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comic powers than Jonson was indeed his contemporary, and, as he perhaps fancied, his rival; but, for some reason, Shakspeare had never yet drawn his story from the domestic life of his countrymen. Jonson avoided the common defect of the Italian and Spanish theatre, the sacrifice of all other dramatic objects to one only, a rapid and amusing succession of incidents: his plot is slight and of no great complexity; but his excellence is to be found in the variety of his characters, and in their individuality very clearly defined with little extravagance.

have no hesitation in replying that we could produce at least forty comedies, before the age of Molière, superior to

the best of those he has mentioned, and perhaps three times that number as good as the worst.

Italian writers.

Tasso.

CHAPTER VII.

a

1. I AM not aware that we can make any great distinction. in the character of the Italian writers of this and the preceding period, though they are more numerous in the present. Some of these have been already mentioned on account of their subjects. In point of style, to which we now chiefly confine ourselves, Casa Casa. is esteemed among the best. The Galateo is certainly diffuse, but not so languid as some contemporary works; nor do we find in it, I think, so many of the inversions which are common blemishes in the writings of this age. The prose of Tasso is placed by Corniani almost on a level with his poetry for beauty of "We find in it," he says, " dignity, rhythm, elegance, and purity without affectation, and perspicuity without vulgarity. He is never trifling or verbose, like his contemporaries of that century; but endeavours to fill every part of his discourses with meaning."b These praises may be just, but there is a tediousness in the moral essays of Tasso, which, like many other productions of that class, assert what the reader has never seen denied, and distinguish what he is in no danger of confounding.

diction.

HISTORY OF POLITE LITERATURE IN PROSE,
FROM 1550 TO 1600.

SECT. I.

Style of best Italian Writers — Those of France - England.

Corniani, v. 174. Parini called the Galateo, Capo d'opera di nostra lingua. b Corniani, vi. 240.

Character

of Italian

2. Few Italian writers, it is said by the editors of the voluminous Milan collection, have united equally Firenzuola. with Firenzuola the most simple naïveté to a delicate sweetness, that diffuses itself over the prose. heart of the reader. His dialogue on the Beauty of Women is reckoned one of the best of his works. It is diffuse, but seems to deserve the praise bestowed upon its language. His translation of the Golden Ass of Apuleius is read with more pleasure than the original. The usual style of Italian prose in this, accounted by some its best age, is elaborate, ornate, yet not to excess, with a rhythmical structure apparently much studied, very rhetorical, and for the most part trivial, as we should now think, in its matter. The style of Machiavel, to which, perhaps, the reader's attention was not sufficiently called while we were concerned with his political philosophy, is eminent for simplicity, strength, and clearness. It would not be too much to place him at the head of the prose writers of Italy. But very few had the good taste to emulate so admirable a model. 66 They were apt to presume," says Corniani, "that the spirit of good writing consisted in the artificial employment of rhetorical figures. They hoped to fertilise a soil barren of argument by such resources. They believed that they should become eloquent by accumulating words upon words, and phrases upon phrases, hunting on every side for metaphors, and exaggerating the most trifling theme by frigid hyperboles.

" C

letter

writers.

3. A treatise on Painting, by Raffaelle Borghino, published in 1584, called Il Riposo, is highly praised Italian for its style by the Milan editors; but it is difficult for a foreigner to judge so correctly of these delicacies of language, as he may of the general merits of composition. They took infinite pains with their letters, great numbers of which have been collected. Those of Annibal Caro are among the best known;d but Pietro Aretino,

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mez

dà de le signorie; ognuno, a chi si scrive,
le vuole; e non pure i grandi, ma
zani e i plebei quasi aspirano a questi
gran nomi, e si tengono anco per affronto,
se non gli hanno, e d' errore son notati
quelli, che non gli danno. Cosa, che a
me pare stranissima e stomachosa, che
habbiamo a parlar con uno, come se

Paolo Manuzio, and Bonfadio are also celebrated for their style. The appearance of labour and affectation is still less pleasing in epistolary correspondence than in writings more evidently designed for the public eye; and there will be found abundance of it in these Italian writers, especially in addressing their superiors. Cicero was a model perpetually before their eyes, and whose faults they did not perceive. Yet perhaps the Italian writings of this period, with their flowing grace, are more agreeable than the sententious antitheses of the Spaniards. Both are artificial, but the efforts of the one are bestowed on diction and cadence, those of the other display a constant strain to be emphatic and profound. What Cicero was to Italy, Seneca became to Spain.

