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" Nothing would have been wanting," says Platina, " to
" complete the glory of this pontiff, had he not tarnished
" the lustre of his fame by his excessive partiality towards
" his relations. These flocked in crowds to Rome ; and the

* " Ego sane quo me ex eorum vulgo cximerem de quorum ocio parum
" constat, nonnulla hac tenus conscripsi, quae jam inter multos diffusa longiorem
" paulo, mini, post obitum, vitam allatura videantur. Idque eo feci libcntius,
" quo facilius fugerem eas molcstias, quibus haec fragilis atque imbecilla setas
" plena est. Haec enim scribendi exercitatio, multum mihi contulit ad tempo-
*' rum injurias perferendas. Non enim non potui angi animo et dolcre aliquando,
" cum viderem me natu majorem, ita adhuc teuui esse censu, ut cogerer quaestui
" potius operam quam ingenio dare."

Poffffii Opera, p. 32.

CHAP. I. 25

" numerous acts of simony of which they were guilty, greatly
" impaired the authority of the keys.""* j

A. D. 1404. On the death of Boniface, Cosmo, car-
dinal of Santa Croce, was elected to the pontificate, and
assumed the name of Innocent VII. The new pontiff was
by no means insensible of the merits of Poggio, whom he
continued in the office to which he had been promoted by
the favour of Boniface. He appears indeed to have treated
him with particular kindness and respect. Poggio availed
himself of his interest with Innocent, to testify the sincerity
of his friendship for Leonardo Aretino, who during his
residence at Florence, had been the associate of his studies,
and the companion of his festive hours. Leonardo, whose
paternal appellation was Bruni, derived the name of Aretino
from Arezzo, in which city he was born in the year 1870.

* Platina, torn. i. p. 380, 381. The following anecdote, inserted by Poggio
in his Facetiae, is at once a record of this partiality, and a curious specimen of
the Italian wit of the fourteenth century.

" Bonifacius pontifcx nonus, nationc fuit Neapolitanus ex familia Tomacel-
" lorum. Appellantur autem vulgari sermone Tomacelli cibus foetus ex jecore
" suillo admodum contrito atque in modum pili involtuto interiore pinguedine
" porci. Contulit Bonifacius se Perusiam secundo sui pontificates anno. Ade-
" rant autem secum fratres et affines ex ea domo permulti, qui ad eum (ut fit)
" confluxerant, bonorum ac lucri cupiditate. Ingresso Bonifacio urbem seque-
" batur turba primorum, inter quos fratres erant et caeteri ex ea familia. Qui-
" dam cupidiores noscendorum hominum quserebant quinam essent qui seque-
" rentur. Dicebat unus item alter, hie est Andreas Tomacellus, deinde hie
" Johannes Tomacellus, turn plures deinde Tomaccellos nominatim recensendo.
" Turn quidam facetus, Hohe ! pennagnum nempe fuit jecur istud, inquit, ex
' quo tot Tomacelli prodierunt et taui ingeutes."

Poggii Opera, p. 431.

26 CHAP. I.


His parents, though not graced by the honours of nobility,
held a respectable rank in society, and were sufficiently
wealthy to be enabled to bestow on their son a good educa-
tion.* In his early youth, Leonardo was incited to a love
of letters by an extraordinary accident. A body of French
troops, who were marching to Naples to assist Louis duke
of Anjou in maintaining his claim to the sovereignty of
that kingdom, at the solicitation of the partizans of a faction
which had been banished from Arezzo, made an unexpected
attack upon that city ; and after committing a great slaughter,
carried many of the inhabitants into captivity ; and among
the rest the family of Bruni. Leonardo being confined in a
chamber in which was hung a portrait ot Petrarca, by daily
contemplating the lineaments of that illustrious scholar,
conceived so strong a desire to signalize himself by literary
acquirements, that immediately upon his enlargement he
repaired to Florence, where he prosecuted his studies with
unremitting diligence, under the direction of John, of
Ravenna and Manuel Crysoloras.-f- During his residence at
Florence, he contracted a strict intimacy with Poggio. This
intimacy was not interrupted by the separation of the two
friends, which took place upon the removal of the latter to
Rome. On the contrary, Poggio being informed by
Leonardo, that he wished to procure a presentation to some
place of honour and emolument in the Roman chancery,
took every opportunity of commending his virtues, and of

* Mehi Vita Leonardi Bruni, p. xxiii. MV.

f Janotii Manetti, Oratio Funebris apud Mehi, edit. Epist. Leonardi
Aretini, torn. i. p. xcii, xciii.

