[Back] [Blueprint] [Next]


When Parrasio,90 who was born at Cosenza of noble family, was lecturing on Latin literature at Milan with most impressive eloquence, he excelled all the teachers of our day in his scholarly equipment for every subject he expounded and especially in his reputation for smooth and polished diction. He had married the daughter of Demetrius Chalcondyles and this fortunate connection enabled the father and son-in-law with each other's support to reign supreme in the schools of both languages. Indeed Parrasio was so celebrated that the distinguished sixty year old general, Trivulzio, was seen among his youthful audience.

He published commentaries packed with abstruse learning on Claudian and Ovid's Ibis. Lastly he was at work on and had nearly completed a book on occult matters discussed in the form of a letter. But he was obliged to leave Milan, because the schoolmasters of that district whom he had often criticized and confuted and who were therefore consumed with shame at their own ignorance, had conspired against him to stir up a scandalous rumor exceedingly offensive to the Milanese that he was corrupting his pupils by improper relations with them To escape that idle slander he went with his wife's brother, Basil, to Rome, where he was received by Leo as the most illustrious of scholars and appointed to a professorship. But he did not long enjoy the honor of such a post because of the gout, which crippled all his limbs most cruelly and caused his speedy return to his native city, where he soon died.


Sauermann, after he had studied civil law and become convinced that that profession was not sufficiently distinguished 156 or lucrative without actual practice in the courts, came to Italy and turned his talents to humane letters with such success that, when he published two speeches in praise of the Emperor Charles, the whole Academy considered his style more copious and vigorous than that of Longolius. For this he was given Roman citizenship and for some years, while he was acting as the Emperor's counsel,91 he was the darling of the Academy, ridding himself of all roughness of voice, manner, and bearing and because of his eloquence enjoying the favor of Leo, Hadrian, and finally Clement. But in the confusion of the sack of Rome by the Spaniards he lost everything and was saved by the Germans from death by torture only to perish soon after, together with his son and mistress, of the plague which was raging in the city.


For many years this scholar taught the youth of his native city. His father was of noble rank, his mother unknown. Because he brought to the study of letters a productive and mellow genius and a refined taste, the Duke of Este appointed him to a canonry. He inclined to elegiac poetry, for in prose he was considered dry, rough, and studied without being melodious. In his Quaestiones Epistolicae, in which he wished to show off his wide reading and was eager to give instruction on many subjects, he offends the critical by the inappropriate title and the frequent plagiarisms and he arouses the indignation of noble souls when he shamelessly attacks Cicero's De Officiis. As regards this matter we may think that he was fortunate in his untimely end, for by his death he escaped hearing Maioragio's brilliant defense of Cicero, which was just about to be published and would undoubtedly have annihilated him had he been still alive.


This Dominican monk, who delighted in a variety of languages, set forth for inquiring minds the text of the Old and New Testaments in Hebrew, Greek, and Chaldaean. This proved a most costly undertaking and brought him small glory, 157 since the great tomes which he had printed at his own house found very few buyers and his erroneous calculations brought to nothing his ill-founded hopes of gain. He was, however, made Bishop of Nebbio and undertook to write the history of his native city, though his intellectual powers were so ill suited to the task that he paid for too hasty publication in disrepute.

Not long after this, when he was trying to cross from Genoa to Corsica while the weather was still unsettled, he is thought to have been drowned or captured by pirates, though no traces of shipwreck or of any raid by pirates were ever found.


This man wrote for Sigismundo Malatesta, Lord of Rimini, the rules of military science collected from Greek and Latin history and his book was the more brilliant and useful because, after he had explained the structure of the ancient engines, he presented to the eyes of his readers illustrations of all the devices of war.


This man's genius and industry added a supplement to Eusebius's book on Chronology. He wrote also a history of Pisa, Latin and Italian poems, and a work in imitation of Dante's Comedy. The last, however, was far from successful, since, because of his false and indiscreet statements about divine matters, the book was condemned by theologians and the author fell under suspicion of the Arian heresy.


