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Title: Giovanni Boccaccio, a Biographical Study

Author: Edward Hutton

Release Date: August 29, 2014 [EBook #46722]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by Anna Tuinman, Ted Garvin, John Campbell and
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Obvious typographical errors and punctuation errors have been corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within the text and consultation of external sources.

Modern practice in Italian texts contracts (removes the space from) vowel elisions, for example l'anno not l' anno, ch'io not ch' io. This book, in common with some similar English books of the time, has a space in these elisions in the original text. This space has been retained in the etext. The only exceptions, in both the text and etext, are in French names and phrases, such as d'Aquino and d'Anjou.

More details can be found at the end of the book.



FREDERIC UVEDALE. A Romance. 1901.


ITALY AND THE ITALIANS. Second Edition. 1902.

THE CITIES OF UMBRIA. Third Edition. 1905.

THE CITIES OF SPAIN. Third Edition. 1906.






By James Dennistoun of Dennistoun. Illustrating the Arms, Arts, and Literature of Italy, from 1440 to 1630. New Edition, with upwards of 100 Illustrations. 3 vols. Demy 8vo. 1908.

3 vols. 8vo. 1908-9.

Traditional Portraits of Boccaccio & Fiammetta (Maria d'Aquino)

From the Frescoes in the Spanish Chapel of S. Maria Novella, Florence.





But if the love that hath and still doth burn me

No love at length return me,

Out of my thoughts I'll set her:

Heart let her go, O heart I pray thee let her!

Say shall she go?

O no, no, no, no, no!

Fix'd in the heart, how can the heart forget her.






[Pg vii]


It might seem proper, in England at least, to preface any book dealing frankly with the author of the Decameron with an apology for, and perhaps a defence of, its subject. I shall do nothing of the kind. Indeed, this is not the place, if any be, to undertake the defence of Boccaccio. His life, the facts of his life, his love, his humanity, and his labours, plentifully set forth in this work, will defend him with the simple of heart more eloquently than I could hope to do. And it might seem that one who exhausted his little patrimony in the acquirement of learning, who gave Homer back to us, who founded or certainly fixed Italian prose, who was the friend of Petrarch, the passionate defender of Dante, and who died in the pursuit of knowledge, should need no defence anywhere from any one.

This book, on which I have been at work from time to time for some years, is the result of an endeavour to set out quite frankly and in order all that may be known of Boccaccio, his life, his love for Fiammetta, and his work, so splendid in the Tuscan, the fruit of such an enthusiastic and heroic labour in the Latin. It is an attempt at a biographical and critical study of one of the greatest creative writers of Europe, of one of the earliest humanists, in which, for the first time, in England certainly, all the facts are placed before the reader, and the sources and authority[viii] for these facts quoted, cited, and named. Yet while I have tried to be as scrupulous as possible in this respect, I hope the book will be read too by those for whom notes have no attraction; for it was written first for delight.

Among other things I have dealt with, the reader will find a study of Boccaccio's attitude to Woman, and in some sort this may be said to be the true subject of the book.

I have dealt too with Boccaccio's relation to both Dante and Petrarch; and it was my intention to have written a chapter on Boccaccio and Chaucer, but interesting as that subject is—and one of the greatest desiderata in the study of Chaucer—a chapter in a long book seemed too small for it; and again, it belongs rather to a book on Chaucer than to one about Boccaccio. I have left it, then, for another opportunity, or for another and a better student than myself.

In regard to the illustrations, I may say that I hoped to make them, as it were, a chapter on Boccaccio and his work in relation to the fine arts; but I found at last that it would be impossible to carry this out. To begin with, I was unable to get permission to reproduce M. Spiridon's and Mr. V. Watney's panels by Alunno di Domenico[1] illustrating the story of Nastagio degli Onesti (Decameron, V, 8), which are perhaps the most beautiful paintings ever made in illustration of one of Boccaccio's tales. In the second place, the subject was too big to treat of in the space at my command. I wish now that I had dealt only with the Decameron; but in spite of a certain want of completeness, the examples I have been able to reproduce[ix] will give the reader a very good idea of the large and exquisite mass of material of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries in Italy, France, Germany, and even in England which in its relation to Boccaccio has still to be dealt with. Nothing on this subject has yet been published, though something of the sort with regard to Petrarch has been attempted. Beyond the early part of the seventeenth century I have not sought to go, but an examination of the work of the eighteenth century in France at any rate should repay the student in this untouched field.

I have to thank a host of people who in many and various ways have given me their assistance in the writing of this book. It has been a labour of love for them as for me, and let us hope that Boccaccio "in the third heaven with his own Fiammetta" is as grateful for their kindness as I am.

Especially I wish to thank Mrs. Ross, of Poggio Gherardo, Mr. A. E. Benn, of Villa Ciliegio, Professor Guido Biagi, of Florence, Mr. Edmund Gardner, Professor Henri Hauvette, of Paris, Mr. William Heywood, Dr. Paget Toynbee, and Mr. Charles Whibley. And I must also express my gratitude to Messrs. J. and J. Leighton, of Brewer Street, London, W., for so kindly placing at my disposal many of the blocks which will be found in these pages.


Casa di Boccaccio,
September, 1909.



Of the three great writers who open the literature of the modern world, Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, it is perhaps the last who has the greatest significance in the history of culture, of civilisation. Without the profound mysticism of Dante or the extraordinary sweetness and perfection of Petrarch, he was more complete than either of them, full at once of laughter and humility and love—that humanism which in him alone in his day was really a part of life. For him the centre of things was not to be found in the next world but in this. To the Divine Comedy he seems to oppose the Human Comedy, the Decameron, in which he not only created for Italy a classic prose, but gave the world an ever-living book full of men and women and the courtesy, generosity, and humanity of life, which was to be one of the greater literary influences in Europe during some three hundred years.

In England certainly, and indeed almost everywhere to-day, the name of Boccaccio stands for this book, the Decameron. Yet the volumes he wrote during a laborious and really uneventful life are very numerous both in verse and prose, in Latin and in Tuscan. He began to write before he was twenty years old, and he scarcely stayed his hand till he lay dying alone in Certaldo in 1375. That the Decameron, his greatest and most various work, should be that by which he is most widely known, is not remarkable; it is strange, however, that of all his works it should be the only one that is quite impersonal.[xii] His earlier romances are without exception romans à clef; under a transparent veil of allegory he tells us eagerly, even passionately, of himself, his love, his sufferings, his agony and delight. He too has confessed himself with the same intensity as St. Augustine; but we refuse to hear him. Over and over again he tells his story. One may follow it exactly from point to point, divide it into periods, name the beginning and the ending of his love, his enthusiasms, his youth and ripeness; yet we mark him not, but perhaps wisely reach down the Decameron from our shelves and silence him with his own words; for in the Decameron he is almost as completely hidden from us as is Shakespeare in his plays. And yet for all this, there is a profound unity in his work, which, if we can but see it, makes of all his books just the acts of a drama, the drama of his life. The Decameron is already to be found in essence in the Filocolo, as is the bitter melancholy of the Corbaccio, its mad folly too, and the sweetness of the songs. For the truth about Boccaccio can be summed up in one statement almost, he was a poet before all things, not only because he could express himself in perfect verse, nor even because of the grace and beauty of all his writing, his gifts of sentiment and sensibility, but because he is an interpreter of nature and of man, who knows that poetry is holy and sacred, and that one must accept it thankfully in fear and humility.

He was the most human writer the Renaissance produced in Italy; and since his life was so full and eager in its desire for knowledge, it is strange that nothing of any serious account has been written concerning him in English,[2] and this is even unaccountable when we remember how eagerly many among our greater poets have been his debtors. Though for no other cause yet for this it will[xiii] be well to try here with what success the allegory of his life may be solved, the facts set in order, and the significance of his work expressed.

But no study of Boccaccio can be successful, or in any sense complete, without a glance at the period which produced him, and especially at those eight-and-forty years so confused in Italy, and not in Italy alone, which lie between the death of Frederic II and the birth of Dante in 1265 and the death of Henry VII and the birth of Boccaccio in 1313. This period, not less significant in the general history of Italy than in the history of her literature, begins with the fall of the Empire, its failure, that is, as the sum or at least the head, of Christendom; it includes the fall of the medieval Papacy in 1303 and the abandonment of the Eternal City, the exile of the Popes. These were years of immense disaster in which we see the passing of a whole civilisation and the birth of the modern world.

The Papacy had destroyed the Empire but had failed to establish itself in its place. It threatened a new tyranny, but already weapons were being forged to combat it, and little by little the Papal view of the world, of government, was to be met by an appeal to history, to the criticism of history, and to those political principles which were to be the result of that criticism. In this work both Petrarch and Boccaccio bear a noble part.

If we turn to the history of Florence we shall find that the last thirty-five years of the thirteenth century had been, perhaps, the happiest in her history. From the triumph of the Guelfs at Benevento to the quarrel of Neri and Bianchi she was at least at peace with herself, while in her relations with her sister cities she became the greatest power in Tuscany. Art and Poetry flourished within her walls. Dante, Cavalcanti, Giotto, the Pisani, and Arnolfo di Cambio were busy with their work, and the great churches we know so well, the beautiful palaces of[xiv] the officers of the Republic were then built with pride and enthusiasm. In 1289, the last sparks, as it was thought, of Tuscan Ghibellinism had been stamped out at Campaldino. There followed the old quarrel and Dante's exile.

The Ghibellines were no more, but the Grandi, those Guelf magnates who had done so well at Campaldino, hating the burgher rule as bitterly as the old nobility had done, began to exert themselves. In the very year of the great battle we find that the peasants of the contrada were enfranchised to combat them. In 1293 the famous Ordinances of Justice which excluded them from office were passed, and the Gonfaloniere was appointed to enforce these laws against them. A temporary alliance of burghers and Grandi in 1295 drove Giano della Bella, the hero of these reforms, into exile, and the government remained in the hands of the Grandi. That year saw Dante's entrance into public life.

The quarrel thus begun came to crisis in 1300, the famous year of the jubilee, when Boniface VIII seemed to hold the whole world in his hands. The dissensions in Florence had not been lost upon the Pope, who, apparently hoping to repress the Republic altogether and win the obedience of the city, intrigued with the Neri, those among the magnates who, unlike their fellows of the Bianchi faction, among whom Dante is the most conspicuous figure, refused to admit the Ordinances of Justice, even in their revised form, and wished for the tyrannical rule of the old Parte Guelfa. Already, as was well known, the Pope was pressing Albert of Austria for a renunciation of the Imperial claim over Tuscany in favour of the Holy See; and Florence, finally distracted now by the quarrels of Neri and Bianchi, seemed to be in imminent danger of losing her liberty. It became necessary to redress the balance of power, destroyed at Benevento, by an attempt to recreate the Empire. This was the real work of the Bianchi—their solution[xv] of the greatest question of their time. The actual solution was to come, however, from their opponents: not from the leaders of the Neri it is true, but from the people themselves. These leaders were but tyrants in disguise: they served any cause to establish their own lordship. Corso Donati, for instance, the head and front of the Neri, was of an old Ghibelline stock, yet he trafficked with the Pope, not for the Church, we may be sure, nor to give Florence to the Holy See, but that he might himself rule the city. Nor did the Pope disdain to use him. Alarmed even in Rome by the republican sentiments of the populace, who wished to rule themselves even as the Florentines, he desired above all things to bring Florence into his power. On May 15, 1300, the Pope despatched a letter to the Bishop of Florence, in which he asked: "Is not the Pontiff supreme lord over all, and particularly over Florence, which for especial reasons is bound to be subject to him? Do not emperors and kings of the Romans yield submission to us, yet are they not superior to Florence? During the vacancy of the Imperial throne, did not the Holy See appoint King Charles of Anjou Vicar-General of Tuscany?" Thus as Villari says, "in a rising crescendo," he threatened the Florentines that he would "not only launch his interdict and excommunication against them, but inflict the utmost injury on their citizens and merchants, cause their property to be pillaged and confiscated in all parts of the world, and release all their debtors from the duty of payment." The Neri, fearing the people might, with that impudent claim before them, side with the Bianchi, induced the Pope to send the Cardinal of Acquasparta to arrange a pacification. But though the city gave him many promises, she would not invest him with the Balia.

Meanwhile the Pope, set on the subjection of Florence, without counting the cost, urged Charles of Valois, the brother of Philip IV of France, to march into Tuscany.[xvi] Nor was Charles of Anjou, King of Naples, less eager to have his aid against the Sicilians. Joined by the exiles in November, 1301, he entered Florence with some 1200 horse, part French, part Italian. His mission was to crush the Bianchi and the people, and to uplift the Neri. He came at the request of the Pope, and, so far as he himself was interested, for booty; yet he swore in S. Maria Novella to keep the peace. On that same day, November 5, Corso Donati entered the city with an armed force. The French joined in the riot, the Priors were driven from their new palace, and the city sacked by the soldiers with the help of the Neri. The Pope had succeeded in substituting black for white, that was all. A new "peace-maker" failed altogether. The proscription, already begun, continued, and before January 27, 1302, Dante went into exile.

But if the Pope had failed to do more than establish the Neri in the government of Florence, Corso Donati had failed also; he had not won the lordship of the city. He tried again, splitting the Neri into two factions, and Florence was not to possess herself in peace till his death in a last attempt in 1308. It was during these years so full of disaster that Petrarch was born at Arezzo on July 20, 1304.

The medieval idea of the Papacy has been expressed once and for all by S. Thomas Aquinas. In his mind so profoundly theological, abhorring variety, the world was to be governed, if at all, by a constitutional monarchy, strong enough to enforce order, but not to establish a tyranny. The first object of every Christian society, the salvation of the soul, was to be achieved by the priest under the absolute rule of the Pope. Under the old dispensation, as he admitted, the priest had been subject to the king, but under the new dispensation the king was subject to the priest in matters touching the law of Christ. Thus if the king were careless of religion[xvii] or schismatic or heretical, the Church might deprive him of his power and by excommunication release his subjects from their allegiance. This supreme authority is vested in the Pope, who is infallible, and from whom there can be no appeal at any time as to what is to be believed or what condemned.

Before these claims the Empire had fallen in 1266; but a reaction, the result of the success of Boniface, soon set in, and we find the most perfect expression of the revived and reformed claims of the Empire in the De Monarchia, which Dante Alighieri wrote in exile. Dante's Empire was by no means merely a revival of what the Imperial idea had become in its conflicts with the Holy See. It was nevertheless as hopeless an anachronism as the dream of S. Thomas Aquinas, and even less clairvoyant of the future, for it disregarded altogether the spirit to which the future belonged, the spirit of nationalism. With a mind as theological as S. Thomas's, Dante hated variety not less than he, and rather than tolerate the confusion of the innumerable cities and communes into which Italy was divided, where there was life, he would have thrust the world back into Feudalism and the Middle Age from which it was already emerging, he would have established over all Italy a German king. He was dreaming of the Roman Empire. The end for which we must strive, he would seem to say in the De Monarchia, that epitaph of the Empire, is unity; let that be granted. And since that is the end of all society, how shall we obtain it but by obedience to one head—the Emperor. And this Empire—so easy is it to mistake the past for the future—belongs of right to the Roman people who won it long ago. And what they won Christ sanctioned, for He was born within its confines. And yet again He recognised it, for He received at the hands of a Roman judge the sentence under which He bore our sorrows. Nor does the Empire derive from the Pope or through the Pope, but from God immediately;[xviii] for the foundation of the Church is Christ, but the Empire was before the Church. Yet let Cæsar be reverent to Peter, as the first-born should be reverent to his father.

So much for the philosophical defence of the reaction. It is rarely, after all, that a rigidly logical conception of society, of the State, has any existence in reality. The future, as we know, lay with quite another theory. Yet which of us to-day but in his secret heart dreams ever more hopefully of a new unity, that is indeed no stranger to the old, but in fact the resurrection of the Empire, of Christendom, in which alone we can be one? After all, is it not now as then, the noblest hope that can inspire our lives?

Already, before the death of Boniface VIII, the last Pope to die in Rome for nearly a hundred years, Philip IV of France had asserted the rights of the State against the claims of the Papal monarchy. The future was his, and his success was to be so great that for more than seventy years the Papacy was altogether under the influence of France, the first of the great nations of the Continent to become self-conscious. Thus when Boniface died broken-hearted in 1303, it was the medieval Papacy which lay in state beside him. Two years later, after the pathetic and ineffectual nine months' reign of Benedict XI, Clement V, Bertrand de Goth, an Aquitanian, was elected, and, like his predecessor, fearful before the turbulent Romans and the confusion of Italy, in 1305 fled away to Avignon, which King Charles II of Naples held as Count of Anjou on the borders of the French kingdom. The Papacy had abandoned the Eternal City and had come under the influence of the French king. Yet in spite of every disaster the Pope and the Emperor remained the opposed centres of European affairs. No one as yet realised the possibility of doing without them, but each power sought rather to use them for its own end.[xix] In this political struggle France held the best position; the Pope was a Frenchman and so her son; there remained as spoil, the Empire.

On May 1, 1308, Albert of Hapsburg had been murdered by his nephew; the election of a new King of the Romans, the future Emperor, fell pat to Philip's ambitions. He immediately supported the candidature of his brother, Charles of Valois; but in this he reckoned without the Pope, who with the Angevins in Naples and himself in Avignon had no wish to see the Empire also in the hands of France. His position forbade him openly to oppose Philip, but secretly he gave his support to Henry of Luxemburg, who was elected as Henry VII on 27 November, 1308.

A German educated in France, the lord of a petty state, Henry, in spite of the nobility of his nature, of which we hear so much and see so little, had but feeble Latin sympathies and no real power of his own. He dreamed of the universal empire like a true German, believing that the feudal union of Germany and Italy which had always been impossible was the future of the world. With this mirage before his eyes he raised the imperial flag and set out southward; and for a moment it seemed as though the stars had stopped in their courses.

For he was by no means alone in his dream. Every disappointed ambition in Italy, noble and ignoble, greeted him with a feverish enthusiasm. The Bianchi and the exiled Ghibellines joined hands, enormous hopes were conceived, and in his triumph private vengeance and public hate thought to find achievement. But when Henry entered Italy in September, 1310, he soon found he had reckoned without the Florentines, who had called together the Guelf cities, and, leaguing themselves with King Robert the Wise of Naples, formed what was, in fact, an Italian confederation to defend freedom and their common independence. It is true that in these acts Florence thought only of present safety: she was both[xx] right and fortunate; but in allying herself with King Robert and espousing the cause of France and the Pope she contributed to that triumph which was to prove for centuries the most dangerous of all to Italian liberty and independence.

Bitter with loneliness, imprisoned in the adamant of his personality, Dante, amid the rocks of the Casentino, hurled his curses on Florence, and not on Florence alone. Is there, I wonder, anything but hatred and abuse of the cities of his Fatherland in all his work? He has judged his country as God Himself will not judge it, and he kept his anger for ever. In the astonishing and disgraceful letters written in the spring of 1311 he urged Henry to attack his native city. Hailing this German king—and the Florentines would call him nothing else—as the "Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the world," he asks him: "What may it profit thee to subdue Cremona? Brescia, Bergamo, and other cities will continue to revolt until thou hast extirpated the root of the evil. Art thou ignorant perhaps where the rank fox lurketh in hiding? The beast drinketh from the Arno, polluting the waters with its jaws. Knowest thou not that Florence is its name?..." Henry, however, took no heed as yet of that terrible voice crying in the wilderness. He entered Rome before attacking Florence, in May, 1312. He easily won the Capitol, but was fiercely opposed by King Robert when he tried to reach S. Peter's to win the imperial crown, and from Castel S. Angelo he was repulsed with heavy loss. The Roman people, however, presently took his part, and by threats and violence compelled the bishops to crown him in the Lateran on June 29.

If Rome greeted him, however, she was alone. Florence remained the head and front of the unbroken League. Those scelestissimi Florentini, as Dante calls them, still refused to hail him as anything but Enemy, German King[xxi] and Tyrant. The fine political sagacity of Florence, which makes hers the only history worth reading among the cities of Central Italy, was never shown to better advantage or more fully justified in the event than when she dared to send her greatest son into exile and to proclaim his Emperor "German king" and "enemy." "Remember," she wrote to the people of Brescia, "that the safety of all Italy and all the Guelfs depends on your resistance. The Latins must always hold the Germans in enmity, seeing that they are opposed in act and deed, in manners and soul; not only is it impossible to serve, but even to hold any intercourse with that race."

At last the Emperor decided to follow Dante's advice and "slay the new Goliath." This was easier to talk of in the Casentino than to do. From mid-September to the end of October the Imperial army lay about the City of the Lily, never daring to attack. Then the Emperor raised the siege and set out for Poggibonsi, his health ruined by anxiety and hardship, and his army, as was always the case both before and since, broken and spoiled by the Italian summer. He spent the winter and spring between Poggibonsi and Pisa, then with some idea of retrieving all by invading Naples, he set off southward in August to meet his death on S. Bartholomew's Day, poisoned, as some say, at Buonconvento.

And Florence announced to her allies: "Jesus Christ hath procured the death of that most haughty tyrant Henry, late Count of Luxemburg, whom the rebellious persecutors of the Church and the treacherous foes of ourselves and you call King of the Romans and Emperor."

In the very year of Henry's death, as we suppose, Boccaccio was born in Paris. The Middle Age had come to an end. The morning of the Renaissance had already broken on the world.



