Dionysius Lardner.

Eminent literary and scientific men of Italy, Spain, and Portugal .. (Volume 2) online

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Qui inconcessa adhuc mortalibus gloria

Caelorum provincias auxit

Et universe dedit incrementum :

Non enim vitreos spherarum orbes

Fragilesque Stellas conflavit :

Sed asterna mundi corpore

Mediceae beneficentia? dedicavit,

Cujus inextincta gloriae cupiditas

Ut oculos nationum
Sasculorumque omnium

Videre doceret,

Proprios impendit oculos.

Cum jam nil amplius haberet natura

Quod ipse videret.

Cujus inventa vix intra rerum limites comprehensa
Firmamentum ipsum non solum continet,

Scd etiam recipit.

Qui relictis tot scientiarum monumentis
Plura secum tulit, quam reliquit.

Gravi enim
Sed nondum affecta senectute,

Novis contemplationibus
Majorem gloriam affectans
Inexplebilem sapientias animam
Immaturo nobis obitu

Anno Domini


.^Etatis suss

At his death, in 1703, Viviani purchased his pro-
perty, with the charge of erecting a monument over
Galileo's remains and his own. This design was -not
carried into effect till 1737, at the expense of the family
of Nelli, when hoth their bodies were disinterred, and
removed to the site of the splendid monument which
now covers them. This monument contains the bust
of Galileo, with figures of Geometry and Astronomy. It
was designed by Giulio Foggini. Galileo's bust was
executed bv Giovanni Battista Foggini ; the figure of


Astronomy by Vincenzio Fogging his son ; and that of
Geometry by Girolamo Ticciati.

Galileo's house at Arcetri still remains. In 1821 it
belonged to one Signor Alimari, having been preserved
in the state in which it was left by Galileo ; it stands
very near the convent of St. Matthew, and about a mile
to the S. E. of Florence. An inscription by Nelli, over
the door of the house, still remains.

The character of Galileo, whether we viewhim as a
member of the social circle, or as a man of science, pre-
sents many interesting and instructive points of content
plation. Unfortunate, and to a certain extent immoral,
in his domestic relations, he did not derive from that
hallowed source all the enjoyments which it generally
yields ; and it was owing to this cause, perhaps, that he
was more fond of society than might have been expected
from his studious habits. His habitual cheerfulness and
gaiety, and his affability and frankness of manner, ren-
dered him an universal favourite among his friends.
Without any of the pedantry of exclusive talent, and
without any of that ostentation which often marks the
man of limited though profound acquirements, Galileo
never conversed upon scientific or philosophical subjects
except among those who were capable of understanding
them. The extent of his general information, indeed,
his great literary knowledge, but, above all, his retentive
memory, stored with the legends and the poetry of an-
cient times, saved him from the necessity of drawing
upon his own peculiar studies for the topics of his con-

Galileo was not less distinguished for his hospitality
and benevolence ; he was liberal to the poor, and gene-
rous in the aid which he administered to men of genius
and talent, who often found a comfortable asylum under
his roof. In his domestic economy he was frugal without
being parsimonious. His hospitable board was ever
ready for the reception of his friends ; and, though he
was himself abstemious in his diet, he seems to have
been a lover of good wines, of which he received always


the choicest varieties out of the grand duke's cellar.
This peculiar taste, together with his attachment to a
country life, rendered him fond of agricultural pursuits,
and induced him to devote his leisure hours to the cul-
tivation of his vine.yards.

In his personal appearance Galileo was about the
middle size, and of a square-built, but well-proportioned,
frame. His complexion was fair, his eyes penetrating,
and his hair of a reddish hue. His expression was
cheerful and animated, and though his temper was easily
ruffled, yet the excitement was transient, and the cause
of it speedily forgotten.

