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GENIUS AND WRITINGS
OF JANUARY AND MAY, THE WIFE OF BATH,
AND TRANSLATIONS OF STATIUS AND
OVID, AND THE IMITATIONS OF
SOME ENGLISH POETS,
THE first dawnings of polite literature in Italy, appeared in tale-writing and fables. Boccace gave a currency and vogue to this species of composition. He collected many of the common B.
tales of his country, and delivered them in the purest stile, enlivened with interesting circumstances. Sacchetti published tales before him, in which are many anecdotes of Dante and his contemporaries. Boccace was faintly imitated by several Italians, Poggio, Bandello, Cinthio, Firenzuola, Malespini, and others. * Machiavel himself did honour to this species of writing, by his Belphegor.
To produce, and carry on with probability and decorum, a series of events, is the most difficult work of invention ; and if we were minutely to examine the popular stories of every nation, we should be amazed to find how few
* Michiavel, who possessed the liveliest wit with the profoundest reflection, wrote also two comedies, Mandgragora and Clytia, the former of which was played before Leo X. with much magnificence; the latter is an imitation of the Cassina of Plautus : Indigna vero homine Christiano (says Balzac) qui sanctiores Musas colit, et, in ludicris quoque, meminisse debet severitatis.” Epist. Select. pag. 202. I have been informed that Machiavel, towards the latter part of his life, grew religious, and that some pieces of ascetic devotion, composed by him, are preserved in the libraries of Italy. Lord Bacon says remarkably of Machiavel, that he teaches what men usually do, not what they ought to do.