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" and I hope I shall produce something worth reading;
" but for this purpose, as I have informed him, I must be
" indulged with leisure and retirement."

The invitation of the cardinal of St. Ettsebius was not
so satisfactory to the wishes of Poggio. In the letter from
which the foregoing extracts have been made, he thus
expresses himself.

" I observe what the cardinal writes on the subject of
" the secretaryship. If I had valued that office as highly
" as some do, I should long ago have returned to Rome.
" I have less esteem for the pontificate and its members,
*' than they imagine ; for I wish to be a free man, and not
" a public slave. Ratify the offers of Picro, and you shall
" see that I shall avoid the Roman court with more dili-
" gence than many people would be apt to believe. I
" must earnestly request that you will not communicate
" my plans to any one, since we are ignorant of what may
" happen for man proposes, but God directs the issues
" of things."*

* Ambrogii Traversarii Opera, torn. ii. p. 1122.

CHAP. III. 1*>7

The event of these negociations demonstrated the
prudence of Poggio, in not precipitately rejecting the
invitation of Adimaro. Some obstacle intervened to pre-
vent the execution of the plan proposed by Lamberteschi ;
and we may estimate the impatience with which Poggio
endured his exile from Italy, by the undoubted fact, that
notwithstanding the above confession of his dislike of the
pontifical court, he accepted the office of Secretary to
Martin V. He accordingly quitted England, where his
hopes had been so severely disappointed, and after a jour-
ney, of the incidents of which no record appears in his
works, he once more took up his residence at Rome.

It is very probable, that Poggio communicated to
his Italian correspondents an account of the remarkable
circumstances which he observed in the course of his jour-
ney to England, and of his return to his native land. It
is also reasonable to suppose, that some of the letters which
he wrote from this country would contain his opinion of
the manners and customs of our ancestors. If this was the
case, we have reason to lament that these interesting docu-
ments are not yet made public. Though incidental men-
tion is frequently made in the works of Poggio, of his
residence in Britain, he never dwells upon this topic. A
trait of the manners of the English in the fifteenth century
occurs in his dialogue on Nobility, in which he thus notices
the English aristocracy. "> The nobles of England deem it
" disgraceful to reside in cities, and prefer living in retire-
" ment in the country. They estimate the degree of a
" man's nobility by the extent of his estates. Their time

128 CHAP. III.

" is occupied in agricultural pursuits,- and they trade in wool
" and sheep, not thinking it at all derogatory to their dig-
" nity to be engaged in the sale of the produce of their
" lands. I have known a wealthy merchant, who had
" closed his mercantile concerns, vested his money in land,
" and retired into the country, become the founder of a
" noble race ; and I have seen him freely admitted into
" the society of the most illustrious families. Many per-
" sons also of ignoble blood have been advanced to the
" honours of nobility by the favour of their sovereign,
" which they have merited by their warlike achievements."*

In his Historia Disceptativa Conmvialis, he relates
another trait of the manners of our forefathers, which he
records as an instance of their politeness. A splenetic
traveller would probably have quoted it as a proof of their
love of good living. k ' The English," says he, " if they
" meet with any one at whose table they have dined, even if
" the rencounter should take place ten days after the feast,
" thank him for his good entertainment ; and they never
u omit this ceremony, lest they should be thought insen-
" sible of his kindness."^

From the following story, which Poggio has chroni-
cled in his Facetice, we learn, that at this early period the
English were addicted to the practice of diverting them-
selves at the expense of their brethren on the other side of

* Poffffii Opera, p. 69.
f Ibid, p. 36.

CHAP. III. 120

St. George's channel, and that when he visited this country,
an Irishman was already become the common hero of an
English tale of absurdity.

" When I was in England, I heard a curious anecdote
" of an Irish captain of a ship. In the midst of a violent
" storm, when all hands had given themselves over for lost,
" he made a vow, that if his ship should be saved from
" the imminent danger which threatened to overwhelm her,
" he would make an offering at the church of the Virgin
" Mary of a waxen taper, as large as the main-mast. One
" of the crew observing that it would be impossible to
" discharge this vow, since all the wax in England would
" not be sufficient to make such a taper, hold your
" tongue, said the captain, and do not trouble yourself
" with calculating whether t can perform my promise or
" not, provided we can escape the present peril."*

* Poffffii Opera, p. 474.