4. An exception to the general character of diffuseness is found in the well-known translation of Tacitus by Davanzati. This, it has often been said, he has accomplished in fewer words than the original. No one, for the most part, inquires into the truth of what is confidently said, even where it is obviously obviously impossible. But whoever knows the Latin and Italian languages must know that a translation of Tacitus into Italian cannot be made in fewer words. It will be found, as might be expected, that Davanzati has succeeded by leaving out as much as was required to compensate the difference that articles and auxiliary verbs made against him. His translation is also censured by Corniani, as full of obsolete terms and Florentine vulgarisms.

Davanzati's
Tacitus.

5. We can place under no better head than the present that lighter literature which, without taking the form of romance, endeavours to amuse the reader by fanciful invention and gay remark. The Italians have much of this; but it is beyond our province to enumerate productions of no great merit or renown. Jordano Bruno's celebrated Spaccio della Bestia Trionfante is one of this class. Another of Bruno's light pieces is entitled, La

Jordano Bruno.

fosse un altro, e tutta via in astratto, quasi con la idea di colui, con chi si parla, non con la persona sua propria. Pure l'abuso è gia fatto, ed è generale, &c., lib. i. p. 122 (edit. 1581). I have found the third person used as early as a letter of Paolo Manuzio to Castelvetro

in 1543; but where there was any intimacy with an equal rank, it is not much employed; nor is it always found in that age in letters to men of very high rank from their inferiors.

vi. 58.

Cabala del Cavallo Pegaseo, con l' Aggiunta de l'Asino Cillenico. This has more profaneness in it than the Spaccio della Bestia. The latter, as is well-known, was dedicated to Sir Philip Sidney; as was also another little piece, Gli Eroici Furori. In this he has a sonnet addressed to the English ladies; "Dell' Inghilterra o Vaghe Ninfe e Belle;" but ending, of course, with a compliment, somewhat at the expense of these beauties, to "l'unica Diana, Qual'è trà voi quel, che trà gl' astri il sole." It had been well for Bruno if he had kept himself under the protection of Diana. The "chaste beams of that watery moon were less scorching than the fires of the Inquisition.

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6. The French generally date the beginning of an easy and natural style in their own language from the publication of James Amyot's translation of Plutarch in 1559. Some earlier writers, however, have been mentioned in another place, and perhaps some might have been added. The French style of the sixteenth century is for the most part diffuse, endless in its periods, and consequently negligent of grammar; but it was even then lively and unaffected, especially in narration, the memoirs of that age being still read with pleasure. Amyot, according to some, knew Greek but indifferently, and was perhaps on that account a better model of his own language; but if he did not always render the meaning of Plutarch, he has made Plutarch's reputation, and that, in some measure, of those who have taken Plutarch for their guide. It is well known how popular, more perhaps than any other ancient, this historian and moralist has been in France; but it is through Amyot that he has been read. The style of his translator, abounding with the native idiom, and yet enriching the language, not at that time quite copious enough for its high vocation in literature, with many words which usage and authority have recognised, has always been regarded with admiration, and by some, in the prevalence of a less natural taste, with regret. It is in French prose what that of Marot is in poetry, and suggests, not an uncultivated simplicity, but the natural grace of a young person, secure of appearing to advantage, but not at bottom indifferent to doing so. This naïveté,

French writers. Amyot.

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