ページの画像
PDF
ePub

are classical, and his sentence is generally just. This part of the work, will be valued by those who wish to be acquainted with the state of literature at the time of the Reformation, and the writers of that age. We shall give an abridgement of Mr. Ri's account of the learned and indefatigable Aldus Manutius, who first supplied the world with correct editions of the principal Greek and Roman classics.

• Although the publication of the Greek authors appears to have been his favourite object, and always occupied a great part of his attention ; yet he extended his labours to other languages, and to every department of learning. The place which he chose for his establisment was Venice. In making the preparations requisite for commencing his work, he was indefatigable; but the more particular object of his wishes was the discovery of some method, by which he might give to his publications a greater degree of correctness than had been attained by any preceding artist. To this end, he invited to his assistance a great number of distinguished scholars; whom he prevailed upon by his own influence and that of his friends, or the stipulation of a liberal reward, to take up their residence at Venice. That he might attach them still more to the place and to each other, he proposed the establishment of a literary association, or academy; the chief object of which was to be the correcting (of), the works of the ancient authors, with a view to their publication in as correct a manner as possible. For the more effectual establishment of this institution, it was his most earnest wish to have obtained an Imperial Diploma; but in this respect he was disappointed ; and the Venetian academy, which ought to have been an object of national or universal munificence, was left to depend upon the industry and bounty of a private individual, under whose auspices it subsisted during many years in great credit, and effected in a very considerable degree, the beneficial purposes which its founder had in view.

‘Such were the motives, and such the preparations for this great undertaking; but its execution surpassed all the expectations that its most sanguine promoters could have formed of it. The first work, produced from the Aldine press, was the poem of Hero and Leander, of Musæus, in the year 1494 ; from which time, for the space of upwards of twenty years, during which Aldo continued his labours, there is scarcely an antient author, Greek or Latin, of whom he did not give a copious edition, besides publishing a considerable number of books in the Italian tongue. In the acquisition of the most authentic copies of the antient authors, whether manuscript or printed, he spared neither labour nor expence; and such was the opinion entertained of his talents and assiduity by the celebrated Erasmus, who occasionally assisted him in revising the antient writers, that he has endeayoured to do justice to his merits, by asserting in his Adagia, “ that if some tutelary deity had promoted the views of Aldo, the learned world would shortly have been in possession, not only of all the Greek and Latin authors, but even of the Hebrew and Chaldaic; insomuch that nothing could have been wanting, in this respect, to their wishes.”—How these great objects could be accomplished by the efforts of an individual, will appear extraordinary ; especially when it is considered, that Aldo was a professed teacher of the

C3

Greek

Greek language in Venice; that he diligently attended the meetings of the academy, that he maintained a frequent correspondence with the learned in all countries ; that the prefaces and dedications of the books which he published were often of his own composition ; that the works themselyes were occasionally illustrated by his criticisms and observations; and that he sometimes printed his own works ; an instance of which appears in his Latin Grammar, published in the year 1507The solution of this difficulty, may however, in some degree be obtained, by perusing the inscription placed by Aldo over the door of his study ; in which he requests his visitors to dispatch their business with him, as expeditiously as possible, and be gone ; unless they came, as Hercules came to Atlas, with a view of rendering assistance; in which case there would be sufficient employment, both for them and as many others as may repair thi: ther.

QUISQUIS ES, ROGAT TE ALDUS ETIAM ATQUE ETIAM,
UT SI QUID EST QUOD A SE VELIS, PERPAUCIS AGAS,

DEINDE ACTUTUM ABEAS; NISI, TANQUAM HERCULES,
DEFESSO ATLANTE, VENERIS SUPPOSITURUS HUMEROS:
SEMPER ENIM ERIT QUOD ET TU AGAS,