One of the most prominent traits in the character of
Galileo was his invincible love of truth, and his ab-
horrence of that spiritual despotism which had so long
brooded over Europe. His views, however, were too
liberal, and too far in advance of the age which he adorn-
ed ; and however much we may admire the noble spirit
which he evinced, and the personal sacrifices which
he made, in his struggle for truth, we must yet lament
the hotness of his zeal and the temerity of his onset.
In his contest with the church of Rome, he fell under
her victorious banner ; and though his cause was that
of trutk, and hers that of superstition, yet the sympathy
of Europe was not roused by his misfortunes. Under
the sagacious and peaceful sway of Copernicus, astro-
nomy had effected a glorious triumph over the dogmas
of the church ; but under the bold and uncompromising
sceptre of Galileo all her conquests were irrecoverably

The scientific character of Galileo, and his method
of investigating truth, demand our warmest admiration.
The number and ingenuity of his inventions ; the bril-
liant discoveries which he made in the heavens, and the
depth and beauty of his researches respecting the laws
of motion, have gained him the admiration of every
succeeding age, and have placed him next to Newton
in the lists of original and inventive genius. To this
high rank he was doubtless elevated by the inductive


processes which he followed in all his inquiries. Under
the sure guidance of observation and experiment, he
advanced to general laws ; and if Bacon had never
lived; the student of nature would have found, in the
writings and labours of Galileo, not only the boasted
principles of the inductive philosophy, but also their
practical application to the highest efforts of invention
and discovery.



GUICCIARDINI was the contemporary and intimate friend
of Machiavelli, but their several careers bore small
similitude ; for worldly prosperity attended the first,,
while the other was depressed by neglect and penury ;
and while his intellect struggled with these chains, the
nobler parts of his disposition yielded to them. Ma-
chiavelli was a republican in principle, of humble for.
tunes, and dependent on his friends for their favour
and encouragement. Guicciardini was a courtier; he
was the servant of a prince, not of a state ; in birth and
position in life he had the advantage of his friend ; and
these combining circumstances rendered him more con-
fident in himself, while at the same time it inspired
him with an avowed dislike for popular governments.

The Guicciardini formed one of the noblest families
of Florence : it was of ancient origin, and possessed
several magnificent mansions in Florence. One of the
streets is named de' Guicciardini, from containing a
palace belonging to them ; and they had large possessions
in the Val di Pesa.

Francesco, the subject of this memoir, was the son of
Piero de' Guicciardini, a celebrated advocate, and at one
time commissary-general to the Florentine army. Fran-
cesco was one of eight children. His mother was Simona.
daughter of the cavaliere Bongiani Gianfigliazzi, a noble
Florentine. He was born on the 6th of March, 1482.*

* It was a habit among the Florentines to keep memoranda of the prin-
cipal events of their lives, which they called Ricordi. Thexlate of the birth
of Guicciardini has been disputed, but it is ascertained from a MS. book
of his ricordi, or records, which Manni cites. He thus writes concerning
himself : " I record that I, Francesco di Piero Guicciardini, now doctor


He was educated with care by the best masters, and
taught Greek and Latin. He applied himself, as he
grew up,, to the study of logic and of civil law, as
he was destined for the robe. He was sent to Ferrara
by his father, not merely for the sake of attending the
teachers there, but that his parent might have a place
of refuge, where to send his property, in the event of
civil disturbance or external attack upon Florence.
Large sums of money were remitted to him, and he
boasts of the trustworthiness of his conduct on this oc-
casion, despite his extreme youth. It was in agitation
at one time to make him a priest, as, through the interest
of an uncle, who was rich in benefices, a prosperous
career was opened to him in the church. Pie was him-
self inclined towards the clerical profession, as one full
of honour and dignity; but his father decided against it,
and resolved that none of his five sons should enter the
priesthood ; partly induced by the notion that the papal
power was on the decline, and partly from a conscien-
tious feeling of the impropriety of adopting the sacred
calling, merely for the sake of temporal advantages.
Instead, therefore, of assuming the sacerdotal garb, Fran-
cesco took a doctor's degree in law, and at an early age
was appointed by the government to read the Institute
in the university of Florence. He married the following
year. His wife was Maria, daughter of Alamanno di
Averardo Salviati, one of the first men of the city.
Several law offices were bestowed on him, and he prides
himself at this success in early life. But he felt himself
still more honoured, when he was sent by the republic
as ambassador to Ferdinand, king of Aragon. Italy
was then the arena on which the adverse powers of
France, Germany, and Spain contended for mastery.
Florence adhered to the French party, but the timid

of civil and canon law, was born on the 6th March, 1482, at ten o'clock. I
was baptised Francesco, from Francesco de Nerli, my maternal grandfather,
and Tommaso, out of respect for St. Thomas Aquinas, on whose festival I
was born. Messer Marsiglio Ficino held me at the baptismal font, who was
the greatest platonic philosopher then existing in the world, and by Gu>
vanni Canacci and Piero del Nero, both philosophers also.


gonfaloniere Soderini, desirous of currying favour on all
sides, thought it right to preserve a good understanding
with Ferdinand. Francesco, feeling his inexperience,
shrunk from the responsibility of this mission, and did
not accept it, till his father added his commands to those
of the state.