I.Boccaccio's Parentage, Birth, and Childhood3
II.His Arrival in Naples—His Years with the Merchant—His Abandonment of Trade and Entry on the Study of Canon Law15
III.His Meeting with Fiammetta and the Periods of their Love Story27
IV.The Years of Courtship—The Reward—The Betrayal—The Return To Florence41
V.Boccaccio's Early Works—The Filocolo—The Filostrato—The Teseide—The Ameto—The Fiammetta—The Ninfale Fiesolano61
VI.In Florence—His Father's Second Marriage—The Duke of Athens96
VII.In Naples—The Accession of Giovanna—The Murder of Andrew of Hungary—The Vengeance108
VIII.In Romagna—The Plague—The Death of Fiammetta119
IX.The Rime—The Sonnets To Fiammetta130
X.Boccaccio as Ambassador—The Meeting with Petrarch145
XI.Two Embassies162
[xxiv]XII.Boccaccio's Attitude to Woman—The Corbaccio170
XIII.Leon Pilatus and the Translation of Homer—The Conversion of Boccaccio189
XIV.The Embassies to the Pope—Visits to Venice and Naples—Boccaccio's Love of Children207
XV.Petrarch and Boccaccio—The Latin Works223
XVI.Dante and Boccaccio—The Vita—and the Comento249
XVII.Illness and Death279
XVIII.The Decameron291
I.The Dates of Boccaccio's Arrival in Naples and of his Meeting with Fiammetta319
II.Document of the Sale of "Corbignano" (called now "Casa di Boccaccio") by Boccaccio in 1336325
III.From "La Villeggiatura di Maiano," a MS. by Ruberto Gherardi; a Copy of which is in Possession of Mrs. Ross, of Poggio Gherardo, near Settignano, Florence335
IV.The Acrostic of the Amorosa Visione dedicating the Poem to Fiammetta348
V.The Will of Giovanni Boccaccio350
VI.English Works on Boccaccio355
VII.Boccaccio and Chaucer and Shakespeare360
VIII.Synopsis of the Decameron, together with some Works to be consulted367
IX.An Index to the Decameron394



Traditional Portraits of Boccaccio and Fiammetta (Maria d'Aquino) Frontispiece
From the frescoes in the Spanish Chapel at S. Maria Novella, Florence. Photogravure.
To face page
The Burning of the Master of the Temple6
From a miniature in the French version of the De Casibus Virorum, made in 1409 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Showcase V, MS. 126.)
Casa di Boccaccio, Corbignano, near Florence12
King Robert of Naples crowned by S. Louis of Toulouse18
From the fresco by Simone Martini in S. Lorenzo, Naples.
Pope Joan24
A woodcut from the De Claris Mulieribus. (Berne, 1539.) (By the courtesy of Messrs. J. and J. Leighton.)
A woodcut from De Claris Mulieribus. (Berne, 1539.) (By the courtesy of Messrs. J. and J. Leighton.)
Boccaccio and Mainardi Cavalcanti36
By the Dutch engraver called "The Master of the Subjects in the Boccaccio." De Casibus Virorum. (Strasburg, 1476.)
Sapor mounting over the prostrate Valerian42
By the Dutch engraver called "The Master of the Subjects in the Boccaccio." De Casibus Virorum. (Strasburg, 1476.)
Manlius thrown into the Tiber48
By the Dutch engraver called "The Master of the Subjects in the Boccaccio." De Casibus Virorum. (Strasburg, 1476.)
Allegory of Wealth and Poverty54
From a miniature in the French version of the De Casibus Virorum, made in 1409 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Rothschild Bequest. MS. XII.)
The Murder of the Emperor and Empress62
From a miniature in the French version of the De Casibus Virorum, made in 1409 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Showcase V, MS. 126.)
A Woodcut from Des Nobles Malheureux (De Casibus Virorum). Paris, 151568
This cut originally appears in the Troy Book. (T. Bonhomme, Paris, 1484.) Unique copy at Dresden. (By the courtesy of Messrs. J. and J. Leighton.)
[xxvi] Marcus Manlius hurled from the Tarpeian Rock74
An English woodcut from Lydgate's Falles of Princes. (Pynson, London, 1527.) It is a copy in reverse from the French translation of the De Casibus. (Du Pré, Paris, 1483.) (By the courtesy of Messrs. J. and J. Leighton.)
The Title of the Nobles Malheureux (De Casibus). Paris, 153880
(By the Courtesy of Messrs. J. and J. Leighton.)
Frontispiece of the Decameron. Venice, 149286
Chapter Heading from the Decameron. Venice, 149292
the Theft of Calandrino's Pig (Dec., viii, 6)98
Ghino and the Abbot (Dec., x, 2)98
Woodcuts from the Decameron. (Venice, 1492.)
The Duke of Athens104
The Execution of Filippa la Catanese104
From miniatures in the French version of the De Casibus Virorum, made in 1409 by Laurent le Premierfait. Ms. Late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Rothschild Bequest. Ms. XII.)
Cimon and Iphigenia (Dec., v, 1)110
From a miniature in the French version of the Decameron, made in 1414 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Rothschild Bequest. MS. XIII.)
Gulfardo and Guasparruolo (Dec., viii, 1)116
From a miniature in the French version of the Decameron, made in 1414 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Museum. Rothschild Bequest, MS. XIV.)
Madonna Francesca and her Lovers (Dec., ix, 1)124
From a miniature in the French version of the Decameron, made in 1414 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Rothschild Bequest. MS. XIV.)
The Knight who thought himself ill-rewarded (Dec., x, 1)132
From a miniature in the French version of the Decameron, made in 1414 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Rothschild Bequest. MS. XIV.)
The Story of Griselda (Dec., x, 10)138
From the picture by Pesellino in the Morelli Gallery at Bergamo.
The Story of Griselda (Dec., x, 10)146
i. The Marquis of Saluzzo, while out hunting, meets with Griselda, a peasant girl, and falls in love; he clothes her in fine things. From the picture in the National Gallery by (?) Bernardino Fungai.
The Story of Griselda (Dec., x, 10)152
ii. Her two children are taken from her, she is divorced, stripped, and sent back to her father's house. From the picture in the National Gallery by (?) Bernardino Fungai.
The Story of Griselda (Dec., x, 10)158
iii. A banquet is prepared for the new bride; Griselda is sent for to serve, but is reinstated in her husband's affections and finds her children. From the picture in the National Gallery by (?) Bernardino Fungai.
The Palace of the Popes at Avignon164
[xxvii] Masetto and the Nuns (Dec., iii, 1)174
In 1538 this woodcut appears in Tansillo's Stanze. (By the courtesy of Messrs. J. and J. Leighton.)
Masetto and the Nuns (Dec., iii, 1)174
A woodcut from Le Cento Novelle in ottava rima. (Venice, 1554.) (By the courtesy of Messrs. J. and J. Leighton.)
Monna Tessa Exorcising the Devil. (Dec., vii, 1)184
A woodcut from the Decameron. (Venice, 1525.)
Monna Tessa Exorcising the Devil. (Dec., vii, 1)184
Appeared in Sansovino's Le Cento Novelle (Venice, 1571.) (By the courtesy of Messrs. J. and J. Leighton.)
A Woodcut from the Decameron. (Strasburg, 1535)194
(By the courtesy of Messrs. J. and J. Leighton.)
Title of the Spanish Translation of the Decameron (Valladolid, 1539)204
(By the courtesy of Messrs. J. and J. Leighton.)
A Woodcut from the Decameron (Venice, 1602.) Title to Day V214
(By the courtesy of Messrs. J. and J. Leighton.)
Petrarch and Boccaccio Discussing224
From a miniature in the French version of the De Casibus Virorum, made in 1409 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Showcase V, MS. 126.)
Pompeia, Paulina, and Seneca230
A woodcut from the De Claris Mulieribus (Ulm, 1473), cap. 92. (By the courtesy of Messrs. J and J. Leighton.)
A woodcut from the De Claris Mulieribus (Ulm, 1493), cap. 91. (By the courtesy of Messrs. J. and J. Leighton.)
Paulina, Mundus, and the God Anubis238
A woodcut from the De Claris Mulieribus (Ulm, 1473), cap. 89. (By the courtesy of Messrs. J. and J. Leighton.)
The Torture of Regulus244
A woodcut from Lydgate's Falle of Princes of John Bochas. (London, 1494.)
Boccaccio Discussing250
From a miniature in the French version of the De Casibus Virorum, made in 1409 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Rothschild Bequest. MS. XII.)
Giovanni Boccaccio265
From the fresco in S. Apollonia, Florence. By Andrea dal Castagno (1396(?)-1457).
Boccaccio's House in Certaldo284
Room in Boccaccio's House at Certaldo288
The Ladies and Youths of the Decameron leaving Florence292
From a miniature in the French version of the Decameron, made in 1414 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Rothschild Bequest. MS. XIV.)
[xxviii] Poggio Gherardo, near Settignano, Florence298
(The scene of the first two days of the Decameron.)
Villa Palmieri, near Florence302
(The scene of the third and following days of the Decameron.)
La Valle Delle Donne306
From a print of the XVIII century in Baldelli's Vita di Gio. Boccaccio.
Title Page of Volume II of the First English Edition of the Decameron (Isaac Jaggard, 1620.)312








The facts concerning the life and work of Giovanni Boccaccio, though they have been traversed over and over again by modern students,[3] are still for the most part insecure and doubtful; while certain questions, of chronology especially, seem to be almost insoluble. To begin with, we are uncertain of the place of his birth and of the identity of his mother, of whom in his own person he never speaks. And though it is true that he calls himself "of Certaldo,"[4] a small town at that time in the Florentine contado where he had some property, and where indeed he came at last to die, we have reason to believe that it was not his birthplace. The opinion now most generally professed by Italian scholars is that he was born in Paris of a French mother; and, while we cannot assert this as a fact, very strong evidence, both from within and from without [4]his work, can be brought to support it. It will be best, perhaps, to examine this evidence, whose corner-stone is his assertion to Petrarch that he was born in 1313,[5] as briefly as possible.

The family of Boccaccio[6] was originally from Certaldo in Valdelsa,[7] his father being the Florentine banker and money-changer Boccaccio di Chellino da Certaldo, commonly called Boccaccino.[8] We know very little about him, but we are always told that he was of very humble condition. That he was of humble birth seems certain, but his career, what we know of his career, would suggest that he was in a position of considerable importance. We know that in 1318 he was in business in Florence, the name of his firm being Simon Jannis Orlandini, Cante et Jacobus fratres et filii q. Ammannati et Boccaccinus Chelini de Certaldo. In the first half of 1324 he was among the aggiunti deputati of the Arte del Cambio for the election of the Consiglieri della Mercanzia;[9] in 1326 he was himself one of the five Consiglieri; in the latter part of 1327 [5]he represented the Società de' Bardi in Naples, and was very well known to King Robert;[10] while in 1332 he was one of the Fattori for the same Società in Paris, a post at least equivalent to that of a director of a bank to-day. These were positions of importance, and could not have been held by a person of no account.

As a young man, in 1310, we know he was in business in Paris, for on May 12 in that year fifty-four Knights Templars were slaughtered there,[11] and this Boccaccio tells us his father saw.[12] That there was at that time a considerable Florentine business in France in spite of those years of disaster—Henry VII had just entered Italy—is certain. In 1311, indeed, we find the Florentines addressing a letter to the King of France,[13] lamenting that at such a moment His Majesty should have taken measures hurtful to the interests of their merchants, upon whom the prosperity of their city so largely depended.

Boccaccio di Chellino seems to have remained in Paris in business;[14] that he was still there in 1313 we know, for [6]in that year, on March 11, Jacques de Molay, Master of the Templars, was executed, and Giovanni tells us that his father was present.[15] If, then, Boccaccio was speaking the truth when he told Petrarch he was born in 1313, he must have been conceived, and was almost certainly born, in Paris.

From a miniature in the French version of the "De Casibus Virorum," made in 1409 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Showcase V, MS. 126.)

Let us now examine such evidence as we may gather from the allegories of his own poems and plays, though there he speaks in parables. In two of his works at least—the Filocolo and the Ameto—Boccaccio seems to be speaking of himself in the characters of Idalagos[16] and Caleone and Ibrida. The Ameto, like the Filocolo, was written to give expression to his love for Fiammetta, the bastard daughter of King Robert of Naples. There he says that Caleone (whom we suppose to be in some sort himself) was born not far from the place whence Fiammetta's mother (whom he has told us was French) drew her origin. Again, in another part of the same book the story is related of a young Italian merchant, not distinguished by birth or gentle breeding, who went to Paris and there seduced a young French widow. The fruit of their intercourse was a boy, who received the name of Ibrida. The evidence to be gathered from the Filocolo is even more precise, but, briefly, it may be said to confirm the story in the Ameto.[17] We find there, however, that the name of the father was Eucomos, which may be bad Greek for Boccaccio; that the name of the mother was Gannai, which might seem to be an anagram for Giovanna or Gianna; and that the father deserted the mother in order to marry Gharamita,[18] which sounds like [7]an anagram for Margherita, and in fact we find that Boccaccio di Chellino did marry almost certainly about 1314 Margherita di Gian Donato de' Martoli.[19]

The result then of these allegorical allusions in the Ameto and the Filocolo is to support the theory based on the few facts we possess, and to supplement it. That theory absolutely depends, so far as we rely upon facts for its confirmation, on Boccaccio's own statement, as reported by Petrarch, that he was born in 1313. If he was born in 1313, he was conceived and born in Paris, for we know that Boccaccio di Chellino was there in the years between 1310 and 1313. The Filocolo and the Ameto bear this out, and lead us to believe that his mother was a certain Gianna or Gannai (Jeanne, Giovanna), that he was born out of wedlock, and that his father deserted his mother, and not long after married Gharamita, as we suppose Margherita di Gian Donato de' Martoli.

Turning now to the evidence of his contemporaries, we shall find that just this was the opinion commonly received, so much so that the Italian translator of Filippo Villani's Lives actually changed the words of that author and forced him to agree with it. "His father," says this adapter,[20] "was Boccaccio of Certaldo, a village of the Florentine dominion. He was a man distinguished by excellence of manners. The course of his commercial [8]affairs brought him to Paris, where he resided for a season, and being free and pleasant in the temper of his mind, was no less gay and well inclined to love by the complexion of his constitution. There then it befell that he was inspired by love for a girl of Paris, belonging to the class between nobility and bourgeoisie, for whom he conceived the most violent passion; and, as the admirers of Giovanni assert, she became his wife and afterwards the mother of Giovanni."

As his admirers assert! But others were not slow to say that his father and mother were never married; and indeed, this without doubt was the ordinary opinion.

In the true version of Filippo Villani's Lives,[21] written in Latin, we read that he was the son of his natural father,[22] and that he was born at Certaldo. Domenico Aretino[23] agrees that Certaldo was his birthplace, and adds that in his opinion Boccaccio was a bastard. Again, Salvini and Manni, following perhaps the well-known sonnet of Acquettino, say he was born in Florence.[24] In all this confusion we are like to lose our way, and it is therefore not surprising that modern scholars are divided in opinion. [9]Tiraboschi[25] remains undecided. Baldelli[26] thinks he was born in Paris and was illegitimate; Ginguené, Witte, Carducci, Landau, Hortis, Antona Traversi, and Crescini agree with Baldelli—and, indeed, we find only two modern students who give Florence as his birthplace, to wit Corazzini[27] and Koerting[28], who agree, however, that he was a bastard.

It will thus be seen that the weight of opinion is on the side of the evidence, and that it certainly seems to have been shown that Boccaccio was born out of wedlock in Paris in 1313, and that his mother's name was Jeannette or Jeanne[29].

[10]It is probable that Boccaccio was brought still a tiny baby to Florence, but we cannot be sure of this, for though his father seems to have returned in 1314,[30] and almost at once to have married Margherita di Gian Donato de' Martoli, it is not certain that Giovanni accompanied him. Indeed the Filocolo seems to suggest that he did not.[31] However that may be, he was "in his first infancy" when he came to Tuscany, as he tells us in the Ameto, "fanciullo, cercai i regni Etrurii." The first river he saw was the Arno, "mihi ante alios omnes ab ipsa infantia cognitus"; and his boyhood was spent on that little hill described in the Filocolo, "piccolo poggio pieno di marine chiocciole," and covered with "salvatichi cerri," in the house of his father, "nel suo grembo," as he says in the Fiammetta.

Where was this hill dark with oaks where one might find sea-shells, the tiny shells of sea-snails? We do not know for certain. Some have thought it to be the hill of Certaldo,[32] but this seems scarcely likely, for we know that old Boccaccio was resident in Florence in 1318, and Boccaccio himself tells us that his boyhood was spent not in a house belonging to his father, but "nel suo grembo," literally in his father's lap.[33] Again, the country which he [11]loved best and has described with the greatest love and enthusiasm is that between the village of Settignano and the city of Fiesole, north and east of Florence. As though unable to forget the lines of just those hills, the shadows on the woods there, the darkness of the cypresses over the olives, he returns to them again and again. The Ninfale Fiesolano is entirely devoted to this country, its woods and hills and streams; he speaks of it also in the Ameto,[34] it is the setting of the Decameron; while the country about Certaldo does not seem to have specially appealed to him, certainly not in the way the countryside of one's childhood never ceases to do.

It is, then, to the hills about Settignano, to the woods above the Mensola and the valley of the Affrico, that we should naturally turn to look for the scenes of his boyhood. And indeed any doubt of his presence there might seem to be dismissed by a document discovered by Gherardi, which proves that on the 18th of May, 1336, by a contract drawn up by Ser Salvi di Dini, Messer Boccaccio di Chellino da Certaldo, lately dwelling in the parish of S. Pier Maggiore and then in that of S. Felicità, sold to Niccolò di Vegna, who bought for Niccolò the son of Paolo his nephew, the poderi with houses called Corbignano, partly in the parish of S. Martino a Mensola and partly in that of S. Maria a Settignano.[35] This villa of old Boccaccio's exists to-day at Corbignano, and bears his name, Casa di Boccaccio, and though it has been rebuilt much remains from his day—part of the old tower that has been broken [12]down and turned into a loggia, here a ruined fresco, there a spoiled inscription.[36] Here, doubtless, within sound of Mensola and Affrico, within sight of Florence and Fiesole, "not too far from the city nor too near the gate," Giovanni's childhood was passed.

Of those early years we have naturally very little knowledge. Before he was seven years old, as he himself tells us,[37] he was set to learn to read and write. Then he was placed in the care of Giovanni di Domenico Mazzuoli da Strada, father of the more famous Zanobi, to begin the study of "Grammatica."[38] With Mazzuoli he began Latin then,[39] but presently his father, who had already destined him for the counting-house, took him from the study of "Grammatica" and, as Giovanni tells us, made him give his time to "Arismetrica."[40] Then, if we may believe the Filocolo, he took him into his business, where he learned, no doubt, to keep books of account and saw some of the mysteries of banking and money-lending. Against this mode of life he conceived then a most lively hatred, which was to increase rather than to diminish as he grew older. Such work, he assures us in his Commentary on the Divine Comedy, cannot be followed without sin. Great wealth, he tells us in the Filocolo, prohibits, or at least spoils virtue: [13]there is nothing better or more honest than to live in a moderate poverty; while in the De Genealogiis Deorum he says poverty means tranquillity of soul: for riches are the enemy of quietness and a torment of the mind.


But we know nothing of his childhood, only it seems to have been unhappy. Till his return from Naples many year later, in spite of his hatred for business, he seems always to have got on well with his father.[41] In remembering words which he then wrote concerning him[42] we must remind ourselves that Boccaccino was at that time an old man, and had probably lost those "excellent manners" of which Villani speaks; and by then, too, Giovanni had altogether disappointed him, by forsaking first business, and later the study of Canon Law. His childhood seems to have been unhappy then not from any fault or want of care on his father's part, though no doubt his hatred of business had something to do with it; but the true cause of the unhappiness, and even, as he says, of the fear which haunted his boyhood, was almost certainly Margherita, his stepmother, with whom he doubtless managed to live well enough till her son Francesco was born.

We have already relied so much on the Filocolo and the Ameto that it will only confuse us to forsake them now. In the former,[43] he tells us that one day the young [14]shepherd, Idalagos (himself), following his father, saw two bears, who glared at him with fierce and terrible eyes in which he saw a desire for his death, so that he was afraid and fled away from the paternal fields to follow his calling in other woods. These two bears who chased Giovanni from home, not directly but indirectly, by causing the fear which hatred always rouses in the young, were, it seems, Margherita and her son Francesco, born about 1321.

It may well be that Boccaccino had come to the conclusion about this time that Giovanni would never make a banker, and hoping yet to see him prosperous in the Florentine manner, sent him to Naples to learn to be a merchant. If we add to this inference the evidence of the allegory of the two bears in the Filocolo, we may conclude that his father, disappointed with him already, was not hard to persuade when Margherita, loath to see the little bastard beside her own son Francesco, urged his departure.

All this, however, is conjecture. We know nothing of Boccaccio's early years save that his father sent him to Naples to learn business while he was still young, as is generally believed in 1330, but as we may now think, not without good reason, in 1323, when he was ten years old.[44]





In the fourteenth century the journey from Florence by way of Siena, Perugia, Rieti, Aquila, and Sulmona, thence across the Apennines at Il Sangro, and so through Isernia and Venafro, through Teano and Capua to Naples, occupied some ten or eleven days.[45] The way was difficult and tiring, especially for a lad of ten years old, and it seems as though Giovanni was altogether tired out, for, if we may believe the Ameto,[46] as he drew [16]near the city at last he fell asleep on his horse. And as he slept, a dream came to him. Full of fear as he was, lonely and bewildered, those "two bears" still pursuing him, doubtless, in his heart, suddenly it seemed to him that he was already arrived in the city. "The new streets," he says in the Ameto,[47] "held my heart with delight, and as I passed on my way there appeared to the eyes of my mind a most beautiful girl, in aspect gracious and fair, dressed all in garments of green, which befitted her age and recalled the ancient dress of the city; and with joy she gave me welcome, first taking me by the hand, and she kissed me and I her; and then she said sweetly, 'Come where you shall find good luck and happiness.'"[48] It was thus Giovanni was welcomed into Naples with a kiss.

Naples was then at the height of its splendour, under Robert the Wise, King of Jerusalem and the Two Sicilies, Count of Provence. If his titles had little reality, for that of Jerusalem merely commemorated an episode of history, and Sicily itself had passed into the hands of Aragon, as King of Naples and Count of Provence he possessed an exceptional influence in the affairs of Europe, while in Italy he was in some sort at the head of the triumphant Guelf cause. The son of Charles I of Anjou, King of Naples, Duke Robert, had seized the crown of Italy and Apulia, not without suspicion of fratricide; for the tale goes that none knew better than he the cause of the sudden illness which carried off his elder brother, Dante's beloved Charles Martel. However that may be, in June, 1309, [17]Duke Robert went by sea from Naples to Provence to the Papal Court there, "with a great fleet of galleys," Villani[49] tells us, "and a great company, and was crowned King of Sicily and of Apulia by Pope Clement on S. Mary's Day in September." A year later we find him in Florence on his way back from Avignon. He stayed in the house of the Peruzzi dal Parlagio, and Villani[50] says: "The Florentines did him much honour and held jousts and gave him large presents of money, and he abode in Florence until the 24th day of October to reconcile the Guelfs together ... and to treat of warding off the Emperor." He was, in fact, the great opponent, as we have seen, of Henry VII, and in 1312 Villani[51] records that he sent 600 Catalan and Apulian horse to Rome to defend the City, while the people of Florence, Lucca, and Siena, and of other cities of Tuscany who were in league with him, sent help also; yet though they held half Rome between them, Henry was crowned in the Lateran after all. It was in the very year of the Emperor's death that the Florentines gave him the lordship of their city, as did the Lucchese, the Pistoians, and the men of Prato.[52] Later, after much fighting, the Genoese did the same; so that in the year 1323 King Robert was in some sort drawing tribute from more than half the Communes of Central Italy. The brilliancy of his statecraft, or even, perhaps, of his statesmanship, added to the splendour of Naples, whither his magnanimity and the brilliance of his court attracted some of the greatest men of the time.[53]

"Cernite Robertum

Regem virtute refertum"

wrote Petrarch of him later—"full of virtue." While in a letter written in 1340 to Cardinal Colonna he says that of all men he would most readily have accepted King Robert [18]as a judge of his ability. Nor were they poets and men of learning alone whom he gathered about him. In 1330 Giotto, who had known Charles of Calabria in Florence in 1328,[54] came to Naples on his invitation; while so early as 1310, certainly, Simone Martini was known to him, and seems about that time to have painted his portrait, later representing him in S. Chiara as crowned by his brother S. Louis of Toulouse.[55] It was then into a city where learning and the arts were the fashion that Boccaccio came in 1323.

There were other things too: the amenity of one's days passed so much in the open air, the splendour of a city rich and secure, the capital of a kingdom, and the residence of a king—the only king in Italy—above all, perhaps, the gaiety of that southern life in the brilliant sunshine. Boccaccio never tires of telling us about this city of his youth. "Naples," he says in the Fiammetta, "was gay, peaceful, rich, and splendid above any other Italian city, full of festas, games, and shows." "One only thought, how to occupy oneself," he says again, "how to amuse oneself, dancing to the sound of music, discussing affairs of love, and losing one's heart over sweet words, and Venus there was indeed a goddess, so that more than one who came thither a Lucrece returned a Cleopatra. Sometimes," he continues, "the youths and maidens went in the gayest companies into the woods, where tables were prepared for them on which were set out all manner of delicate meats; and the picnic over, they would set themselves to dance and to romp and play. Some would glide in boats along the shore, others, dispensing with shoes and stockings, and lifting high their petticoats, would venture among the rocks or into [19]the water to find sea shells; others again would fish with lines." And then there were the Courts of Love held in the spring, when the girls, adorned with splendid jewels, he tells us in the Filocolo, tried to outshine one another, and while the old people looked on, the young men danced with them, touching their delicate hands. And seeing that he was surrounded by a life like this, is it any wonder that he fell in love with love, with beauty?


