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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. 273-278.


Marco Cademosto Da Lodi.






THE particulars relating to the life and character of this novelist at all interesting or deserving to be known are few. He held an ecclesiastical office at the Roman court, where he is said to have enjoyed the patronage and affection of Leo X.; but several of his sonnets, addressed to that Pope, show that he was by no means satisfied with the share assigned to him of the pontifical favours. In addition to his claims as a novelist, he acquired the reputation of a tolerable poet; but in neither of these branches is he so highly estimated as many of his contemporaries. His poems, and his novels to the number of seven, appeared together at Rome in 1544, dedicated to the Cardinal Ippolito d’Este. The remainder of his works were destroyed, according to the author’s account, during the great sack of Rome. One of the best of his stories, in the opinion of Mr. Dunlop, and which will be found below, is that of an old man, who by his will leaves his whole fortune to hospitals, to the detriment of his own family; but the latter contrive to recover the property at the ingenious suggestion of their father’s steward. Lodi was neither a very abundant nor a very excellent writer; and perhaps the mediocrity of his genius may account for the little encouragement which he met with at the court of so munificent a Pontiff as Leo, of whose treatment he speaks in no very guarded terms.

The chief merit of Lodi will be found to resolve itself into his skilful manner of modifying or enlarging the stories furnished by his predecessors, like too many of the novelists of the sixteenth century, who not unfrequently appropriated whole tales as their own. Yet were we to give credit to their repeated asseverations, we are bound to believe that the great bulk of their productions was not merely original, but founded upon real incidents thrown into a fictitious dress. In this, with too little reason, they are supported by many of the critics of their own country, who argue from the slight circumstances of a few real names and facts that the stories themselves are true.


*  Sonetti ed altre Rime con proposte e risposte di alcuni uomini degni, e con alcune Novelle, Capitoli, e Stanze: in Roma, per Antonio Blado Asolano.


THERE dwelt in Padua, not very long ago, a gentleman of the name of Scipione Sanguinaccio, whose extreme avarice, to which he had devoted a whole life of wretchedness, rendered him notorious throughout 276 the city, as one of the most penurious of its usurers. It had always been the height of his ambition to grow richer and richer, by the accumulation of interest upon interest, until he should have attained to an extreme old age. This being at length the case, he grew very infirm, and began to turn his thoughts, however reluctantly, to the propriety of making his last will and testament. By recent reflections on the subject, he had become so deeply sensible of his numberless offences against Heaven, that, desirous of lessening the amount of these his manifold sins and transgressions, he determined to leave the bulk of his property for the endowment of monasteries and hospitals, to the no small injury of two sons, whose interests he believed to be very properly sacrificed, in order to ensure the safety of his own soul. The young men, however, hearing of this disposition of his affairs, were by no means of their father’s opinion, lamenting to each other that he should have imbibed those foolish fears and prejudices which had led to so disagreeable a result. The old gentleman, on his part, imagined that his sons were not duly sensible of the high importance which ought now to be attached to his eternal interests. Such became the anxiety of the young men on this head, that they agreed to consult some of their most intimate friends, entreating them to employ their influence with their father in order to obtain a more equitable adjustment of his affairs, and to save his family from being consigned to poverty and shame for the sake of others. “Pray remind him,” they said, “that true charity begins at home, among our kindred and friends, and do not spare his conscience on the subject.” But these arguments, so far from prevailing with their aged father, led him only to adhere still more pertinaciously to his own opinion; and had he lived much longer, he would infallibly have deprived them of the little already provided for them, being resolutely bent upon blotting out his transgressions, as far as money could cancel them, in which laudable intention he vowed he would die. Now it so happened that immediately before his decease, this unjust disposition of his property came to the ears of one of his old stewards, who immediately hastened to condole with the sons on this melancholy occasion. “Ah! my dear young masters!” he cried, “Good Messer Angelo and good Messer Alberto, I truly sympathise with you both. When I heard that my old master had been guilty of making so unreasonable a will, I cannot express the grief and concern which I felt for your sakes. Indeed I have thought of nothing else since I heard of it, and I think I have formed a plan which will set all to rights yet, if you will be guided by me. For his money shall go the way it ought to do, so help me God, whatever may happen to his soul; and I will tell you how we can contrive it. I think he cannot possibly live through the night, so that we must keep the house as quiet as we can, and close the doors against all impertinent intruders, who would only disturb him in his last moments. When your poor father has breathed his last, we must carry his body decently and quietly into another room; which being done, out of mere regard for you, I will take his place on the sick-bed where he made his first wicked will. Now, before it becomes known that your dear father has departed, you must both come to my bedside 277 weeping, and praying that God would please to restore your parent, and to remove his dangerous distemper, to the end that it may appear as if he were still alive. Then lose no time in sending early the next morning for the same attorney who was before employed, and I will make another will for you much more equitable and better to your liking.”

