[Back] [Blueprint] [Next]


Pietro Gravina was born in Catania in Sicily, but he said that his family came originally from Capua. Nature was very generous to him, since, besides a brilliant intellect, she gave him a tall and handsome person of great dignity. He had extraordinary strength and agility; for in playing ball he excelled to the admiration of everyone, his fencing and jousting would have done credit to a soldier, and when swimming he often exhibited incredible endurance in diving. By these exercises he so strengthened his body that he was never attacked by an ailment of any severity and came almost to extreme old age with unimpaired and truly youthful vigor.

His table was frugal but always elegant. He was fond of the wines of Vesuvius and Sorrento, but he always drank with restraint and moderation. He loved a quite life, free from all anxieties and disputes, and he took especial pleasure in merry and affectionate intimacy with studious youths. His disposition was frank, generous, and extremely winning; his dress handsome and expensive, for he wore a long, flowing robe and his silver locks were effectively set off by a broad hat of rough silk.

When he was at the court of Aragon, producing witty and charming verses on every important occasion, he won the affection of Pontano, by far the ablest critic of men of genius, who has generously testified to this in his divine works, thus bestowing immortal glory on his friend. Finally, when his powers had been thus proved, the sun of a foreign Maecenas beamed upon him in the person of Gonsalvo the Great, who honored him with a canonry in the cathedral of Naples for his epic poem on his victories and the trophies won from the French. When, however, Gonsalvo was removed to Spain because the king suspected him of aiming at the throne, Gravina attached himself to Prospero Colonna.

He owned that he thought himself most successful in his elegies, which were characterized by a certain tender charm, but Actius Sincerus, who was habitually caustic and grudging 109 of praise in his estimate of the work of others, without hesitation awarded the palm for epigram to him alone. All his epic poems (unless those that we read long ago should turn up) they say were destroyed at the time when the Emperor's forces, besieged by the French in Naples, were plundering everything that belonged to God or man as it they were not in an allied city; so that no one need wonder that there are so few extant monuments of his genius to support the fame of this illustrious poet; and besides, to the distress of his friends, he destroyed many of his works of his own accord, as if indignant at an age that resounded with the din of arms or angry at the Muses because foreign princes had smiled on his hopes with too little generosity. On the other hand, he lamented bitterly the almost complete loss of the poem in which he had painted most gracefully the delights of his leisure at Sorrento. The devotion of Scipione Capece has, however, performed the service due this peerless and noble bard by collecting and publishing his scattered works, so that the life he had almost lost might be restored to his poet friend.

Furthermore Gravina was not without reputation as a finished orator, though in his public appearance he seemed content with the glory of the pleader alone.

He died in his seventy-fourth year at Concha, a town in the Sidicine territory, of a very slight prick on his leg from a chestnut burr, which fell on him as he was taking a siesta in the shade; for he thoughtlessly scratched the place, causing an ulcer and fatal inflammation. So subtle are the causes of death the Fates contrive when, by Heaven's decrees, they are close at hand.


Fano, a famous town in the Marches, was the birthplace of the brilliant brothers Gaurici, Luca, whom we still admire at the court of Paul III for his profound knowledge of astrology and his often accurate predictions of the future, and Pomponio, a poet of no mean reputation, who would have been remarkable for the vigorous productivity of his ardent genius in various branches, if he had not been led astray by his volatile temperament and, in his feverish haste and pursuit of nov110elty, failed to attain the dignity of sound knowledge in any subject through his lack of accuracy and industry in all.

He wrote in Latin the lives of Greek poets in competition with Pietro Crinito, who had published books on the Latin poets, and he also wrote two treatises on Physiognomy and Architecture. We have, besides, his book on Metals, which is very popular with the crazy mob of the curious. For there are men who really think that gold and silver alike can be generated and produced from base substances by the futile process of boiling them down.

He also published a number of epigrams and some elegies, which are clear proof of his lightness in love. For it is well known that he was madly in love with a noble lady and, through the shameless wiles of his Muses, he laid bare his distress so recklessly and so passionately that it proved his ruin. For when he was going to Stabiae by the Surrentine road (where a number of persons had met and greeted him), he disappeared and was never seen again, though for sixteen years his brother Luca looked in vain for his return; and no one doubted that he was killed because he was suspected of this intrigue and that he was thrown into the sea below together with his servants and horses, that there might be no evidence of the murder.


