Alessandro Manzoni (17851873). I Promessi Sposi. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
IT has already occurred to us more than once to make mention of the war which was at this time raging, for the succession to the states of the Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga, the second of that name; but it has always occurred in a moment of great haste, so that we have never been able to give more than a cursory hint of it. Now, however, for the due understanding of our narrative, a more particular notice of it is required. They are matters which any one who knows anything of history must be acquainted with; but as, from a just estimate of ourselves, we must suppose that this work can be read by none but the ignorant, it will not be amiss that we should here relate as much as will suffice to give some idea of them to those who need it.
We have said that on the death of this duke, the first in the line of succession, Carlo Gonzaga, head of a younger branch now established in France, where he possessed the duchies of Nevers and Rhetel, had entered upon the possession of Mantua, and we may now add, of Monferrat: for our haste made us leave this name on the point of the pen. The Spanish minister, who was resolved at any compromise (we have said this too) to exclude the new prince from these two fiefs, and who, to exclude him, wanted some pretext (because wars made without any pretext would be unjust), had declared himself the upholder of the claims which another Gonzaga Ferrante, prince of the Guastalla, pretended to have upon Mantua; and Carlo Emanuele I., duke of Savoy, and Margherita Gonzaga, duchess dowager of Lorraine, upon Monferrat. Don Gonzalo, who was of the family of the great commander, and bore his name, who had already made war in Flanders, and was extremely anxious to bring one into Italy, was perhaps the person who made most stir that this might be undertaken: and in the mean while, interpreting the intentions, and anticipating the orders of the above-named minister, he concluded a treaty with the Duke of Savory for the invasion and partition of Monferrat; and afterwards readily obtained a ratification of it from the Count Duke, by persuading him that the acquisition of Casale would be very easy, which was the most strongly defended point of the portion assigned to the King of Spain. He protested, however, in the kings name, against any intention of occupying the country further than under the name of a deposit, until the sentence of the Emperor should be declared; who, partly from the influence of others, partly from private motives of his own, had, in the mean while, denied the investiture to the new duke, and intimated to him that he should give up to him in sequestration the controverted states: afterwards, having heard the different sides, he would restore them to him who had the best claim. To these conditions the Duke of Nevers would not consent.
He had, however, friends of some eminence in the Cardinal de Richelieu, the Venetian noblemen, and the Pope. But the first of these, at that time engaged in the siege of La Rochelle, and in a war with England, and thwarted by the party of the queen-mother, Maria de Medici, who, for certain reasons of her own, was opposed to the house of Nevers, could give nothing but hopes. The Venetians would not stir, nor even declare themselves in his favour, unless a French army were first brought into Italy; and while secretly aiding the duke as they best could, they contented themselves with putting off the Court of Madrid and the Governor of Milan with protests, propositions, and peaceable or threatening admonitions, according to circumstances. Urban VIII. recommended Nevers to his friends, interceded in his favour with his enemies, and designed projects of accommodation; but would not hear a word of sending men into the field.
By this means the two confederates for offensive measures were enabled the more securely to begin their concerted operations. Carlo Emanuele invaded Monferrat from his side; Don Gonzalo willingly laid siege to Casale, but did not find in the undertaking all the satisfaction he had promised himself: for it must not be imagined that war is a rose without a thorn. The Court did not provide him with nearly all the means he demanded; his ally, on the contrary, assisted him too much: that is to say, after having taken his own portion, he went on to take that which was assigned to the King of Spain. Don Gonzalo was enraged beyond expression; but fearing that, if he made any noise about it, this duke, as active in intrigues and fickle in treaty, as bold and valiant in arms, would revolt to the French, he was obliged to shut his eyes to it, gnaw the bit, and put on a satisfied air. The siege, besides, went on badly, being protracted to a great length, and sometimes thrown back, owing to the steady, cautious, and resolute behaviour of the besieged, the lack of sufficient numbers on the part of the besiegers, and, according to the report of some historian, the many false steps taken by Don Gonzalo; on which point we leave truth to choose her own side, being inclined even, were it really so, to consider it a very happy circumstance, if it were the cause that in this enterprise there were some fewer than usual slain, beheaded, or wounded; and, c&æteris paribus, rather fewer tiles injured in Casale. In the midst of these perplexities, the news of the sedition at Milan arrived, to the scene of which he repaired in person.
