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stronger, if possible, than those to which we have referred.
is insensible to shame, but because, in the society in which he lives, timidity has ceased to be shameful. To do an injury openly is, in his estimation, as wicked as to do it secretly, and far less profitable. With him the most honourable means are-the surest, the speediest, and the darkest. He cannot comprehend how a man should scruple to deceive him whom he does not scruple to destroy. He would think it madness to declare open hostilities against a rival whom he might stab in a friendly embrace, or poison in a consecrated wafer.
We must apply this principle to the case before us. Habits of dissimulation and falsehood, no doubt, mark a man of our age and country as utterly worthless and abandoned. But it by no means follows that a similar judgment would be just in the case of an Italian of the middle ages. On the contrary, we frequently find those faults, which we are accustomed to consider as certain indications of a mind altogether depraved, in company with great and good qualities, with generosity, with benevo- Yet this man, black with the vices which we lence, with disinterestedness. From such a consider as most loathsome-traitor, hypocrite, state of society, Palamedes, in the admirable coward, assassin-was by no means destitute dialogue of Hume, might have drawn illustra- even of those virtues which we generally contions of his theory as striking as any of those sider as indicating superior elevation of characwith which Fourli furnished him. These are ter. In civil courage, in perseverance, in prenot, we well know, the lessons which historians sence of mind, those barbarous warriors who are generally most careful to teach, or readers were foremost in the battle or the breach, were most willing to learn. But they are not there- far his inferiors. Even the dangers which he fore useless. How Philip disposed his troops avoided, with a caution almost pusillanimous, at Charonea, where Hannibal crossed the Alps, never confused his perceptions, never parawhether Mary blew up Darnley, or Siquier shot lyzed his inventive faculties, never wrung out Charles the Twelfth, and ten thousand other one secret from his ready tongue and his inquestions of the same description, are in them- scrutable brow. Though a dangerous enemy, selves unimportant. The inquiry may amuse and a still more dangerous accomplice, he was us, but the decision leaves us no wiser. He a just and beneficent ruler. With so much unalone reads history aright, who, observing how fairness in his policy, there was an extraordipowerfully circumstances influence the feel-nary degree of fairness in his intellect. Indif ings and opinions of men, how often vices pass ferent to truth in the transactions of life, he into virtues, and paradoxes into axioms, learns was honestly devoted to the pursuit of truth in to distinguish what is accidental and transitory the researches of speculation. Wanton cruin human nature, from what is essential and elty was not in his nature. On the contrary, immutable. where no political object was at stake, his disIn this respect no history suggests more im- position was soft and humane. The suscepti portant reflections than that of the Tuscan and bility of his nerves, and the activity of his Lombard commonwealths. The character of imagination, inclined him to sympathize with the Italian statesman seems, at first sight, a the feelings of others, and to delight in the chacollection of contradictions, a phantom, as rities and courtesies of social life. Perpetually monstrous as the portress of hell in Milton, half descending to actions which might seem to divinity, half snake, majestic and beautiful mark a mind diseased through all its faculties, above, grovelling and poisonous below. We he had nevertheless an exquisite sensibility both see a man, whose thoughts and words have no for the natural and the moral sublime, for connection with each other; who never hesi- every graceful and every lofty conception. tates at an oath when he wishes to seduce, who Habits of petty intrigue and dissimulation never wants a pretext when he is inclined to might have rendered him incapable of great betray. His cruelties spring, not from the heat general views; but that the expanding effect of blood, or the insanity of uncontrolled power, of his philosophical studies counteracted the but from deep and cool meditation. His pas- narrowing tendency. He had the keenest ensions, like well-trained troops, are impetuous joyment of wit, eloquence, and poetry. The by rule, and in their most headstrong fury fine arts profited alike by the severity of his never forget the discipline to which they have judgment, and the liberality of his patronage. been accustomed. His whole soul is occupied The portraits of some of the remarkable with vast and complicated schemes of ambi- Italians of those times are perfectly in harmo tion. Yet his aspect and language exhibit no- ny with this description. Ample and majestic thing but philosophic moderation. Hatred and foreheads; brows strong and dark, but not revenge eat into his heart: yet every look is