Marcantonio Casanova, the son of a citizen of Como though born at Rome, was awarded the palm for clever epigram even by Rome, who prided herself on her severe critical judgment and never stooped to flatter poets, because his poems were invariably graceful and had a witty sting at the end. His diction, however, was not perfectly pure and his meter, which was often harsh, lacked that smoothness which we see in the tenderest of poets, Catullus, since he preferred to emulate the biting and risqué wit of Martial and coveted above all things the glory to be won by pointed and allusive phrase. But he chose to combine both styles when he wrote short metrical inscriptions for after generations to see in honor of the valiant heroes of ancient Rome, as if their statues were still standing to bear them.


No one, however, surpassed him in honesty and clean living, no one could be thought more delightful for graciousness and courtesy, except that, being a protégé of the Colonnas, he furiously attacked the reputation of Pope Clement to please Cardinal Pompeo. But Clement, surpassing in nobility and dignity even himself and the name he had assumed, readily pardoned him when he was accused of treason and brought up for sentence, thus gloriously emulating Gaius Caesar, who had shown his scorn of the persistent venom and the outspoken malice of Catullus by lofty disregard.

Casanova was carried off by the plague with which Fortune, unsated even by numberless calamities, had capped the ruin of Rome, leaving Pompeo himself, after the Pope was besieged and taken prisoner, torn between two emotions, exulting over the misfortunes of his enemy and bewailing with vain regret the fall of his ruined country. He was buried near the naumachia in the Campo Marzio in the church of San Lorenzo, which in ancient times had been dedicated to Lucina, and, because he had not had the honor of a funeral, his friend, Blasio Palladio, affectionately inscribed these verses by which he pointed out his tomb to passersby for their tears:

Casanova of Como, while he sang dead generals and poets in the briefest of epigrams, won for himself a glory without limit and without end.


This is the famous Baldassare Castiglione of Mantua, undoubtedly nearest to his fellow townsman, Vergil, in the glory of his genius, who, in accordance with the nice standard of a prince's court, drew the picture of the perfect soldier and citizen and, laying down the principles of exquisite manners, portrayed the noble lady moulded by the same training. In this completely delightful work he seems to have culled the loveliest flowers of Greek and Latin eloquence, so that the precepts for a noble life and the delights of honorable leisure might be gathered in one volume.59

Now he was eager to please men of high rank, who are often ignorant of letters, and especially the ladies, and therefore he preferred to use the softer Tuscan tongue rather than the 112 Latin, with the manifest intention of causing the unlearned, who could not recognize what he had adroitly filched from the ancients and skilfully translated, to admire all these passages as original. He wrote also Latin elegies and a lofty hexameter poem on Cleopatra, but it is by his few Italian verses, in which, proudly challenging comparison, he poured forth the hopelessness of his love sorrows, that he is judged to have won the name of a great poet.

Quick witted and eloquent alike in the soldier's cloak or in the citizen's robe, he bore his share in the tasks of war and peace, and he was sent on hasty embassies to kings and popes when grave crises demanded not only the loyalty of a lofty soul but the energy and speed of an agile body. Finally, when he was getting on in years (though he still strove to retain his youthful beauty by dyeing his white locks and by many elegances of dress), since his scholarly accomplishments were still in their prime, he was sent by Clement to the court of Charles V in Spain and the honor of the purple was undoubtedly in store for him, had not Fortune, who was devising monstrous ruin for Rome, disappointed the hopes of both Pope and legate. For before long Rome fell, betrayed by the pretended truce of the Emperor's generals, and it might have seemed that Castiglione acted in this matter with too little energy or at least with too little effect, since, at the time of this tragic catastrophe, he accepted from the Emperor the bishopric of Avila. But he was not permitted to enjoy this office long nor to look forward to a richer one, for he was carried off by an insidious fever when he had scarcely reached his fifty-sixth year. He died at Mantua in Carpetania and the nobles of the court were present at his funeral. Thus he was not deceived by the palmist who had foretold from the lines of his right hand that he would die in Mantua after receiving high office; he had, however, neglected to predict that he would die in Spain.


