
however this may have been, the treatise of Guiducci

* Printed in the Opere di Galileo, vol. vi. pp. 117191.


afforded a. favourable point of attack to Galileo's ene-
mies,, and the dangerous task was entrusted to Oratio
Grassi, a learned Jesuit, who, in a work entitled The
Astronomical and Philosophical Balance, criticised the
discourse on comets, under the feigned name of Lotario

Galileo replied to this attack in a volume entitled //
Saggiatore, or The Assayer, which, owing to the state
of his health, was not published till the autumn of
1623.* This work was written in the form of a letter
to Virginio Csesarini, a member of the Lyncaean Aca-
demy, and master of the chamber to Urban VIII. f,
who had just ascended the pontifical throne. It has
been long celebrated among literary men for the beauty
of its language, though it is doubtless one of the least
important of Galileo's writings.

The succession of the cardinal Maffeo Barberini to
the papal throne, under the name of Urban VIII., was
hailed by Galileo and his friends as an event favourable
to the promotion of science. Urban had not only been
the personal friend of Galileo and of prince Cesi, the
founder of the Lyncaean Academy, but had been in-
timately connected with that able and liberal association ;
and it was, therefore, deemed prudent to secure his
favour and attachment. If Paul III. had, nearly a
century before, patronised Copernicus, and accepted of
the dedication of his great work, it was not unreasonable
to expect that, in more enlightened times, another pon-
tiff might exhibit the same liberality to science.

The plan of securing to Galileo the patronage of
Urban VIII. seems to have been devised by prince Cesi.
Although Galileo had not been able for some years to
travel, excepting in a litter, yet he was urged by the
prince to perform a journey to Rome, for the express

* Printed in the Opere di Galileo, vol. vi. pp. 191 571.

-j- This work is said to have been dedicated to Urban VIIL himself
(Lib. U. Knowledge, Life of Galileo, chap, vii.), but there is no dedication
prefixed to the edition we have referred to ; and it is, besides, unusual to
dedicate a volume to any person when that volume has the. form of a letter
to another

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purpose of congratulating his friend upon his elevation
to the papal chair. This request was made in October,
1623 ; and, though Galileo's health -was not such as to
authorise him to undergo so much fatigue, yet he felt
the importance of the advice ; and, after visiting Cesi
at Acqua Sparta, he arrived at Rome in the spring of
1624. The reception which he here experienced far
exceeded his most sanguine expectations. During the two
months which he spent in the capital he was permitted
to have no fewer than six long and gratifying audiences
of the pope. The kindness of his holiness was of the
most marked description. He not only loaded Galileo
with presents *, and promised him a pension for his
son Vincenzo, but he wrote a letter to Ferdinand, who
had just succeeded Cosmo as grand duke of Tuscany,
recommending Galileo to his particular patronage. iC For
we find in him," says he, " not only literary distinction,
but the love of piety; and he is strong in those qualities
by which pontifical good- will is easily obtained. And
now, when he has been brought to this city to con-
gratulate us on our elevation, we have very lovingly
embraced him ; nor can we suffer him to return to the
country whither your liberality recalls him, without an
ample provision of pontifical love. And that you may
know how dear he is to us, we have willed to give him
this honourable testimonial of virtue and piety. And
we further signify, that every benefit which you shall
confer upon him, imitating or even surpassing your
father's liberality, will conduce to our gratification."

Not content with thus securing the friendship of the
pope, Galileo endeavoured to bespeak the good-will of
the cardinals towards the Copernican system. He had,
accordingly, many interviews with several of these dig-
nitaries j and he was assured, by cardinal Hohenzoller,
that in a representation which he had made to the pope
on the subject of Copernicus, he stated to his holiness,
(f that as all the heretics considered that system as un-

* A fine painting in gold, and a silver medal, and " a good quantity of
agnus dei."


doubted., it would be necessary to be very circumspect
in coming to any resolution on the subject." To this
remark his holiness replied,, " that the church had not
condemned this system ; and that it should not be con-
demned as heretical, but only as rash ; " and he added,
" that there was no fear of any person undertaking to
prove that it must necessarily be true."

