From "The Italian Novelists" translated from the originals with Critical and Biographical Notices by Thomas Roscoe; Frederick Warne and Co.; London; [edition undated, c. 1900>, first published, c. 1824]; pp. 110-130.
Novels of Ser Giovanni Fiorentino.
The occasion of the production of these tales is very pleasingly told in a little preamble to the work, as well as in a sonnet, explaining the meaning of its very singular title, “which the author assumed,” observes Mr. Dunlop, “as some Italian academicians styled themselves Insensati, Stolidi, &c.; appellations in which there was not always so much irony as they imagined.”
In this short introduction we are informed that “a young Florentine gentleman of the name of Auretto, falling in love with one of the sisterhood of the convent of Forli, enters himself as a friar of the same order. Being shortly promoted to the office of chaplain, he is enabled to obtain frequent interviews with the beautiful recluse; and by way of beguiling their time innocently together, they each agree to repeat a story in turn, thus dividing them into different days and numbers.” The stories are occasionally concluded with poetical effusions of no common merit, in the form of canzoni, chiefly rime, terze, or quartette.
“Finding myself,” observes the author, “in the village of Dovadola, an exile and an outcast of fortune, as will too plainly appear in the following book, I began my labours in the year 1378, under the reign of our great Pontiff, Urban VI., and of the Emperor Charles IV., king of Bohemia and of the Romans. Now, in the city of Forli, in Romagna, 112 was a convent, consisting of a pretty numerous sisterhood, with their lady prioress, among whom Sister Saturnina was most esteemed for the perfect and holy life she led. She was besides one of the most beautiful, affable, and accomplished young creatures whom Nature in her most lavish mood had ever formed, insomuch that the fame of her excellence and beauty went forth on all sides, attracting the love and admiration of the whole place.” We may flatter ourselves that such handsome testimonials, given by the author to the character of his lovers, will be quite sufficient to obviate the least misconstruction of the motives under which they meet: and we may observe that the same propriety is preserved throughout the entire work.
A number of the stories are founded on real historical incidents, chiefly taken, according to Manni, from the works of Malespini and Villani, as very clearly appears on a comparison of their productions with those of our novelist. Some critics, indeed, have not scrupled to assert that our author was no other person than Giovanni Villani, the historian; an opinion, however, for which there is no further authority than the coincidence of name, and a few historical facts borrowed by Ser Giovanni from the works of that writer.
He is distinguished by Poccianti in his critical notices† merely as “Johannes Comicus, the elegant and accomplished author of fifty comedies, entitled ‘Il Pecorone,’” literally, the Great Sheep. The first edition of the work that appeared was at Milan, 1558, though subsequent impressions, falsely bearing the date of 1554, are known to exist.
It is remarked by Mr. Dunlop of the first story, that “it is one of the most beautiful triumphs of honour ever recorded.”‡ And this, with several others not devoid of interest, though by no means of equal merit, will be found in the following selection.
* Il Pecorone di Ser Giovanni Fiorentino, nel quale si contengono cinquanta Novelle Antiche, belle d’invenzione e di stile: Milan, 1558.
† Mich. Pocc. Cat. Script. Flor., p. 86.
‡ History of Fiction, vol. ii. p. 367.
“So violently enamoured did he shortly become, that he purloined her glove, which he wore with her favourite colours wherever he went, at tilts and tourneys, at rich feasts and festivals, all of which he was proud to hold in honour of his love: yet all these failed to render him agreeable to the lady, a circumstance that caused our poor friend Galgano no little pain and perplexity. A prey to the excessive cruelty and indifference of one dearer to him than his own life, who neither noticed nor listened to him, he still followed her like her shadow, contriving to be near her at every party, whether a bridal or a christening, a funeral or a play. Long and vainly, with love-messages after love-messages, and presents after presents, did he sue; but never would the noble lady deign to receive or listen to them for a moment, ever bearing herself more reserved and harshly as he more earnestly pressed the ardour of his suit.
“It was thus his fate to remain subject to this very irksome and overwhelming passion, until, wearied out, at length he would break into words of grief and bitterness against his ‘bosom’s lord.’ ‘Alas! dread master of my destiny,’ he would say, ‘O Love! can you behold me thus wasting my very soul away, ever loving but never beloved again? See to it, dread lord, that you are not, in so doing, offending against your own laws!’ And so, unhappily dwelling upon the lady’s cruelty, he seemed fast verging upon despair; then again humbly resigning himself to the yoke he bore, he resolved to await humbly resigning himself to the yoke he bore, he resolved to await some interval of grace, watching, however vainly, for some occasion of rendering himself more pleasing to the object he adored.
“Now it happened that Messer Stricca and his consort went to pass some days at their country seat near Sienna; and it was not long before the love-sick Galgano was observed to cross their route, to hang upon their skirts, and to pass along the same way, always with the hawk upon his hand, as if violently set upon bird-hunting. Often, indeed, he passed so close to the villa where the lady dwelt, that one day being seen by Messer Stricca, who recognised him, he was very familiarly entreated to afford them the pleasure of his company; ‘and I hope,’ added Messer Stricca, ‘that you will stay the evening with us.’ Thanking his friend very kindly for the invitation, Galgano, strange to say, at the same time begged to be held excused, pleading another appointment, which he believed — he was sorry — he was obliged to keep. ‘Then,’ added Messer Stricca, ‘at least step in and take some little refreshment:’ to which the only reply returned was, ‘A thousand thanks, and farewell, Messer Stricca, for I am in haste.’ The moment the latter had turned his back, our poor lover began to upbraid himself bitterly for not availing himself of the invitation, exclaiming, ‘What a wretch am I not to accept such an offer as this! I should at least have seen her — her whom from my soul I cannot help loving beyond all else in the world.’