From the fresco by Simone Martini in S. Lorenzo, Naples.

Of the first years of his sojourn in that beautiful southern place we have only the vaguest hints.[56] In the De Genealogiis[57] he says that "for six years he did nothing but waste irrecoverable time" with the merchant to whom his father had confided him. He always hated business, and precocious as he was in his love for literature, in the gaiety and beauty of Naples he grew to despise those engaged in money-making; for, as he says in the Corbaccio, they knew nothing of any beautiful thing, but only how to fill their pockets.[58] Indeed Boccaccio might seem to have had no taste or even capacity for anything but study and the art of literature. He most bitterly reproaches his father in the De Genealogiis[59] for having turned him for so many years from his vocation. "If my father had dealt wisely with me I might have been among the great poets," he writes. "But he forced me, in vain, [20]to give my mind to money-making, and to such a paying thing as the Canon Law. I became neither a man of affairs nor a canonist, and I lost all chance of succeeding in poetry."

Those six irrecoverable years had indeed almost passed away before even in Naples he was able to find, unlearned as he was, "rozza mente" as he calls himself, any opportunity of culture. It was in 1328,[60] it seems, that those conversazioni astronomiche began with Calmeta, which aroused in him the desire of wisdom.[61] By that time his father was in Naples, having come thither in the autumn of 1327, and it may have been in his company that Giovanni first met this the earliest friend of his youth. But who was this Calmeta, this benefactor to whom, after all, we owe so much? Andalò di Negro, says Crescini;[62] but as Della Torre reminds us, his work was done in Latin, and Giovanni knew but little of the tongue. It will be seen in the Filocolo, to which we must turn again for guidance, that Calmeta and Idalagos have the same profession; they are both shepherds, and it is in their leisure that Calmeta teaches Idalagos astronomy. It seems then that Calmeta was also in business in Naples. That such an one there was Della Torre proves by drawing attention to a letter he will not allow to be apocryphal.[63] Calmeta, then, as we see, like Giovanni, was inclined to study, and more fortunate than he, had been able "tuam puerilem ætatem coram educatoribus roborare, et vago atque interno intuiti elementa grammaticæ ruminare...." [21]that is to say, to finish his elementary course of study, which consisted of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric.

But this new friendship was not the only thing that about this time helped to strengthen Giovanni's dislike of business and to encourage him in his love of learning and literature. For in the same year, 1328, it seems likely that he was presented at the court of King Robert,[64] a court, as we have already said, full of gay, delightful people and learned men.[65] It seems certain too that he was presented by his father who, as we have seen, between September and November, 1327, came to Naples as a member of the Società de' Bardi.[66] Now old Boccaccio not only went frequently to court during his sojourn in Naples, for he was very honourably received there, but was probably one of the most considerable Florentine merchants in the city,[67] and then he had known Carlo, Duke of Calabria, in Florence, before setting out.[68] There can therefore be very little doubt as to where Giovanni got his introduction.

Before his father left Naples, Giovanni, who was then about sixteen years of age, had had the courage to tell him that he could not pursue a business career.[69] His father [22]seems at last to have been convinced of this, and gave his consent for study in the Arts, but, practical man as he was, he believed in a fixed profession, and therefore set Giovanni in 1329[70] to study Canon Law, which might well bring him a career. So his father left him.

Whatever his duties had been or were to be, neither they nor his studies with his friend the young merchant occupied all his time. He enjoyed life, entering with gusto into the gaiety of what was certainly the gayest city in Italy then and later. He speaks often of the beauty of the women[71] amid that splendour of earth and sky and sea; and the beautiful names of two he courted and loved, being in love with love, have come down to us, to wit Pampinea, that white dove "bianca columba," and Abrotonia, the "nera merla" of the Filocolo.[72] Like Romeo, Boccaccio had his Rosaline. These were not profound passions, of course, but the sentimental or sensual ardours of youth that were nevertheless an introduction to love himself.[73] They soon passed away, though not without a momentary chagrin, for if he betrayed the first, the second seems to have forsaken him.

[23]After that disillusion he tells us he retired into his room, and there, tired as he was, fell asleep half in tears. And again, as once before, a vision came to him. He seemed to be sitting, where indeed he was, all sorrowful, when suddenly Abrotonia and Pampinea appeared to him. For some time they watched him weeping, and then began to make fun of his tears. He prayed them to leave him alone since they were the first and only cause of his grief, but the two damsels redoubled their laughter, so that at last he turned to them and said: "Begone, begone! Is your laughter then the price of my verses in your honour and of all my trouble?"[74] But they answered that it was for another that he had really sung. Then he awoke; it was still night, and, tearful as he was, he rose to light the lamp, and sat thus thinking for a time. But weary at last he returned to bed, and presently falling asleep he dreamed again. Once more the two girls stood before him, but with them was another, fairer far, all dressed in green. Her they presented to him, saying that it was she who would be the real "tyrant of his heart." Then he looked at her, and behold, she was the same lady he had seen in the first vision when, weary with the long roads, he first drew near to Naples; the very lady indeed who bade him welcome and kissed him, and whom he kissed again. So the dream ended.

What are we to think of these visions? Did they really happen, or are they merely an artistic method of stating certain facts—among the rest that Fiammetta was about to renew his life? But we have gone too far to turn back now; we have already relied so much on the allegories of the Ameto, the Filocolo, and the Fiammetta, that we dare not at this point question them too curiously. The visions are all probably true in substance if not in[24] detail. We must accept them, though not necessarily the explanations that have been offered of them.[75]

A woodcut from the "De Claris Mulieribus." (Berne, 1539.) (By the courtesy of Messrs. J. & J. Leighton.)

All this probably happened at the end of 1329, and Fiammetta was still more than a year away. By this time, however, Boccaccio was already studying Canon Law. Who was his master? He does not himself tell us. All he says is in the De Genealogiis,[76] and many reading that passage have at once thought of Cino da Pistoja, chiefly perhaps because it is so delightful to link together two famous men.[77] But while it is true that Cino was a doctor of Law in Naples in 1330,[78] we know that Boccaccio studied Canon Law, and that Cino was a Doctor of Civil Law and a very bitter enemy of the Canonisti.[79] It seems indeed impossible to name his master.[80] Whoever he may have [25]been, the study of Canon Law which presently became so repugnant to Giovanni must have been at first, at any rate, much more delightful than business. It probably gave him more liberty for reading and for pleasure. He had, of course, begun to study Latin again, and no doubt he read Ovid, whom he so especially loved—

"Lo quale poetando

Iscrisse tanti versi per amore

Come acquistar si potesse mostrando."[81]

No doubt, too, he read the Ars Amandi, "in which," he says in the Filocolo, "the greatest of poets shows how the sacred fire of Venus may be made to burn with care even in the coldest," and knew it all by heart.

We may believe too that he read the Heroides, which he imitated later in the letters of Florio to Biancofiore and of Biancofiore to Florio; and the Metamorphoses, which indeed we find on every page of the Filocolo.[82]

Delia Torre thinks[83] that although Cino da Pistoja was not his master, he certainly met him during his stay in Naples between October, 1330, and July, 1331,[84] and it was possibly through him that Boccaccio first read Dante. At any rate, he read him, and shortly after he imitates and speaks of him.[85] He also studied at this time under [26]Andalò di Negro,[86] the celebrated astrologer, one of the most learned men of his time, and we shall see to what use he put the knowledge he acquired; but who was it who introduced to him the French Romances? Perhaps it was one of the many friends he doubtless had among the rich Florentine merchants and their sons then in Naples;[87] but indeed he could hardly have failed to meet with them in that Angevin Court. That he knew the romance of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table we know,[88] but he knew even better the legends of the Romans and the Trojans, which he told Fiammetta, who now comes into his life never really to leave him again.





For it was in the midst of this gay life, full of poetry and study, that he met her who was so much more beautiful than all the other "ninfe Partenopee," and who seemed to him "quella che in Cipri già fu adorata," that is to say, Venus herself. He saw her first on a Holy Saturday, on the Vigil of Easter, as he himself tells us, and as we think on 30th March, 1331.[89] He had gone to Mass, it seems, about ten o'clock in the morning, the fashionable hour of the day, rather to see the people than to attend the service, in the church of S. Lorenzo of the Franciscans. And there amid that great throng of all sorts and conditions of men he first caught sight of the woman who was so profoundly to influence his life and shape his work.

"I found myself," he says, "in a fine church of Naples, named after him who endured to be offered as a sacrifice upon the gridiron. And there, there was a singing compact of sweetest melody. I was listening to the Holy Mass celebrated by a priest, successor to him who first girt himself humbly with the cord, exalting poverty and adopting it. Now while I stood there, the fourth hour of the day, according to my reckoning, having already passed down the eastern sky, there appeared to[28] my eyes the wondrous beauty of a young woman, come thither to hear what I too heard attentively. I had no sooner seen her than my heart began to throb so strongly that I felt it in my slightest pulses; and not knowing why nor yet perceiving what had happened, I began to say, 'Ohimè, what is this?'... But at length, being unable to sate myself with gazing, I said, 'O Love, most noble Lord, whose strength not even the gods were able to resist,[90] I thank thee for setting happiness before my eyes!'... I had no sooner said these words than the flashing eyes of that lovely lady fixed themselves on mine...."[91]

Fiammetta, for it was she, was tall and slanciata; her hair, he tells us, "is so blonde that the world holds nothing like it; it shades a white forehead of noble width, beneath which are the curves of two black and most slender eyebrows ... and under these two roguish eyes ... cheeks of no other colour than milk." This description, even in the hands of Boccaccio, is little more than the immortal "Item, two lips, indifferent red...."[92] Yet little by little in his work Fiammetta lives [29]for us. On that day she was dressed in a bruna vesta,[93] and wearing a veil that fell from her head crowned with a garland.[94] After her golden hair, it is her eyes and her mouth that he loves best in her.

"Due begli occhi luccan, sì che fiammetta

Parea ciascun d' amore luminosa;

E la sua bocca bella e piccioletta

Vermiglia rosa e fresca somigliava."[95]

He seems to have asked one of his companions who she was, but he knew not.

"Io stetti molto a lei mirar sospeso

Per guardar s' io l' udissi nominare,

O ch' io 'l vedessi scritto breve o steso

Lì nol vid' io nè 'l seppi immaginare."[96]

When she saw that he continued to stare at her, she screened herself with her veil.[97] But he changed his position and found a place by a column whence he could see her very well—"dirittissimamente opposto, ... appoggiato ad una colonna marmorea"—and there, while the priest sang the Office, "con canto pieno di dolce melodia,"[98] he drank in her blonde beauty which the dark clothes made more splendid—the golden hair and the milk-white skin, the shining eyes and the mouth like a rose in a field of lilies.[99] Once she looked at him,—"Li occhi, con debita gravità elevati, in tra la moltitudine de' circostanti giovani, con acuto ragguardamento distesi."[100] So he stayed where he was till the service was over, "senza mutare luogo." Then he joined his companions, waiting with them at the door to see the girls pass out. And it was then, in the midst of other ladies, that he saw her for the second time, watching her pass out [30]of S. Lorenzo on her way home. When she was gone he went back to his room with his friends, who remained a short time with him. These, as soon as might be, excusing himself, he sent away, and remained alone with his thoughts.

The morrow was Easter Day, and again he went to S. Lorenzo to see her only. And she was there indeed, "di molto oro lucente"—"adorned with gems and dressed in most fair green, beautiful both by nature and by art."[101] Then remembering all things, he said to himself: "This is that lady who in my boyhood (puerizia) and again not so long ago, appeared to me in my dreams; this is she who, with a joyful countenance and gracious, welcomed me to this city; this is she who was ordained to rule my mind, and who was promised me for lady, in my dreams."[102] From this moment began for him "the new life."

Who was this lady "promised to him in his dreams," whose love was indeed the great prize of his youth? We know really very little about her, though he speaks of her so often, but in three well-known places, in the Filocolo, the Ameto, and the Amorosa Visione, he tells us of her origin. It is in the Ameto that he gives us the fullest account of her. In that comedy[103] he tells us that at the court of King Robert there was a gentleman of the wealthy and powerful house of Aquino who held in Naples "the highest place beside the throne of him who reigned there." This noble had married, we learn, a young Provençal, "per bellezza da lodare molto," who with her husband lived in the royal palace.[104] Of this pair were born "some daughters whom Fiammetta called sisters,"[105] and a son who was assassinated.[106] Fiammetta's own birth is, we understand, surrounded by a kind of mystery, "voluttuoso e lascivo," corresponding, as we shall see, to her own temperament.[107]

A woodcut from "De Claris Mulieribus." (Berne, 1539.) (By the courtesy of Mssrs. J. & J. Leighton.)

[31] Boccaccio suggests that her birth is connected with the great festa which celebrated the coronation of King Robert, that took place in Avignon in September, 1309.[108] The king returned to Naples by way of Florence, where he arrived on September 30, 1310;[109] he was still there in October, and there was much fighting to be done, for Henry VII was making war in Italy; so that it was not till February 2, 1313,[110] that the king opened the first general parliament in Naples after his coronation. Della Torre[111] thinks that it was on this occasion the great festa described by Boccaccio took place. Its chief feature seems to have been a banquet of the greatest magnificence, to which all the court as well as many of the leading subjects of the Kingdom were bidden. Amid all this splendour Boccaccio describes the king's gaze passing over a host of beautiful women, to rest, always with new delight, on the beauty of the young wife of D'Aquino, who, since her husband belonged to the court, was naturally present. Well, to make a long story short, a little later the king seduced this lady, but as it seems, on or about the same night she slept also with her husband, so that when nine months later a daughter was born to her, both the king and her husband believed themselves to be the father. It is like a story out of the Decameron.

This daughter, the Fiammetta of his dreams, was born, he tells us, in the spring[112]—the spring then of 1314[113]—and was named Maria.[114] Before very long she lost her mother, who however, before she died, told her as well as [32]she could, considering her tender age, the mystery of her birth. Not long after, her father—or rather her mother's husband—died also, leaving the piccoletta "a vestali vergini a lui di sangue congiunte ... acciocchè quelle di costumi e d' arte inviolata servandomi, ornassero la giovanezza mia";[115] which is Boccaccio's way of saying that she was placed in the care of nuns, the nuns, as Casetti[116] supposes, of the Order of St. Benedict, to whom belonged the very ancient church of S. Arcangelo a Baiano.[117] There she grew up, and, like very many others of an eager and sensuous temperament, totally unfitted for the life of a religious, she desired too to be a nun, and this desire, we learn, became definite in her after an ecstatic vision in which S. Scholastica appeared to her[118] and invited her to take the vow. But happily this was not to be. Her golden hair was not to fall under the shears of the Church, but to be a poet's crown. She was too beautiful for the cloister, and indeed already the fame of her beauty had gone beyond the convent walls, which were in fact by no means very secure or unassailable. In those days, people "in the world," men as well as women, were received even by the "enclosed" in the parlour of the convent, where it was customary to hold receptions.[119]

So, we learn, there presently began a struggle in Fiammetta's heart—it was not of very long duration—between her resolution to take the veil and her feminine vanity. Little by little she began to adorn herself,[120] she received offers of marriage which by no means shocked her, [33]she became reconciled to the life of the world for which she was so perfectly fitted by nature. Among the suitors, and apparently they were many, was "uno dei più nobili giovani ... di fortuna grazioso, de' beni Giunonichi copioso, e chiaro di sangue."[121] To him, as to the rest, she replied with a refusal, to which she was doubtless encouraged by the nuns, who could not easily suffer so well-born and powerful a pupil to escape them. The young man, however—we do not know his name—was not easily discouraged, and, renewing his suit, was accepted. So she was married perhaps when she was about fifteen years old, in 1329.[122]

Her beauty[123] was famous, and she seems scarcely to have been married when she gave herself up to all the voluptuousness of her nature, more or less mute in the convent. That she could read we know, for she read not only Giovanni's letters, but Ovid,[124] probably a translation of the Ars Amandi, and the French Romances.[125] She was greatly run after by the youth of the Neapolitan court, who swore no festa was complete without her. Her husband's house, too, was in such a position that not only the citizens, but strangers, who must on arrival or departure pass it by, might spy her at her window or on her balcony.[126] Her excuse is this universal admiration, and the eagerness of her temperament, which allowed her to pass with ease from one lover to another.[127] And then she also found [34]that stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.[128] She excuses herself for having betrayed the husband who loved her so much, and can say: "What is lawfully pursued is apt to be considered of small account, even though it be most excellent, but what is difficult of attainment, even if contemptible, is held in high esteem."[129] But, like all vain and sensual natures, she was cruel, and encouraged her suitors to squander their substance on her, giving them nothing in return, and leading each to suppose that he was the only one she loved, and that she was about to make him happy. "And I," she says to Boccaccio in the character of Alleiram, "and I have laughed at them all, choosing, however, those who took my fancy and who were judged apt to give me pleasure. But no sooner was the fire spent than I broke the vase which contained the water and flung away the pieces." These words, so cynically moving, not only show us the cruelty of Maria's nature, but cast a strange light on the general condition of society in what was then, as later, the most corrupt city in Italy. Such, then, was the blonde Fiammetta whom Boccaccio loved.

But how could he, a mere merchant's son, ever hope to reach the arms of this disdainful, indifferent lady? By means of poetry? It seems so. But before replying fully [35]to this question it will be necessary to establish the chronological limits and divisions of this love affair, and this is the most difficult question in all the difficult history of the youth of Boccaccio.

We may find, as it happens, two dates to begin with in the Amorosa Visione. They have not escaped Crescini,[130] who, founding himself on them, has concluded, though not too certainly, that between the day of innamoramento and that of possesso completo 159 days passed. He arrives at this tentative conclusion in the following manner. In chapter xliv. of the Amorosa Visione Boccaccio tells us that when he became enamoured of Fiammetta, at first he marvelled greatly, as though something incredible had befallen him. Then he began to make fun of himself, "farsi beffa," for having thought of a lady so far above him. But at last, when

"Quattro via sei volte il sole

Con l' orizzonte il ciel congiunto aveva ..."

it appeared that his courting pleased his lady, and he seemed to understand from her that there was no distance however great, between lover and beloved, that love could not annihilate. But, said she, one ought to serve her only, and not to run after other ladies.

Crescini interprets this to mean that twenty-four days after Boccaccio first saw Fiammetta, she gave him reason to hope. And he arrives at this conclusion because he considers that the sun is in conjunction with the horizon only once a day, whereas it might seem to be so twice a day, at sunrise as at sunset. The other 135 days of Crescini's chronology come from the following verses of chapter xlvi. of the Amorosa Visione, in which Boccaccio tells us that he was able to possess Maria after

"Cinque fiate tre via nove giorni

Sotto la dolce signoria di questa

Trovato m' era in diversi soggiorni."

[36]Thus, says Crescini, we have twenty-four days from the first meeting to the acceptance of his court, and 135 days thenceforward to the possession, that is 159 days.[131]

Della Torre,[132] however, will have none of this reckoning, and seems to have proved that it is indeed inexact. To begin with, according to the Ptolemaic system, the sun moved round the earth and touched it as it were not only at its rising but also at its setting, so that the twenty-four days become twelve. This, however, is but a small matter, merely reducing the 159 days to 147. Crescini's chief error, according to Della Torre, is that he has added the first period of twelve (or twenty-four) days to the second of 135—making them immediately consecutive. Let us examine this matter somewhat closely.

In the Ameto Boccaccio tells us that the happy night which came at the end of the 135 days, the night in which he possessed Fiammetta, fell "temperante Apollo i veleni freddi di Scorpione." Now at what time precisely is the sun in the sign of the Scorpion? Andalò[133] tells us that at the end of the 20th October the sun is three and a half gradi in Scorpio, and that by the 15th November it is already entering Sagittarius. The sun then entered Scorpio on the 17th October and left it on the 14th November.[134] Somewhere between those two dates the loves of Giovanni and Fiammetta were consummated.

By the Dutch engraver called "The Master of the Subjects in the Boccaccio."
"De Casibus Virorum." (Strasburg, 1476.)

Boccaccio tells us, if we interpret him aright, that twelve days after his innamoramento his lady showed him that she [37]was pleased by his love. He then passes on to describe the long and faithful service he gave her:—

"Lungamente seguendo sua pietate

Ora in avversi ed ora in graziosi

Casi reggendo la mia voluntate,"[135]

and so on. Then he says:—

"Traendomi più là e con sommesso

Parlar le chiesi, che al mio dolore

Fine ponesse, qual doveva ad esso,

Ognor servando quel debito onore

Che si conviene a' suoi costumi adorni,

Di gentilezza pieni e di valore,"[136]

and at last adds the lines already quoted,

"Cinque fiate tre via nove giorni

Sotto la dolce signoria di questa

Trovato m' era in diversi soggiorni";


"nella braccia la Donna pietosa

Istupefatto gli parea tenere."

Taken thus we may divide the story of his love for Fiammetta into three periods. The first of these ends twelve days after the first meeting, and is the period of uncertainty. The second period is that in which he is accepted as courtier, as it were, on his trial. The third begins when his lady, moved by long service and repeated proofs of his devotions, returns his love; it is the period of "dolce signoria" and lasts one hundred and thirty-five days, at the end of which she gives herself to him.[137]

Of these periods we know only the length, then, of the first and the last. The first began on the 30th March and lasted till the 12th April, 1331, when the second began, to last how long? Well, at least two months, it seems,[138] perhaps [38]three. In that case all three periods belong to the same year. If this be not so, the second period was of longer duration than three months, perhaps much longer. Boccaccio himself tells us that it was "non senza molto affanno lunga stagione."[139] Now it seems reasonable to suppose that even so eager a lover as Boccaccio cannot call three months "lunga stagione," though he were dying for her and each minute was an eternity. He can scarcely have hoped to seduce a woman of his own class in less time. Common sense, then, is on our side when reminding ourselves that Maria d'Aquino was of the noblest family, married, too, to a husband who loved her, and generally courted by all the golden youth of Naples—while Giovanni was the son of a merchant—we insist that he cannot mean a paltry three months when he speaks of a long time.[140] But if the second period lasted more than three months, and so does not belong to the year 1331, to what year or years does it belong?

Della Torre seems to have found a clue in the following sonnet, whose authenticity, though doubted by Crescini,[141] he insists upon:—

"Se io potessi creder che in cinqu' anni

Ch' egli è che vostro fui, tanto caluto

Di me vi fosse, che aver saputo

Il nome mio voleste, de' miei danni

Per ristorato avermi, de' miei affanni

Potrei forse sperare ancora aiuto,

Nè mi parrebbe il tempo aver perduto

A condolermi de' miei stessi inganni...."[142]

which we may explain as "O my lady, I shall be the happiest of mortals if in the five years that I shall pay [39]you court, I should break through your indifference...." Five years brings us from 30th March, 1331, to 1336.

Now let us see whither the other facts we have will lead us.

In 1339 Boccaccio and Fiammetta had parted,[143] Boccaccio having been "betrayed" by her, as he tells us in Sonnets iv. and xxxiii.,[144] during the bathing season at Baia—the bathing season then of 1338—whither she had forbidden him to accompany her. But we know from Sonnets xlvii. and xlviii. that the end of the second period and the beginning of the third took place during the bathing season, and that there was also a season in which he accompanied her to Baia as her acknowledged lover.[145] There must, then, have been three seasons before April, 1339, and these three years lead us again to the year 1336.

