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discoveries of the Abbé de Sade, his triumphs, his sneers, can no longer instruct or amuse !). We must not, however, think that these memoirs are as much a romance as Belisarius or the Incas, although we are told so by Dr. Beattie, a great name, but a little authority ?). His “labour» has not been in vain, notwithstanding his "over has, like most other passions, made him ridicu. lous :). The hypothesis which overpowered the struggling Italians, and carried along less interested critics in its current, is run out. We have another proof that we can be never sure that the paradox, the most singular, and therefore having the most agreeable and authentic air, will not give place to the re-established ancient prejudice.
It seems, then, first, that Laura was born, lived, died, and was buried, not in Avignon, but in the country. The fountains of the Sorga, the thickets of Cabrieres, may resume their pretensions, and the exploded de la Bastie again be heard with complacency. The hypothesis of the Abbé had no stronger props than the parchment sonnet and medal found on the skeleton of the wife of Hugo de Sade, and the manuscript note to the Virgil of Petrarch, now in the Ambrosian library. If these proofs were both incontestable, the poetry was written, the medal composed, cast, and deposited within the space of twelve hours; and these deliberate duties were performed round the carcass of one who died of the plague, and was hurried to the grave on the day of her death. These do. cuments, therefore, are too decisive : they prove not the fact, but the forgery. Either the sonnet or the Virgilian note must be a falsification. The Abbé cites both as incontestably true; the couse.
1) Mémoires pour la vie de Pétrarque. 2) Life of Beattie, by Sir W. Forbes, t. ii. p. 106. 3) Mr. Gibbon called his Memoirs, "a labour of love,» (see De
cline and Fall, cap. Ixx. note 1.), and followed him with confidence and delight. The compiler of a very voluminous work must take much criticism upon trust; Mr. Gibbon has done so, though not so readily as some other authors.
quent deduction is inevitable – they are bo!h evi. dently false 1).
Secondly, Laura was never married, and was a haughty virgin rather than that tender and prudent wife who honoured Avignon by making that town the theatre of an honest French passion, and played off for one and twenty years her little machinery of alternate favours and refusals ?) upon the first poet of the age. It was, indeed, rather too un. fair that a female should be made responsible for eleven children upon the faith of a misinterpreted abbreviation, and the decision of a librarian 3). It is, however, satisfactory to think that the love of Petrarch was not platonic. The happiness which he prayed to possess but once and for a moment was surely not of the mind 4), and something so
1) The sonnet had before awakened the suspicions of Mr. Ho.
race Walpole. See his letter to Wharton in 1763. 2 «Par ce petit manège, cette alternative de faveurs et de ri
gneurs bien ménagée, une femme tendre et sage amuse, pen. dant vingt et un ans, le plus grand poëte de son siècle, sans faire la moindre brèche à son honneur., Mém. pour la Vie de Pétrarque, Préface aux François. The Italian editor of the London edition of Petrarch, who has translated Lord Woodhouselee, renders the “ femme tendre et sage, » «raffinata civetta. » Riflessioni intorno a madonna Laura, p.
234, vol.iii. ed. 1811. 3) In a dialogue with St. Augustiu, Petrarch has described Laura
as having a body exhausted with repeated ptubs. The old editors read and printed perturbationibus; but Mr. Capperonier, librarian to the French king in 1762, who saw the MS. in the Paris library, made an attestation that "on lit et qu'on dloit lire, pertubus exhaustum. , De Sade joined the names of Messrs. Boudot and Bejot with Mr. Capperonier, and in the whole discussion on this ptubs, showed himself a downright literary rogue. See Riflessioni, etc. p. 267. Thomas Aquinas is called in to settle whether Petrarch's mistress was
a chaste maid or a continent wife,
Deil' imagine tua, se mille volte
Sonetto 59, quando giunse a Simon l'alto concetto.
Le Rime, etc. par. i. pag. 189, edit. Ven. 1756.
very real as a marriage project, with one who has been idly called a shadowy nymph, may be, perhaps, detected in at least six places of his own soumets 1). The love of Petrarch was neither platonic nor poetical; and if in one passage of his works he calls it aniore veementeissino ma uni. co ed onesto,» he confesses, in a letter to a friend, that it was guilty and perverse, that it absorbed him quite and mastered his heart ?).