“As he thus went, meditating upon the same subject along his solitary way, it chanced that he sprung a large jay, on which he instantly gave his hawk the wing, which pursuing its quarry into Messer Stricca’s gardens, and there striking true, the ensuing struggle took place. Hearing the hawk’s cry, both he and his lady ran towards 114 the garden balcony, in time to see, and were surprised at the skill and boldness of the bird in seizing and bringing down its game. Not in the least aware of the truth, the lady inquired of her husband to whom the bird belonged. ‘Mark the hawk,’ replied Messer Stricca; ‘it does its work well; it resembles its master, who is one of the handsomest and most accomplished young men in Sienna, and a very excellent young fellow, too; — yes, it does well.’ ‘And who may that be?’ said his wife, with a careless air. ‘Who,’ returned he, ‘but the noble Galgano — the same, love, who just now passed by. I wished he would have come in to sup with us, but he would not. He is certainly one of the finest and best-tempered men I ever saw.’ And so saying, he rose from the window, and they went to supper. Galgano, in the meanwhile, having given his hawk the call, quietly pursued his way; but the praises lavished upon him by her husband made an impression upon the lady’s mind such as the whole of his previous solicitations had failed to produce. However strange, she dwelt upon them long and tenderly. It happened that about this very time, Messer Stricca was chosen ambassador from the Siennese to the people of Perugia, and setting out in all haste, he was compelled to take a sudden leave of his lady. I am sorry to have to observe that the moment the cavalcade was gone by, recalling the idea of her noble lover, the lady likewise despatched an embassy to our young friend, entreating him, after the example of her husband, to favour her with his company in the evening. No longer venturing to refuse, he sent a grateful answer back that he would very willingly attend. And having heard tidings of Messer Stricca’s departure for Perugia, he set out at a favourable hour in the evening, and speedily arrived at the house of the lady to whom he had been so long and so vainly attached.
“Checking his steed in full career, he threw himself off, and the next moment found himself in her presence, falling at her feet and saluting her with the most respectful and graceful carriage. She took him joyously by the hand, bidding him a thousand tender welcomes, and setting before him the choicest fruits and refreshments of the season. Then inviting him to be seated, he was served with the greatest variety and splendour; and more delicious than all, the bright lady herself presided there, no longer frowning and turning away when he began to breathe the story of his love and sufferings into her ear. Delighted and surprised beyond his proudest hopes, Galgano was profuse in his expressions of gratitude and regard, though he could not quite conceal his wonder at this happy and unexpected change; entreating, at length, as a particular favour, that she would deign to acquaint him with its blessed cause. “That will I do soon,’ replied the glowing beauty; ‘I will tell you every word, and therefore did I send for you;’ and she looked into his face with a serene and pure yet somewhat mournful countenance. ‘Indeed,’ returned her lover, a little perplexed, ‘words can never tell half of what I felt, dear lady, when I heard you had this morning sent for me, after having desired and followed you for so long a time in vain.’ ‘Listen to me, and I will tell you, Galgano; but first sit a little nearer to me, for, alas! I love you. A 115 few days ago, you know, you passed near our house when hawking, and my husband told me that he saw you, and invited you in to supper, but you would not come. At that moment your hawk sprang and pursued its prey, when seeing the noble bird make such a gallant fight, I inquired to whom it belonged, and my husband replied, ‘To whom should it belong but to the most excellent young man in Sienna;’ and that it did well to resemble you, as he had never met a more pleasing and accomplished gentleman.’ ‘Did he — did he say that?’ interrupted her lover. ‘He did indeed, and much more, praising you to me over and over; until hearing it, and knowing the tenderness you have long borne me, I could not resist the temptation of sending for you hither;’ and, half blushes, half tears, she confessed that he was no longer indifferent to her, and that such was the occasion of it. ‘Can the whole of this be true?’ exclaimed Galgano. ‘Alas! too true,’ she replied, ‘I know not how it is, but I wish he had not praised you so.’ After struggling with himself a few moments, the unhappy lover withdrew his hand from hers, saying, ‘Now God forbid that I should do the least wrong to one who has so nobly expressed himself, and who has ever shown so much kindness and courtesy to me.’ Then suddenly rising, as with an effort, from his seat, he took a gentle farewell of the lady, not without some tears shed on both sides; both loving yet respecting each other. Never afterwards did this noble youth allude to the affair in the slightest way, but always treated Messer Stricca with the utmost regard and reverence during his acquaintance with the family.”
“There were once, two very intimate friends, both of the family of Savelli, in Rome, the name of one of whom was Bucciolo, of the other Pietro Paolo, both of good birth and easy circumstances. Expressing a mutual wish to study for a while together at Bologna, they took leave of their relatives and set out. One of them attached himself to the study of the civil, the other to that of the canon law; and thus they continued to apply themselves for some length of time. But as you are aware that the subject of the Decretals takes a much narrower range than is embraced by the common law, so Bucciolo, who pursued the former, made greater progress than did Pietro Paolo, and having taken a licentiate’s degree, he began to think of returning to Rome.