So we believe that the first period "of uncertainty" in his love began on 30th March and ended on 12th April, 1331; that the second period "of service" began on 12th April, 1331, and ended between 3rd June and [40]2nd July, 1336, when the third period began, ending three years later. This third period is divided, as we have seen, into three parts, and comprises three bathing seasons. The first of these falls between 3rd June—2nd July, 1336, and the 17th October to 15th November, i.e. 135 days; an act of audacity on Giovanni's part, as we shall see, giving him possession of Fiammetta. The second is a period in which their love had become calmer: it fills the season of 1337 in which he was her cavaliere servente. The third falls in 1338, when, probably on account of the suspicions aroused by their intimacy, Fiammetta forbade him to accompany her to Baia, where in his absence she "betrayed" him.

Having thus found a chronology of Boccaccio's love-story, we must consider more particularly his life during its three periods.





Of the first period of Giovanni's love-story, the period of uncertainty which lasted but twelve days, we know almost nothing, save that he was used to remind himself very often of his unworthiness, and to tell himself that he was only the son of a merchant, while Fiammetta, it was said, was the daughter of a king, and at any rate belonged to one of the richest and most powerful families in the Kingdom. That she was married does not seem to have distressed him or appeared as an obstacle at all, for the court was corrupt;[146] but he seems to have been disturbed by the knowledge that she was surrounded by a hundred adorers richer, nobler, and with better opportunities than himself. And so he seems to have come to the conclusion that there was nothing to be done but to make fun of himself for having entertained a thought of her. It was apparently in these states of mind that he passed the days from Holy Saturday to 12th April, 1331, when he found suddenly to his surprise that she was content he should love her if he would.

What happened is described in the forty-fourth chapter of the Amorosa Visione. The twelve days were passed,[42] he tells us in this allegory, when he heard a voice like a terrible thunder cry to him:—

"O tu ... che nel chiaro giorno

Del dolce lume della luce mia,

Che a te vago sì raggia d' intorno,

Non ischernir con gabbo mia balìa

Nè dubitar però per mia grandezza,

La quale umil, quando vorrai, ti fia,

Onora con amor la mia bellezza,

Nè d' alcun' altra più non ti curare,

Se tu non vo' provar mia rigidezza."

How can we interpret this? It seems that there was evidently an occasion in which Fiammetta gave him to understand that she was not averse from his love. What was this occasion? Della Torre[147]—certainly the most subtle and curious of his interpreters—thinks he has found it: that he can identify it with that in which Fiammetta bade him write the Filocolo.

By the Dutch engraver called "The Master of the Subjects in the Boccaccio." "De Casibus Virorum." (Strasburg, 1476.)

In the prologue to that romance Boccaccio tells us that after leaving the temple of S. Lorenzo with full heart, and having sighed many days, he found himself by chance—he does not remember how—with some companions "in un santo tempio del Principe de' celestiali uccelli nominato": that is to say, as Casetti interprets it, in the convent of S. Arcangelo a Baiano, where Fiammetta had been. I have said that it was quite usual for nuns to receive visitors, both men and women, from the outside; the Fiammetta[148] itself confirms it if need be. The convents were in some sort fashionable resorts where one went to spend an hour in talk. On some such occasion Boccaccio went to S. Arcangelo with a friend, and finding Fiammetta there, probably told her stories from the French romances "del valoroso giovane Florio figliuolo di Felice grandissimo Re di Spagna," or of Lancelot and Guinivere, "con amorose parole," stuffed with piteous words. When he had [43]finished, she, altogether charmed, turned to the young poet and bade him write such a romance as that—for her—"a little book in which the beginning of love, the courtship, and the fortune of the two lovers even to their death shall be told." Well, what could he do but obey gladly? "Hearing the sweetness of the words which came from that gracious mouth," he tells us, "and remembering that never once till this day had that noble lady asked anything of me, I took her prayer for a command, and saw therein hope for my desires";[149] so he answered that he would do his best to please her. She thanked him, and Boccaccio, "costretto più da ragione che da volontà," went home and began at once to compose his romance.[150] So ends the first period of his love-story, and the second, the period of courtship, begins.

The first result of this interview and of the hope and fear it gave him—for whatever may have been the case with Fiammetta now and later, Giovanni was genuinely in love—was that he wandered away "dall' usato cammino" from the highway that had brought him so far and abandoned "le imprese cose," things already begun.[151] [44]And if we ask ourselves what was this highway, we may answer his way of life; and the things already begun—his study of the Canon Law. About this time, then, he began to go more to court, to enter eagerly into the joy of Neapolitan life in search of Fiammetta. At the same time his studies suffered—he neglected them to the dismay, as we shall see, not only of his father, but of his friends.

Something has already been said of the life at the court of King Robert. The very soul of it was the three ladies: Agnes de Perigord, wife of Jean D'Anjou, brother of King Robert; Marie de Valois, wife of Charles, Duke of Calabria, son of the king; and Catherine de Courteney, who at twelve years of age had married Philip of Taranto, another of the King's brothers.[152] The luxury in the city was by far the greatest to be found in Italy. The merchants of Florence, Lucca, Venice, and Genoa furnished to the court "scarlatti di Gant," "sciamiti, panni ricamati ad uso orientale," "oggetti d' oro ed argento," and "gemmas et lapides pretiosas ad camere regie usum." Boccaccio himself describes Naples: "Città, oltre a tutte l' altre italiche, di lietissime feste abbondevole, non solamente rallegra i suoi cittadini o con le nozze o con li bagni o con li marini liti, ma, copiosa di molti giuochi, sovente or con uno, or con un altro letifica la sua gente: ma tra l' altre cose, nelle quali essa appare splendidissima, è nel sovente armeggiare."[153] Or again of the spring there: "I giovani, quando sopra i correnti cavalli con le fiere armi giostravano, e quando circondati da' sonanti sonagli armeggiavano, quando con ammaestrata mano lieti mostravano come gli arditi cavalli con ispumante freno si debbano [45]reggere. Le giovani donne di queste cose vaghe, inghirlandate di nuove frondi, lieti sguardi porgevano ai loro amanti, ora dall' alte finestre ed ora dalle basse porte; e quale con nuovo dono, e quale con sembiante, e quale con parole confortava il suo del suo amore."[154]

If he thus spent his time in play and love there can have been little enough left, when the Filocolo was laid aside, for study. We find his father complaining of his slackness. Old Boccaccio had already been grievously disappointed when Giovanni abandoned trade, and now that he threw up or was not eager to pursue his law studies, he was both distressed and angry; nor were Giovanni's friends more content. All the Florentines at Naples, he tells us, seemed to speak with his father's voice. It was well to be in love, they told him, even better to write poetry, but to ruin oneself for love, Monna mia! what madness, and then poetry never made any one rich.[155]

So spoke and thought the practical Tuscan soul, and the English have but echoed it for centuries. However, Giovanni only immersed himself more in Ovid, and doubtless the throb of hexameter and pentameter silenced the prose of the merchants. Later, about 1334, he began to read Petrarch;[156] their personal friendship, however, did [46]not begin till much later, in 1350.[157] His reading then, like his love, inspired him to write verses, and as he tells us, when the days of uncertainty were over, "Under the new lordship of love I desired to know what power splendid words had to move human hearts."[158] And these ornate parole were all in honour of his love. How he praises her!

"Ed io presumo in versi diseguali

Di disegnarle in canto senza suono?

Vedete se son folli i pensier miei!"[159]

Presumptuous or no, he tells us very eloquently and sweetly that her teeth were candid Eastern pearls, her lips, living rubies clear and red, her cheeks, roses mixed with lilies, her hair, all gold like an aureole about her happy face:—

"E l' altre parti tutte si confanno

Alle predette in proporzione eguale

Di costei ch' i ver angioli simiglia."[160]

And then her eyes, it is always them he praises best:—

"L' angelico leggiadro e dolce riso

Nel qual quando scintillan quelle stelle

Che la luce del ciel fanno minore

Par s' apra 'l cielo e rida il mundo tutto."[161]

But he speaks of her beauty in a thousand verses in a thousand places, in many disguises.

This burning and eager love was, however, hindered in one thing—he had the greatest difficulty in seeing Fiammetta:—

"Qualor mi mena Amor dov' io vi veggia

Ch' assai di rado avvien, sì cara sete...."[162]

For at this time certainly Fiammetta does not seem to have [47]considered his love of any importance to her, so that she gave him very few opportunities of seeing her, and then in everything he had to be careful not to rouse her husband's suspicions.[163] Sometimes, too, she went far away into the country to some property of her family, whither he could not follow, and always every year to Baia for the season; so that we find him writing:—

"... colla bellezza sua mi spoglia

Ogn' anno nella più lieta stagione

Di quella donna ch' è sol mio desire;

A sè la chiama, ed io, contra mia voglia

Rimango senza il cuore, in gran quistione,

Qual men dorriemi il vivere o 'l morire."[164]

He managed to see her, however, sometimes in church, or at her window, or in the gardens, and once he followed her to Baia, but only to see her "a long way off." Yet, as he reminds himself, he always had her, a vision in his heart:—

"Onde contra mia voglia, s' io non voglio

Lei riguardando, perder di vederla,

In altra parte mi convien voltare.

Oh grieve caso! ond' io forte mi doglio;

Colei qui cerco di poter vederla

Sempre non posso poi lei riguardare."[165]

Then there were moments of wild hope, till the indifference of Fiammetta put it out; and he would resolve to break the "love chains," but it was useless. He humiliated himself, and at last came to despair. It was in some such moment, during her absence, we may think, that he began the Filostrato,[166] and at length finally abandoned those studies which in some sort his love had killed.

In this feverish state of mind, of soul, sometimes hopeful, sometimes in despair, Boccaccio passed the next five years of his life, from the spring of 1331 to the spring of [48]1336. It was during this time, in 1335[167] it seems, that with his father's unwilling permission he discontinued the law studies he had begun in 1329, but had for long neglected, and gave himself up to literature, "without a master," but not without a counsellor—his old companion in the study of astronomy, Calmeta. Other friends, too, were able to assist him, among them Giovanni Barrili, the jurisconsult, a man of fine culture, later Seneschal of King Robert for the kingdom of Provence,[168] and Paolo da Perugia, King Robert's learned librarian, elected to that office in 1332. Him Boccaccio held in the highest veneration, and no doubt Paolo was very useful to him.[169]

We know nothing of his first literary studies, but we may be sure he continued to read Ovid, and now read or re-read Virgil—these if only for the study of versification. As for prose, it is possible that he now read the Metamorphoses of Apuleius, which he certainly knew and admired. However that may be, his work at this time cannot have been very severe or serious, for his mind was full of uneasiness about Fiammetta, and this excitement no doubt increased in the early summer of 1336, when she grew "kinder," and deigned even to encourage him; he met her "con humil voce e con atti piacenti."[170]

By the Dutch engraver called "The Master of the Subjects in the Boccaccio." "De Casibus Virorum." (Strasburg, 1476.)

What was the real cause of this "kindness" it seems [49]impossible we should ever know. Perhaps at the moment Fiammetta lacked a lover, though that is hard measure for her. Some cause there must have been, for a woman does not surely let a lover sigh for five years unheard, and then for no reason at all suddenly requite him. Certainly Giovanni had made many beautiful verses for her, but when did that touch a woman's heart? Yet, be the cause what it may, in the summer of 1336 she would suddenly grow pale when he passed her by, and then as suddenly turn her "starry eyes" on him languidly, voluptuously:—

"Amor, se questa donna non s' infinge

La mia speranza al suo termine viene...."

All this seems to have come to pass at Baia, perhaps, as Boccaccio seems himself to suggest, one day in the woods of Monte Miseno whither they were gone with a gay company holding festa there in the golden spring weather.[171] And there were other days too: long delicious noons in the woods, still evenings by the seashore, where, though not alone, he might talk freely to her, by chance or strategy, or in a low voice whisper his latest verses beating with her heart. Giovanni, we may be sure, was no mean strategist; he was capable of playing his part in the game of hide-and-seek with the world.[172] He seems eagerly to have [50]sought the friendship of her husband and of her relations and Fiammetta herself tells us in the romance that bears her name that filled "non solamente dello amoroso ardore, ma ancora di cautela perfetta il vidi pieno; il che sommamente mi fu a grado. Esso, con intera considerazione vago di servare il mio onore e adempiere, quando i luoghi e li tempi il concedessero, li suoi desii credo non senza gravissima pena, usando molte arti, s' ingegnò d' aver la familiarità di qualunque mi era parente, ed ultimamente del mio marito: la quale non solamente ebbe, ma ancora con tanta grazia la possedette, che a niuno niuna cosa era a grado, se non tanto quanto con lui la comunicava...."[173]

Well, the one hundred and thirty-five days had begun.[174] There were difficulties still to be overcome, however, before he won that for which, as he says, he had always begged. Fiammetta, like a very woman, denied it him over and over again, though very willingly she would have given it to him. Expert as he had become in a woman's heart—in this woman's heart at least—Giovanni guessed all this and knew besides that she could not give him what he desired unless he took it with a show at least of violence. Such, even to-day, are Italian manners.[175] He awaited the opportunity. It seems to have come during the absence of the husband in Capua.[176] Screwing his courage to the [51]sticking-point, he resolved to go to her chamber, and to this end persuaded or bribed her maid to help him.[177]

It was in the early days of November probably, days so pensive in that beautiful southern country, that it befell even as he had planned. Led by the maid into Fiammetta's chamber, he hid himself behind the curtains of the great marital bed. Presently she came in with the maid, who undressed her and put her to bed, and left her, half laughing, half in tears. Again he waited, and when at last, desperate with anxiety and hope, he dared to come out of his hiding, she was sleeping as quietly as a child. For a time he looked at her, then trembling and scarce daring to breathe the while, he crept into the great bed beside her, in verity as though he were her newly wedded husband. Then softly he kissed her, sleeping still, and drawing aside the curtain that hid the light,[178] discovered to his amorous eyes "il delicato petto, e con desiderosa mano toccava le ritonde mammelle, bacciandola molte volte," and already held her in his arms when she awakened. She opened her mouth to cry for help, he closed it with kisses; she strove to get out of bed, but he held her firm, bidding her have no fear. She was defeated, of course, but that her yielding might not seem too easy she reproached him[179] in a trembling voice—trembling with fear and pleasure—for the violence with which he had stolen what she had always denied him; adding that all was quite useless as she did not wish it.

Then Giovanni, putting all to the proof, drew a dagger [52]from his belt, and retiring to a corner of the bed, in a low and distressed voice said—we find the words in the Ameto—"I come not, O lady, to defile the chastity of thy bed, but as an ardent lover to obtain relief for my burning desires; thou alone canst assuage them, or tell me to die: surely I will only leave thee satisfied or dead, not that I seek to gratify my passion by violence or to compel any to raise cruel hands against me; but if thou art deaf to my entreaties with my dagger I shall pierce my heart."

To kill himself—there. O no, Giovanni! Certainly she did not want that. What then? Well, not a dead man in her room, at any rate, for all the world to talk about.[180] Yes, she was paid in her own coin. She was conquered; her silence gave consent. "O no, Giovanni!"

"Donna mia," he whispered, "I came thus because it was pleasing to the gods...."[181]

"Thou lovest me so?" she answered. "And when then, and how, and why ... and why?" So he told her all over again from the beginning, and she, yielding little by little, seemed doubtful even yet. Then he asked again, "Che farò O Donna? Passerà il freddo ferro il solecito petto o lieto sarà dal tuo riscaldato?" At this renewed menace the poor lady, without more ado, reached for the iron and flung it away. Then he, putting his arms about her and kissing her furiously, whispered: "Lady, the gods, my passion, and thy beauty, have wounded my soul, and thus as was already told thee in dreams I shall for ever be thine: I do not think I need implore thee to be mine, but if necessary I pray thee now once for all...."

That night was but the first of a long series, as we may suppose. "Oh," says Fiammetta, in the romance which [53]bears her name, "how he loved my room and with what joy it saw him arrive. He held it in greater reverence than any church (temple). Ah me, what pleasant kisses! What loving embraces! How many nights passed as though they had been bright days in sweet converse without sleep! How many delights, dear to every lover, have we enjoyed there in those happy days."[182]

So autumn passed into winter and the long nights grew short, and all the world was at the spring; and for them too it was the golden age—so long ago. Well, do we not know how they spent their lives? It was ever Giovanni's way to kiss and tell. Has he not spoken of the festas and the jousts, and the rare encounters that in Naples greeted Primavera?[183] We see him with Fiammetta at the Courts of Love, in the deep shade of the gardens, in the joyful fields,[184] on the seashore at Baia,[185] and at the Bagno beside the lake of Avernus,[186] while we may catch a glimpse of them too at a wedding feast.[187] So passed what proved to be the one happy year of their love, and perhaps the happiest of Giovanni's life.

That year so full of wild joy soon passed away. With the dawn of 1338 his troubles began. At first jealousy. He found it waiting to torture him on returning from a journey we know not whither,[188] in which he had encountered dangers by flood and field; a winter journey then, doubtless. He came home to find Fiammetta disdainful, angry, [54]even indifferent. All the annoyance of the road came back to him threefold:—[189]

"... non ch' alcun tormento

Mi desser tornand 'io, ma fur gioconde,

Tanta dolce speranza mi recava

Spronato dal desio di rivederti,

Qual ver me ti lasciai, Donna, pietosa.

Or, oltre, a quel che io, lasso! stimava,

Trovo mi sdegni, e non so per quai merti;

Per che piange nel cor l' alma dogliosa,

E maledico i monti, l' alpe e 'l mare,

Che mai mi ci lasciaron ritornare."[190]

Whose fault was it? Perhaps there is not much need to ask. Fiammetta was incapable of any stability in love, and Giovanni could never help looking at "altre donne."[191] As we have seen, Fiammetta was surrounded by admirers who were not, be sure, more scrupulous than Boccaccio. So that his suspicions were aroused, and he must have found it difficult to obey her when she forbade him to follow her to Baia in 1338. Perhaps he had compromised her, and for that cause alone she had ceased to care for him—it would perhaps be after her nature; but however it may have been, it was no marvel that he was jealous, angry, and afraid.[192]

From a miniature in the French version of the "De Casibus Virorum," made in 1409 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. Late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Rothschild Bequest. MS. XII.)

And his fears prophesied truly—he was betrayed. He did not know it when she first returned to Naples after the summer was gone. She took care of that,[193] but she gave [55]him excuses instead of kisses, which only roused his angry jealousy the more. "Il geloso," she told him, "ha l' animo pieno d' infinite sollecitudini, alle quali nè speranza nè altro diletto può porgere conforto o alleviare la sua pena.... Egli vuole e s' ingegna di porre legge a' piedi e alle mani, e a ogni altro atto della sua donna,"[194] and so on and so forth. These hypocritical and eloquent commonplaces did not soothe him, but rather increased his anxiety. We must remember that though Giovanni would gad after other beauties, he loved Fiammetta then and always. It is not surprising, then, that his jealousy became a wild anger. "Nel cuore mi s' accese un' ira sì ferocissima, che quasi con lei non mi fece allora crucciare, ma pur mi ritenni."[195] Little by little suspicion grew to certainty; he guessed he was betrayed, he knew it, he suspected the very man, his supplanter, his friend; and he sees him, as it were in a dream, on the "montagne vicine a Pompeano," like a great mastiff who devours the hen pheasant at a mouthful.[196] What could he do, what could he say? "Let Thy name perish, Baia...."

"Perir possa il tuo nome, Baia, e il loco;

Boschi selvaggi le tue piagge sieno,

E le tue fonti diventin veneno,

Nè vi si bagni alcun molto nè poco:

In pianto si converta ogni tuo gioco,

E suspetto diventi il tuo bel seno

A' naviganti; il nuvolo e 'l sereno

In te riversin fumo solfo e fuoco;

Che hai corrotto la più casta mente

Che fosse in donna colla tua licenza,

Se il ver mi disser gli occhi non è guari.

Là onde io sempre viverò dolente,


Come ingannato da folle credenza;

Or fuss' io stato cieco non ha guari!"[197]

After rage, humiliation. He tells himself that in spite of all he will love her always, more and more, yes, more than his own life or honour. He will persist, he will not be easily beaten, he will regain her. And yet it is all quite useless, as he knows.[198] Was it not in this hour that he wrote the following beautiful lines:—

"La lagrime e i sospiri e 'l non sperare,

A quella fine m' han si sbigottito

Ch' io me ne vo per via com' uom smarrito:

Non so che dire e molto men che fare.

E quando avvien che talor ragionare

Oda di me, che n' ho talvolta udito,

Del pallido colore, e del partito

Vigore, e del dolor che di fuor pare,

Una pietà di me stesso mi vene

Sì grande, ch' io desio di dir piangendo

Che sia cagion di tanto mio martiro:

Ma poi, temendo non aggiugner pene

Alle mie noie, tanto mi difendo,

Ch' io passo in compagnia d' alcun sospiro."[199]

But fate was not content, as he himself says,[200] with this single blow. Till now he had wanted for nothing; he had had a home of his own, and had been able to go to court when, and as, he would, and to enter fully into the life of the gay city. Now suddenly poverty stared him in the face. His father, from whom all that was stable and good in his [57]life hitherto had proceeded, was ruined.[201] But even in his fall he remembered his son, and though Giovanni was now twenty-five years of age, he maintained him, at considerable inconvenience doubtless, from 1st November, 1338, to 1st November, 1339, by buying for him the produce of a podere near Capua, "i beni della chiesa di S. Lorenzo dell' Arcivescovato di Capua," which cost him twenty-six florins.[202] Della Torre thinks that the wretched youth was compelled to visit the place (possibly this was his fateful journey) and to deal with a fattore di campagna and the wily contadini of whom Alberti has so much to tell us a century later. With them he would have to take account of the grain, the grapes, the olives, the swine, and so forth, while trying to write romances and to save his love from utter disaster.

As though the ills he suffered were not enough, it was at this time he lost a friend and protector from whom he expected very much. Niccolò Acciaiuoli, whom he had known since 1331, left Naples on 10th October, 1338, and two years later Boccaccio writes to him on his return from the Morea: "Nicola, if any trust can be placed in the miserable, I swear to you by my suffering soul that the departure of Trojan Æneas was not a deeper sorrow to the Carthaginian Dido than was yours to me: not without reason, though you knew it not: nor did Penelope long for the return of Ulysses more than I longed for yours."[203]

And then all his companions forsook him owing to his change of fortune; one by one they fell away. He who had [58]consorted with nobles and loved a king's daughter was left alone; not in his own dwelling, but outside the city now, "sub Monte Falerno apud busta Maronis," as he dates his letters: close then to the tomb of Virgil. Was it now, at the lowest ebb of his fortunes, in all this tempest of ill, that he turned to the verse of the Mantuan who has healed so many wounds that the Church may not touch; and so, dreaming beside his sepulchre at Posilippo, remembering the wasted life, the irrecoverable years, made that vow which posterity has so well remembered, sworn as it was on Virgil's grave, to give himself to letters, to follow his art for ever?

Henceforth his life belongs to literature. "Every cloud," says the proverb, "has a silver lining," and the miseries of youth, though not the least bitter, differ, in this at least, from those of old age, that one has time to profit by them. So it was with Giovanni. The tempest which had destroyed so much that he valued most highly was in some sort his salvation. To love is good, they had told him, to write verses even better; but to ruin oneself for love——! What madness! Yet it was just that he had done, and like many others who have practised his art, he found in ruin the highway of the world.