a frowning; eyes of which the calm full gaze, cordial smile, every gesture a familiar caress. while it expresses nothing, seems to discern He never excites the suspicion of his adver- every thing; cheeks pale with thought and sesary by petty provocations. His purpose is dentary habits; lips formed with feminine delidisclosed only when it is accomplished. His cacy, but compressed with more than mascuface is unruffled, his speech is courteous, till line decision, mark out men at once enterprisvigilance is laid asieep, till a vital point is ex-ing and apprehensive; men equally skilled in posed, till a sure aim is taken; and then he strikes for the first and last time. Military courage, the boast of the sottish German, the frivolous and prating Frenchman, the romantic and arrogant Spaniard, he neither possesses nor values. He shuns danger, not because he
detecting the purposes of others, and in concealing their own; men who must have been formidable enemies and unsafe allies; but men, at the same time, whose tempers were mild and equable, and who possessed an amplitude and subtlety of mind, which would have rendered
them eminent either in active or in contempla- | from it. But they no longer produce their
Every age and every nation has certain
There are compositions which excellence. indicate still greater talent, and which are In the present instance, the lot has fallen on perused with still greater delight, from which we should have drawn very different conclu Machiavelli: a man whose public conduct was upright and honourable, whose views of mo- sions. Books quite worthless are quite harm rality, where they differed from those of the less. The sure sign of the general decline of persons around him, seem to have differed for an art is the frequent occurrence, not of de the better, and whose only fault was, that, hav-formity, but of misplaced beauty. In general, ing adopted some of the maxims then generally tragedy is corrupted by eloquence, and comedy received, he arranged them more luminously, by wit. and expressed them more forcibly than any other writer.
The real object of the drama is the exhibition of the human character. This, we conceive, is no arbitrary canon, originating in local and temporary associations, like those which regulate the number of acts in a play, or syllables in a line. It is the very essence of a species of composition, in which every idea is coloured by passing through the medium of an imagined mind. To this fundamental law every other regulation is subordinate. The situations which most signally develope character form the best plot. The mother tongue of the passions is the best style
The principle, rightly understood, does not
Having now, we hope, in some degree cleared the personal character of Machiavelli, we come to the consideration of his works. As a poet, he is not entitled to a very high place. The Decennali are merely abstracts of the history of his own times in rhyme. The style and versification are sedulously modelled on those of Dante. But the manner of Dante, like that of every other great original poet, was suited only to his own genius, and to his own subject. The distorted and rugged diction which gives to his unearthly imagery a yet more unearthly character, and seems to pro-debar the poet from any grace of composition. ceed from a man labouring to express that which is inexpressible, is at once mean and extravagant when misemployed by an imitator. The moral poems are in every point superior. That on Fortune, in particular, and that on Opportunity exhibit both justness of thought and fertility of fancy. The Golden Ass has nothing but the name in common with the Romance of Apuleius, a book which, in spite of its irregular plan and its detestable style, is among the most fascinating in the Latin language, and in which the merits of Le Sage and Radcliffe, Bunyan and Crébillon, are singularly united. The Poem of Machiavelli, which is evidently unfinished, is carefully copied from the earlier Cantos of the Inferno. The writer No writers have injured the Comedy of Eng loses himself in a wood. He is terrified by monsters, and relieved by a beautiful damsel. land so deeply as Congreve and Sheridan. His protectress conducts him to a large mena- Both were men of splendid wit and polished gerie of emblematical beasts, whose peculiari- taste. Unhappily they made all their characties are described at ength. The manner as well as the plan of the Divine Comedy is carefully imitated. Whole lines are transferred
There is no style in which some man may not, under some circumstances, express himself. There is therefore no style which the drama rejects, none which it does not occasionally require. It is in the discernment of place, of time, and of person, that the inferior artists fail. The brilliant rodomontade of Mercutio, the elaborate declamation of Antony, are, where Shakspeare has placed them, natura and pleasing. But Dryden would have made" Mercutio challenge Tybalt, in hyperboles as fanciful as those in which he describes the chariot of Mab.-Corneille would have represented Antony as scolding and coaxing Cleopatra with all the measured rhetoric of a fune ral oration.
