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himself. At this feeble age, therefore, the future pontiff
was banished from an uncomfortable home, and sent forth
into the wide world, with no resources but his genius, his
virtues, and the generosity of the benevolent. These ap-
parently inauspicious circumstances called into exertion an
energy of mind which cannot be too highly applauded.
For the space of six years Tommaso applied himself to his
studies with astonishing diligence, and soon made consider-
able progress in various departments of knowledge. When
he had attained his eighteenth year, his literary reputation
induced two eminent citizens of Florence to invite him to
undertake the education of their children. This invitation
Tommaso readily accepted ; and from his eighteenth to his
twenty-second year, he was engaged in the laborious employ-
ment of initiating his pupils in the rudiments of learning.
Having at the end of four years from the time of his arrival
in Florence, by strict economy, accumulated a sum of
money, which he deemed sufficient to enable him to prose-
cute his studies with advantage, he returned to Bologna.
His literary accomplishments had now gained him the
countenance of several respectable friends, at ; whose recom-
mendation he was admitted into the family of Nicolao
Albergato, who was then the bishop of that city. By his
prudence and good conduct he gained the esteem of his
patron, who soon promoted him to the stewardship of his
household. In the midst of the multifarious employments
which devolved upon him in consequence of his acceptance
of this office, Tommaso found leisure to fathom the depths
of scholastic theology. When he had attained the age of

364 CHAP. ix.

five-and-twenty, in discharge of his mother's vow, he en-
rolled himself in the priesthood. He continued to live in
the family of Nicolao Albergato for the space of twenty
years, at the end of which period the death of that prelate
obliged him to seek a new patron. His well-known virtues
soon obtained for him the countenance and support of
Gerardo d'Andriani, cardinal of Santa Maria Transtevcre.
In the suite of this dignitary he accompanied Eugenius to
Rome, to which city the papal court was transferred on the
twenty-eight of September, 1443. He had not long resided
in the pontifical capital before he was distinguished by the
favour of Eugenius, who on the death of his second pro-
tector took him into his service, and appointed him sub-
deacon of the apostolic see, and soon afterwards promoted
him to the honourable office of vice-chamberlain.*

During his attendance upon the pontiff at Bologna Pog-
gio enjoyed frequent opportunities of becoming thoroughly
acquainted with the singular merits of Tommaso, whose
proficiency in literature and ingenuous manners had some
years before engaged his esteem, and conciliated his affec-
tion. Nor was Tommaso insensible of the good qualities
of Poggio. A memorial of the mutual regard which sub-
sisted between these able scholars, exists in the dedication
of a Dialogue On the Unhappiness of Princes, which Pog-
gio published in the year 1440, and which he inscribed to
his friend before his virtues had been brought forward to

* VitaNicolaiV.aJannotioManettiapudMuratoriiRer. Italic Script,
torn. iii. p. ii. p. 908 et. seq.

CHAP. IX. 305

public observation by his acquisition of distinguished honour
and great emolument. In this dedication Poggio notices
the common error of men, who are so much struck with the
pomp and grandeur of the great, that they take it for
granted, that power and magnificence confer on their posses-
sors the gift of true felicity. He observes, however, that
those who rise above the level of vulgar intellect ought to be
convinced that happiness does not depend upon the external
blessings of fortune, but that it is the meed of virtuous dis-
positions. He professes that it is his object to persuade
men of this truth ; and remarks that a work which is
intended, to promote this happy end, may with the strictest
propriety be addressed to an ecclesiastic, who in the whole
course of his conduct has demonstrated, that he has studied
to be virtuous, rather than to be rich or great.*

After this preface, Poggio proceeds to state, that in
the summer of the year in which he followed Eugenius IV.
to Florence, to which city the pontiff was banished by the
fury of the Roman populace, he happened to pay a visit
to Niccolo Niccoli, whose house was the common resort
of the learned. Here he found Carlo Aretino and Cosmo
de n Medici, with whom he entered into conversation on
the politics of Italy. After having recounted to his friends
the hardships which he had lately suffered when he was
taken captive by the soldiers of Piccinino, he complained

Poffffii Opera, p. 390, 391. The date of the publication of the dialogue
above mentioned is ascertained by an unpublished Epistle of Poggio, cited by
Tonelli, Tr. vol. n. p. 62.

