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BRITISH AND FOREIGN
ART. I.-1. Biografia di Fra Paolo Sarpi, Teologo e Consultore
di Stato della Republica Veneta. Di A. BIANCHI-GIOVINI. Seconda edizione originale. Tomo I. Firenze, 1850. Tomo
II. Torino, 1850. 2. Scelte Lettere Inedite di Fra Paolo Sarpi. Lugano, 1848.
It is singular that our popular and accessible English literature furnishes such scanty notices of the life of one who has influenced so decidedly the political and ecclesiastical arrangements of Roman Catholic Europe, and from whose writings we have drawn so much of our information on the last of the great Papal Councils. But so it is. We have heard enough, and perhaps more than enough, about Urbino Dukes, and fierce condottieri, and Medicean dames of damaged reputation ; but the ashes of the historian of the Council of Trent have been allowed to sleep quietly under the altar of the Addolorata at Venice. It was, perhaps, a loss to Father Paul's posthumous renown that he survived the repeated attempts made to assassinate or poison him, and died peacefully in his cell, in a green old age; though we have no doubt that the private inclination of the friar, had he been consulted, would have been very decidedly in favour of a quiet life, even at the expense of eclăt. Had Savonarola not been burned on the great square of Florence, we should doubtless have heard less of the Prior of St Mark's. It was all in favour of the daring preacher that he died by a decree of Rome; and, by a singular contradiction, the Dominicans, though holding to the church, revere his memory as that of a true martyr. His name had not been so brilliant but for his fiery trial : his torch was lighted at his
funeral pile. But Father Paul bore a sort of charmed existence, and when he fell under the dagger in the bye-ways of Venice, he lived on. We suppose he himself was satisfied with that issue, and we have no reason to regret that it had not been otherwise, for the history of the Tridentine Council, to speak of nothing else, is of more importance than a new name in the martyrology of the Servites.
In Italy the memory of Sarpi has been as fiercely assailed by one party, as it has been enthusiastically vindicated by another. Even Bossuet said of him that he concealed the heart of a Calvinist under the cassock of a monk; and when the defender of the Gallican liberties described him thus, we cannot wonder that the Jesuits and the Roman Curia should have borne an unappeasable hatred to the very name of the Venetian theologian. So lately as the summer of 1846, as we learn from his biographer, the inscription on his monumental slab in the church of St Michael was secretly cancelled with the chisel, by the order of Cardinal Monico, patriarch of Venice. As Sarpi's own most important works were published anonymously, or with fictitious name and date, his biographers have almost equal difficulties still. The first volume of the elaborate and carefully-written biography, which we have put at the head of this article, bears date “Florence, 1850," the second, “ Turin, 1850”—the reaction preventing the completion of such a work in Tuscany. Besides, the brief preface“ unfolds a tale," by no means uncommon in Italy, of fictitious dates, and of pirated editions “ diligently corrected” by profession on the title-page, but not corrected at all, either diligently or otherwise, in point of fact. Piedmont is of course the only part of Italy where such a book can circulate freely. In the other States, the rabid denunciations of the Inquisitors have caused it to be highly prized, and eagerly read, when a copy can be obtained.
'In Italy almost every biography or history in late years assumes more or less the character of a political pamphlet. Farini's History of the Roman States is an example. It is written in the style of a journalist; and valuable as that history is, for the facts related, Carlo Luigi Farini has not lost sight of the importance of the personage relating them,-a personage that looms larger in the book than the actual occurrences. It may be taken as a manifesto of the moderate and constitutional party. But before the era of the constitutions, to write on the politics of the day, and to assail the abuses of either church or state, was a capital offence. Hence at times an old history was selected, and the politics of the day infused into it. The finest of all examples is Niccolini's Arnaldo da Brescia,--a drama which has had no small influence in developing the national feeling of Italy. The new reforming spirit, unable to manifest itself otherwise, took possession of the old heresiarch, and Arnaldo stood forth on the stage, if not as " the Mazzini of the twelfth century,” at least as a hearty and most eloquent reformer of the church. Guerrazzi “ wrote a book because he could not fight a battle,” and his romance of the Siege of Florence was a great democratic oration. Massimo D'Azeglio's finer romance of " Niccoló de' Lapi,” described the Republican of the olden time, much in the saine way as an English Conservative might describe a Wbig of 1688. The biography of Father Paul Sarpi was a still better medium for conveying the doctrines of modern liberalism; and the book of the Lombard journalist is an argument against the pretensions of the Papacy, and a spirited attack on priestcraft in general. It represents the opinions of a great party, which is now playing no inconsiderable part in the affairs of Italy.