ters in their own likeness. Their works bear the same relation to the legitimate drama which a transparency bears to a paining n
delicate touches; no hues imperceptibly fading into each other; the whole is lighted up with an universal glare. Outlines and tints are forgotten, in the common blaze which illuminates all. The flowers and fruits of the intellect abound; but it is the abundance of a jungle, not of a garden-unwholesome, bewildering, unprofitable from its very plenty, rank from its very fragrance. Every fop, every boor, every valet, is a man of wit. The very butts and dupes, Tattie, Urkwould, Puff, Acres, outshine the whole Hôtel de Rambouillet. To prove the whole system of this school absurd, it is only necessary to apply the test which dissolved the enchanted Florimel-to place the true by the false Thalia, to contrast the most celebrated characters which have been drawn by the writers of whom we speak, with the Bastard in King John, or the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. It was not surely from want of wit that Shakspeare adopted so differ-old Tuscan is the very language for such a ent a manner. Benedick and Beatrice throw being. Its peculiar simplicity gives even to Mirabel and Millamant into the shade. All the most forcible reasoning and the most brilthe good sayings of the facetious hours of Absolute and Surface might have been clipped from the single character of Falstaff without being missed. It would have been easy for that fertile mind to have given Bardolph and Shallow as much wit as Prince Hal, and to have made Dogberry and Verges retort on each other in sparkling epigrams. But he knew, to use his own admirable language, that such indiscriminate prodigality was "from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was, and is, to hold, as it were, the mirror up to Nature."
Nicias is, as Thersites says of Patroclus, a fool positive. His mind is occupied by no strong feeling; it takes every character, and retains none; its aspect is diversified, not by passions, but by faint and transitory semblances of passion, a mock joy, a mock fear, a mock love, a mock pride, which chase each other like shadows over its surface, and vanish as soon as they appear. He is just idiot enough to be an object, not of pity or horror, but of ridicule. He bears some resemblance to poor Calandrino, whose mishaps, as recounted by Boccaccio, have made all Europe merry for more than four centuries. He perhaps resem bles still more closely Simon de Villa, to whom Bruno and Buffulmacco promised the love of the Countess Civillari. Nicias is, like Simon, of a learned profession; and the dignity with which he wears the doctoral fur renders his absurdities infinitely more grotesque. The
liant wit an infantine air, generally delightful, but to a foreign reader sometimes a little ludicrous. Heroes and statesmen seem to lisp when they use it. It becomes Nicias incomparably, and renders all his silliness infinitely more silly.