Driven by poverty outside the city, deprived alike of its pleasures and the excitement and distractions of his love, he had nothing left but his art, and for the first time in his life he seems to have set himself to study and to practise it with all his might. Deserted by his companions, he reminded himself that he was a poet and that solitude was his friend. He seems to have read much, studying in the shadow of Virgil's tomb the works of that poet[204] and the writings of the ever-delightful Apuleius, while in the letter to Calmeta we find—and this is most interesting in regard to his own work—that he was already reading[59] the Thebais of Statius.[205] Helpers, too, of a sort he had, among them Dionigi Roberti da Borgo Sansepolcro,[206] who, as Della Torre thinks, made him write to Petrarch, a thing Boccaccio no doubt had long wished, but hesitated, to do. The first extant communication between them, however, dates from 1349.

In the midst of this resurrection of energy in which, as we learn, he had already grown calm enough to see Fiammetta afar off without flinching and even with a sort of pleasure, his father, widowed by the death of Margherita, "full of years, deprived by death of his children," summoned him home.[207] When did Boccaccio obey this summons? That he was in Naples in 1340 is proved by the letter "Sacro famis et angelice viro," dated "sub Monte Falerno apud busta Maronis Virgilii, Julii Kal IIII.," i.e. 28th June, and, as the contents show, of the year 1340.[208] He was still there in October, for on 1st November the renewal of the contract of the podere of S. Lorenzo fell due, but by 11th January, 1341, we know him to have been in Florence.[209] He left Naples, then, between 1st November, 1340, and 11th January, 1341,[210] and as the journey took eleven days or so he must have set out in [60]the end of the year. By so doing, as it happened, he just missed seeing Petrarch, who, invited to his court by King Robert, left Avignon on 16th February, 1341, in the company of Azzo da Correggio, to reach Naples in March.[211]

So Giovanni came back into the delicate and strong Florentine country, along the bad roads, through the short days, the whole world lost in wind and rain, neither glad nor sorry, but thoughtful, and, yes, homesick after all for that ghost in his heart.




I have written at some length and in some detail of the early years of Boccaccio and of the circumstances attending his love for Fiammetta, because they decided the rest of his life, and are in many ways by far the most important in his whole career. But the ten years which follow his return to Florence are even more uncertain and obscure that those which preceded them, while we are without any of those semi-biographical allegories to help us. It will be necessary, therefore, to deal with these years less personally, and to regard them more strictly from the point of view of the work they produced. And to begin with, let us consider the work already begun before Boccaccio left Naples, or at any rate worked on during the years 1341-4, which were spent in and around Florence.

That his life was far from happy on his return from Naples we know not only from the bitter and cruel verses he has left us, in which he speaks of his home—

"Dove la cruda ed orribile vista

D' un vecchio freddo, ruvido ed avaro

Ogn' ora con affanno più m' attrista——"[212]

but also from the letters he sent to Niccolò Acciaiuoli,[213] in which he says: "I can write nothing here where I am in [62]Florence, for if I should, I must write not in ink, but in tears. My only hope is in you—you alone can change my unhappy fate." That he was very poor we may be certain, and though he was not compelled to work at business, the abomination of his youth, no doubt he had to listen to the regrets, and perhaps to the reproaches, of an old man whom misfortune had soured. His father, however, seems to have left him quite free to work as he wished, satisfying himself with his mere presence and company. And then the worst was soon over, for, by what means we know not, by December, 1342, he was able to buy a house in the parish of S. Ambrogio, and to live in his own way.[214]

This period, then, materially so unfortunate, not for Boccaccio alone, as we shall see, is nevertheless the most fruitful of his existence. For it is in the five years which follow his return from Naples that we may be sure he was at work on the Filocolo, the Ameto, the Teseide, the Amorosa Visione, the Filostrato, and wrote the Fiammetta and the Ninfale Fiesolano, and somewhat in that sequence; though save with regard to the Filocolo perhaps, we have no notice or date or hint even of the order of their production, either from himself or any of his contemporaries.

It was at this time, too, that he perfected himself in the Latin tongue and read the classics, of which he shows he had a marvellously close if uncritical knowledge. His state of soul is visible in his work, which is so extraordinarily personal. A single thought seems to fill his mind: he had loved a princess, and had been loved in return; she had forsaken him, but she remained, in spite of everything, the lode-star of his life. He writes really of nothing else but this. Full of her he sets himself to glorify her, and to tell over and over again his own story.

From a miniature in the French version of the "De Casibus Virorum," made in 1409 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Showcase V, MS. 126.)

[63]It was the story of Florio and Biancofiore, popular enough in Naples, that had charmed Fiammetta at first hearing in the convent parlour at S. Arcangelo a Baiano, and it is round this tale that the Filocolo is written.[215] As he tells us himself in the first page, this was the first book he made to please her, and it was therefore probably begun in the summer of 1331.[216] The work thus undertaken seems to have grown on his hands, and can indeed have been no light task: it is the longest of his works after the Decameron, and the weakest of all. The book, indeed, as we now have it, must have demanded years of labour; as he himself exclaims: "O piccolo mio libretto a me più anni stato graziosa fatica";[217] and it is certain that it was still unfinished when he returned to Florence, and probable that it remained so for some years. The narrative is complicated, and the relation very long drawn out and even tiresome.

There live in Rome, we learn, Quinto Lelio Africano and Giulia Tropazia his wife, who have been married for five years, and yet, to their sorrow, have no children. Lelio is descended from the conqueror of Carthage, Scipio Africanus, and Giulia from the Julian stock. They are both pious Christians and vow a pilgrimage to S. James of Compostella if, in answer to the prayers of that saint, God will vouchsafe them a child. Their prayers are heard, and with a great company they set out on pilgrimage to Spain in fulfilment of their vow.

Now this pilgrimage has especially infuriated the [64]ancient enemy of mankind, here half Satan, half Pluto, and he is resolved to hinder it. In the form of a knight he appears before King Felice of Spain, who is descended in direct line from Atlas, the bearer of the heavens, and tells him how his faithful city of Marmorina has been assailed by the Romans, how it was sacked and its inhabitants put to the sword without mercy.

Much moved to anger by this tale, King Felice sets out against the Romans, and meeting Lelio with his people on pilgrimage, takes them for his enemies and attacks them. The little Roman company defends itself with the courage of despair, but ends by succumbing to overwhelming force. All the Romans are killed on the field and their women made prisoners; but not before the King understands how maliciously he has been deceived by the devil, and how the folk he has killed were but innocent pilgrims. So he leads Giulia and Glorizia her friend to his wife in Seville, where a great fête is given in his honour.

And as it happens Giulia and the Queen give birth in the same day to a daughter and a son respectively, who are given the names of Biancofiore and Florio. Giulia, however, dies in child-bed, and her daughter Biancofiore is educated by the Queen with her son Florio. The two children learn to read in the "santo libro d' Ovidio," in which Boccaccio tells us the poet shows, "come i santi fuochi di Venere si deano ne' freddi cuori con sollecitudine accendere." And this reading is not without its effect; the two children fall in love, Love himself appearing to them.

There follows what we might expect. The King is angered at their love, and refuses to permit the union of his son with an unknown Roman girl. He sends the fifteen-year-old Florio to Montorio, ostensibly to study philosophy, but really to forget Biancofiore. After the parting, charmingly told, in which Florio calls on the gods and heroes, and Biancofiore gives him a ring which will[65] always tell him of her safety, he departs. The King, however, profiting by his absence, plots against Biancofiore with the assistance of Massamutino the seneschal. At a sumptuous banquet given in the castle the girl is accused of having tried to poison him. She is condemned to the stake, and Massamutino is to execute the sentence.

Meanwhile Florio has been disquieted by the sudden tarnishing of the ring. Suddenly Venus appears to him, and bids him go to the assistance of his mistress. Armed with arms terrestrial and celestial, accompanied by Mars, Florio hastens to Marmorina. He frees Biancofiore, and in a sort of duel conquers the seneschal, and having obtained from him a confession of the conspiracy, proves the innocence of Biancofiore and kills him. During all this he is incognito. Then, without heeding her prayers, he gives her once more into the care of the King and returns to Montorio without declaring who he is. There he is tempted to be false to his love by two girls who offer him every sort of love and pleasure, and it is only with difficulty he keeps his faith. He is then assaulted by jealousy, however, for he knows that a young knight, Fileno by name, altogether noble and valorous, is fallen in love with Biancofiore. Florio resolves to kill him, but the youth is advised in a dream of his danger and flies into Tuscany, where, by reason of his continual weeping, he is changed into a fountain near a temple.

The persecutions of Biancofiore, however, are not over. King Felice, wishing to be rid of her, sells her one day to some merchants, and these take her at length to Alexandria in Egypt. Florio, returning, is told she is dead; he tries to kill himself on her pretended tomb, but his mother prevents him and tells him the truth. He resolves to set out through the world in search of his love. Here the first part of the story may be said to end.

The second part is concerned with Florio's adventures.[66] He travels unknown under the name of Filocolo,[218] that is to say Fatica d' Amore. With his companions he voyages first towards Italy, and, blown by a tempest to Partenope (Naples), meets there in a garden the beautiful Fiammetta and her lover Galeone amid a joyful and numerous company, each member of which recounts an amorous adventure, and closes the narrative with a demand for the solution of the Questione d' Amore which arises out of it.

Meanwhile Biancofiore has been sold to the admiral of the Sultan of Babylon in Alexandria, who makes a collection of beauties for his lord. This treasure is kept well guarded, but with every consideration, at the top of a lofty and beautiful tower by Sadoc, a ferocious old Arab, who, however, has two weaknesses—his love of money and his love of chess. Florio allows him to win at a game of chess, and at the same time bribes him generously. Having thus won his good will he has himself carried to Biancofiore in a great basket of flowers. She rewards him for all his labour. The admiral, however, learns of this, and, furious at the spoliation of his property, condemns both Florio and his mistress to be burned alive. But when they are at the stake, Venus makes their bodies invulnerable, and inspires Florio's companions to heroic deeds. In admiration of their courage, the admiral is reconciled with them; and, in fact, when Florio, Filocolo till now, declares who he is, he finds that the old admiral[67] is his uncle. Then follows the marriage and the marriage feast.

Here the book might well have ended; but Boccaccio has by no means finished.

On the way back to Spain, Florio, Biancofiore and their companions pass through Italy. In Naples they find Galeone abandoned by Fiammetta. They visit the places round about, the baths of Baia, the ancient sepulchre of Misenum,[219] Cuma, the Mare Morto and Pozzuoli. Florio fishes in the bay and hunts in the woods. One day following a stag, he shoots an arrow that not only wounds the animal, but also strikes the root of a tall pine, and, wonderful to relate, Florio and Biancofiore see blood spring from the wounded tree and hear a mournful voice cry out in pain. This being, changed into a tree, proves to be Idalagos, who, questioned by Florio, tells him all his history, the history, as we have seen,[220] of Boccaccio himself, for it is his own story he tells in the name of Idalagos.

After these adventures Florio, with Biancofiore and his companions, goes on to Rome, where, like a modern tourist, he visits all the sights. In the Lateran he meets the monk Ilario, who discourses on religion, dealing severely with paganism, and recounting briefly the contents of the Old and New Testaments. He speaks also of the history of the Greeks and Romans, and at last converts Florio and his companions to Christianity.[221] Then follows the reconciliation with Biancofiore's relations and the return to [68]Spain, where, Felice being dead, Florio inherits his kingdom, and with Biancofiore lives happily ever after.

Such, in the most meagre outline, is the main story of the Filocolo; but Boccaccio is not really concerned with it in its integrity, and in the construction of it he does not show himself to be the future composer of the Decameron. He collects in haste, and without much discernment, all sorts of episodes and adventures, and tells them, not without some confusion, solely to serve his own ends, to express himself and his love. Sometimes he copies the French poems from which in part he had the story,[222] though probably his real sources were tradition; sometimes he invents his own story, as in the tale of Idalagos. But as a work of art the Filocolo is now intolerable, and is, in fact, even in Italy, quite unread. For when we have followed the hero in detail from birth to the unspeakable happiness which is the finality of all such creations, we know nothing of his character. He is not a man, but a shadow; the ghost of a ghost. And as it is with Florio, so it is with Biancofiore: they are pure nothing. But, as it seems, Boccaccio was too young and too eager to care about anything but flattering Fiammetta and telling her he loved her. The story, in so far as it is a story, is an imitation of the endless medieval tales told by word of mouth in the streets and piazzas up and down Italy. Yet now and again, even in this wearying and complicated desert of words, we may find hints of the author's [69]attitude of mind towards the great things of the world, while once certainly we find a prophecy not only of a great artist, but of the Decameron itself.

This cut originally appears in the "Troy Book." (T. Bonhomme, Paris, 1484.) Unique copy at Dresden. (By the courtesy of Messrs. J. & J. Leighton.)

In the course of the book Boccaccio makes all sorts of excursions into mythology, and towards the end into religion. If we examine these pages we find that for him the gods of Greece once reigning in Olympus are now devils and demons according to the transformation of the Middle Age. The monk who converts Florio and teaches him Christian doctrine speaks with the same faith of Saturn and the Trojan war, while Mars and Venus are never named without the epithet of Santi, and S. James of Compostella is "il Dio che viene adorato in Galizia."

In spite, however, of its faults of prolixity and preciosity, the Filocolo has, as I have said, this much interest for us to-day, that in the finest episode, that of the Questioni d' Amore, it prophesies the Decameron. In the course of his search for Biancofiore, Florio, it will be remembered, comes to Naples, where in a beautiful garden he finds Fiammetta and her lover Galeone. There, amid a joyful company, he assists at a festa given in his honour, where thirteen questions are proposed by four ladies—Cara, Pola, and Graziosa, and one dressed in bruni vestimenti; and nine gentlemen—Filocolo, Longanio, Menedon, Clonico, Galeone, Feramonte, Duke of Montorio, Ascalione, Parmenione, and Massalino.[223] It is Fiammetta's task to resolve these questions. Neither the tales nor the questions which rise out of them are entirely new. For instance, Galeone asks: "Whether a man for his own good ought to fall in love or no?" Feramonte demands: "Whether a young man should love a married woman, a maiden, or a widow?" It is not indeed so much in the questions as in the stories and the assembly we are interested, for they announce the[70] Decameron, the whole of which, as Bartoli[224] says, is contained in the Questioni d' Amore.[225]

The first edition of the Filocolo was published in Venice in 1472 by Gabriele di Piero, with a life of Boccaccio written by Girolamo Squarciafico. A French translation appeared in 1542 by Adrien Sevin. It was translated again in 1554 by I. Vincent (Paris, 1554, Michel Fezandat).

The Filocolo was written in prose. In his next venture[226] Boccaccio, who had no doubt already written many songs for Fiammetta, attempted a story in verse. It is written in ottave, and was begun during the earlier and brighter period of his love.[227] "You are gone suddenly to Samnium," he writes in the dedication to Fiammetta, "and ... I have sought in the old histories what personage I might choose as messenger of my secret and unhappy love, and I have found Troilus son of Priam, who loved [71]Criseyde. His miseries are my history. I have sung them in light rhymes and in my own Tuscan, and so when you read the lamentations of Troilus and his sorrow at the departure of his love, you shall know my tears, my sighs, my agonies, and if I vaunt the beauties and the charms of Criseyde you will know that I dream of yours." Well, the intention of the poem is just that. It is an expression of his love. He is tremendously interested in what he has suffered; he wishes her to know of it, he is eager to tell of his experiences, his pains and joys. The picture is the merest excuse, a means of self-expression. And yet in its exquisite beauty of sentiment and verse it is one of the loveliest of his works. The following is an outline of the narrative.

During the siege of Troy, Calchas, priest of Apollo, deserts to the Greek camp,[228] and leaves his daughter Criseyde, the young and beautiful widow, in Troy.[229] Troilus sees her there in the temple of Minerva,[230] and falls in love. By good luck he finds that Criseyde is a cousin of his dear friend Pandarus, whom he immediately makes his confidant,[231] obtaining from him the promise that he will help him.[232] Pandarus goes slowly and cautiously to work. He first persuades Criseyde to let herself be seen by Troilus,[233] and when this does not satisfy his friend he shows himself rich in resource. At his suggestion Troilus writes to Criseyde and he bears the letter. He spares no way of persuading her, who at first swearing "per la mia [72]salute" that she will never consent, consents and makes Troilus happy.[234]

Almost all the third Canto is devoted to a description of the happiness of the two lovers.

"Poi che ciascun sen fu ito a dormire,

E la casa rimasta tutta cheta,

Tosto parve a Griseida di gire

Dov' era Troilo ni parte segreta,

Il qual, com' egli la sentì venire,

Drizzato ni piè, e con la faccia lieta

Le si fe' incontro, tacito aspettando,

Per esser presto ad ogni suo comando.

"Avea la donna un torchio in mano acceso,

E tutta sola discese le scale,

E Troilo vide aspettarla sospeso,

Cui ella salutò, poi disse, quale

Ella potè: signor, se io ho offeso,

In parte tale il tuo splendor reale

Tenendo chiuso, pregoti per Dio,

Che mi perdoni, dolce mio disio.

"A cui Troilo disse: donna bella

Sola speranza e ben della mia mente,

Sempre davanti m' è stata la stella

Del tuo bel viso splendido e lucente,

E stata m' è più casa particella

Questa, che 'l mio palagio certamente;

E dimandar perdono a ciò non tocca;

Poi l' abbracciò e baciaronsi in bocca.

"Non si partiron prima di quel loco

Che mille volta insieme s' abbracciaro

Con dolce festa e con ardente gioco,

Ed altrettante vie più si baciaro,

Siccome que' ch' ardevan d' ugual foco,

E che l' un l' altro molto aveva caro;

Ma come l' accoglienze si finiro,

Salir le scale e'n camera ne giro.

[73]"Lungo sarebbe a raccontar la festa

E impossibile a dire il diletto

Che insieme preser pervenuti in questa:

E' si spogliarono e entraron nel letto;

Dove la donna nell' ultima vesta

Rimasa già, con piacevole detto

Gli disse: speglio mio, le nuove spose

Son la notte primiera vergognose.

"A cui Troilo disse: anima mia,

I' te ne prego, sì ch' io t' abbia in braccio

Ignuda sì come il mio cor disia.

Ed ella allora: ve' che me ne spaccio;

E la camicia sua gittata via,

Nelle sue braccia si raccolse avaccio

E strignendo l' un l' altro con fervore,

D' amor sentiron l' ultimo valore.

"O dolce notte, e molto disiata,

Chente fostu alli due lieti amanti!"[235]

But the happiness of the Trojan prince does not last. Calchas, who desires to see his daughter, contrives that she shall come to him in an exchange of prisoners. Inexpressible is the sorrow of Troilus when he learns of this design.[236] He prays the gods, if they wish to punish him, to take from him his brother Hector or Polissena, but to leave him his Criseyde.[237] Nor is Criseyde less affected.[238] Pandarus, when appealed to, suggests that Troilus shall take the girl, if need be, by force: a marriage seems to have been out of the question.

"Pensato ancora avea di domandarla

Di grazia al padre mio che la mi desse;

Poi penso questo fora un accusarla,

E far palese le cose commesse;

Nè spero ancora ch' el dovesse darla,


Sì per non romper le cose promesse,

E perchè la direbbe diseguale

A me, al qual vuol dar donna reale."[239]

In fact, Cassandra has already discovered that her brother is in love with a lady of no birth, the daughter of a wretched and vulgar priest. So Troilus decides to have a last meeting with Criseyde before she goes, to contrive with her what is to be done. At this meeting the lovers swear eternal fidelity[240] and Criseyde promises to return to him in Troy in ten days' time. Then in that same day Diomede delivers one prisoner and takes Criseyde back with him to the Greek camp.

Now Troilus is alone with his sorrow. He visits all the places that remind him of Criseyde, and this pilgrimage is described in some of the most splendid verses of the poem:—[241]

"Quindi sen gì per Troia cavalcando

E ciascun luogo gliel tornava a mente;

De' quai con seco giva ragionando:

Quivi rider la vidi lietamente;

Quivi la vidi verso me guardando:

Quivi mi salutò benignamente;

Quivi far festa e quivi star pensosa,

Quivi la vidi a? miei sospir pietosa.

"Colà istava, quand' ella mi prese

Con gli occhi belli e vaghi con amore;

    .       .       .       .       .       .

"Colà la vidi altiera, e là umile

Mi si mostrò la mia donna gentile."

So he passes the time. In vain Pandarus seeks to distract him;[242] in vain he seeks to comfort himself with making [75]verses; the longing to see Criseyde again is stronger than anything else.

An English woodcut from Lydgate's "Falles of Princes." (Pynson, London, 1527.) It is a copy in reverse from the French translation of the "De Casibus." (Du Pré, Paris. 1483.) (By the courtesy of Messrs. J. & J. Leighton.)

At last the ten days pass, and Criseyde ought to return to Troy. Troilus awaits her at dawn at the gate of the city; but in vain: she does not come. He consoles himself, however, by thinking that perhaps she has forgotten to count the days and will come to-morrow. But neither does she come on the morrow. Thus he awaits her for a whole week in vain at the gate of the city, till at last in despair he resolves to take his own life.[243]

Meanwhile Criseyde, from the day of her departure, has passed the time much better than Troilus. For in truth she has consoled herself with Diomede, who, after the first four days, has easily made her forget the Trojan. She does not wish, however, that Troilus should know she has broken faith. She answers his letters and puts him off with words and excuses.

"My love with words and errors still she feeds,

But edifies another with her deeds."[244]

This sort of deception, however, cannot last long. Troilus grows more and more suspicious, till one day Deiphebus having fought with Diomede, he brings into Troy a clasp taken from the Greek which Troilus recognises as the same he had given to Criseyde, and is persuaded of her falsity.[245] So he resolves to avenge himself on Diomede. In every encounter he rushes headlong on the foe, achieving miracles of valour, seeking everywhere for Diomede; but fate is against him even here, and he falls at last unavenged, but at least by the noble hand of Achilles.[246]

"The wraththe, as I began yow for to seye

Of Troilus, the Grekes boughten dere;

For thousands his hondes maden deye

As he that was with-outen any pere,

Save Ector, in his tyme, as I can here.


But weylaway save only goddes will

Dispitously him slough the fiers Achille."[247]

Thus ends this simple work. In it we see an extraordinary advance on the Filocolo and the Teseide, both of which were possibly planned and begun before the Filostrato and finished later, for there is a fine unity about the last which suggests that it was begun and ended without intervention. Certainly here Boccaccio has freed himself from all the mythological nonsense of those works as well as from the lay figures and ghosts of knights who take antique names and follow impossible ways. Here are real people of flesh and blood, and among them nothing is finer than the study of Criseyde. She is as living as any figure in the Decameron itself. We see her first as a widow mourning for a husband she has altogether forgotten; yet when Pandarus makes his first overtures, she pleads her bereavement, while she reads with delight the letters Troilus sends her, and is already contriving in her little head how and when she shall meet him. She tries to make Pandarus think she is doing everything out of pity, but in her mind she has already decided to give everything to her lover, although she writes him that she is "desirous to please him so far as she may with safety to her honour and chastity." Then, as soon as she has left Troy weeping, and Diomede has revealed his love to her, she forgets Troilus because the Greek "was tall and strong and beautiful":—

"Egli era grande e bel della persona,

Giovane fresco e piacevole assai

E forte e fier siccome si ragiona....

