William Shepherd.

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JL HE services rendered to the cause of litera-
ture by Poggio Bracciolini, have been noticed
with due applause by Mr. Roscoe in his cele-
brated Lite of Lorenzo de' Medici. From the
perusal of that elegant publication, I was led to
imagine, that the history of Poggio must con-
tain a rich fund of information respecting the
revival of letters. A cursory examination of
the Basil edition of his works convinced me
that I was not mistaken ; and I felt a wish to
direct the attention of the public to the merits
of an author, whose productions had afforded
me no small degree of pleasure. Being apprized
that Monsieur L'Enfant had given an account of
the life and writings of Poggio, in two 12mo.
volumes, entitled " Poggiana," I at first bounded
my views to a translation of that work. Upon


perusing it, however, I found it so ill arranged,
and in many particulars so erroneous, that I was
persuaded it would be a much more pleasant
task to compose a new Life of Poggio, than to
correct the mistakes which deform the Poggiana.
In this idea I was fully confirmed by the perusal
of Recanati's Osservazioni Critiche, in which
Monsieur L 'Enfant is convicted of no less than
one hundred and twenty-nine capital errors.

I next turned my thoughts to the translation
of the Life of Poggio, written by Recanati, and
prefixed by him to his edition of Poggio 's His-
tory of Florence. But finding this biographical
memoir, though scrupulously accurate, too con-
cise to be generally interesting, and totally
' destitute of those minute particularities which
alone can give a clear and correct idea of indi-
vidual character, I was persuaded that the
labours of Recanati by no means superseded any
further attempts to elucidate the history of
Poggio. I therefore undertook the task of
giving a detailed account of the life and writings
of that eminent reviver of literature ; and being
convinced, from a perusal of his epistolary
correspondence, that his connexions with the
most accomplished scholars of his age would


impose upon his biographer the duty of giving
some account of his learned contemporaries,
whilst his situation in the Roman chancery in
some degree implicated him in the political
changes which, in his days, distracted Italy,
I carefully examined such books as were likely
to illustrate the literary, civil, and ecclesiastical
history of the period of which I had to treat.
From these books I have selected whatever
appeared to be relevant to my subject ; and I
have also introduced into my narrative, such
extracts from the writings of Poggio as tend to
illustrate, not only his own character, but also
that of the times in which he lived.

I now submit the result of my inquiries to
the public inspection, not without experiencing
considerable anxiety respecting the fate which
awaits my labours ; but at the same time, con-
scious that I have spared no pains in searching
for information, and that I have in no instance
wilfully deviated from the truth of history. The
number and minuteness of my references to
authorities will indeed vouch for my industry,
and for my willingness to facilitate that examina-
tion which may occasionally convict me of error.
For errors and inadvertencies I could plead nn



excuse, which would perhaps tend to mitigate
the severity of criticism, namely, that the life
of Poggio was written during the short intervals
of leisure allowed by a laborious occupation.
But of this excuse I cannot conscientiously avail
myself; for I have long been persuaded that the
habits of industry, acquired by the recurrence of
daily employment, are much more productive
of that exertion of mind which is necessary to
the successful study of literary composition, than
the dignified, but enervating leisure of the




** HEN I first began to collect materials for the
writing of the life of Poggio Bracciolini, I was
much indebted to the kindness of my late friends
Mr. Roscoe and Mr. William Clarke, who
liberally allowed me the free use of the scarce
books which they possessed, illustrative of the '

revival of letters in the fourteenth and fifteenth

' t

centuries. From various passages which occur
in some of these works, I was convinced that
there existed in the public libraries of the city
of Florence several manuscripts, from which
much information might be gathered respecting
the history of the scholar, to whose early exer-
tions for the promotion of sound learning I
wished to do justice. In consequence of this
persuasion, I felt a strong desire to visit the
Tuscan capital, for the purpose of copying and