We may add, that the verses, with which the Mandragola is interspersed, appear to us to be the most spirited and correct of all that Machiavelli has written in metre. He seems to have entertained the same opinion; for he has introduced some of them in other places. The contemporaries of the author were not This digression will enable our readers to blind to the merits of this striking piece. It understand what we mean when we say that, was acted at Florence with the greatest sucin the Mandragola, Machiavelli has proved cess. Leo the Tenth was among its admirers, that he completely understood the nature of and by his order it was represented at Rome.t the dramatic art, and possessed talents which The Clizia is an imitation of the Casina of would have enabled him to excel in it. By the Plautus, which is itself an imitation of the lost correct and vigorous delineation of human na-Kapcupera of Diphilus. Plautus was, unquesture, it produces interest without a pleasing or tionably, one of the best Latin writers. His skilful plot, and laughter without the least am-works are copies; but they have in an extrabition of wit. The lover, not a very delicate ordinary degree the air of originals. We inor generous lover, and his adviser the parasite, finitely prefer the slovenly exuberance of his are drawn with spirit. The hypocritical confessor is an admirable portrait. He is, if we mistake not, the original of Father Dominic, the best comic character of Dryden. But old Nieias is the glory of the piece. We cannot call to mind any thing that resembles him. The follies which Molière ridicules are those of affectation, not those of fatuity. Coxcombs and pedants, not simpletons, are his game. Shakspeare has indeed a vast assortment of *fools; but the precise species of which we speak is not, if we remember right, to be found there. Shallow is a fool. But his animal spirits supply; to a certain degree, the place of cleverness. His talk is to that of Sir John what soda-water is to champagne. It has the effervescence, though not the body or the flavour. Slender and Sir Andrew Aguecheek are fools, troubled with an uneasy consciousness of their folly, which, in the latter, proauce a most edifying meekness and docility, an in the former, awkwardness, obstinacy, and confusion. Cloten is an arrogant fool, sric a foppish fool, Ajax a savage fool; but
fancy, and the clumsy vigour of his diction, to the artfully disguised poverty and elegant languor of Terence. But the Casina is by no means one of his best plays; nor is it one which offers great facilities to an imitator. The story is as alien from modern habits of life, as the manner in which it is developed from the modern fashion of composition. The lover remains in the country, and the heroine is locked up in her chamber during the whole action, leaving their fate to be decided by a foolish father, a cunning mother, and two knavish servants. Machiavelli has executed his task with judgment and taste. He has accommodated the plot to a different state of society, and has very dexterously connected it with the history of his own times. The relation of the trick put on the doating old lover is ex
* Decameron, Giorn. viii. Nov. 9.
+ Nothing can be more evident than that Paulus Jo
vins designates the Mandragola under the name of the Nicias. We should not have noticed what is so perfectly obvious, were it not that this natural and palpable misnomer has led the sagacious and industrious Bayle into a gross error.
quisitely humorous. It is far superior to the corresponding passage in the Latin comedy, and scarcely yields to the account which Falstaff gives of his ducking.
conduct of those who were intrusted with the domestic administration. The ambassador had to discharge functions far more delicate than transmitting orders of knighthood, introducing Two other comedies without titles, the one tourists, or presenting his brethren with the in prose, the other in verse, appear among the | homage of his high consideration. He was an works of Machiavelli. The former is very advocate, to whose management the dearest inshort, lively enough, but of no great value. terests of his clients were intrusted; a spy, clothThe latter we can scarcely believe to be ed with an inviolable character. Instead of genuine. Neither its merits nor its defects re- consulting the dignity of those whom he repre mind us of the reputed author. It was first sented by a reserved manner and an ambigu printed in 1796, from a manuscript discovered ous style, he was to plunge into all the inin the celebrated library of the Strozzi. Its trigues of the court at which he resided, to disgenuineness, if we have been rightly informed, cover and flatter every weakness of the prince is established solely by the comparison of who governed his employers, of the favourite hands. Our suspicions are strengthened by the who governed the prince, and of the lacquey circumstance, that the same manuscript con- who governed the favourite. He was to comtained a description of the plague of 1527, pliment the mistress and bribe the confessor, which has also, in consequence, been added to to panegyrize or supplicate, to laugh or weep, the works of Machiavelli. Of this last compo- to accommodate himself to every caprice, to sition the strongest external evidence would lull every suspicion, to treasure every hint, to scarcely induce us to believe him guilty. No-be every thing, to observe every thing, to endure thing was ever written more detestable, in matter and manner. The narrations, the reflections, the jokes, the lamentations, are all the very worst of their respective kinds, at once trite and affected-threadbare tinsel from the Ragfairs and Monmouth-streets of literature. A foolish school-boy might perhaps write it, and, after he had written it, think it much finer than the incomparable introduction of the De-France. In these missions, and in several cameron. But that a shrewd statesman, whose earliest works are characterized by mauliness of thought and language, should at nearly sixty years of age, descend to such puerility, is utterly inconceivable.
every thing. High as the art of political intrigue had been carried in Italy, these were times which required it all.