CHAP. I. 27

bringing his talents into public notice, by communicating his
letters to the literary characters who frequented the pontifical
court.* In consequence of Poggio's address, the fame of
Leonardo reached the ears of Innocent, who was induced,
by his extraordinary reputation, to invite him to Rome, at
which city he arrived, March 24, 1405. On this occasion
the interest of Leonardo was powerfully promoted by a letter
addressed to Innocent, by Coluccio Salutati,f the chaii-

* Mehi Vita Leon. Aret. p. xxxi.

f- Coluccio Salutati was born in the obscure town of Stignano, about the
year 1330. It appears from a letter which he wrote to Bernardo di Moglo, that
he was destitute of the advantages of early education, and that he did not apply
himself to the cultivation of polite literature, till he was arrived at man's estate,
and that he then began his grammatical studies without the aid of a master.
When he deemed himself properly prepared to extend his literary career, he
went to Bologna, where he attended the public lectures of Giovanni di Moglo,
the father of the above-mentioned Bernardo. In compliance with the advice of
his relations and friends, he qualified himself for the profession of a notary;
but when he had acquired a sufficient knowledge of legal practice, he devoted
himself to the Muses, and composed several poems. In the forty-fifth year of
his age, he was elected chancellor of the city of Florence, which office he held
during the remainder of his life. He died on the fourth of May, 1406, and his
remains, after having been decorated with a crown of laurel, were interred with
extraordinary pomp, in the church of Santa Maria del Fiore. It was a subject
of great regret to I/eonardo Aretino, that soon after his arrival in Rome, some '
unfortunate misunderstanding deprived him of the affectionate regard of Coluc- (
cio, and that the death of his veteran friend prevented him from effecting a
reconciliation, which he appears to have desired with all the earnestness of an
ingenuous mind.

Coluccio was the author of the following works, MS. copies of most of
which are preserved in the Lauren tian library. 1 De Fato et Fortuna. 2 DC
saeculo et rcligionc. 3 De nobilitate legum ct uiedicinae. 4 Tractatus de Ty-
ranno. 5 Tractatus quod medici eloquentiap studeant et de Verecundia an sit
virtus aut vitium. 6 De laboribus Herculis. 7 Historia dc casu Hominis. 8 De

28 CHAT. I.

cellor of the city of Florence, in which he detailed the
merits of the young candidate in the most flattering terms.
The reception which Leonardo met with on his first presenta-
tion at the pontifical court, though in some respects flat-
tering, was on the whole inauspicious. Innocent observed
to him in the presence of his courtiers, that he seemed to
be in every other respect well qualified for the place to which
he aspired ; but that an office of great trust required more
discretion than could be expected from his early years. This
observation stimulated Jacopo d'Angelo, a scholar of consi-
derable reputation, who had formerly been a rival of Leonardo
in the Florentine university, to offer himself as a candidate
for the office in question. The age of Jacopo was more
mature than that of Leonardo, and a residence of four years
in the pontifical court seemed to give a decided superiority
to his claims over those of the stranger.* Poggio sym-
pathized in the disappointment and anxiety of his friend.
Fortunately however for Leonardo, Innocent having at this
time received certain letters from the duke of Berry,

arte dictandi. 9 Certamen Fortunse. 10 Declamationes. 1 1 Invectiva in Anto-
nium Luscum. 12 Phyllidis querimonia. 13 Eclogaj viii. 14 Carolina ad
Jacobum Allegrettum. 15 Sonnetti, and lastly, various Epistles, a collection
of which was published by Mehus in one volume, small quarto, printed at
Florence, A.D. 1741.

We may judge of the zeal which Coluccio manifested for the promotion of
literature by the extent of his library, which consisted of eight hundred volumes
a magnificent collection in those early times, when good MSS. were very
scarce, and consequently very costly. Colluccii Vita a Philippo.Villani, apud
Mehi editionem Epistolarum Lini Colucii Pierii Salutati Leonardi Areiini
Epittolas, lib. i. ep. x. xii.

Leonardi Aretini Epist. I. \. ep. \.