This scholar reproduced the Cosmography of Ptolemy from the Greek MSS. and drawings, following with the greatest accuracy the dimensions of the original illustrations, and dedicated it to Alexander V. By this work a flood of sorely needed light has been shed on the history of all nations, for almost every account of momentous events would seem mean, and, as it were, blind and maimed, if the knowledge of all the 158facts could not be illumined by accurate maps placed under pictures of the various regions, a device that gives the reader extraordinary pleasure.


Boece wrote in Latin a careful History of the Scotch Kings from the very beginning, giving attention throughout to ancient geography and steadily maintaining a temperate candor; so that we marvel greatly that we still have a record of more than a thousand years concerning the Hebrides and Orkneys, islands so far remote from our world, while in Italy, the nurse of genius, the many centuries that have elapsed since the expulsion of the Goths are utterly without a chronicler. This is a fact so damaging to the honor of this country that we need not blush to feel indignant with our ancestors; unless, indeed, it might be better to forget our lost liberty than to gall the wounds inflicted by our misfortunes and cowardice by a shame that may but make notorious our disgrace.


Polydorus was born at Urbino. When he was grown up and had received a liberal education, he went to England, having previously published a delightful book of Adagia, which were later taken over by Erasmus and amplified with most erudite notes. After his fortunes had been advanced by the present king, Henry, and he was made Bishop of London, he wrote a History of England, the tone of which is such that, as the Scotch and the French often complain, he is thought at the will of others rather than his own, to have inserted many details to please the English; for, in recording the names of lesser nobles, he went to great lengths to flatter their passion for fame.


France owes this man much, but those who are concerned that an unsullied record of history be transmitted to posterity should be on their guard as to his trustworthiness. For in 159 matters regarding the Italy of our time he makes such outrageous and stupid errors that whose who see no beauty in his style are offended at every turn by his ignorance.


This Dalmatian, who was no mean Latinist, has recounted for us the wondrous military exploits of George Castriotis Scanderbeg, though not without gross exaggeration. For in his love for his own country and his hatred of foreigners he departed widely from the truth, describing the valor of this Epirote princeling as equal to that of the demigods of old; so that the suspicion of falsehood occasioned by his bursts of excessive eulogy is thought to have detracted from the legitimate glory of his hero's deeds.


Who would not marvel that Latin letters have entered where Roman arms could not penetrate? For this man, born and reared in a Gothic land, wrote of the monstrous cruelty of Christian, king of Denmark and Norway (a cruelty that was not long a source of happiness to the bloodthirsty tyrant himself nor in the end disregarded by the avenging gods) in a style so precise, pure, and fluent that cultured peoples may well blush to think that the fruits of Latin eloquence grow in almost greater abundance and luxuriance under the Cimmerian sky than in this more kindly and temperate climate.


Verona bore him, France reared him. Louis XII appointed him canon of the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, because, beginning with the earliest French kings, he wrote, though with Laconic brevity, the history of France during more than a thousand years. In his account, however, of the crusade when Jerusalem was taken by the valor of Godfrey of Bouillon, he let himself go with somewhat more brilliance, so that he is thought to have kept the middle course and to have won undying fame.



This man, born near the French town of Auxerre, won poetic laurels by a Latin poem on the terrible burning of three great ships, when two British vessels were struggling to capture the French Cordelière, a ship of uncommon size, which they had seized with grappling irons. Later, however, he published more finished poems on various subjects and then, devoting himself to prose, he translated from the Greek, as became a pupil of Lascaris, Chrysostom's Life of Babyla and seven books on the Priesthood, admirable for their purity of style.

When he was growing old but was still vigorous, he was attacked by melancholia, which gradually became more violent and deadly, because the poor man had found that almost half the large fortune that he had accumulated had been stolen, probably by his servants, whom he would never afterwards trust even with his life. He died in the diocese of Chartres near the Loire when he was on a journey.


Tegrimi was born at Lucca and was a lawyer by profession. After holding most distinguished offices in Italy, he wrote with scrupulous honesty the history of his native city, dwelling especially on the life of Castrucci, who was lord of Lucca, Pisa, and Pistoia and inflicted heavy losses on the Florentines. It is generally agreed that, if we could only forget the hateful name of tyrant, Castrucci's extraordinary valor in war would deserve the very highest praise. But Machiavelli, the Florentine historian, remembering his country's ancient feud, in wanton malice overwhelmed with scandal the immortal fame of that celebrated prince, when, having undertaken to write in Italian the biography of his bitterest foe, he soiled the sacred honor of history by a mockery as insolent as it was adroit.