306 CHAP. IX.

of the unsettled life which he led in consequence of his
attendance upon the Roman court, which in the course of
thirty-four years that had elapsed since his admission into
the pontifical chancery, had never continued for two years
together in the same place. On this Carlo Aretino re-
marked, that Poggio was discontented with a situation
which the generality of men regard as an object of envy,
since the pontiffs and their superior servants are usually deem-
ed masters of every circumstance necessary to the insur-
ance of a happy life. In consequence of this observation,
Niccolo Niccoli gave it as his opinion, that whatever
advantages the attendants and courtiers of great potentates
may derive from the control which they acquire over public
affairs, princes themselves lead a life of anxiety and care,
and endure all the inconveniences, whilst others reap all
the benefits of empire. Such is the introduction to the
Dialogue On the Unhappiness of Princes, in the body of
which Niccolo Niccoli is represented as detailing the mise-
ries of exalted rank. On this copious subject he dilates at
considerable length, proving from history that the best
princes are liable to the bitterest woes incident to human
nature. Gaining courage as he proceeds, he attempts to
demonstrate that eminence of station is unfriendly to virtue.
Examining the conduct of the most renowned chieftains,
both monarchs and demagogues, who have rendered them-
selves conspicuous in the annals of the world, he impeaches
them of avarice, cruelty, intemperance, pride, and unbridled
ambition ; and appeals to his auditors, whether men who
are thus enslaved by their passions, can possibly be deemed
happy. Arguing upon the position, that man is the crea-

CHAP. ix. , 367

turc of the circumstances in which he is placed, he maintains,
that the possession of uncontrolled authority betrays the
powerful into vice, inasmuch as it frees them from those
salutary restraints which are necessary to the confirmation of
good principles. Hence, he observes, it frequently hap-
pens, that men who have adorned a private station by
their virtues have become the disgrace of human nature
when they have been raised to the summit of power.

From this train of argument Niccolo draws tlje con-
clusion, that as happiness seems to be banished from the
palaces of the great, if she resides any where on earth,
she must be found in the abodes of private individuals,
who have the wisdom to set bounds to their desires, and to
dedicate themselves to the cultivation of their intellectual
powers. The conduct of these men he proposes as an
object of imitation, and exhorts his friends to the study
of those principles of philosophy which will render them
happy in themselves, and fearless of the power, and inde-
pendent of the favours of the great.*

Such is the tenor of the Dialogue On the Unhappiness
of Princes, in which Poggio dwells with so much energy
on the vices of exalted rank, that it may reasonably be
suspected that resentment and indignation had at least as
much influence in its composition as the suggestions of
philosophy. In perusing this work, the reader is perpetu-
ally led to recollect, that its author was a citizen of a

Poffffii Opera, p. 392419.

308 CHAP. IX-

proud republic, and a zealot in the cause of learning. His
democratic asperity bursts forth in copious enumerations of
the follies and vices of sovereign princes. His literary
spleen is discernible in the sarcastic observations which he
introduces by the medium of Niccolo Niccoli, on the
indifference with which the rulers of Italy regarded his
researches after the lost works of the writers of antiquity ;
in the detail which he gives of the neglect and scorn
which Dante, Petrarca, and Bocaccio experienced from the
great men of their times ; and in the general observations
which he makes upon the contempt with which mighty
potentates too frequently regard the labours of the learned.
The effusions of moroseness which occur in this dialogue
are, however, interspersed with precepts of sound morality,
and the historic details with which it abounds are at once
entertaining and instructive. To which it may be added,
that Poggio has exhibited in this composition a striking,
and in all probability a correct delineation of the temper
and manners of the splenetic, but sagacious disputant

Niccolo Niccoli.*


This dialogue was not well calculated to conciliate
the favour of sovereign princes. But the patronage of
the great was not the object of its author's wishes. It

* In the Basil edition of Poggio's works, the dialogue De Infelicitate
Principum is so incorrectly printed, that it is frequently difficult to decypher
the meaning of the author. An edition of the same dialogue, printed in 12mo.
at Frankfort, by Erasmus Kempffer, in the year lb'29, is one of the most incor-
rect books which ever disgraced a press. Fortunately, however, the cue of these
copies is frequently of use in correcting the errors of the other.