CHAP. I. 2J)

determined to assign to eacli of the competitors, the task
of drawing up an answer to them. The compositions of
the two candidates being compared, the prize was una-
nimously adjudged to Leonardo, who was in consequence
of this decision, instantly advanced to the dignity of
apostolic scribe. This transaction was the means of cement-
ing the friendship of Poggio and Leonardo, which endured,
without interruption till their union was severed by death.*

Before his accession to the chair of St. Peter, Innocent
was accustomed to blame the negligence and timidity of the
Italian pontiffs, and to attribute to their incapacity the
continuance of the schism which gave such occasion of
triumph to the enemies of the true faith. But when he was
invested with the pontifical purple, he was convinced by
mortifying experience, that it was much easier to find fault
with the conduct of his predecessors, than to redress the

* By gaining the victory in this contest, Leonardo considerably encreased
liis reputation, as his competitor was a man of very respectable talents. Jacopo
d'Angelo was a native of Scarparia, and studied the Latin tongue under the
auspices of John of Ravenna. Understanding that Demetrius Cydonius and
Manuel Crysoloras had undertaken to give public lectures on the Grecian classics
in the city of Venice, he immediately repaired thither for the purpose of avail-
ing himself of their instructions. So great was bis zeal in the cause of literature,
that he accompanied Crysoloras to Constantinople, with a view of collecting
manuscripts, and attaining a more accurate and extensive acquaintance with
the Greek language. He translated into Latin Ptolomey's Cosmographia, and
also Plutarch's lives of Brutus and Pompey. His version of the Cosmographia
he dedicated to Alexander V. Contemporary scholars have given ample testi-
monies to his literary abilities, but his studies were abruptly terminated by an
early death. Mehi Vita Amltrotsii Traversarii, p. xvi. ccclvi. Ejusdem l r ilu
Lcttnanll Brunt, p. xxxli. Facius tie viritt illuslribus, p. 9.



grievances of Italy, and to restore the peace of the church.
[A. D. 1405.] He found himself indeed obliged to exert
all his power, to repress the spirit of liberty which prompted
the Roman people to demand the restitution of the capitol,
the castle of St. Angelo, and of the other places of strength
which had been wrested from them by the policy of his pre-
decessors. The animosity excited in the breasts of the
populace, by the refusal of Innocent to accede to these
demands, was exasperated to the highest degree, by the
culpable impetuosity of his nephew Lodovico, who attacking
a deputation of the citizens, who had waited on the pontiff
with a view of composing the differences which subsisted
between him and the people, had seized eleven of their
number, and put them to death. Two of these were mem-
bers of the council of seven, which presided over the city,
and the remaining nine were citizens of illustrious rank.
Irritated by this act of cruel treachery the populace flew to
arms, and revenged the death of their chiefs by the slaughter
of several of the servants of the pontiff. Innocent, who was
unconscious of the treachery of his nephew, was totally
unprepared to resist the fury of the multitude. The pon-
tifical residence was indeed strongly fortified ; but it was not
furnished with sufficient provisions to be enabled to stand a
siege ; and the troops of Laudislaus, king of Naples, were
said to be hastening to the assistance of the insurgents. In
this extremity, Inndcent determined to seek his safety in
flight. He accordingly left the palace, under the escort of
a sufficient guard, at two o^clock in the afternoon of the
sixth of August, and after a hasty march of two days, in
the course of which several of his attendants died of fatigue,

CHAP. I. 31

arrived at Viterbo.* Most of his servants, and among the
rest Poggio and Leonardo, the latter of whom narrowly
escaped falling a victim to the indiscriminate rage of the
insurgents, were the companions of his flight.*}-

The Roman patriots were now masters of almost every
part of the city. They were however soon dispirited, when
they saw their territory laid waste by the pontifical troops,
and agreed to terms of pacification with Innocent, who
returned in triumph to his capital, towards the latter end of
March, 1406 J [A. D. 1406.] The pontiff did not long
enjoy this favorable reverse of fortune, as he died on the
sixth of November, of the same year.

When the intelligence of the death of Innocent
reached France, the dukes of Berry, of Burgundy, and of
Orleans, who, in the quality of regents, administered the
affairs of that kingdom during the mental indisposition of
Charles VI. repaired to Avignon, and conjuring Benedict
XIII. to concur in putting an end to a schism which had
been the source of so much scandal and calamity, proposed,
that he should voluntarily divest himself of the pontificate.
With a view of softening the harshness of this proposal,
they engaged, that whosoever should be elected at Rome as

See an old diary of Gentile d'Urbino, apud Muralorii Rer. Italic Scrip-
tor, torn. vi. ;;. 844.

~ } Leonard* Aretini Epistolai, I. i. ep. v.

* Leonardi Aretini E pis tolas, I. i. ep. z.
Platina, torn. i. p. 383, 384.

