Page images
[ocr errors][merged small]

vailed on the republic of Florence to allow him an annual stipend, and devoted his leisure to the first Greek professor, who taught the language in the Western countries of Europe. The appearance of Leo might disgust the most eager disciple; he was clothed in the mantle of a philosopher, or a mendicant; his countenance was hideous; his face was overshadowed with black hair; his beard long and uncombed; his deportment rustic; his temper gloomy and inconstant; nor could he grace his discourse with the ornaments, or even the perspicuity of Latin elocution. But his mind was stored with a treasure of Greek learning; history and fable, philosophy and grammar, were alike at his command; and he read the poems of Homer in the schools of Florence. It was from his explanation that Boccace composed and transcribed a literal prose version of the Iliad and Odyssey, which satisfied the thirst of his friend Petrarch, and which perhaps, in the succeeding century, was clandestinely used by Laurentius Valla, the Latin interpreter. It was from his narratives that the same Boccace collected the materials for his treatise on the genealogy of the heathen gods; a work, in that age, of stupendous erudition, and which he ostentatiously sprinkled with Greek characters and passages, to excite the wonder and applause of his more ignorant readers". The first steps of learning * Boccace indulges an honest vanity : Ostentationis causa Graeca carmina adscripsi. ... jure utor meo; meum est hoc decus mea gloria scilicet inter Etruscos Græcis uti carminibus. Nonne ego fui qui Leontium Pilatum, &c. (de Genealogia

Deorum, l. xv. c. 7. a work, which, though now forgotten, has run through thirteen or fourteen editions.).

ing are slow and laborious; no more than ten vo- c H. A. P.

taries of Homer could be enumerated in all Italy; and neither Rome, nor Venice, nor Naples, could add a single name to this studious language. But their numbers would have multiplied, their progress would have been accelerated, if the inconstant Leo, at the end of three years, had not relinquished an honourable and beneficial station. In his passage, Petrarch entertained him at Padua a short time; he enjoyed the scholar, but was justly of fended with the gloomy and unsocial temper of the man. Discontented with the world and with himhimself, Leo depreciated his present enjoyments, while absent persons and objects were dear to his imagination. In Italy, he was a Thessalian, in Greece, a native of Calabria; in the company of the Latins, he disdained their language, religion, and manner; no sooner was he landed at Constantinople, than he again sighed for the wealth of Venice, and the elegance of Florence. His Italian friends were deaf to his importunity; he depended on their curiosity and indulgence, and embarked on a second voyage; but on his entrance into the Adriatic, the ship was assailed by a tempest, and the unfortunate teacher, who, like Ulysses, had fastened himself to the mast, was struck dead by a flash of lightning. The humane Petrarch dropt a tear on his disaster; but he was most anxious to learn whether some copy of Euripides or Sophocles might not be saved from the hands of the mariners *. But

* Leontius, or Leo Pilatus, is sufficiently made known by Hody (p. 2–11.), and the Abbé de Sade (Vie de Petrarque, tom. iii. p. 625–634. 670–673.), who has very happily caught the lively and dramatic manner of his original.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

' But the faint rudiments of Greek learning, which Petrarch had encouraged, and Boccace had planted, soon withered and expired. The succeeding generation was content for a while with the improvement of Latin eloquence; nor was it before the end of the fourteenth century, that a new and perpetual flame was rekindled in Italy". Previous to his own journey, the Emperor Manuel dispatched his envoys and orators to implore the compassion of the Western princes. Of these envoys, the most conspicuous, or the most learned, was Manuel Chrysoloras f, of noble birth, and whose Roman ancestors are supposed to have migrated with the great Constantine. After visiting the courts of France and England, where he obtained some contributions and more promises, the envoy was invited to assume the office of a professor; and Florence had again the honour of this second invitation. By his knowledge, not only of the Greek, but of the Latin tongue, Chrysoloras deserved the stipend, and surpassed the expectation of the republic; his school was frequented by a crowd of disciples of every rank and age; and one of these, in a general history, has described his motives and his

* Dr Hody (p. 54.) is angry with Leonard Aretin, Guarinus, Paulus Jovius, &c. for affirming, that the Greek letters were restored in Italy post optingentor annos; as if, says he, they had flourished till the end of the 8th century. These writers most probably reckoned from the last period of the exarchate; and the presence of the Greek magistrates and troops at Ravenna and Rome, must have preserved, in some degree, the use of their native tongue.