We have from Ghilini's pen a book of Exempla delightful with a variety that age cannot wither and almost more enter161taining in the liveliness of the material than Valerius Maximus himself. These "examples' had been collected as the result of diligent and severe study by Battista Fregoso after he had been deposed from the dogate of Genoa by the treachery of his kinsmen. But since he had no skill in Latin style, he had written them down in his native tongue to be put into Latin later by Ghilini. Some thought that Camillo's father, Jacopo, had composed this work by dint of long and patient toil and that it had come to his studious young son as an important part of his heritage through the kind indulgence of a most affectionate parent, who thought that the boy showed such natural aptitude for scholarship that he would be able brilliantly to dispel any suspicion that it was the work of another. Now Camillo, because he displayed great industry combined with perfect loyalty and judgment, had long been engaged in very important embassies, so that he could dismiss with a laugh the rumor of this scandal, though he wittily asserted that he should have no objection to committing a theft of that sort, since a youth madly in love could not properly be condemned if he was clever enough to steal something from a rich father.

He died in Sicily, where he had gone as ambassador of Francesco Sforza to the Emperor Charles, when the triumphant Augustus was returning to Italy to celebrate his decisive victory over the barbarians at Tunis.


This is that most illustrious German of our day who is known as Capnion, a Greek translation of his German name which he adopted to avoid getting smoky in Latin.92 Confident in his extraordinary powers he advanced the knowledge of Greek, Hebrew, and Latin letters in Germany with equal success; for he expounded the mysteries of the Hebrews with a view to strengthening the defenses of the Christian faith and he lectured on the wonder-working science of the Cabala before his able and receptive countrymen.

We have his book on The Marvelous Word and the Doctrines of the Cabala, written in a brilliant style and dedicated to Leo X. There is in circulation also besides his more seri162ous works the Letters of Obscure Men (which came from his workshop, though his name was suppressed), a delightfully witty book in which the style of the monastic theologians, whose Latin is utterly barbarous and therefore absurd, is imitated and held up to ridicule. For this most amusing form of mocking satire was his revenge on the rabble of his enemies, since the monks had maliciously conspired to accuse him of heresy as being too friendly a foe to the Jews and at heart actually a convert.93 This book, which was eagerly bought up and circulated, dealt such a crushing blow to the defamers of the Jewish religion that Hoogstraten, the leader of the conspiracy, died of chagrin and anger and the others, boiling with rage, persuaded Leo by their entreaties to forbid by edict the sale or printing of the work. But Reuchlin wittily made light of the edict and put into the hands of the printers a second volume of letters more stinging than the first, though its title gave no excuse for suppressing it; so that the monks, who had to carry on the wretched contest with this hydra, lost courage in the quarrel.

But the son of Capnion had this poem affixed to Hoogstraten's tomb:

Here lies Hoogstraten, whom the wicked but not the good could endure and tolerate while he lived. Yew trees, spring from his ashes! May aconite grow from his tomb! He who lies below dared every crime.

[For a letter by Reuchlin to Johann Ammerbach and a brief biography see Whitcomb's translation HERE on this site. — Elf.Ed.]


This man has a place here because we revere him as preeminent among all the astronomers who have ever lived for the wondrous subtlety of a godlike genius; for by his unerring calculations he discovered for himself and for posterity the tenth and last sphere of the whole celestial globe which carries with it in its daily revolution the spheres which it encloses. For this one glorious victory of science he is more famous than Thales, Eudoxus, Calipus, Ptolemy himself, the founder of that great science, and Alfraganus. We have his penetrating Commentaries on the Almagestum of Ptolemy and an exact and very useful book of mathematical theory on triangles.


Because of the reputation for learning he had thus acquired Sixtus IV made him bishop of Ratisbon and summoned him to Rome to adjust the year (which, as a result of ancient intercalations, did not correspond with the calendar) so that Easter should fall according to the phase of the moon. This he thought could be done by once taking a few days from March, for by this device alone the excess accumulated during fifteen hundred years, which is not perceptible during the course of a planet but only to be detected when the whole period concerned is taken into account, would be completely removed. But when the plague ravaged Rome, he was carried off by Fate before he could accomplish this reform on which he had set his heart.


