From "The Italian Novelists" translated from the originals with Critical and Biographical Notices by Thomas Roscoe; Frederick Warne and Co.; London; [undated edition, c. 1900; first published, 1824]; pp. 202-207.
Novels of Alessandro Sozzini.
ALESSANDRO GIROLAMO SOZZINI* is perhaps one of the least known among the Italian writers of fiction, and is certainly not to be placed in competition with some of the most distinguished either of his own or a preceding age. He will, nevertheless, afford us one or two specimens, remarkable rather for their lightness and variety than for any great degree of interest or novelty attaching to the subject. His stories for the most part, indeed, are rather selected than original, many of them consisting of jests and anecdotes, along with all the good points he could meet with both in preceding and contemporary authors, from whom, like many others, he pirated with very little ceremony: good stories appearing to have been the common property of all. His collection, which was first published at Sienna, without date, in 8vo, but some time, as we learn from Poggiali, towards the close of the sixteenth century, is now very rarely to be met with.
Although by no means possessing the genuine characteristics of the Italian novel, such a production may, perhaps, be entitled to rank in the numerous list of those that are known to furnish a few occasional good tales and hints to other writers, amidst an abundance of very inferior and very exceptional matter. In its native garb, the work is chiefly worth attention on account of the ease and simplicity of its style, and the somewhat naïve and artless manner with which, in addition to the liveliness of the subject, the anecdotes are introduced. We are informed, upon the authority of Poggiali, that besides his “Raccolta di Burle,” &c., Sozzini likewise produced a Pastoral, in five long acts, and in terza rime; and it is stated by the above author to have been included in his own collection with the following title: — “Bisquilla egloga pastorale di Maggio del Signor Alessandro Sozzini,” &c., 1588 8vo.
More ample notices relating to the life and works of this writer are said to have perished in one of those terrific earthquakes that last afflicted, with other and much more serious loss to all ranks of inhabitants, the city of Sienna. His name has frequently been confounded with that of two other authors, both bearing the name, also, of Alessandro, mentioned by Ugurgieri, who, on the other hand, takes no kind of notice of the novelist.
* The work from which we have contrived to select the few novels that follow is entitled “Raccolta di burle, facezie, motti, e buffonerie di tre uomini Senesi, cioè di Salvadore di Topo Scarpellino, di Jacomo alias Scacazzone, e di Marianotto Securini, fattore dell’ opera del duomo di Siene: poste inseime da Alessandro di Girolamo Sozzini, gentiluomo Senese, per passar tempo e per fuggire l’ozio.” 8vo, without date: Sienna.
THE wife of the good citizen Dore having lately been confined to the house, her kind-hearted husband went out to purchase a couple of capons for her, though he had not to boast even the value of a brass farthing in his pocket. But, bent upon his purpose, he tuned his steps towards the market-place, where he found a jolly countryman, who showed him a fine fat pair of birds, for which he had the modesty to ask him only six livres. To this demand Dore replied, “Come, then, to save trouble, I will give you five;” and after some little demur, it was a bargain. Then seizing his prize, Dore said to the honest man,” Just come a little way along with me; you shall have your money in a moment.” So, turning into the Church of San Martino in their way, they found the prior busily engaged in confessing a young woman, and Dore said to the countryman, “Wait here a moment, for I wish to show them to our friar, as they are for his table; and I will tell him to pay you the five livres as soon as he shall have done confessing that woman.” Soon after, approaching the prior, he whispered in his ear, “Holy father, you will do me a great service by confessing a poor sinner, a gossip of mine, who stands there;” and he pointed him out with his hand. “Poor wretch! he has never been at confession during the space of five years, and now he cannot find a priest that will hear him. Oh, bestow this special charity upon him; let him not go away as he came, but bid him wait until you have dismissed the lady, and speak a word of comfort to him!” “Well.” said the friar, addressing the rustic, “brother, you may tarry a little; I will attend to you directly.” Upon hearing this, Dore again said to the countryman, “When he has confessed the lady, he will pay you, and in the meanwhile I will take his capons into his cell.” “But have you told him how much he is to pay me?” inquired the other. “Certainly,” replied Dore, “I said five;” and turning again to the