“‘You see, my dear fellow-student,’ he observed to his friend Paolo, ‘I am now a licentiate, and it is time for me to think of moving homewards.’ ‘Nay, not so,’ replied his companion; ‘I have to entreat you will not think of leaving me here this winter; stay for me till spring, and we can then return together. In the meanwhile you may pursue some other science, so that you need not lose any time;’ and to this Bucciolo at length consented, promising to await his relation’s own good time. Having thus resolved, he had immediate recourse to his former tutor, informing him of his determination to bear his friend company a little longer, and entreating to be employed in some pleasant study to beguile the period during which he had to remain. The professor begged him to suggest something he would like, as he should be very happy to assist him in its attainment. ‘My worthy tutor,’ replied Bucciolo, ‘I think I should like to learn the way in which one falls in love, and the best manner to begin.’ ‘Oh, very good,’ cried the tutor, laughing, ‘you could have hit upon nothing better, for you must know that, if that be your object, I am a complete adept in the art. To lose no time, in the first place, go next Sunday morning to the church of the Frati Minori, where all the ladies will be clustered together, and pay proper attention during service, in order to discover if any one of them in particular happen to please you. When you have done this, keep your eye upon her after service, to see the way she takes to her residence, then come back to me. And let this be the first lesson, first part, of that in which it is my intention to instruct you.’ Bucciolo went accordingly, and taking his station the next Sunday in the church as he had been directed, his eyes wandering in every direction except the proper one, were fixed upon all the pretty women in the place, and upon one in particular who pleased him above all the rest. She was far the most attractive and beautiful lady he could find; and on leaving the church Bucciolo took care to obey his master, and follow her until he had made himself acquainted with her residence. Nor was it long before the young lady began 117 to perceive that the student was smitten with her; upon which, Bucciolo, returning to his master, acquainted him with what he had done. ‘I have learned as much as you ordered me, and found somebody I like very well.’ ‘So far good,’ cried the professor, not a little amused at the sort of science to which his pupil thus seriously devoted himself, ‘so far good; and now mind what I have next to say to you. Take care to walk two or three times a day very respectfully before her house, casting your eyes about you in such a way that no one catch you staring in her face; but look in a modest and becoming manner, so that she cannot fail to perceive and to be struck with it. And then return to me, and this, sir, will be the second lesson in this gay science.’ So the scholar went, and promenaded with great discretion before the lady’s door; who certainly observed that he appeared to be passing to and fro out of respect to one of the inhabitants. This attracted her attention, for which Bucciolo very discreetly expressed his gratitude both by looks and bows, which being as often returned, the scholar began to be aware that the lady liked him. Upon this he immediately went and informed the professor of all that had passed, who replied, ‘Come, you have done very well; I am hitherto quite satisfied. It is now time for you to find some way of speaking to her, which you may easily do by means of one of those gipsies who haunt the streets of Bologna crying ladies’ veils, purses, and other rare articles to sell. Send word by her that you are the lady’s most faithful, devoted servant, and that there is no one in the world you so much wish to please. In short, let her urge your suit, and take care to bring the answer to me as soon as you have received it; I will then tell you how you are to proceed.’ Departing in all haste, he soon found a little old pedlar woman, quite perfect in her trade, to whom he said he should take it as a particular favour if she would do one thing, for which he would reward her handsomely. Upon this she declared her readiness to serve him in anything he pleased, ‘For you know,’ she continued, ‘it is my business to get money in every way I can.’ Bucciolo gave her two florins, saying, ‘I wish you to go as far as the Via Maccarella for me to-day, where resides a young lady of the name of Giovanna, for whom I have the very highest regard. Pray tell her so, and recommend me to her most affectionately, so as to obtain for me her good graces by every means in your power. I entreat you to have my interest at heart, and to say such pretty things as she cannot refuse to hear.’ ‘Oh,’ said the little old woman, ‘leave that to me, sir; I will not fail to say a good word for you at the proper time.’ ‘Delay not,’ said Bucciolo, ‘but go now, and I will wait for you here;’ and she set off immediately, taking a basket of her trinkets under her arm. On approaching the place, she saw the lady before the door enjoying the open air, and curtseying to her very low, ‘Do I happen to have anything here you would fancy?’ she said, displaying her treasures. ‘Pray, take something, madam, whatever pleases you best.’ Veils, stays, purses, and mirrors were now spread in the most tempting way before her eyes, as the old woman took her station at the lady’s side. Out of all these, her attention appeared to be most attracted by a beautiful purse, which she observed, if she could afford, she should like to buy. ‘Nay, 118 madam, do not think anything about the price,’ exclaimed the little pedlar; ‘take anything you please, for they are all paid for, I assure you.’
“Surprised at hearing this, and observing the very respectful manner of the speaker, the lady replied, ‘Do you know what are you saying? What do you mean by that?’ The old creature pretending now to be much affected, said, ‘Well, madam, if it must be so, I will tell you. It is very true that a young gentleman of the name of Bucciolo sent me hither, one who loves you better than all the world besides. There is nothing he would not do to please you, and indeed he appears so very wretched because he cannot speak to you, and he is so very good, that it is quite a pity. I think it will be the death of him; and then he is such a fine, such an elegant young man; the more is the pity.’ On hearing this, the lady, blushing deeply, turned sharply round upon the little old hag, exclaiming, ‘Oh, you wicked little creature! were it not for the sake of my own reputation, I would give you such a lesson, that you should remember it to the latest day of your life. A pretty story to come before decent people with! Are you not ashamed of yourself to let such words come out of your mouth?’ Then seizing an iron bar that lay across the doorway, ‘Ill betide you, little wretch,’ she cried, as she brandished it; ‘if you ever return this way again, you may depend upon it you will never go back alive!’ The trembling old creature, quickly bundling up her pack, ran off, in dread of feeling that cruel weapon on her shoulders; nor did she once think of stopping till she had reached the place where Signor Bucciolo stood. Eagerly inquiring the news, and in what way she had prospered: ‘Oh, very badly, very badly,’ answered the little gipsy; “I never was in such a fright in all my life. Why, she will neither see nor listen to you; and if I had not run away, I should have felt the weight of her hand upon my shoulders. For my own part, I shall go there no more,’ chinking the two florins; ‘and I would advise you to look to yourself how you proceed in such affairs in future.’ Poor Bucciolo now became quite disconsolate, and returned in all haste to acquaint the professor with this unlucky result. But the tutor, not a whit cast down, consoled him, saying, ‘Do not despair, Bucciolo; a tree is not levelled at a single stroke, you know. I think you must have a repetition of your lesson to-night. So go and walk before her door as usual; notice how she eyes you, and whether she appears angry or not; then come back again to me.’ He proceeded without delay to the lady’s house, who, the moment she perceived him, called her maid, giving her directions as follows: ‘Quick, quick! hasten after that young man — that is he; and tell him from me that must come and speak to me this evening without fail; yes, without fail.’ The girl soon came up with Bucciolo: ‘My lady, sir, my lady Giovanna would be glad of the pleasure of your company this evening; she would be very glad to speak to you.’ Greatly surprised at this, Bucciolo replied, ‘Tell your lady I shall be most happy to wait upon her;’ and turning round, he set off once more to the professor, and reported the progress of the case. But this time his master looked a little more serious, for, from some trivial circumstances put together, he began to entertain suspicions, as it really 119 turned out, that the lady was no other than his own wife. So he rather anxiously inquired of Bucciolo, whether he intended to accept the invitation. ‘To be sure I do,’ replied his pupil. ‘Then promise,’ rejoined the professor, ‘that you will come here before you set off.’ ‘Certainly,’ said Bucciolo, ‘I will;’ and he took his leave.