The patrician Andrea Navagero learned Latin from Sabelico [Susan note sp] when he lectured at Venice, and Greek at Padua from Marcus Musurus, the Cretan. In Latin, however, he surpassed 113 his teacher in taste and discrimination and attained that brilliant purity of classic style scorned by the preceding generation, which had delighted in a novelty at once unprofitable and harsh. This appears in his funeral eulogies of General d'Alviano and the Doge Loredano, in which he took for his model Cicero, whom Poliziano and Ermolao60 seemed to disdain because, overflowing as they were with learning, they thought it more distinguished to fashion a characteristic style in accordance with their individual natures, which should portray their own intellects, rather than to distort by servile imitation talents created to bear new fruits. In their time, indeed, it was a great reproach to scholars to seem like absurd apes.

With the same faultless taste, when Navagero wrote his most delightful epigrams, he ended them, not with witty, stinging lines, but with the tender and sweet smoothness of the ancients, and he was so implacable an enemy of Martial that every year on a fixed day dedicated to the Muses he devoted many of that poet's volumes to Vulcan, cursing them as unclean.

Nor was he less successful in his Tuscan verse, but, when he followed d'Alviano to the wars, he relaxed his studies, a measure which afforded him most wholesome relief, since melancholy induced by his severe and long continued intellectual labors had seriously impaired his mental powers. For this reason he was unable to fulfill the commission to write the History of Venice which he had received from the Senate and accepted on the payment of a liberal stipend; although there are some who think that, after he had made a successful beginning, he was frightened on the very threshold by the responsibilities of this pious task, since it was evident that to acquire a knowledge of such important events would demand infinite pains and great labor and a retentive memory. In the hope, however, of rendering a service to the Republic, when the Senate appointed him ambassador to the Emperor Charles in Spain, he undertook an embassy which was predestined to failure, since it was the time when the Italian princes, in terror of being subjugated, had been roused to armed resistance of the Emperor, who was aiming at the sovereignty of all Italy.


Having undertaken a second embassy and having rushed into France with fatal haste, changing horses for greater speed, before he had done more than pay his respects to the king, he was stricken with fever in the city of Blois on the Loire and died there in his forty-seventh year. The king, who was an ardent friend of the Muses, buried him with every mark of honor and mourned his death.


Giovanni Maria Cattaneo of Novara was a pupil of Merula and of Demetrius. When he had acquired proficiency in both languages, he wrote a learned commentary on the Letters of C. Plinius Caecilius Secundus and, having thus won no small reputation for scholarship, he went to Rome, where, in the house of Cardinal Bendinello Sauli, whose secretary he was, he translated into Latin three dialogues of Lucian in three different styles: in the tender style, The Loves (and those none too chaste); in the amusing, The Lapithae; in the serious, the famous Rules for Writing History, dedicated to Giovio, and meant to be useful in the historical work I had undertaken. These versions, when he was enrolled in the Academy, were warmly recommended by Scipio Carteromachus61 and received the highest praise. Finally he wrote a poem on Genoa to please his patron and, as a result, though already an old man, he was carried away by love of poetry, a passion late and therefore unfruitful, since in his youth he had never importuned the Muses with attempts at verse. Therefore as best he could he sang of the crusade of Godfrey of Bouillon in a poem entitled Soliman, in which a fair and ungrudging reader will admire the reverence of the subject and certain figures of a pleasing originality, even if he cannot bring himself to approve the verses themselves because of their jerkiness and faulty rhythm. When the author, desiring another's judgment, submitted the work to Bembo in my presence, Bembo, as soon as he had read the title, said with friendly banter, "Cattaneo, I should never have thought that you, who in other respects have done the greatest service to both languages, had that same skill in poetry in which we rejoice, since there is certainly nothing in your stern and warlike 115 countenance to win a smile from the sweet Muses." And Cattaneo, nettled at this speech, rejoined neatly, "Then Bembo, you appear not to be a very expert physiognomist, since you have been completely fooled by the ugly face with its rough-hewn jaws and snub nose of the poet, Filomuso, who owes his success to your favor." At this retort we all burst into louder laughter, for Filomuso, a poet and lyre-player by no means without charm, who was a friend of Bembo from his native Pesaro, looked like a sallow old gravedigger. However, before Cattaneo completed this poem, he returned to prose, obviously abandoning his hopes of glory; and he wrote the first drafts of two very learned dialogues on The Influence and the Course of the Sun and Moon and on the Ludi Romani, but was unable to finish them because the disease that proved fatal was already attacking him.

