[Back] [Blueprint] [Next]


[Click on the footnote number and you will jump down to the note. Click again on that number and you will jump back up to where you were in the text.]


From The Life of Poggio Bracciolini, by The Rev. Wm. Shepherd, LL. D.; Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green and Longman; Liverpool; 1837; pp. 1-44.



BIRTH of Poggio — His education at Florence — John of Ravenna — Poggio goes to Rome — Enters into the service of Boniface IX — State of Italy — Schism of the West — Urban VI — The Antipope Clement VII — Boniface IX — Distracted state of Italy — The Antipope Benedict XIII — Wars in Italy — Letter of Poggio — Poggio’s arrival in Rome — Innocent VII — Poggio introduces Leonardo Aretino into the pontifical chancery — Memoirs of Leonardo — His contest with Jacopo d’Angelo — Insurrection in Rome — Gregory XII — Alexander V— Distractions of the Pontificate — Poggio visits Florence — John XXII — Leonardo Aretino elected chancellor of Florence — His marriage, and letter to Poggio — Convocation of the council of Constance.





POGGIO,1 the son of Guccio Bracciolini, was born on the eleventh day of February, in the year 1380,2 at Terranuova, a small town situated in the territory of the republic of Florence, not far from Arezzo. He derived his baptismal name from his grandfather,3 concerning whose occupation and circumstances, the scanty memorials of the times in which he lived, do not furnish any satisfactory information.4 From his father, Poggio, inherited no advantages of rank or fortune. Guccio Bracciolini, who exercised the office of notary, was once indeed possessed of considerable property; but being either by his own imprudence, or by misfortune, involved in difficulties he had 4 recourse to the destructive assistance of an usurer, by whose rapacious artifices, his ruin was speedily completed, and he was compelled to fly from the pursuit of his creditors.5

But whatever might be the disadvantages under which Poggio laboured, in consequence of the embarrassed state of his father’s fortune, in a literary point of view the circumstances of his birth were singularly propitious. At the close of the fourteenth century, the writings of Petrarca and Boccaccio were read with avidity, and the labours of those eminent revivers of letters had excited throughout Italy the emulation of the learned. The day-star had now pierced through the gloom of mental night, and the dawn of literature was gradually increasing in brilliancy. The city of Florence was, at this early period, distinguished by the zeal with which its principal inhabitants cultivated and patronized the liberal arts. It was consequently the favourite resort of the ablest scholars of the time, some of whom were induced by the offer of considerable salaries, to undertake the task of public instruction. In this celebrated school, Poggio applied himself to the study of the Latin tongue, under the direction of Giovanni Malpaghino, more commonly known by the appellation of John of Ravenna. This eminent scholar had, for a period of nearly fifteen years been honoured by the friendship, and benefited by the precepts of Petrarca, under whose auspices he made considerable progress in the study of morals, history and 5 poetry. After the death of his illustrious patron, he delivered public lectures on polite literature, first at Venice, and afterwards at Florence. At the latter place, besides Poggio, the following celebrated literary characters were formed by his instructions — Leonardo Aretino, Pallas Strozza, Roberto Rossi, Paulo Vergerio the elder, Omnebuono Vicentino, Guarino Veronese, Carlo Aretino, Ambrogio Traversari, and Francesco Barbaro.6


It has been asserted by most of the writers who have given an account of the early history of Poggio, that he acquired a knowledge of the Greek language at the Florentine University under the tuition of the celebrated Manuel Crysoloras — but it is evident from a letter addressed by him to Niccolo Niccoli, that he did not commence his Greek studies till the year 1424, when he entered upon them at Rome, trusting for his success in this new pursuit to his own industry, guided by the occasional instructions of a friend of his of the name of Rinuccio, an accomplished scholar, who afterwards became secretary to Pope Nicholas V.7

When he had attained a competent knowledge of the Latin language, Poggio quitted Florence, and went to Rome in the year 1403. Soon after his arrival in that city, on the recommendation of his venerated tutor Coluccio Salutati, he obtained the appointment of secretary to the Cardinal Rudulfo Maramori, Bishop of Bari; and in the month of August or September in the ensuing year, he entered into the service of the reigning pontiff Boniface IX. in the capacity of writer of the apostolic letters.8

A.D. 1403. — At the time of Poggio’s admission into the pontifical chancery, Italy was convulsed by war and faction. The kingdom of Naples was exposed to the horrors of anarchy, consequent upon a disputed succession to the throne. Many of the cities of Lombardy, now the 7 unresisting prey of petty tyrants, now struggling to throw off the yoke, were the miserable theatres of discord and of bloodshed. The ambition of the Lord of Milan carried fire and sword from the borders of Venice to the gates of Florence. The ecclesiastical state was exposed to the predatory incursions of banditti; and the cities over which, as portions of the patrimony of St. Peter, the pope claimed the exercise of authority, took advantage of the weakness of the Roman court, to free themselves from its oppression. At the same time, the lustre of the pontificate was dimmed by the schism, which for the space of more than twenty years had divided the sentiments, and impaired the spiritual allegiance of the Christian community.

As this celebrated ecclesiastic feud, which is commonly distinguished by the name of the Schism of the West, commenced only two years before the birth of Poggio; as no fewer than five of his patrons were implicated in its progress and consequences, and as it was terminated by the council of Constance, which assembly he attended in quality of secretary to John XXII. it will be necessary to enter a little at large into its history.

The joy experienced by the inhabitants of Rome, on the translation of the papal court from Avignon to its ancient residence, by Gregory XI. was suddenly damped by the death of that pontiff, which event took place on the 28th of March 1378. The Romans were apprehensive, that if the choice of the conclave should fall upon a native of France, he would again remove the holy see beyond the 8 Alps.9 They sighed for the restoration of that splendor, with which the pomp of the successors of St. Peter had formerly graced their city. Their breasts glowed with indignation, when they saw the states of the church, in consequence of the absence of its chief, successively falling under the dominion of usurpers. During the residence of the popes at Avignon, the devout pilgrimages, once so copious a source of gain to the inhabitants of the capital of Christendom, had been suspended; the tombs of the martyrs had been neglected, and the churches were fast hastening to decay. Dreading the renewal and the aggravation of these evils, the Roman clergy and populace assembled in a tumultuous manner, and signified to the cardinals, who happened to be at Rome at the time of the death of Gregory XI. their earnest wishes, that they would appoint some illustrious Italian to fill the pontifical chair. Amidst the clamours of the people, the conclave was held in the Vatican, under the protection of a guard of soldiers. This assembly was composed of thirteen French and four Italian cardinals. Notwithstanding this preponderance of ultramontane suffrages, in consequence, as Platina says, of a disagreement among the French,10 or more probably, as was afterwards alleged by the Gallic ecclesiastics, in consequence of the overawing influence of the Roman populace, the election was concluded in favor of a Neapolitan, Bartolomeo, Archbishop of Bari, on whom the conclave conferred 9 the name of Urban VI.11 The French cardinals, after protesting against his nomination to the papal chair, as an act in which they had been obliged to concur through a dread of rousing the popular indignation, fled from the city. In the course of a little time, however, they returned to Rome, and made their peace with Urban by confirming his election, and paying him the customary homage. But this reconciliation was not lasting. The manners of Urban were haughty and stern, and his disposition was severe and revengeful. Disgusted by his pride, and dreading the effects of his resentment, the foreign cardinals again withdrew, first to Anagni, and afterwards to Fondi, a town situated in the territories of Naples. Here, being emboldened by the protection of Joanna, queen of that country, they renewed their protest against the election of Urban, and proceeding to form a new conclave, they proclaimed the cardinal of Ginevra, under the name of Clement VII. the true successor of St. Peter. This was the beginning of the schism, which for so long a space of time perplexed the true believers, by the inexplicable phenomenon of the co-existence of two supreme and infallible heads of the church, each proscribing his competitor, and fulminating the terrors of damnation against the adherents of his rival.