analyzing such documents, suitable to my pur-
pose, as I might there discover. But my pro-
fessional engagements not allowing me to be
absent from home for the requisite length of
time, I was obliged, however reluctantly, to
give up this project as impracticable, and to
proceed in my task with the aid of such printed
books as were accessible to me. Soon after the
publication of the first edition of this work,
however, I found that a very interesting portion
of the documents which I wished to inspect
existed in my native country. The late Col.
Johnes, of Hafod, having read my Life of
Poggio, wrote to me in the spring of the year
1803, to inform me that he had in his library
a manuscript volume of Letters written by my
hero, which he would with pleasure permit me to
examine, on the condition of my coming over to
Hafod for that purpose. So frank an invitation
I eagerly accepted, and at my earliest leisure
I repaired to the Colonel's romantic residence,
where I was received with that elegant hos-
pitality, by the exercise of which Mr. Johnes
was distinguished, even in a country where
strangers are generally greeted by the resident
gentry with a hearty welcome. On a cursory
examination of the volume which had thus


attracted me to the wilds of Cardiganshire, and
which was beautifully written on the finest
vellum, I found that it contained many letters
of Poggio which had not been printed. From
these I immediately commenced making extracts
of such passages as tended to throw new light on
the particulars of Poggio's history ; and this
task I resumed at future visits which I paid to
Hafod, till, at length, the intercourse between
Mr. Johnes and myself ripening into the con-
fidence of intimate friendship, my kind host
was pleased to present me with the volume itself,
which I keep among the most precious of my
few literary treasures, and which I especially
value, as the gift of an accomplished and warm
hearted man, whose memory I shall gratefully
cherish to the close of my mortal existence.

Under the guidance of this manuscript I
was enabled to settle various dates of occurrences
in the Life of Poggio, which were not supplied
by any printed record which had fallen into my
hands ; and also to collect several traits illustra-
tive of his character, which would naturally be
traced in his epistolary correspondence. Other
engagements, however, for some time prevented
me from arranging these memoranda, which I had


originally collected with a view to an improved
edition of my work. At a certain period, also,
I deferred this task, in hopes of profiting by the
annotations which I was apprized that the
learned Dr. Spiker, librarian to the King of
Prussia, had appended to a translation which he
had made of my Life of Poggio into the Ger-
man language. To my great mortification,
however, the Doctor's manuscript, which had
been put into the hands of a printer at Berlin,
was irrecoverably lost in the confusion which
followed upon the conquest of Prussia by the
Emperor Napoleon after the battle of Jena.
The French version of my work by the Compte
de Laubepin, which was published at Paris in
the year 1819, I found to be faithful, and
elegant in its style ; but its Appendix threw
little new light upon the subject of my lucubra-
tions. My papers relating to Poggio lay, then,
undisturbed in my portfolio, till the appearance
in the year 1825 of the Cavaliere Tonelli's
translation of my work into Italian once more
drew my attention to them, and revived the
wish which I had so long ago entertained to
publish an improved edition of the Life of
Poggio. For the Cavaliere had completely
smoothed to me the work of correction.


Having had access, not only to a manuscript
copy of Poggio's letters deposited in the Ric-
cardi library at Florence, of which the volume
given to me by Colonel Johnes is a duplicate,
but also to other collections of Poggio's epistles,
which he had discovered in various libraries on
the continent of Europe, with the first volume of
a selection from which he favoured the literary
world in the year 1832, he was enabled to supply
my deficiencies, as well as to rectify the mis-
takes into which I had in some few instances
fallen, by relying too much on secondary autho.
rities. This he has done in the notes appended
to his translation, which in their substance
exemplify the industry in research of a zealous
lover of literature; and in their temper and
style the urbanity of a gentleman. With such
aid to facilitate my labours I experienced little
difficulty in preparing for the press this second
edition of the Life of Poggio, which I now
submit to the public, with that confidence in its
accuracy, which is founded upon the circum-
stance, of its having been improved by the
suggestions of a critic, who has acquired a
knowledge, at once minute and extensive, of
the literary history of the period of which I
treat, and whose opinions I cannot but respect,
as the result of varied information and of en-
lightened judgment.