The recent appointment of the abbe Castelli, the
friend and pupil of Galileo,, to be mathematician to the
pope, was an event of a most gratifying nature ; and
when we recollect that it w r as to Castelli that he ad-
dressed the famous letter which was pronounced he-
retical by the inquisition, we must regard it also as an
event indicative of a new and favourable feeling towards
the friends of science. The opinions of Urban, indeed,
had suffered no change. He was one of the few car-
dinals who had opposed the inquisitorial decree of
I6l6, and his subsequent demeanour was in every re-
spect conformable to the liberality of his early views.
The sincerity of his conduct was still further evinced
by the grant of a pension of one hundred crowns to
Galileo, a few years after his visit to Rome ; but there
is reason to think that this allowance was not regularly

The death of Cosmo,, whose liberality had given him
both affluence and leisure, threatened Galileo with pe-
cuniary difficulties. He had been involved in a " great
load of debt," owing to the circumstances of his brother's
family ; and, in order to relieve himself, he had re-
quested Castelli to dispose of the pension of his son
Vincenzo : but he was now alarmed at the prospect of
losing his salary as an extraordinary professor at Pisa.
The great youth of Ferdinand, who was scarcely of age,
induced Galileo's enemies, in 1629, to raise doubts re-
specting the payment of a salary to a professor who
neither resided nor lectured in the university ; but the
question was decided in his favour, and \ve have no
doubt that the decision was facilitated by the friendly

D 4


recommendation of the pope, to which we have already

Although Galileo had made a narrow escape from
the grasp of the inquisition, yet he was never sufficiently
sensible of the lenity which he experienced. When he
left Rome in ]6l6, under the solemn pledge of never
again teaching the obnoxious doctrine, it was with an
hostility against the church,, suppressed but deeply
cherished ; and his resolution to propagate the heresy
seems to have been coeval with the vow by which he
renounced it. In the year 1618, when he communi-
cated his theory of the tides to the archduke Leopold,
he alludes in the most sarcastic manner to the conduct
of the church. The same hostile tone, more or less,
pervaded all his writings, and, while he laboured to
sharpen the edge of his satire, he endeavoured to guard
himself against its effects, by an affectation of the hum-
blest deference to the decisions of theology. Had Ga-
lileo stood alone, his devotion to science might have
withdrawn him from so hopeless a contest j but he was
spurred on by the violence of a party. The Lyncsean
Academy never scrupled to summon him from his re-
searches. They placed him in the forlorn hope of their
combat, and he at last fell a victim to the rashness of his

But, whatever allowance we may make for the ardour
of Galileo's temper, and the peculiarity of his position ;
and however we may justify and even approve of his
past conduct, his visit to Urban VIII. in 1624, placed
him in a new relation to the church, which demanded
on his part a new and corresponding demeanour. The
noble and generous reception which he met with from
Urban, and the liberal declaration of cardinal Hohen-
zoller on the subject of the Copernican system, should
have been regarded as expressions of regret for the past,
and offers of conciliation for the future. Thus honoured
by the head of the church, and befriended by its dig-
nitaries, Galileo must have felt himself secure against
the indignity of its lesser functionaries, and in the pos-


session of the fullest licence to prosecute his researches
and publish his discoveries, provided he avoided that
dogma of the church which, even in the present day, it
has not ventured to renounce. But Galileo was bound
to the Romish hierarchy by even stronger ties. His son
and himself were pensioners of the church,, and., having
accepted of its alms, they owed to -it, at least, a decent
and respectful allegiance. The pension thus given by
Urban was not a remuneration which sovereigns some-


times award to the services of their subjects. Galileo
was a foreigner at Rome. The sovereign of the papal
state owed him no obligation ; and hence we must re-
gard the pension of Galileo as a donation from the Ro-
man pontiff to science itself, and as a declaration to the
Christian world, that religion was not jealous of phi-
losophy, and that the church of Rome was willing to
respect and foster even the genius of its enemies.

Galileo viewed all these circumstances in a different
light. He resolved to compose a work in which the
Copernican system should be demonstrated ; but he had
not the courage to do this in a direct and open manner.
He adopted the plan of discussing the subject in a dia-
logue between three speakers, in the hope of eluding by
this artifice the censure of the church. This work was
completed in 1630, but, owing to some difficulties in
obtaining a licence to print it, it was not published till

In obtaining this licence, Galileo exhibited consider-
able address, and his memory has not escaped from the
imputation of having acted unfairly, and of having
involved his personal friends in the consequences of his

The situation of master of the palace was, fortunately
for Galileo's designs, filled by Nicolo Riccardi, a friend
and pupil of his own. This officer was a sort of censor
of new publications, and when he was applied to on the
subject of printing his work, Galileo soon found that
attempts had previously been made to thwart his views.
He instantly set off for Rome, and had an interview