Though Vivès married in Belgium and had children, he nevertheless applied himself to sacred letters with a devotion worthy of an eminent churchman and he made such progress that he shed light on St. Augustine's City of God by a brilliant commentary written in a most reverent spirit, at a time when he held a public professorship of liberal arts and was engaged on many works for the instruction of posterity. He died at Bruges, a market town near the Flemish coast, when not yet an old man. All the Belgians mourned deeply the loss of their teacher, but the Spanish citizens lamented him especially, because they acknowledged that there was no greater scholar left in Spain.


Cosimo Pazzi, the cousin of Leo X, a man of lofty character and an accomplished scholar, when archbishop of Florence made a most skilful Latin version of the Greek of the Platonic philosopher, Maximus of Tyre. And he would certainly not have faltered in the performance of that noble service, since he was a most ardent lover of virtue and duty, had not untimely death, when his kinsman Leo had hardly been elevated to the papacy, cut short his distinguished projects and cheated him of the honor of the purple which was in store for him.


The same studies were at once taken up by Cosimo's brother Alessandro, though he chose a different and not very fortunate path. For he applied his talents to writing tragedies and those talents, though highly trained, were somewhat more arid than became a buskined poet, as might indeed have been expected from the slenderness of his whole frame and the weakness of his thin voice and his general cast of countenance. He had, however, translated into Latin the Poetics of Aristotle, not badly considering its difficulty, and it was for this reason that, as if to practice the theory of the art he had thus formed, he bent his efforts to tragedy. But his energy was so excessive that there was hardly any limit to the passionate enthusiasm with which he translated Greek dramas, and especially the Iphigenia, into Latin and Italian and poured out a flood of original plays with a view to their performance in the theatre; though the Tuscan actors, who thought that at all costs they must avoid the hisses of the populace as a deadly peril, would have none of his poems, because they were written in imitations of the Greeks in verse a foot longer than that to which they were accustomed, a form novel and strange to our ears and pleasing to no once except the Grecophiles, because it was considered abnormal and awkward in measure and rhythm. Naturally, then, this original pattern which no one imitated was confined to its author and was soon forgotten; so difficult is it to succeed in giving splendor to the hackneyed and authority to the new.

Finally I should like to have portraits of certain foreigners, especially Germans, since not only Latin letters (to our shame!), but also Greek and Hebrew have been destined to migrate to their land. Therefore I should not hesitate to ask of those who are still living and equally famous authentic likenesses of their most illustrious dead, since men of culture could not possibly refuse this request without betraying their allegiance to the Muses. For who, except the utterly barbarous and impious, would not feel guilty to grudge the dead even a slight glory — though, to be sure, the singular fertility of their own powers will make them immortal? And it does 165 assuredly help to prolong their lives with some small part of the fame they yearned for that they should be recorded here in this album among this company of distinguished men and be recognized by their lifelike portraits and made known to posterity by brief though not unhelpful criticisms of their published works; for from this, as from a generous and unexpected adoption, they have acquired a new nobility, which contributes to the sum of their glory.

Not long since, there flashed out the brilliant learning of Johann Oecolampadius, but surely it would have shone more bright and clear, if it had not been stained by dreadful heresy. For, when he maliciously misrepresented Theophylactus by omitting certain passages in his translation and rejected the sacrament of the Host, he was utterly confuted in a ruthless attack by the English Bishop of Rochester.

Almost the same craze for the new sect sent headlong to a bloody end Zwingli, who was renowned for theology among the Swiss. When his baleful eloquence and impious harangues had divided the Swiss against themselves and incited those most artless and unwarlike tribes to civil strife, he himself fell on the field of battle; so that he is thought to have paid the penalty for his wicked audacity at the hands of almighty God.

But unsullied glory came from the pursuit of noble letters to Wilibald of Nuremberg, by whom we have some translations of Gregory of Nazianzus done in a reverent spirit, a version of the Cosmography of Ptolemy more accurate than previous translations, and descriptions of all the cities of Germany, works which throw the light of learning on little known regions.