STATE of Italy during Poygio's residence in England
Martin V. retires to Florence Retrospect of the his-
tory of that city Martin is dissatisfied with the con-
duct of the Florentines Baldassare Cossa is liberated
from confinement, and submits to the autliority of
Martin V. His death Martin V. transfers his
court to Rome A reconciliation is effected between
Leonardo Aretino and Niccolo Niccoli Poggio^s
letter to Leonardo on this event Council of Pavia
The council is transferred to Siena, and there
dissolved Hostility of Alfonso of Arragon against
Martin V. Unsuccessful attempts to crush the re-
formers in Germany Termination of the schism
Poggio's dialogue on Avarice The Fratres Observan-
tice satirized by Poggio Poggio excites displeasure by
curbing the zeal of the Fratres Observantife His
letter on this subject His opinion of the monastic
fife and itinerant preachers Reflections.


W HILST Poggio was living in a kind of exile in Eng-
land, the sovereign pontiff was in a manner banished from
his capital. On his arrival in Italy, Martin V. found the
states of the church in the hands of troops of banditti,
who had taken advantage of the disorders of the times, to
spread ruin and devastation through every quarter of the
pontifical dominions. The passes, and places of strength,
were so generally occupied by these adventurers, who were
in the pay of a noted chieftain, named Braccio di Montonc,
that the pontiff did not dare to expose himself to their
outrages, by attempting to establish himself in Rome.
The inhabitants of Bologna also, espousing the cause of
John XXII., had shut their gates against him. He was
therefore reduced to the necessity of taking refuge in some
friendly territory. In this extremity, the Florentines
offered him an asylum, and Martin accordingly removed his
court from Mantua to their city, into which he made his
public entry with extraordinary pomp, on the twenty-sixth
of February, 1419.* His residence in Florence did not,
however, produce within his mind any friendly sentiments
towards his hosts. The Florentines indeed, by their

* Muralori Annull, lorn. be. p. 1)3.

134 CHAP. IV.

behaviour to their illustrious guest, greatly diminished the
value of the favour which they had conferred upon him,
in affording him a place of rest. At this period, they were
elated with the self-confidence occasioned by a long series
of almost uninterrupted prosperity. Filippo, who upon
the death of his brother, Giovanni Maria, had succeeded
to the ducal throne of Milan, disclaiming the hostile views
of his predecessors, had lived in a state of friendship with
his Tuscan neighbours, and did not even interpose to pre-
vent them from reducing the district of Pisa under their
dominion. In the year 1408 the repose of the Florentines
had been disturbed by an invasion of their territories by
Ladislaus, king of Naples, who had taken possession of a
considerable portion of the ecclesiastical states ; but with
the assistance of Louis of Anjou, they had discomfited the
usurper, and had expelled him from the dominions of the
church. By his death, which happened in the year 1414,
they had been freed from all fear of hostile incursions, and
for the space of five years from that event, they had
enjoyed the blessing of peace. During this period they
had extended their commerce, and greatly cncreased their
opulence and power. In the insolence of their pride, they
looked upon the wandering pontiff with contempt. Insen-
sible to those delicate impulses which prompt man to regard
the unfortunate with respect, they wantonly published the
sentiments of their hearts ; and Martin was irritated and
disgusted by hearing his name made the subject of ridicule,
and the burden of contumelious songs.* The Florentine

* Poggii Historia Flor. lib. iv. v. Martin was particularly offended by a
ballad, the burthen of which was Papa Martino non vale un quatlrino. IbM,
p. 203. apudnotas. Muralori AnnuH, torn. ix. p. 103.

CHAP. IV. 135

populace were betrayed into these violations of decorum
by their attachment to the interests of Braccio di Montone ;
and this undisguised partiality to his enemy exasperated
the indignation of the pontiff. Yielding, however, to the
pressure of circumstances, he was persuaded, by the solici-
tations of the Florentine government, to agree to terms of
pacification with Braccio, whom he invested, in quality of
Vicar of the church, with the government of the cities of
Perugia, Assisi, Jesi, and Todi; in return for which con-
descension, the rebellious chieftain gave up to the pontiff
the towns of Narni, Terni, Orvieto, and Orta.* Braccio
being thus reconciled to the head of the church, and being
encouraged by the promise of an ample recompense for his
services, turned his arms against his late brethren in rebel-
lion ; and reduced the Bolognese to submission to the
Roman see.-f-