On these arduous errands Machiavelli was frequently employed. He was sent to treat with the King of the Romans and with the Duke of Valentinois. He was twice ambassador at the court of Rome, and thrice at that of
others of inferior importance, he acquitted him. self with great dexterity. His despatches form one of the most amusing and instructive collections extant. We meet with none of the mysterious jargon so common in modern state papers, the flash-language of political robbers and sharpers. The narratives are clear and agreeably written; the remarks on men and things clever and judicious. The conversa tions are reported in a spirited and character.
The little Novel of Belphegor is pleasantly conceived and pleasantly told. But the extravagance of the satire in some measure injures its effect. Machiavelli was unhappily married; and his wish to avenge his own cause and that of his brethren in misfortune, carried him be-istic manner. We find ourselves introduced yond even the license of fiction. Jonson seems to have combined some hints taking from this taie with others from Boccaccio, in the plot of The Devil is an Ass-a play which, though not the most highly finished of his compositions, is perhaps that which exhibits the strongest proofs of genius.
into the presence of the men who, during twenty eventful years, swayed the destinies of Europe. Their wit and their folly, their fretfulness and their merriment are exposed to us. We are admitted to overhear their chat, and to watch their familiar gestures. It is interesting and curious to recognise, in circumstances which elude the notice of historians, the feeble violence and shallow cunning of Louis the Twelfth; the bustling insignificance of Maximilian, cursed with an impotent pruriency for renown, rash yet timid, obstinate yet fickle, always in a hurry, yet always too late ;—the fierce and haughty energy which gave dignity to the eccentricities of Julius; the soft and graceful manners which masked the insatiable ambition and the implacable hatred of Borgia.
The political correspondence of Machiavelli, first published in 1767, is unquestionably genuine and highly valuable. The unhappy circumstances in which his country was placed, during the greater part of his public life, gave extraordinary encouragement to diplomatic talents. From the moment that Charles the Eighth descended from the Alps, the whole character of Italian politics was changed. The governments of the Peninsula cease to form an independent system. Drawn from their old We have mentioned Borgia. It is impossi erbit by the attraction of the larger bodies ble not to pause for a moment on the name of which now approached them, they became a man in whom the political morality of Italy mere satellites of France and Spain. All their was so strongly personified, partially blended disputes, internal and external, were decided with the sterner lineaments of the Spanish by foreign influence. The contests of oppo- character. On two important occasions Ma site factions were carried on, not as formerly chiavelli was admitted to his society; once, at in the Senate-house, or in the market-place, the moment when his splendid villany achiev but in the antechambers of Louis and Ferdi-ed its most signal triumph, when he caught in nand. Under these circumstances, the pros- one snare and crushed at one blow all his most perity of the Italian States depended far more on formidable rivals, and again when, exhausted the ability of their foreign agents than on the by disease and overwhelmed ov misfortunes,
which no human prudence could have averted, as a stimulant. They turned with loathing he was the prisoner of the deadliest enemy of from the atrocity of the strangers who seemed his house. These interviews, between the to love blood for its own sake, who, not congreatest speculative and the greatest practical tent with subjugating, were impatient to destatesmen of the age, are fully described in the stroy; who found a fiendish pleasure in razing correspondence, and form perhaps the most in- magnificent cities, cutting the throats of eneteresting part of it. From some passages in the mies who cried for quarter, or suffocating an Prince, and perhaps also from some indistinct unarmed people by thousands in the caverns traditions, several writers have supposed a con- to which they had fled for safety. Such were nection between those remarkable men much the scenes which daily excited the terror and closer than ever existed. The Envoy has even disgust of a people, amongst whom, till lately, been accused of promoting the crimes of the art- the worst that a soldier had to fear in a pitched ful and merciless tyrant. But from the official battle was the loss of his horse, and the exdocuments it is clear that their intercourse, pense of his ransom. The swinish intemper though ostensibly amicable, was in reality hos-ance of Switzerland, the wolfish avarice of tile. It