Who that is interested in ancient and modern geography will not thank Vadianus95 of the famous town of St. Gall in Switzerland, because, in a very useful commentary, he has expanded and elucidated the treatise of Pomponius Mela, which before was brief and obscure?

We marvel also at the unremitting toil, especially praiseworthy in a man prominent at a king's court, of Cuspinianus96 of Vienna, who has recorded with an eloquence that betrays the statesman, the reigns of the German and Byzantine em166perors, their kinsmen, their families, their characters, and their ends.

His reputation for learning keeps fresh among us the memory of Cop of Basle, a physician trained in the science and successful in the practice of his profession, who is deeply mourned and often recalled to mind by Francis, King of France.

We revere also the talents of Conrad Gockelen, who was very celebrated among the Belgians for his ability in translating and teaching Greek.

Our lawyers venerate Zase of Constance, who challenges comparison with the most authoritative writers in knowledge of civil law.

Still green among us is the sweet and gracious memory of Beatus Rhenanus, for we see that through his ungrudging exercise of his talents a great store of classics has come down to us from his literary workshop.

Widely celebrated also are Camerarius, a great Greek scholar and so good at Latin that he became a most distinguished imitator of Cicero's style, and Copernicus, a mathematician of the greatest keenness, and likewise Albert Krantz, who has most interestingly described the kingdoms of Denmark and Sweden on the far edge of the North Sea, which were but dimly known to us before.

But with what affection befitting our old comradeship shall I await your portrait to crown with my elogium, Ursinus Gaspar of Silesia, snatched from us but a few years since by too hasty death? For you surpassed famous poets in merry verse and historians in dignity of style. But you reached the climax of fame and honor when, being "of spotless life and free from guilt", through the virtue of a serene soul you successfully discharged a hazardous duty in training consummately in character and letters Maximilian, the son of the emperor-elect Ferdinand, a lad of great ability and most worthy to follow in his uncle's footsteps.

But why do I not forbear to enumerate the rest now that the infinite number of scholars must make my ambition hopeless of fulfilment? For a most luxuriant crop is produced by the wondrous fertility of Germany. Surely we must think that by some mystic change of the stars it has come about 167 that that clime, condemned to the fierce blasts of Boreas and to cold and ice, has smoothed and roused intellects once rough and sluggish. For, not content with their old supremacy in war, through which with unwavering severity of discipline they defend successfully their title to military glory once wrested from the Roman conquerors of the world, they have stolen also the very ornaments of peace, letters and the liberal arts, from bankrupt Greece and (Oh, shame!) from sleeping Italy. Indeed within the memory of our fathers we were sending to Germany first for architects and then for painters, statuaries, sculptors, mathematicians, and clever craftsmen, as well as for water inspectors and surveyors. And what wonder? since even earlier they brought to us those strange and marvelous inventions, bronze types for printing books and terrible bronze engines of warfare.

But this unkind age has not been to them so generous a mother nor to us so cruel a stepmother that she has left us nothing at all of our ancient heritage. For we still hold (if those who have been stripped of almost every vestige of liberty may make even modest boasts) the fortified citadel of true and unfailing eloquence, where (by the grace of the pure Muses) our native Roman honor and integrity is kept impregnable and defended against foreign foes. For at this post every good citizen must be always on the alert to win immortal glory, so that, with Bembo and Sadoleto as our standard bearers, we may nobly guard what is left of the great possessions of our ancestors; though this can be indeed but empty comfort in our miseries now that, not without justice, the liberty we have overthrown has perished among us; for assuredly it is only while she fosters study that we see liberal arts quickened and disseminated.

Now that I have already completed the first volume, which contains the portraits of the dead, and have come by the grace of Minerva to the second, which is to be about the living, (a work which will be more difficult because of the danger of criticism, but more delightful in its reverent praise of great geniuses), I have thought it worthwhile to list the names of those whose portraits are already to be seen in the 168 hall which I have dedicated to the immortals. Let this then be a definite announcement of the place chosen and the project undertaken, so that from this moment men of taste, as if recognizing a happy omen for a radiant future, may look forward to memorials of their own genius which shall endure to after generations and may therefore not be loath to grant a favor which will reflect honor alike on them and on me and, finally, will please everyone. For I call upon those who have forsworn pleasure for love of letters and are sustained by the fair hope of lasting glory to say whether they think it an empty thing to be praised even by mediocre poets. They are surely both insolent and mad if they despise the gifts of another's generosity.

