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quently occur in the text, the chain of the English narrative is seldom · broken.
Despising an ostentatious display of reading, I have preserved my margin as free as possible, from the cumbrous pomp of reference. In tracing the rise and progress of any art, attention to dates is, however, indispensably necessary: I shall not therefore, I hope, be thought too anxiously exact in regard to titles and colophons.
Had not the state of the political world impeded the epistolary intercourse with the continent, I should probably have had many obligations to acknowledge to my Italian friends. Their aid, nevertheless, has not been wanting. Amongst those to whom I feel myself peculiarly indebted, I name with pride and gratitude, Signor Pietro Napoli-Signorelli of Naples, the Abate Melchior Cesarotti of Padua, and Prince Giacomo Giustiniani, late governor of Perugia.
For valuable accessions to my hoard of Italian dramas, and exertions to promote my undertaking, I am infinitely obliged to my friend Robert W. Wade, Esq. of Knightsbridge; M. R. I. A. to John Pinkerton, Esq. the profound historian of Scotland; and to Major William Ouseley, whose success in oriental pursuits has already raised him to literary eminence.
Indulged with the unrestricted use of a spirited translation of the Abate Monti's tragedies, by the admirable translator of the Inferno of Dante, I have enriched my memoir with copious extracts from that as yet, inedited work. And when the reader shall have perused the translation, by the same hand, of the choruses from the Acripanda and Alcina, and of a few passages from other Italian dramas interspersed through these pages, he will, I am sure, regret that my poetical obligations to my inestimable friend, the Rev. Mr. Boyd, are not more abundant.
“ When a man writes,” says a French author, “ he ought to animate himself with the thoughts of pleasing all the world; but he is
to renounce that hope, the very moment the book goes out of his hands.” I never cherished the hopes, but I certainly suffer all the apprehensions of the French author. My motive for undertaking this work, I have already declared. Fame was not my object: in my rural seclusion, in an island
divisa dal mondo,
her sweet voice could not sooth me. I do not say this to deprecate, criticism; it is rather my wish to invite it: for should this Memoir . ever reach another edition, my ambition would be, to render it less unworthy the public eye.
JOSEPH COOPER WALKER.
St. Valeri, August 6, 1798.
INTRODUCTION. THE elegant arts lay buried under the ruins of the majestic INTROD. fabric of the Roman empire until the beginning of the twelfth century. Soothed by the voice of peace, and no longer dreading the sword of the spoiler, then, and not sooner, did they venture to raise their heads. Those faculties of the human mind which have beauty and elegance for their objects, now began to unfold themselves; and soon after they were brought into action, they employed their powers upon the dramatic art. So early as the year 1304, (1) Vasari describes an at
INTROD. teinpt at a dramatic exhibition in Florence(a); but neither
Crescimbeni, nor Tiraboschi, will allow the revival of the dramatic art in Italy to commence with that feeble essay.(b) They date, more properly, its revival from the appearance of the Achilleis and the Eccerinis, two Latin tragedies on the model of Seneca, by the learned Albertino Mussato, of Padua, who died in exile, amongst the fens of Venice, in the year 1329, at
(a) Vite de' Pittori, 10m. i. p. 385. This exhibition, at which we find the spectators
For the fiery gulph of hell, is fully described by Ammirato, whose words I shall transcribe.“ Mentre secondo l'usanza delle feste, che si solevano celebrare à kalen di maggio quelli di borgo san Friano (in Florence) con pazza invenzione promettono per il lor banditone di dar novelle dell'altro mondo à chi si fosse ragunato in sul ponte alla Carraia, il popolo in tanta calca vi trasse à vedere, stule pido in mirare i lavorati fuochi, e la spaventosa immagine dell'inferno, et quelli che in figura d'anime ignude à contrafatti demonii erano compartiti, e in udire le grandissime grida, e urli che gittavano per le diverse pene et martirii, à quali pareano condannati, cose tutte rappresentate sopra barche, et navicelli, che erano nel fiume, che il ponte, che in quel tempo era di legname, non potendo regger, al gran peso che sostencà, cadde con tutta la gente ch' v'era sopra, et molti vi morirono, parte annegati nel fiume, et parte oppressi da coloro, che erano ultimi à cadere, de quali pochi furono quegli, che scamparono la morte, che guasti d' alcun membro o storpiati non rimanessero." Isi. Fior. ed. 1600, p. 168. This exhibition reminds Mr. Roscoe of the narrowing of hell mentioned by Chaucer. Life of Lorenzo de' Medici, vol. i. p. 229. And it is said by Denina, to have given birth to the Commedia of Dante. Vicende della Letteratura Parte 2. Sez. 10. Ed. Venez. 1788.
(6) Had not Petrarch first withheld from the public, and afterwards destroyed his Filologia, he would probably be numbered with those, to whom the revival of the drama in Italy is ascribed. The abbè de Sade mentions two dramatic compositions, still existing in the Laurentian library, which are supposed to have been written by Petrarca. Mem. ponr la vie ac Petrarg. tom. iii. p. 458.
the advanced age of severity.(c) This opinion is also sup- INTROD. ported by the respectable authority of the marquis Maffei, in the elegant and ingenious discourse prefixed to his Teatro Italiano. For the latter of these tragedies, (the Eccerinis) Mussato was honoured with a laurel crown by the bishop of Padua, who, at the same time, issued an edict, that, on every Christmas-day, the doctors, regents, and professors of the two colleges in that city, should go to his house in solemn procession, with wax tapers in their hands, and offer him a triple crown.(d) From an analysis of this tragedy given by Signor Signorelli, in his Storia critica de' Teatri antichi e moderni, it appears, that it is divided into five acts, each of which is concluded with a chorus. And it further appears, that though the mind of Mussato teemed with classic lore, he neglected the unities:
l'azione,” says my author, “ non è una; il tempo basterebbe
(c) Chiozza was the place of Mussato's banishment. This little city, which lies three miles from Brondolo, and thirteen from Venice, is allowed by De la Lande, to be “ agréable.” The cathedral is a beautiful edifice; and comrr odious porticoes extend along each side of the principal streets. Here, while the venerable patriot beguiled his time in revising his historical works, fancy may suppose him occasionally turning a tearful eye to his native Padua, or extending his view over that city to the towering houndary of the Alps, and losing himself, in imagination, amongst the rocks and the forests, the snows and the torrents of those majestic mountains.
(d) This circumstance is mentioned by Tiraboschi, who has collected with care, and related with perspicuity, all the principal events of Mussato's life. Vide Stor. della Let. liat. ton. v. lib. ii. cap. 6. See also an elegant little work entitled A Skech of the Lives and Writings of Dante and Peirarch. Lond. 1790. P. 93.