Aurelio Bianchi-Giovini is already known to many in this country by his critical examination of the fable of the Popese Joan : as the biographer of Sarpi, he is better known in Italy. He is now engaged on an elaborate history of the Popes, to be completed in fifteen or sixteen volumes, and so piquant is his style, that we doubt not he will make even that formidable work eminently readable in the present temper of Italy. As a liberal journalist at Lugano, in the canton of Ticino; as a literary director of the great printing establishment of the Tipografia Elvetica at Capolago; as deputy for Trino in the Sardinian parliament; as editor of the Piedmontese journal, which represents what we may call the Radical party in the chambers at Turin,—the whole politieal life of the biographer of Father Paul has been a protest and struggle against priestcraft; and certainly, if Sarpi cherished an implacable enmity to the Papacy, he has been fortunate in a biographer likeminded with himself. We do not consider him less trustworthy on that account. His writings show an extraordinary minuteness of historic knowledge ; and the fury of the whole sacerdotal tribe is a sufficient testimony to the telling character of the facts which he relates. He appears to be entirely of the opinion of Mr Gillson's table, that Satan's headquarters are at Rome. We cannot cite him as the purest example of the soft Italian ; for his style has more of the Lombard ruggedness and strength, than of the exquisite Tuscan refinement. He does not even shrink from that terrible “conciosiacosache,” which so provoked Alfieri, that he flung out of the window an old book in which he found the unmanageable vocable. For our own part, we like the ring of the old Italian, and prefer it, at times, to the more refined Della Cruscan. We do not, by any means, refer to Bianchi-Giovini's work as a model of biography; for its object is rather to attack the Papacy and the priesthood, and to advocate liberal principles; and hence we have long digressions and dissertations, which might have been wholly omitted. And yet these extraneous matters are among the most interesting ; and we value the book all the more for its full treatment of subjects that ought to be discussed somewhere. Like Sterne's preacher, he has chosen a subject, and “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia," suits as well for a text as anything else in the Bible. We shall give some account of the subject of two of the raciest volumes in modern Italian literature.
On the 14th of August 1552, under an humble roof in Venice, there were rejoicings for the birth of a child in the house of Francesco Sarpi. The father was a dark, noisy, contentious little man, from Friuli; the mother, a tall, mildtempered, and handsome Venetian blonde, belonging to the family of the Morelli, one of the lowest that enjoyed the right of citizenship in the Republican capital. About the same time, in a Roman palace, there were more pompous rejoicings for the birth of Camillo Borghese,—a child who was destined to be known in history as Pope Paul V. “Who could have divined, from the nativities of these two children, the position in which they should one day stand to each other?”
The father of the little Pietro (for such was the bantismal name of the Venetian) having died early, the child was committed to the care of his maternal uncle, Ambrose Morelli, at that time the rector of a kind of Venetian academy, frequented by the children of sundry patrician families; and here Pietro formed the acquaintance of Andrea Morisini, and of other children who afterwards became distinguished among the men of Venice. The good priest may well have been proud of his promising nephew, whose singular industry and extraordinary memory had enabled him, at the age of twelve, to exhaust the curriculum of the academy. Ranke has given a graceful picture of " the Maiden,” as the trim, sedate, and quiet Pierino was called by his companions. We should like to know, by the way, how a Venetian schoolboy, three centuries ago, “stood” that same soubriquet of “maiden;" we have known many a fierce battle fought by a handsome little academician, because his schoolmates called him “Miss.” Having been put under the tutorship of a distinguished Servite friar, Pietro made wonderful progress in mathematical studies, and acquired such knowledge of Greek and Latin as the fathers of the order could communicate. His pensive, retiring disposition, and his intense love of learning, induced him to adopt the monastic life, and, at the age of thirteen, he assumed the garb uf the Servites, and changing his baptismal name, as is usual in the monkish orders, he was henceforth known as Fra Paolo, or “ Brother Paul.” Unlike the monks who aspired to the lofty names of Abba (Abbate) and Father (Padre), the friars were simply Frati, or Brethren ; but Sarpi's title has been stereotyped in the English ecclesiastical historians, and it is not worth while to alter the usual misnomer of “Father Paul.”
It was the age of theses and public discussions, when high and low flocked to the scholastic tournaments of a convent or a chapter; and accordingly, in a chapter of his order, held in 1570, in the church of St Barnabas at Mantua, the young friar appeared with three hundred and nine theses, which he undertook to defend “ against all deadly." His skill in this disputation almost recalling the memory of Pico of Mirandola, recommended him to the family of Gonzaga of Mantua, and for some years he resided at the court as theologian to the Duke, having abundant opportunity to prosecute his favourite studies. Here his attention was turned to the study of ecclesiastical history and the canon law; and he proceeded in the most systematic way to master the subject, preparing a dictionary of the councils, and chronological tables, for his private use. The Council of Trent had closed a few years before, A.D. 1563, and its divisions, and stormy debates, and mysterious intrigues, excited the intenso curiosity of the youthful theologian. He searched the somewhat scanty archives of the ducal palace, and, besides, he made the acquaintance of Camillo Oliva, secretary of the Cardinal Hercules Gonzaga, one of the presidents of the Council, and of Arnald Ferrier, who had been the French ambassador at Trent; and gained the-friendship of the Cardinal Charles Borromeo of Milan, who had been secretary to his uncle, Paul IV. With such opportunities, Sarpi may have gained at least a portion of that information which he afterwards turned to account in compiling his celebrated history. Diligent, methodical, and exact, and his studies ranging over science, sacred and profane history, metaphysics, and language, he soon acquired the reputation of being a kind of animated encyclopædia. His was not the wayward movement of a genius magnificently irregular, but the steady plodding of a mathematician following up his demonstration step by step, and not turned aside by fancies. It was quite in accordance with this clock-work regularity that he celebrated mass every day, and was a model of exactness in all that pertained to his monastic profession.
The life of a friar may seem the most unpromising in incident, and especially in an age when light had begun to penetrate into the cloister, and to dispel the mysterious gloom of more romantic times. The order to which Sarpi had attached himself owed its origin to the “ seven blessed Florentines ” —