In this context the Gallic cardinals did not restrict themselves to the use of spiritual weapons. They assembled a body of mercenary soldiers, whom they employed in 10 making an incursion into the Roman territory. These troops were at first successful in their operations; but engaging the pontifical army near Marina, they were defeated with considerable loss.12

The resentful spirit of Urban, stimulated by the hostile conduct of the rebellious cardinals, prompted him to mediate a severe revenge. He instantly dispatched an ambassador to Lodovico, king of Hungary, with instructions to proffer to that monarch his assistance in punishing the queen of Naples, for the imputed murder of her husband Andrew, brother to the Hungarian sovereign, who it was alleged had, with her concurrence, been put to death by Luigi, prince of Taranto.13 Lodovico, who had long thirsted for vengeance, eagerly accepted the offers of Urban, and gave orders to Carlo, son of Luigi di Durazzo, the descendant of Charles II. and heir apparent to the throne of Naples, to march with the Hungarian troops, which were then engaged in hostilities against the Venetians, and to co-operate with the pope in an attack upon the kingdom of Naples.14 Carlo, after taking Arezzo, and making peace with the Florentines on the condition of their lending him forty thousand crowns of gold, repaired to Rome, where he held a conference with Urban. Thence he 11 directed his march to Naples, of which city he easily made himself master. Joanna, after sustaining a short siege in the Castello Nuovo, was taken prisoner, and, according to the directions of the the inexorable king of Hungary, smothered between two mattresses.15

This vindictive deed being perpetrated, Urban repaired to Naples, and, according to the terms of agreement which had been concluded before the departure of the prince of Hungary from Rome, he demanded, on behalf of his nephew, the possession of the principality of Capua, and of several other places in the kingdom of Naples. On Carlo’s refusing to accede to this demand, Urban, with characteristic impetuosity, had recourse to threats, to which the king answered by putting the pontiff for some days under an arrest. Urban, dissembling his indignation, requested, and obtained of the prince, permission to retire to Nocera for the benefit of his health. The first step which he took on his arrival at that place, was to strengthen its fortifications, and recruit its garrison. He then proceeded to the nomination of new cardinals, and threw seven members of the sacred college into prison, alleging, that at the instigation of Carlo, and of his rival Clement, they had formed a conspiracy against his life. Having cited the Neapolitan monarch to appear and answer to the charges which he had to prefer against him, he proceeded to his trial. Carlo treated the summons with contempt, and sent Count 12 Alberico, grand constable of his kingdom, at the head of an army to lay siege to Nocera. Urban, escaping from that city, embarked with his prisoners on board some Genoese galleys, which had been prepared to aid his flight. Exasperated to the highest degree of cruelty, the fugitive pontiff vented his fury on the captive cardinals, five of whom he caused to be tied up in sacks, and thrown into the sea.16

On the death of Carlo, who, having usurped the throne of Hungary, which belonged of right to Maria, the daughter of the late monarch, was murdered by assassins hired by the deposed queen, Urban endeavoured to make himself master of the kingdom of Naples. Being frustrated in this attempt, he returned to Rome, where he died on the 15th of October, 1389. We may easily credit the assertion of Platina, that “few were the persons who wept at his death.”

Poggio, in a letter to Angelotto, cardinal of St. Mark, ascribes the violent conduct of Urban to a derangement of intellect, consequent upon his elevation to the pontifical dignity;17 and he has recorded in his Facetiæ an anecdote, which may be quoted as proving the prevalence of an opinion that he was afflicted with insanity.18


A.D. 1389. — Urban was succeeded by Boniface IX. a Neapolitan, of the family of the Tomacelli, who was raised to the chair of St. Peter at the early age of thirty years.19 The distracted state of Italy required indeed the exertions of a pontiff endowed with the vigour and activity of the prime of life. That beautiful country was the devoted prey of war, rapine, and civil discord. The native country of Poggio did not escape the general calamity. Galeazzo, lord of Milan, having declared war against Florence and Bologna, sent a powerful body of forces under the command of Giovanni Ubaldino, with orders to lay waste the territories of those states. In this extremity, the Florentines dispatched a considerably army, under the command of their general Auguto, to make a diversion in the Milanese, and successfully solicited the assistance of Stephen, duke of Bavaria, and of the count d’Armagnac. The campaign was opened with brilliancy by the conquest of Padua; but the duke of Bavaria, having been seduced from his fidelity to his allies by the tempting offers of the enemy, returned to his own dominions. The count d’Armagnac, descending into Italy by the way of Turin, with the intention of co-operating with Auguto, who had advanced to Bergamo, was also successful in his first operations. But his troops, encountering the enemy under the walls of Alessandria, were put to the rout, and the count himself, exhausted by his exertions, was carried a prisoner into the town, where he soon afterwards expired in consequence, it is said, of drinking a copious draught of cold water. In these critical 14 circumstances, the Florentines were greatly indebted to the extraordinary military talents of Auguto, who with an inferior force, effected a retreat through the heart of the Milanese, and held in check the army of Galeazzo, which had made an irruption into the Tuscan territories. Both parties being at length weary of a contest which was productive only of mutual injury, they listened to the paternal admonitions of Boniface, who interposed between them in the quality of mediator; and, under the auspices of the pontiff and the duke of Genoa, a peace was concluded between Galeazzo and the Florentines, on the basis of mutual restitution.20

When will a sufficient number of instances have been recorded by the pen of history, of nations harrassing each other by the outrages of war, and after years of havock and bloodshed, when exhausted by exertions beyond their natural strength, agreeing to forget the original subject of dispute, and mutually to resume the station which they occupied at the commencement of the contest. “Were subjects wise,” that would be their reflections, when their rulers, after the most lavish waste of blood, coolly sit down and propose to each other the status quo ante bellum. Happy would it be, could the status quo be extended to the widow and the orphans — to the thousands and tens of thousands, who, in consequence of the hardship and 15 accidents of war, are doomed to languish out the remnant of their lives in torment and decrepitude.

A.D. 1393. — In the year 1393, the antipope Clement VII. dying at Avignon, the schismatic cardinals, still persisting in their rebellion against the Italian pontiff, elected as the legitimate successor of St. Peter, Pietro de Luna, who assumed the name of Benedict XIII.21

For the space of five years after the pacification of Genoa, Florence enjoyed the blessings of peace; but at the end of that period its tranquillity was again disturbed by the ambition of Galeazzo, who had now obtained from the emperor Wenceslaus, the title of duke of Milan. This turbulent chieftain, being encouraged by the death of Auguto,22 the experienced commander of the Florentine 16 forces, sent into Tuscany a strong body of troops, which made incursions to the very gates of the capital. Ruin and devastation attended the progress of the Milanese forces, who laid waste the country with fire and sword, and led a great number of the inhabitants into captivity. The following letter, addressed on a similar occasion by Poggio to the chancellor of Siena, is at once a document of the misery to which the small states of Italy were at this time exposed in consequence of the wasteful irruptions of their 17 enemies, and a record of the benevolent dispositions of the writer’s heart.