E ad amor la natura aveva prona."[248]

So she takes him, but even to him she lies, for she tells him she has loved and been loved by no one but her dead husband, whom she served loyally:—

[77]"Amore io non conobbi, poi morio

Colui al qual lealmente il servai,

Sì come a marito e signor mio;

Nè Greco nè Troian mai non curai

In cotal fatto, nè me m' è in disio

Curarne alcuno, nè mi fia giammai...."[249]

This character, vain, false, and light, but absolutely living and a very woman, is opposed to the loyal character of Pandarus, and is doubtless subtly modelled without too much exaggeration on that of Fiammetta. In direct contrast to it is the character of Troilus, the most beautiful in the poem: so eager, so ardent, so perfectly youth itself. He knows no country, no religion, no filial affection, but lives and sees only Criseyde. Every day he will thrust himself into the thickest of the fight in search of glory that he may lay it at her feet and win her praise. It is love that has made him a hero, as it made Boccaccio a poet: but both Criseyde and Fiammetta were women; what should they care for that? Troilus is a real creation, the first of those marvellous living figures who later people the Decameron: the first and the most charming, the most youthful, the most beautiful. But the whole poem is marvellously original alike in its characters and in its versification.

As for the story, Boccaccio, it seems, got it partly from Benoît de Sainte-More, whose Roman de Troie had been composed from the uncertainly dated works of "Dictys Cretensis" and "Dares Phrygius," and partly from the prose Latin Hystoria Troiana of Guido delle Colonne; there is certainly nothing of the Iliad there. But the Filostrato is really an original composition, owing little or nothing to any previous work. If there be any imitations to be found in it they are not of the Roman de Troie or of Guido delle Colonne, but of Dante:[250] the Divine [78]Comedy even at this time having cast its shadow over Boccaccio.

In the ninth and last book of the poem, which is not indeed a part of it, but rather a sort of epilogue, he dedicates his work to Fiammetta,

"Alla donna gentil della mia mente,"

and tells her that she may find there his own tears and sighs because of—

"De' suoi begli occhi i raggi chiari,

Mi si occultaron per la sua partenza

Che lieto sol vivea di lor presenza."

These words to some extent date the poem, which was apparently finished before Fiammetta had betrayed him, and it seems likely even that he had not as yet obtained from her the favours he valued so highly and of which she was so generous to so many. These are the reasons why I have considered the Filostrato so early a work in spite of its perfection.

The poem was published for the first time about 1480 by Luca Veneto in Venice; it was translated into French[251] by Louis de Beauveau, Seneschal d'Anjou, and as we shall see, Chaucer drew from it his exquisite poem Troilus and Criseyde.

In turning now to the Teseide we come apparently to the third work, in point of time, of Boccaccio's youth. In the Filocolo, itself a labour of love, he has told us of his first joy; in the Filostrato of his hopes, torments, doubts, and waiting; in the Teseide we see the agonies of his jealousy. It was written to some extent under the influence of Virgil as we should suppose, since it was begun, as we may think, in the shadow of his tomb when Boccaccio[79] had left the city of Naples,[252] and it proves indeed to be written in twelve books, and to have precisely the same number of lines as the Æneid, namely 9896; it is therefore about twice as long as the Filostrato. It is prefaced by a letter "To Fiammetta," in which he tells us why he has written the poem, while "thinking of past joy in present misery." The work professes to be a story of ancient times, and to be concerned with the love two brothers in arms, Palemon and Arcite, bear Emilia; but this is merely an excuse. "It is to please you," he tells Fiammetta, "that I have composed this love story." Was it with some idea of winning back her love by this stupendous manuscript? How charming and how naive, how like Giovanni too; but how absurd to dream of thus influencing Fiammetta. Did she ever read these nine thousand odd verses? Che! che!

The story is meagrely as follows:—

In the barbarous land of Scythia,[253] on the shores of the Black Sea, dwelt the Amazons under Ippolyta, their queen. Now certain Greeks cast up on that coast in a tempest had been ill-treated there, and Theseus, Duke of Athens, undertakes a war of vengeance against that kingdom, and in spite of a valorous defence conquers it.[254] His price of peace is absolute submission and the hand of the Queen Ippolyta. And it was so, and many of the Greeks too, longing for women after the campaign, married also. And when Theseus had lived in peace there with his wife Ippolyta for more than a year,[255] scarce thinking of Athens, his friend Peritoo appeared to him in a dream urging his return. So he set out and came to Athens with Ippolyta and her younger sister Emilia.

Scarcely is he come to Athens when he is urged by a [80]deputation of the Greek princesses to declare war on Creon, who will not permit the burial rites to be performed for those who fell in the war of succession. Theseus conquers Thebes and Creon is killed, the bodies of the Greek princes are solemnly burned and their ashes conserved.

So far the introduction, in which Boccaccio has followed tradition with an almost perfect faithfulness: now begins his own work, to which these adventures of Theseus are but the preface.

Two youths of the royal Theban stock, Palemon and Arcite, have been made prisoners by Theseus and taken to Athens. There they see from the window of their prison the beautiful Emilia of the blonde hair, sister of the Amazonian queen. She is walking in the garden when they see her and she them. She quickly finds that she likes to be admired, and in all innocence coquets with the two young prisoners,[256] who for six months lament their love without hope.

Now as it happens, by the help of Peritoo, Arcite is set at liberty, on condition that he goes into exile and only returns to Athens under pain of death. Profoundly sorrowful to leave Emilia, he sets out in company with some esquires as a knight-errant, and wanders all over Greece, until at last his love compels him to return to Athens.[257] Once more in Athens, he enters the service of Theseus, undiscovered and unknown, but that the little Emilia recognises him, though she does not betray him. He is, however, discovered and betrayed by his own imprudence. For he arouses the jealousy of Palemon, who escapes from his prison, and finding his friend and rival in a wood, forces him to fight in order to decide who shall have Emilia.[258]

(By the courtesy of Messrs. J. & J. Leighton)


While they were calling on Mars, Venus, and Emilia,[259] in the same way as the Christian knights called on Madonna and their lady, suddenly Emilia, who was hunting in that very wood, came upon them, and they, made fiercer by her presence, start in earnest.[260] But at last Theseus arrives called by Emilia, to end the combat and learn the cause of the quarrel. Hearing it he pardons them, for he himself has been young and has loved too, but he attaches to his pardon a condition, to wit, that each of them, aided by a hundred knights, shall combat in public for Emilia's hand.[261]

The young lovers must send into all lands messengers to enrol two hundred knights,[262] and these at last are gathered together in the place of combat. Among the rest came Peleus, still a youth, the great twin brethren Castor and Pollux, Agamemnon and Paris, Narcissus, Nestor, Ulysses, Pygmalion, prince of Tyre, Sichæus, Minos, and Rhadamanthus, who have abandoned their judgment seats in Orcus to witness the fight. Indeed, as Landau has well said, if Homer had been there, he would certainly have been delighted to find again so many he had known of old, but he would also have marvelled to find among them so many jongleurs.

Before beginning the struggle Theseus, Palemon, and Arcite hold long discourses; the two rivals and Emilia recite long prayers.

The prayer of Arcite is to Mars, who lives in the mists of Thrace amid snow and ice. There in a thick wood of stout oaks stands his palace of iron with gates of diamond, at which mount guard Mad Fury, Murder, and Eternal Anger red as fire.

On the other hand, Palemon's prayer is to Venus, who [82]lives in a garden full of fountains and streams and singing birds. There meet Grace, Courtesy, Delight, Beauty, Youth, and Mad Ardour. At the entrance sits Madonna Pace (Peace), and near her Patience and Cunning in Love. Within, however, Jealousy tortures his victims; while the door which leads to the sanctuary where Venus reposes between Bacchus and Ceres is guarded by Riches.[263]

The tourney is then described in the usual way, and ends in the defeat of Palemon. However, as Arcite only asked Mars for victory, he cannot enjoy it or its fruit. Palemon, it seems, asked not for victory, but that he might have Emilia. So the gods decide it. And therefore Venus sends a Fury who throws Arcite, and he is mortally wounded after his victory.[264] Before his death, however, he is married to Emilia,[265] makes his will, in which he leaves his wife and fortune to his friend and rival, and ends by swearing to him that he has only had of Emilia a single kiss.[266] After this Arcite is buried with great pomp, and tourneys are held in his honour, and there follows the marriage of Emilia and Palemon.[267]

What are we to make of such a work as this? Ambitious and complicated though it be, it is out of all comparison feebler than the simple tale of Troilus and Criseyde. Nor has it the gift of life, nor the subtle characterisation of the Filostrato. The two youths Palemon and Arcite are alike in their artificiality; they have never breathed the air we breathe, and we care nothing for or against them. And it would be the same with Emilia, but that her absolute stupidity angers us, and we soon come to find her unbearable. She is always praying the gods to give her the man she loves for a husband, but she herself is absolutely ignorant which of the two he may be.

[83]But it might seem that the last thing Boccaccio thought of here was the creation of an impersonal work of art. His intention was rather to express his own sufferings. In the agonies of Palemon and Arcite he wished Fiammetta to see his own misery; and it may be that in the protection of Venus by which Palemon got at last what he most desired, he wished to tell Fiammetta that he too expected to triumph, even then, by virtue of his passion, the singleness of his love. Certainly, he seemed to say, you are worthy of the love of heroes, but it is the heart of a poet that Venus protects and satisfies; then give me your grace, since I am so faithful. That something of this sort was in his mind is obvious from the dedicatory letter to Fiammetta.[268]

As for the sources from which Boccaccio had the tale, we have seen that he certainly knew the Thebais of Statius,[269] but it was not only from Statius that he borrowed; he used also, as Crescini[270] has proved, the Roman de Thèbes, especially towards the end of his poem. Nor must we altogether pass over the influence of the Æneid, in which he found not only the form, but often the substance of his work.[271]

[84]The first edition of the Teseide, full of faults, was published in Ferrara in 1475 by Pietro Andrea Bassi. As for translations, there have been many, the first being a Greek version issued in Venice in 1529. There followed an Italian prose paraphrase published in Lucca in 1579; while in 1597 a French version was published in Paris. The most famous translation or rather paraphrase was made, however, by Chaucer for the Knight's Tale in the Canterbury Tales; and of this I speak elsewhere.

In the shadow of Virgil's tomb, in a classic country still full of an old renown, Boccaccio had followed classic models, had written two epics and a romance in the manner of Apuleius; but in Tuscany, the country of Dante and Petrarch, he came under the influence of different work, and we find him writing pastorals. The Ameto is a pastoral romance written in prose scattered with verses, and to the superficial reader it cannot but be full of weariness. The action takes place in the country about Florence under the hills of Fiesole in the woods there, and begins with the description of the rude hunter Ameto (ἄδμητος), who only thinks of the chase and of the way through the forest[272]. Then he comes upon a nymph, Lia by name, and scarcely has he seen her and[85] heard her sing than he loves her. After many pages of description of the love of Ameto, the struggle between his love and his timidity, he tells Lia at last that he loves her, and makes her accompany him in the chase. Winter comes, however, and separates them. But in the spring Ameto finds her again near a temple in which are gathered a company of fauns, dryads, satyrs, and naiads. There too in a private place a party of nymphs and shepherds meet close to Ameto and Lia. Many pages of description follow concerning each of the six nymphs, Mopsa, Emilia, Fiammetta, Acrimonia, Agapes, and Adiona. These descriptions are very wearying, for they are almost exactly alike, so like, indeed, that we may think Boccaccio was describing one woman and that Fiammetta. One after another these nymphs tell their amorous adventures, and each closes her account with a song in terza rima. Then Venus appears in the form of a column of fire,[273] and Ameto not being able to support the sight of the goddess, the nymphs come to his aid. When he is himself again, he prays the goddess to be favourable to his love.

Till now the pagan and sensual character of the book is complete, but here Ameto suddenly sees the error of his ways, all is changed in a moment, the spiritual beauty of the nymphs seems to him to surpass altogether their physical beauty. He understands that their loves are not men; the gods and temples about which they discourse are not those of the Pagans, and he is ashamed to have loved one of them as he might have loved any mortal girl. Then suddenly he breaks into a hymn in honour of the Trinity, and they all return to their own homes. Thus the work ends without telling us of the fate of Ameto or the nymphs.

The book, however, full as it is of imitations of Dante, is an allegory within an allegory. The nymphs and shepherds are not real people, but it seems personifications[86] of the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues and their opposites. Thus Mopsa is Wisdom, and she loves Afron, Foolishness; Emilia is Justice, and she loves Ibrida, Pride; Adiona is Temperance, and she loves Dioneo, Licence; Acrimonia is Fortitude, and she loves Apaten, Insensibility; Agapes is Charity, and she loves Apiros, Indifference; Fiammetta is Hope, and she loves Caleone, Despair; Lia is Faith, and she loves Ameto, Ignorance. In their songs the seven nymphs praise and exalt the seven divinities that correspond to the seven virtues which they impersonate; thus Pallas is praised by Mopsa (Wisdom), Diana by Emilia (Justice), Pomona by Adiona (Temperance), Bellona by Acrimonia (Fortitude), Venus by Agapes (Charity), Vesta by Fiammetta (Hope), and Cibele by Lia (Faith). The whole action of the work then becomes symbolical, and Boccaccio, it has been said, had the intention of showing that a man, however rude and savage, can find God only by means of the seven virtues which are the foundation of all morals. If such were his intention he has indeed chosen strange means of carrying it out. The stories of the seven nymphs are extremely licentious, and all confess that they do not love their husbands and are seeking to make the shepherds fall in love with them. All this is, as we see, obscure, medieval, and far-fetched. Let it be what it may be. It is not in this allegory we shall find much to interest us, but in certain other allusions in which the work is rich. Thus we shall note that Fiammetta is Hope, and that she gives Hope to Caleone, who is Despair. That Caleone is Boccaccio himself there can be no manner of doubt. We see then that at the time the Ameto was written he still had some hope of winning Fiammetta again. In fact in the Ameto Fiammetta has the mission of saving Caleone from death, for he is resolved to kill himself. I have spoken of the autobiographical allusions in the Ameto, however, [87]elsewhere.[274] It will be sufficient to say here that the Ameto was written, as Boccaccio himself tells us, in order that he might tell freely without regret or fear what he had seen and heard. It is all his life that we find in the stories of the nymphs. Emilia tells of Boccaccino's love for Jeanne (Gannai), his desertion of her, his marriage, and his ruin. Fiammetta tells how her mother was seduced by King Robert, who is here called Midas.[275] Then she describes the passion of Caleone (Boccaccio), his nocturnal surprise of her, and his triumph. The work is in fact a complete biography; and since this is so, there are in fact no sources from which it can be said to be derived. We find there some imitations of the Divine Comedy, some hints from Ovid and Virgil, of Moschus and Theocritus. The Ameto was dedicated to Niccola di Bartolo del Bruno, his "only friend in time of trouble." It was first published in small quarto in Rome in 1478. It has never been translated into any language.


There follows the Amorosa Visione, which was almost certainly begun immediately after the Ameto; at any rate, all modern authorities are agreed that it was written between 1341 and 1344. It recalls the happier time of his love, and Fiammetta is the very soul of the poem. Written in terza rima, not its only likeness to the Divine Comedy, it is dedicated to Maria d'Aquino (Fiammetta) in an acrostic, which is solved by reading the initial letters of the first verse of each terzina; the result being two sonnets and a ballata.[276] The name of "Madonna Maria" is formed by the initials of the twelfth to the twenty-second [88]terzine of chapter x, and the name "Fiamma" by those of the twenty-fifth to the thirty-first of chapter xiii. Here is no allegory at all, but a clear statement; the three last lines of the first sonnet reading:—

"Cara Fiamma, per cui 'l core ò caldo,

Que' che vi manda questa Visione

Giovanni è di Boccaccio da Certaldo."

As the title proclaims, the poem is a Vision—a vision which Love discovers to the poet-lover. While he is falling asleep a lady appears to him who is to be his guide. He follows her in a dream, and together they come to a noble castello; there by a steep stairway they enter into the promised land, as it were, of Happiness, choosing not the wearying road of Good to the left, but passing through a wide portal into a spacious room on the right, whence come delicious sounds of festa. Two youths, one dressed in white, the other in red, after disputing with his guide, lead him into the festa, where he sees four triumphs—of Wisdom, of Fame, of Love, and of Fortune. In the triumph of Wisdom he sees all the learned men, philosophers, and poets of the world, among them Homer, Virgil, and Cicero, Horace, Sallust, Livy, Galen, Cato, Apuleius, Claudian, Martial, and Dante.[277] In the triumph of Fame he sees all the famous heroes and heroines of Antiquity and the Middle Age, among them Saturn, Electra, Baal, Paris, Absalom, Hecuba, Brutus, Jason, Medea, Hannibal, Cleopatra, Cornelia, Giulia, and Solomon, Charlemagne, Charles of Apulia, and Corradino.[278] The uniformity of the descriptions is pleasantly interrupted by certain apparitions, among them Robert of Naples[279] and Boccaccino, [280] besides a host of priests.[281] Once [89]in speaking of the sufferings of poverty he seems to be writing of his own experiences:—

"Ha! lasso, quanto nelli orecchi fioco

Risuona altrui il senno del mendico,

Nè par che luce o caldo abbia 'l suo foco.

E 'l più caro parente gli è nemico,

Ciascun lo schifa, e se non ha moneta,

Alcun non è che 'l voglia per amico."[282]

After all, it is the experience of all who have been poor for a season.

There follows the triumph of Love, in which he sees all the fortunate and unfortunate lovers famous in poetry from the mythology of Greece to Lancelot and Guinevere, and Tristram and Iseult; and among these he sees Fiammetta.

So we pass to the triumph of Fortune, in which we learn the stories of Thebes, of Troy, of Carthage, of Alexander, of Pompey, of Niobe, and we are told of the inconstancy of terrestrial things.[283] And thus disillusioned, the poet makes the firm resolve to follow his guide in spite of every temptation. Yet almost at once a certain beautiful garden destroys his resolve. For he enters there and finds a marvellous fountain of marble, and a company of fair women who are presented to him under mysterious pseudonyms.[284] Among these are the bella Lombarda, the Lia of the Ameto, and finally the lady who writes her name in letters of gold in the heart of the poet.[285] And this lady he chooses for his sun, with the approval of his guide, who seems to have forgotten, as he has certainly done, the resolves so lately taken. However, the guide now discreetly leaves him in a somewhat compromising position; and it is thus Fiammetta who leads him into the abandoned road of virtue.[286]

[90]These Trionfi were written before the Trionfi of Petrarch, and their true source is to be found not in any of Petrarch's work, but in the Divine Comedy and in the sources Dante used.[287] Boccaccio has evidently studied the great poem very closely. He imitates it not only in motives and symbols and words, but, as we have seen, in the form of his verse, and to some extent in the construction of his poem, which consists of fifty capitoli, each composed of twenty-nine terzine and a verse of chiusa, that is of eighty-eight verses in each.

The first edition was published in Milan in 1521 with an Apologia contro ai detrattori della poesia del Boccaccio by Girolamo Claricio of Imola. No translation has ever been made.[288]

We turn now to the Fiammetta,[289] which must have been the last of the works directly concerned with his passion for Maria d'Aquino. Crescini[290] thinks it was written in 1343, but others[291] assure us that it is later work.[292] Crescini's argument is, however, so formidable that we shall do better to accept his conclusions and to consider the Fiammetta as a work of this first Florentine period. [91]Though concerned with the same subject, his love, the allegory is worth noting, for while in all the other books concerned with Fiammetta he assures us he was betrayed by her, here he asserts that Panfilo (himself) betrayed Fiammetta! Moreover, he warns us that here he speaks the truth,[293] but in fact it is only here he is a liar. It is impossible to believe that every one had not penetrated his various disguises, and he must have known that this was, and would be, so. Wishing, then, both to revenge and to vindicate himself—for his "betrayal" still hurt him keenly—and guessing that Fiammetta would read the book, he tells us that it was he who left her, not she him. The book then is very amusing for us who are behind the scenes, as it was, doubtless, for many of those who read it in his day.

The action is very simple, the story being told by Fiammetta as though it were an autobiography. It begins with a dream in which Fiammetta is warned that great unhappiness is in store for her. She knows Panfilo,[294] and suddenly there arises between them an eager love. Warned of the danger they run in entertaining so impetuous a passion, they yet take no heed; till quite as suddenly as it had begun, their love is broken. Panfilo must go away, it seems, being recalled to Florence by his old father. In vain Fiammetta tries to detain him; she can only obtain from him a promise that he will return to Naples in four months. The ingenious lying in that!

All alone she passes her days and nights in weeping. The four months pass and Panfilo does not come back to her. One day she hears from a merchant that he has taken [92]a wife in Florence. This news increases her agony, and she asks aid of Venus. Then her husband, seeing her to be ill, but unaware of the cause of her sufferings, takes her to Baia; but no distraction helps her, and Baia only reminds her of the bygone days she spent there with Panfilo. At last she hears from a faithful servant come from Florence that Panfilo has not taken a wife, that the young woman in his house is the new wife of his old father; but it seems though he be unmarried he is in love with another lady, which is even worse. New jealousy and lamentations of Fiammetta. She refuses to be comforted and thinks only of death and suicide, and even tries to throw herself from her window, but is prevented. Finally the return of Panfilo is announced. Fiammetta thanks Venus and adorns herself again. She waits; but Panfilo does not come, and at last she is reduced to comforting herself by thinking of all those who suffer from love even as she. The work closes with a sort of epilogue.

As a work of art the Fiammetta is the best thing Boccaccio has yet achieved. The psychology is fine, subtle, and full of insight, but not so dramatic nor so simple and profound as that in the Filostrato. He shows again that he understands a woman's innermost nature, her continual doubts of herself, her gift of introspection. The torment of soul that a deserted woman suffers, the helpless fury of jealousy, are studied and explained with marvellous knowledge and coolness. The husband, who, ignorant of all, is so sorry for his wife's unhappiness, and seeks to console and comfort her, really lives and is the fine prototype of a lot of base work done later in which the cruel absurdity of the situation and the ridiculous figure he cuts who plays his part in it are insisted on. In fact, in the Fiammetta we find many of the finest features of the Decameron. It is the first novel of psychology ever written in Europe.


The sources of the Fiammetta are hard and perhaps [93]impossible to trace. It seems to have no forbears.[295] One thinks of Ovid's Heroides, but that has little to do with it. Among the minor works of Boccaccio it is the one that has been most read. First published in Padova in 1472, it was translated into English in 1587 by B. Young.[296]

From this intense psychological novel Boccaccio seems to have turned away with a sort of relief, the relief the poet always finds in mere singing, to the Ninfale Fiesolano. Licentious, and yet full of a marvellous charm, full of that love of nature, too, which is by no means a mere convention, the Ninfale Fiesolano is the most mature of his poems in the vulgar tongue.

"Basterebbe," says Carducci,[297] "Basterebbe, io credo, il Ninfale Fiesolano perchè non fosse negato al Boccaccio l' onore di poeta anche in versi." It was probably begun about 1342 in Florence, and finished in Naples in 1346. The theme is still love:

"Amor mi fa parlar che m' è nel core

Gran tempo stato e fatto m' ha suo albergo,"

he tells us in the first lines. The story tells how the shepherd Affrico falls in love with Mensola, nymph of Diana,[298] and how the nymph, penitent for having broken her vow of chastity, abandons the poor shepherd.[299] In desperation, Affrico kills himself on the bank of the brook that has witnessed their happiness and that is now called [94]Affrico after him;[300] and Mensola, after bearing a son, is changed too into the stream Mensola hard by.[301] Pruneo, their offspring, when he is eighteen years old, enters the service of Atlas, founder of Fiesole, who marries him to Tironea. She receives as dote the country between the Mensola and the Mugnone.[302]

The sources he drew from for this beautiful poem, so full of learning, but fuller still of a genuine love of nature, prove to us that it was, in its completeness, a mature work. It is derived in part from the Metamorphoses of Ovid, from the Æneid, and from Achilles Tatius, a Greek romancer of Alexandria who lived in the fifth century a.d.[303] Moreover, the Ninfale is a pastoral poem that is in no way at all concerned with chivalry; it is wholly Latin, full of nature and the bright fields, expressed with a Latin rhetoric. Curiously enough it has never had much success, especially out of Italy; and though it be voluptuous, it is by no means the immoral book it has been called.

