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the writers of Italy, includes an account of Andreini, with a list of his various productions; they amount to the number of thirty, and form a singular medley of comedies and devout poems.
His Adamo alone seems likely to preserve his name from oblivion ; and that indeed can never cease to be regarded as a literary curiosity, while it is believed to have given a fortunate impulse to the fancy of Milton,
If it is highly probable, as I think it will appear to every poetical reader, who peruses the Adamo, that Andreini turned the thoughts of Milton from Alfred to Adam, and led him to sketch the first outlines of Paradise Lost in various plans of allegorical dramas, it is possible that an Italian writer, less known than Andreini, first threw into the mind of Milton the idea of converting Adam into an epic personage. I have now before me, a literary curiosity, which my accomplished friend, Mr. Walker, to whom the literature of Ireland has many obligations, very kindly sent me, on his return from an excursion to Italy, where it hap
pened to strike a traveller, whose mind is peculiarly awakened to elegant pursuits. The book I am speaking of is entitled La Scena Tragica d'Adamo ed Eva, Estratta dalli primi tre capi della Sacra Genesi, e ridotta a significato Morale da Troilo Lancetta, Benacense. Venetia 1644. This little work is dedicated to Maria Gonzaga, Dutchess of Mantua, and is nothing more than a drama in prose, of the ancient form, entitled a morality, on the expulsion of our first parents from Paradise. The author does not mention Andreini, nor has he any mixture of verse in his composition; but, in his address to the reader, he has the following very remarkable passage; after suggesting that the Mosaic history of Adam and Eve is purely allegorical, and designed as an incentive to virtue, he says, “ Una notte sognai, che Moise mi porse gratiosa espositione, e misterioso significato con parole tali apunto:
“ Dio fa parte all' huom di se stesso con l'intervento della ragione, e dispone con infallibile sentenza, che signoreggiando
in lui la medesma sopra le sensuali voglie; preservato il pomo del proprio core dalli appetiti disordinati, per guiderdone di giusta obdedienza li trasforma il mondo in Paradiso.--Di questo s'io parlassi, al sicuro formarei heroico poema convenevole a semidei.”
“One night I dreamt that Moses explained to me the mystery, almost in these words:
“ God reveals himself to man by the intervention of reason, and thus infallibly ordains that reason, while she supports her sovereignty over the sensual inclinations in man, and preserves the apple of his heart from licentious appetites, in reward of his just obedience transforms the world into Paradise. Of this were I to speak, assuredly I might form an heroic poem worthy of demi-gods.”
It strikes me as possible that these last words, assigned to Moses in his vision by Troilo Lancetta, might operate on the mind of Milton like the question of Ellwood, and prove, in his prolific fancy, a kind of rich
graft on the idea he derived from Andreini, and the germ of his greatest production.
A sceptical critic, inclined to dis. countenance this conjecture, might indeed observe, it is more probable that Milton never saw a little volume not published until after his return 'from Italy, and written by an author so obscure, that his name does not occur in Tiraboschi's elaborate history of Italian literature ; nor in the patient Italian chronicler of poets, Quadrio, though he bestows a chapter on early dramatic compositions in prose. But the mind that has once started a conjecture of this nature, must be weak indeed, if it cannot produce new shadows of argument in aid of a favorite hypothesis. Let me therefore be allowed to advance, as a presumptive proof of Milton's having seen the work of Lancetta, that he makes a similar use of Moses, and introduces him to speak a prologue in the sketch of his various plans for an aliegorical drama. It is indeed possible that Milton might never see the performances either of Lancetta or Andreini-yet con
jecture has ground enough to conclude very fairly, that he was acquainted with both; for Andreini wrote a long allegorical drama on Paradise, and we know that the fancy of Milton first began to play with the subject according to that peculiar form of composition. Lancetta treated it also in the shape of a dramatic allegory; but said, at the same time, under the character of Moses, that the subject might form an incomparable epic poem; and Milton, quitting his own hasty sketches of allegorical dramas, accomplished a work which answers to that intimation.
After all, I allow that the province of conjecture is the region of shadows; and as I offer my ideas on this topic rather as phantoms that may amuse a lover of poetical speculation, than as solid proofs to determine a cause of great moment, I am persuaded every good-natured reader will treat them with indulgence : assuredly I shall feel neither anger, nor inclination to contend in their defence, if any severer critic,
“ Irruat, & frustra ferro diverberet umbras."