“I could have wished that our correspondence had 18 commenced on other grounds than the calamity of a man for whom I have a great regard, and who has been taken captive, together with his wife and children, whilst he was engaged in the cultivation of my estate. I am informed that he and one of his sons are now languishing in the prisons of Siena. Another of his children, a boy of about five years of age is missing, and it is not known whether he is dead or alive. What can exceed the misery of this lamentable destiny? I wish these distresses might fall on the heads of their original authors: but alas! the wretched rustics pay the forfeit of the crimes of others. When I reflect on the situation of those on whose behalf I now intercede with you, my writing is interrupted by my tears. For I cannot help contemplating in the eye of imagination the woe-worn aspect of the father — the pallid countenance of the mother — the exquisite grief of the unhappy son. They have lost every thing except their life, which is bereft of all its comforts. For the father, the captors demand, by way of ransom, ten, for the son, forty florins. These sums it is impossible for them to raise, as they have been deprived of their all by the rapacity of the soldiers, and if they do not meet with assistance from the well-disposed, they must end their days in captivity. I take the liberty of earnestly pressing this case upon your consideration, and I entreat you to use your utmost exertions to redeem these unfortunate people on the lowest terms possible. If you have any regard for my entreaties, or if you feel that affection which is due from one friend to another, I beseech you with all possible importunity to undertake the care of this 19 wretched family, and save them from the misery of perishing in prison. This you may effect by exerting your interest to get their ransom fixed at a low rate. Whatever must be paid on this account, must be advanced by me. I trust my friend Pietro will, if it be necessary, assist you in this affair. I must request you to give me an answer, informing me what you can do, or rather what you have done, to serve me in this matter. I say what you have done, for I know you are able, and I trust you are willing to assist me. But I must hasten to close my letter, lest the misery of these unhappy people should be prolonged by my delay.”23

The uneasiness which the Florentines experienced, in consequence of the hostile incursions of Galeazzo’s forces, was considerably augmented by the accession of territory and of strength, which that enterprising warrior at this time obtained by the acquisition of the cities of Bologna, Pisa, Siena, and several fortresses bordering on the territories of the republic. Perugia also having thrown off its allegiance to the pope, had sheltered itself from his indignation under the protection of the duke of Milan.24

The year of the jubilee was now approaching, and the Romans, ever delighted with the frivolity of magnificent spectacles, sent a deputation to Boniface, who had studiously withdrawn from Rome, requesting him to honour his capital 20 with his presence. With this request, Boniface hesitated to comply, alleging, as the reason of his hesitation, that the choice of magistrates, which the Roman people had lately made, was by no means pleasing to him. Unwilling to forego the amusements and profits of the approaching festival, the compliant citizens of Rome gratified the pontiff with the selection of the principal officers of state, and moreover, supplied him with a considerable sum of money. Boniface, in return for these acts of submission, vouchsafed to make his public entry into Rome; and employed the money which he had received, as the price of his condescension, in fortifying the Mole of Adrian, in modern times better known by the name of the castle of St. Angelo, and other posts, which gave him the command of the city. Thus had the Romans the satisfaction of celebrating the jubilee with extraordinary pomp, at the expense of the remnant of their liberty.25

A.D. 1400. — In the mean time the Florentines, being hard pressed by the duke of Milan, derived a ray of hope from the assistance of the newly-elected emperor Robert duke of Bavaria, who promised to come to their aid, with a powerful body of troops. The joy which they felt on this occasion was however but of short continuance; for soon after his entrance into Italy, the emperor was totally defeated by the duke of Milan, and the remnant of his army being driven over the mountains, was obliged to take shelter in the city of Trent. By the retreat of the imperial troops, 21 the Florentines were reduced to the utmost extremity. Abandoned by their allies, and exposed to the inroads of their neighbors, they implored the assistance of Boniface. The pontiff, who felt deep resentment against Galeazzo on account of his seizure of several cities in the ecclesiastical state, readily entered into the view of the Florentines, and without hesitation concluded a treaty, by which he engaged to bring into the field an army of five thousand men, which was to co-operate with the Tuscan forces. Btu soon after the commencement of the campaign, the Florentines were happily relived from their anxiety, by the death of their inveterate enemy Galeazzo, whose career of conquest was terminated by a fever, of which he died at Marignano,26 on 22 the third of September, 1402. Soon after the death of this powerful prince, many cities, of which he had at different times forcibly taken possession, were seized by various petty tyrants, who took advantage of the odium excited by the vices of his son and successor Giovanni Maria; and Boniface availed himself of the general confusion to reduce Bologna and Perugia to their ancient allegiance to the papal see.27


It had been already observed, that Poggio arrived at Rome in the year 1403. He was then in the twenty-fourth year of his age. At this dangerous season, though animated with a lively fancy, and stimulated by an ardent constitution, he was not allured into dissipation, by the temptations of a corrupt and luxurious court. We learn indeed from the introductory conversation of his dialogue on Avarice, that the appointments of the pontifical secretaries were not very splendid. Antonio Lusco, one of the interlocutors in that dialogue, is there represented as declaring, that their income was scarcely sufficient to maintain the dignity of their office.28 It is probable therefore, that the scantiness of Poggio’s revenue had no unfavorable influence on his moral conduct and his studies. In the preface to his Historia disceptativa convivialis, he acknowledges, that he frequently had recourse to literary pursuits, in order to beguile the anxiety which he experienced in consequence of the 24 narrowness of his circumstances.29 Poverty is not unfrequently the parent of knowledge, and the stern, but salutary guardian of virtue. Whatever might be the cause, certain it is, that Poggio diligently devoted his leisure hours to study, and cultivated the acquaintance of those whose conversation might tend to the improvement of his mind. As literary pursuits had at this æra acquired the currency of fashion, the character of the scholar was frequently found united with that of the man of the world. To this circumstance we may ascribe the union of learning, politeness, and knowledge of the human heart, which shines so conspicuously in the writings of Poggio.

On the 1st October, 1404, Poggio sustained a considerable loss by the death of his patron, Boniface IX. “Nothing would have been wanting,” says Platina, “to complete the glory of this pontiff, had he not tarnished the lustre of his fame by his excessive partiality towards his relations. These flocked in crowds to Rome; and the 25 numerous acts of simony of which they were guilty, greatly impaired the authority of the keys.”30

A.D. 1404. — On the death of Boniface, Cosmo, cardinal of Santa Croce, was elected to the pontificate, and assumed the name of Innocent VII. The new pontiff was by no means insensible of the merits of Poggio, whom he continued in the office to which he had been promoted by the favour of Boniface. He appears indeed to have treated him with particular kindness and respect. Poggio availed himself of his interest with Innocent, to testify the sincerity of his friendship for Leonardo Aretino, who during his residence at Florence, had been the associate of his studies, and the companion of his festive hours. Leonardo, whose paternal appellation was Bruni, derived the name of Aretino from Arezzo, in which city he was born in the year 1370. 26 His parents, though not graced by the honours of nobility, held a respectable rank in society, and were sufficiently wealthy to be enabled to bestow on their son a good education.31 In his early youth, Leonardo was incited to a love of letters by an extraordinary accident. A body of French troops, who were marching to Naples to assist Louis duke of Anjou in maintaining his claim to the sovereignty of that kingdom, at the solicitation of the partizans of a faction which had been banished from Arezzo, made an unexpected attack upon that city; and after committing a great slaughter, carried many of the inhabitants into captivity; and among the rest the family of Bruni. Leonardo being confined in a chamber in which hung a portrait of Petrarca, by daily contemplating the lineaments of that illustrious scholar, conceived so strong a desire to signalize himself by literary acquirements, that immediately upon his enlargement he repaired to Florence, where he prosecuted his studies with unremitting diligence, under the direction of John of Ravenna and Manuel Crysoloras.32 During his residence at Florence, he contracted a strict intimacy with Poggio. this intimacy was not interrupted by the separation of the two friends, which took place upon the removal of the latter to Rome. On the contrary, Poggio being informed by Leonardo, that he wished to procure a presentation to some place of honour and emolument in the Roman chancery, took every opportunity of commending his virtues, and of 27 bringing his talents into public notice, by communicating his letters to the literary characters who frequented the pontifical court.33 In consequence of Poggio’s address, the fame of Leonardo reached the ears of Innocent, who was induced, by his extraordinary reputation, to invite him to Rome, at which city he arrived, March 24, 1405. On this occasion the interest of Leonardo was powerfully promoted by a letter addressed to Innocent, by Coluccio Salutati,34 the chancellor 28 of the city of Florence, in which he detailed the merits of the young candidate in the most flattering terms. The reception which Leonardo met with on his first presentation at the pontifical court, though in some respects flattering, was on the whole inauspicious. Innocent observed to him in the presence of his courtiers, that he seemed to be in every other respect well qualified for the place to which he aspired; but that an office of great trust required more discretion than could be expected from his early years. This observation stimulated Jacopo d’Angelo, a scholar of considerable reputation, who had formerly been a rival of Leonardo in the Florentine university, to offer himself as a candidate for the office in question. The age of Jacopo was more mature than that of Leonardo, and a residence of four years in the pontifical court seemed to give a decided superiority to his claims over those of the stranger.35 Poggio sympathized in the disappointment and anxiety of his friend. Fortunately however for Leonardo, Innocent having at this time received certain letters from the duke of Berry, 29 determined to assign to each of the competitors, the task of drawing up an answer to them. The compositions of the two candidates being compared, the prized was unanimously adjudged to Leonardo, who was in consequence of this decision, instantly advanced to the dignity of apostolic scribe. This transaction was the means of cementing the friendship of Poggio and Leonardo, which endured, without interruption till their union was severed by death.36