Here, in the report which was given him, mention was also made of the rebellious and clamorous flight of Renzo, and of the real or supposed doings which had been the occasion of his arrest; and they could also inform him that this person had taken refuge in the territory of Bergamo. This circumstance arrested Don Gonzalos attention. He had been informed from another quarter, that great interest had been felt at Venice in the insurrection at Milan; that they had supposed he would be obliged on this account to abandon the siege of Casale; and that they imagined he was reduced to great despondency and perplexity about it: the more so, as shortly after this event, the tidings had arrived, so much desired by these noblemen, and dreaded by himself, of the surrender of La Rochelle. Feeling considerably annoyed, both as a man and a politician, that they should entertain such an opinion of his proceedings, he sought every opportunity of undeceiving them, and persuading them, by induction, that he had lost none of his former boldness; for to say, explicitly, I have no fear, is just to say nothing. One good plan is to show displeasure, to complain, and to expostulate: accordingly, the Venetian ambassador having waited upon him to pay his respects, and at the same time to read in his countenance and behaviour how he felt within, Don Gonzalo, after having spoken lightly of the tumult, like a man who had already provided a remedy for everything, made those complaints about Renzo which the reader already knows; as he is also acquainted with what resulted from them in consequence. From that time, he took no further interest in an affair of so little importance, which, as far as he was concerned, was terminated; and when, a long time afterwards, the reply came to him at the camp at Casale, whither he had returned, and where he had very different things to occupy his mind, he raised and threw back his head, like a silkworm searching for a leaf; reflected for a moment, to recall more clearly to his memory a fact of which he only retained a shadowy idea; remembered the circumstance, had a vague and momentary recollection of the person; passed on to something else, and thought no more about it.
But Renzo, who, from the little which he had darkly comprehended, was far from supposing so benevolent an indifference, had, for a time, no other thought, or rather, to speak more correctly, no other care, than to keep himself concealed. It may be imagined whether he did not ardently long to send news of himself to the women, and receive some from them in exchange; but there were two great difficulties in the way. One was, that he also would have been forced to trust to an amanuensis, for the poor fellow knew not how to write, nor even read, in the broad sense of the word; and if, when asked the question, as the reader may perhaps remember, by the Doctor Azzecca-Garbugli, he replied in the affirmative, it was not, certainly, a boast, a mere bravado, as they say; it was the truth, that he could manage to read print, when he could take his time over it: writing, however, was a different thing. He would be obliged, then, to make a third party the depositary of his affairs, and of a secret so jealously guarded: and it was not easy in those times to find a man who could use his pen, and in whom confidence could be placed, particularly in a country where he had no old acquaintances. The other difficulty was to find a bearer; a man who was going just to the place he wanted, who would take charge of the letter, and really recollect to deliver it; all these, too, qualifications rather difficult to be met with in one individual.
At length, by dint of searching and sounding, he found somebody to write for him; but ignorant where the women were, or whether they were still at Monza, he judged it better to enclose the letter directed to Agnese under cover to Father Cristoforo, with a line or two also for him. The writer undertook the charge, moreover, of forwarding the packet, and delivered it to one who would pass not far from Pescarenico; this person left it with many strict charges, at an inn on the road, at the nearest point to the monastery; and, as it was directed to a convent, it reached this destination; but what became of it afterwards was never known. Renzo, receiving no reply, sent off a second letter, nearly like the first, which he enclosed in another to an acquaintance or distant relation of his at Lecco. He sought for another bearer, and found one; and this time the letter reached the person to whom it was addressed. Agnese posted off to Maggianico, had it read and interpreted to her by her cousin Alessio; concerted with him a reply, which he put down in writing for her, and found means of sending it to Antonio Rivolta in his present place of abode: all this, however, not quite so expeditiously as we have recounted it. Renzo received the reply, and in time sent an answer to it. In short, a correspondence was set on foot between the two parties, neither frequent nor regular, but still kept up by starts, and at intervals.