with his friend, who was in every respect anxious to
oblige him. Riccardi examined the manuscript,, pointed
out some incautious expressions which he considered it
necessary to erase, and returned it with his written ap-
probation, on the understanding that the alterations he
suggested would he made. Dreading to remain in
Rome during the unhealthy season, Avhich was fast ap-
proaching, Galileo returned to Florence, with the in-
tention of completing the index and dedication, and of
sending the MS. to Rome, to be printed under the care
of prince Cesi. The death of that distinguished indi-
vidual, in August 1630, frustrated Galileo's plan, and
he applied for leave to have the book printed in Florence.
Riccardi was at first desirous to examine the MS. again,
but after inspecting only the beginning and the end of
it, he gave Galileo leave to print it wherever he chose,
providing it bore the licence of the inquisitor-general of
Florence, and one or two other persons whom he named.
Having overcome all these difficulties, Galileo's work
was published in 1 632, under the title of ec The System
of the World of Galileo Galilei, &c., in which, in four
dialogues concerning the two principal systems of the
World, the Ptolemaic and the Copernican, he dis-
cusses, indeterminately and firmly, the arguments proposed
on both sides." It is dedicated to Ferdinand, grand duke
of Tuscany, and is prefaced by an " Address to the pru-
dent reader," which is itself characterised by the utmost
imprudence. He refers to the decree of the inquisition
in the most insulting and ironical language. He at-
tributes it to passion and to ignorance, not by direct
assertion, but by insinuations ascribed to others; and he
announces his intention to defend the Copernican sys-
tem, as a pure mathematical hypothesis, and not as an
opinion, having an advantage over that of the stability
of the earth absolutely. The dialogue is conducted by
three persons, Salviati, Sagredo, and Simplicio. Sal-
viati, who is the true philosopher in the dialogue, was
the real name of a nobleman whom we have already had
occasion to mention. Sagredo, the name of another noble


friend of Galileo's, performs a secondary part under
Salviati. He proposes doubts, suggests difficulties, and
enlivens the gravity of the dialogue with his wit and
pleasantry. Simplicio is a resolute follower of Ptolemy
and Aristotle, and with a proper degree of candour and
modesty, he brings forward all the common arguments
in favour of the Ptolemaic system. Between the wit of
Sagredo, and the powerful philosophy of Salviati, the
peripatetic sage is baffled in every discussion ; and there
can be no doubt that Galileo aimed a more fatal blow at
the Ptolemaic system by this mode of discussing it, than
if he had endeavoured to overturn it by direct argu-

The influence of this work on the public mind was
such as might have been anticipated. The obnoxious
doctrines which it upheld were eagerly received, and
widely disseminated ; and the church of Rome became
sensible of the shock which was thus given to its intel-
lectual supremacy. Pope Urban VIII., attached though he
had been to Galileo, never once hesitated respecting the
line of conduct which he felt himself bound to pursue.
His mind was, nevertheless, agitated with conflicting
sentiments. He entertained a sincere affection for science
and literature, and yet he was placed in the position of
their enemy. He had been the personal friend of Galileo,
and yet his duty compelled him to become his accuser.
Embarrassing as these feelings were, other considerations
contributed to soothe him. He had, in his capacity of
a cardinal, opposed the first persecution of Galileo. He
had, since his elevation to the pontificate, traced an open
path for the march of Galileo's discoveries ; and he had
finally endeavoured to bind the recusant philosopher by
the chains of kindness and gratitude. All these means,
however, had proved abortive, and he was now called
upon to support the doctrine which he had subscribed,
and administer the law of which he was the guardian.

It has been supposed, without any satisfactory evi-
dence, that Urban may have been influenced by less
creditable motives. Salviati and Sagredo being well-


known personages, it was inferred, that Simplicio must
also have a representative. The enemies of Galileo are
said to have convinced his holiness that Simplicio was
intended as a portraiture of himself ; and this opinion
received some probability from the fact, that the peri-
patetic disputant had employed many of the arguments
which Urban had himself used in his discussions with
Galileo. The latest biographer of Galileo* regards
this motive as necessary to account for " the otherwise
inexplicable change which took place in the conduct of
Urban to his old friend ; " - but we cannot admit for a
moment the truth of this supposition. The church had
been placed in hostility to a powerful and liberal party,
which was adverse to its interests. The dogmas of the
Catholic faith had been brought into direct collision with
the deductions of science. The leader of the philosophic
band had broken the most solemn armistice with the
inquisition : he had renounced the ties of gratitude
which bound him to the pontiff; and Urban was thus
compelled to entrench himself in a position to which
he had been driven by his opponents.

The design of summoning Galileo before the inqui-
sition, seems to have been formed almost immediately
after the publication of his book ; for even in August,
1 632, the preliminary proceedings had reached the ears
of the grand duke Ferdinand. The Tuscan ambassa-
dor at Rome was speedily acquainted with the dissatis-
faction which his sovereign felt at these proceedings ;
and he was instructed to forward to Florence a written
statement of the charges against Galileo, in order to
enable him to prepare for his defence. Although this
request was denied, Ferdinand again interposed ; and
transmitted a letter to his ambassador, recommending
the admission of Campanella and Castelli into the con-
gregation of ecclesiastics by which Galileo was to be
judged. Circumstances, however, rendered it prudent
to withhold this letter. Castelli was sent away from
Rome, and Scipio Chiaramonte, a bigotted ecclesiastic,

* Library of Useful Knowledge, Life of Galileo, chap. viii.


was summoned from Pisa to complete the number of
the judges.