“Now, our hero was far from suspecting that the lady boasted so near a relationship to his beloved tutor, although the latter began to feel rather uneasy as to the result, feeling certain twinges of jealousy by no means pleasant. For he passed most of his winter evenings at the college, where he gave lectures, and not unfrequently remained there for the night. ‘I should be sorry,’ thought he, ‘that this young gentleman were learning these things at my expense; and I must therefore know the real state of the case.’ In the evening his pupil called again, saying, ‘Worthy sir, I am now ready to go.’ ‘Well, go,’ replied the professor, ‘but be wise, Signor Bucciolo, be wise: think more than once what you are about.’ ‘Trust me for that,’ replied the scholar, a little piqued; ’I shall go well provided, and not walk like a fool into the mouth of danger unarmed.’ And away he went, furnished with a good cuirass, a rapier, and a stiletto in his belt. He was no sooner on his way than the professor slipped out quietly after him, following him close at his heels, and truly he saw him stop at his own door, which, on a pretty smart tap being given, was opened in a moment, and the pupil was admitted by the lady herself. When the professor saw that it was indeed his own wife, he was quite overwhelmed, saying in a faint voice to himself, ‘Alas! I fear this young fellow has learned more than he confesses at my expense;’ and making a cruel vow to revenge himself, he ran back to the college, where, arming himself with sword and knife, he hastened back in a terrible passion, with the intention of wreaking his vengeance on poor Bucciolo without delay. Arriving at his own door, he gave a pretty smart knock, which the lady, sitting before the fire with Bucciolo, instantly recognised for her husband’s. So taking hold of Bucciolo, she concealed him in all haste under a heap of damp clothes lying on a table near the window ready for ironing; and this done, she ran to the door, and inquired who was there. ‘Open quick,’ returned the professor; ‘you vile woman, you shall soon know who I am.’ On opening the door, she beheld him with a drawn sword, and exclaimed, “Oh, my dearest life! what means this?’ ‘You know very well,’ said he, ‘what it means; the villain is now in the house.’ ‘Good heaven, what is it you say?’ cried his wife. ‘Are you gone out of your wits? Come and search the house, and if you find anybody, I will give you leave to kill me on the spot. What! do you think I should now begin to misconduct myself as I never before did, as none of my family ever did before? Beware lest the evil one should be tempting you, and suddenly depriving you of your senses, drive you to perdition.’
“But the professor calling out for candles, began to search the house, from the cellars upwards, among the tubs and casks, in every place but the right one, running his sword through the beds and under the beds, and into every inch of the bedding, leaving no corner or crevice 120 of the whole house untouched. The lady accompanied him with a candle in her hand, frequently interrupting him with, ‘Say your beads, say your beads, good sir; it is certain that the evil one is dealing with you; for were I half so bad as you esteem me, I would kill myself with my own hands. But I entreat you not to give way to his evil suggestions; oppose the adversary while you can.’
“Hearing these virtuous asseverations of his wife, and not being able to meet with any one after the strictest search, the professor began to think that he must indeed be possessed, and in a short time, extinguishing the lights, returned to his rooms. The lady, shutting the door upon him, called out to Bucciolo to come from his hiding-place, and stirring the fire, began to prepare a fine capon for supper, with some delicious wines and fruits. And thus they regaled themselves, highly entertained with each other; nor was it their least satisfaction that the professor had just left them, apparently convinced that they had learned nothing at his expense.
“Procceding the next morning to college, Bucciolo, without the least suspicion of the truth, informed his master that he had something for his ear which he was sure would make him laugh. ‘How, how so?’ exclaimed the professor. ‘Why,’ returned his pupil, ‘you must know that last night, just at the very time I was in the lady’s house, who should come in but her husband, and in such a rage! He searched the whole house from top to bottom without being able to find me. I lay under a heap of newly-washed clothes,¥ which were not half dry. In short, the lady played her part so well, that the poor gentleman forthwith took his leave, and we afterwards ate a fine fat capon for supper, and drank such wines, and with such a zest! It was really one of the pleasantest evenings I ever spent in my life. But I think I will go and take a nap, for I have promised to return again this afternoon about the same hour.’ ‘Then be sure before you go,’ said the professor, trembling with suppressed rage, ‘be sure to tell me when you set off.’ ‘Oh, certainly,’ replied Bucciolo, and away he went. Such was now the unhappy tutor’s condition as to render him incapable of delivering a single lecture during the whole day; and such his extreme vexation and desire to behold the evening, that he spent the whole time in arming himself cruelly with rapier, sword, and cuirass, dwelling only upon deeds of blood. At the appointed hour came Bucciolo with the utmost innocence, saying, ‘My dear tutor, I am going now.’ ‘Yes, go,’ replied the professor, ‘ and come back again to-morrow morning, if you can, to tell me how you have fared.’ ‘I intend to do so,’ said Bucciolo, and departed at a brisk pace for the house of the lady. Armed cap-à-pie, the professor ran out after him, keeping pretty close at his heels, with the intention of catching him just as he entered. But the lady being on the watch, opened the door so quickly for the pupil that she shut it in the master’s face, who began to knock and to call out with a furious noise. Extinguishing the candle in a moment, the lady placed Bucciolo 121 behind the door, and throwing her arms round her husband’s neck as he entered, motioned to her lover, while she thus held his enemy, to make his escape; and he, upon the husband rushing forwards, stepped out from behind the door unperceived. She then began to scream as loud as she could, ‘Help! help! the professor is run mad! Will nobody help me?’ for he was in an ungovernable rage, and she clung faster to him than before. The neighbours running to her assistance, and seeing the peaceable professor thus armed with all those deadly weapons, and his wife crying out, ‘Help, for the love of Heaven; too much study hath driven him mad!’ they really believed such to be the fact. ‘Come, good master,’ they said, ‘what is all this? Try to compose yourself; nay do not struggle so hard, but let us help you to your couch.’ ‘How can I rest, think you,’ he replied, ‘while this wicked woman harbours paramours in my house? I saw him come in with my own eyes.’ ‘Wretch that I am,’ cried his wife, ‘inquire of all my friends and neighbours whether any one of them ever saw anything the least unbecoming in my conduct.’ The whole party, with one voice, entreated the master to lay such thoughts aside, for that there was not a better woman breathing, nor one who set a higher value upon her reputation. ‘But how can that be,’ said the tutor, ‘when I saw him enter the house with my own eyes? and he is in it now.’ In the meanwhile the lady’s two brothers arrived, when she began to weep bitterly, exclaiming, ‘Oh, my dear brothers! my poor husband is gone mad, quite mad; and he even says there is a man in the house! I believe he would kill me if he could; but you know me too well to listen a moment to such a story;’ and she continued to weep. The brothers forthwith accosted the professor in no very gentle terms. ‘We are surprised, we are shocked, sir, to find that you dare bestow such epithets on our sister; what can have led you, after living so amicably together, to bring these charges against her now?’ ‘I can only tell you,’ replied the enraged professor, ‘that there is a man in the house; I saw him.’ ‘Then come and let us find him; show him to us, for we will sift this matter to the bottom,’ retorted the incensed brothers. ‘Show us the man, and we will then punish her in such a way as will satisfy you!’
