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LETTERS TO ELISABETTA 67

disappointed. "It is really a thousand pities," wrote Guarino, "both for the sake of the poor young man and for ourselves, who hoped to have a Madonna of our own who would become honoured as a tenth muse."* But the true reason for this sudden change of mind was the news which Isabella had just received that her beloved sister-in-law Elisabetta was on her way to Mantua. During the last year the Duchess of Urbino's presence had been anxiously expected at her brother's court. But her coming had been repeatedly delayed by protracted illness, and Isabella's letters show how bitterly she had been disappointed in her hopes of once more welcoming this dear companion. When a year before Elisabetta, instead of coming to Mantua, had been ordered to take the baths of Viterbo, the Marquis sent his sister's old friend, the Castellan Silvestro Calandra, to cheer her solitude, with the following letter, which does justice both to the warmth of Isabella's heart and the excellence of her sense:—

"By the love I bear you, my dearest sister, I must say this one thing, that I hope the first bath you take will be a steadfast resolve to avoid all unwholesome things and live on those which give health and strength. Above all, I hope you will force yourself to take regular exercise on foot and horseback, and to join in pleasant conversation, in order to drive away melancholy and grief, whether they arise from mental or bodily causes. And you will, I hope, also resolve to think of nothing but of your health in the first place, and of your own honour and comfort in the second place, because in this fickle world we can do nothing else, and those who 68 THE DUCHESS OF URBTNO

1 Luzio, / Precettori a"Isabella d'Ente, p. 25.

do not know how to spend their time profitably, allow their lives to slip away with much sorrow and little praise. I have said all this, not because Your Highness, being most wise yourself, does not know all this far better than I do, but only in the hope that, being aware of my practice, you may the more willingly consent to live and take recreation as I do, and as the Castellan will be able to inform you. And my husband is well content that he should remain with Your Highness until you leave the baths and as long afterwards as you choose, always on the understanding that you will soon come to Mantua, since otherwise he will not only recall the Castellan, but will, if possible, renounce all his love and connection with you!"

Calandra himself was given a letter couched in the same terms, giving him leave to remain with the Duchess as long as she persevered in her intention of coming to Mantua. "If, however, the Duchess changes her mind," wrote the imperious young Marchesa, "not only are you to return at once, but you are also to assure her that neither you, nor any one else, will be sent to her from us, and that the tender love we bear her will undergo a complete change."

But, although Elisabetta returned from Viterbo in somewhat better health, fresh causes arose to delay her visit to Mantua. First Guidobaldo fell ill, then he took his wife with him to Rome, after which she had a fresh attack of her old gastric complaint. When, in January 1493, Isabella heard that, instead of coming to Mantua, the Duchess had been sent to take the baths of Porretta, she began to despair of ever seeing her again, and wrote saying that nothing COMES TO MANTUA 69

could give her pleasure this carnival, since all the fine plans which she had made for their mutual amusement were blown to the winds !" And the time which I hoped to spend in joyful intercourse together I will now pass in dreary solitude, sitting alone in my studio lamenting your illness and praying God soon to restore you to health, so that if our desires may not be granted this carnival, they may at least be satisfied before the end of Lent."

This last wish was happily fulfilled. On the 9th of March the Duchess started for Mantua, and Isabella sent the poet Picenardi with his lyre, in the bucentaur which went out to meet her, in order that he might beguile the journey with music and song. The Marchesa herself and the chief citizens went to meet Elisabetta at Revere, and brought her back to Mantua amidst universal rejoicing. "And I really think," wrote Isabella to her mother a few days later, "that she is already beginning to feel the good effects of her native air and of the caresses with which I load her all day."1

1 Luzio e Renier, Mantova e Urbitu), pp. 58-62.

CHAPTER V

1491—1493

Correspondence of Isabella with her family and friends; with merchants and jewellers—Her intellectual interests—Love of French romances and classical authors—Greek and Hebrew translations and devotional works — Fra Mariano and Savonarola — Antonio Tebaldeo — Isabella's friendships — Niccolo da Correggio—Sonnets and eclogues composed for her—Her love of music—Songs and favourite instruments —Atalante Migliorotti's lyre — Isabella's camerino in the Castello — Liombeni decorates her studiolo — Mantegna returns from Rome — Paints Isabella's portrait — Giovanni Santi at Mantua.

Nothing is more remarkable in the history of Isabella than the vast correspondence which she carried on with the most different personages on the greatest variety of subjects. Her appetite for news was insatiable, her curiosity boundless. There was nothing which did not excite her interest, from the most important affairs of state down to the newest fashion in dress or jewellery, from the most recent discoveries in the New World or the last cantos of Ariosto's "Orlando" to the purchase of a carved turquoise or a Persian kitten. And she entered into the smallest details on these subjects with the same keen zest, and gave her orders with the same clearness and minuteness, whether the defence of the State or the painting of an illuminated missal were in question. The correspondence which she kept up with her relatives alone during these first years after her marriage must have occupied many hours. She wrote

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