« AnteriorContinuar »
almost terrible ; his eyes, as if to read the answer, remained fixed intensely on those of Lorenzo; who, collecting all the strength that nature had left him, turned his back on him scornfully, without uttering a word. And thus Savonarola left him without giving him absolution, and the Magnificent, lacerated by remorse, soon after breathed his last, on the 8th of April, 1492."
Von Reumont, in an appendix, shows that there is good reason to doubt the latter account, and his opinion has been followed by Gino Capponi in his History of Florence.
The most interesting portion of Von Reumont's work for the general reader is, as we have said, the fourth book, — the Medici in relation to Literature and Art, — which treats with the greatest fulness the literary side of the Renaissance. The mass of details accumulated here, as elsewhere, by the author, is enormous; and even if it sometimes obstructs the progress of the narration, it will prove most welcome to students for whom these very details are so important, and which are often so difficult to obtain. A notable feature in this division is that the author does not lose sight of the popular literature of Italy, and the change wrought in it by the Renaissance. This is especially valuable since this period has been thoroughly treated by Burckhardt, Voigt, and others, with almost exclusive reference to classical studies. Von Reumont gives a crowd of details concerning the book-trade of the fourteenth century, prices of manuscripts, manufacture of paper, and the fourth section gives an account of the libraries founded by Cosimo de Medici (San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, St. Mark's in Florence, and that of the Abbey of Fiesole), Niccolai's manuscripts, fifteenth-century copyists, etc. The fifth section contains a valuable sketch of Italian literature and popular religious poetry. In intimate connection with this section stands the next on Lorenzo de' Medici as poet, for the most salient quality of Lorenzo's poetry is its popularity, and the three popular directions of the literature of his day are all represented in his works, namely, the laude, or spiritual songs; sacre rappresentazioni, or religious plays; and canti carnascialeschi, or carnival songs. Very interesting, too, is the account of the Platonic school, which occupies so large a space in the history of this period, and the very complete sketch of Poliziano, Lorenzo's lifelong friend.
Our space forbids anything but a mention of the section devoted to the fine arts. Von Reumont shows that although the period was not the most brilliant, still it hardly deserves Villari's severe denunciations. In short, everything proves that the age of Lorenzo was not only one of transition, but one the elements of which were held
together by the strong will of Lorenzo himself; and at his death the most sudden dissolution overwhelmed them, and in a few years it was hard to realize that this brilliant age had ever existed. The sudden disruption of the balance of power, to establish which he had labored all his life, the exile of his family, the invasion of Italy and the beginning of the countless woes of succeeding ages, the religious reaction and the tyranny of Savonarola and his party,
- all these were events as sudden as unforeseen, except by a few, among them Lorenzo himself, and for some of which he was directly responsible.
Von Reumont's estimate of Lorenzo is, it seems to us, marked by great fairness. According to him Lorenzo possessed the quickest susceptibility and the most rapid comprehension, together with the earnestness and care of a student, a fresh and happy taste for the fine arts, with the capability of direct application to the ordinary affairs of life. He thus united the qualities of the poet and statesman, the connoisseur and unwearied patron, the citizen and prince, fancy and clear judgment, great plans and patient calculation. He was tireless in the manifold duties which devolved on him in the guidance of a peculiarly constituted State ; enduring, embracing the whole of his duties with a sure and rapid glance, and observing the smallest detail; in his riper years prudent and thoughtful, keeping his eye fixed on his aim, without blind self-confidence and boasting, although with a lively feeling of his own position as well as that of the State of which he was the representative. He passed with great ease from practical politics to speculation, science, and poetry, even here comprehensive, many-sided, creative as very few were, with the deepest interest in and most delicate sense of beauty, and with profound insight into the being and problems of art.
In his domestic relations he was friendly, social, cheerful even in the midst of bodily pain, not free from errors that already at that time, and more at a later date, relaxed the marriage relations, yet with a real attachment for his family, for the excellent mother many of whose good qualities he shared, for the wife whom he had not chosen,* for his children, to whom he was a kind but not a weak father and a judicious adviser. A warm, true, attentive friend, attracting and retaining the most different dispositions, always ready to help in word and deed, in the midst of a thousand business cares interfering and interesting himself for high and low. He was not free from the weaknesses and vices of his time; they injured his policy, although it stands high above that of most princes and statesmen of his day, Italian as well as foreign, in honesty and consistency. During the last ten years of his life, he clung immovably to the necessity of preserving peace and concord with that national consciousness which corresponded to the idea entertained at that day, and which it would be unjust to blame because it differed from our own. His internal policy has been most severely blamed for the changes made in the constitution for the purpose of increasing his personal authority, and the corruption of which he was guilty in order to obtain unbounded control over the finances of the State.
* He says in his journal, or Ricordi, mentioned above: “I, Lorenzo, took Donna Clarice, daughter of Signore Iacopo Orsino, or rather she was given to me. (Ovvero mi fu data.)
In conclusion, Von Reumont says that the greatest evil perhaps in Lorenzo's government was in the increasing incongruity between the outer form and the real power, in the removal of authority from its legal centre, whereby both justice and moderation were put in peril. The personal element gave the decision in the policy of the State as well as in its finances and justice. If Lorenzo's government on the whole was free from the excesses which marked that of Cosimo, it was due to the change in the times as well as to the disposition of Lorenzo. “He wished to rule, but he was no tyrant. In the first place, he was too sagacious and knew too well the character and traditions of the people ; on the other hand, his was a nature too rich and magnanimous, too much in need of friendship, too fond of enjoyment. In short, he was too much a Florentine citizen.”
