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and enjoy, with his recovered possessions, the esteem of all classes of his fellow - citizens. They gave him the option of the book and, the science he might condescend to expound: they called him they glory of his country, who was dear, and would be dearer to them; and they added, that if there was any thing unpleasing in their letter, he ought to return amongst them, it only to correct their style. Petrarch seemed at first to listen to the flattery and to the intreaties of his friend, but he did not return to Florence, and preferred a pilgrimage to the tomb of Laura and the shades of Vaucleuse.
Note 33, page 122, lines i and 2.
His dust. Boccaccio was buried in the church of St. Michael and St. James, at Certaldo, a small town in the Valdelsa, which was by some supposed the place of his birth. There he passed the latter part of his life in a course of laborious study, which shortened his existence; and there might his ashes have been secure, if not of honour, at least of repose. But the “hyaena bigots” of Certaldo tore up the tombstone of Boccaccio, and ejected it from the holy precincts of St. Michael and St. James The occasion, and, it may be hoped, the excuse, of this ejectment was the making of a new floor
* Accingiti innoltre, se ci è lecito ancor l'esortarti, a compire l'immortal tua Africa Se ti avviene d'incontrare nel nostro stile cosa che ti dispiaccia, ciò debh' essere un altro motivo ad esaudire i desideri della tua patria.” Storia della Lett. Ital. tom. v. par. i. lih. pag. 76.
for the church ; but the fact is, that the tombstone was taken up and thrown aside at the bottom of the building. Ignorance may share the sin with bigotry. It would be painful to relate such an exception to the devotion of the Italians for their great names, could it not be accompanied by a trait more honourably conformable to the general character of the nation. The principal person of the district, the last branch of the house of Medicis, afforded that protection to the memory of the insulted dead which her best ancestors had dispensed upon all cotemporary merit. The Marchioness Lenzoni rescued the tombstone of Baccaccio from the neglect in which it had sometime lain, and found for it an honourable elevation in her own mansion. She has done more: the house in which the poet lived has been as little respected as his tomb, and is falling to ruin over the head of one indifferent to the name of its former tenant. It consists of two or three little chambers, and a low tower, on which Cosmo II. affixed an inscription. This house she has taken measures to purchase, and proposes to devote to it that care and consideration which are 'attached to the cradle and to the roof of genius,
This is not the place to undertake the defence of Boccaccio; but the man who exhausted his little patrimony in the acquirement of learning, who was amongst the first, if not the first, to allure the science and the poetry of Greece to the bosom of Italy; who not only invented a new style, but founded, or certainly fixed, a new language; who, besides the esteem of every polite court of Europe, was thought worthy of employment by the predominant republic of his own country, and, what is more, of the friendship of Petrarch, who
lived the life of a philosopher and a freeman, and who died in the pursuit of knowledge, - such a man might have found more consideration than he has met with from the priest of Certaldo, and from a late English traveller, who strikes off his portrait as an odious, contemptible, licentious writer, whose impure remains should be suffered to rot without a record. I
That English traveller, unfortunately for those who have to deplore the loss of a very amiable person, is beyond all criticism ; but the mortality which did not protect Boccaccio from Mr. Eustace must not defend Mr. Eustace from the impartial judgment of his successors.
Death may camonize his virtues, not his errors; and it may be modestly pronounced that he transgressed, not only as an author, but as a man, when he evoked the shade of Boc
* Classical Tour, cap. ix. vol. ii. p. 355. edit. 3d. “Of Boccaccio, the modern Petronius, we say nothing; the abuse of genius is more odious and more contemptible than its absence; and it imports little where the impure remains of a licentious author are consigned to their kindred dust. For the same rea on the traveller may pass unnoticed the tomb of the malignant Aretino.''
This dubious phrase is hardly enough to save the tourist from the suspicion of another blunder respecting the hurial - place of Aretine, whose tomb was in the church of St. Luke at Venice, and gave rise to the famous controversy of which some notice is taken in Bayle. Now the words of Mr. Eustace wo: ld lead us to think the tomb was at Florence, or at least was to be somewhere recognized. Whether the inscription so much disputed was ever written on the tomb cannot now be decided , for all me. morial of this author has disappeared from the church of St. Luke.
caccio in company with that of Aretine, amidst the sepulchres of Santa Croce, merely to dismiss it with indignity. As far as respects
“Il flagello de' Principi,
Il divin Pietro Aretino,” it is of little import what censure is passed upon a coxcomb who owes his present existence to the above burlesque character given to him by the poet whose amber has preserved many other grubs and worms: but to classify Boccaccio. with such a person, and to excommunicate his very ashes, must of itself make us doubt of the qualification of the classical tourist for writing upon Italian', or, indeed, upon any other literature; for ignorance on one point may incapacitate an author merely for that particular topic, but subjection to a professional prejudice must render him an unsafe director on all occasions. Any perversion and injustice may be made what is vulgarly called “a case of conscience," and this poor excuse is all that can be offered for the priest of Certaldo, or the author of the Classical Tour, It would have answered the purpose to confine the cen-, sure to the novels of Boccaccio, and gratitude to that source which supplied the muse of Dryden with her last and most harmonious numbers, might perhaps have re-stricted that censure to the objectionable qualities of the hundred tales. At any rate the repentance of Baccaccio might have arrested his exhumation, and it should have been recollected and told, that in his old age he wrote a letter intreating his friend to discourage the reading of the Decameron, for the sake of modesty, and for the sake of the author, who would not have an apologist always at hand to state in his excuse that he wrote it
wheu young, and at the command of his snperiors. It is neither the licentiousness of the writer, nor the evil propensities of the reader, which have given to the Decameron alone, of all the works of Baccaccio, a per's petual popularity. The establishment of a new and delightful dialect conferred an immortality on the works in which it was first fixed, The sonnets of Petrarch were, for the same reason, fated to survive his selfadmired, Africa, the "favourite of kings.” The invariable traits of nature and feeling with which the novels, as well as the verses, abound, have doubtless been the chief source of the foreign celebrity of both authors ; but Boccaccio, a man, is no more to be estimated by that work, than Petrarch is to be regarded in no other light than as the lover of Laura. Even,
had the father of the Tuscan prose been known only as the author of the Decameron, a considerate writer would have been cautious to pronounce a sentence irreconcilable with the unerring voice of many ages and nations. in irrevocable value has never been stamped upon any work solely recommended by impurity.
The true source of the outcry against Boccaccio, which began at a very early period, was the choice of his scandalous personages in the cloisters as well as the courts ; but the princes only laughed at the gallaut adventures so unjustly charged upon Queen Theodelinda, whilst the priesthood cried shame upon the debauches drawn from
? “Non enim ubique est, qui in excusationem meam consurgens dicat, juvenis scripsit, et majoris coactus imperio." The letter was addressed to Maghinard of Cavaleanti, marshal of the kingdom of Sicily. See Tiraboschi, Storia. ctc. tom. v. par. ii. lib iii. pag. 525. ed. Ven. 1795.