To form some idea, however, of this correspondence, it is necessary to know a little how such things went on in those daysindeed, how they go on now; for in this particular, I believe, there is little or no variation.
The peasant who knows not how to write, and finds himself reduced to the necessity of communicating his ideas to the absent, has recourse to one who understands the art, taking him, as far as he can, from among those of his own rank,for, with others, he is either shamefaced, or afraid to trust them; he informs them, with more or less order and perspicuity, of past events; and in the same manner, describes to him the thoughts he is to express. The man of letters understands part, misunderstands part, gives a little advice, proposes some variation, says, Leave it to me; then he takes the pen, transfers the idea he has received, as he best can, from speaking to writing, corrects it his own way, improves it, puts in flourishes, abbreviates, or even omits, according as he deems most suitable for his subject; for so it is, and there is no help for it, he who knows more than his neighbours will not be a passive instrument in their hands; and when he interferes in other peoples affairs, he will force them to do things his own way. In addition to all this, it is not always quite a matter of course that the above-named literate himself expresses all that he intended; nay, sometimes it happens just the reverse, as indeed, it does even to us who write for the press. When the letter thus completed reaches the hands of the correspondent, who is equally unpractised in his a, b, c, he takes it to another learned genius of that tribe, who reads and expounds it to him. Questions arise on the matter of understanding it, because the person interested, presuming upon his acquaintance with the antecedent circumstances, asserts that certain words mean such and such a thing; the reader, resting upon his greater experience in the art of composition, affirms that they mean another. At last, the one who does not know, is obliged to put himself into the hands of the one who does, and trusts to him the task of writing a reply; which, executed like the former example, is liable to a similar style of interpretation. If, in addition, the subject of the correspondence be a rather delicate topic, if secret matters be treated of in it, which it is desirable should not be understood by a third party, in case the letter should go astray; if with this view there be a positive intention of not expressing things quite clearly, then, however, short a time the correspondence is kept up, the parties invariably finish by understanding each other as well as the two schoolmen who had disputed for four hours upon abstract mutations; not to take our simile from living beings, lest we expose ourselves to have our ears boxed.
Now, the case of our two correspondents was exactly what we have described. The first letter written in Renzos name, contained many subjects. Primarily, besides an account of the flight, by far more concise, but, at the same time, more confused, than that which we have given, was a relation of his actual circumstances, from which both Agnese and her interpreter were very far from deriving any lucid or tolerably correct idea. Then he spoke of secret intelligence, change of name, his being in safety, but still requiring concealment; things in themselves not very familiar to their understandings, and related in the letter rather enigmatically. Then followed warm and impassioned inquiries about Lucias situation, with dark and mournful hints of the rumours which had reached even his ears. There were, finally, uncertain and distant hopes and plans in reference to the future; and for the present promises and entreaties to keep their plighted faith, not to lose patience or courage, and to wait for better days.
Some time passed away, and Agnese found a trusty messenger, to convey an answer to Renzo, with the fifty scudi assigned to him by Lucia. At the sight of so much gold, he knew not what to think; and, with a mind agitated by wonder and suspense, which left no room for gratification, he set off in search of his amanuensis, to make him interpret the letter, and find the key to so strange a mystery.
Agneses scribe, after lamenting, in the letter, the want of perspicuity in Renzos epistle, went on to describe, in a way at least quite as much to be lamented, the tremendous history of that person (so he expressed himself); and here he accounted for the fifty scudi; then he went on to speak of the vow, employing much circumlocution in the expression of it, but adding, in more direct and explicit terms, the advice to set his heart at rest, and think no more about it.