“One of them taking his sister aside, said, ‘First tell me, have you really got any one hidden in the house? Tell the truth.’ ‘Heavens!’ cried his sister; ‘I tell you I would rather suffer death. Should I be the first to bring a scandal on our house? I wonder you are not ashamed to mention such a thing.’ Rejoiced to hear this, the brothers, directed by the professor, immediately commenced a search. Half frantic, he led them directly to the great bundle of linen, which he pierced through and through with his sword, firmly believing he was killing Bucciolo all the while, taunting him at the same time at every blow. ‘There! I told you,’ cried his wife, ‘he was quite mad; to think of destroying his own property thus! It is plain he did not help to get them up,’ she continued, whimpering; ‘all my best clothes.’ Having now sought everywhere in vain, one of the brothers observed, ‘He is indeed mad;’ to which the other agreed, while he again attacked the professor in the bitterest terms. ‘You have carried things 122 too far, sir; your conduct to our sister is shameful, nothing but insanity can excuse it.’ Vexed enough before, the professor upon this flew into a violent passion, and brandished his naked sword in such a way that the others were obliged to use their sticks, which they did so very effectually, that after breaking them over his back, they chained him down like a madman upon the floor, declaring he had lost his wits by excessive study; and taking possession of his house, they remained with their sister the whole night. The next morning they sent for a physician, who ordered a couch to be placed as near as possible to the fire;** that no one should be allowed to speak or reply to the patient; and that he should be strictly dieted until he recovered his wits; and this regimen was diligently enforced.
“A report immediately spread throughout Bologna that the good professor had become insane, which caused very general regret, his friends observing to each other, ‘It is indeed a bad business, but I suspected yesterday how it was: he could scarcely get a word out as he was delivering his lecture; did you perceive?’ ‘Yes, I saw him change colour, poor fellow;’ and everywhere, by everybody, it was decided that the professor was mad. In this situation numbers of his scholars went to see him, and among the rest Bucciolo, knowing nothing of what had passed, agreed to accompany them to the college, desirous of acquainting his master with his last night’s exploit. What was his surprise to learn that he had actually taken leave of his senses; and being directed, on leaving the college, to the professor’s house, he was almost panic-struck on approaching the place, beginning to comprehend the whole affair. Yet in order that no one might be led to suspect the real truth, he walked into the house along with the rest, and on reaching a certain apartment which he knew, he beheld his poor tutor, almost beaten to a mummy, and chained down upon his bed close to the fire. His pupils were standing round condoling with him and lamenting his piteous case. At length it came to Bucciolo’s turn to say something to him, which he did as follows: ‘My dear master, I am as truly concerned for you as if you were my own father; and if there is anything in which I can be of use to you, command me as your own son.’ To this the poor professor only replied, ‘No, Bucciolo; depart in peace, my pupil, depart, for you have learned much, very much, at my expense.’ Here his wife interrupted him: ‘You see how he wanders; heed not what he says; pay no attention to him, Signor.’ Bucciolo, however, prepared to depart, and taking a hasty leave of the professor, he ran to the lodgings of his relation, Pietro Paolo, saying, ‘Fare you well! God bless you, my friend! I must away to Rome; for I have lately learned so much at other people’s expense that I am going home;’ and he hurried away, and fortunately arrived safely at Rome.
¶ This story, which has been imitated in the fourth tale of the fourth night of Straparola, is supposed to be of Eastern origin; and it has certainly a striking resemblance to one in the “Bahar Danush,” a work compiled out of some of the oldest Brahmin traditions. It is, moreover, curious, as having, through the medium of a translation, suggested the idea of several of those amusing scenes in the “Merry Wives of Windsor,” in which the renowned Falstaff acquaints Master Ford, disguised under the name of Brooke, with his progress in the good graces of Mrs. Ford. The contrivances, likewise, by which he eludes the vengeance of the jealous husband are similar to those recounted in the novel, with the addition of throwing the unwieldy knight into the river. Mr. Dunlop informs us that the same story has been translated in a collection entitled “The Fortunate, Deceived, and Unfortunate Lovers;” and that Shakespeare may probably also have seen it in Tarleton’s “Newes out of Purgatorie,” where the incidents related in the “Two Lovers of Pisa” are given according to Straparola’s version of the story. But it must be confessed that our great English dramatist has improved upon the incidents in such a way as to give a still more humorous idea of the hero, whose adventures are the result only of a feigned regard on the part of Mistress Ford. Molière, too, would appear to have made a no less happy use of it than our inimitable dramatist in his “Ecole des Femmes,” where the humour of the piece turns upon a young gentleman confiding his progress in the affections of a lady to the ear of her guardian, who believed that he was on the point of espousing her himself. Two other French productions, entitled “Le Maître en Droit,” one of them from the pen of Fontaine, have also been drawn from the same source; and every one must be acquainted with that part of Gil Blas’s history where Don Raphael confides to Balthazar the progress of his regard for his wife, and particularly dwells upon the vexatious behaviour he met with on the part of the gentleman, by his unexpected return home. — Vide Dunlop’s “History of Fiction,” vol. ii. p. 370.