It appears from a despatch of the Tuscan minister,
that Ferdinand was enraged at the transaction ; and he
instructed his ambassador, Niccolini, to make the
strongest representations to the pope. Niccolini had
several interviews with his holiness ; but all his expos-
tulations were fruitless. He found Urban highly in-
censed against Galileo ; and his holiness begged
Niccolini to advise the archduke not to interfere any
farther, as he would not " get through it with honour."
On the 15th of September the pope caused it to be
intimated to Niccolini, as a mark of his especial esteem
for the grand duke, that he was obliged to refer the
work to the inquisition ; but both the prince and his
ambassador were declared liable to the usual censures if
they divulged the secret.

From the measures which this tribunal had formerly
pursued, it was not difficult to foresee the result of their
present deliberations. They summoned Galileo to ap-
pear before them at Rome, to answer in person the
charges under which he lay. The Tuscan ambassador
expostulated warmly with the court of Rome on the
inhumanity of this proceeding. He urged his ad~
vanced age, his infirm health, the discomforts of the
journey, and the miseries of the quarantine*, as mo-
tives for reconsidering their decision : but the pope
was inexorable ; and though it was agreed to relax
the quarantine as much as possible in his favour, yet it
was declared indispensable that he should appear in
person before the inquisition.

Worn out with age and infirmities, and exhausted
with the fatigues of his journey, Galileo arrived at
Rome on the 14th of February, 1633. The Tuscan
ambassador announced his arrival in an official form to
the commissary of the holy office, and Galileo awaited
in calm dignity the approach of his trial. Among

* The communication between Florence and Rome was at this time in-
terrupted by a contagious disease which had broken out in Tuscany.


those who proffered their advice in this distressing
emergency, we must enumerate the cardinal Barberino,
the pope's nephew, who, though he may have felt the
necessity of an interference on the part of the church,
was yet desirous that it should be effected with the
least injury to Galileo and to science. He accordingly
visited Galileo, and advised him to remain as much at
home as possible, to keep aloof from general society,
and to see only his most intimate friends. The same
advice was given from different quarters ; and Galileo
felt its propriety, and remained in strict seclusion in the
palace of the Tuscan ambassador.

During the whole of the trial which now com-
menced, Galileo was treated with the most marked in-
dulgence. Abhorring, as we must do, the principles
and practice of this odious tribunal, and reprobating its
interference with the cautious deductions of science, we
must yet admit that, on this occasion, its deliberations
were not dictated by passion, nor its power directed by
vengeance. Though placed at their judgment-seat as a
heretic, Galileo stood there with the recognised attributes
of a sage ; and though an offender against the laws of
which they were the guardian, yet the highest respect
was yielded to his genius, and the kindest commisera-
tion to his infirmities.

In the beginning of April, when his examination in
person was to commence, it became necessary that he
should be removed to the holy office ; but instead of
committing him, as was the practice, to solitary con-
finement, he was provided with apartments in the
house of the fiscal of the inquisition. His table was
provided by the Tuscan ambassador, and his servant
was allowed to attend him at his pleasure, and to sleep
in an adjoining apartment. Even this nominal con-
finement, however, Galileo's high spirit was unable to
brook. An attack of the disease to which he was con-
stitutionally subject contributed to fret and irritate him,
and he became impatient for a release from his anxiety
as well as from his bondage. Cardinal Barberino


seems to have received notice of the state of Galileo's
feelings ; and with a magnanimity which posterity will
ever honour, he liberated Galileo on his own responsi-
bility ; and in ten days after his first examination, and
on the last day of April, he was restored to the hospi-
table roof of the Tuscan ambassador.

Though this favour was granted on the condition of
his remaining in strict seclusion, Galileo recovered his
health, and to a certain degree his usual hilarity, amid
the kind attentions of Niccolini and his family ; and
when the want of exercise had begun to produce
symptoms of indisposition, Niccolini obtained for him
leave to go into the public gardens in a half- closed

After the inquisition had examined Galileo per-
sonally, they allowed him a reasonable time for preparing
his defence. He felt the difficulty of adducing any
thing like a plausible justification of his conduct j and
he resorted to an ingenious, though a shallow artifice,
which was regarded by the court as an aggravation of
the crime. After his first appearance before the inqui-
sition in l6l6, he was publicly and falsely charged by

Online LibraryDionysius LardnerEminent literary and scientific men of Italy, Spain, and Portugal .. (Volume 2) → online text (page 4 of 34)