Renzo very nearly quarrelled with the reader; he trembled, shuddered, became enraged with what he had understood, and with what he could not understand. Three or four times did he make him read over the melancholy writing, now comprehending better, now finding what had at first appeared clear, more and more incomprehensible. And, in this fervour of passion, he insisted upon his amanuensis immediately taking pen in hand, and writing a reply. After the strongest expressions imaginable of pity and horror at Lucias circumstancesWrite, pursued he, as he dictated to his secretary, that I wont set my heart at rest, and that I never will; and that this is not advice to be giving to a lad like me; and that I wont touch the money; that Ill put it by, and keep it for the young girls dowry; that she already belongs to me; and that I know nothing about a vow; and that I have often heard say that the Madonna interests herself to help the afflicted, and obtains favours for them; but that she encourages them to despise and break their word, I never heard; and that this vow cant hold good; and that with this money we have enough to keep house here; and that I am somewhat in difficulties now, its only a storm which will quickly pass over; and other similar things. Agnese received this letter also, and replied to it; and the correspondence continued in the manner we have described.
Lucia felt greatly relieved when her mother had contrived, by some means or other, to let her know that Renzo was alive, safe, and acquainted with her vow, and desired nothing more than that he should forget her; or, to express it more exactly, that he should try to forget her. She, on her part, made a similar resolution a hundred times a day with respect to him; and employed, too, every means she could think of to put it into effect. She continued to work indefatigably with her needle, trying to apply her whole mind to it; and when Renzos image presented itself to her view, would begin to repeat or chant some prayers to herself. But that image, just as if it were actuated by pure malice, did not generally come so openly; it introduced itself stealthily behind others, so that the mind might not be aware of having harboured it, till after it had been there for some time. Lucias thoughts were often with her mother; how should it have been otherwise? and the ideal Renzo would gently creep in as a third party, as the real person had so often done. So, with everybody, in every place, in every remembrance of the past, he never failed to introduce himself. And if the poor girl allowed herself sometimes to penetrate in fancy into the obscurity of the future, there, too, he would appear, if it were only to say: I, ten to one, shall not be there. However, if not to think of him at all were a hopeless undertaking, yet Lucia succeeded up to a certain point, in thinking less about him, and less intensely than her heart would have wished. She would even have succeeded better, had she been alone in desiring to do so. But there was Donna Prassede, who, bent on her part, upon banishing the youth from her thoughts, had found no better expedient than constantly talking about him. Well, she would say, have you given up thinking of him?
Donna Prassede, however, not to be appeased by so evasive an answer, replied that there must be deeds, not words; and enlarged upon the usual practices of young girls, who, said she, when they have set their hearts upon a dissolute fellow, (and it is just to such they have a leaning), wont consent to be separated from them. An honest and rational contract to a worthy man, a well-tried character, which, by some accident, happens to be frustrated,they are quickly resigned; but let it be a villain, and it is an incurable wound. And then she commenced a panegyric upon the poor absentee, the rascal who had come to Milan to plunder the town, and massacre the inhabitants; and tried to make Lucia confess all the knavish tricks he had played in his own country.
Lucia, with a voice tremulous with shame, sorrow, and such indignation as could find place in her gentle breast and humble condition affirmed and testified that the poor fellow had done nothing in his country to give occasion for anything but good to be said of him; she wished, she said, that someone were present from his neighbourhood, that the lady might hear his testimony. Even on his adventures at Milan, the particulars of which she could not learn, she defended him merely from the knowledge she had had of him and his behaviour, from his very childhood. She defended him, or intended to defend him, from the simple duty of charity, from her love of truth, and, to use just the expression by which she described her feelings to herself, as her neighbour. But Donna Prassede drew fresh arguments from these apologies, to convince Lucia that she had quite lost her heart to this man. And, to say the truth, in these moments it is difficult to say how the matter stood. The disgraceful picture the old lady drew of the poor youth, revived, from opposition, more vividly and distinctly than ever in the mind of the young girl, the idea which long habit had established there; the recollections she had stifled by force, returned in crowds upon her; aversion and contempt recalled all her old motives of esteem and sympathy, and blind and violent hatred only excited stronger feelings of pity. With these feelings, who can say how much there might or might not be of another affection which follows upon them, and introduces itself so easily into the mind? Let it be imagined what it would do in one whence it was attempted to eject it by force. However it may be, the conversation, on Lucias side, was never carried to any great length, for words were very soon resolved into tears.