Before his accession to the chair of St. Peter, Innocent was accustomed to blame the negligence and timidity of the Italian pontiffs, and to attribute to their incapacity the continuance of the schism which gave such occasion of triumph to the enemies of the true faith. But when he was invested with the pontifical purple, he was convinced by mortifying experience, that it was much easier to find fault with the conduct of his predecessors, than to redress the 30 grievances of Italy, and to restore the peace of the church. [A.D. 1405.] He found himself indeed obliged to exert all his power, to repress the spirit of liberty which prompted the Roman people to demand the restitution of the capitol, the castle of St. Angelo, and of the other places of strength which had been wrested from them by the policy of his predecessors. The animosity excited in the breasts of the populace, by the refusal of Innocent to accede to these demands, was exasperated to the highest degree, by the culpable impetuosity of his nephew Lodovico, who attacking a deputation of the citizens, who had waited on the pontiff with a view of composing the differences which subsisted between him and the people, had seized eleven of their number, and put them to death. Two of these were members of the council of seven, which presided over the city, and the remaining nine were citizens of illustrious rank. Irritated by this act of cruel treachery the populace flew to arms, and revenged the death of their chiefs by the slaughter of several of the servants of the pontiff. Innocent, who was unconscious of the treachery of his nephew, was totally unprepared to resist the fury of the multitude. The pontifical residence was indeed strongly fortified; but it was not furnished with sufficient provisions to be enabled to stand a siege; and the troops of Laudislaus, king of Naples, were said to be hastening to the assistance of the insurgents. In this extremity, Innocent determined to seek his safety in flight. He accordingly left the palace, under the escort of a sufficient guard, at two o’clock in the afternoon of the sixth of August, and after a hasty march of two days, in the course of which several of his attendants died of fatigue, 31 arrived at Viterbo.37 Most of his servants, and among the rest Poggio and Leonardo, the latter of whom narrowly escaped falling a victim to the indiscriminate rage of the insurgents, were the companions of his flight.38

The Roman patriots were now masters of almost every part of the city. They were however soon dispirited, when they saw their territory laid waste by the pontifical troops, and agreed to terms of pacification with Innocent, who returned in triumph to his capital, towards the latter end of March, 1406.39 [A.D. 1406.] The pontiff did not long enjoy this favorable reverse of fortune, as he died on the sixth of November, of the same year.40

When the intelligence of the death of Innocent reached France, the dukes of Berry, of Burgundy, and of Orleans, who, in the quality of regents, administered the affairs of that kingdom during the mental indisposition of Charles VI. repaired to Avignon, and conjuring Benedict XIII. to concur in putting an end to a schism which had been the source of so much scandal and calamity, proposed, that he should voluntarily divest himself of the pontificate. With a view of softening the harshness of this proposal, they engaged, that whosoever should be elected at Rome as 32 successor to Innocent, should be obliged to take the same step. The antichristian competition being thus terminated, it was to be hoped, they said, that the assembled cardinals would agree in the election of a pontiff, who would be universally acknowledged as the legitimate head of the church. Invitations to resign dignity, splendour, and power, are seldom received with complacence. Benedict made many general protestations of his zeal for the welfare of the church, but peremptorily refused to quit the pontifical chair. Fearing that the regents would attempt to enforce their propositions by arms, he strengthened the fortifications of Avignon, in which city he was in a manner besieged for the space of some months. Being at length reduced to extremities, he embarked on the Rhone, and proceeding down that river to the Mediterranean, he fled into Spain, where he found a refuge from the power of his enemies in his native province of Catalonia.41

In the mean time, each of the cardinals who happened to be at Rome, at the time of the death of Innocent VII. took a solemn oath, that if in the ensuing election of a sovereign pontiff, the choice of the conclave should happen to fall upon himself, he would resign the pontificate, provided Benedict would follow his example.

This arrangement was proposed in order to appease the mutual jealousy of the French and Italian cardinals, as neither of these subdivisions of the ecclesiastical senate would 33 consent to sacrifice their representative without the concurrence of their antagonists in a similar measure. These preliminaries being adjusted, on the 30th of November, the conclave proceeded to fill the vacant chair, by the election of Angelo Corraro, cardinal of St. Mark, who on his advancement to the pontifical dignity, adopted the name of Gregory XII.42

Though the new pontiff had, immediately after his election, subscribed a ratification of the oath which bound him to abdicate his newly acquired honours, yet upon frivolous pretexts, he from time to time deferred the fulfilment of this sacred engagement. Benedict his competitor, having repaired to Savona, and afterwards to Porto Venere, with a view, as he asserted, of settling the peace of the church, by an amicable conference with Gregory; the latter insisted upon it, that they should meet in some inland town, where they might jointly comply with the requisition of the cardinals. Benedict on the contrary asserting, that he could not deem himself safe in the interior of Italy, demanded that Gregory should for that purpose, meet him in some seaport. With this proposal, Gregory, on pretence of apprehended danger to his person, refused to comply. Thus as Leonardo Aretino humorously observes, “The one, like an aquatic animal, was afraid of trusting himself on dry land; and the other, like a terrestrial animal, had an equal dread of the water.”43 Scandalized by the duplicity of the 34 rival pontiffs, and alarmed by the violence of Gregory, the cardinals quitted Lucca, to which city they had accompanied him in hopes that he would adopt the requisite steps to put an end to the schism, and assembled at Pisa. Here, constituting themselves a council of the church, they deposed both Gregory and Benedict, substituting in their place, Pietro Filardo, a native of Candia, who assumed the appellation of Alexander V.44

During these distractions of the Roman court, the officers of the pontifical household, according to their various views of duty, or considerations of interest, pursued 35 different plans of conduct. Many of them, with prudent foresight, deserting the falling fortunes of Gregory, accompanied the cardinals from Lucca to Pisa; others, in the number of whom was Leonardo Aretino, adhered to their master.45 In these delicate circumstances, Poggio seems to have steered a middle course. He removed indeed from Lucca, but he exchanged the intrigues and dissensions of the pontifical palace, for the tranquil delights of friendship which he enjoyed at Florence in the society of his literary acquaintance.46 On this occasion he experienced the most seasonable assistance from the countenance and support of the celebrated Niccolo Niccoli. This distinguished patron of literature was the son of Bartolomeo de’ Niccoli, a merchant of Florence, and was born in the year 1363.47 His 36 father wished to have trained him up to the mercantile profession; but Niccolo, preferring the cultivation of the liberal arts to the accumulation of riches, entered upon his studies, under the instruction of Lodovico Marsilio,48 a scholar of considerable reputation. So ardent was his love of learning, that when he had attained a competent knowledge of the Latin language, he went to Padua, for the express purpose of transcribing the compositions of Petrarca. On his return to Florence, he brought with him a copy of the Africa, and of various other works of that author. He had hardly attained to the period of manhood, when he conferred a memorable obligation on the learned, by erecting, at his own expense, a suitable edifice, for the reception of the 37 library which the celebrated Bocaccio had by his last will bequeathed to the convent of the Holy Spirit at Florence. His house was the constant resort of scholars and students, who were freely indulged with the use of his copious collection of books, and were moreover incited by his example to make the most active exertions in the prosecution of their literary labours. The patronage of this illustrious citizen, who had the discernment to distinguish, and the inclination and ability to assist the lovers of learning, Poggio justly valued at a high rate. And on the other hand, Niccolo was so much pleased with the accomplishments and the amiable dispositions of Poggio, that he honoured him with his sincere friendship and cordial esteem.

