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Like stag by beagles hunted hard,
Mr. Colridge will not, we fear, be as much entertained as we were with his Playhouse Musings,' which begin with characteristical pathos and simplicity, and put us much in mind of the affecting story of old Poulter's mare.
My pensive Public, wherefore look you sad?
Under the title of The Theatre,' we find an imitation of Mr. Crabbe, which is, perhaps, upon the whole, though it partakes least of the nature of the parody, the best in point of resemblance; the reason of which is obviously because the subject is not very dissimilar from those which Mr. Crabbe treats. The following lines, we think, our gravest readers will admit to be very good mimicry.
"Tis sweet to view from half past five to six,
At first, while vacant seats give choice and ease,
Hark! the check taker moody silence breaks,
And all is bustle, squeeze, row, jabbering, and jam.'
We have not room to notice the imitations of minor poets; in
them the pleasantry must naturally be less prominent, and they
are of course less amusing, but they are all executed with considerable merit. In one single point the pardodist has failed-there is a certain Doctor Busby, whose supposed address is a translation called Architectural Atoms, intended to be recited by the translator's son.' Unluckily, however, for the wag who had prepared this fun, the genuine serious absurdity of Doctor Busby and his son, has cast all his humour into the shade. The doctor from the boxes, and the son from the stage, have actually endeavoured, it seems, to recite addresses, which they call monologues, and unalogues, and which, for extravagant folly, tumid meanness, and vulgar affectation, set all the powers of parody at utter defiance.
We e hope we shall be excused in having occupied so much space with a subjeet that is of mere temporary interest, and of so little importance: but we thought it not amiss to notice a style of composition which is, as we have before said, almost peculiar to this country, and to catch, at the same time, some of the features of the lighter literature of the day.
ART. XII. An Historical and Critical Essay on the Life and Character of Petrarch. Svo. pp. 279. Edinburgh; Ballantyne.
HE author of the volume before us, has directed his views towards a subject involved in much obscurity:-as it is a favourite topic, he has shewn no inconsiderable share of acuteness in his arguments, and of patience in his researches.
The substance of this work, as he informs us, has already appeared in two separate publications; it is now brought forward with some enlargements, and thrown into one continued essay. The biographers of Petrarch have allowed that the history of Laura is very imperfectly known; and nothing decisive as to her family, and condition, was supposed to be established, until the Abbé de Sade, in his elaborate work, (Memoires pour la Vie de Petrarque,) endeavoured to prove that the mistress of Petrarch, was Laura de Noves, who married Hugh de Sade his ancestor, and was the mother of eleven children; that her acquaintance with Petrarch did not commence till after her marriage; and that this amour, though carried on through the whole period of her married state, was nevertheless a passion honnête-That Laura, in order to keep alive the ardour of his passion, thought proper to feign a coldness of demeanor, and to exhibit some marks of rigour, for by this reciprocal succession of kindness and reserve, says the Abbé, she con
trived, though a woman of sensibility and prudence, to enslave the greatest poet of his age, without the smallest imputation on her character. To destroy this hypothesis, by proving that the evidence on which it is founded is inadmissible, is the attempt of the author of this essay. The following is a statement of the case.
In an ancient manuscript of Virgil, formerly in the Ambrosian library at Milan, and now at Paris, among many notes in Petrarch's hand-writing, was one beginning, Laura propriis virtutibus illustris,' &c. of which the following is a translation.
Laura, illustrious by the virtues she possessed, and celebrated during many years by my verses, appeared to my eyes, for the first time, on the 6th day of April, in the year 1327, at Avignon, in the church of St. Clair, at six o'clock in the morning. I was then in my early youth. In the same town, on the same day, and at the same hour, in the year 1348, this light, this sun withdrew from the world. I was then at Verona, ignorant of the calamity that had befallen me. A letter I received from my Ludovico, on the 19th of the following month, brought me the cruel information. Her body, so beautiful, so pure, was deposited, on the day of her death, after vespers, in the church of the Cordeliers. Her soul, as Seneca has said of Africanus, I am confident, returned to heaven, from whence it came. For the purpose of often dwelling on the sad remembrance of so severe a loss, I have writen these particulars in a book that comes frequently under my inspection. I have thus prepared for myself a pleasure mingled with pain. My loss, ever present to my memory, will teach me, that there is no longer any thing in this life which can afford me delight: That it is now time that I should renounce Babylon, since the chain which bound me to it with so tender an attachment, is broken. Nor will this, with the assistance of Almighty God, be difficult. My mind, turning to the past, will set before me all the superfluous cares that have engaged me; all the deceitful hopes that I have entertained; and the unexpected and afflicting consequences of all my projects.'-pp. 56, 57.