Had Donna Prassede been induced to treat her in this way from some inveterate hatred towards her, these tears might, perhaps, have vanquished and silenced her; but as she spoke with the intention of doing good, she went on without allowing herself to be moved by them, as groans and imploring cries may arrest the weapons of an enemy, but not the instrument of the surgeon. Having, however, discharged her duty for that time, she would turn from reproaches and denunciations to exhortation and advice, sweetened also by a little praise; thus designing to temper the bitter with the sweet, the better to obtain her purpose, by working upon the heart under every state of feeling. These quarrels, however, (which had always nearly the same beginning, middle, and end), left no resentment, properly speaking, in the good Lucias heart against the harsh sermonizer, who, after all, treated her, in general, very kindly; and even in this instance, evinced a good intention. Yet they left her in such agitation, with such a tumult of thoughts and affections, that it required no little time, and much effort, to regain her former degree of calmness.
It was well for her that she was not the only one to whom Donna Prassede had to do good; for, by this means, these disputes could not occur so frequently. Besides the rest of the family, all of whom were persons more or less needing amendment and guidancebesides all the other occasions which offered themselves to her, or she contrived to find, of extending the same kind office, of her own free will, to many to whom she was under no obligations; she had also five daughters, none of whom were at home, but who gave her much more to think about than if they had been. Three of these were nuns, two were married: hence Donna Prassede naturally found herself with three monasteries and two houses to superintend; a vast and complicated undertaking, and the more arduous, because two husbands, backed by fathers, mothers, and brothers; three abbesses, supported by other dignitaries, and by many nuns, would not accept her superintendence. It was a complete warfare, alias five warfares, concealed, and even courteous, up to a certain point, but ever active, ever vigilant. There was in every one of these places a continued watchfulness to avoid her solicitude, to close the door against her counsels, to elude her inquiries, and to keep her in the dark, as far as possible, on every undertaking. We do not mention the resistance, the difficulties she encountered in the management of other still more extraneous affairs: it is well known that one must generally do good to men by force. The place where her zeal could best exercise itself, and have full play, was in her own house: here everybody was subject in everything, and for everything, to her authority, saving Don Ferrante, with whom things went on in a manner entirely peculiar.
A man of studious turn, he neither loved to command nor obey. In all household matters, his wife was the mistress, with his free consent; but he would not submit to be her slave. And if, when requested, he occasionally lent her the assistance of his pen, it was because it suited his taste; and after all, he knew how to say no, when he was not convinced of what she wished him to write. Use your own sense, he would say, in such cases; do it yourself, since it seems so clear to you. Donna Prassede, after vainly endeavouring for some time to induce him to recant, and do what she wanted, would be obliged to content herself with murmuring frequently against him, with calling him one who hated trouble, a man who would have his own way, and a scholar: a title which, though pronounced with contempt, was generally mixed with a little complacency.
Don Ferrante passed many hours in his study, where he had a considerable collection of books, scarcely less than three hundred volumes: all of them choice works, and the most highly esteemed on their numerous several subjects, in each of which he was more or less versed. In astrology, he was deservedly considered as more than a dilettante; for he not only possessed the generical notions and common vocabulary of influences, aspects, and conjunctions; but he knew how to talk very aptly, and as it were ex cathedra, of the twelve houses of the heavens, of the great circles, of lucid and obscure degrees, of exultation and dejection, of transitions and revolutionsin short, of the most assured and most recondite principles of the science. And it was for perhaps twenty years that he maintained, in long and frequent disputes, the system of Cardano against another learned man who was staunchly attached to that of Alcabizio, from mere obstinacy, as Don Ferrante said; who, readily acknowledging the superiority of the ancients, could not, however, endure that unwillingness to yield to the moderns, even when they evidently have reason on their side. He was also more than indifferently acquainted with the history of the science; he could, on an occasion, quote the most celebrated predictions which had been verified, and reason clearly and learnedly on other celebrated predictions which had failed, showing that the fault was not in the science, but in those who knew not how to apply it.