In this case, however, he was perhaps alarmed for the culpability of his wishes; for the Abbé de Sade himself, who certainly would not have been scrupulously delicate it he could have proved his descent from Petrarch as well as Laura, is forced into a stout defence of his virtuous grandmother. As fas as relates to the poet, we have no security for the innocence, except perhaps in the constancy of his pursuit. He assures us in his epistle to posterity. that, when arrived at his fortieth year, he not only had in horror, but had lost all recol. lection and image of any « irregularity 3). n But the birth of his natural daughter cannot be assigned earlier than his thirty-ninth year: and either the memory or the morality of the poet must have failed him, when he forgot or was guilty of this slip +). The weakest argument for the purity of this love has been drawn from the permanence of effects, which survived the object of his passion. The reflection of Mr. de la Bastie, that virtue alone is capable of making impressions which death cannot efface, is one of those which every body applauds, and every body finds not to be true, the moment he examines his own breast or the records of human feeling 5). Such apophthegms 1) See Riflessioni, etc. p. 291.
Quella rea e perversa passione che solo tatto mi ocenpava •
ai regnava nel cuore. » 3) Ation dishonesta are his words. *) "A questa confessione cosi sincera diede forse occasione 103
nnova caduta ch' ei fece. » Tiraboschi, Storia, etc. tom. v.
lib. iv. par. ii. pag. 492. 5) "Il n'y a que la verta seule qui soit capable de faire des in
pressions que la mori n'efface pas. » M. de Bimard, Baros de
can do nothing for Petrarch or for the cause of morality, except with the very weak and the very young. He that has made even a little progress beyond ignorance and pupilage cannot be edified w ith any thing but truth. What is called vindi. cating the honour of an individual or a nation, is the most futile, tedious, and uninstructive of all writing; although it will always meet with more applause than that sober criticism, which is attri. buted to the malicious desire of reducing a great man to the common standard of humanity. It is, after all, not unlikely, that our historian was right in retaining his favourite hypothetic salvo, which secures the author, although it scarcely saves the honour of the still unknown mistress of Petrarch?).
16. They keep his dust in Arqua, where he died.
Stanza xxxi. line 1. Petrarch retired to Arqnà immediately on his return from the unsuccessful attempt to visit Urban V. at Rome, in the year 1370, and, with the exception of his celebrated visit to Venice in company with Francesco Novello da Carrara, he appears to have passed the four last years of his life between that charming solitude and Padua. For four months previous to his death he was in a state of continual languor, and in the morning of July the 19th, in the year 1374, was found dead in his library chair with his head resting
The chair is still shown amongst the precious relics of Arquà, which, from the un. interrupted veneration that has been attached to every thing, relative to this great man from the moment of his death to the present hour, have,
upon a book.
la Basti., in the Mémoires de l'Acalemie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres for 1740 and 1751. See also Riflessioze, etc.
1) “And if the virtue or prudence of Laura was inexorable, he
enjoyed, and might boast of enjoying, the nymph of poetry.” Decline and Fall, cap. Ixx. p. 327. vol. xii. oct. Perhaps the if is here meant for although.
it may be hoped, a better chance of authenticity than the Shakspearian memorials of Stratford ripou Avon.
Arquà (for the last syllable is accented in pronunciation, although the analogy of the English langiage has been observed in the verse) is tuelve miles from Padua, and about three miles on the right of the higli road to Rovigo, in the bosom of the Enganean hills. After a walk of twenty minutes across a flat well - wooded meadow, you come to a little blue lake, clear, but fathomless, and to the foot of a succession of acclivities and hills, clothed with vineyards and orchards, rich with fir and pomegranate trees, and every sunny fruit shrub. From the banks of the lake the road winds into the hills, and the church of Arqua is soon seen between a cleft wliere two ridges slope towards each other, and nearly enclose the village. The houses are scattered at intervals on the steep sides of these summits; aud that of the poet is on the edge of a little knoll overlooking two descents, and commanding a view not only of the glowing gardens in the dales immediately beneath, but of the wide plains, above whose low woods of mul. berry and willow, thickened into a dark mass by festoons of vines, tall single cypresses, and the spires of towns, are seen in the distance, which stretches to the mouths of the Po and the shores of the Adriatic. The climate of these volcanic hills is warmer, and the vintage begiys a week sooner than in the plains of Padua. Petrarch is laid, for he cannot be said to be buried, in a sarcophagus of red marble, raised on four pilasters on an elevated base, and preserved from an association with meaner tombs. 'It stands conspicuously alone, but will be soon overshadowed by four lately planted laurels. Petrarch's Fountain, for here every thing is Petrarch's, springs and expands itself beneath an artificial arch, a little below ihe church, and abouids plentifully, in the driest sea. son, with that soft water which was the ancient wealth of the Euganean bills. It would be more attractive, were it not, in some seasons, beset with hornets and wasps. No other coincidence