This, as we have seen, is the third poem which Boccaccio wrote in ottave, and it has been stated, not without insistence, that he was in fact the inventor, or at any rate the renewer, of that metre in Italian.[304]

The truth seems to lie with Baldelli. The Sicilians had [95]written ottave, but they had but two rime, and were akin to those of the Provençals. What Boccaccio did was to take this somewhat arid scheme and give it life by reforming it out of all recognition. Moreover, if he was not actually the first poet to write ottave in Italian, he was the first to put them to epic use. There are in fact, properly speaking, no Italian epics before the poems of Boccaccio.

As for the Ninfale Fiesolano, it was first published in Venice in 1477 by Bruno Valla and Tommaso d' Alessandria. It has only been translated once—into French—by Anton Guercin du Crest, who published it in Lyons in 1556 at the shop of Gabriel Cotier. This was apparently the last poem on which Boccaccio was engaged—though it may have been put aside for the sake of the Fiammetta, and taken up again—before, about 1344, it seems, he returned to Naples.





Those years which Boccaccio spent in Florence between 1341 and 1345, and which would seem for the most part to have been devoted to literature, the completion of the works already begun in Naples, the composition of the Amorosa Visione, the Fiammetta, and the Ninfale Fiesolano, were personally among the most unhappy of his life, while publicly they brought the republic of Florence to the verge of ruin. And indeed he was an unwilling victim. That he hated leaving Naples might seem obvious from his own circumstances at that time; nor were the political conditions of Florence encouraging. He had left a city friendly to men of letters, full of all manner of splendour, rich, peaceful, and, above all, governed by one authority, the king, for a distracted republic divided against itself and scarcely able to support a costly foreign war.[305] Nor were the conditions of his father's house any more pleasing to him.

[97] Soured by misfortune, Boccaccino seems at this time to have been a melancholy and hard old man. The picture Giovanni gives us of him is perhaps coloured by resentment, and indeed he had never forgiven his father for the desertion of the girl he had seduced, the little French girl Jeanne, Giovanni's mother;[306] but it is with a quite personal sense of resentment he describes the home to which he returned from Naples—that house in the S. Felicità quarter which Boccaccino had bought in 1333:[307] "Here one laughs but seldom. The dark, silent, melancholy house keeps and holds me altogether against my will, where the dour and terrible aspect of an old man frigid, uncouth, and miserly continually adds affliction to my saddened mood."[308] That was in 1341 one may think; and no doubt the loss of Fiammetta, his own poverty, and the confusion of public affairs in Florence added to his depression; and then he was always easily cast down. But as it happened, things were already improving for him.

It will be remembered that in the romance which [98]passes under her name Fiammetta tells us that Panfilo (Giovanni), when he deserted her, promised to return in four months. Later[309] she says, when the promised time of his return had passed by more than a month, she heard from a merchant lately arrived in Naples that her lover fifteen days before had taken a wife in Florence.[310] Great distress on the part of Fiammetta; but, as she soon learnt, it was not Giovanni, but his father, who had married himself.

Woodcuts from the "Decameron." (Venice, 1492.)

Is there any truth in this story? Assuredly there is. We know, indeed, that Boccaccino did marry a second wife, whose name was Bice de' Bostichi, and that she bore him a son, Jacopo;[311] but we do not know when either of these events happened. If we may trust the Fiammetta, which says clearly that Giovanni's father married again about five months after his son returned home, and if we are right in thinking that that return took place in January, 1341, then Boccaccino married his second wife in the [99]spring, or more precisely in May, 1341. That they were man and wife in May, 1343,[312] we know, for, thanks to Crescini, we have a document which proves it. Beyond that fact all is conjecture in this matter. Yet it is significant that we find Boccaccino, on December 13, 1342, acquiring half a house in the popolo di S. Ambrogio in Florence,[313] and yet, as we know from the document just quoted,[314] in May, 1343, he was still living in popolo di S. Felicità.[315] For what possible reason could Boccaccino, ruined as he was, want half a house in which he did not propose to live? Had family history repeated itself? Was Giovanni in some sort again turned out of his father's house by his second stepmother as he had been by the first, and for a like reason—the birth of a legitimate son? It was for him, then, that Boccaccino bought the half-house in popolo di S. Ambrogio, and the occasion was the birth of Jacopo his son by Madonna Bice? It is possible, at any rate; and when we remember the efforts the old man had already made in his poverty for the comfort of a son who had disappointed him in everything, it seems more than likely. Nor can we but accuse Giovanni of ingratitude when we think of his constant allusions to his father's avarice and remember these benefits.[316]

Such, then, are the few and meagre personal events that have in any way come down to us of Boccaccio's life while he was writing all or nearly all those works of his youth which we have already examined, between his return to Florence in January, 1341, and his departure once more for Naples in 1344 or 1345.

[100]These years, materially none too happy for him but full after all of successful work, were disastrous for Florence. That tranquillity and internal peace which so happily followed the death of Castruccio Castracani and of Charles of Calabria in 1328, in which, among other splendid things, Giotto's tower was built, had been broken in 1340, when the grandi, who held the government, having grown oppressive, a rebellion headed by Piero de' Baldi and Bardo Frescobaldi was only crushed by a rising of the people. Things were quiet then for a moment, but the grandi would heed no warning, and as one might expect, their insolence grew with their power. Nor was it only at home that things were going unhappily for Florence. When Louis of Bavaria, who claimed the empire against the will of the Pope, left Italy—it was the Visconti who had called him across the Alps in fear of the House of Anjou—some of his Germans, after Castruccio's death, seized Lucca and offered to sell it to the Florentines, who refused it. They repented later; and when it had come into the hands of Martino della Scala of Verona and Parma, who, in straits himself on account of Visconti, offered to sell it again, they found a competitor in Pisa, who was ready to dispute the city with them. Nevertheless they bought it, only to find that the Pisans, knowing the wealth of Florence and expecting this, had sat down before it. A war followed in which nothing but dishonour came the way of Florence, and Lucca fell into the hands of Pisa. This so enraged the Florentines that they rose against the grandi, who, at their wits' end what to do, asked their old ally Robert of Naples for help. This was in 1341. It was not, therefore, to a very prosperous or joyful city that Boccaccio returned from Naples; the words he put into the mouth of Fiammetta[317] were fully justified.

King Robert, however, did not send help to Florence at once. He was thinking always of Sicily and had been busy[101] with the conquest of the Lipari Islands,[318] but when he did send it, in the person of Walter, Duke of Athens and Count of Brienne, a French baron, it proved to be the worst disaster of all. Yet at first the Florentines rejoiced, for they knew Walter of old, who had been vicegerent in Florence for Charles of Calabria in 1325, and as Machiavelli tells us, his behaviour had been so modest that every one loved him. That was not his attitude now, nor does it tally with Boccaccio's lively account of him,[319] which certainly reads like the work of an eye-witness and supports our belief that he was in Florence during 1342 and 1343—those disastrous years.

For as it happened, the Duke arrived in Florence at the very time when the enterprise of Lucca was utterly lost. The grandi, however, hoping to appease the people, at once made him Conservator and later General. But they had alienated every one. The nobili, long since their enemies, had always maintained a correspondence with the Duke ever since he had been vicegerent for Charles of Calabria; they thought now that their chance was come when they might be avenged alike on the grandi and the people; so they pressed him to take the government wholly into his hands. The people, on the other hand, smarting under new taxes and oppression and insolence and defeat, to a large extent joined the nobili against the grandi. In this conspiracy we find all the names of the great popular families, Peruzzi, Acciaiuoli, Antellesi, and Buonaccorsi, whom the unsuccessful war, among other things, had ruined, and who hoped thus to free themselves from their creditors.

The Duke's ambition, being thus pampered and exasperated, [102]over-reached itself. To please the people he put to death those who had the management of the war, Giovanni de' Medici, Nardo Rucellai, and Guglielmo Altoviti, and banished some and fined others. And thus his reputation was increased, and indeed a general fear of him spread through the city, so that to show their affection towards him people caused his arms to be painted upon their houses, and nothing but the bare title was wanting to make him their Prince.

Being now sure of his success, he caused it to be signified to the Government that for the public good he judged it best that they should transfer their authority upon him, and that he desired their resignation. At first they refused, but when by proclamation he required all the people to appear before him in the Piazza di S. Croce (for he was living in the convent as a sign of his humility), they protested, and then consented that the government should be conferred upon him for a year with the same conditions as those with which it had been formerly given to Charles of Calabria.

So on September 8, 1342, the Duke, accompanied by Giovanni della Tosca and many citizens, came into the Piazza della Signoria with the Senate, and, mounting on the Rhingiera, he caused the articles of agreement between him and the Senate to be read. Now when he who read them came to the place where it was written that the government should be his for a year, the people cried out, "For his life. For his life." It is true, Francesco Rustichesi, one of the Signori, rose up and tried to speak, but they would not hear him. Thus the Duke was chosen lord by consent of the people not for a year, but for ever; and afterwards he was taken and carried through the multitude with general acclamation. Now the first thing he did was to seize the Palazzo della Signoria, where he set up his own standard, while the Palazzo itself was plundered by his servants; and all this was done to the[103] satisfaction of those who maliciously or ignorantly had consented to his exaltation.

The Duke was no sooner secure in his dominion than he forbade the Signori to meet in the Palazzo, recalled the Baldi and the Frescobaldi, made peace with the Pisans, and took away their bills and assignments from the merchants who had lent money in the war of Lucca. He dissolved the authority of the Signori and set up in their place three Rettori, with whom he constantly advised. The taxes he laid upon the people were great, all his judgments were unjust, and all men saw his cruelty and pride, while many citizens of the more noble and wealthy sort were condemned, executed, and tortured. He was jealous of the nobili, so he applied himself to the people, cajoling them and scheming into their favour, hoping thus to secure his tyranny for ever. In the month of May, for instance, when the people were wont to be merry, he caused the common people to be disposed into several companies, gave them ensigns and money, so that half the city went up and down feasting and junketing, while the other half was busy to entertain them. And his fame grew abroad, so that many persons of French extraction repaired to him, and he preferred them all, for they were his faithful friends; so that in a short while Florence was not only subject to Frenchmen, but to French customs and garb, men and women both, without decency or moderation, imitating them in all things. But that which was incomparably the most displeasing was the violence he and his creatures used to the women. In these conditions it is not surprising that plots to get rid of him grew and multiplied. He cared not. When Matteo di Morrozzo, to ingratiate himself with the Duke, discovered to him a plot which the Medici had contrived with others against him, he caused him to be put to death. And when Bettone Cini spoke against the taxes he caused his tongue to be pulled out by the roots so that he died of it. Such[104] was his cruelty and folly. But indeed this last outrage completed the rest. The people grew mad, for they who had been used to speak of everything freely could not brook to have their mouths stopped up by a stranger. "When," asks Machiavelli, "did the Florentines know how to maintain liberty or to endure slavery?" However, things were indeed at such a pass that the most servile people would have tried to recover its freedom.

Many citizens of every sort, we hear, resolved to destroy him, and out of this hatred grew three serious conspiracies by three sorts of people: the grandi, the people, and the arti. The grandi hated him for he had robbed them of the government, the people because he had not given it to them, the arti because they were ruined. With the first were concerned the Bardi, Rossi, Frescobaldi, Scali, Altoviti, Mazalotti, Strozzi, and Mancini, with the Archbishop of Florence; with the second, Manno and Corso Donati, the Pazzi, Cavicciulli, Cerchi, and Albizzi; with the third, Antonio Adimari, the Medici, Bordini, Rucellai, and Aldobrandini.

The plan was to kill him on the feast of S. John Baptist, June 24, 1343, in the house of the Albizzi, whither, as it was thought, he would go to see the palio.[320] [105]But he went not and that design was lost. The next proposal was to kill him as he walked in the streets, but that was found difficult, because he was always well armed and attended and, moreover, very uncertain. Then it was debated to slay him in the Council, but this too was dangerous, for even should they succeed they would remain at the mercy of his guards. Suddenly all was discovered. The Duke learnt of the plots through the quite innocent action of a Sienese. He was both surprised and angry; and that is strange. At first he proposed to kill every man of all the families I have named; but he had not force enough to do it openly, so he in his turn plotted. He called the chief citizens to council, meaning to slay them there. But they got wind of it, and knowing not whom to trust, confessed at last to one another their three conspiracies and swore to stand together and get rid of the Duke.

From miniatures in the French version of the "De Casibus Virorum." made in 1409 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Rothschild Bequest. MS. XII.)

Their plan was this: the next day, as it happened, was the feast of S. Anne, July 26, 1343, and they decided that then a tumult should be raised in the Mercato Vecchio, upon which all were to take arms and excite the[106]people to liberty. And the next day, the signal being given by sounding a bell as had been agreed, all took arms and, crying out, "Liberty, liberty," excited the people, who took arms likewise. The Duke, alarmed at this noise, fortified himself in the Palazzo and then, calling home his servants who were lodged through the city, set forth with them to the Mercato. Many times were they assaulted on the way and many too were slain, so that though recruited with three hundred horse he knew not himself what to do. Meantime the Medici, Cavicciulli, and Rucellai, who were afraid lest he should attack, drawing together a force, advanced so that many of those who had stood for the Duke rallied over to their side, and though the Duke was again reinforced, yet was he beaten and went backward into the Palazzo. Meanwhile Corso and Amerigo Donati with part of the people broke up the prisons, burned the records of the Potestà, sacked the houses of the rettori, and killed all the Duke's officers they could meet with. And the Duke remained besieged in the Palazzo. Has not Boccaccio told us the story:—

"Upon a day they armyd in stele bright

Magnates first with comons of the toun

All of assent roos up anon right

Gan to make an hydous soun:

Late sle this tyrant, late us pull him doun.

Leyde a syege by mighty violence

A forn his paleys where he lay in Florence."[321]

While the Duke was thus besieged, the citizens to give some form to their government met in S. Reparata (S. Maria del Fiore) and created fourteen of their number, half grandi half people, to rule with the Bishop. Then the Duke asked for a truce. They refused it, except Guglielmo of Assisi, with his son, and Cerrettieri Bisdomini, who had always been of his party, should be delivered into their hands. This for long the Duke refused, but at last, seeing no way[107] out, he consented. "Greater, doubtless," says Machiavelli, "is the insolence and contumacy of the people and more dreadful the evils which they do in pursuit of liberty than when they have acquired it." So it proved here. Guglielmo and his son were brought forth and delivered up among thousands of their enemies. His son was a youth of less than eighteen years; yet that did not spare him nor his beauty neither. Those who could not get near enough to do it whilst he was alive wounded him when he was dead; and as if their swords had been partial and too moderate, they fell to it with their teeth and their hands, biting his flesh and tearing it in pieces. And that all their senses might participate in their revenge, having feasted their ears upon groans, their eyes upon wounds, their touch upon the bowels of their enemies which they rent out of their bodies with their hands, they regaled their taste also. Those two gentlemen, father and son, were eaten in the Piazza; only Cerrettieri escaped, for the people, being tired, forgot him altogether and left him in the Palazzo not so much as demanded, and the next night he was conveyed out of the city.

Satiated thus with blood, they suffered the Duke to depart peacefully on August 6, attended by a host of citizens who saw him on the way to the Casentino, where, in fact, though unwillingly it seems, he ratified the renunciation.

And all these things befell in Florence while Giovanni Boccaccio was writing in the popolo di S. Felicità and in the popolo di S. Ambrogio in the years 1341, 1342, and 1343. In 1344, as we may believe, Boccaccio returned to Naples.





Those three years of tumult in Florence cannot but have made a profound impression on a man like Boccaccio. "Florence is full of boastful voices and cowardly deeds," he writes in the Fiammetta, while his account of the Duke in the De Casibus Virorum Illustrium tells us clearly enough what he thought of that business. Was it the public confusion in Florence that sent him back to Naples in 1344 or 1345,[322] on an invitation from Niccolò Acciaiuolo, or just a hope of seeing once more Madonna Fiammetta, whom, as we have seen, even amid the dreadful excitement of those three years, he had never been able really to forget for a moment? We shall never know; but if it were any expectation of peace or hope of finding in that far city the[109] old splendour and gaiety he had once enjoyed there, he must indeed have been disappointed. Already, before he returned to Florence in 1341, the rule of King Robert, who was then in his last years, had weakened; and factions were already forming which, when the wise king passed away, were not slow to divide the city against itself. No doubt the splendid reception offered to Petrarch, the gaiety of all that, served to hide the dangerous condition of affairs, which was not rendered less insecure by the fact that King Robert's heir was a girl still in her first youth, Giovanna the beautiful, daughter of Charles of Calabria.

"Giovanna Regina

Grassa nè magra, bella el viso tondo

Dotata bene de la virtù divina

D' animo grato, benigno, jocondo."[323]

So sang the poets, and that the painters were not less enthusiastic is proved by the frescoes in S. Maria dell' Incoronata.

In 1342 Giovanna was entering her seventeenth year, while Andrew of Hungary, her betrothed, was but fifteen. On Easter Day in that year King Robert invested him with the insignia of knighthood, and four days later he was to have been married to the Princess, but the death first of Pope Benedict (April 25th), and then of the King of Hungary, his father (July 15th), prevented the ceremony, so that it was not till August that it could take place, and then quite suddenly King Robert the Wise died, aged sixty-four, on January 19th, 1343. In the frock of a Franciscan tertiary they buried him in S. Chiara, behind the high altar, and Sancius and Johannes of Florence presently built there the great and beautiful tomb we know.[324]

[110]"Pastorum Rex Argus erat: cui lumina centum

Lyncea, cui centum vigiles cum sensibus aures

Centum artes, centumque manus, centumque lacerti

Lingua sed una fuit."[325]

So said Petrarch.

Now by his Will, as was inevitable, Robert appointed his granddaughter Giovanna his successor and heiress to all his dominions—including Provence and most of his Piedmontese possessions; he left her too the unrestored island of Sicily and the title of Jerusalem. In case of her death all was to pass to Maria her sister, who later married the Duke of Durazzo. During Giovanna's minority and that of her husband Andrew of Hungary, which were to last till they were twenty-five, the Will vested the government in a Supreme Council which was in fact dominated by the Dowager Queen Sancia, and was composed of Philip de Cabassoles, Bishop of Cavaillon, vice-chancellor of the realm on behalf of the suzerain Holy See, Charles d'Artois, Count of S. Agata, natural son of King Robert, Goffredo Marzano, Count of Squillace, admiral of the Kingdom, and Filippo di Sanguinetto, Count of Altomonte, seneschal in Provence. It thus appears that the intention of the King was to keep the throne in his own line, certainly not to make Andrew of Hungary king in Naples. The two branches of his house had had, it will be remembered, almost equal rights to the throne, and if Clement V for his own good had decided in favour of the younger branch, that is in favour of Robert, though Charles Martel of Hungary, Andrew's father, submitted to the Papal decision, Robert had thought it [111]prudent to make voluntarily a kind of composition of his rights and the claims of his brothers in arranging the marriage between Andrew his nephew and his granddaughter Giovanna. It will thus be seen that Giovanna's marriage was a political act designed to establish peace between the descendants of Charles d'Anjou.[326] That no peace but a sword came of it we shall see.

From a miniature in the French version of the "Decameron," made in 1414 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Rothschild Bequest. MS. XIII)

King Robert had not been dead many months when the Hungarians, sure of Andrew's protection, began to flock to Naples. They angered those who surrounded the Queen and even the Queen herself by their insolence, and thus the court was divided into two parties, or rather there were two courts in one palace.

In the autumn of 1343 Petrarch was once more in Naples. In a letter to Barbato di Sulmona he pays an eloquent tribute to King Robert, and at the same time states his reasons for anxiety as to the condition of the Kingdom. "I fear as much from the youthfulness of the Queen and her consort as from the age and ideas of the Queen Dowager; but I am especially afraid of the administration and manners of the court. Perhaps I am a bad prophet: I hope so. But I seem to see two[112] lambs in the care of a pack of wolves...." Touching on the administration, Petrarch gives the following account of Fra Roberto, the Franciscan confessor of Andrew. "I encountered a deformed creature, barefooted, hoodless, vainglorious in his poverty, degenerate through his sensuality; in fact, a homunculus, bald and rubicund, with bloated limbs.... Would you hear his revered name? He is called 'Robert.' Yes, in the place of the noblest of kings, till lately the glory of our age, has arisen this Robert who, on the contrary, will disgrace it. Nor will I henceforth hold it a fable they relate of a serpent able to be generated from a buried corpse, since from the royal sepulchre has issued this reptile." And indeed of all the court he has a good word for Philip de Cabassoles only: "he who alone stands up on the side of justice."

So much for the administration; nor were the manners he found there any better, in his judgment. The whole city was divided against itself, and life was altogether insecure. The council is "compelled to end its sittings at sunset, for the turbulent young nobles make the streets quite unsafe after dark. And what wonder if they are unruly and society corrupt, when the public authorities actually countenance all the horrors of gladiatorial games? These disgusting exhibitions take place in open day before the court and populace in this city of Italy with more than barbaric ferocity."[327]

The vicious life of this and the following years in Naples is usually attributed to the example and influence of Queen Giovanna. In fact nothing can be further from the truth. In King Robert's time the court life was, as we have seen, very far from being exemplary, but Giovanna[113] herself was not weak and abandoned. Already Hungary was pressing the claims of Andrew to equal if not superior power to hers. She never flinched for a moment; from the hour she perceived the way things were drifting she determined to win.

At first things seemed altogether against her. In June, 1344, she wrote to Charles of Durazzo, her sister's husband, telling him that Cardinal Aimeric, the Papal Legate, had entered her kingdom without her leave, and that therefore she and Andrew were gone to Aversa to meet him. There she made peace, acknowledged the Cardinal as Regent, and admitted her crown to be held from the Holy See. Andrew signed her proclamation as a mere witness.[328] But this intrusion of the Papacy by no means improved chances of peace.

The coming of Andrew, with his Hungarian pretensions and those crowds of needy foreign place-hunters, angered the Neapolitan people it is true, but it infuriated the long-established group of domestic functionaries in Castel Nuovo, who in some sort had been confirmed in their offices by the Will of King Robert. The head of this court party, as whole-heartedly against Andrew as it was against the Pope, was Filippa la Catanese, now quite an old woman. Among her family were Raimondo the seneschal, Sancia de Cabannis, Contessa di Morcone, her granddaughter, wife of Carlo di Gambatesa, Roberto de Cabannis, grand seneschal of the Kingdom, and his wife. This group sided with Giovanna, and in its own interest pushed her claims against those of Aimeric and Andrew. They were supported more or less in secret by Catherine of Taranto and her sons Robert and Louis.

A storm was obviously brewing, and it must have been about this time that Boccaccio returned to Naples, perhaps on the invitation of Niccolò Acciaiuoli, secretary and[114] protégé of Catherine of Taranto. No doubt he hoped to see Fiammetta—no doubt he did see her, though what came of it we shall never know; but he found no more peace in Naples than in Florence.

