« PreviousContinue »
in diminishing, and that very rapidly, the number of publichouses and beer-houses.
Our limits will not allow us to discuss a question which is yearly assuming greater prominence, the question which is known by the black-white name of Permissive Prohibition—the English form of the Maine Liquor Law. Whether such an enactment would ever stand a year's trial, or whether, if standing such trial, it would not create more evils than it abolished, is matter for argument. It is said, we know not how truly, that as soon as the necessities of the United States Exchequer compelled an excise of fermented liquors, the Maine Liquor Law ceased to act. At all events, from some cause or other, it appears at present to be to a great extent inoperative. Be this as it may, it is hardly possible to suppose that any English market-town, for example, would submit to the enormous inconvenience of being unable to supply its inhabitants and its visitors with exciseable commodities, because a small proportion of the ratepayers happened to club together at a vestry meeting and prohibit the traffic. Nothing, however, would so much discredit this somewhat grotesque crusade against liquors as a prudent and wellconsidered measure for the regulation of public-houses. Such a measure we cannot expect from the Home Office as at present constituted. There are, however, private members on both sides of the House (we may specify Sir Selwin Ibbetson on the one side and Mr. Whitbread on the other), who are perfectly well able to devise such a measure, and we trust that the promise already held out to us by the former may be fulfilled either by himself or by some one in his place, and that next Session may not pass without a determined and a successful effort to grapple with the evils of the present Licensing Laws.
Art. IV.-Opere Inedite di Francesco Guicciardini Illustrate da
Giuseppe Canestrini, e Publicate per cura dei Conti Piero e
vividly reproduce in some of the last living examples that singular type of merchant statesmanship which formed so important and predominant an element in mediæval Italian republican politics. They afford us the same sort of vivid con
ception of that type as the 'Lives of the Norths'do of the race of political lawyers and inen of business who rose into eminence in the perturbed politics of the last Stuart reigns in England. The alternately conflicting and mingling aristocratical and commercial elements in Italian public life had produced between them something of the like sort of mixed character as they afterwards did in England. Even in the iron age of the Sforzas and Borgias, eminently respectable private and public characters were often the growth of the mingled influences which affected public life, so long as public life was not yet stamped out in Italy. What was much more rare was anything approaching the heroic type in Italian public men. That
is rare indeed in all ages, but in the age and country of Machiavelli and Guicciardini, as in the succeeding age of Lord Keeper Guilford and Sir Dudley North in England, all aspirations after it, as well as all approach to it, scemed to have in a manner ceased.
Mediæval Italy, to borrow a well-abused phrase of the late Prince Metternich, had been little more than 'a geographical expression,' inferring no universal Italian rights or duties. Its several states had stood towards each other pretty much in Hobbes' state of nature, with fear, force, and fraud for sole effective regulators. The ordinary habitual relations of the mediæval Italian States to each other had been those of wavering alliance, or of covert or overt hostility. All the unbridled excesses of outrageous violence and of shameless perfidy which larger and more powerful realms permitted themselves, whenever interest prompted, against each other, were multiplied on the narrow area of the city commonwealths and petty principalities of mediæval Italy. Consequently the aggregate of revolting outrages against all laws of peace and war appear to affix a deeper stigma on Italian than on any other politics in those ages. It may be doubted how far that deeper stigma is relatively merited; it is at all events certain that Italian individual and social life and morals cannot fairly be judged of from the public or private crimes of the Visconti, Sforzas, or Borgias.
The sixteenth century in Italy was an age of transition from spirited if ill-organised autonomy to a dull level of spiritual and secular despotism. It presents the spectacle of a country foremost in the opening of the march of modern civilisation suddenly finding itself the helpless object of rival rapacity to ruder but stronger states—its leading men, whose minds and characters had been formed in the liberal school of world-wide commerce and uncontrolled self-government-suddenly compelled to transfer their political activity, if they were still bent on exerting it, from the
councils of their country to the courts and cabinets of overbearing native or foreign princes.
The habit of writing • Ricordi'--for which the English word • Records' is not an exact equivalent--of noting down, not for immediate nor even ultimate publication, whatever, from day to day, seemed noteworthy in private or public, domestic or foreign transactions, was practised more methodically and systematically by the Italian public men of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and the first half of the sixteenth century than perhaps it has been by those of any other age or country. It was a habit which came, as it were, naturally to those merchant-statesmen. These so-called "Ricordi’ had no more literary design or pretension about them than any of the other business entries in their daybooks or ledgers, amongst which, indeed, they were very commonly interspersed and intercalated, being made, like the rest, for use and not for show, and forming, in fact, as observe by the editor of the volumes before us, a civil and domestic autobiographic chronicle, often begemmed with moral maxims and sentences, and Scripture texts. Some of these Ricordi,' including those of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and including, in their integrity, those before us, have first seen the light in these or in recent times. We are well disposed to believe the averment of the present editor that none of them approach those of Guicciardini for depth of intellectual insight not only into public affairs, but equally into the inmost recesses of the human heart, which is, after all, the prime mover of every earthly event and issue.
