Imágenes de páginas

them eminent either in active or in contempla- from it. But they no longer produce their tive life, and fitted them either to govern or to wonted effect. Virgil advises the husbandmen instruct mankind. who removes a plant from one spot to another to mark its bearings on the cork, and to place it in the same position with regard to the dif ferent points of the heaven in which it formerly stood. A similar care is necessary in poetical transplantation. Where it is neglected, we perpetually see the flowers of language, which have bloomed on one soil, wither on another. Yet the Golden Ass is not altogether destitute of merit. There is considerable ingenuity in the allegory, and some vivid colouring in the descriptions.

Every age and every nation has certain characteristic vices, which prevail almost universally, which scarcely any person scruples to avow, and which even rigid moralists but faintly censure. Succeeding generations change the fashion of their morals, with their hats and their coaches; take some other kind of wickedness under their patronage, and wonder at the depravity of their ancestors. Nor is this all. Posterity, that high court of appeal which is never tired of eulogizing its own justice and discernment, acts, on such occasions, like a Roman dictator after a general mutiny. Finding the delinquents too numerous to be all punished, it selects some of them at hazard to bear the whole penalty of an offence in which they are not more deeply implicated than those | who escape. Whether decimation be a convenient mode of military execution, we know not: but we solemnly protest against the introduction of such a principle into the philosophy of history.

The Comedies deserve more attention. The Mandragola, in particular, is superior to the best of Goldoni, and inferior only to the best of Molière. It is the work of a man who, if he had devoted himself to the drama, would probably have attained the highest eminence, and produced a permanent and salutary effect on the national taste. This we infer, not so much from the degree, as from the kind of its excellence. There are compositions which indicate still greater talent, and which are In the present instance, the lot has fallen on perused with still greater delight, from which Machiavelli: a man whose public conduct was we should have drawn very different conclu 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 exhibi tion 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 cf 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

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 The principle, rightly understood, does not more unearthly character, and seems to pro-debar the poet from any grace of composition, ceed from a man labouring to express that There is no style in which some man may not, which is inexpressible, is at once mean and under some circumstances, express himself. extravagant when misemployed by an imitator. There is therefore no style which the drama The moral poems are in every point superior. rejects, none which it does not occasionally That on Fortune, in particular, and that on Op- require. It is in the discernment of place, of portunity exhibit both justness of thought and time, and of person, that the inferior artists fertility of fancy. The Golden Ass has no- fail. The brilliant rodomontade of Mercutio, thing but the name in common with the Ro- the elaborate declamation of Antony, are, mance of Apuleius, a book which, in spite of where Shakspeare has placed them, natura its irregular plan and its detestable style, is and pleasing. But Dryden would have made among the most fascinating in the Latin lan-Mercutio challenge Tybalt, in hyperboles as guage, 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 loses himself in a wood. He is terrified by monsters, and relieved by a beautiful damsel. His protectress conducts him to a large menagerie of emblematical beasts, whose peculiarities are described at length. The manner as well as the plan of the Divine Comedy is carefully imitated. Whole lines are transferred

fanciful as those in which he describes the chariot of Mab.-Corneille would have represented Antony as scolding and coaxing Cleo patra with all the measured rhetoric of a fune ral oration.

No writers have injured the Comedy of Eng land so deeply as Congreve and Sheridan. Both were men of splendid wit and polished taste. Unhappily they made all their charac ters in their own likeness. Their works bear the same relation to the legitimate drama which a transparency bears to a painting na

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

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 Mirabel and Millamant into the shade. All the 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."

This digression will enable our readers to understand what we mean when we say that, in the Mandragola, Machiavelli has proved that he completely understood the nature of the dramatic art, and possessed talents which would have enabled him to excel in it. By the correct and vigorous delineation of human nature, it produces interest without a pleasing or skilful plot, and laughter without the least ambition of wit. The lover, not a very delicate or generous lover, and his adviser the parasite, 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 Nicias 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, produces a most edifying meekness and docility, and in the former, awkwardness, obstinacy, and confusion. Cloten is an arrogant fool, Osric a foppish fool, Ajax a savage fool; but

being. Its peculiar simplicity gives even to the most forcible reasoning and the most brilliant 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 blind to the merits of this striking piece. It was acted at Florence with the greatest snccess. Leo the Tenth was among its admirers, and by his order it was represented at Rome.t

The Clizia is an imitation of the Casina of Plautus, which is itself an imitation of the lost Kapture of Diphilus. Plautus was, unquestionably, one of the best Latin writers. His works are copies; but they have in an extraordinary degree the air of originals. We infinitely prefer the slovenly exuberance of his 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 kna vish 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

vius 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 in short, 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 in in 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 mat- every thing. High as the art of political inter and manner. The narrations, the reflec-trigue had been carried in Italy, these were tions, the jokes, the lamentations, are all the times which required it all. 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.