+ See the article of Emanuel, or Manuel Chrysoloras, in Hody (p. : 2–54.), and Tiraboschi (tom. vii. p. 113—I 18.). The precise date of his arrival floats between the years 1390 and idoo, and is only confined by the reign of Boniface IX.

his success. “At that time,” says Leonard Aretin”, c H. A. P. “I was a student of the civil law; but my soul ++ “ was inflamed with the love of letters; and I be“stowed some application on the sciences of logic “ and rhetoric. On the arrival of Manuel, I hesi“tated whether I should desert my legal studies, “ or relinquish this golden opportunity; and thus, “in the ardour of youth, I communed with my “own mind—Wilt thou be wanting to thyself and “thy fortune 2 Wilt thou refuse to be introduced “to a familiar converse with Homer, Plato, and “Demosthenes ; with those poets, philosophers, “ and orators, of whom such wonders are related, “ and who are celebrated by every age as the great “masters of human science Of professors and “scholars in civil law, a sufficient supply will al“ ways be found in our universities; but a teacher, “ and such a teacher of the Greek language, if he “once be suffered to escape, may never afterwards “be retrieved. Convinced by these reasons, I gave “myself to Chrysoloras; and so strong was my “passion, that the lessons which I had imbibed in “the day were the constant subject of my nightly “dreams f.” At the same time and place, the


* The name of Aretinus has been assumed by five or six natives of Arezzo in Tuscany, of whom the most famous and the most worthless lived in the 16th century. Leonardus Brunus Aretinus, the disciple of Chrysoloras, was a linguist, an orator, and an historian, the secretary of four successive Popes, and the chancellor of the republic of Florence, where he died, A. D. 1444, at the age of seventy-five, Fabric. Bibliot. medii AEvi, tom. i. p. 199, &c. Tiraboschi, tom. vii. p. 33–38.).

+ See the passage in Aretin. Commentario Rerum suo Tem. Pore in Italia gestarum, apud Hodium, p. 28–30.

[ocr errors][merged small]

Latin classics were explained by John of Ravenna, the domestic pupil of Petrarch "; the Italians, who illustrated their age and country, were formed in this double school; and Florence became the fruitful seminary of Greek and Roman erudition f. The presence of the Emperor recalled Chrysoloras

from the college to the court, but he afterwards

taught at Pavia and Rome with equal industry and
applause. The remainder of his life, about fifteen
years, was divided between Italy and Constanti-
nople, between embassies and lessons. In the noble
office of enlightening a foreign nation, the gram-
marian was not unmindful of a more sacred duty
to his prince and country; and Emanuel Chryso-
loras died at Constance, on a public mission from

the Emperor to the council.
After his example, the restoration of the Greek
letters in Italy was prosecuted by a series of emi-
grants, who were destitute of fortune, and en-
dowed with learning, or at least with language.
- From

* In this domestic discipline, Petrarch, who loved the youth, often complains of the eager curiosity, restless temper, and proud feelings, which announce the genius and glory of a riper age, (Memoires sur Petrarque, tom. iii. p. 7co—709.).

+ Hinc Graeca Latinaeque scholae exortae sunt, Guarino Philelpho, Leonardo Aretino, Caroloque, ac plerisque aliis tanquam ex equo Trojano prodeuntibus, quorum emulatione multa ingenia deinceps at laudem excitata sunt, (Platina in Bonifacio IX.). Another Italian writer adds the names of Paulus Petrus Vergerius, Omnibonus Vincentius, Poggius, Franciscus Barbarus, &c. But I question whether a rigid chronology would allow Chrysoloras all these eminent scholars, (Hodius, p. 25–27, &c.).

« PreviousContinue »