During these transactions, Cosmo de' Medici, who
had been united by the strictest ties of friendship to Bal-
dassare Cossa, the deposed pontiff, was very urgent in
his petitions to Martin V. to liberate his unfortunate pre-
decessor from confinement. Martin at length graciously
assented to Cosmo's request ; and despatched the necessary
orders to Heidleberg. But the impatience of Baldassare,
who was weary of seclusion from the world, had already
stimulated him to purchase his freedom from the Count

* Afuraiori Annali, torn. ix. p. 97-

f- Bologna surrendered to Braccio after a short siege, July 15th, 1420.
Muralori Annali, torn. ix./>. 98.

130 CHAP. iv.

Palatine, (to whose custody he had been assigned) at the
price of thirty thousand pieces of gold- Having thus
obtained his liberty, he crossed the Alps, and arrived
safely in Italy. The well-known turbulence of his spirit
led many to expect that he would reclaim the pontifical
honours, and distract the Christian church by a renewal of
the schism. But to the surprise of every body, he re-
paired with all convenient speed to Florence, where he
arrived on the 13th of May, 1419, and there, kissing the
feet of Martin, he acknowledged him as the only true and
legitimate successor of St. Peter. The spectators of this
extraordinary scene were melted into tears, and the com-
passion and generosity of the pontiff were excited by this un-
expected act of submission. Deeply affected by the serious
instance of the instability of human greatness, which was thus
presented before his eyes, Martin received his humble prede-
cessor with kindness ; and endeavoured to alleviate his sense
of the degradation which he had experienced, by creating him
cardinal, and bishop of Toscolano- The haughty spirit of
Baldassare did not long undergo the mortification of wit-
nessing the pomp and splendour of which he had been so
rudely deprived. He died at Florence, on the twenty-
second day of December, and was interred with much
pomp in the church of St. John. Cosmo de 1 Medici
erected to his honour a magnificent monument, on which
he caused to be engraven the following simple inscription :


CORPUS HOC TUMULO coNDixuM.* Platina asserts in his
" Platina, p. 398.

CHAP. IV. 137

Lives of the Popes, that Baldassare, at the time of his
death was possessed of immense treasures, which were
inherited or seized by the family of the Medici ; and in
tli is assertion he has been copied by subsequent writers.
But Muratori maintains, on the contrary, that it is clearly
proved by his last will, that the deposed pontiff died poor
rather than rich.*

Muratori Annali, lorn. ix. p. 93. Baldassare Cossa is generally distin-
guished by the pontifical appellation of John XXIII. He was however in fact
only the twenty-second of that name who filled the papal chair. The mistake
in his designation arises from the extraordinary circumstance of the annalists
of the holy see having admitted into the series of pontiffs the famous pope
Joan, who it is asserted, on succeeding Leo IV. in the pontificate, assumed the
name of John VII. This ecclesiastical Amazon is said to have been an English-
woman, who went in man's attire with her lover to Athens, where she made
such a proficiency in her studies, that she rose through the subordinate degrees
of clerical preferment to the supreme honours of the pontificate. It is further
alleged, that having become pregnant by one of her domestics, she was seized
with the pains of labour, as she was conducting a procession to the church of
St. John Lateran, and expired in the street. This improbable story is related
by Platina, who observes, however, that though it is commonly believed, it rests
upon doubtful authority. He informs us, that those who maintain the truth of
this narration, allege in proof of its authenticity, two circumstances, namely,
that the pontiffs always avoid passing through the street where this unto-
ward accident is said to have happened : and that on the installation of a newly
elected pope, he is obliged to undergo a ceremony, which would infallibly detect
any attempt at a repetition of the above-mentioned imposture. With regard to
the first of these allegations, Platina acknowledges the fact of the pontiffs avoid-
ing the supposed scene of Joan's disgrace ; but says, that the reason of this is,
that the street in question is too narrow to admit the passage of a crowded retinue.
With regard to the second, he makes the following truly curious remark. " De
" secunda ita sentio, sedem illam (perforatam sedem scilicet ubi pontificis geni-
" talia ab ultimo diacono attrcctautur) ad id paratam esse, ut qui in tanto
" magistratu constuitur sciat se non deum sed hominem esse, et necessitatibus
" naturae, utpote egerendi subjectum esse, unde merito stercoraria sedes vocatur."