He remained two years at Burgos, in attendance on
the Spanish court, conducting himself in such a way as
to acquire the esteem of Ferdinand, who presented him
with a number of silver vessels of great value on his
departure. This was no good school for the acquirement
of political integrity. The Italians were proverbially
treacherous, but Ferdinand emulated them in the arts
of deception. It is related of this monarch, that when
he heard that Louis XII. complained of having been
twice deceived by him, he exclaimed^ " The fool lies,
I have tricked him above ten times."

Meanwhile the aspect of affairs changed at Florence.
The French were driven from Italy, and the republic
paid the penalty of the weak and disarmed neutrality
which it had preserved, by being forced by the allied
armies to receive back the exiled Medici. The conse-
quence of this return was a change of government, from
that of a free state, to subjection to the will of a single
family. Guicciardini acted with a prudence that ac-
quired for him the favour of the new rulers ; and, on
his return from Spain, was received with every suitable
mark of distinction. His joy, however, on returning to
his native town, was clouded by the recent death of his

On the event of the visit of Leo X. to Florence, at-
tended by a numerous retinue of cardinals, Guicciardini,
who had lately filled the office of magistrate, was sent,
with others, to receive the pope at Cortona. Leo was
so struck by him, that the next day he named him his
consistorial advocate, of his own accord, without solicit-
ation: nor did his patronage stop here; he soon after
took him entirely into his service, and finding that his
prudence and sagacity were equal to the good opinion

VOL. II. p


he had formed of him, he made him governor of Reggio
and Modena. He acquitted himself with great credit
in this high office. Having been educated for the robe,
instead of the career of arms, the enemies of the pope
cherished the notion, that he might be surprised and
frightened in his government; but his firmness and
judgment disconcerted all their stratagems.

When Leo X. died, the merits of Guicciardini became
yet more conspicuous. The papal power was very in-
firmly established in Lombardy, and the duke of Ferrara,
who claimed Modena and Reggio as his own, was on
the alert to take advantage of the interval of weakness
caused by a delay in the election of a new pope ; but
Guicciardini foiled him in all his attempts. His most
memorable action on this occasion was his defence of
Parma. He relates it with conscious pride in his
history. He had been sent by cardinal Julius de"
Medici to defend Parma from an attack made by the
French. Guicciarclini's chief difficulty was, to inspire
the citizens with resolution and martial enthusiasm. He
convoked them together, distributed pikes among them,
and causing the defenceless part of the town, on one side
of the river, to be abandoned, made strenuous efforts to
intrench the other. The enemy entered the deserted
portion, and the people were eager to surrender. Guic-
ciardini pointed out to them the fact, that the hostile
forces were unprovided with artillery, and so succeeded
in inspiring them with some degree of resolution: he
led the attack himself, and the success that attended
their sortie increasing their courage, the enemy was
driven, off and the siege raised. Federigo da Bozzole,
who commanded the attack, had made sure of success,
and declared that he had been deceived in nothing
during the expedition, except in the notion that a go-
vernor, who was not a soldier, and who had newly come
to the city, should carry on the defence at his own peril,
when he might have saved himself without dishonour.