Italians then will need no more than this courteous and kindly suggestion, for I cannot think them so rude and churlish that they will not at least send to my Museum excellent portraits of themselves; since what could be more ungracious, not to say boorish, than to depart entirely from the precedent set by so many distinguished men, who have very gladly done this service of a scholar's kindness? Therefore I append a list of names, that those who are missing in it may know that they have a definite place generously reserved for them, in case they reckon it an honor to be seen in this flowery and unfading garland. Indeed in these artless trifles of mine they will first taste the sweet fruits of their toils. For what greater happiness can come to any living man who has made good use of his talents than to have a foretaste of glory through the testimony of another's judgment? And what, pray, can be pleasanter or more delightful than "to live among our descendants"97 and, finally, in despite of the Fates, to feel no fear of Death, whom all have feared except such as have taken measures to forestall the attacks of envy?

Here then are the names of those who still live and enjoy a glorious reputation for productive genius. Their portraits are so arranged that all dignity, whether of fortune or of rank, yields precedence to the honor due to age.

The Names of Those Whose Portraits I Have

Cardinal Pietro Bembo

Battista Egnazio


Cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto

Georgio Trissino

Gerolamo Fracastoro

Gerolamo Vida, Bishop of Albano

Giovanni Piero Valeriano

Romolo Amaseo

Andrea Alciati

Marcantonio Flaminio

Philip Melancthon

Giano Vitale

Cardinal Reginald Pole

Daniele Barbaro

Antonio della Mirandola

Philander Gallus98

Onorato Fascitelli

Basilio Zanchi

But how can I expect favors from foreigners (for I am greedy enough to covet also the portraits of scholars of other nations) unless noble men aid me and smile on my honorable desires? For there is nothing, even if it is not actually very difficult, which does not need illustrious backing, if it is to be accomplished and attained properly and in good time. Therefore I shall ask my old patrons, who are distinguished in the provinces for position and wealth, reverently conjuring them by our common worship of the Muses, to be so gracious as to do me this service promptly and generously. For what will consecrated and eminent men not do, who, professing themselves foster children and lovers of the Muses, have never scorned a reputation for true glory? So that, even from farthest Russia, where the boundaries of the Latin tongue end in the Scythian snows, I count on the cooperation of Johann Dantiscus,99 Bishop of Varna, who, having served on many embassies and having won the laurel crown for poetry, fires the nobles of his race with desire to win a like fame, an ambition to which Philip Padnevius and Martin Cromer now gloriously aspire.

And I dare swear that this same scholarly office will be unhesitatingly performed by that noble patron of the Muses, Otto Truchses, the pride of Germany and the ornament of 170 the holy senate, since his well known generosity does not wear out with use nor is satisfied with reputation already won nor has regard for anything except what is set beyond the reach of envy and is immortal. Nor is this strange, indeed, since the brightness of the purple early won, which has proved the undoing of so many, did not dazzle his eyes nor weaken his memory nor cast the slightest shadow on his frank and noble modesty. For not long ago at that portentous Diet of Nuremberg he revealed the enthusiasms of a lofty nature, when, presiding with absolute authority and therefore profoundly occupied with affairs of state, he exhibited all the qualities of consummate virtue. Therefore from him I expect not merely a few portraits but the likenesses of a whole company of the most distinguished men of Germany, which is so productive of geniuses. And among such great interpreters of Greek authors and such writers on sacred subjects I should greatly desire to find their laureled standardbearer, my old comrade, if I may call him so, the renowned poet, Georg Longus.