He died at Rome, when Clement was absent from the city at Bologna, where he had gone to invest the Emperor Charles with the insignia of the Roman Empire, and his death was so carefully concealed (because those who might try to secure his benefices were thus put off for a time) that he did not even have the honor of a tomb or a funeral, since it was supposed by the Academy that he had gone to take the waters at Vetulonia.


Jacopo Sannazaro, poet and knight, was born and brought up at Naples and, since he gave brilliant promise of fertile and productive powers, he rejected the name of his grandfather and his family and desired to be called Actius Sincerus, encouraged by Pontano, who had himself, following the example of his friends, taken the name of Jovianus. His ancient family, however, undoubtedly originated in San Nazario, a town of some importance in the Laumelline district between the Po and the Ticino, from which his ancestors had come to Naples. He enjoyed the friendship of King Federigo, with whom Pontano was beginning to lose his influence because he had bitterly offended the house of Aragon by delivering in public, as if he had forgotten the part he played, an odious or at least ill-timed eulogy of the victorious Charles. In all 116 that tempest of war Actius remained faithful and, when the young Ferdinand returned, he took up arms for him with the other loyal citizens, so that he was in high favor at court. But finally, when Federigo's fortunes became more desperate and he was driven from his kingdom, with steadfast devotion and unwavering faith Sannazaro followed him into exile in France, an evidence of gratitude for which even his enemies thought he deserved great praise.

He wrote, as if ambidextrous, Tuscan and Latin poems at the same time with equal wit and grace, and the Muses smiled on both, whether, touched with the bitter poison of hate, he hurled the blunted darts of his iambics, or, abandoned to the sweetness of his loves, wantoned in most delicate and tender verse. But from his majestic sacred poem, On the Virgin Birth, which he filed and polished for twenty years, he seems not to have got the supreme glory that he expected, while the Piscatory Eclogues, which were the casual compositions of his youth, were received with universal applause and overshadowed the fame of his other works, so that he was forced to swallow his complaints about the faulty taste of the public with evident embarrassment but not, nevertheless, without secret delight.

He lived seventy-two years, his genius always fresh and charming, continually engaging in amorous pleasures with all a young man's care for his appearance. Though he was habitually gay and merry, yet his last illness was brought on by a fit of indignation because the Emperor's general, Philibert of Orange, had marred the charm of his villa Mergillina (which may be seen at the foot of Posilipo) by ill-advisedly pulling down a tower. And when Orange was finally killed in battle, Sannazaro, whose last hour was approaching, hearing of his death raised himself on his elbow and exclaimed, "I shall depart from life gladdened by the fulfillment of my prayer, since that barbarian foe of the Muses has paid the penalty at the hands of Mars for his monstrous insult !"

He was buried near his Mergillina in the church of the Holy Virgin which he had himself dedicated, and Bembo had the following verses carved on his marble tomb:

Bring flowers to these sacred ashes. Here lies Sincerus, closest to Vergil in his Muse as in his tomb.



Giovanni Manardi of Ferrara practised the healing art in Hungary in the reign of King Ladislas and, after having been professor of the same science in the university of Ferrara, published a book of Letters which is extremely useful to physicians and apothecaries, since it throws the light of scholarship on the fruits of the earth used in medicine, especially those from India, in regard to which there had before been great confusion, because they had lost their ancient names and there was uncertainty as to their properties.

He married, when quite old and twisted with gout, a girl whose youth and beauty deserved a young and handsome bridegroom, and he displayed such indiscretion and, indeed fatal lack of self control that his friends thought he hastened his death by his greater eagerness for offspring than for life.


Camillo Querno of Monopoli, attracted by the fame of Leo, since he had heard that he honored poets and never failed to reward them, came to Rome bringing with him his lyre, that he might sing to its accompaniment the more than twenty thousand verses of his Alexiad. He found favor at once with the members of the Academy, because this eager, fat faced, long haired Apulian seemed to them entirely worthy of the festive laurel. Therefore he was admitted to a solemn banquet on the island in the Tiber sacred to Aesculapius and, while he took frequent draughts from a great bowl and poured forth all the wealth of his genius to the chords of his lyre, they crowned him with a new kind of wreath made of vine leaves, cabbage, and laurel tastefully interwoven, hinting in this witty and delightful fashion that he needed cabbage to cure his drunkenness,63 acclaiming him as Archipoeta, a title which he received with tears of joy, greeting him with repeated bursts of applause, and chanting over and over the verses,

Hail, Archipoeta, crowned with green wreath of cabbage and bay and vine leaves, worthy to be heard by Pope Leo!