When cardinal Julius became pope, under the name
of Clement VII., he showed his approbation of Guic-


ciardini, by naming him president of Romagna, with
greater powers than had been enjoyed by any pre-
decessor in that office : thus, a large portion of Italy
north of the Apennines was under his rule. It was a
situation of honour, but attended with an equal portion
of difficulty and labour, from the unsettled state of the
country. Prudence and firmness, and even severity,
were the characteristics of Guicciardini's administration ;
he was unrelenting towards criminals, but at the same
time became very popular, in Modena especially, by the
attention he paid to the comfort and pleasures of the
people, and the embellishments he bestowed on the

At this time the French were again, after the battle
of Pavia, driven from Italy, and Clement VII., afraid of
the overweening power of Charles V., formed a league
against him. The duke of Urbino was chief over the
army of the league, and Guicciardini was named lieu-
tenant-general of the pontifical army in the ecclesiastical
states. The choice that had been made of the duke of
Urbino, as chief leader, was injudicious. He had been
driven from his states by Leo X. ; Lorenzo de' Medici
had been gifted with his duchy, and he naturally was
inimical to his rival's family. His irresolute, shuffling
conduct during the disastrous advance of the constable
Bourbon on Rome, was doubtless a principal cause of
the sack of that city. Guicciardini, as general of the
papal army, exerted himself in vain to induce him to
more energetic measures: instead of throwing himself
before the advancing army of the imperialists, he slowly
followed it. When Bourbon was in the neighbourhood
of Arezzo, the duke of Urbino entered Florence.

The power of the Medici was odious in that city. A
formidable party, whose watchword was liberty, regarded
with triumph the dangers to which Clement VII. was
exposed. A number of the younger nobility among
them took occasion of the alarm excited, to seize on
the palace of government. The duke of Urbino pre-
pared to attack it, but first sent Federigo da Bozzole

F 2


to treat with the party who held it. Full of enthusiasm
and courage, the young men refused ah 1 terms, and
Bozzole left them, enraged at their obstinacy and their
personal ill-treatment of himself. Guicciardini perceived
the dangers that threatened his country. It was an
easy task for the duke of Urbino to attack the palace of
government, to destroy it and all those within ; but an
act of violence and bloodshed was to be avoided. Guic-
ciardini hastened forward to meet Bozzole as he left
the palace, and represented to him briefly how dis-
pleasing such a contest would be to the pope, and how
detrimental to the confederates ; and how much better
it would be to calm, instead of exasperating, the mind
of the duke of Urbino. Bozzole yielded., and gave
hope to the duke that quiet might be restored without
recourse being had to arms ; pacific means were in con-
sequence resorted to, and the insurgents induced to quit
the palace. Guicciardini relates this circumstance and
his interference with pride, in the belief that he had
done his country as well as the pope good service, but
he adds, that he got no thanks from either side ; the
Medici party accusing him of preferring the lives and
safety of the citizens to the firm establishment of that
family ; while the other party declared that he had ex-
aggerated their difficulties, and caused them needlessly
to yield their advantages.

It had been well for the fame of Guicciardini, if he
had submitted to the blame of his contemporaries, and
secured the approbation of posterity, by adhering to a
line of conduct so impartial and patriotic. Although
the fall of the Medici was suspended for a short time on
this occasion, the taking of Rome decided their ex-
pulsion. When the duke of Urbino went southward to
deliver the pope, besieged in the Castel Sant' Angelo,
the Florentines seized the opportunity to drive out the
Medici, and to restore the freedom of their government.
The wars carried on by Clement VII. had weighed
heavily on the republic, since he drew from it his chief
resources ; the people were thus exasperated against his


rule, and now that they possessed the power, displayed
their hatred of his family by many acts of outrage. To
have served them was to share their disgrace, and the
odium with which they were regarded. It has been
related how Machiavelli, republican as he was, and per-
sonally attached to many of the leaders of the popular
party, was unable to overcome the prejudice excited by
his having entered the service of the Medici. Guic-
ciardini was visited by more open marks of the dislike of
the new leaders ; and he was the more angry because he
had displayed a wish to join them. He neither loved nor
esteemed Clement, whom he represents as timid, avari-
cous, and ungracious. He regarded his imprisonment by
the imperialists with very lukewarm interest, and even
raised soldiers for the defence of Florence : but these de-
monstrations did not avail to acquire for him the con-
fidence of his countrymen, and he was forced to fly the
town during a popular tumult. Hence seems to spring
his hatred of free institutions, and his subsequent con-
duct in aiding in the destruction of the liberties of his
country. From this time he entered with all the zeal
of personal resentment into the cause of the Medici.
His name has thus received a taint never to be effaced.
He became the abettor of tyrants, the oppressor of his
fellow citizens ; and that equity and firmness which he
before exercised, by establishing order in the districts
over which he presided, were changed to the persecution
of the martyrs of liberty.* It is impossible to slur over
this portion of his life as he does himself. For it is
remarkable that the only events recorded in his history,
which are narrated in a slovenly and confused manner,
are those in which he took a principal share, the
second restoration of the Medici, and the final overthrow
of the liberties of Florence.