Gregory, refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the acts of the council of Pisa, withdrew to Rimini, where he was honourably entertained by Carlo Malatesta.49 Benedict was not more obedient to the decree which announced his deposition. After holding a council at Perpignan, he defied 38 his foes, and thundered his anathemas from the walls of the strong Spanish fortress of Paniscola.50

The well known virtues of Alexander V. had inspired the friends of the church with sanguine expectations of witnessing the speedy revival of the power and dignity of the holy see. But these flattering hopes were at once dissipated by his death, which took place in the eighth month of his pontificate.51 It was strongly suspected that his days were shortened by poison, administered to him by Baldassare Cossa, cardinal of St. Eustachio, who succeeded him in his pontifical honours.52


At an early period of his life, Baldassare seems to have aspired to the highest ecclesiastical dignity. When he had finished his studies at Bologna, he determined to repair to Rome. Being asked by some of his friends who saw him making preparations for his journey, whither he was going, he replied, “to the pontificate.” Soon after his arrival in the capital of the church, he was advanced by Boniface IX. to the confidential office of private chamberlain; and in the course of a little time he obtained, from the favour of the same patron, the dignity of cardinal of St. Eustachio, and was sent, invested with the office of legate, on an important mission to Bologna. In the exercise of this office, he greatly contributed, by the exertion of considerable political and military talents, to the establishment and extension of the authority of the holy see. It is said, that the power and the money with which this situation supplied him, were the principal instruments of his exaltation to the chair of St. Peter. [A.D. 1410.] However that may be, he was unanimously elected to the sovereign pontificate, on the 19th of May, 1410, and assumed the name of John XXII.53

About this time Leonardo Aretino was, by the concurrent voice of the people, elected to the chancellorship of 40 the city of Florence. He did not, however, long retain this office, which he found to be attended with more labour than profit. In the latter end of the ensuing year, 1411, he abdicated his municipal honours, and entered into the service of John XXII. The return of his friend to the pontifical chancery was highly gratifying to Poggio, who during the late storms had retained his situation, and regulating his conduct by the decrees of the council of Pisa, had acted as apostolic scribe to Alexander V., and was now, in the same capacity, a member of the household of that pontiff’s successor.

Shortly after the resumption of his functions in the Roman court, Leonardo took a journey to Arezzo, where he married a young lady of considerable distinction in that city. The event was of course very interesting to the colleagues and friends of the bridegroom; and Poggio wrote to him on the occasion, informing him of the witticisms to which his present predicament had given rise, and inquiring what opinion his short experience had led him to form of the comforts of the conjugal state. Leonardo replied to Poggio’s letter without delay. By the tenor of his answer, he seems to have found nothing unpleasant in matrimony, except its costliness. “It is incredible,” says he, “with what expense these new fashions are attended. In making provision for my wedding entertainment, I emptied the market, and exhausted the shops of the perfumers, oilmen, and poulterers. This however is comparatively a trivial matter; but of the intolerable expense of female dress and ornaments, 41 there is no end. In short,” says he, “I have in one night consummated my marriage, and consumed my patrimony.”54


Whilst Poggio and his associates were making themselves merry at the expense of the new married man, the superior officers of the pontifical court were engaged in very serious deliberations. Sigismund, who had been elected to the imperial throne, July 21st, 1411, being earnestly desirous of the extinction of the schism, demanded of John the convocation of a general council; which the cardinals who had assembled at Pisa in the year 1409, had declared to be the only measure which could restore to Christendom the blessings of peace. But the pontiff inherited the prejudices of his predecessors, against those dangerous assemblies which were so apt to trench upon the prerogatives of the head of the church. He would gladly have evaded complying with the requisition of Sigismund, and with this view proposed that the intended council should be summoned to meet at Rome. But danger awaited him in his own capital. Ladislaus, king of Naples, whom he had endeavoured to secure in his interest, invaded the territory of the church, made himself master of Rome, and compelled the pontiff successively to seek refuge in Florence, in Bologna, and in Mantua. From this latter city, John went to Lodi, where 43 he was met by Sigismund, who, accompanied by a numerous retinue, attended him on his return to Mantua. Thus finding himself in the power of the emperor, and flattered by the magnificent promises of that potentate, who professed his readiness to assist him in expelling the enemies of the church from the patrimony of St. Peter, John was persuaded to take the desperate step of summoning a general council, and to appoint the city of Constance as the place of its meeting.55


1   Recanati Poggii Vita, p. 1. Recanati Osservazioni, p. 24.

2  Elogi degli Uomini Illustri Toscani, tom. 1. p. 270. MS in the Riccardi Library referred to by the Cavaliere Tonelli, tom. i. p. 3, of his translation of the Life of Poggio, which will be hereafter designated by the abridgment Ton. Tr.

3   Recanati Poggii Vita, p. 1.

4  Recanati indeed, on the authority of a letter addressed by an unknown antiquary to Benedetto de’ Bondelmonti, asserts, that the office of notary had been for some generations hereditary in the family of Poggio.

Recanati ut supr.

5  See a fragment of a letter from Colucio Salutati to Pietro Tureo. Apud Mehi Vitam Ambrosii Traversarii, fo. CCCLXXIX, CCLXXX.

6  Giovanni, the son of Jacopo Malpaghino, was born at Ravenna. In his early youth he left his native city, and went to Venice, where he attended the lectures of Donato Albasano, a celebrated grammarian. From the instructions of Donato he derived considerable advantage; but his connexion with that scholar was more eminently fortunate, as it introduced him to the acquaintance, and procured him the friendship of Petrarca, who took him into his family, and superintended the prosecution of his studies. In return for the kindness of his accomplished patron, Giovanni undertook the improving employment of transcribing his compositions — a task for which he was well qualified, as he had added to his other acquirements that of a beautiful hand writing. Petrarca in a letter to Giovanni Certaldo, which is preserved in Mehus’s life of Ambrogio Traversari, mentions, with distinguished applause, the industry, temperance and prudence of his young scribe; and particularly commends the tenaciousness of his memory, in proof of which, he informs his correspondent, that Giovanni had, in eleven successive days, qualified himself to repeat his twelve Bucolic poems. Perhaps the highest eulogium that can be pronounced upon Giovanni is this, that he continued to reside in the family of Petrarca for the space of fifteen years, at the end of which time, by the death of that elegant enthusiast, he was deprived of an enlightened master and a zealous friend. On this event he went to Padua, where he for some time gained an honourable livelihood, by instructing youth in the principles of eloquence. In the year 1397, he received an invitation to undertake the office of public instructor, in the city of Florence. This invitation he accepted, and discharged the duties of his station with great applause, during the course of at least fifteen years. The time of his death is uncertain. Mehis Vita Ambrosii Traversarii, p. CCCXLVIII. — CCLIII. — Ejusdem præfatio ad Colucii Salutati Epistolas, p. XLI.

7  Ton. Tr. tom. i. p. 7.

8  Ton. Tr. tom. i. . 10.

9  Platina Vite de’ Pontefici, tom. i. p. 368.

10  Platina, tom. i. p. 369.

11  The conclave gave a name to the new pontiff, because he was absent from Rome at the time of his election.

12  Platina, tom. i. p. 370.

13  Voltaire, Essai sur les Mœurs et l’Esprit des Natuions, chap. 69. The Cavaliere Tonelli is of opinion, that Joanna was innocent of this crime, which is not imputed to her by the best Neapolitan historians, Costanzo and Giannone. See Ton. Tr. tom. i. p. 16.

14  Platina, tom. i. p. 272.

15  Poggius de Varietate Fortunæ, p. 56. Ammirato Istorie Fiorentine, P. I. T. II. p. 752.

16  Platina, tom. i. p. 373, 374. Giannone, lib. XXIV. cap. i.

17  Vide Pogii Epistolas lvii, a Johanne Oliva Rhodigino vulgatas ad calcem librorum de Varietate Fortunæ, p. 199.

18  Alter Urbanum olim summum pontificem leviter perstrinxit. Nam cum ille nescio quid acrius a pontifice contenderet, “malo capite es” inquit Urbanus. Tum ille “hoc idem” inquit “et de te vulgi dicunt homines pater sancte.” Poggii Opera, edit. Basil. p. 426.