Soon after, having become celebrated because of such a 118 name, he was presented to Leo; whereupon he poured out in smooth and slowing style an endless torrent of verses. For a long time he was by far the favorite among all whom Leo employed to give him cultivated pleasure, for, while he dined, Camillo would stand by the window and eat the tidbits that the Pope held out to him from his plate, and after sipping from that prince's own flagon, would extemporize verses, but on the condition that on every subject set him at least two verses should be paid the table as tribute and, as punishment for an empty or silly line, he should have to drink the very weakest wine. As a result, however, of this merry feasting, he got a bad case of gout so that it was an occasion for great merriment when, on being bidden to sing about himself, he broke into this hexameter,

Archipoeta can write for a thousand poets their verses,

and, as he hesitated, the Pope wittily responded with the pentameter,

And for a thousand more Archipoeta can drink.

Then indeed those present burst out into laughter that reached a climax when Querno, astonished but undismayed, brought out neatly a third verse,

Bring me Falernian wine that shall make my verses distinguished

and Leo, borrowing hastily from Vergil, added

Nay, for this also will make weak and unsteady thy feet.

When Leo died and the poets were ruined, Camillo returned to Naples and there, amid the din of the French arms, when, as he himself wittily said in his troubles, he had encountered many fierce wolves instead of one gentle lion, crushed by the double misfortune of extreme poverty and incurable disease, he ended his life in a public hospital; for, indignant at the cruelty of Fortune, in despair he stabbed himself in the stomach with a pair of shears.


I desire to record here under the illustrious countenance of Alberto Pio, as evidence of Fortune's malicious and insolent mockery of human plans, the race, estates, genius, character, 119 and interests of this most eminent man; for this example alone is enough to teach mortals who rely on a vain conviction of their own knowledge that Fortune is stronger than any wisdom.

He came of very old stock and was lord of Carpi, a famous town in the territory of Nacri, which had ruled Modena two hundred years earlier and had been inherited by him in direct line from his ancestors. Training in the classics and in gentle manners gave distinction alike to his mind and his body. He was of tall and comely figure; his strength and courage made him vigorous and skilful in the use of arms; while to the management of important affairs and to letters he brought a lofty and unrivaled genius. For his ardent intelligence, always alert and thoroughly effective, shrank from no difficulties of profound learning or sagacious application of abstruse science. His readiness of comprehension, quickness of reasoning, and tenacity of memory were indeed amazing and, in addition, he was so eloquent that in every gathering and discussion where difficult matters were being argued, the bitterness of his invective, the sweetness of his expressions of goodwill, his gentle and tranquil serenity, his passionate and thunderous vehemence could sway the hearts of princes at his pleasure, and he was held to be the wisest of counselors in war and in peace and marvelous at discovering and contriving opportunities.

He was sent on embassies by four great kings and as many popes, always serving with distinction and always conspicuous for alertness, loyalty, and foresight. He was, however, compelled to shift his allegiance according to the secret inclinations of the princes and the enmities which were always unexpectedly bursting forth among them, because he thought he must at all costs cling to those who were the enemies of Alfonso d'Este, with whom he had a dispute about the possession of his father's estate. But the good fortune of Alfonso, which was clearly stronger than even the wisdom and ability of Pio, involved the latter's private fortunes in the public disaster and so, after the capture of Pope Clement and the shameful sack of Rome, he had to flee from the fortress and take ship for France, where he heard that, by the Emperor's decision, he had been stripped of his ancestral principality. Then the gout, which had for a long time terribly racked and 120 tortured him, grew worse and it availed him nothing that he bore it bravely with Christian patience and resignation, since that cruel scourge was bringing on the fatal hour.