He had learnt as much of ancient philosophy as might have sufficed him, but still went on acquiring more from the study of Diogenes Laertius. As, however, these systems, how beautiful soever they may be, cannot all be held at once; and as, to be a philosopher, it is necessary to choose an author, so Don Ferrante had chosen Aristotle, who, he used to say, was neither ancient nor modern; he was the philosopher, and nothing more. He possessed also various works of the wisest and most ingenious disciples of that school among the moderns: those of its impugners he would never read, not to throw away time, as he said; nor buy, not to throw away money. Surely, by way of exception, did he find room in his library for those celebrated two-and-twenty volumes De Subtilitate, and for some other antiperipatetic work of Cardanos, in consideration of his value in astrology. He said, that he who could write the treatise De Restitutione temporum et motuum clestium, and the book Duodecim geniturarum, deserved to be listened to even when he erred; that the great defect of this man was, that he had too much talent; and that no one could conceive what he might have arrived at, even in philosophy, had he kept himself in the right way. In short, although, in the judgment of the learned, Don Ferrante passed for a consummate peripatetic, yet he did not deem that he knew enough about it himself; and more than once he was obliged to confess, with great modesty, that essence, universals, the soul of the world, and the nature of things, were not so very clear as might be imagined.
He had made a recreation rather than a study of natural philosophy; the very works of Aristotle on this subject he had rather read than studied: yet, with this slight perusal, with the notices incidentally gathered from treatises on general philosophy, with a few cursory glances at the Magia naturale of Porta, at the three histories, lapidum, animalium, plantarum, of Cardano, at the treatise on herbs, plants, and animals, by Albert Magnus, and a few other works of less note, he could entertain a party of learned men, for a while, with dissertations on the most wonderful virtues and most remarkable curiosities of many medicinal herbs; he could minutely describe the forms and habits of sirens and the solitary phoenix; and explain how the salamander exists in the fire without burning; how the remora, that diminutive fish, has strength and ability completely to arrest a ship of any size in the high seas; how drops of dew become pearls in the shell; how the chameleon feeds on air; how ice, by being gradually hardened, is formed into crystal, in the course of time; with many other of the most wonderful secrets of nature.
Into those of magic and witchcraft he had penetrated still more deeply, as it was a science, says our anonymous author, much more necessary and more in vogue in those days, in which the facts were of far higher importance, and it was more within reach to verify them. It is unnecessary to say that he had no other object in view in such a study, than to inform himself, and to become acquainted with the very worst arts of the sorcerers, in order that he might guard against them and defend himself. And, by the guidance principally of the great Martino Delrio (a leader of the science), he was capable of discoursing ex professo upon the fascination of love, the fascination of sleep, the fascination of hatred, and the infinite varieties of these three principal genuses of enchantment, which are only too often, again says our anonymous author, beheld in practice at the present day, attended by such lamentable effects.
Not less vast and profound was his knowledge of history, particularly universal history, in which his authors were Tarcagnota, Dolce, Bugatti, Campana, and Guazzo; in short, all the most highly esteemed.