Such, in brief, is the author's estimate of the most remarkable man of a remarkable period, a period the influence of which is still felt in literature and art ; and which will never cease to attract and puzzle the student of political and social history.
5.- The Methods of Ethics. By HENRY SIDGWICK, M. A., Lecturer
and late Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. London. Macmillan & Co. 1874. 8vo. pp. xxiii. and 473.
MR. SIDGWICK has given, in his table of contents, so complete an account of his aim and mode of procedure, that nothing more is needed here than a brief outline. What he undertakes is a critical review of the various method sby which the common-sense of mankind (or perhaps we ought rather to say, of England and America) justifies to itself the fundamental assumption of Ethics ; and to exhibit impartially the conclusions to which they logically lead, without any final judgment of their conflicting claims.
The fundamental assumption is, that there is something under any
given circumstances which it is right or reasonable to do, and that this may be known. That it may be known ; for if we say that it cannot be known but only felt, then of course ethical reasoning stops, and right and wrong cease to have any meaning as distinct from what is agreeable to the momentary impulse. If, on the other hand, there is any universal end of conduct, any Supreme Good, that can be known, it must be, however difficult, yet possible to state it, not merely as something to which conduct conforms, but as something to which it ought to conform ; in other words, it must be not only consistent but rational. The moral judgments of mankind are commonly attended with (and frequently warped by) emotion ; but if they have any claim to the title of judgments it must be practicable to obtain by reflection, from the fluid mass of opinion, a deposit of clear and precise principles commanding universal acceptance. Nor do the discrepancies of moral codes disprove the possibility of ethical science. They only show that on this as on other subjects the human mind is prone to error, and not that truth is necessarily unattainable. But in order to erect the moral opinions of mankind into scientific axioms, it is necessary to show (1) that they can be stated in clear and precise terms; (2) that they are really self-evident; (3) that they do not conflict with any other truth; (4) that they are supported by a complete “consensus of experts."
The methods of Ethics to which these tests are to be applied are reducible to three : (1) Egoism, or the systematic pursuit by each individual of his own maximum happiness as the supreme good ; (2) Intuitionism, or the appeal to a sense of what is in itself right or reasonable to be done, without regard to consequences ; (3) Utilitarianism, or the adoption of the greatest happiness of the greatest number, as the end of conduct.
1. Assuming the rational end of life, for each individual, to be his own maximum happiness, common-sense does not, on reflection, warrant the belief that happiness can in general be best secured either by giving free play to our impulses, or by regulating them in accordance with a careful comparison of experienced pleasures. We continually discover illusion and error in the attempt to form any standard of pleasures, either by appropriating the experience of others, or by inferring future pleasures from past. And this seems inevitable ; for although every sentient individual must be the final judge of the pleasantness or painfulness of his own feelings while he feels them, yet for that very reason he cannot know the feelings of another person or of another moment. His present experience does not enable him to predict anything about a feeling which he
does not feel. Nor even if we could succeed in arranging pleasures and pains on a scale of preferableness, would it follow that happiness could infallibly be secured by the direct pursuit of it. Often it seems to be more conducive to happiness to follow the leadings of natural instinct; and the intrusion of prudential considerations to be suicidal. Yet, on the other hand, it would be paradoxical to put forward, as the dernier mot of ethical philosophy, a negation of the natural supremacy of Reason over impulse. The method of Egoism, then, does not seem of itself to lead to any secure conclusions.
2. Intuitionism. The belief that what seems right to us would be right for all persons under similar circumstances is certainly a condition of right conduct, but it does not follow that what we think right
Conscientious persons are continually disagreeing as to what ought to be done, and it seems moreover at least doubtful whether in a case where another is about to do what he thinks right, while we believe it to be wrong, we ought to attempt to urge him to realize objective rightness against his conviction. No doubt we have distinct moral impulses, claiming authority over all others, and prescribing or forbidding kinds of conduct as to which there is a rough general agreement, at least among educated persons of the same age and country. But the objects of these impulses do not admit of being scientifically determined by any reflective analysis of common sense.
The notions of Justice, Benevolence, Veracity, etc., are not emptied of significance for us because we find it impossible to define them with precision, but the attempt to elevate the Morality of Common Sense into a system of scientific Ethics brings its inevitable imperfections into prominence, without helping us to remove them.
3. Utilitarianism avoids the hopeless attempt to define the summum bonum as an objective relation intuitively perceived, between conscious minds and each other, or the universe generally, and substitutes for it the consideration of Happiness or desirable feeling as the ultimately and intrinsically Good, other things being good as means to this end. If we make Perfection the end, apart from the happiness accompanying and resulting from it, we cannot say that it is ultimately and intrinsically desirable, because, from the supposition it is not felt to be desirable, and there is no other way of knowing what is desirable but by feeling it. We do indeed find in Commor. Sense an aversion to admit Happiness to be the sole ultimate end and standard of right conduct. This aversion, however, is due to the mistake of supposing Happiness to mean Our Happiness as opposed to, or at least distinct from, Universal Happiness. Reason gives me no warrant for considering my happiness intrinsically more desirable