He died at Paris before he was really old at the time when the Emperor Charles and Soliman, with courage futile for both sides, were thought to be on the eve of a contest for the possession of Vienna. His nephew, Rodolfo Pio, whom Pope Paul some time later made cardinal in recognition of his distinguished talents, built a bronze tomb to his uncle's memory. But Alberto had already reared for himself a much more enduring monument by publishing a book which is by far our most weighty indictment of Luther, in which he censures also Erasmus of Rotterdam.


Lodovico Ariosto, who was born at Ferrara of noble family, when his share of his father's estate, which had to be divided among numerous brothers and sisters, proved very small, applied his talents diligently to letters, that he might have a sure and honorable means of protecting the family name. But, being goaded with almost equal sharpness by necessity and desire for glory, he certainly made a happy choice in preferring to be celebrated among the foremost poets in the Tuscan tongue rather than to take second rank among Latin writers, because thus the fruits of his toil, circulated widely among scholars and the general public, showed a richer return in immediate financial reward and extended reputation.

He accompanied Cardinal Ippolito d'Este to Hungary, because that prince took an ostentatious pleasure in exhibiting a learned and illustrious retinue at the court of the Hungarian kings; but, when he refused to follow him thither a second time, he offended him so bitterly that he incurred his almost implacable enmity. He was then taken up by Duke Alfonso as his inseparable friend and companion and, through his patron's generosity, he was enabled to build a house in the city with charming and luxuriant gardens which adequately supplied the daily needs of his frugal table.

In this unpretentious retirement away from the confusion of the court he composed poems, especially satires sprinkled 121 with bitter salt, and also several comedies which were so successful on the stage that they were often repeated. By far the best of them is I Suppositi, which might easily rival the plays of Plautus in charm of plot and execution, if the manners of two ages may properly be compared. But his most brilliant and therefore perhaps his immortal work is thought to be that in which he sang in ottava rima the wondrous military exploits of the legendary hero, Orlando, far outdoing Boiardo and even Pulci himself. For the latter he surpassed in studied grandeur of incident and verse and the former he utterly extinguished, robbing him of the palm for invention and making it even more glorious by the scintillating light of his more polished learning. For he seems to have read all books, that, having gathered beauty from every source, he might weave for his charming head a wreath of the loveliest flowers which should be the most beautiful imaginable and therefore never fading.

He died in his native city in his sixty-third year after suffering a long time from pulmonary tuberculosis. The following verses he composed himself to be inscribed on his tomb:

The bones of Lodovico Ariosto are interred beneath this marble or this earth or whatever his generous heir or a comrade more generous than his heir or a chance passer-by has willed. For indeed he could not know what was to be. But his lifeless body was not of such concern to him that he desired while still alive to prepare an urn for it. He did, however, provide these verses to be carved on his tomb, if he should sometime have one, so that, when the poor spirit after the passing of the brief allotted time shall seek again the frame it left reluctantly, it may not have to wander long hither and yon digging up now these ashes and now those till it can recognize its own.


There is no reason, Egidio, 64why I should pass over you who were born at Viterbo, of humble station, to be sure, but to a most glorious destiny; you who earned in the pulpit the 122 first and last honors of a Christian preacher, though those illustrious monuments of a sublime genius dealing with the mysteries of Moses are still impiously kept hidden in darkness. For you easily surpassed your most eminent teacher, I mean of course Mariano of Genzano, who was distinguished by the admiration and the learned panegyrics of Pontano and Poliziano. The latter's flowery eulogy may be read among his Letters65 and the former's noble sapphics, which are to be found in his dialogue, Egidio, run as follows:

As the dying swan by the clear streams of the Alpheus or on the green banks of the Meander sings his last song in the very hour of death, so Mariano, destined to find life in death itself and happiness in his very end, plays his lyre in heaven for the revels of the gods. Mayst thou thyself be happy and be gracious unto us; succor our adversity, Mariano; hear the prayers of the wretched and stay the wrath of the Thunderer.

But, in comparison with Egidio, Mariano had no such aid to an eloquent and lofty style from the Greek commentators on the Old and New Testaments nor had he penetrated to the Chaldeans to discover the wondrous foundations of our law nor had he instilled into his discourses that supremely sweet and noble strain of poetry to recall the minds of eager listeners to the practice of devotion by the charm of verse.