BIRTH of Poggio His education at Florence John
of Ravenna Poggio goes to Rome Enters into the
service of Boniface IX State of Italy Schism of
the West Urban VI The Antipope Clement VII
Bonifice IX Distracted state of Italy The Anti-
pope Benedict XIII Wars in Italy Letter of Pog-
gio Poggio"s arrival in Rome Innocent VII Poggio
introduces Leonardo Aretino into the pontifical chan-
cery Memoirs of Leonardo His contest with Jacopo
d^Angelo Insurrection in Rome Gregory XII
Alexander V Distractions of the Pontificate Poggio
visits Florence John XXII Leonardo Aretino
elected chancellor of Florence His marriage, and
letter to Poggio Convocation of the council of Con-


A OGGIO,* the son of Guccio Bracciolini, was born on
the eleventh day of February, in the year 1380,^ at
Terranuova, a small town situated in the territory of the
republic of Florence, not far from Arezzo. He derived
his baptismal name from his grandfather,! concerning whose
occupation and circumstances, the scanty memorials of the
times in which he lived, do not furnish any satisfactory
information. From his father, Poggio inherited no advan-
tages of rank or fortune. Guccio Bracciolini, who exer-
cised the office of notary, was once indeed possessed of
considerable property ; but being either by his own impru-
dence, or by misfortune, involved in difficulties, he had

Recanati Poggii Vita, p. 1. Recanali Osservazioni, p. 34.

f- Eloffi degli Uomini Illustri Toscani, torn. i. p. 270. MS. in the
Riecardi Library referred to by the Cavaliere Tonelli, torn. i. p. 3. of his transla-
tion of the Life of Poggio, which will be hereafter designated by the abridgment
Ton. Tr.

{ Recanali Poggii Vita, p. 1.

Recanati indeed, on the authority of a letter addressed by an unknown
antiquary to Benedetto do" Bondclmonti, asserts, that the office of notary httri
been for some generations hereditary in the family of Poetpo.

Recanati nt supr.


recourse to the destructive assistance of an usurer, by whose
rapacious artifices, his ruin was speedily completed, and he
was compelled to fly from the pursuit of his creditors.*

But whatever might be the disadvantages under which
Poggio laboured, in consequence of the embarrassed state
of his father's fortune, in a literary point of view the cir-
cumstances of his birth were singularly propitious. At the
close of the fourteenth century, the writings of Petrarca
and Bocaccio were read with avidity, and the labours of
those eminent revivers of letters had excited throughout
Italy the emulation of the learned. The day-star had now
pierced through the gloom of mental night, and the dawn
of literature was gradually increasing in brilliancy. The
city of Florence was, at this early period, distinguished by
the zeal with which its principal inhabitants cultivated and
patronized the liberal arts. It was consequently the favour-
ite resort of the ablest scholars of the time, some of whom
were induced by the offer of considerable salaries, to under-
take the task of public instruction. In this celebrated
school, Poggio applied himself to the study of the Latin
tongue, under the direction of Giovanni Malpaghino, more
commonly known by the appellation of John of Ravenna.
This eminent scholar had, for a period of nearly fifteen
years, been honoured by the friendship, and benefited by
the precepts of Petrarca, under whose auspices he made
considerable progress in the study of morals, history, and

* See a fragment of a letter from Colucio Salutati to Pietro Turco. Apud
Mehi Vitam Ambrosii Traversarii, fo. CCCLXXW, CCCLXM.


poetry. After the death of his illustrious patron, lie deli-
vered public lectures on polite literature, first at Venice,
and afterwards at Florence. At the latter place, besides
Poggio, the following celebrated literary characters were
formed by his instnictions Leonarcjo Aretino, Pallas
Strozza, Roberto Rossi, Paulo Vergerio the elder, Omne-
buono Vicentino, Guarino Veronese, Carlo Aretino, Am-
brogio Traversari, and Francesco Barbaro.*

* Giovanni, the son of Jacopo Malpaghino, was born at Ravenna. In his
early youth he left his native city, and went to Venice, where he attended the
lectures of Donato Albasano, a celebrated grammarian. From the instructions
of Donato he derived considerable advantage; but his connexion with that
scholar was more eminently fortunate, as it introduced him to the acquaintance,
and procured him the friendship of Petrarca, who took him into his family, and
superintended the prosecution of his studies. In return for the kindness of his
accomplished patron, Giovanni undertook the improving employment of tran-
scribing his compositions a task for which he was well qualified, as he had
added to his other acquirements that of a beautiful hand writing. Petrarca in
a letter to Giovanni Certaldo, which is preserved in Mehus's life of Ambrogio
Traversari, mentions, with distinguished applause, the industry, temperance and
prudence of his young scribe ; and particularly commends the tenaciousness of
his memory, in proof of which, he informs his correspondent, that Giovanni
had, in eleven successive days, qualified himself to repeat his twelve Bucolic
poems. Perhaps the highest eulogium that can be pronounced upon Giovanni is
this, that he continued to reside in the family of Petrarca for the space of fifteen
years, at the end of which time, by the death of that elegant enthusiast, he was
deprived of an enlightened master and a zealous friend. On this event he went
to Padua, where he for some time gained an honourable livelihood, by instruct-
ing youth in the principles of eloquence. In the year 1397, he received an in-
vitation to undertake the office of public instructor, in the city of Florence.
This invitation he accepted, and discharged the duties of his station with great
applause, during the course of at least fifteen years. The time of his death is
uncertain. Mehi Vita Ambrosii Travcrsarii, p. CCCXLVIII. CCCLIII. Ejvs-
dem preefatio ad Colucii Salulati Epistolas. p. XLI.