But what is history, said Don Ferrante, frequently, without politics?A guide who walks on and on, with no one following to learn the road, and who consequently throws away his steps; as politics without history is one who walks without a guide. There was therefore a place assigned to statistics on his shelves; where, among many of humbler rank and less renown, appeared, in all their glory, Bedino, Cavalcanti, Sansovino, Paruta, and Boccalini. There were two books, however, which Don Ferrante infinitely preferred above all others on this subject; two which, up to a certain time, he used to call the first, without ever being able to decide to which of the two this rank should exclusively belong: one was the Principe and Discorsi of the celebrated Florentine secretary; a great rascal, certainly, said Don Ferrante, but profound: the other, the Ragion di Stato of the no less celebrated Giovanni Botero; an honest man, certainly, said he again, but shrewd. Shortly after, however, just at the period which our story embraces, a work came to light which terminated the question of pre-eminence, by surpassing the works of even these two Matadores, said Don Ferrante; a book in which was enclosed and condensed every trick of the system, that it might be known, and every virtue, that it might be practised; a book of small dimensions, but all of gold; in one word, the Statista Regnante of Don Valeriano Castiglione, that most celebrated man, of whom it might be said that the greatest scholars rivalled each other in sounding his praises, and the greatest personages in trying to rob him of them; that man, whom Pope Urban VIII. honoured, as is well known, with magnificent encomiums; whom the Cardinal Borghese and the Viceroy of Naples, Don Pietro di Toledo, entreated to relate,one, the doings of Pope Paul V., the other, the wars of his Catholic Majesty in Italy, and both in vain; that man, whom Louis XIII. King of France, at the suggestion of Cardinal de Richelieu, nominated his historiographer; on whom Duke Carlo Emanuele, of Savoy, conferred the same office; in praise of whom, not to mention other lofty testimonials, the Duchess Cristina, daughter of the most Christian King Henry IV., could, in a diploma, among many other titles, enumerate the certainty of the reputation he is obtaining in Italy of being the first writer of our times.
But if, in all the above-mentioned sciences, Don Ferrante might be considered a learned man, one there was in which he merited and enjoyed the title of Professorthe science of chivalry. Not only did he argue on it in a really masterly manner, but, frequently requested to interfere in affairs of honour, always gave some decision. He had in his library, and one may say, indeed, in his head, the works of the most renowned writers on this subject: Paris del Pozzo, Fausto da Longiano, Urrea, Muzio, Romei, Albergato, the first and second Forno of Torquato Tasso, of whose other works, Jerusalem Delivered, as well as Jerusalem Taken, he had ever in readiness, and could quote from memory, on occasion, all the passages which might serve as a text on the subject of chivalry. The author, however, of all authors, in his estimation, was our celebrated Francesco Birago, with whom he was more than once associated in giving judgment on cases of honour; and who, on his side, spoke of Don Ferrante in terms of particular esteem. And from the time that the Discorsi Cavallereschi of this renowned writer made their appearance, he predicted, without hesitation, that this work would destroy the authority of Olevano, and would remain, together with its other noble sisters, as a code of primary authority among posterity: and every one may see, says our anonymous author, how this prediction has been verified.
From this he passes on to the study of belles lettres; but we begin to doubt whether the reader has really any great wish to go forward with us in this review, and even to fear that we may already have won the title of servile copyist for ourselves, and that of a bore, to be shared with the anonymous author, for having followed him out so simply, even thus far, into a subject foreign to the principal narrative, and in which, probably, he was only so diffuse, for the purpose of parading erudition, and showing that he was not behind his age. However, leaving written what is written, that we may not lose our labour, we will omit the rest to resume the thread of our story: the more willingly, as we have a long period to traverse without meeting with any of our characters, and a longer still, before finding those in whose success the reader will be most interested, if anything in the whole story has interested him at all.
Until the autumn of the following year, 1629, they all remained, some willingly, some by force, almost in the state in which we left them, nothing happening to any one, and no one doing anything worthy of being recorded. The autumn at length approached, in which Agnese and Lucia had counted upon meeting again; but a great public event frustrated that expectation: and this certainly was one of its most trifling effects. Other great events followed, which, however, made no material change in the destinies of our characters. At length, new circumstances, more general, more influential, and more extensive, reached even to them,even to the lowest of them, according to the worlds scale. It was like a vast, sweeping, and irresistible hurricane, which, uprooting trees, tearing off roots, levelling battlements, and scattering their fragments in every direction, stirs up the straws hidden in the grass, pries into every corner for the light and withered leaves, which a gentler breeze would only have lodged there more securely, and bears them off in its headlong course of fury.
Now, that the private events which yet remain for us to relate may be rendered intelligible, it will be absolutely necessary for us, even here, to promise some kind of account of these public ones, and thus make a still further digression.