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of her death. These documents, therefore, are too decisive: they prove not the fact, but the forgery. Either the sonnet or the Virgilian note must be a falsification. The Abbé cites both as incontestably true; the consequent deduction is inevitable - they are both evidently false. !
Secondly, Laura was never married, and was a haughty virgin rather than that tender and prudent wife who honoured Avignon by making that town the theatre of an honest French passion, and played off for one and twenty years her little machinery of alternate favours and refusals 2 upon the first poet of the age. It was, indeed, rather too unfair that a female should be made
I The sonnet had before awakened the suspicions of · Mr. Horace Walpole. See his letter to Wharton in 1763.
2 “Par ce petit manège, cette alternative de faveurs et de rigueurs bien. ménagee, une femme tendre et sage amuse, pendant vingt et un ans, le plus grand poëte de son siècle, sans faire la moindre brècle à son honneur.” Mem. pour la vie de Pétrarque, Preface aux Francois. The İtalian editor of the London edition of Petrarch, who has translated Lord Woodhouselee, renders the “femme tendre et sage" "raffinata civetta." Riflessioni intorno a madonna Laura, d. 234, vol. ij. ed. 1811.
3 In a dialogue with St. Augustin, Petrarch has described Laura as having a body exhausted with repeated ptubs.
The old editors read and printed perturbationibus; but Mr. Capperonier, librarian to the French King in 1762, who saw the MS, in the Paris library, made an attestation that “on lit et qu'on doit lire, partubus exhaustum." De Sade joined the names of Messrs. Boudot and Bejot with Mr. Capperonier, and in the whole discussion on this ptubs, showed himself a downright literary rogue. See Riflesá sioni, etc. p. 207. Thomas Aquinas is called in to settle whether Petrarch's mistress was a chaste maid or a continent wife.
responsible for eleven children upon the faith of a misinterpreted abbreviation, and the decision of a librarian. 3 It is, however, satisfactory to think that the love of Petrarch was not platonic. “ The happiness which he prayed to possess but once and for a moment was surely not of the mind, 1 and something so very real as a marriage project, with one who has been idly called a shadowy nymph, may be, perhaps, detected in at least six places of his own sonnets. 2 The love of Petrarch was neither platonic nor poetical; and if in one passage of his works he calls it “amore veementeissimo ma unico ed onesto,” he confesses in a letter to a friend, that it was guilty and perverse, that it absorbed him quite and mastered his heart. 3
In this case, however, he was perhaps alarmed for the culpability of his wishes; for the Abbé de Sade himself, who certainly would not have been scrupulously delicate if be could have proved his descent from Petrarch as well as Laura, is forced into a stout defence of his virtuous grandmother. As far as relates to the poet, we have no security for the innocence, except perhaps in the constancy of his pursuit. He assures us in his epistle to posterity that, when arrived at his fortieth year, he not only had in horror, but had lost
1 “Pigmalion, quanto lodar ti dei
Dell' imagine tua, se mille volte
N'avesti quel ch' i' sol una vorrei.
Sonetlo 58. quando giusne a Simon l'alto concette Le Rime etc. par. i. pag. 189. edit. Ven. 1756.
2 See Riflessioni, etc. p. 291.
8 “Quella rea e perversa passione che solo tutto mi occupava e mi regnava nel cuore."
all recollection and image of any "irregularity." I But the birth of his natural daughter cannot be assigned carlier than his thirty – ninth year; and either the memory or the morality of the poet must have failed him, when he forgot or was guilty of this slip. 2 The weakest argument for the purity of this love has been drawn from the permanence of effects, which survived the object of his passion. The reflection of Mr. de la Bastie, that virtue alone is capable of making impressions which death cannot efface, is one of those which every body applauds, and every body finds not to be true, the moment he exmines his own breast or the records of human feeling. 3 Such apothegms can do nothing for Petrarch or for the cause of morality, except with the very weak and the very young. He that has made even a little progress beyond ignorance and pupilage, cannot be edified with any thing but truth. What is called vindicating the honour of an invidual or a nation, is the most futile, tedious, and uninstructive of all writing; although it will always meet with more applause than that sober criticism, which is attributed to the malicious desire of reducing a great man to the common standard of humanity. It is, after all, not unlikely, that our historian was right in retaining his favourite hypothetic
1 Azion disonesta are his words.
2 “A questa confessione cosi sincera dicde forse occasione una nuova caduta ch' ei fece.” Tiraboschi, Storia, etc. tom. v. lib. iv. par ii. par. 492.
3 « Il n'y a que la vertu seule qui soit capable de faire des impressions que la mort n'efface pas.” M. de Bimard, Baron de la Bastie, in the Memoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres for 1740 and 1751. See also Riflessioni, etc. p. 295.
salvo, which secures the author, although it searcely saves the honour of the still unknown mistress of Pem trarch. I
Note 16, page 108, line 10. They keep his dust in Arqua, where he died. Petrarch retired to Arquà immediately on his return from the unsuccessful attempt to visit Urban V. at Rome, in the year 1370, and, with the exception of his celebrated visit to Venice in company with Francesco Novello da Carrara, he appears to have passed the four last years of his life between that charming solitude and Padua. For four months previous to his death he was in a state of continual languor, and in the morning of July the 19th, in the year 1374, was found dead in his library chair with his head resting upon a book. The chair is still shown amongst the precious relics of Arquà, which, from the uninterrupted veneration that has been attached to every thing relative to this great man from the moment of his death to the present hour, have, it may be hoped, a better chance of authenticity than the Shakesperian memorials of Stratford upon Avon.
Arquà (for the last syllable is accented in pronunciation, although anology of the English language has been observed in the verse) is twelve miles from Padua and about three miles on the right of the high road to Ro
I“And if the virtue or prudence of Laura was inexorable. he enjoyed, and might boast of enjoymg the nymph of poetry.” Decline and Fall, cap. lxx. p. 327. vol. xii. oct. Perhaps the if is here meant for although.
vigo, in the bosom of the Euganean hills. After a walk of twenty minutes across a flat well wooded meadow, you come to a little blue lake, clear, but fathomless, and to the foot of a succession of acclivities and hills, clothed with vineyards and orchards, rich with fir and pomegranate trees, and every sunny fruit shrub. From the banks of the lake the road winds into the hills, and the church of Arquà is suon seen between a cleft where two ridges slope towards each other, and nearly inclose the village. The houses are scattered at intervals on the steep sides of these summits; and that of the poet is on the edge of a little knoll owerlooking two descents, and commanding a view not only of the glowing gardens in the dales immediately beneath, but of the wide plains, above whose low woods of mulberry and willow thickened into a dark mass by festoons of vines, tall single cypresses, and the spires of towns are seen in the distance, which stretches to the mouths of the Po and the shores of the Adriatic. The climate of these volcanic hills is warmer, and the vintage begins a week sooner than in the plains of Padua, Petrarch is laid, for he cannot be said to be buried, in a sarcophagus of red marble, raised on four pilasters on an elevated base, and preserved from an association with meaner tombs. It stands conspicuously alone, but will be soon overshadowed by four lately planted laurels. Petrarch's fountain, for hore every thing is Petrarch's, springs and expands itself beneath an artificial arch, a little below the church, and abounds plentifully, in the driest season, with that soft water which was the ancient wealth of the Luganean hills. It would be more attractive, were it not, in some seasons, beset with hornets and wasps.