32 CHAP. i.

successor to Innocent, should be obliged to take the
same step. The antichristian competition being thus termi-
nated, it was to be hoped, they said, that the assembled
cardinals would agree in the election of a pontiff, who
would be universally acknowledged as the legitimate head
of the church. Invitations to resign dignity, splendour,
and power, are seldom received with complacence. Bene-
dict made many general protestations of his zeal for the
welfare of the church, but peremptorily refused to quit the
pontifical chair. Fearing that the regents would attempt
to enfore their propositions by arms, he strengthened the
fortifications of Avignon, in which city he was in a manner
besieged for the space of some months. Being at length
reduced to extremities, he embarked on the Rhone, and
proceeding down that river to the Mediterranean, he fled
into Spain, where he found a refuge from the power of his
enemies in his native province of Catalonia.*

In the mean time, each of the cardinals who happened
to be at Rome, at the time of the death of Innocent VII.
took a solemn oath, that if in the ensuing election of a sove-
reign pontiff, the choice of the conclave should happen to
fall upon himself, he would resign the pontificate, provided
Benedict would follow his example.

This arrangement was proposed in order to appease the
mutual jealousy of the French and Italian cardinals, as nei-
ther of these subdivisions of the ecclesiastical senate would

* Platina, torn. i. p. 385, 386.

CHAP. I. 33

consent to sacrifice their representative without the concurrence
of their antagonists in a similar measuie. These preliminaries
being adjusted, on the 30th of November, the conclave pro-
ceeded to fill the vacant chair, by the election of Angelo
Corraro, cardinal of St. Mark, who on his advancement to
the pontifical dignity, adopted the name of Gregory XII.*

Though the new pontiff had, immediately after his elec-
tion, subscribed a ratification of the oath which bound him
to abdicate his newly acquired honours, yet upon frivolous
pretexts, he from time to time deferred the fulfilment of
this sacred engagement. Benedict his competitor, having
repaired to Savona, and afterwards to Porto Venere, with
a view, as he asserted, of settling the peace of the church,
by an amicable conference with Gregory ; the latter insisted
upon it, that they should meet in some inland town, where
they might jointly comply with the requisition of the cardi-
nals. Benedict on the contrary asserting, that he could not
deem himself safe in the interior of Italy, demanded that
Gregory should for that purpose, meet him in some sea-
port. With this proposal, Gregory, on pretence of appre-
hended danger to his person, refused to comply. Thus as
Leonardo Aretino humorously observes, " The one, like
"an aquatic animal, was afraid of trusting himself on dry
" land ; and the other, like a terrestrial animal, had an equal
" dread of the water. "-f- Scandalized by the duplicity of the

* Lconardi Arctini Epistol<e, 1. ii. ep. iii.

f Leonard* Aretini Epistola, 1. ii. ep. xxi. The cardinal of Bourdeaux,
conversing with Poggio on the tardiness of Gregory in fulfilling his engagement,


34 CHAP. i.

rival pontiffs, and alarmed by the violence of Gregory, the
cardinals quitted Lucca, to which city they had accompanied
him in hopes that he would adopt the requisite steps to put
arr end to the schism, and assembled at Pisa. Here, con-
stituting themselves a council of the church, they deposed
both Gregory and Benedict, substituting in their place,
Pietro Filardo, a native of Candia, who assumed the appel-
lation of Alexander V. *

During these distractions of the Roman court, the
officers of the pontifical household, according to their vari-
ous views of duty, or considerations of interest, pursued

observed, that the conduct of his holiness reminded him of the wicked wit of
the humourist, who imposed upon the credulity of the populace of Bologna.
On Poggio's asking him to what circumstance he alluded, he related the follow-
ing anecdote, which may bear a comparison with the story of the famous bottle-
conjurer. " There was lately at Bologna," said the cardinal, " a wag, who
" proclaimed by public advertisement, that on a certain day he would fly from
" the top of a tower, situated about a mile from the city, near St. Raphael's
" bridge. On the day appointed, almost all the Bolognese assembled together ;
" and the man kept them waiting during the heat of the day, and until the
" evening, all gazing at the tower, and expecting every moment that he would
" begin his flight. At length he appeared on the top of the tower, and waved a
" pair of wings, on which the multitude gave a shout of applause. The wag
" however protracted the expected expedition till after sunset, when resolving
" that the good people should not go home without seeing a sight, he deliber-
" ately drew aside the skirts of his garment, and turned his posteriors to the
" multitude, who immediately returned home, exhausted with fatigue and
" hunger, and chagrined at their disappointment." In my opinion, said the
cardinal, Gregory has practised upon the sacred college as complete a delusion,
as the wag practised upon the people of Bologna.

Poggii Opera, p. 435.
* Platina, torn. i. p. 38fi, 388.