¥ In the incident of the damp linen we have the original of Sir John Falstaff’s happy contrivance in “The Merry Wives of Windsor;” the story being well known to most of our early English dramatists.
** This manner of treating their crazy patients in a high fever must give our modern physicians a strange notion of the tactics of their ancient brethren, and a good opinion of themselves.
“There lived in Provence, not many years ago, a gentleman of the name of Carsivalo, the lord of many castles, possessed of rare courage and prudence, and highly esteemed by the other chiefs and barons in the surrounding country. He was descended from a noble and ancient family, of the house of Balzo, and had an only daughter of the name of Lisetta, celebrated for her extreme beauty and accomplishments above all ladies of her time. Many were the lords, counts, and barons, both young and valiant, sighing suitors for her regard. But on none had her sire, Carsivalo, yet cast his eye whom he altogether approved, and he therefore refused them all. In the same province resided the Count Aldobrandino, lord of the whole of Venisi, comprehending many cities and castles. He was upwards of seventy years of age, had no wife or children, and was extremely rich. Struck with the beauty of his friend Carsivalo’s daughter, the Count grew at length enamoured of her, and very willingly would he have led her to the altar, had he not felt ashamed at his years, of suing to her, while so many bold and handsome youths were struggling for her in vain; wherefore he devoured his love in secret, not knowing what measures to pursue.
“Now it so happened that holding a festival at which his friend Carsivalo, ever forward to express his fidelity and devotion to him, was present, the old Count lavished upon him the most gratifying marks of regard, presenting him at the same time with noble steeds, birds, and hounds, besides other proofs of his favour. After this, he one day began to summon resolution to request his daughter from him, as it were in jest, while he and Carsivalo sat over their wine together. This he did in the following manner, assuming as youthful an air and countenance as he well could: ‘I will tell you what I have been thinking of, my dear friend, without the least reservation in the world; for with you, indeed, I can have no secrets; and there is perhaps only one thing which I need to care about, which is, that I am not quite so fresh and hearty as I have been, but yet that is not much; and be it what it may, I will even tell you I should be glad, if you have no objection, to take your daughter’s hand in marriage, — I should like to have her for a wife.’ ‘And I am sure,’ answered Carsivalo, ‘I would very willingly give her to you, my friend; only it might appear somewhat strange, considering the number of young fellows who are in pursuit of her, from eighteen to twenty years of age, and who might all join in falling upon me or becoming my enemies for ever. Besides, there are her mother, brothers, cousins, 124 and relations without end, who may be no better satisfied; and perhaps the girl herself may have set her eye upon some one of those fresher sparks who are continually fluttering about her.’ ‘What you say is very true, friend Carsivalo,’ returned the Count; ‘but suppose you were to tell her she will be mistress of all my possessions; yes, all I have in the world. I think, therefore, we had better find some method of arranging the affair amicably between ourselves.’ ‘Well, be it so,’ replied Carsivalo; ‘let us consider of it, and to-morrow we will talk about it again.’ The enamoured old Count, slept not a wink all night, but lay devising schemes upon the subject, the result of which appeared on the following day, when he called early on Carsivalo and said, ‘I have discovered a plan; and it will not merely serve you for an excuse in bestowing your daughter’s hand on me, but it will do you, sir, the highest honour.’ ‘Pray, what is it, my lord?’ was the question. ‘It is this,’ returned the Count; ‘do you announce a grand tournament without delay, at which, whoever wishes for the honour of your daughter’s hand, must come and fight; and so let her remain the victor’s prize. Leave the rest to me; for I will find means of coming off the conqueror, and you will stand well in the opinion of all the world.’ Carsivalo, smiling, replied that he was content, and the Count returned home. So at a fit season the young lady’s father calling together his family and many of his relatives and friends, acquainted them that it was his intention to dispose of his daughter’s hand, and consulted them in reference to the number of her suitors, chiefly consisting of the neighbouring lords and gentlemen of the province. ‘Now,’ he continued, ‘if we venture to bestow her upon such or such a one, others will be affronted and become our enemies for life, saying, ‘What! are we not as good as that fellow?’ and this will bring others upon us without end; so that our friends becoming our foes, there will be no living in the neighbourhood. For my own part, I think we had better proclaim a tournament, at which whosoever shall have the luck to win her, in God’s name let him wear her, and we have then done with it altogether.’ The mother and the rest of her relations gave their consent, and the plan was approved of by all. Carsivalo ordered it to be forthwith proclaimed, the conditions being, that whoever was desirous of obtaining his daughter Lisetta’s hand in marriage, should attend a tournament to be held at Marseilles on the first day of May, the happy victor to bear off the lady as his prize. No sooner was the fame of this gone abroad, than Count Aldobrandino despatched a messenger in all haste to the king of France, requesting he would forthwith be pleased to send him one of his most doughty knights, the most invincible that could possibly be met with in feats of arms. In consideration of the Count having always shown himself a faithful adherent to the crown, and being moreover allied by blood, the king sent him a favourite cavalier, whom he had brought up from a child at his own court. His name was Ricciardo, sprung from the house of Mont Albano, long celebrated for its knightly deeds. His directions were to comply with everything Count Aldobrandino should choose to impose. The young knight soon arrived at the castle of the old lover, who, after bestowing upon him signal marks of his favour, 125 revealed to him the affair which he had in hand. Ricciardo replied, ‘I was sent by my royal master, to act in whatever capacity might be most agreeable to you: give your orders, therefore; it is mine to execute them manfully.’ ‘Then hear me,’ said the Count. ‘We are preparing to give a tournament at Marseilles, in which it is my wish you should carry all before you, until I ride into the field, when I will engage you, and you must suffer yourself to be vanquished, so that I may remain victor of the day.’ Ricciardo said that it was his duty, however hard, to submit; and he continued privately at the castle until the hour arrived, when the old Count again accosted him: ‘Take this suit of armour, and go to Marseilles, and give out that you are a rich traveller, with steeds and money at will, and so conduct yourself like a valiant knight.’ ‘You may leave that to me,’ returned Ricciardo; and he went out and cast his eye over the Count’s stud, where he found a horse that had not been mounted for several months, on which he suddenly vaulted, taking along with him what company he pleased. And he bent his way towards Marseilles, where he found the most splendid preparations made for the tournament. Thither were already gathered many of his young competitors, and blithe and proud was he who appeared more terribly beautiful than his compeers, while hautboys and trumpets everywhere sounded a shrill alarm, and the whole air seemed to be filled with music. Spacious was the plain staked out on which their respective prowess was to be displayed, and gay were the numerous balconies lifted up into the air around, with ladies and their lords and tender maidens watching the fearful odds of the field. And the fair and lovely girl, the wished-for prize, was led forth on the first of May, distinguished above all her companions for her beauty and accomplishments. And now also rode forth her noble lovers, shining in arms, into the field, bearing various colours and devices, where, turn by turn, they assaulted each other with the most jealous rage. Among these Ricciardo was everywhere seen opening himself a passage upon his fierce steed, and ever, as most experienced in feats of arms, did he come off the victor. Tremendous in assault and skilful in defence, by his rapid motions he showed himself a complete master of his art. Every tongue was loud in his praise, inquiring who he could be? The answer was, ‘A strange knight, who lately rode into the field.’ Still victorious, his competitors retired on all sides, unable to sustain the ferocity of his attack. In a few moments Count Aldobrandino entered the lists, armed cap-à-pie, and running full tilt at Ricciardo, trumpets sounding and handkerchiefs waving, he met him in mid career. After some blows dealt, as had been agreed upon, on both sides, the young hero appeared to quail under the Count’s sword; and having already seen the fair Lisetta, never had he done anything with so ill a grace before. But he was bound to obey his sovereign’s good pleasure, and consequently that of the Count, who was now riding victorious over the ground with his sword unsheathed, his squires and other followers hailing him with shouts of triumph, the conqueror of the day.