Nor do I think that anyone will omit from the list of those whom the disasters of civil and foreign wars have spared Thomas Nadazd, who is the only man now left in Hungary who defends with equal enthusiasm the ancient glories of Mars and of Pallas. For long since we lost two prelates eminent in the pursuit of virtue and letters, Janus Pannonius,100 who won enduring fame by his immortal poem, and Philip Moreus of Gran, who was slain by the barbarians in the battle of Mohacs; and those old friends of mine, ever illustrious for piety and loftiness of soul and Latin eloquence, I mean Stephan Broderics of Watzen, Fregepani of Agram, and Statilius, the distinguished bishop of Weissenburg in Hungary, have lately and untimely been taken from us while they were engaged on important embassies to all parts of Europe. But surely it is pitiful to see that kingdom, so flourishing a little while ago, subdued and dying in foul slavery, since with the death of King Matthias (whose consummate valor Fortune, conquered by the purity of his lofty soul, never failed) that line of ancient warriors, whose glory made it with good reason the terror of the barbarians, has perished; so that, I suppose, the fickle goddess, indignant at the unwarlike lords of 171 a mighty realm, might presently have grounds for shifting and rebelling as is her wont. And she too, with a like assault, has laid low the Dalmatians, among whom men of genius able to win fame from the pursuit of letters have flourished in this generation; but driven from their ancient territory by continuous invasions of the barbarians and forced to the farthest bounds of their seacoast, as if despairing of keeping their liberty, they seem to have exchanged letters for arms, so that no one worthy of an elogium is to be found there, unless the zealous efforts of that illustrious imitator of Cicero, Tranquillus Andronicus, should bring to notice his fellow citizens, through his accounts of great events and of his Ottoman embassy and of regions unknown to us.

As for the Belgian scholars, I wager they will be carefully sought out and faithfully reviewed, and the faces of the chosen, if I am not mistaken, will be generously bestowed on me in excellent portraits by Antoine Perrenot, Bishop of Arras, if only the heavy burden of his high office and his ardent anxiety for securing the peace of the state leave him leisure to cultivate the Muses, — leisure which I should certainly think would have to be stolen from needful sleep, since he is now cheerfully taking on his shoulders the weight of the august privy counsel of the Emperor, thus dutifully relieving his father, who was fainting under a load too heavy for his years and strength. But in any case I think that the memory of that great man and teacher, Erasmus, will endure, since a distinguished company of his pupils meets us everywhere, led by Pieter Nanninck, who is the pride of the university of Louvain. In this matter, if Perrenot is too busy, Cornelius Scepper, celebrated for his trained and authoritative judgment, for his important embassies, and for his famous travels all over Europe, will readily offer himself as adviser.

But may I not cherish the same hope of rich France, who, after having long admired mere accumulation of varied and unordered learning, now for the first time begins to understand in what the supreme and shining glory of letters consists and, rejecting barbarity, finds such delight in purity of Latin style that, if the shades have any feeling, Budé and Erasmus must alike be miserably chagrined that they had to 172 seek a fame in any degree commensurate with their labors by a path so rough and thorny.

Jean du Bellay, Bishop of Paris, illustrious for his ancient name and for his sanctity, a most esteemed member of the holy senate, who has doubly earned the purple, will surely lend distinguished aid to my noble project. For what will he not do for an old friend who asks a service that depends primarily on scholarship and therefore involves little expense, — he who with unfailing devotion worships the Greek and Latin Muses, who encourages men of genius, and, introducing them into the palace, sets them in the light where they may be straightway honored by the generosity of a cultured prince? Not without reason, therefore, will the greatest scholars comply with his request and graciously permit artists to paint their learned countenances; and first of all Périon himself, even though from love of religion he is shut within the cloister, — he who made Aristotle speak with the tongue of Cicero, while in a glorious contest he strove to outdo Strébée, who owes his reputation to that same rivalry.

What favor will an old comrade not receive from Danès, who is even now sending me the portrait of his teacher, Budé? He is surely a man distinguished for profound learning and truly Roman judgment, and we expect him soon to produce a work that will meet with unqualified success.

Nor do I think that Lazare de Baif, so celebrated for his books on Costume and Naval Matters, and Guillaume Pellicier, whose exhaustive work on Botany is evidence of his concern for the common weal, will be found unworthy of our long friendship.

Nor shall I be disappointed by Castellanus101 himself, whose profound learning has made him the king's constant companion, so that, while they take their ease at dinner, he may rehearse the causes and results of all events to be stored in the monarch's unfailing memory.