CHAP. IX. 369

was sufficient for Poggio that it was received with appro-
bation by the learned, and that it secured to him the
esteem of Tommaso da Sarzana, and other private indivi-
duals, whose kind regard might compensate the depreda-
tions made amongst his comforts by the ravages of death.
For he was now arrived at that period of life in "which
man is generally called to experience the severest of trials,
in being doomed to survive his friends. He had already
lamented the death of Niccolo Niccoli. He had attended,
a mournful assistant at the funeral of Lorenzo de"* Medici.
Leonardo Aretino was the only associate of his early studies,
who was left to sympathize with 'him in the recollection of
their juvenile pleasures. In the strength of Leonardo's
constitution, Poggio fondly hoped that he had an assurance,
that the happiness which he derived from his friendly
attachment would be prolonged to the close of his own
mortal career. But in the commencement of the year 1444,
a violent disease suddenly bereft him of the sole surviving
companion of his youthful years. In Leonardo he lost
not only a kind, but also a powerful friend. Soon after that
accomplished scholar had fixed his residence in Florence, he
was called by the favour of the people to fill some of the
most important offices of the state. By his faithful dis-
charge of the duties of these offices he acquired such a
high degree of popularity, that he was at length promoted
to the chief magistracy of the Florentine republic.

So great was the estimation in which he was held by
his fellow-citizens, that when his death was announced, the
administrators of the government charged three members

3 B

370 CHAP. ix.

of the council of ten to conduct his funeral rites with th6
most solemn magnificence at the public expense.* In order
to express in the most signal manner their respect for the
memory of the deceased, they also determined publicly to
decorate his remains with a laurel crown. The rare occur-
rence of this testimony of honour (of the conferring of which
only three instances had hitherto occurred in the long series
of the Florentine annals)^ rendered it the more illustrious.
In pursuance of the orders of the magistrates, the body of
Leonardo arrayed in silken robes was carried in an open
coffin to the public square of the city. On his breast was laid,
as a memorial of his patriotism, his history of the Florentine
Republic. The funeral procession was attended by all the
officers of state, except the Gonfaloniere, by the embassa-
dors of foreign princes who happened at this time to reside
in Florence, by a considerable number of learned men, and
by an immense concourse of the citizens, who were not
more attracted by the novelty of the ceremony, than by
their respectful remembrance of the virtues of Leonardo.
In the presence of this august assembly Gianozzo Manetti
advanced to the head of the bier, and there pronounced a
funeral oration in praise of the deceased, towards the con-
clusion of which he fulfilled the decree of the magistracy,
by crowning him with the laurel wreath. The friends of
Leonardo whose judgment was enlightened by the principles

* Janolii Manetti pro Leonardo Aretino Oralio Funebris, Epistolis
Leonardi a Meho edit is preeftxa, p. civ.

f Janolii Manetti pro Leonardo Aretino Oralio Funebris^ Epistolis
Leonardi a Meho editis prteftxa, p. cxiv.

CHAP. IX. 371

of true taste, must have lamented that the task of celebrat-
ing his virtues was delegated to Gianozzo Manetti- The
speech which he pronounced on this occasion is a most
miserable composition, abounding in puerilities, vulgar in
its style, irrelevant in its topics, and most tediously diffuse.*
It is highly probable, that the vexation experienced by

* The following analysis of Gianozzo's oration will be sufficient to prove,
that the foregoing censure is by no means too severe. He began his address by
informing his auditors, that if the immortal Muses (" immortales Musae divinae-
quo Camcenae ") could have deemed it compatible with their dignity to make
an oration, either in the Latin or the Greek language, or to weep in public,
they would not have delegated to another the task of paying the last honours to
Leonardo ; but since this exhibition of their grief was contrary to the usual
habits of the Nine, the administrators of the Tuscan government had determined
that the virtues of the deceased should be celebrated by one of his colleagues.
He then with due modesty declared, that their choice having been directed to
himself, not on account of his talents, but in consequence of his filling one of
the principal offices of the state, he had prepared himself for the occasion, not
to his own satisfaction, but as well as the brevity of the time allowed him for
the purpose would permit. The orator then proceeded to give a sketch of the
life of Leonardo. When he arrived at that period of it in which the deceased
became one of the public functionaries of the state, he detailed at some length
the history of the Florentine republic during the time of Leonardo's possession
of civic and military offices. In the course of his minute detail of Leonardo's
literary labours, he contrived to introduce brief notices of a considerable number
of Greek and Latin writers, and enlarged particularly upon the merits of Livy
and Cicero, to each of whom he represented Leonardo as superior, since he not
only translated Greek authors into Latin, after the example of the latter, but also
wrote histories, in emulation of the former, thus uniting the excellencies of
both. After this, preparing to perform the ceremony of coronation, he proved
by historical evidence, that the custom of crowning emperors and poets was very
ancient. Descanting on the various kinds of military crowns, he informed his
auditors, that by the frequent perusal of ancient writers, he had ascertained,
that of these tokens of honour there were eight different species, namely, the
Corona Obsidionalis, Civica, Muralis, Castrensis, Navalis, Ovalis, quasi Trium-
phalis, and Triumphalis. The description of tho materials of which these