“What, then, was the surprise of the spectators when he raised his 126 vizor! What the vexation of the young maiden to behold the features of the aged Count, who thus obtained the hand of the lovely maid of Provence! and bearing her to his castle with great rejoicing, celebrated his marriage with joyous dances and festivals in honour of his bride.
“On poor Ricciardo returning from this very unpleasant service into France, the monarch inquired what he had been doing. ‘Please your majesty,’ replied the knight, ‘I have just returned from a tournament, in which your old Count has made me play a very mischievous part.’ ‘How is that? — in what way?’ said the king; and his squire then related the whole affair, at which his majesty expressed the utmost surprise. ‘You need not be astonished so much at what has happened, sire, as that I should have been prevailed upon to bear a part in it; for truly, sire, I never performed anything with half so ill a grace, such is the exceeding beauty of the lady whom the deceitful Count has made his prize.’ The king on this seemed to consider a little, and then turning towards Ricciardo, observed: ‘Never fear; it will turn out to have been a good tournament for you, after all; and let this suffice.’
“Now it happened that the old Count did not long survive the period of his union with the beautiful Lisetta, leaving her a young widow without an heir to his vast domains. On this event she returned to her father’s house, who received her with far less tenderness and affection than he had been accustomed to do. Supporting his strange and harsh conduct for some time, his daughter at length could not fail to remark it with equal vexation and surprise. Resolved to speak to her father on the subject, she one day said, ‘When I think how very fond of me you once were, and now behold the difference — for you seem as if you could scarcely bear the sight of me — believe me, I am far from being as happy as I was.’ To this her father replied, ‘It is I who ought rather to express my surprise at your conduct, daughter; for I once considered you a discreet and prudent young woman, when I bestowed your hand upon the Count with such noble expectations of inheriting his vast possessions in your offspring.’ But Lisetta answering him with much spirit, he merely added, ‘Well, I am satisfied; but I shall take care to marry you very differently another time; that is all.’
“The whole of the deceased Count’s possessions coming to his relative and ally the king of France, the monarch, recalling to mind the courtesy and prowess shown by his squire, Ricciardo, despatched a messenger to the lady’s father in Provence, signifying his pleasure that the young widow should bestow her hand upon him. Carsivalo, being made acquainted with the truth, sent in answer that he should be proud to act conformably to the king’s wishes. The monarch then mounted horse with a magnificent train of nobles, and accompanied by Ricciardo, journeyed into Provence, where he celebrated the union of the fair Lisetta with his own true knight, who afterwards received from the hands of his royal master the territory of Aldobrandino as his lawful heritage, an arrangement that met with the approbation of all parties, nor least so with that of the lady, who lived long and happily with the valiant Count Ricciardo of Provence.”
** A portion of the above story appears to have been suggested by the fifteenth tale of Sacchetti, and it is likewise to be traced in the celebrated collection of Poggio.
“There formerly resided in Germany two wealthy and well-born individuals, whose names were Guelfo and Ghibellino, very near neighbours, and greatly attached to each other. But returning together one day from the chase, there unfortunately arose some difference of opinion as to the merits of one of their hounds, which was maintained on both sides so very warmly, that from being almost inseparable friends and companions, they became each other’s deadliest enemies. This unlucky division between them still increasing, they on either side collected parties of their followers, in order more effectually to annoy each other. Soon extending its malignant influence among the neighbouring lords and barons of Germany, who divided, according to their motives, either with the Guelf or the Ghibelline, it not only produced many serious affrays, but several persons fell victims to its rage. Ghibellino, finding himself hard pressed by his enemy, and unable longer to keep the field against him, resolved to apply for assistance to Frederick the First, the reigning emperor. Upon this, Guelfo, perceiving that his adversary sought the alliance of this monarch, applied on his side to Pope Honorius II., who being at variance with the former, and hearing how the affair stood, immediately joined the cause of the Guelfs, the Emperor having already embraced that of the Ghibellines. It is thus that the Apostolic See became connected with the former, and the Empire with the latter faction; and it was thus that a vile hound became the origin of a deadly hatred between the two noble families. Now it happened that in the year of our dear Lord and Redeemer 1215, the same pestiferous spirit spread itself into parts of Italy in the following manner. Messer Guido Orlando being at that time chief magistrate of Florence, there likewise resided in that city a noble and valiant cavalier of the family of Buondelmonti, one of the most distinguished houses in the state. Our young Buondelmonte having already plighted his troth to a lady of the Amidei family, the lovers were considered as betrothed, with all the solemnity usually observed on such occasions. But this unfortunate young man, chancing one day to pass by the house of the Donati, was stopped and accosted by a lady of the name of Lapaccia, who moved to him from her door as he went along, saying: ‘I am surprised that a gentleman of your appearance, Signor, should think of taking for his wife a woman scarcely worthy of handing him his 128 boots. There is a child of my own, whom, to speak sincerely, I have long intended for you, and whom I wish you would just venture to see.’ And on this she called out for her daughter, whose name was Ciulla, one of the prettiest and most enchanting girls in all Florence. Introducing her to Messer Buondelmonte, she whispered, ‘This is she whom I had reserved for you;’ and the young Florentine suddenly becoming enamoured of her, thus replied to her mother: ‘I am quite ready, Madonna, to meet your wishes;’ and before stirring from the spot he placed a ring upon her finger, and wedding her, received her there as his wife.