• The Italian historians,' says Disraeli the Elder, in his “Curiosities of Literature,' have proved themselves to be an extraordinary race, for they have devoted their days to the composition of historical works, which they were certain could not see the light during their lives.'
If that indefatigable literary chiffonier had had before him these ten volumes of remains of the most eminent of Italian historians, he might have found additional reason for ascribing an extraordinary character to that race of men which had in Guicciardini its most memorable representative. No part of the biographical or autobiographical matter contained in these volumes was designed, in the ordinary sense of this publishing age, to see the light at all, but simply to be preserved in the family archives of the Casa Guicciardini for the private instruction of the descendants of that house. "As I shall in these family memorials,' says their author, tell the truth, I pray our descendants, into whose hands they will come, not to show them to any one out of the family, but keep them for their own use, since I have written them solely for that end, as one
who desires two things more than any other things in the world, —first, the perpetual exaltation of this city (Florence] and of its liberty ; secondly, the glory of our house, not during my own life only, but in perpetuity. May it please God to preserve and increase both one and the other !'
The present representatives of the house of Guicciardini, by whom these volumes are published, slightly apologise for revealing family secrets which had been kept for three centuries. Truly we know not any party in this nineteenth century, unless that of the Temporal Papacy, likely to feel scandalized at the publication of these imperii arcana of a bygone age. There is, indeed, enough in this long-deferred posthumous publication of the confidential communications of the favoured civil and military minister of two successive Popes to claim a place in the papal index, if the present conductors of that organ of ecclesiastical criticism can summon up courage to put it there. If they do, they will only give additional prominence to the fact that one of the most trusted and trustworthy servants of the Papacy, at the greatest ecclesiastical crisis, till that of our own times, confessed that, but for his personal position, he should have heartily wished Martin Luther all success against the scellerati preti.'
Guicciardini opens his Ricordi di Famiglia' by saying that he had been able to acquire no certain knowledge as to the origin of his family, but that the first notice he finds of it in Florence is as taking part in the exercise of the magistracy called the priorato about A.D. 1300. Our house,' he says, remained for a good while, that is to say, about eighty years afterwards, in a middling condition, and might be described, according to the common way of speaking, as buoni popolani. From that time it has grown so much in wealth and station, that it has become, and still continues at this day, one of the first families of the city, and has shared abundantly in all its honours and dignities.'
The first of his ancestors named by Guicciardini, Piero, assumed the rank of knighthood—by whom or on what account conferred his descendant could not tell. He acquired wealth in the management of large estates of a Neapolitan noble in Tuscany, and acquired, moreover, in the sharp eyes of the Church the character of an usurer, since his son Luigi, on the death of his father, was compelled, for fear his body should be seized at the suit of the bishop, to come to a composition with that holy inquisitor, and to tax himself on a conjectural estimate of the so-called usurious gains of the deceased, which done, he was fully assured by an Augustinian friar--a grandissimo teologo-that the satisfaction thus given was sufficient etiam in foro conscientiæ. Luigi became afterwards a very rich man, arrived at high dignities, and was several times employed in important embassies to the Pope, to Giovanni Galeazzo Duke of Milan, and to Louis Duke of Anjou, when he entered Italy to contest the crown of Naples with King Charles of Arragon. He was three times Gonfalionere of Justice, and in that capacity would seem to have cut rather a poor figure, on occasion of a serious popular tumult, in the course of which the Gonfalionere got driven from the palace or Town Hall—the seat of municipal administration-ousted from his office, and his house demolished—the invariable accompaniment of popular triumph over parties in power in Italy of the olden time—(revived under citizen Assi's Italianizing auspices against the house of M. Thiers) as torture was the invariable accompaniment of the first proceedings against any one accused of political crimes or misdemeanours. Besides being bullied (and afterwards invested with knighthood) by the populace and their leaders, he was continually getting surcharged in his taxes by the popular magistrates, and the greatest and most constant trouble of his life was in seeking redress from these fiscal surcharges. He died, says his descendant, to the great concern of the people, who seem to have found him a good easy executive functionary, a diplomatist disposed for peace at all price, and fiscally a good milch cow; a man of good property, on whom the municipal democracy found it convenient to throw more than his share of the public burthens.
It is a noticeable fact of family character or fortune that, wise or foolish, magnanimous or pusillanimous, well or less well governed in life and conversation, the Guicciardini family seem to have possessed the feline faculty of always falling upon their feet, and always adding something to that advance in substance and station which their famous descendant states them to have continued making down to his own time. Piero, second son of the last-named ancestor, had been, from his youth till the death of his father, disobedient and devious in his courses to such a degree that his father always prophesied he would end badly, and, having been robbed of certain sums of money and articles of value in his house, never could be persuaded, while the culprit remained undetected, that the culprit was not his son Piero. This scapegrace of the family was nearly becoming its scapegoat; since Piero, having set out against his father's will, in the suite of some embassy, was captured on his route by the free company of a certain Otto Buonterzo of Parma, and, while the others were suffered to proceed on their journey, was alone detained for