372 CHAP. ix.

Poggio, on seeing the memory of his beloved friend thus
disgraced by the folly of his panegyrist, induced him to

crowns were severally made, the occasions on which they were bestowed, the
enumeration of divers eminent commanders whose brows they had adorned, led
the errant orator into a further digression, from which he did not return before
he had detailed at great length the reasons why poets should be crowned with
laurel, in preference to ivy, palm, olive, or any other species of evergreen.
This dissertation on crowns occupies the space of five quarto pages, closely
printed in a small type. Having exhausted this topic, Gianozzo proceeded to
prove, that Leonardo was a poet. This led him to enumerate most of the Greek
and Latin poets, and to explain the derivation of the term poeta. In treating
on this subject, he announces the marvellous discovery, that he who wishes to
be a poet, must write excellent poems ! " Itaque si quis poeta ease cuperet
" qusedam egregia poemata scribat oportet." Having endeavoured by sundry
truly original arguments to vindicate Leonardo's claim to the poetic wreath, he
closed his harangue by the performance of the prescribed ceremony.

The following list of such of the voluminous works of Leonardo Aretino
as have been committed to the press, is extracted from the enumeration of his
writings, subjoined to his life by Laurentius Mehus.

1. Historiamm Florentini Populi, Lib. xii. Per Sixtum Brunonem
Argent. 1610. fol. Ejusdem traductio Italica a Donato Acciajolo Venetiis,
1473, Florentiee, 1492. Venetiis, 1560. Ibidem a Sansovino, 1561.

2. Leonard* Arretini de Temporibus suis Libri duo. Venetiis, 1475
and 1485. Lugduni apud Gryphium, 1539. Argentorati per Sixtum Brun-
onem, 1610. It was reprinted by Muratori, in the 19th vol. of his Rer. Italic.

3. De hello Italico adversus Gothos geslo Libri qualuor. This work is
founded upon the Greek history of Procopius. It has been edited in the
following places : Fulginii per Emilianum Fulginatum, 1470. Venetiis per
fficolaum Jenson, 1471. Basilea, 1531. Parisiis, 1534. It was also printed
together with Zosimus, Rasilete, 1576, and with Agathias and Jornandes, Lugd.
1594. Bellovisiis, 1607.

4: De Bella Punico Libri ires. Brixia, 1498. Paris, apud Ascenstum.
1512. Augusta VindeL 1537.

CHAP. ix. 373

endeavour to supersede the wretched effusion of Gianozzo by
a composition more worthy of the lamented subject of the

5. Commentarium Rerun Gracamm was edited by Gryphius, Lug. 1539.
Liptice a Joach. Cumerario, 1546. Argentorati, 1610, per Si.rlum lirun-
onem. It was also reprinted by Gronovius in the 6th volume of his Thet.
Antiq. Greec.

6. Isagogicon moralis disciplines ad Galeotum Ricasolanum. This work
also bears the title of Dialogus de moribus ad Galeottum, c. and under the
title of Arisloteles de moribus ad Eudemum Latine Leonardo Arretino
inlerprete, it was printed, Lovanii, 1475. Paris, juxta de la Mare, 1512.
Ibidem, 1516, per Ascensium.

7. Ad Petrum Histrium dialofforum Libri. Basilea, 1536, per Henri-
cum Petri, $c. Paris, 1642.

8. De studiis et litteris ad illuslrem Dominant Baptistam de Malatestis.
Argentina, 1512. It was also published by Gabriel Naudaeus in 1642, and it
composes part of a book entitled Hugonis Grotii et aliorum dissertationes de
studiis bene inslituendis, Amsteloed. 1645. It was also printed by Thomas
Crenius in his Meth. Stud. torn. i. Num. x. Rotlerod. 1692.

9. Laudatio Cl. V. Johannis Stroza Equitis Florentini, was published
by Baluzzi in the third volume of his Miscellanies.

10. Imperaloris Heliogabali Or ado prolreplica, sive adhortatoria ad
Meretrices, published by Aldus Manutius in his Histories Augusta Scriptores
Minores, Venetiis, 1519.

11. Oratio in Uypocritas was printed in the Fasciculus of Ortuinus
Gratius Colonies, 1535. Lugd.1679. Londini, 1691. It was again published
in the year 1699, from a copy in the possession of Antonio Magliabecchi.

12. La Vita di Dante e i costumi e studj di Messer Francesco Petrarca.
The life of Petrarca was edited by Philippus Tomasinus in his Petraca Redi-
vivus, printed at Padua, 1650. It was again printed, together with the life of
Dante, an. 1671.