CHAP. i. 35

different plans of conduct. Many of them, with prudent
foresight, deserting the falling fortunes of Gregory, accom-
panied the cardinals from Lucca to Pisa ; others, in the
number of whom was Leonardo Aretino, adhered to their
master.* In these delicate circumstances, Poggio seems
to have steered a middle course. He removed indeed from
Lucca, but he exchanged the intrigues and dissensions of
the pontifical palace, for the tranquil delights of friendship
which he enjoyed at Florence in the society of his literary
acquaintance. "f* On this occasion he experienced the most
seasonable assistance from the countenance and support of
the celebrated Niccolo Niccoli. This distinguished patron
of literature was the son of Bartolomeo de" 1 Niccoli, a mer-
chant of Florence, and was born in the year 1363. + His

* Leon. Aret. Epistoi'a, I. iii. ep. iii.
f Ibid. ep. iv. vii.

J Leonardo Aretino, in his oration against Niccolo Niccoli, asserts, that
Niccolo's grandfather was a tavern-keeper at Pistoia. " Avi autem tui caupona
" Pistorii primum floruit non digniute aliqua, sed fronde ilia festiva qua ad vinum
" et popinas meretrices et ganeos invitabat. Inde nocturna ebriorum csede con-
" territus Pistorio demigravit, cauponam et serta Florentiam transtulit. Hie
' tandein pater tuus caupona egressus vino abstinuit, oleo se ac lanificio per-
' unxit, sedens ad scamnum a matutino tempore quasi vile mancipium, sordido
" ac prope miserabili exercitio defamatus. Profer igitur insignia nobilitatis
" tuae, qui alios taui insolenter contemnis. Habes mini praeclarissima : ab avo
" quidem frondes et cyathos ; a patre vero lanam et pectines." Mehi Vita
Amhtossii Traversarii, p. xxx.

So little regard did the learned men of the fifteenth century pay to truth in
their invectives, that the assertion of Leonardo Aretino is not sufficient evidence
of the history of Niccolo's progenitors. But this is indisputably certain, that by
endeavouring to throw ridicule upon his former friend, by a reference to the
occupation of his ancestors, he only disgraces himself. The fron.o festiva, to

36 CHAP. i.

father wished to have trained him up to the mercantile pro-
fession ; but Niccolo, preferring the cultivation of the liberal
arts to the accumulation of riches, entered upon his studies,
under the instruction of Lodovico Marsilio,* a scholar of
considerable reputation. So ardent was his love of learning,
that when he had attained a competent knowledge of the
Latin language, he went to Padua, for the express purpose
of transcribing the compositions of Petrarca. On his return
to Florence, he brought with him a copy of the Africa, and
of various other works of that author. He had hardly
attained to the period of manhood, when he conferred
a memorable obligation on the learned, by erecting, at his
own expense, a suitable edifice, for the reception of the

which he alludes in the passage quoted above, is the laurel, which it was then
customary to hang by way of a sign over the doors of taverns. From a similar
custom is derived our English proverb, " Good wine needs no bush."

* Mehi Vita Ambrosii Traversarii, p. Ixxvi. Lodovico Marsilio was an
ecclesiastic of the Augustine order, of which fraternity he became the superior
in the province of Pisa. His literary reputation caused him to be employed in
the chancery of the republic of Florence, and in the year 13H2 he was appointed
of the number of the ambassadors sent by that state, to negociate a peace between
Carlo, the Hungarian prince, and the duke of Anjou. In so great estimation
was he held by the Florentines, that the administrators of their government
applied to Boniface IX., requesting his holiness to promote him to the dignity of
bishop of their city. The letter which was written on this occasion, and which
details his various merits in very flattering terms, is preserved by Mehus in his
life of Ambrogio Traversari. Lodovico carried on a correspondence with Coluc-
cio Salutati ; and also with Petrarca, on a few of whose sonnets he wrote a
commentary. Several of his letters occur, but in a mutilated state, in a collec-
tion of the epistles of the Tuscan Saints, published at Florence, in 4to. A. D.
1736. He died on the 21st of August, 1394.

Mehi Vila Ambrosii Traversarii, p. xxx. cclxxxv. ccxxxix. cclxi.

CHAP. I. 37

library which the celebrated Bocaccio had by his last will
bequeathed to the convent of the Holy Spirit at Florence.
His house was the constant resort of scholars and students,
who were freely indulged with the use of his copious collec-
tion of books, and were moreover incited by his example,
to make the most active exertions in the prosecution of
their literary labours. The patronage of this illustrious
citizen, who had the discernment to distinguish, and the
inclination and ability to assist the lovers of learning, Poggio
justly valued at a high rate. And on the other hand,
Niccolo was so much pleased with the accomplishments and
the amiable dispositions of Poggio, that he honoured him
with his sincere friendship and cordial esteem.

Gregory, refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the

Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdThe life of Poggio Bracciolini → online text (page 3 of 31)