It has been asserted by most of the writers who have
given an account of the early history of Poggio, that he
acquired a knowledge of the Greek language at the Floren-
tine University under the tuition of the celebrated Manuel
Crysoloras but it is evident from a letter addressed by him
to Niccolo Niccoli, that he did not commence his Greek
studies till the year 1424, when he entered upon them at
Rome, trusting for success in this new pursuit to his own
industry, guided by the occasional instructions of a friend
of his of the name of Rinuccio, an accomplished scholar,
who afterwards became secretary to Pope Nicholas V.*

When he had attained a competent knowledge of
the Latin language, Poggio quitted Florence, and went to
Rome in the year 1403. Soon after his arrival in that city,
on the recommendation of his venerated tutor Coluccio
Salutati, he obtained the appointment of secretary to the
Cardinal Rudulfo Maramori, Bishop of Bari ; and in the
month of August or September in the ensuing year, he
entered into the service of the reigning pontiff Boniface
IX. in the capacity of writer of the apostolic letters.-f-

A. D. 1403. At the time of Poggio^s admission into
the pontifical chancery, Italy was convulsed by war and
faction. The kingdom of Naples was exposed to the hor-
rors of anarchy, consequent upon a disputed succession to
the throne. Many of the cities of Lombardy, now the

Ton. Tr. lorn. i. p. 7.
f Ton. Tr. torn. i. p. 10.

CHA1'. I.

unresisting prey of petty tyrants, now struggling to throw
off the yoke, were the miserable theatres of discord and of
bloodshed. The ambition of the Lord of Milan carried
fire and sword from the borders of Venice to the gates of
Florence. The ecclesiastical state was exposed to the pre-
datory incursions of banditti ; and the cities over which, as
portions of the patrimony of St. Peter, the pope claimed
the exercise of authority, took advantage of the weakness
of the Roman court to free themselves from its oppression.
At the same time, the lustre of the pontificate was dimmed
by the schism, which for the space of more than twenty
years had divided the sentiments, and impaired the spi-
ritual allegiance of the Christian community.

As this celebrated ecclesiastic feud, which is commonly
distinguished by the name of the Schism of the West,
commenced only two years before the birth of Poggio ; as
no fewer than five of his patrons were implicated in its pro-
gress and consequences, and as it was terminated by the ,
council of Constance, which assembly he attended in quality
of secretary to John XXII. it will be necessary to enter a
little at large into its history.

The joy experienced by the inhabitants of Rome, on
the translation of the papal court from Avignon to its
ancient residence, by Gregory XI. was suddenly damped
by the death of that pontiff, which event took place on the
28th of March, 1378. The Romans were apprehensive,
that if the choice of the conclave should fall upon a native
of France, he would again remove the holy see beyond the

8 CHAP. I.

Alps.* They sighed for the restoration of that splendor,
with which the pomp of the successors of St. Peter had
formerly graced their city. Their breasts glowed with in-
dignation, when they saw the states of the church, in con-
sequpnce of the absence of its chief, successively falling
under the dominion of usurpers. During the residence of
the popes at Avignon, the devout pilgrimages, once so
copious a source of gain to the inhabitants of the capital of
Christendom, had been suspended ; the tombs of the mar-
tyrs had been neglected, and the churches were fast hasten-
ing to decay. Dreading the renewal and the aggravation
of these evils, the Roman clergy and populace assembled in
a tumultuous manner, and signified to the cardinals, who
happened to be at Rome at the time of the death of Gregory
XI. their earnest wishes, that they would appoint some
illustrious Italian to fill the pontifical chair. Amidst the
clamours of the people, the conclave was held in the Vati-
can, under the protection of a guard of soldiers. This
assembly was composed of thirteen French and four Italian
cardinals. Notwithstanding this preponderance of ultra-
montane suffrages, in consequence, as Platina says, of a
disagreement among the French,^ or more probably, as
was afterwards alleged by the Gallic ecclesiastics, in con-
sequence of the overawing influence of the Roman populace,
the election was concluded in favor of a Neapolitan, Bar-
tolomeo, Archbishop of Bari, on whom the conclave con-

