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Whilst Petrarca, absorbed in the study of the writers of antiquity, totally neglected the great and glorious poet of his native land, affecting to despise every thing written in his native tongue, Boccaccio felt and acknowledged the sublimity of the Divina Commedia; it was his constant study and delight, and his mind became imbued with its spirit and beauty. Boccaccio deeply lamented this narrowmindedness in his friend, and in the hope of awakening him to an appreciation of Dante's genius, he transcribed with his own hands the whole of the Divina Commedia, and having caused it to be richly illuminated, and the head of each canto emblazoned with the arms of Petrarca, he presented it to him; it failed, however, in producing its intended effect. Nor can we here forbear mentioning their friend and patroness, Giovanna, the unfortunate and calumniated, though innocent Queen of Naples. “There is
a portrait of her, by Leonardi da Vinci, painted, it is said, from an original sketch. She is represented as fair, with rich golden tresses and hazel eyes : the exquisite form of the face, and her delicate features, are heightened by beauty of expression; there is something, I would say, angelic in that countenance, dignity and strength, tempered by purity, sweetness and benignity, a sweet and true majesty,' guileless and winning, yet born to govern and command.”
Then follows a sketch of this romance of real life. Her tragic history recalls that of our own unfortunate Mary of Scotland; but, unlike her story, which darkens as it is unravelled, the calumnies which have rested on the memory of the beautiful Queen of Naples disappear before the inquirer, leaving her reputation as bright and pure as her transcendant loveliness.
We will only make one other extract, a description of the monument to Canova, in the Chiesa dei Frari, at Venice. It stands close to the tomb of Titian, and there is an interesting fact connected with it :
"About fifty years ago a subscription was made to erect a monument to Titian, which Canova designed : the execution of this, however, was stopped by the fall of the republic, and in the monument of the great sculptor his own design was adopted. It is very beautiful : a half-open door occupies the centre of a pyramid of Carrara marble, and a graceful veiled figure, representing Sculpture, advances with a funereal urn; behind her is the Genius of this art, bearing a torch, and followed by two allegorical figures of Painting and Architecture, with their attendant genii, each carrying a wreath to hang on the tomb of the great master. They are ascending the steps on one side, which conduct to the door, and on the other is a sleeping lion, and the Genius of Life with an extinguished torch. A medallion bust of Canova surmounts the whole, encircled by a serpent.”—Vol. ii. p. 211.
England, Germany and France largely contributed; America sent her tribute also to defray the cost, and Italy supplied the rest. The simple inscription it bears is,
“ Ex consolatione Europæ universæ.”
ART. V. -THE INTRODUCTION TO THE HISTORY
OF FRANCE. BY J. C. L. SIMONDE DE SISMONDI.
It is a frequent complaint that we know much less of the history of modern nations than of that of the Greeks and Romans; that we understand less of their policy, and of the development of their institutions; that our sensibility is less awakened by the memorials of later events than by those of antiquity. Modern history, it is said, excites only a languid interest, and in spite of the repeated efforts of those who wish to become acquainted with it, is forgotten almost immediately.
This reproach has been applied most particularly to the history of France, precisely because it is felt, not by the French alone, but by all Europeans, that it is most requisite that it should be universally well known. The central situation of France, the long duration of her monarchy, the supremacy which she has once or twice obtained over the rest of the West of Europe, have so wound up her destiny, with that of other European nations, that the revolutions which have taken place in them have almost always had their origin in those of France; and after their national history, the history of France is what
every other nation ought especially to study. Germany, Italy, the North of Spain, Savoy, Belgium, and Switzerland, have all made part of the monarchy of the Franks under the Merovingian or Carlovingian dynasties. The history of all the nations which inhabit these countries, at the present time, begins by their submission to the monarchy of the Franks. With that of the British Isles it is nearly connected by the rivalry of the English, and by alliances with the Scotch. Thus foreigners as well as natives are led by a strong interest to study the annals of France, whilst they are continually repelled by the manner in which they have been written. Not but that the history of France has been by turns the object of laborious research, and of philosophical speculation. All the patience, perseverance, ingenious criticism, historical divination with which national pride, veneration for antiquity, respect for the illustrious names of families or individuals, could inspire learned men, have been exhausted, to drag from the darkness of the middle ages the origin of her monarchy. All the ingenious theories, the eloquence, the poetry, the philosophical meditation, which speculative talent, which enthusiasm for kings, for nobility, for ancient laws, for religion, even for liberty, could inspire, have been employed by men, gifted with rare ability, to arrange facts, so as to explain one by another, and to reanimate those well known, without our being able to discover in them by what principle of life one could have originated another.