friar, he cried aloud, shaking his head at the poor fellow as he spoke, “Yes, it is five, father, — even five!” “True, I hear you,” returned the prior in a mournful tone, while the happy Dore left the place; and when he had cleared the gate, proceeded as fast as his legs could carry him, towards his own house. So the prior, when he had finished the lady’s confession, turning to the rustic, beckoned him to approach, which the latter, eager to be paid, lost no time in doing. The friar supposing him bent upon confession, said, ‘Kneel with humility and reverence, kneel down!” “Humility!” cried the astonished rustic; “what humility? Give me the money for your capons first, that are just gone into your cell: did not your man tell you you were to pay me five, and you said, ‘True, I hear;’ and that is what we agreed for, good father.” “Heaven help us!” cried the friar, “what is all this? The man with the capons told me thou were his gossip, a foster-brother of his, and wert much in want of confession, which I promised thee, and will give thee. So down on thy knees, brother; what are thy sins?” “Do you think to make a fool of me, father? Do you think I did not hear when he said ‘five,’ as loud as
he could?” “But do not I tell you,” said the friar, getting into a passion, “that he meant five years — yes, five, you rascal, since you were last confessed?” “No, no,” said the unhappy rustic; “but if you will not pay me the money, at least let me have my capons back.” “But I have not got them” said the friar; “I wish I had: how can I give you back what I have never taken?” “Ah! this is very fine,” said the other, quite in a passion; “the man bought them for you, and he carried them just now into your cell, — what say you to that?” “I say,” returned the priest, “let us go and look for them; there will be one apiece; but if they be in my cell, I will eat them both without sauce, and pay thee thy price into the bargain; nay, I will give thee ten livres. Here are the keys: come and search! Do you think the rogue got through the keyhole,” he continued, addressing the wretched rustic, as he opened the door, “without me and my lock and key? There now, look till you are tired; you see every place is open; and if you find them, call me a greater thief than the thief himself.”
The countryman bustled, and searched, and swore, but all to no purpose; no capons were there. So he at last said to the friar, “But surely you will tell me who the man is who cheated me.” “I know him not,” answered the good father, “any more than I know you. I never saw either of you in my life before, and, in my opinion, you are a couple of arrant rogues.” And with this compliment, the poor countryman was obliged to take his leave.
SCACAZZONE returning one day from Rome, found himself, when within a short distance of Sienna, without cash enough to purchase a dinner. But resolving not to go without one if he could avoid it, he very quietly walked into the nearest inn, and appearing quite a stranger, he demanded a room in which to dine alone. He next ordered whatever he considered most likely to prove agreeable to himself, without in the least sparing his purse, as the good host believed, and ate and drank everything of the best. When he had at length finished his wine, and refreshed himself with a short nap for his journey, he rang the bell, and with a very unconcerned air asked the waiter for his bill. This being handed to him, “Waiter,” he cried, “can you tell me anything relating to the laws of this place?” “Oh yes, signor, I dare say;” for a waiter is never at a loss. “For instance,” continued Scacazzone, “what does a man forfeit by killing another?” “His life, signor, certainly,” said the waiter. “But, if he only wounds another badly, not mortally, what then?” “Then,” returned the waiter, “as it may happen, according to the nature of the provocation and the injury.” “And lastly,” continued the guest, “if you only deal a fellow a sound box upon the ear, what do you pay for that?” “For that,” echoed the waiter, “it is here about ten livres, signor; no more.” “Then send your master to me,” cried Scacazzone; “be quick, begone!” Upon the good host’s appearance, his wily guest conducted
himself in such a manner, uttering such accusations against extortion, such threats, and such vile aspersions upon his host’s house, that on Scacazzone purposely bringing their heads pretty close in contact, the landlord, unable longer to bear his taunts, lent him rather a severe cuff. “I am truly obliged to you,” cried the happy Scacazzone, taking him by the hand, “this is all I wanted with you; truly obliged to you, my good host, and will thank you for the change. Your bill here is eight livres, and the fine upon your assault is ten; however, if you will have the goodness to pay the difference to the waiter, as I find I shall reach the city very pleasantly before evening, it will be quite right.”