When a reconciliation had been patched up between
Charles V. and Clement VII., the force of their united
arms was turned against Florence. The republic was

* See a clever pamphlet, entitled " Saggio sulla Vita e sulle Opere di
Francesco Guicciardini," by Rosini, a professor of the University of


p 3


headed by gallant spirits, who, seeing their last hope of
freedom in a successful resistance, exerted every nerve
to defend themselves. They were willing to suffer any
extremity, rather than submit to a slavery which must
crush for ever the proud independence and free insti-
tutions of their native city. Guicciardini had been named
by the pope, governor of Bologna, and took no part in the
war against his country ; but he is accused of par-
ticipating in the iniquitous proceedings which followed
the surrender of the city. The pope acted with the
utmost treachery. He granted generous terms ; but
when in possession, held a mock assembly of the people,
keeping off, by means of the troops he introduced, all
the citizens, except those prepared to receive law at his
hands. He thus, as it were, obtained a legal decree,
which changed the form of government, and denounced
its late leaders. Executions and confiscations became the
order of the day ; the chief power was placed in the
hands of Vettori, Guicciardini, and two others, and their
conduct entailed on them the execration of their fellow

So zealous did Guicciardini show himself, that the
pope entrusted him with the office of reforming and re-
stricting the list of candidates, who were selected to be
members of government, and he displayed his prudence
and sagacity for the reigning family at the expense
of the lives and liberties of the most virtuous among
his fellow citizens. Under his auspices, the office of
gonfaloniere, which had subsisted for 250 years, was
abolished, and Alessandro de' Medici was named duke,
which title was to descend in perpetuity to his suc-
cessors. This miserable man was the son of a negro
woman, and regarded as the offspring of Lorenzo, the
son of Piero de' Medici : but it was more probable
that he owed his existence to Clement VII. ; at least
the latter claimed the honour of paternity. His dis-
graceful birth stamped him with contempt; his profligacy
and cruelty acquired the hatred of the people over whom
he ruled.


Guicciardini endeavoured to restrain him in the in-
dulgence of his vices, but without avail. He was now
wholly devoted to his service. When Clement VII.
died, his successor wished him to continue governor of
Bologna, but he refused. While the see was vacant,
he had yielded to the entreaties of the senators, and re-
mained to prevent popular disturbances. They pro-
mised him every assistance to maintain his authority ;
but his enemies took occasion to display their disrespect.
Geronimo Pepoli, and others, who some years before
had retired from Bologna in distaste, took this occasion
to return, accompanied by armed followers and public
bandits. Guicciardini's haughty spirit was in arms
against the insult. Among the followers of Pepoli were
two outlaws under sentence of death ; these he caused
to be. seized, led to prison, and put to death. Pepoli
manifested the utmost indignation, and was only re-
strained by the authority of the senators from giving
public token of his resentment. When the new pope
was elected, and another governor appointed, Guicciar-
dini prepared to quit the city. Pepoli threatened to
attack him on his departure ; but he, undismayed, set
out at noon-day, accompanied only by a few attendants
on horseback. His road led him past the palace of the
Pepoli, nor would he diverge from it on this account,
but passed under their windows with a firm and in-
trepid countenance, and was permitted to pursue his
way unmolested.

He soon after displayed this energy and firmness of
character in a very bad cause. The Florentines, unable
any longer to endure the tyranny and vices of duke Alex-
ander, appealed to Charles V., whom they regarded as
lord paramount of their state. The emperor summoned
Alexander to Naples, where he then was, to answer the
charges made against him. He obeyed : but the em-
peror was so incensed that he began to fear the result,
and was on the point of retreating, had not Guicciardini

Online LibraryDionysius LardnerEminent literary and scientific men of Italy, Spain, and Portugal .. (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 34)