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 ambassa dor 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 fret fulness 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 orbit 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 Masite 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 achievbut 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 by misfortunes,

as a stimulant. They turned with loathing from the atrocity of the strangers who seemed to love blood for its own sake, who, not content with subjugating, were impatient to destroy; who found a fiendish pleasure in razing magnificent cities, cutting the throats of enemies who cried for quarter, or suffocating an unarmed people by thousands in the caverns to which they had fled for safety. Such were the scenes which daily excited the terror and disgust of a people, amongst whom, till lately, the worst that a soldier had to fear in a pitched battle was the loss of his horse, and the expense of his ransom. The swinish intemper

which no human prudence could have averted, he was the prisoner of the deadliest enemy of his house. These interviews, between the greatest speculative and the greatest practical statesmen of the age, are fully described in the correspondence, and form perhaps the most interesting part of it. From some passages in the Prince, and perhaps also from some indistinct traditions, several writers have supposed a connection between those remarkable men much closer than ever existed. The Envoy has even been accused of promoting the crimes of the artful and merciless tyrant. But from the official documents it is clear that their intercourse, though ostensibly amicable, was in reality hos-ance of Switzerland, the wolfish avarice of tile. It cannot be doubted, however, that the imagination of Machiavelli was strongly impressed and his speculations on government coloured, by the observations which he made on the singular character, and equally singular fortunes, of a man who, under such disadvantages, had achieved such exploits; who, when sensuality, varied through innumerable forms, could no longer stimulate his sated mind, found a more powerful and durable excitement in the intense thirst of empire and revenge ;who emerged from the sloth and luxury of the Roman purple, the first prince and general of the age-who, trained in an unwarlike profession, formed a gallant army out of the dregs of an unwarlike people-who, after acquiring sovereignty by destroying his enemies, acquired popularity by destroying his tools; who had begun to employ for the most salutary 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 wonder, 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.

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 moral code of the Italians was too indulgent. But though they might have recourse to barbarity as an expedient, they did not require it

Spain, the gross licentiousness of the French,
indulged in violation of hospitality, of decency,
of love itself, the wanton inhumanity which
was common to all the invaders, had rendered
them subjects of deadly hatred to the inhabi
tants of the Peninsula.* The wealth which
had been accumulated during centuries of
prosperity and repose was rapidly melting
away. The intellectual superiority of the op-
pressed people only rendered them more
keenly sensible of their political degradation.
Literature and taste, indeed, still disguised,
with a flush of hectic loveliness and brilliancy,
the ravages of an incurable decay. The iron
had not yet entered into the soul. The time
was not yet come when eloquence was to be
gagged and reason to be hoodwinked-when
the harp of the poet was to be hung on the
willows of Arno, and the right hand of the
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
melancholy period had been formed under the
influence of happier days, and would leave no
successors behind them. The times which
shine with the greatest splendour in Piterary
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 mea-
sure, 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 plun derer. 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.

The exertions which he made to effect this great object ought alone to rescue his name from obloquy. Though his situation and his

The opening stanzas of the Fourteenth Canto of the Orlando Furioso give a frightful picture of the state of Italy in those times. Yet, strange to say. Ariesto i speaking of the conduct of those who called themselves Allies.