13. Magni Basilii Liber per Leonardum Arretinum de Graco in Lati-
num translatus Brixice, 1485, per Boninum de Boninis Bononia, 1497-
Argentorati, 1507- Paris, 1508. Roma, 1594.

14. Marci Anionii Vita.

374 CHAP. -ix.

public grief. However this may be, certain it is, that the
funeral oration which he published on this melancholy occa-

15. Vita Pyrrhi Epirotarum Regis.

16. Vita Pauli Emilii.

17. Tiberii et Caii Gracchorum Vita.

18. Q. Sertorii Vita.

19. Catonis Uticensis Vita.

20. Vila Demosthenis. The seven foregoing pieces of biography, trans-
lated by Leonardo, from the Greek of Plutarch, were printed, Basilece apud
Isingrinium, 1542.

21. Leonardi Arretini Apologia Socratis. Bononice, 1502.

22. Aristotelis Ethicorum Libri decem secundum traductionem Leonardi
Arretini- Paris, 1504 Q 1510, per Henricum Stephanum, <$[ 1516, per

23. Aristotelis Politicorum, Libri viii. per Leonardum Arretinum in
Latinum traducli. Venetiis, 1504, 1505, 1611, 1517. Basil. 1538.

24. Oeconomicorum Aristotelis libri duo, a Leonardo Arrelino in Lati-
num conversi. Basilece, 1538.

25. Oratio SEschinis in Ctesiphontetn a Leonardo Arretino in Lalinum
conversa. Basilece a Cratandro, 1528, 1540.

26. Oratio Demosthenis contra Aeschinem a Leonardo Arretino in
Latinum e Grceco traducta. Basilece a Cratandro, 1528, 1540.

27. De crudeli amoris exitu Guisguardi et Sigismundas Tancredi Saler-
nitanorum Principis filice. Turon, 1467. This version of Bocaccio's well
known tale is also printed in the works of Pius II.

28. Epistolarum Libri viii. ann. 1472, /o/. ad Antonio Morelo et Hiero-
nymo Alexandrine. A second edition was printed, ann. 1495 a third,
Augustas, 1521, apud Knoblochium a fourth, Basileee, 1535, apud Henricum
Petri a fifth, Basilece, 1724, apud Albertum Fabricium a sixth, Florentine,
1741. edente Meho.

21). Canzone Morale di Messer Lionardo. This poem is printed in the
third volume of Crescimbeni's Italian poetry.

CHAP. IX. 375

sion affords a striking contrast to that which wearied the ears
of the learned men who attended the obsequies of Leon-
ardo. It is at once dignified and pathetic. Lucid in its
arrangement, and well proportioned in the distribution of
its parts, it is a monument of the sound judgment of its
author. The account which it contains of the lifer and
writings of Leonardo is succinct and clear. In his delinea-
tion of the moral portraiture of that extraordinary man,
Poggio evinces a distinctness of perception, and an accu-
racy of discrimination, which are highly honourable to his
understanding ; whilst the delicacy with which he softens
down the faulty features of Leonardo's character, attests
the warmth of his affection for the beloved depository of
his most secret thoughts.*

Leonardo Aretino was perhaps the ablest scholar of
his age. He took the lead amongst the industrious students
who unlocked the secret treasures of literature by the trans-
lation of the works of the Grecian authors. His Latin
style is less encumbered with faults than that of any of his
contemporaries. ^Eneas Sylvius indeed declared it as his
opinion, that next to Lactantius he approached the nearest
of any of the later writers to the elegance of Cicero. The

The inspection of the foregoing catalogue will evince the diligence with
which Leonardo Aretino prosecuted his studies. The numerous editions
through which many of his works have passed afford a sufficient indication of
the esteem in which they were held by the learned men of the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries.

* Poggio's funeral oration for Leonardo is prefixed by Mehus to his edition
of Leonardo's letters.



compositions of that celebrated orator do not, however,
seem to have been adopted by Leonardo as his model. At
least he did not in his writings attain the copious fluency,
or the graceful ease of diction which distinguish the works
of Cicero. But the luminous distinctness of his periods
entitles him to no small commendation. His sentences are
never embarrassed or confused. He conveys his meaning
in few words, and does not fatigue his readers by unreason-
ably dwelling upon his topics, or by repeating the same
idea in varied forms of expression. Hence, if his language
is not polished to an exquisite smoothness, it is sufficiently
precise, and its deficiency in melody is compensated by its

Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdThe life of Poggio Bracciolini → online text (page 25 of 31)