cannot be doubted, however, that the | Spain, the gross licentiousness of the French, imagination of Machiavelli was strongly im- indulged in violation of hospitality, of decency, pressed and his speculations on government of love itself, the wanton inhumanity which coloured, by the observations which he made was common to all the invaders, had rendered on the singular character, and equally singular them subjects of deadly hatred to the inhabi fortunes, of a man who, under such disadvan-tants of the Peninsula. The wealth which tages, had achieved such exploits: who, when had been accumulated during centuries of sensuality, varied through innumerable forms, prosperity and repose was rapidly melting could no longer stimulate his sated mind, away. The intellectual superiority of the opfound a more powerful and durable excitement pressed people only rendered them more in the intense thirst of empire and revenge ;- keenly sensible of their political degradation. who emerged from the sloth and luxury of the Literature and taste, indeed, still disguised, Roman purple, the first prince and general of with a flush of hectic loveliness and brilliancy, the age;—who, trained in an unwarlike profes- the ravages of an incurable decay. The iron sion, formed a gallant army out of the dregs of had not yet entered into the soul. The time an unwarlike people :-who, after acquiring was not yet come when eloquence was to be sovereignty by destroying his enemies, ac- gagged and reason to be hoodwinked-when quired popularity by destroying his tools; the harp of the poet was to be hung on the who had begun to employ for the most saluta-willows of Art, and the right hand of the ry ends the power which he had attained by the most atrocious means; who tolerated within the sphere of his iron despotism no plunderer or oppressor but himself;-and who fell at last amidst the mingled curses and regrets of a people, of whom his genius had been the won-melancholy period had been formed under the der, and might have been the salvation. Some of those crimes of Borgia, which to us appear the most odious, would not, from causes which we have already considered, have struck an Italian of the fifteenth century with equal horror. Patriotic feeling also might induce Machiavelli to look, with some indulgence and regret, on the memory of the only leader who could have defended the independence of Italy against the confederate spoilers of Cambray.
painter to forget its cunning. Yet a discerning eye might even then have seen that genius and learning would not long survive the state of things from which they had sprung;—that the great men whose talents gave lustre to that
influence of happier days, and would leave no successors behind them. The times which shine with the greatest splendour in literary history are not always those to which the human mind is most indebted. Of this we may be convinced, by comparing the generation which follows them with that which preceded them. The first fruits which are reaped under a bad system often spring from seed sown under a good one. Thus it was, in some measure, with the Augustan age. Thus it was with the age of Raphael and Ariosto, of Aldus and Vida.
Machiavelli deeply regretted the misfortunes of his country, and clearly discerned the cause and the remedy. It was the military system of the Italian people which had extinguishea their valour and discipline, and rendered their wealth an easy prey to every foreign plunderer. The Secretary projected a scheme alike honourable to his heart and to his intellect, for abolishing the use of mercenary troops, and organizing a national militia.
On this subject Machiavelli felt most strongly. Indeed the expulsion of the foreign tyrants, and the restoration of that golden age which had preceded the irruption of Charles the Eighth, were projects which, at that time, fascinated all the master-spirits of Italy. The magnificent vision delighted the great but illregulated mind of Julius. It divided with manuscripts and sauces, painters and falcons, the attention of the frivolous Leo. It prompted the generous treason of Morone. It imparted a transient energy to the feeble mind and body of the last Sforza. It excited for one moment an honest ambition in the false heart of Pescara. Ferocity and insolence were not among the vices of the national character. To the discriminating cruelties of politicians, committed for great ends on select victims, the The opening stanzas of the Fourteenth Canto of the moral code of the Italians was too indulgent. Orlando Furioso give a frightful picture of the state of But though they might have recourse to bar-Italy in those times. Yet, strange to say. Ariesto is barily as an expedient, they did not require it king of the conduct of those who called themselves
The exertions which he made to effect this great object ought alone to rescue his name from obloquy. Though his situation and his