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would desire to be delivered, your clemency, hitherto not easy, nay, as I suppose, impossible to be turned from me by fallacious words (for it is written we are not to credit everything we hear), may not hold me suspected, notwithstanding the known proofs of my purity, this present letter is sent to your Holiness to declare the truth, to oppose falsehood, and to repel the craft of any person who darts arrows from his sharp tongue, like a secret sword, and whose innate and inveterate vice renders him unworthy not only of all dignity and honour in the state, but even of being received into the court of your Holiness.
Your Holiness will have known that on the festival of the most blessed Virgin Mary, in this present month of the nec autor of the flosspitan F the Holy Gh August, your humble servant received from the hands of the preceptor of the Hospital of the Holy Ghost, and of the vicars of the cathedral churches of the city, the laurel crown which was wont of old to be given to the tribunes, consisting of six crowns, five of which were of natural leaves, given, according to an old Roman custom, to persons who had advanced the commonwealth, and the sixth of silver, not exceeding the value of five gold florins; and that, after taking the above six crowns, I received also from the hand of the Sindic the apple, the ensign of the army of the Roman people ; all which, devoutly taking in memory of the six gifts of the Holy Ghost, I cherished as a token of his bounty, and in acknowledgment of my reverence for the most holy Roman church and of your Holiness. And in the reception of these there will be no perpetual assumption of authority ; nor was there any infraction of the power of the court of Rome.* In the full, or rather in the complete public parliament, and with the assent of the whole Roman people, very many of the Sindics of all the cities of Tuscany, brothers in Christian zeal, and all those of the cities which give titles to cardinals, were not only freed from all vassalage as to their property, but were declared by me
* This appears untranslatable.
Roman citizens, and were brought back to your authority, and to that of my lords the cardinals, whose rights had received manifest injury, in consequence of the inimical nobles of this your city. Also, that no emperor, or king, or prince, or marquis, or any other, under whatever title, may dare to put foot in Italy, without the special licence of your Holiness, or of the Roman people; to which I was induced by that pure and holy faith which I bear to the Church, and by the desire of peace and of the quiet of Italy, and of the kingdom at large. Also, that no one may for the future dare to mention the detested names of Guelf and Ghibeline ; but, laying aside all party distinctions, assert and acknowledge the power of the ..... of the Holy Church, in unity and peace. In all which, and other things by me done, if there be anything that can be esteemed contrary to Holy Church, seeing that they proclaim and preach universal peace, I leave to the judgment of your Holiness; desiring anxiously and unfeignedly that your Holiness would deign to send hither some man of God to discuss ånd inquire into all those things which I have done by the will of your Roman people; and if the said shall find any of that evil in me with which I am charged, I do oblige myself, under any penalty, to be punished without mercy according to the justice of your Holiness. Nor let it be unknown to your clemency that against the enemy of the Church, and of yourself, Nicholas Gartanus, formerly Count of Fondi, I am now proceeding manfully with a victorious army, and have already sent before me Angelo Malabreme, the chancellor of the city, to make an incursion into the lands of the said Count, with four hundred knights well arrayed for battle, with the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, besides twelve hundred other horsemen with slingers, and an infinite number of other soldiers; who, as I hope, will easily tread him under foot, so that he shall never again rise. Of which army I have appointed John the son of Stephen Colonna, prince of the soldiery; and because there is in those parts a commencing scarcity, although to no great extremity, I have resorted, and, as far as I am able, do now resort, to certain remedies ; enacting that grain shall be imported from Sicily and from other countries, and ordaining that many lands of our Roman district, the greater part of which have long lain uncultivated, shall now be again sown; for I am aware that otherwise this scarcity may increase, owing to the granting of the jubilee, which will bring such multitudes from all quarters to Rome, and because many have found means to amass and conceal the grain.
The rest is wanting.
Since the appearance of these Letters, in 1818, a discovery was made of certain documents which were published for the first time in 1841 at Hamburgh. They were edited by a learned German, Dr. Papencordt, in a work called “Cola di Rienzi and his Times, chiefly from unpublished documents. I have not seen the book itself, but have read what seems a masterly summary of it in the Quarterly Review' for March, 1842. The Letters of Rienzi addressed, during his residence in Bohemia, to Charles IV., Emperor of Germany, and to the Archbishop of Prague, certainly add some new details to the strange history of the Tribune, but they do not appear to alter in any material degree the previous estimate of his character. They do not make him a better or a wiser man than he is usually thought to have been-rather the contrary; but they illustrate the character of the age and country in which Rienzi rose and fell. Under no other circumstances of time, place, and manners, could such an impostor have met even with temporary success.
It is the boast of the Italians that their literature has flourished with unequal but uninterrupted brilliancy from the thirteenth century to the present day.
The progress of time alone would naturally have produced and obliterated many innovations, but the frequent domestic revolutions, the repeated irruptions, the arms and the arts of strangers, succeeding each other rapidly and imperceptibly, and bringing with them new laws, and manners, and opinions, have occasioned in Italy more vicissitudes than are to be found in the literature of any other country. Thus it is that their critics have been able to point out at least ten different epoques when it has assumed certain characteristics, or, to use a single word, a physiognomy, altogether distinct from that of any preceding or subsequent period. The average duration assigned to each of these epoques has been laid down at about half a century. This is the utmost length that any individual taste and mode of writing can be discovered to have prevailed.
The above remark is purposely premised to a short account which it is intended to give of the present state of Italian literature ; that is to say, of the character of the actual epoque, which embraces not only those writers at present in existence, but others who have powerfully contributed to form the taste and the tone which will continue to prevail until succeeded by another revolution in the republic of letters. The latter Italian authors may be expected to form a diversity more distinct than those of any other generation, when it is recollected that, whilst they wrote, the most extraordinary change was prepared and consummated that had ever affected the moral or political world. That the great convulsions which shook not only “mightiest monarchies,” but also the mind of man, in all the countries of Europe, should communicate itself to these authors was inevitable, and will be discovered in the works, the principles, the character, and the estimation of the most celebrated amongst them, whom it is proposed to examine and pourtray. These authors will be their poets; who are selected, first, because the verse of every country is the depository of the language, the taste, and the manners of the times ; secondly, because this is found more particularly the case in those nations whose imagination is their predominant faculty; and, in the third place, because the writers chosen on this occasion are in part distinguished for their compositions in prose.
This method of illustration might be liable to objections in any other country than Italy, where the few men of superior genius are separated from the crowd of writers by a barrier which, in other nations, is rarely visible until posterity has pronounced the final decision. In Italy the judgment is in some sort formed and given by their contemporaries ; and thus, although the struggle to attain the eminence may be more serious and protracted, there is less danger of future degradation.
An intimate acquaintance is, however, requisite to perceive the difference between the esteemed and the popular author; for, otherwise, the above-mentioned singularity of Italian literature would be reduced to a shade only of distinction from that of other countries. A book may be in the hands of all readers, and, during some years, be the study and the talk of all. This was the case with the Animali parlanti of Casti, but the author had no pretence or right to renown. On the other hand, a work which few