“The Amidei hearing that young Buondelmonte had thus espoused another, immediately met together and took counsel with other friends and relations how they might best avenge themselves for such an insult offered to their house. There were present among the rest Lambertuccio Amidei, Schiatta Ruberti, and Mosca Lamberti, one of whom proposed to give him a box on the ear, another to strike him in the face; yet they were none of them able to agree about it among themselves. On observing this, Mosca hastily rose, in a great passion, saying: ‘Cosa fatta capo ha,’ wishing it to be understood that a dead man will never strike again. It was therefore decided that he should be put to death, a sentence which they proceeded to execute in the following manner: —
“M. Buondelmonte returning one Easter morning from a visit to the Casa Bardi, beyond the Arno, mounted upon a snow-white steed, and dressed in a mantle of the same colour, had just reached the foot of the Ponte Vecchio, or old bridge, where formerly stood a statue of Mars, whom the Florentines in their Pagan state were accustomed to worship, when the whole party issued out upon him, and dragging him in the scuffle from his horse, in spite of the gallant resistance he made, despatched him with a thousand wounds. The tidings of this affair seemed to throw all Florence into confusion; the chief personages and noblest families in the place everywhere meeting and dividing themselves into parties in consequence; the one part embracing the cause of the Buondelmonti, who placed themselves at the head of the Guelfs; and the other taking part with the Amidei, who supported the Ghibellines.‡‡
“In the same fatal manner, nearly all the seigniories and cities of Italy were involved in the original quarrel between these two German families: the Guelfs still supporting the interest of the Holy Church and the Ghibellines those of the Emperor. And thus I have made you acquainted with the origin of the Germanic faction between two noble houses, for the sake of a vile cur, and have shown how it afterwards disturbed the peace of Italy for the sake of a beautiful woman.”
†† Those stories, observes Mr. Dunlop, that recount the dissensions of Florence, are strikingly illustrative of its situation, of the character of its principal inhabitants, and of the factions by which it was distracted.
‡‡ In the original the novelist here proceeds to record the names, at great length, of the families who ranged themselves under the respective party banners.
“Having at last come to action, the Neri were defeated, and wishing to adjust the affair as well as they yet could, they sent their relation who had offended the opposite party to entreat forgiveness on the part of the Neri, expecting that such submissive conduct would meet with the compassion it deserved. On arriving in the presence of the Bianchi, who conceived themselves the offended party, the young man, on bended knees, appealed to their feelings for forgiveness, observing that he had placed himself in their power, that so they might inflict what punishment they judged proper; when several of the younger members of the offended party seizing on him, dragged him into an adjoining stable, and ordered that his right hand should be severed from his body. In the utmost terror the youth, with tears in his eyes, besought them to have mercy, and to take a greater and nobler revenge, by pardoning one whom they had it in their power thus deeply to injure. But, heedless of his prayers, they bound his hand by force upon the manger, and struck it off, a deed which excited the utmost tumult throughout Pistoia, and such indignation and reproaches from the injured party of the Neri as to implicate the whole city in a division of interests between them and the Bianchi, which led to many desperate encounters.
The citizens, fearful lest the faction might cause insurrections throughout the whole territory, in conjunction with the Guelfs, applied to the Florentines in order to reconcile them; on which the Florentines took possession of the place, and sent the partisans on both sides to the confines of Florence, whence it happened that the Neri sought refuge in the house of the Frescobaldi, and the Bianchi in that of the Cerchi nel Garbo, owing to the relationship which existed between them. The seeds of the same dissension being thus sown in Florence, the whole city became divided, the Cerchi espousing the interests of the Bianchi, and the Donati those of the Neri.
So rapidly did this pestiferous spirit gain ground in Florence, as frequently to excite the greatest tumult; and from a peaceable and 130 flourishing state, it speedily became a scene of rapine and devastation. In this stage Pope Boniface VIII. was made acquainted with the state of this ravaged and unhappy city, and sent the Cardinal Acqua Sparta on a mission to reform and pacify the enraged parties. But with his utmost efforts he was unable to make any impression, and accordingly, after declaring the place excommunicated, departed. Florence being thus exposed to the greatest perils and in a continued state of insurrection, Messer Corso Donati, with the Spini, the Pazzi, the Tosinghi, the Cavicciuli, and the populace attached to the Neri faction, applied, with the consent of their leaders, to Pope Boniface. They entreated that he would employ his interest with the court of France to send a force to allay these feuds, and to quell the party of the Bianchi. As soon as this was reported in the city, Messer Donati was banished and his property forfeited, and the other heads of the sect were proportionally fined and sent into exile. Messer Donati arriving at Rome, so far prevailed with his Holiness that he sent an embassy to Charles de Valois, brother to the king of France, declaring his wish that he should be made Emperor, and king of the Romans; under which persuasion Charles passed into Italy, reinstating Messer Donati and the Neri in the city of Florence. From this there only resulted worse evils, inasmuch as all the Bianchi, being the least powerful, were universally oppressed and robbed, and Charles becoming the enemy of Pope Boniface, conspired his death, because the Pope had not fulfilled his promise of presenting him with an imperial crown. From which events it may be seen that this vile faction was the cause of discord in the cities of Florence and Pistoia, and of the other states of Tuscany; and no less to the same source was to be attributed the death of Pope Boniface VIII.