138 CHAP. IV.

The territories of the church being restored to peace
by the active exertions of Braccio di Montone, and no
obstacle remaining to prevent the pontiff from visiting his
capita], he departed from Florence and proceeded to
Rome, to which city he was welcomed by the enthusiastic
joy of the populace, on the twenty-second of September,

The Pontifical household being once more regularly
established in the capital of the church, Poggio, as it has
been before observed, was induced, by the invitation of
the cardinal of St. Eusebius, to accept the office of Secre-
tary. The time of his arrival in Rome may be fixed some-
time in the spring of 1423,* and it appears that his first
care, after his re-establishment in the sacred chancery, was
to renew with his friends the personal and epistolary com-
munication, which his long absence from Italy had inter-
rupted. The unfortunate quarrel of Leonardo Aretino and
Niccolo Niccoli also engaged his early attention. Nothing
is more painful to a man of an ingenuous mind, than the
occurrence of dissension between those for whom he enter-
tains an equal degree of friendly regard. Poggio, there-
fore, embraced the first opportunity which presented itself,
of exerting his utmost endeavours to effect a reconciliation

In the annotations subjoined by Panvinio to the Italian translation of
Platina's history, published at Venice, A. D. 1744, it is most satisfactorily
proved, that this story of John VII., alias pope Joan, is a gross falsehood,
invented by one Martin, a monk.

" Ton. Tr. vol. i. p. 137-

CHAP. IV. 139

between the angry disputants. A long letter, which Leon-
ardo had dispatched to him during his residence in London,
with the view of giving him a full account of the cause of
this disgraceful strife, had never reached him ; but soon
after his arrival at Rome, Leonardo supplied this deficiency
by sending him a copy of this letter, which he had kept
for the inspection of his other friends.* Poggio soon found,
that in his endeavours to terminate this unhappy difference,
he was likely to experience as serious obstacles in the
wounded pride of Leonardo, as in the infatuated wrath of
Niccolo.-f- In this difficult affair, therefore, he thought
it advisable to avail himself of the assistance of the common
friends of both parties. Ambrogio Traversari had already,
indeed, interposed his good offices to bring about the
desired reconciliation, but without effect.^ Poggio however
conceived great hopes, that the mediation of Francesco
Barbaro, for whom Leonardo entertained a high degree of
respect, would have considerable weight ; and when that
eminent scholar, being vested with the office of ambassador
extraordinary of the Venetian Republic, paid a visit to
Rome, where he was met by Leonardo, he flattered him-
self that the reconciliation which he so ardently wished
would be effected. Francesco was equally desirous with
Poggio to discharge the duties of a peace-maker ; but he

* Leon. Aret. Episl. lib. iv. ep. xxi.

f- Ibid, lib. iv. ep. xxii.

J Ambrogii Traversarii Opera, torn. ii. p. 2K7.

$ This embassy occurred in the year, 1426 Agoslini Isloria degli Scritlori
I'iniziani. torn. ii. p. 58, 59, fiO.

140 CHAP. IV.

found Leonardo so determined upon requiring from his anta-
gonist a very ample apology for his conduct, that he was
almost induced to give up the cause in despair : and Leon-
ardo, being perhaps apprehensive that at the time of his
departure from Rome his friends would renew their efforts
to shake his resolution, withdrew from the city in so sudden
and secret a manner, that Poggio hadjiot an opportunity
of taking leave of him. For this conduct the latter gently
reproved his friend in a letter, in which he stated to him
his opinion, that in his affair with Niccolo, it was by no
means advisable to use recrimination, or to demand an
apology, and that nothing was requisite but a mutual
oblivion of the past. " Remember," says he, " that it is
" the characteristic of a great mind, to forget and not to
" revenge injuries, and that the duties of friendship are
" paramount to all other considerations. You seem to me
" to attach too much importance to trifles, which it will be
" more conducive to your glory to despise, than to make
" them the subjects of serious concern.""* In a second
letter on the same subject he informed Leonardo, that he
could not, without the utmost vexation, witness the inter-
ruption of a friendship which had been established on the
best foundation of mutual esteem, and which had continued
for so long a period; and that his concern was much
increased, when he observed that their disagreement was
detrimental to the good fame of both parties. f In this
letter he grants, that Niccolo has his failings, but reminds