And the example of these scholars will be followed by Toussain, who has shown himself a shrewd heir of his literary heritage from his teacher, Budé, since he has adopted only that which seemed to him proved and sound, avoiding all the extravagances of an undisciplined style.

And not far behind these will be two most sweet and tender 173poets, Salmon Macrin and Nicolas Bourbon, and Regius102, too, who wins honors in prose equal to those of poets. And finally Vatable103 himself, elated though he is at his full benches in a crowded university, will not refuse me the likeness of his unsmiling countenance with its Hebraic austerity.

But to whom shall I address myself for a selection of the distinguished geniuses of Spain and for a generous and honorable service becoming a man of taste? Among the many who devote themselves to the sterner subjects, both sacred and profane, and are thus considered useful to the state and to private individuals, we rarely meet with men conspicuous for their accomplishments in belles-lettres, because they think that all this charm of Latin style, which the frivolous pursue with empty ambition, is never any reinforcement to serious professions and is sometimes merely so much extra baggage. Therefore, since, owing to the persistence of this opinion among their elders, the nobles of all Spain have utterly abjured these studies as being hurtful to military science, this supreme culture, which is the ornament of every subject, will have made its way into Spain somewhat later than into other lands; so that this country, so productive in everything else, the nurse of most spirited and sublime geniuses, the land that once gave to the Roman state so many famous and immortal orators and poets, might now, we suspect, be thought totally bereft of all this glory of brilliant eloquence. Some, however, at the instance of Lebrixa, have realized the negligence of their ancestors and have successfully applied their talents to win this honor.104 Among them Garcilaso has recently attained distinction with odes of Horatian smoothness. But this man, who was nobly climbing to the height of literary fame, while he ardently pursued another glory in war, was foiled by bitter death — and that too by an inglorious chance, since at Aix he was struck on the head by a stone hurled from a turret by a rustic and fell before the eyes of the Emperor.

Today, however, the very citadel of lofty fame is without doubt held by Juan Sepulveda of Cordova, who, learned in the Greek language and equipped with the strong defenses of almost all sciences, has become most eloquent by the continual and therefore successful practice of style. And next to him, we hear, comes Martin Silicaeus,105 Bishop of Carthage, an 174 accomplished scholar of unblemished character, virile genius, and pure literary style, who, as the wise and revered teacher of the Emperor's son Philip, is training a most excellent prince to be his father's pride and the joy of his realm.

The other scholars who give evidence of singular productivity or ripe harvest I am sure will be wisely and loyally pointed out to me by Cardinal Francisco Mendoza, whom we expect here soon to receive the august insignia of cardinal from the hand of the Pope himself. For he looks beyond the ancient splendor of his race to the supreme glory of letters and has already won from his pursuit of them a distinguished reputation and a fame, which, springing as it does from the roots of true virtue, will never wither.

The geniuses whom remotest Portugal hides from us on the shores of Oceanus, we shall get from Cardinal Miguel Silvio, and he will not keep us waiting long; for he, whose wide learning has made him a most finished poet and a delightful arbiter of all elegance, enthusiastically approves and praises my project and, eager for his country's honor, he does not scorn to count among the glories of a proud people a reputation for letters, as conferring, if not the greatest, yet not the least distinction.

But finally, what shall I expect from farthest Britain unless perhaps sad-faced portraits? Since there the grievous cruelty of a king who only yesterday was beyond reproach has made away with the lords of immortal fame and rooted out all virtue.


90 Giovanni Paolo Parrisio became Aulus Janus Parrasius.

91 He was Imperial Proctor at the papal court.

92 The Greek kapnos means "smoke."

93 The rest of this paragraph is not in the Antwerp edition, but appears in that of Basle, 1577.

94 Called usually Regiomontanus.

95 Joachim Watt.

96 Johann Spiesshammer.

97 Pliny, Ep. 2.1.2.

98 Guillaume Philandrier.

99 Johann von Hoefen of Danzig.

100 Johann von Cisinge. Silva Panegyrica ad Guarinum.

101 Pierre du Chastel.

102 Louis LeRoy.

103 Fran?ois Vatable or Watebled, professor of Hebrew at Paris.

104 Cf. p. 96.

105 Juan Martinez Pedernales.




[Back] [Blueprint] [Next]

Valid CSS!