In 1533, two hundred years after this period, Maurice de Seves, an antiquary of Lyon, made a search in the church of the Cordeliers for the tomb of Laura:--he discovered a plain stone in the burial place of the Sade family; it was without any inscription, and though it afforded no indication of being the grave of Laura, at least it gave no proof to the contrary. When the grave was opened, some bones were found, together with a little casket of lead, fastened with a brass wire, which inclosed a piece of parchment, and a bronze medal, having on one side a very little woman, and around it the four letters M L M 1. The parchment contained a sonnet, which Seves with great difficulty decyphered; it was written in praise of Petrarch's mistress, and intimated that this 'green and beautiful laurel sprang and died in the city of Avignon.' If it be true that the medal, and sonnet (which must have been written by a friend of Petrarch, as
he was at Verona when Laura died) were found in the grave, it would give a colour of truth to the Abbé de Sade's hypothesis, that the Laura here interred, was the wife of Hugh de Sade, and the mistress of Petrarch. If the note in Virgil, and the sonnet be authentic, they establish the fact, that she was born and buried at Avignon; but if these facts should not apply to Petrarch's Laura, it follows that she was a different person from Laura de Noves. The object of the evidence brought from the works of Petrarch, is to prove that both the place of Laura's birth and burial must have been in some small village, or villa, in the neighbourhood of the hills, and of the source of the Sorga, an umil terreno, where (though she might have occasionally visited Avignon) she passed the greater part of her life in retirement.
The poet's writings have furnished the author with evidence to shew that Laura, the subject of his verses, was not Laura de Noves, the wife of Hugh de Sade, and he draws this conclusion, that the MS. note in the Virgil is a fabrication, and the story of the medal and sonnet found in the grave an imposture. The motive of both forgeries is supposed to be the same which induced the Abbé de Sade to compile his work, the desire of vindicating to this house the relation to so celebrated a person as Laura. The author conceives that the note in Virgil and the sonnet are in point of evidence destructive of each other: if the note be authentic, which relates that Laura died and was buried the same day, there could be no time between the death and the interment, to allow the engraving of a medal of bronze (p. 95), and the composing of a sonnet to be ingrossed on parchment and inclosed in her coffin. If, on the other hand, this was the grave of Petrarch's Laura, and the medal and sonnet were actually found in it, she could not have been buried on the day of her death, and as the note asserts that fact, it must be given up as a false document. Having examined the contradiction discoverable in this evidence, and the poems of Petrarch, the author proceeds to that chain of reasoning which the Abbé de Sade has employed to prove that the Laura of Petrarch was a married woman, and the mother of many children.'
1st. p. 136. Petrarch terms Laura, in his Latin works, always mulier and foemina, and never virgo or puella; and in his Italian works, madonna or donna, appellations applied to married women, and never vergine or donzella.
2d. p. 137. In sonnets 10, 162, &c. the poet speaks of the dress of Laura, of the garlands she wore on her head, and of the jewels and pearls with which she braided her hair; and in sonnets 151, and 158, he mentions the magnificence of her garments: now in the of Petrarch young unmarried women wore neither garlands nor
pearls nor jewels, they dressed with simplicity, and appeared very little in public.
3d. p. 137. In sonnets 162, and 185, Petrarch complains that jealousy often deprived him of the pleasure of seeing Laura, which could not mean the jealousy of her parents, as the term gelosia is never applied to them.
4th. p. 138. If Laura had been married, Petrarch would have entitled the poem composed in honour of her, Trionfo della Vergimta, instead of Trionfo della Castità, for all the examples are taken from married women; the single exception is a vestal virgin. As the Abbé confesses that these may be deemed strong conjectures rather than proofs-he brings forward another argument, which he considers as his cheval de bataille.
5th. p. 139. Petrarch, in one of his dialogues with St. Augustine, says of Laura, that her constitution was exhausted by frequent childbearing-corpus ejus crebris partubus exhaustum-in the manuscript, it is true, the word partubus is thus abbreviated ptbus; which those who had the charge of printing the Latin works of the poet have interpreted perturbationibus, mental disquietude but the right reading is partubus, which has been confirmed by the opinion of Messrs. Caperonnier, Boudot and Bezot of the King's Library at Paris.
The author of the essay, takes the Abbé's arguments in the order in which they stand.
1st. p. 141. To prove that the words mulier, fœmina in Latin, and donna, and madonna in Italian, are equally applicable to married and unmarried women, that they mark the sex alone without reference to the state or condition, he quotes Isidorus in his Origines, 1. 11. c. 3. and refers to the Roman law, I. 5, Cod. de Nuptiis, and 1. 17. and to the observations of Faber in his Thesaurus. He also quotes Ariosto, Cant. 35. Chi salirà per me madonna in cielo, and Guarini, Pastor Fido, Att. 1. La fede in cor di Donna, to shew that this criticism has no solid foundation.
2d. p. 144. To shew that the distinguishing costume of married and unmarried women was not rigorously observed, he cites Muratori Antiq. Ital. v. 2. 417, and proves from the Abbé's own authority, and even from Petrarch, that both indulged in the greatest splendour and luxury of dress.
3d. p. 154. The poet complains in sonnet 162, that jealousy had deprived him of the sight of Laura; in sonnet 185, her female companions do the same; but there is not the smallest hint that the jealousy of a husband is here meant. The resentment of every species of rivalship, says the essayist, is expressed in the words gelosia and jealousy It is most probable that when the poet complains in sonnet 62, his own infidelities had occasioned Laura's