19  Platina, tom. i. p. 376.

20  Platina, tom. i. p. 376, 377. Poggii Historia Fiorentina, lib. iii. Ammirato Istor. lib. xv.

21  Platina, tom. i. p. 378.

22  The English reader will probably be surprised to recognize in Giovanni Auguto, his countryman John Hawkewood. John was a soldier of fortune, and had been engaged in the war which Edward III. king of England, carried on with so much glory against France. On the conclusion of peace between these two countries, he led into Italy a band of 3000 adventurers, of restless spirits, and approved courage, who had engaged to fight under his banners, on behalf of any state which would give them a suitable remuneration for their services. In the year 1363, this army of desperadoes was hired by the republic of Pisa, and spread ruin and devastation through the territories of Florence, with which state the Pisans were then at war. They afterwards entered into the service of Bernabò Visconti, lord of Milan, and being again opposed to the Florentines, they defeated the Tuscan army, and made predatory incursions to the very gates of Florence. Being defrauded by Bernabò of the remuneration which his services merited, Hawkewood readily acceded to the terms proposed to him by the cardinal of Berry, legate of pope Gregory XI. and heartily engaged on the side of the pontiff in hostilities against the lord of Milan. Having assisted in the capture of nearly a hundred towns belonging to that prince, he had the satisfaction of seeing him reduced to the necessity of suing for peace. In the year 1375 he entered into the service of the Florentines. In the course of a little time he was promoted to the chief command of the Tuscan forces, in which capacity he merited and acquired the confidence of his employers, by the courage and skill with which he conducted the military operations of the Republic. He retained the office of Generalissimo of the Florentine army till the time of his death, which event took place in the latter end of the year 1393. The gratitude of the Florentines honoured him with a magnificent funeral, and his fame was perpetuated by an equestrian statue, erected to his memory at the public expense.

23  Poggii Historia Fiorentina, p. 29, 41, 46, 122, 123. See particularly note (x) p. 29, which settles the English appellation of Auguto.

In a volume of portraits of illustrious men, engraven on wood, entitled Musæi Joviani Imagines, and printed at Basil, An. 1577, there is a portrait of Auguto, who is there denominated IOANNES AVCVTHVS BRITAN. Underneath this portrait is printed the following inscription.

“Anglorum Egressus Patriis Aucuthus ab oris,
    Italiæ primum climata lætus adit,
Militiæ fuerat quascunque edoctus et artes,
    Ausoniæ exeruit non semel ipse plagæ
Ut donaretur statuâ defunctus equestri,
    Debita nam virtus præmia semper habet.”

Paulus Jovius, in his Elogia Virorum illustrium, p. 105, 106, gives a long account of Auguto, who, he asserts, came into Italy in the suite of the duke of Clarence, when that prince visited Milan, where he married the daughter of Galeazzo Visconti.

Holingshed, in his Chronicle, has recorded the actions of Hawkewood in the following terms. “And that valiant knight, Sir John Hawkewood, whose fame in the parts of Italie shall remain for ever, where, as their histories make mention, he grew to such estimation for his valiant achieved enterprises, that happie might that prince or commonwealth accompt themselves that might have his service; and so living there in such reputation, sometimes he served the Pope, sometimes the Lords of Millane, now this prince or commonwealth, now that, and otherwhiles none at all, but taking one towne or other, would keep the same till some liking entertainment were offered, and then would he sell such a towne, where he had thus remained, to them that would give him for it according to his mind. Barnabe, Lord of Millane, gave unto him one of his base daughters in marriage, with an honourable portion for her dower.

This man was born in Essex, (as some write) who at the first became a tailor in London, and afterwards going to the warres in France, served in the roome of an archer; but at length he became a Capteine and leader of men of war, highlie commended, and liked of amongst the souldiers, inasmuch that when by the peace concluded at Bretignie, in the yeare 1369, great numbers of soldiers were discharged out of wages, they got themselves together in companies, and without commandment of any prince, by whose authoritie they might make warre, they fell to of themselves, and sore harried and spoiled diverse countries in the realm of France, as partlie yee have heard, amongst whome this Sir John Hawkewood was one of the principall capteines, and at length went into Italie to serve the Marquis of Montserrato, against the Duke of Millane, although I remember that some write how he came into that countrie with the Duke of Clarence, but I think the former report to be true; but it may well be that he was readie to attend the said Duke at his coming into Italie.” — Holingshed’s Chronicle, vol. ii. p. 413.

24  Poggii Opera, edit. Basil.. i. p. 311.

25  Platina, tom. i. p. 373.

26  Platina, tom. i. p. 379.

27  Marignano was a castle, or country residence, to which Galeazzo had retired to avoid the plague, which had made its appearance in Milan. Poggio informs us in his history of Florence, that the day and hour of his departure from his capital was fixed by his astrologers, whom he was accustomed to consult in all cases of consequence. According to the observations of these soothsayers, so evidently had the stars determined the proper season for his journey, and so auspicious was the appearance of the heavens, that they boldly predicted that their illustrious patron would return, graced with the title of King of Italy. Poggio also asserts, that it was generally believed, that the death of Galeazzo was portended by a comet, which appeared in the month of March preceding that event. It should seem that the astrologers of the lord of Milan had forgotten to take this comet into their calculations.

Poggio’s partiality to his native country did not render him blind to the merits of Galeazzo, on whom he bestows the praise due to his liberality, magnanimity, and noble manners. He also highly commends him for his patronage of literature and of learned men. The following anecdote however, which is recorded in Poggio’s Facetiæ proves that the lustre of Galeazzo’s good qualities was tarnished by his excessive indulgences in the pleasure of the table.

“Pope Martin V. had employed Antonio Lusco in the composition of some letters, which, after he had perused them, the pontiff ordered him to submit to the examination of a friend of mine, in whose judgment he had great confidence. This person, who was a little disordered with wine at the time when the letters were communicated to him, totally disapproved of them, and ordered Lusco to re-write them. Then Antonio said to Bartolomeo de’ Bardi, who happened to be present, I will do with my letters as the tailor did with Giovanni Galeazzo’s waistcoat. Upon Bartolomeo’s asking what that was, he replied, Giovanni Galeazzo was a very corpulent man, and was in the habit of eating and drinking immoderately at supper. As he was retiring to rest after one of these copious repasts, he sent for his tailor, and sharply reproved him for making his waistcoat too tight, and ordered him to widen it. I will take care said the tailor to execute your highness’s orders, and I trust that to-morrow it will fit you to your satisfaction. He then took the garment in question, and without making the least alteration in it, hung it on a nail. Being asked why he did not make the waistcoat wider, according to the orders which he had received, he said, to-morrow when the prince has digested his supper, it will be found large enough. He accordingly carried it back in the morning, when Galeazzo put it on, said, Aye, now it will do — it fits perfectly easy.”

Platina, tom. i. p. 379, 380. Poggio Historia Florentina, p. 153.

28   During the state of anarchy into which the Milanese territories fell, in consequence of the folly and wickedness of the successor of Galeazzo, Como and Piacenza became the prey of the soldiers, Vercelli and Novara were seized by the marquis of Montferat. Pandolfo Malatesta made himself master of Brescia; Ottobuono III. took possession of Piacenza, Parma, and Reggio. Pavia, Alessandria, Tortona, and several other towns, submitted to the authority of Facino Cane. This last chieftain was the captain of one of those bands of adventurers, who at this time subsisted upon the wages which they received for their military services, and upon the plunder of the rich towns and fertile provinces of Italy. The following anecdote may serve to give the reader an idea of the insolent rapacity with which these disciplined robbers carried on their depradations.

“A person once complained to Facino Cane that he had been robbed of his cloak by one of that captain’s soldiers. Facino, observing that the complainant was clad in a good waistcoat, asked him whether he wore that at the time when he was robbed. Being answered in the affirmative, Go, says he — the man who robbed you cannot be one of my soldiers, for none of my followers would have left you so good a waistcoat.”