What then is the reason that a history, rich in great events, has been thus stripped of all interest, a history in which every name of places and of families, speaking to the imagination of Frenchmen, must recal interesting recollections, in which light is thrown on every event by opinions and customs still existing, or of which traces at least remain ; in which the attention ought to be awakened by rights still enjoyed, or by those, the loss of which is still deplored ?
It may be replied in a general manner to this question, that the great cause of the want of interest in the history of France, and in all modern histories, is the want of truth, of that complete truth without caution, without mental reservation, which is only found in the historians of antiquity.
No modern history is entirely free from those imposed falsehoods, that conventional flattery, that respect ful rserve, which entirely destroy our confidence in the writer, and our comprehension of the facts he relates, because the links which connect them are hidden. The religion and politics of a state, those two great levers, which put in motion all human society, have never been discussed with complete unreserve; never has blame been freely attached to whatever appeared to deserve it. Even those writers who wished to attack the church or the monarchy have veiled their sometimes exaggerated accusations, under protestations not less false : protestations of respect serving to mask aggression. They seem to depend on their readers not understanding literally all they say, and they employ a great deal of talent to destroy that character for good faith, the most important to be preserved by all who wish to be listened to.
It is not the slavery of the press alone which has prevented the writers of history from telling the truth as they have seen and known it. The authority attributed to past times has perverted historical criticism, by making it serve all parties and all objects. Many great writers have not scrupled to torture facts, that they might bring forward under their sanction, opinions, the theory of which they dared not expose; many others have believed that they could discover in past times, those principles which they desired to establish in the present. The rights of the present generation have been sought for in history, not examples to be a guide to posterity. The measure of the prerogatives of kings, of the liberties of the people, has been demanded from past ages, as if nothing could exist now which had not formerly existed, and truth has suffered because every party has falsified ancient events, that they might convert them into arms in favour of new pretensions.
History is the basis of social science, but it is because she presents us with an assemblage of the lessons which experience has taught, not of the titles which force or fraud have acquired. The legislator who endeavours to organize society ought to seek for what tends most to the moral development, and to the happiness of men. His only guide in this search is experience; he cannot, however, be enlightened by his own, since it frequently requires many generations for the result of laws and institutions to be known. It is therefore the experience of the whole world that he must consult, he must compare the effects of the same cause in different countries and in different circumstances, that he may disentangle the cause from the accidents which render it complex. One single fact, one single event, can scarcely be regarded in this science as an instructive example, because it is too difficult to assign to it its true cause, and to strip it of all those accidental circumstances which will not occur again. It is difficult too, in judging of an isolated fact, to keep continually in view the received habits, the deeply-rooted prejudices, the prevalent opinions of any given period, the point of honour peculiar to any nation, its state as to riches or poverty, its pastoral, agricultural or manufacturing occupations, the servile salaried or independent condition of the lower classes of society. To judge of the Spartiates of the present day by the Spartans in the time of Lycurgus, or of the Franks of the time of Clovis by the French of our times, would be to make experience give credit to absurdity; for what satisfied our fathers would most probably only offend us. But if the isolated effects attributed to any institution would only lead to error, the constantly analogous effects of similar institutions afford the only evidence of which social science is susceptible.
In forming those associations which constitute political bodies, men ought to propose to themselves a double end; first their happiness, next their moral improvement. It is not from an anterior contract, it is not primitive engagements which bind men now to the state, of which they form a part: it is, that every day they sacrifice a part of their rights in return for a positive social protection. They are, and they remain, the same nation, not because of the past, but because of the future; because of the security which is guaranteed to them by political order; because of the moral development which union, strength, peace, liberty and happiness must produce. Rights are not founded on the laws, or the constitutional arrangements of States, On the contrary, these laws, these constitutional ar