habits were pacific, he studied with intense assiduity the theory of war. He made himself master of all its details. The Florentine government entered into his views. A council of war was appointed. Levies were decreed. The indefatigable minister flew from place to place in order to superintend the execution of his design. The times were, in some respects, favourable to the experiment. The system of military tactics had undergone a great revolution. The cavalry was no longer considered as forming the strength of an army. The hours which a citizen could spare from his ordinary employments, though by no means sufficient to familiarize him with the exercise of a man-atarms, might render him a useful foot-soldier. The dread of a foreign yoke, of plunder, massacre, and conflagration, might have conquered that repugnance to military pursuits, which both the industry and the idleness of great towns commonly generate. For a time the scheme promised well. The new troops acquitted themselves respectably in the field. Machiavelli looked with parental rapture on the success of his plan; and began to hope that the arms of Italy might once more be formidable to the barbarians of the Tagus and the Rhine. But the tide of misfortune came on before the barriers which should have withstood it were prepared. For a time, indeed, Florence might be considered as peculiarly fortunate. Famine and sword and pestilence had devastated the fertile plains and stately cities of the Po. All the curses denounced of old against Tyre seemed to have fallen on Venice. Her merchants already stood afar off, lamenting for their great city. The time seemed near when the sea-weed should overgrow her silent Rialto, and the fisherman wash his nets in her deserted arsenal. Naples had been four times conquered and reconquered, by tyrants equaily indifferent to its welfare, and equally greedy for its spoils. Florence, as yet, had only to endure degradation and extortion, to submit to the mandate of foreign powers, to buy over and over again, at an enormous price, what was already justly her own, to return thanks for being wronged, and to ask pardon for being in the right. She was at length deprived of the blessings even of this infamous and servile repose. Her military and political institutions were swept away together. The Medici returned, in the train of foreign invaders, from their long exile. The policy of Machiavelli was abandoned; and his public services were requited with poverty, imprisonment, and torture.

amiable and accomplished young man, whose early death Machiavelli feelingly Ceplores. After partaking of an elegant entertainment, they retire from the heat into the most shady recesses of the garden. Fabrizio is struck by the sight of some uncommon plants. His host informs him that, though rare in modern days, they are frequently mentioned by the classical authors, and that his grandfather, like many other Italians, amused himself with practising the ancient methods of gardening. Fabrizio expresses his regret that those who, in later times, affected the manners of the old Romans, should select for imitation their most trifling pursuits. This leads to a conversation on the decline of military discipline, and on the best means of restoring it. The institution of the Florentine militia is ably defended; and several improvements are suggested in the details.

The Swiss and the Spaniards were, at that time, regarded as the best soldiers in Europe. The Swiss battalion consisted of pikemen, and bore a close resemblance to the Greek phalanx. The Spaniards, like the soldiers of Rome, were armed with the sword and the shield. The victories of Flaminius and Æmilius over the Macedonian kings seem to prove the superiority of the weapons used by the legions.

The same experiments had been recently tried with the same result at the battle of Ravenna, one of those tremendous days into which human folly and wickedness compress the whole devastation of a famine or a plague. In that memorable conflict, the infantry of Arragon, the old companions of Gonsalvo, deserted by all their allies, hewed a passage through the thickest of the imperial pikes, and effected an unbroken retreat, in the face of the gendarmerie of De Foix, and the renowned artillery of Este. Fabrizio, or rather Machiavelli, proposes to combine the two systems, to arm the foremost lines with the pike, for the purpose of repulsing cavalry, and those in the rear with the sword, as being a weapon better adapted for every purpose. Throughout the work, the author expresses the highest admiration of the military science of the ancient Romans, and the greatest contempt for the maxims which had been in vogue amongst the Italian commanders of the preceding generation. He prefers infantry to cavalry; and fortified camps to fortified towns. He is inclined to substitute rapid movements, and decisive engagements, for the languid and dilatory operations of his countrymen. He attaches very little importance to the invention of gunThe fallen statesman still clung to his pro- powder. Indeed he seems to think that it ject with unabated ardour. With the view of ought scarcely to produce any change in the vindicating it from some popular objections, mode of arming or of disposing troops. The and of refuting some prevailing errors on the general testimony of historians, it must be subject of military science, he wrote his seven allowed, seems to prove, that the ill-construct books on the Art of War. This excellent worked and ill-served artillery of those times, is in the form of a dialogue. The opinions of the writer are put into the mouth of Fabrizio Colonna, a powerful nobleman of the Ecclesiastical State, and an officer of distinguished merit in the service of the King of Spain. He visits Florence on his way from Lombardy to his own domains. He is invited to meet some friends at the house of Cosimo Rucellui, an

though useful in a siege, was of little value on the field of battle.

Of the tactics of Machiavelli we will not venture to give an opinion; but we are cer tain that his book is most able and interesting, As a commentary on the history of his times. it is invaluable. The ingenuity, the grace, and the perspicuity of the style, and the eloquence

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