On hearing these consolatory words, the young men were not a little comforted, and expressed their gratitude for such wise and humane counsel. “We always,” said the eldest, “believed you to be very kindly inclined towards us, and we know, my good Galeazzo, that your kindness is equalled by your prudence and discretion. Should the plan you propose turn out as advantageous for us as you seem to think, you may depend upon our lasting gratitude, and you shall certainly reap your share of the fruits of it.” Much more conversation passed between them to the same effect, and not long after the old gentleman expired. His body was then, in execution of their plan, removed into another chamber, while the wily old steward soon after assumed his master’s place, the curtains being drawn close around him, and the sick man’s nightcap put upon his head. A dim taper was burning by his side, and everything was arranged in such a way as almost to bid defiance to detection. The attorney and witnesses now arrived, when Galeazzo, with his head half enveloped in the bed-clothes, attempted to address the man of law in a feeble tone of voice: “I have been thinking a great deal since yesterday, Messer Pietro, about many particulars in the late will you drew. And alas! I fear I was about to act very unjustly towards my poor boys, not having that inward reliance upon Heaven which all Christians ought to have. But I thank God that I have been permitted to think better of it; and it does not appear to me that by depriving my own children of their lawful inheritance for the sake of others I can possibly recommend myself to the mercy of Heaven. Proceed, therefore, good Messer Pietro, while there is yet time. I will cancel my former hard and unnatural bequests. Let my poor boys have something to shield them from a pitiless world; let them inherit what I toiled to obtain for them. Indite it as my will that they succeed to the whole of my property, as well real as personal, chargeable only with the following legacy. I bequeath to my tried and faithful old servant Galeazzo, in return for his long and valued services, the sum of two thousand ducats, one half of which shall be payable at Christmas, the other half on Easter Day.” At these words the two sons, not in the least expecting such a stratagem on the part of their old friend, came forward somewhat hastily, saying, as they approached the bed, “But, dear father, as we shall have pleasure in attending to this or any other little commissions which you may mention to us, say no more; you will exert yourself too much.” “What is that you say?” inquired the patient in an angry tone. “Only,” replied they, “that we would wish you to dispose of your whole property as you judge best; but, dear father, we would just suggest that, however meritorious the services of Galeazzo may have been, so large a sum is perhaps beyond either his wishes or his deserts.” “I cannot think so,” replied their false father, 278 still in an offended tone; “I cannot think so, sons. He has been a faithful servant of mine for more than four-and-twenty years; I cannot do too much for him!” “Still, dear father,” they repeated, “we think you are giving him too much.” To which Galeazzo, quite out of patience, replied in great anger, “You had better take care what you are about, and not provoke me too far, for if you do, I will get up, weak as I am, and give you reason to repent of your behaviour.” Alarmed lest their false father should really put his threat into execution, the brothers remained silent, while the notary proceeded to state the sum at two thousand ducats; after which the will was regularly signed and sealed, and the witnesses were dismissed. The party being left together, the avaricious brothers could not conceal their dissatisfaction, and began to upbraid the cunning steward for having inserted his own name in the will. “You have greatly deceived us,” they continued; “we could not have imagined that you would have been guilty of such a trick, and have turned the affair in this way to your own advantage, inserting your own name in the will, just as if you had been one of our brothers. Why did you not rely on our promise that we would reward you handsomely, instead of assuming so much authority, and dictating to us as you did? But it is done, and there is no helping it now. We suppose you must have your money; but you have certainly not behaved well.”

Astonished at such ingratitude on the part of the brothers, Messer Galeazzo, turning very sharply round upon them, replied: “Are not you ashamed, Messer Angelo and Messer Alberto, to address me in language like this? What might I have expected, then, had I trusted to your promises? You complain that I have inserted my own name, as if, instead of a servant, I had been your own brother; to which I reply, that I have treated you not only like a brother, but like a father. I have bestowed upon you a fortune of twelve thousand ducats, reserving only for myself the modest sum of two thousand. It is merely what I deserve in return for the infinite obligations I have now laid you under, without taking into consideration my long and faithful stewardship. After such usage I can no longer think of remaining in your service; and it is well that your kind father has so handsomely provided for me in his will, which you will be pleased to attend to at the appointed time. There is one piece of advice, also, which I beg leave to offer to you, no less for your own sakes than for mine. Never let a single syllable transpire of what has passed between us in regard to your dear father’s will, and I assure you it will never be divulged by me.” Compelled to promise payment at the stipulated time, the brothers with a very ill grace dismissed the steward, who took his leave of them, bowing very formally, and returning them many ironical thanks.


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