Poggii His. Flor., p. 159, 160. — Opera, p. 427.

29  “Mallem tamen dici adversus avaritiam, cum verear ne sit necesse nos fieri avaros, ob tenuitatem lucri quo vix possumus tueri officii nostri dignitatem.”

Poggio Opera, edit. Basil. p. 5.

30  “Ego sane quò me ex eorum vulgo eximerem de quorum ocio parum constat, nonnulla hac tenus conscripsi, quæ jam inter multos diffusa longiorem paulo, mihi, post obitum, vitam allatura videantur. Idque eò feci libentius, quo facilius fugerem eas molestias, quibus hæc fragilis atque imbecilla ætas plena est. Hæc enim scribendi exercitatio, multum mihi contulit ad temporum injurias perferendas. Non enim non potui angi animo et dolere aliquando,cum viderem me natu majorem, ita adhuc tenui esse censu, ut cogerer quæstui potius operam quam ingenio dare.”

Poggio Opera, p. 32.

31  Platina, tom. i. p. 380, 381. The following anecdote, inserted by Poggio in his Facetiæ, is at once a record of this partiality, and a curious specimen of the Italian wit of the fourteenth century.

“Bonifacius pontifex nonus, natione fuit Neapolitanus ex familiâ Tomacellorum. Appellantur autem vulgari sermone Tomacelli cibus factus ex jecore suillo admodum contrito atque in modum pili involtato interiore pinguodine porci. contulit Bonifacius se Perusiam secundo sui pontificatûs anno. Aderant autem secum fratres et affines ex eâ domo permulti, qui ad eum (ut fit) confluxerant, bonorum ac lucri cupiditate. Ingresso Bonifacio urbem sequebatur turba primorum, inter quos fratres erant et cæteri ex eâ familiâ. Quidam cupidiores noscendorum hominum quærebant quinam essent qui sequerentur. Dicebat unus item alter, hic est Andreas Tomacellus, deinde hic Johannes Tomacellus, tum plures deinde Tomaccellos nominatim recensendo. Tum quidam facetus, Hohe! permagnum nempe fuit jecur istud, inquit, ex quo tot Tomacelli prodierunt et tam ingentes.”

Poggio Opera, p. 431.

32  Mehi Vita Leonardi Bruni, p. xxiii. xxv.

33  Janotii Manetti, Oratio Funebris apud Mehi, edit. Epist. Leonardi Aretini, tom. i. p. xcii, xciii.

34  Mehi Vita Leon. Aret. p. xxxi.

35  Coluccio Salutati was born in the obscure town of Stignano, about the year 1330. It appears from a letter which he wrote to Bernardo di Moglo, that he was destitute of the advantages of early education, and that he did not apply himself to the cultivation of polite literature, till he was arrived at man’s estate, and that he then began his grammatical studies without the aid of a master. When he deemed himself properly prepared to extend his literary career, he went to Bologna, where he attended the public lectures of Giovanni di Moglo, the father of the above-mentioned Bernardo. In compliance with the advice of his relations and friends, he qualified himself for the profession of a notary; but when he had acquired a sufficient knowledge of legal practice, he devoted himself to the Muses, and composed several poems. In the forty-fifth year of his age, he was elected chancellor of the city of Florence, which office he held during the remainder of his life. He died on the fourth of May, 1406, and his remains, after having been decorated with a crown of laurel, were interred with extraordinary pomp, in the church of Santa Maria del Fiore. It was a subject of great regret to Leonardo Aretino, that soon after his arrival in Rome, some unfortunate misunderstanding deprived him of the affectionate regard of Coluccio, and that the death of his veteran friend prevented him from effecting a reconciliation, which he appears to have desired with all the earnestness of an ingenuous mind.

Coluccio was the author of the following works, MS. copies of most of which are preserved in the Laurentian library. 1 De Fato et Fortunâ. 2 De sæculo et religione. 3 De nobilitate legum et medicinæ. 4 Tractatus de Tyranno. 5 Tractatus quod medici eloquentiæ studeant et de Verecundiâ an sit virtus aut vitium. 6 De laboribus Herculis. 7 Historia de casu Hominis. 8 De arte dictandi. 9 Certamen Fortunæ. 10 Declamationes. 11 Invectiva in Antonium Luscum. 12 Phyllidis querimoniæ. 13 Eclogæ viii. 14 Carmina ad Jacobum Allegrettum. 15 Sonnetti, and lastly, various Epistles, a collection of which was published by Mehus in one volume, small quarto, printed at Florence, A.D. 1741.

We may judge of the zeal which Coluccio manifested for the promotion of literature by the extent of his library, which consisted of eight hundred volumes — a magnificent collection in those early times, when good MSS. were very scarce, and consequently very costly. — Colluccii Vita à Philippo Villani, apud Mehi editionem Epistolarum Lini Colucii Pierii SalutatiLeonardi Aretini Epistolæ, lib. i. cp. x. xii.

36  By gaining the victory in this contest, Leonardo considerably increased his reputation, as his competitor was a man of very respectable talents. Jacopo d’Angelo was a native of Scarparia, and studied the Latin tongue under the auspices of John of Ravenna. Understanding that Demetrius Cydonius and Manuel Crysoloras had undertaken to give public lectures on the Grecian classics in the city of Venice, he immediately repaired thither for the purpose of availing himself of their instructions. So great was his zeal in the cause of literature, that he accompanied Crysoloras to Constantinople, with a view of collecting manuscripts, and attaining a more accurate and extensive acquaintance with the Greek language. He translated into Latin Ptolomey’s Cosmographia, and also Plutarch’s lives of Brutus and Pompey. His version of the Cosmographia he dedicated to Alexander V. Contemporary scholars have given ample testimonies to his literary abilities, but his studies were abruptly terminated by an early death. Mehi Vita Ambrosii Traversarii, p. xvi. cclvi. — Ejusdem Vita Leonardi Bruni, p. xxxii. — Facius de viris illustribus, p. 9.

37  See an old diary of Gentile d’Urbino, apud Muratorii Rev. Italic Scriptor. tom. vi. p. 844.

38  Leonardi Aretini Epistolæ, l. i. cp. v.

39  Leonardi Aretini Epistolæ, l. i. cp. x.

40  Platina, tom. i. p. 383, 384.

41  Platina, tom. i. p. 385, 386.

42  Leonardi Aretini Epistolæ, l. ii. ep. iii.

43  Leonardi Aretini Epistolæ, l. ii. ep. xxi. The cardinal of Bourdeaux, conversing with Poggio on the tardiness of Gregory in fulfilling his engagement, observed, that the conduct of his holiness reminded him of the wicked wit of the humourist, who imposed upon the credulity of the populace of Bologna. On Poggio’s asking him to what circumstance he alluded, he related the following anecdote, which may bear a comparison with the story of the famous bottle-conjurer. “There was lately at Bologna,” said the cardinal, “a wag, who proclaimed by public advertisement, that on a certain day he would fly from the top of a tower, situated about a mile from the city, near St. Raphael’s bridge. On the day appointed, almost all the Bolognese assembled together; and the man kept them waiting during the heat of the day, and until the evening, all gazing at the tower, and expecting every moment that he would begin his flight. At length he appeared on the top of the tower, and waved a pair of wings, on which the multitude gave a shout of applause. The wag however protracted the expected expedition till after sunset, when resolving that the good people should not go home without seeing a sight, he deliberately drew aside the skirts of his garment, and turned his posteriors to the multitude, who immediately returned home, exhausted with fatigue and hunger, and chagrined at their disappointment.” In my opinion, said the cardinal, Gregory has practised upon the sacred college as complete a delusion, as the wag practised upon the people of Bologna.”

Poggii Opera, p. 435.