But Egidio, while he was truly remarkable on the platform and justly earned in every city the laurel for eloquence, won new praises at home for his delightful sermons. For his mind was richly furnished with choice passages from the whole range of literature, so that his quick and ready memory supplied him with abundant material for illustrations on every occasion, and furthermore he continually delighted and charmed his hearers with such eloquence and concealed art that, when he preached, even the largest churches were crowded.

Before Pope Julius made him General of the whole Eremite Order, when he was devoting himself to literature at Padua, he would sometimes sing to the lyre with exquisite taste graceful verses of his own composition. Finally Leo, who was wont to reward generously all excellence, conferred upon him the honor of the red hat at the time when, beset by the conspiracy of Petrucci66 and the Umbrian war, he was obliged to enlarge 123 the senate, which regarded the wrong done the Pope with indifference or malicious satisfaction. After that, he was sent on an embassy to Spain, because it seemed that the Christian nations ought to be roused to a crusade, seeing that Soliman, having utterly routed the Persians and killed the two Sultans of Egypt, was threatening us with war.

He died at Rome in his sixtieth year of a sudden infection of the throat, after Clement had a second time received the Emperor Charles at Bologna. Many had already chosen him as their candidate for pope, thinking him equal to the supreme burden of that office. There were, however, some who disparaged the fair fame of his illustrious reputation, because they said that he gave himself an artificial pallor by eating cumin and inhaling the fumes from burning wet straw, and that under a rigid severity of demeanor he concealed various sensual desires, which were indeed finally brought to light. (Susan note-comma?) though by malicious gossip rather than by the existence of any children who could be proved his. For it happens by a most unkind decree of Nature that no bright shape of perfect virtue can shine forth, but all show some ugly spot of vice to mock their felicity.


Giovanni Francesco Pico della Mirandola was distinguished among students of the liberal arts and ambitious writers for his extraordinary verbal memory, but he utterly lacked that brilliant judgment in selecting his material which the great Hippocrates thought so difficult to attain. For, when he entered the sanctuaries of most profound studies in the vain hope of equalling the glory of his uncle Giovanni, though he read insatiably, Minerva nowhere smiled kindly on him.

We have from his pen sacred poems, elucidated by a commentary so that they might not seem obscure to his readers, and his books on The Truth of the Christian Faith, which are a confused mass of erudition on all subjects. In his spirited discussions with the churchmen, however, he won a great reputation for ready learning, though those who were even moderately eloquent could not admire his writings. Indeed, that he had not made up his mind what style to imitate appears 124 from two treatises on The Best Kind of Imitation dedicated to Bembo. But, since in all his works he showed scrupulous respect for sacred letters, he wished to be thought to have scorned the flowers of Latin eloquence and to have despised as vain the glory to be derived from them, while his literary labors as a whole, since they readily found indulgent critics, appeared the more splendid because he was a distinguished gentleman of spotless character. And indeed this man who was marked by ancient candor rather than modern craft most certainly earned these more favorable judgments, since he generously distributed his books, which were printed at his own expense.

He was murdered together with his son Alberto by his nephew Galeotto, who had captured the citadel by a night assault, thinking himself justified in seizing the lordship of Mirandola in his father's right. He was a man who did not deserve so tragic an end, though some thought that perhaps he was justly punished because, in order to divert suspicion from himself, he had put to a cruel death the wretched director of his mint, who was gradually making a great profit for his master by striking coins of base metal just a tenth under weight; for the discovery of the fraud hurt Pico's reputation enormously and the gold coins adorned with his portrait were openly refused when the defect became generally known. It is gratifying, however, to hear that some defend a man whose honor was otherwise unblemished on the ground that he had no suspicion of his agent's avarice and deceit, and think that the responsibility for the disgrace should frankly be laid on his wife, whom they accuse of that greed for money common in women, because she was a careful and economical housekeeper.


59 Il Cortegiano.

60 Poliziano, Ep. 8.16.

61 Scipione Fortiguerra. [missing in text] [62 missing in text]

63 Cf. Pliny, N. H. 20.84.

64 Antonino Egidio Canisio, Bishop of Viterbo, Patriarch of Constantinople.

65 Poliziano, Ep. 4.6; cf. also the Preface to his Miscellanies.

66 Cardinal Alfonso Petrucci. At this time thirty-one new cardinals were created.

[Back] [Blueprint] [Next]

Valid CSS!