ET QUOTQUOT

HUC ATTULERINT PEDES.' pp. 110–114, · The four next chapters (which together with a Dissertation on the Character of Lucretia Borgia, the incestuous daughter of Alexander VI. and an ample Appendix, conclude the first volume), after recording the death of Innocent VIII., and the election of Alexander VI., are occupied by a minute detail of the conquest of Naples, by Charles VIII. king of France,--the disorder into which this expedition threw all Italy,—the expul: sion of the fainily of the Medici froin Florence,-their repealed, but ineffectual attempts to recover their paternal possessions and dominion, -and the death of Alexander VI. It cannot be depied, that considerable attention was due to tliis portion of His. tory, both as it led to great events in the political state of Europe, and because the family of the Medici were deeply interested in it. But we are of opinion that had this period been compressed within half its present limits, it would have sustained no loss, The minuțe detail of numbers, officers, marches, skirmishes, &c. &c. which compose so large a portion of this part of the work, will be read without interest, and forgotten without regret, We shall extract from this part of the work, the character which it exhibits of Alexander VI. By summing up his vices and virtues, Mr. R. seems to think that we may forın an estimate of his real character;but alas ! the Christian reader will find it a very difficult matter to discover any real vir. tue in most of those actions which are placed as a counterbalance to his enormities; nay, we are much mistaken if some of them will not be thought greatly to enhance his crimes. Pride, ambition, and a thirst for dominion, are sources to which

all all these apparent virtues may be easily traced. It is much to be lamented that historians, in delineating characters, seldom pay any attention to the principles from which actions result. The reader is, therefore, in perpetual danger of being led to admire the mere tinsel of exterior decency, without paying the least regard to the state of the heart and mind. The characters of Hume, in his history, are of this description :-and whoever forins his opinion on his counterbalance of vices and virtues, will be miserably deceived. Mr. R. however, in other respects, has drawn up his account of Alexander VI. with ability. 175 Were we to place an implicit confidence in the Italian historians, no period of society has exhibited a character of darker deformity than that of Alexander VI. Inordinate in his ambition, insatiable in his avarice, and his lust, inexorable in his cruelty, and boundless in his rapacity : almost every crime that can disgrace human nature is attributed to him, without hesitation, by writers whose works are published under the sanction of the Roman church. He is accused also of having introduced into his territories, the detestable practice of searching for state offences, by means of secret-informers ; a system fatal to the liberty and happiness of every country that has submitted to such a degradation. As a pontiff, he perverted his high office, by making his spiritual power on every occasion subservient to his temporal interests; and he might have adopted as his emblem, that of the ancient Jupiter, which exhibits the lightning in the grasp of a ferocious eagle*. His vices, as an individual, although not so injurious to the world, are represented as yet more disgusting; and the records of his court, afford repeated instances of a deprayity of morals, inexcusable in any station, but abominable in his high rank and sacred office f. Yet, with all these lamentable defects, ististi

justice

* To this period, when truth became a crime, we may refer the origin of the Roman Pasquinades; of which the following lines afford one of the carliest instances.

Vendit Alexander claves, altaria, Christum.

Emerat ille prius ; vendere jure potest.
De vitio in vitium, de flamma transit in ignem ;

Roma sub Hispano deperit imperio.
Sextus Tarquinius, Sextus Nero, Sextus et iste;

Semper sub Sextis perdita Roma fuit. † Some idea may be formed of the general odium in whịch Alexander VI. was held from the following severe lines of Guido Postumo, entitled, in Tumulum Sexti.

Quis situs hic ? Sextus. Quis pectora plangit ? Erynnis.

Quis comes in tanto funere obit? Vitium.
Unde pyra? Ex crucibus, quibus ltala pectora torsit.

Quæ laniata genas præfica? Avarities.

[ocr errors]

Quis tulit justice requires that two particulars in his favour should be noticed. In the first place, whatever have been his crimes, there can be no doubt but they have been highly overcharged. That he was devoted to the aggrandisement of his family, and that he employed the authority of his elevated station to establish a permanent dominion in Italy, in the person of his son, cannot be doubted; but when almost all the sovereigns' of Europe were attempting to gratify their ambition by means equally criminal, it seems unjust to brand the character of Alexander with any pe. culiar and extraordinary share of infamy in this respect. * · "With regard to the accusation so generally believed, of a criminal intercourse between him and his own daughter, which has caused him to be regarded with a peculiar' degree of horror and disgust; it might not be difficult to shew its improbability, and to invalidate an imputation which disgraces human nature itself.