ANOTHER time, our identical friend Scacazzone happening to pass by the Church of our Lady of the Well, went in to pay his devotions to the patron saint of thieves. There were only three blind men in the place, apparently employed in the same matter; but hearing some one stirring, they began to ask alms, which the said Scacazzone bestowed equally upon all three, in the following manner: “I have made a vow, brothers,” he said, “to bestow a whole gold ducat in charity, and I cannot do better than give it, my poor fellows, to you. Here it is, take it;” while each of them stretched out their hands, and he gave it to none. He next said: “If you will follow my advice now, you will all go to the nearest tavern, after finishing prayer, and try to make yourselves merry for once in your lives.” Delighted at these words, and each supposing the other in possession of the gold, they declared themselves ready to follow his advice, and hastened as fast as they could find their way to the hostelry of Marchino in Diacceto, their arch-enemy following at a convenient distance to enjoy the result. Proceeding, therefore, boldly into the house, the blind guests began to give themselves no slight airs, requiring to be served with everything of the best, while Scacazzone took his station at the threshold. They were no sooner seated than they began to discuss the dishes with very little ceremony, sending many of them away, and calling for better fare, as truly the good host appeared to have an idea of entertaining them somewhat scantily, according to the cut of their cloth; their arch-impostor having given him a sort of hint not to exceed the bounds of prudence in point of supply. But he was so uncommonly attentive and polite, and made them so many fine promises on condition of their consenting to make his house the scene of entertainment on other occasions, and was besides so very moderate in his demands (for the poor fellows could not see what they had been eating, and began to suspect all was not as it should be), that they were compelled to make the best of their bargain. Still, they were so little pleased, that they would make no rash promises to come again, and as they called for their bill, their ideas rambled to future scenes of festivity at some of their more ancient haunts. “Give him the ducat and let us
go,” said one, “with the change to some better quarters.” “No,” said another, “do you give it him; I have not got it;” and so answered the third. “But one of you must have it,” exclaimed the first. “I tell you I heard him give it to you.” “Nay, to you,” retorted the others; “you were standing nearer to the gate.” “Very true, sirs; but you were nearer to him who gave it; and you have got it between you, and shall pay.” “Villain!” cried one of the others, “do you tax us with theft? Had he given it to us, do you think you would not have known which?” “I know you are two rogues,” rejoined the last, “and want to divide the ducat between you; yes, you want to cheat a poor, honest, blind man. But do you suppose I will not have my share?” and raising his cudgel as he spoke, he dealt his blows soundly on all sides of him.
Feeling the weight of his hand, his blind brothers were not long in following his example, and all the three began to hazard in every direction most serious and ferocious blows. Their want of eyes rendered the encounter by no means less dangerous; and one of the two friends had already disabled his ally by fracturing his arm, and was engaged with his enemy alone. “One of the rogues has killed me, I fear,” cried the wounded man, as he attempted to draw from the field and fell upon the ground. ‘I only wish they would despatch each other,” he continued, as he heard them fiercely cuffing and grappling with one another; “I wish they would, and I should find the ducat in the pocket of one of them.”
The author of this wicked trick in the meanwhile was enjoying the engagement at the door; and beginning to think the affair somewhat too serious, the populace already collecting in the street, he stepped in, with the help of the host, and carried off the wounded blind from the scene of action. Then separating the others with difficulty, he began to make inquiries into the merits of the case, and concluded with observing, “I daresay the gentleman gave the money to none of you: so come, here are three farthings, and I will pay you bill for you; and so be reconciled.”