44  Platina, tom. i. p. 386, 388.

45  Leon. Aret. Epistolæ, l. i. ep. iii.

46  Ibid.,ep. iv. vii.

47  Leonardo Aretino, in his oration against Niccolo Niccoli, asserts, that Niccolo’s grandfather was a tavern-keeper at Pistoia. “Avi autem tui caupona Pistorii primum floruit non dignitate aliquâ, sed fronde illâ festivâ quâ ad vinum et popinas meretrices et ganeos invitabat. Inde nocturnâ ebriorum cæde conterritus Pistorio demigravit, cauponam et serta Florentiam transtulit. Hic tandem pater tuus cauponâ egressus vino abstinuit, oleo se ac lanificio perunxit, sedens ad scamnum a matutino tempore quasi vile mancipium, sordido ac prope miserabili exercitio defamatus. Profer igitur insignia nobilitatis tuæ qui alios tam insolenter contemnis. Habes enim præclarissima: ab avo quidem frondes et cyathos; a patre vero lanam et pectines.” — Mehi Vita Ambrosii Traversarii, p. xxx.

So little regard did the learned men of the fifteenth century pay to truth in their invectives, that the assertion of Leonardo Aretino is not sufficient evidence of the history of Niccolo’s progenitors. But this is indisputably certain, that by endeavouring to throw ridicule upon his former friend, by a reference to the occupation of his ancestors, he only disgraces himself. The frons festiva, to which he alludes in the passage quoted above, is the laurel, which it was then customary to hang by way of a sign over the doors of taverns. From a similar custom is derived our English proverb, “Good wine needs no bush.”

48  Mehi Vita Ambrosii Traversarii p. lxxxvi. Lodovico Marsilio was an ecclesiastic of the Augustine order, of which fraternity he became the superior in the province of Pisa. His literary reputation caused him to be employed in the chancery of the republic of Florence, and in the year 1382 he was appointed of the number of the ambassadors sent by that state, to negociate a peace between Carlo, the Hungarian prince, and the duke of Anjou. In so great estimation was he held by the Florentines, that the administrators of their government applied to Boniface IX., requesting his holiness to promote him to the dignity of bishop of their city. The letter which was written on this occasion, and which details his various merits in very flattering terms, is preserved by Mehus in his life of Ambrogio Traversari. Lodovico carried on a correspondence with Coluccio Salutati; and also with Petrarca, on a few of whose sonnets he wrote a commentary. Several of his letters occur, but in a mutilated state, in a collection of the epistles of the Tuscan Saints, published at Florence, in 4to. A.D. 1736. He died on the 21st of August, 1394.

Mehi Vita Ambrosii Traversarii, p. xxx. cclxxxv. ccxxxix. cclxi.

49  Gregory was accompanied to Rimini by Leonardo Aretino, who sent to Niccolo Niccoli an interesting and elegant account of the remains of antiquity which then existed in that city. Towards the close of his letter on this subject, Leonardo dilates with great eloquence upon the praises of Carlo Malatesta. After enlarging upon his merits as a soldier and a statesman, he thus proceeds. — “So liberal has nature been in her gifts to him, that he seems to possess an universal genius. He reads with the utmost grace — he writes verses — he dictates the most elegant prose, and his hand-writing is so neat, that it is superior to that of professed scribes. I should not have mentioned this fact, had I not found the same circumstance with respect to Augustus, and Titus son of Vespasian.”

50  Platina ut supra.

51  Platina, p. 389.

52  A manuscript, containing an account of the lives of several of the pontiffs, which is printed by Muratori, in his magnificent collection of the writers of Italian history, contains the following encomium on Alexander V.

“This pontiff, who truly deserved the name of Alexander, would have surpassed in liberality all his predecessors, to the extent of a distant period, had he not been embarrassed by the insufficiency of his revenues. But so great was his poverty, after his accession to the papal chair, that he was accustomed to say, that when he was a bishop he was rich, when he became a cardinal he was poor, and when he was elected pontiff he was a beggar.”

A little while before his death he summoned the cardinals, who were then attendant on his court, to his bed-side, and after earnestly exhorting them to adopt such measures after his decease as were likely to secure the tranquillity of the church, he took leave of them, by repeating the words of our Saviour, “Peace I give you, my peace I leave unto you.”

In a manuscript volume, which formerly belonged to the house of Este, there occurs the following epitaph on this pontiff, the two concluding lines of which are so uncouth and obscure, that we may reasonably suspect some error on the part of the transcriber.

Divus Alexander, Cretensi oriundus ab orâ
Clauditur hoc saxo, summo venerandus honore.
Antes Petrus erat, sed celsâ sede potitus
Quintus Alexander fit, ceu sol orbe coruscans,
Relligione minor, post ad sublime vocatus.
Muratori Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, tom. vi. p. 842.

53  Platina, tom. i. p. 389, 390.

54  Mehi Vita Leonardi Aretini, p. xxxix, xl. Leonardi Aretini Epistolæ, lib. Iii. ep. xvii. Leonardo Aretino was esteemed by his contemporaries too attentive to the minutiæ of œconomy. From the perusal of the following letter from Ermolao Barbaro to Pietro Cura, however, it should seem, that in the fifteenth century, complaints of the expensiveness of matrimony were by no means destitute of foundation.

“Duxit uxorem, clarus bello et pace vir Trivulcius, Neapolitanam, prænobili familiâ. Invitatus sum ad convivium, immo ad pontificiam, et adipalem cænam. At ego ad epulas primas satur, spectator potius quam conviva fui. Credo gratum fore vel tibi. vel posteris, si fercula quam brevissime descripsero, non ut Macrobius apud nostros, nec ut apud Græcos Athenæus justis voluminibus, sed ut occupatus homo, et ad epistolæ mensuram. Primum aqua manibus data, non ut apud nos, stantibus, sed accumbentibus, utique rosacea. Tum illati pugillares ex nucleis pineis, et saccaro pastilli. Item placentæ nucleis amygdalis, et saccaro confectæ, quos vulgo martios paneis vocamus. Secundum fertum altiles asparagi. Tertium pulpulæ ita enim popinæ appellant et jecuscula. Quartum caro dorcadis tosta. Quintum capitula junicum vitulorumve una cum pellibus elixa. Sextum capi, gallinarum, columborumque pulli, bubuleis comitati linguis, et petasonibus, ac sumine omnibus elixis addito Lymonyacæ pultario, sic enim Cupediarii Mediolanenses vocant, quam nostri sermiacam. Septimum hedus integer tostus, in singulas singuli capidas, cum jure quod ex amaris Cerasis sive ut quidam malunt appellare laurocerasis, condimenti vice fungitur. Octavum turtures, perdices, phasiani, coturnices, turdi, ficedulæ et omnino plurimi generis avitia, molliter et studiose tosta. Colymbades olivæ condimenti loco appositæ. Nonum gallus gallinaceus saccaro incoctus, et aspergine rosaceâ madefactus, singulis convivis, singuli patinis argenteis, ut et cætera quoque vascula. Decimum porcellus integer tostus, in singuli crateria jusculento quodam liquore perfusi. Undecimum pavi tosti, pro condimento leucopheon jus, immo ferugineum e jocinoribus pistia, et aromate pretiosi generis, ad portionem et Symmetriam additum; hyspani [. . . .] appellant. Duodecimum tostus orbis ex ovo, lacte, salvia, polline saccareo, Salviatum vocamus. Tertium decimum Struthes cotones ex saccaro. Quartum decimum, Carduus, pines, Icolymon sive Cynaram potius appellare convenit. Quintum decimum a lotis manibus, bellaria et tragemata omnis generis saccarea. Inducti mox histriones, pantomimi, petauristæ, aretalogi, funambuli, choraulæ, citharædi. Singulis porro ferculis præibant faces, atque tubæ sub facibus inclusa caveis altilia, quadrupedes, aviculæ, omnia viventia generis ejus videlicet, cujus ea quæ magistri et structores cocta mensis inferebant; mensæ per atrium abacis singulæ singulis dispositæ sed et privi privis ministri. Ante omnia silentium quale ne pythagorici quidem servare potuissent. Vale Mediolani, Idibus, Maiis, 1488.”

Politiani Epistolæ, lib. xii.

55  Platina, tom. i. p. 390, 391.




[Back] [Blueprint] [Next]

Valid CSS!