* Poggii Opera, p. 306.
t Ibid, p. 347.


his correspondent, that imperfection is the common lot of
mortality, and that it is our duty, according to the instruc-
tions of the apostle, to bear one another's burdens.*

The obstinacy of Leonardo for some time withstood
the solicitations of his friends. But Francesco Barbaro,
proceeding from Rome to Florence, laboured with such
earnestness and prudence to allay the heat of his resent-
ment, that he at length consented once more to enrol Nic-
colo in the number of his friends. The news of this event
drew from Poggio a letter of thanks and congratulation to
the mediator, and the following .prudent and friendly
admonition to Leonardo.

" I have just received intelligence of an event, the
" most delightful which could possibly have occurred at
" the present time ; namely, the reconciliation which has
" taken place between you and Niccolo. This circumstance
" inspires me with the greatest pleasure, especially because
" it proves that you do not belie the promise of your
" former years ; but that you support the consistency of
" your excellent character. It must now be your care to
" act with such prudence, that this reconciliation may be
" improved into a renewal of friendship. It is not enough
" that your hatred is at an end. Love and kind affection
" must succeed in the place of animosity. These are the
" indications of an upright, ingenuous, and virtuous mind.

* Poffffii Opera, p. 347-

142 CHAP. IV.

" Reassume then I beseech you, that familiar and friendly
" intercourse with Niccolo, which I have for so long a space
" of time witnessed with so much pleasure. Carefully
" avoid every thing which may tend to impair your mutual
" good will ; and act in such a manner that this reconcilia-
" tion may appear to have been effected, not merely by
" the interposition of your friends, but by your own free
" will, and with your hearty concurrence. By your conduct
" you have obtained the greatest glory, and I trust you
" will find it the source of the most exquisite pleasure. I
" can assure you that this event has given the utmost satis-
" faction to all our friends at Rome I say our friends ;
" for I have the happiness of being connected by the bonds
" of friendship with all your associates in the pontifical
" court. The reputation which you have acquired by your
" conduct in this affair, you must support by perseverance
" and firmness of mind ; for your late enmity would soon
" have injured the reputation both of yourself and of Nic-
" colo. By your reconciliation however you have main-
" tained your dignity, and conciliated the esteem of the
" virtuous and the learned. I have written a shorfrletter
" to Niccolo, and am anxious to receive his answer ; for I
" am surprised that neither you nor he should have given
" me the least intimation of this event ; especially when
" you were both fully sensible how much I was interested
" in it. 11 *

In the thirty-ninth session of the council of Constance

* Poygii Episl. Ivii. p. 161.

CHAP. IV. 143

it had been decreed, that for the suppression and prevention
of heresy and schism, at the end of five years after the
dissolution of the existing council, another should be sum-
moned ; a third at the expiration of seven years from the
breaking up of the second ; and that after these extraor-
dinary meetings, general councils should be regularly held
once in every ten years. At the expiration of the prescribed
term, therefore, Martin V. according to the tenor of the
first head of this decree, summoned the representatives of
the different nations of Christendom to repair to Pavia.
[A. D. 1423.] Nothing however having lately occurred,
particularly to interest the Christian powers in the proceed-
ings of the Roman hierarchy, the inconsiderable numbers
of this assembly formed a striking contrast with the mul-
titudes who had a few years before this time flocked on a
similar occasion to the city of Constance. The plague
having made its appearance in Pavia, the council was
removed to Siena, where it began to be more numerously
frequented. Alfonso, king of Arragon, took this opportu-
nity of supporting, in opposition to Martin V., the pre-
tensions of Piero da Luna, who still assumed the name of
Benedict XIII. and maintained a sort of pontifical splendour
in the fortress of Paniscola. Alfonso was prompted thus
to trouble the peace of the church, by the resentment
which he felt against Martin, in consequence of that pontiff's
refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of his pretensions to
the throne of Naples. On the death of Ladislaus, the
crown of that distracted realm was inherited by his sister,

144 CHAP. IV.

Johanna II.,* who soon after her accession married Jacques,
count of La Marche, a prince of the royal blood of France.
The ambition of Jacques, who, not contented with admin-
istering the government in the name of his wife, wished to
be acknowledged as sovereign paramount of the kingdom,

Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdThe life of Poggio Bracciolini → online text (page 10 of 31)