" Platina Vile de" Pantefifi, torn. i. p. 36!.
j- Plaina, lorn. i. p. 3G9.

CHAP. r. 9

ferret! the name of Urban VI.* The French cardinals,
after protesting against his nomination to the papal chair,
as an act in which they had been obliged to concur through
a dread of rousing the popular indignation, fled from the
city. In the course of a little time, however, they returned
to Rome, and made their peace with Urban by confirming his
election, and paying him the customary homage. But this
reconciliation was not lasting. The manners of Urban were
haughty and stern, and his disposition was severe and
revengeful. Disgusted by his pride, and dreading the
effects of his resentment, the foreign cardinals again with-
drew, first to Anagni, and afterwards to Fondi, a town
situated in the territories of Naples. Here, being em-
boldened by the protection of Joanna, queen of that country,
they renewed their protest against the election of Urban,
and proceeding to form a new conclave, they proclaimed the
cardinal of Ginevra, under the name of Clement VII. the
true successor of St. Peter. This was the beginning of that
schism, which for so long a space of time perplexed the true
believers, by the inexplicable phenomenon of the co-exist-
ence of two supreme and infallible heads of the church, each
proscribing his competitor, and fulminating the terrors of
damnation against the adherents of his rival.

In this contest the Gallic cardinals did not restrict
themselves to the use of spiritual weapons. They assem-
bled a body of mercenary soldiers, whom they employed in

* The conclave gave a name to the new pontiff, because he was absent from
Rome at the time of hi* election.



making an incursion into the Roman territory. These
troops were at first successful in their operations ; but en-
gaging the pontifical army near Marina, they were defeated
with considerable loss.*

The resentful spirit of Urban, stimulated by the hos-
tile conduct of the rebellious cardinals, prompted him to
meditate a severe revenge. He instantly dispatched an
ambassador to Lodovico, king of Hungary, with instruc-
tions to proffer to that monarch his assistance in punishing
the queen of Naples, for the imputed murder of her
husband Andrew, brother to the Hungarian sovereign,
who it was alleged had, with her concurrence, been put to
death by Luigi, prince of Taranto.^ Lodovico, who had
long thirsted for vengeance, eagerly accepted the offers of
Urban, and gave orders to Carlo, son of Luigi di Durazzo,
the descendant of Charles II. and heir apparent to the
throne of Naples, to march with the Hungarian troops,
which were then engaged in hostilities against the Vene-
tians, and to co-operate with the pope in an attack upon the
kingdom of Naples. J Carlo, after taking Arezzo, and
making peace with the Florentines on the condition of their
lending him forty thousand crowns of gold, repaired to
Rome, where he held a conference with Urban. Thence he

Platina, torn. i. p. 370.

-f- Voltaire, Essai stir les Mceurs et f Esprit des Nations, chap. 69. The
Cavaliere Tonelli is of opinion, that Joanna was innocent of this crime, which is
not imputed to her by the best Neapolitan historians, Costanzo and Giannone.
See Ton. Tr. torn. i. p. 16.
Plalina, torn. i. p. 372.

CHAP. I. 11

directed his march to Naples, of which city he easily made
himself master. Joanna, after sustatiing a short siege in
the Castello Nuovo, was taken prisoner, and, according to
the directions of the inexorable king of Hungary, smothered
between two mattresses.*

This vindictive deed being perpetrated, Urban repaired
to Naples, and, according to the terms of an agreement
which had been concluded before the departure of the prince
of Hungary from Rome, he demanded, on behalf of his
nephew, the possession of the principality of Capua, and of

Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdThe life of Poggio Bracciolini → online text (page 1 of 31)