In the second place, it may justly be observed, that the vices of Alex-. ander were in some degree counterbalanced by many great qualities, which, in the consideration of his character, ought not to be passed over in silence. Nor, if this were not the fact, would it be possible to account for the peculiar good fortune which attended him to the latest period of his life, or for the singular circumstance recorded of him, that, during his pontificate, no popular tumult ever endangered his authority, or disturbed his repose. Even by his severest adversaries he is allowed to have been a man of an elevated genius, of a wonderful memory, eloquent, vigilant, and dexterous in the management of all his concerns. The proper supply of the city of Rome with all the necessaries of life, was an object of his unceasing attention ; and during his pontificate, his dominions were exempt from that famine which devastated the rest of Italy. In his diet, he was peculiarly temperate, and he accustomed himself to but little sleep. In those hours which he devoted to amusement, he seemed wholly to forget the affairs of state ; but he never suffered those amusements to diminish the vigour of his faculties, which remained unimpaired to the last. Though not addicted to the study of literature, Alexander was munificent towards its professors; to whom he not only granted liberal salaries, but with a punctuality very uncommon at that period, he took care that those salaries were duly paid. That he at some times attended the representations of the comedies of Plautus, has been placed in the black catalogue of his defects; but if his mind had been more hu. manized by the cultivation of polite letters, he might, instead of being

Quis tulit ossa ? Nefas. Quis longo murmure dixit

Nate, vale? Mater Rixa, paterque Odium.
Quis pressere oculos ? Incendia, Stupra, Rapinæ...

Quis mo:iar dixit, hoc moriente ? Dolus.
Sed quæ causa necis ? Virus. Proh numina ! virus
Humano generị vita, salusque fuit."

Guid. Post. Eleg. p. 36. * As head of the church his example ought to have corrected the vices of others, and his station greatly enhanced his guilt. Miserum est alienæ incumbere infamiæ.

" Omne animi vitium tanto conspectius in se i
Crimen habet, quanto major, qui peccat, habetur." Juv. Rev.

degraded

degraded almost below humanity, have stood high in the scale of positive excellence.* To the encouragement of the arts, he paid a more particular attention. The palace of the Vatican was enlarged by him, and many of the apartments were ornamented with the works of the most eminent painters of the time. In one circumstance, his encouragement of the arts is connected with a singular instance of profaneness, which it is surprising has not hitherto been enumerated among his many offences. In a picture painted for him by Pinturicchio, the beautiful Julia Farnese is represented in the character of the Virgin, whilst Alexander himself appears in the same picture, as supreme pontiff, paying to her the tribute of his adoration.” pp. 232—236.

(To be continued.)

[ocr errors]

Art. IV. A Northern Summer; or, Travels round the Baltic, through Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Prussia, and Part of Germany, in the Year 1804. By John Carr, Esq. Author of the Stranger in France,

&c. &c. 4to. pp. 492. Price 11. 11s. 6d. Phillips. London, 1805. AMONG the many pleasing evidences of the increase of know

ledge, in the present era of our country, we mark the more general diffusion of geographical science. Destitute of this, we feel the awkward ignorance of strangers on the earth, and history is to us little better than the annals of a world in the moon. As our insular situation has been said to have kept our countrymen behind other enlightened nations, in this essential part of edu. cation ; we rejoice in every thing which contributes to roll away, the reproach. This good effect we attribute to the publication of voyages and travels. The perusal of such books transports us beyond our own shores; and expands the contracted islander into the generous cosmopolite. By creating a mortifying sense of deficiency, these works goad on the ignorant to the study of the globe; and by recalling attention to the subject, as well as by placing many lively images before the mind, they correct and fortify the judgement of the best informed. To the scientific geographer, and the local historian, the highest credit is due for tracing the plan, and laying the foundation of this species of knowledge: but to the judicious tourist who fills up the outline, or adds to the superstructure, by an acute observation of men and manners, the general reader owes no slight obligation. Lines of parallel, meridian, and boundary, present little to engage the common mind, if unaccompanied with interesting notices of the lordly tenant of the globe. Mr. Carr, yielding to other travellers the merit of tracing the geography and history of the Northern States, adopts the maxim, that “ the proper study of man

* Alas! nomor polite literature could have done but little for him in this way. He wanted “ a new heart," which only the grace of God could bestow.Rev.

« 前へ次へ »