In February, 1345, the Pope removed Aimeric, who he declared had succeeded in governing pacifice et quiete.[329] The Cardinal returned to Avignon, and moved in the Consistory that Andrew be crowned king. He was supported by Durazzo. Giovanna appealed. The Pope listened, but ordered that Filippa la Catanese, Sancia, Margherita, and others should be dismissed. From that moment the Catanesi plotted to murder Andrew.

It was the custom of the court (then, as it happened, in mourning for the Dowager Queen Sancia, who died July 28, 1345) to spend the summer at one of the royal palaces outside Naples. In July Giovanna, then with child, had gone with the court to Castellamare; in September she moved to Aversa. On the night of the 18th, the anniversary of Andrew's arrival in Naples, the Queen had retired early, and Andrew too had gone early to his room, when Tommaso, son of Mambriccio di Tropea, summoned him from his chamber into a passage leading toward the garden, on the pretence, as it is said, that messengers had arrived from Naples with important despatches. In that passageway he was seized, gagged, and strangled, and his body thrown into the garden, where it was discovered by his Hungarian nurse.[330]

[115]It was at once whispered that the Queen was concerned in the murder, and this rumour has been accepted as the truth even in our own day;[331] but, in fact, there is little or nothing to substantiate it. Her account[332] scarcely differs from that of the Pope, but adds that a man had been seized and executed for the crime. Then, after a day or two, the Queen left Aversa for Naples. Andrew's nurse remained in her service and nursed her through her confinement in December.

The murder of Andrew, whose handiwork soever, effectually divided the Kingdom into two parties, to wit those of Durazzo and Taranto; the former demanding punishment of the murderers. Two Cardinals, di S. Clemente and di S. Marco, were appointed by the Pope to rule in Naples and to exact vengeance. The Queen was helpless. On December 25th her son was born and named Charles Martel. As time went on and none of the assassins were brought to justice, the Hungarians became furious, and at [116]last requested the custody of the young prince; and this request became a demand when it was known that Giovanna was being sought in marriage by Robert of Taranto, who, with his mother and his half-brother Louis, had been covertly associated with the Catanesi. Something had to be done, and early in 1346 we find Charles of Durazzo with Robert of Taranto and Ugo del Balzo seizing Raimondo the seneschal, as one of the guilty persons. Under torture he confessed that he had knowledge of the plot and assisted those who committed the murder. Among his accomplices he named the Count of Terlizzi, Roberto de Cabannis, Giovanni and Rostaino di Lagonessa, Niccolò di Melezino, Filippa Catanese, and Sancia de Cabannis.

Charles of Durazzo and Robert of Taranto therefore determined to hunt down the Catanese family and offer it as a peace-offering to the King of Hungary, who already threatened to descend upon the Kingdom. At Durazzo's instigation an armed mob surrounded Castel Nuovo hunting for the murderers. A few had been wise enough to flee, but most of those denounced were arrested, imprisoned in Castel Capuano, and put to torture. In vain the Queen protested against the princes' action. They achieved their purpose and the Pope, in a Bull of March 19th, 1346, pardoned them, asserting that God had moved them to it.

The Queen, as might be expected, had now no further wish to marry Robert of Taranto; and, indeed, finding that she could not depend on him for help, she had already promised herself to his half-brother Louis. In this second marriage she begged for the favour of the Holy See. The Pope, though not averse, bullied by Hungary, temporised.

Now, behind Louis of Taranto was the most astute mind of that age, Boccaccio's old friend, Niccolò Acciaiuoli, the Florentine. He resolved to win for his patron both the Queen of Naples and the crown. Nor was he easily discouraged. [117]Yet, at first certainly things looked black enough for him.

From a miniature in the French version of the "Decameron," made in 1414 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Museum. Rothschild Bequest, MS. XIV.)

Early in August, 1346, there had been erected along the shore by the Castello dell' Ovo a palisade encircling a raised platform. Here, under Ugo del Balzo, the public torture of the suspected began. Whatever else Boccaccio may have seen or done in Naples, it seems certain that he was a witness of this dreadful orgie.[333]

But in Naples confusion followed on confusion. Without waiting for the Pope's leave, risking an interdict, Louis of Taranto married Giovanna in the Castel Nuovo in August, 1347, while already King Louis of Hungary was creeping down through the Abruzzi to invade the Kingdom and seize the city. On January 15, 1348, the Queen, with a few friends, leaving her child behind, sailed for Provence. Not long after Louis of Taranto and Acciaiuoli reached Naples, and, finding her departed, took ship for Tuscany. With them, according to Witte, went Boccaccio. However that may be, when next we hear of him he is in Romagna at the court of Ostasio da Polenta. Louis of Taranto and Acciaiuoli, with or without him, landed at Porto Ercole of the Counts Orsini of Sovana, and two days later del Balzo surrendered Castel dell' Ovo with the young Prince Charles Martel. King Louis was then at Aversa, where he captured Philip of Taranto and Louis of Durazzo who had come to treat with him. Then Charles of Durazzo was seized, tried for the murder of Andrew, and condemned: and they took him to Aversa and struck off his head on the scene of the crime. But even the Neapolitans, who had in fact taken little part in the war, if a war it can be called, being busy with their own feuds, grew weary of the[118] invasion, so that when King Louis demanded ransom from them, posing as a conqueror, they proved to him that it would be wiser to withdraw. And there were other arguments: for the Black Death fell on his army and he fled, leaving only enough troops to prevent Giovanna from returning. She, poor Queen, without soldiers or money, was compelled to cede Avignon to the Holy See for 80,000 florins, on condition that the Pope declared her innocent of the murder of her husband and proclaimed the legality of her second marriage. Thus the Church was the only gainer by these appalling crimes and treasons. Once more Israel had spoiled the Egyptians. It was not till 1352, after the second invasion of King Louis, that Giovanna was able to return to Naples.





The few notices we have of Boccaccio's life at this time are almost entirely mere hints which enable us to assert that in such a year he was in such a place: they in no way help us to discover why he was there or what he was doing. Thus we are able to affirm that probably between 1344 and 1346, certainly in 1345, he was in Naples, but why he went there, unless it were for the sake of Fiammetta, we cannot suggest, for if Florence was a shambles, so was Naples. In much the same way we know that he was in Ravenna with Ostasio da Polenta not later than 1346; for in a letter Petrarch wrote him in 1365 he reminds him that he was in Ravenna "in the time of the grandfather of him who now rules there."[334] But why Boccaccio went to Ravenna, unless it were that, finding Naples too hot to hold him and Florence impossible, he took refuge with some[120] relations he had there, or with the Polenta who had befriended Dante, we do not know. Nor do we know what he did there. It may be that during his stay in Naples he had already begun to think of writing a life of Dante; and hearing that the great poet had left a daughter Beatrice in Ravenna he set out to see her. This, however, is but the merest conjecture. Baldelli,[335] indeed, thinks that Boccaccio was at this time in Romagna as ambassador for Florence. For Ravenna was not the only place he visited about this time. If we may believe the third Eclogue, he was also the guest of Francesco degli Ordelaffi, the great enemy of the Church in Romagna and of King Robert the Wise.[336]

In the third Eclogue Palemone reproves Pamfilo for idly reposing in his cave while all around the woods ring with the cries of Testili infuriated against Fauno. Now Fauno, as Boccaccio tells us in his letter to Frate Martino da Signa,[337] where he explains some of the disguises of the [121]Eclogues, is Francesco degli Ordelaffi, and Testili, although Boccaccio does not say so, is without doubt the Church, which had in fact no greater enemy in all Romagna than Ordelaffo, the usurper, if you will, of the ecclesiastical dominion, who held in contempt the many excommunications launched against him, replying always by an attack on some bishop, and by making continual war on the legates sent against him.[338]

Those cries, and the anger which causes them, fill the first part of the Eclogue. In the second part, it is clearly recounted how King Louis of Hungary came down into Italy to avenge the murder of his brother Andrew. Argo, the head shepherd worthy to be praised by all, has perforce abandoned the sheep.[339] Argo is Robert King of [122]Naples,[340] wise as King Solomon, who follows the Muses. Alexis is Andrew of Hungary and Naples, who, made free of the woods by Argo, being careless and without caution, has been assailed by a she-wolf, pregnant and enraged, that is by Queen Giovanna; for here, at any rate, Boccaccio eagerly sides with the rabble and accepts the guilt of the Queen as fact. They say, he adds, that the woods held many cruel wild beasts and lions, and that Alexis met the death of Adonis. Now Tityrus, that is King Louis of Hungary, the brother of the dead Alexis, heard of this beyond Ister or the Danube, and set forth with innumerable hunters to punish the wolf and the lions.[341] And many Italians joined with Tityrus, says Boccaccio; among them was Faunus, although Testili threatened him and cursed him sore.[342]

What this means is obvious. The Pope, dismayed by the descent of King Louis into Italy,[343] having tried unsuccessfully in a thousand ways to turn him from his purpose, hindered him as best he could when he had once set out. [123]The Vicar in Romagna, Astorgio di Duraforte, was ordered not to allow him to enter any city; a papal legate met him at Foligno, forbidding him on pain of excommunication to enter the Kingdom. In spite of the papal prohibition the signorotti of Romagna gladly entertained the king. Francesco Ordelaffi above all, as Villani tells us,[344] "bade him welcome, and went out to meet him in the contado of Bologna with two hundred horse and a thousand foot, all under arms. On December 13 he received him in Forlì with the greatest honour, furnishing his needs and those of all his people. And there they sojourned three days with much feasting and dancing of men and women, and the king made knights of the lord of Forlì and of his two sons."

This, however, did not content Ordelaffo, for with three hundred of his best horse he followed King Louis to help him in his undertaking on December 17, 1347.[345] Now Ordelaffo was not only a lover of the chase and of war, but in his way a humanist also, who, like Sigismondo Malatesta later, surrounded himself with poets and men of letters. Among his friends and counsellors was that Cecco da Meleto who was the friend of Petrarch and Boccaccio.[346] He was a great admirer of Petrarch, and merited the title Boccaccio gave him in that letter to Zanobi: Pieridum hospes gratissimus.

[124]If that letter is authentic,[347] then Boccaccio not only met King Louis of Hungary[348] at Forlì, but accompanied him and Francesco degli Ordelaffi into the Kingdom in the end of the year 1347 and the beginning of 1348.[349] His sentiments with regard to the murder and the war which followed it are clearly expressed there. He speaks of the King's arms as "arma justissima," and though it surprises us to find Boccaccio on that side, the letter only states clearly the sentiments already set down in allegory in the third and eighth Eclogues, and clearly but more discreetly stated in the De Casibus Virorum. In the fourth Eclogue, however, he commiserates the unhappy fate of Louis of Taranto, and hymns his return. Can it be that, at first persuaded of the Queen's guilt, he learned better later? We do not know. The whole affair of the murder, as of Boccaccio's actions at this time and of his sentiments with regard to it, are mysterious. If in the third and eighth Eclogues he tells us that Giovanna and Louis of Taranto were the real murderers of Andrew and wishes success to the arms of the avenger; in the fourth, fifth, and sixth Eclogues he sympathises with Louis and tells of the misery of the Kingdom after the descent of the Hungarians, and at last joyfully celebrates the return of Giovanna and her husband.[350] And this contradiction is emphasised by his actions. So far as we may follow him at all in these years, we see him in Naples horrified and disgusted at the state of affairs, leaving the city after the [125]torture and death of the Catanesi and repairing to the courts of the Polenta and of the Ordelaffi, the enemies of the Church which held Giovanna innocent, and of the champions of the Church, Robert and Naples. Nor does he stop there, but apparently follows Ordelaffo in his descent with King Louis on Naples in the end of 1347 and the beginning of 1348. Yet in 1350 he was in Naples, and in 1352 he was celebrating the return of those against whom he had sided and written. The contradiction is evident, and we cannot explain it; but in a manner it gives us the reason why, when Frate Martino da Segna asked for an explanation and key to the Eclogues, he supplied him with one so meagre and imperfect.[351]

From a miniature in the French version of the "Decameron," made in 1414 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Rothschild Bequest. MS. XIV.)

King Louis of Hungary, as we know, had not been many months in the Kingdom when he was forced to fly for his life, not by a mortal foe, but by the plague—the Black Death of 1348. It was brought to Italy by two Genoese galleys which had been trading in the East and had touched at Pisa. In April it had spread to Florence, a month later to Siena, before Midsummer all Italy was in its grip, and by the following year the greater part of Europe. No chronicler of the time in Italy but has more than enough to say of this "judgment of God"; and beside the wonderful description by Boccaccio in the introduction to the Decameron, there is scarcely a novelist who does not recount some tale or other concerning it.[352]

Perhaps Tuscany suffered most severely. "In our city of Florence," writes Matteo Villani,[353] for old Giovanni Villani perished in the pestilence—"in our city of Florence the plague became general in the beginning of April of the year 1348, and lasted till the beginning of September. And there died in the city, the contado, and the district, [126]of both sexes and of all ages, three out of every five persons and more, for the poor suffered most, since it began with them who were utterly without aid, and more disposed by weakness to be attacked." Already Giovanni Villani had noted that in 1347 "there began in Florence and in the contado a sort of sickness which always follows famine and hunger, and this especially fell on women and children among the poor."[354] Giovanni Morelli[355] tells us that in Florence it was a common thing to see people laughing and talking together, and then in the same hour to see them dead. People fell down dead in the streets, and were left where they fell. "Many went mad and cast themselves into wells or out of windows into the Arno by reason of their great pain and horrible fear. Vast numbers died unnoticed in their houses, and were left to putrefy upon their beds. Many were buried before they were actually dead. Priests went bearing the cross to accompany a corpse to burial, and before they reached the church there were three or four biers following them. The grass grew in the streets. So completely were all obligations of blood and of affection forgotten, that men left their nearest and dearest to die alone rather than incur the danger of infection."[356] Nor was this all. Every sort of moral obligation was forgotten. Boccaccio more than hints at this, and we have evidence from many others. In the continual fear of death men and women often forgot everything but the present moment, which they were content to enjoy in each other's arms, even though they were strangers. Ah, poor souls! Amid the terror and loneliness of the summer, when the hot sunshine was more [127]terrible than the darkness, which at least hid the shame, the disorder, and the visible horror, there was no lack of opportunities. All social barriers were gone, and rich and poor, bond and free, took what they might desire. It was the same in Siena; and if in Naples and the Romagna the deaths were less numerous, what are a few thousands when the lowest mortality was more than two in every five? People said the end of the world was come. In a sense they were right. It was the end of the Middle Age.

In Florence there perished among the rest Giovanni Villani, as I have said, and, as we may believe, Bice, the second wife of Boccaccino. In Naples it seems certain that Fiammetta died.

But where was Boccaccio during those dreadful five months of 1348? Was he with Fiammetta in Naples? Did he perhaps close her eyes and bear her to the grave? Or was he in Florence with his father, or in Forlì with the Ordelaffi? All we know is that he was not in Florence,[357] and it therefore seems certain that he was either in Naples, though we cannot say with Fiammetta, or in[128] Forlì with Ordelaffo. Wherever he was, he did not escape the terrible sights that the plague brought in its train. He tells us of one of these which he himself had seen in the Introduction to the Decameron. On the whole, however, it seems likely that Boccaccio was in Naples at this time, and Baldelli even cites the letter to Franceschino de' Bardi, which he tells us bears the date of May 15, 1349,[358] and which was certainly written in Naples. Wherever he may have been, however, he was recalled to Florence by the death of his father, which befell not in the plague, for in July, 1348, he added a codicil to his Will,[359] but between that date and January, 1350, when, as Manni proved, Giovanni was appointed tutor to his brother Jacopo.[360]

In that year, 1350, Boccaccio was thirty-seven years old, and, save for his stepbrother Jacopo, he was now alone in the world. His father was dead, his stepbrother Francesco had long since been in the grave, and now Fiammetta also was departed. And those last ten years, which had robbed him of so much, of his youth also, had been among the most terrible that even Italy can ever have endured. He had seen Florence run with blood, and every sort of torture and horror stalk abroad in Naples. Rome, if he ventured there, can have appeared to him but little less than a shambles. Rienzi, with all that hope, had come and vanished like a ghost. The fairest province in Italy lay under the heel of a barbarian invader. And as though to add a necessary touch of irony to the tragedy that had passed before his eyes, he had taken refuge and found such peace as he enjoyed among the unruly and riotous signorotti [129]and bandits of the Romagna, where properly peace was never found, but which amid the greater revolutions on the western side of the Apennines seemed perhaps peaceful enough. And then had come the pestilence, which cared nothing for right or wrong, innocent or guilty, young or old, bond or free, but slew all equally with an impartial and appalling cruelty that was like a vengeance—the vengeance of God, men said. In that vengeance, whether of God or of outraged nature, all that he loved or cared for had been lost to him. That he always loved his mother, dead so long ago, better than his father goes for nothing; that he loved his father as all men love him who has given them life is certain, he could not choose but love him. But in spite of the easy laugh, too like a sneer to be quite true or sincere, at the beginning of the Decameron, the wound he felt most nearly, that he never really forgot or quite forgave, was the death of Fiammetta, whom he had loved at first sight, with all the eagerness and fire of his youth, with all his heart, as we might say, ruthlessly keeping nothing back. From this time love meant nothing to him; there were other women doubtless in his life, mirages that almost lured him to despair or distraction, for he was always at the mercy of women; but the passion, if we may so call it, which henceforth fills his life is that of friendship—friendship for a great and a good man which, with all its comfort, left him still with that vain shadow, that emptiness in his heart—

"The grief which I have borne since she is dead."




Fiammetta was dead. It must have been with that sorrow in his heart that Boccaccio returned once more from Naples into Tuscany, to settle the affairs of his father and to undertake the guardianship of his stepbrother Jacopo. That the death of Fiammetta was very bitter to him there are many passages in his work to bear witness; her death was the greatest sorrow of his life; yet even as there are persons who doubt Shakespeare's love for the "dark lady" and would have it that those sonnets which beyond any other poems in any literature kindle in us pity and terror and love are but a literary exercise, so there is a certain number of professional critics who would deny the reality of Boccaccio's love for Fiammetta. I confess at once that with this kind of denial I have no sympathy whatever. It seems to me the most ridiculous part of an absurd profession. We are told, for instance, in the year 1904 that Sir Philip Sidney, who died in 1586, did not love his Stella; and this is suddenly asserted with the air of a medieval Pope speaking ex cathedra, no sort of evidence in support of the assertion being vouchsafed, and all the evidence that could be brought to prove the contrary ignored in a way that is either ignorant or dishonest. Sidney spent a good part of his life telling us he did love Stella; his best friend, Edmund Spenser, in two separate poems on his death asserts in the strongest way he can that this was true; and[131] all this apparently that some hack in the twentieth century should find them both liars. Such is "criticism" and such are the "critics," who do not hesitate to explain to us as fluently as possible the psychology of a poet's soul. The whole method both in its practice and in its results is a fraud, and would be dangerous if it were not ridiculous.

This very method which in regard to Shakespeare and Sidney has brought us to absurdity has been applied, though with some excuse, to Boccaccio in regard to his love for Fiammetta. It has been necessary, apparently, to defeat the heresiarchs with their own weapons, to write pamphlets to prove that Boccaccio's love for Fiammetta was a real passion[361] and not a figment of his imagination, and this in spite of the fact that he tells us over and over and over again almost every detail of that love which was the sunlight and shadow of his youth, the consolation and the regret of his manhood and age. Yes, say the dissenters, we must admit that; but on the other hand you must allow that Boccaccio carefully wraps everything up in mystery; he gives us not a single date, and in his own proper person he says nothing, or almost nothing, about it. Well, there is some truth in that; but Boccaccio did not write an autobiography, and if he had, it would scarcely have been decent then, whatever it may be thought now, to proclaim himself, actually in so many words with names and dates, the lover of a married lady, and this would have been almost impossible if that lady were the daughter of a king. Thus on the face of it, the last thing we ought to expect is a frank statement of such facts as these.

But then, the dissenters continue, none of the contemporary[132] biographers, such as Villani and Bandino,[362] say anything of the matter. Our answer to that is that they had nothing to say for the same reason that a modern biographer would have or should have nothing to say in similar circumstances. But in spite of the diversity of opinion which we find for these and similar reasons, we must suppose, that even to-day, to every type of mind and soul save the critic of literature it must be evident that the love of Boccaccio for Fiammetta was an absolutely real thing, so real that it made Boccaccio what he was, and led him to write those early works which we have already examined and to compose the majority of the poems which we are now about to consider and to enjoy.[363]

From a miniature in the French version of the "Decameron," made in 1414 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Rothschild Bequest. MS. XIV.)

But before we proceed to consider in detail these sonnets and songs of Boccaccio, we must decide which of all those that from time to time have passed under his name are really his. And here we will say at once that no English writer, no foreign writer at all, has a right to an opinion. Such a question, involving as it does the subtlest and most delicate rhythm of verse, cannot be solved by any one who is not an Italian, for to us the most characteristic and softest music of the Tuscan must ever pass unheard. So the French have made of Poe a very [133]great poet because they, being foreigners, can hear, and not too easily, his melody; while the music of Herrick, for instance, is too subtle for them in the foreign tongue. No, for us there remains the received canon of Boccaccio's Rime to which no doubt can attach, and that consists of one hundred and four sonnets, namely, Nos. 1-101 and 107, 109, and 110 in Baldelli's edition,[364] and a poem which Baldelli refused to print because he thought it obscene, though in fact it is not, Poi, Satiro se' fatto sì severo—all these conserved in Prof. Cugnoni's codex of the Rime.[365] We may add the two ballate, the first madrigale, the capitolo on the twelve beautiful ladies, and the ballata which Baldelli mistakenly calls a canzone from the Livorno collection. To these we may add again four sonnets and a ternario from the codex Marciana (Venice, it cl. ix. 257), and finally the madrigal O giustizia Regina in codex Laurenziana (Florence, xl. 43).[366]

Having thus decided on our text, let us try to get it into some sort of order. Baldelli's collection, which has been twice reprinted, is itself an utter confusion,[367] a mere heap of good things. If we are to make anything of these poems we must arrange them in some sort of sequence, either of date or of contents. No one can possibly arrange them in the order in which they were written, and therefore, though there are lacunæ, for we cannot suppose that we are in possession of all Boccaccio's verse, or if we were that he would consciously have written a story in sonnets, we shall try to arrange them in accordance with [134]their subjects. In this I follow for the most part the work of the Signori Manicardi and Massera. They were not, however, the first to try their hands at it. The learned Signore Antona Traversi[368] had already suggested a method of grouping these sonnets, when they began to bring a real order out of chaos.

To make a long story short, Signor Antona Traversi thought he could distinguish four sonnets which were written before any of those he wished to give to Fiammetta. He found seventy-eight which were inspired by her, nine of which were concerned with her death. Two others he thought were composed for the widow of the Corbaccio.[369]

The sonnets to Fiammetta, sixty-nine of which were written to her living and nine to her dead, he arranges in a sort of categories, thus: twenty-six sonnets he calls "ideal"—these were written to her in the first years that followed Boccaccio's meeting with her; nineteen he calls "sensual"—these were composed before he possessed her at Baia; twenty-three he calls "very sensual"—these were written in the fullness of his enjoyment, when his most impetuous desires had been satisfied. Finally, Signor Antona Traversi finds one sonnet where we may see his sorrow at having lost his mistress.

But this method is almost the same as that we found so absurd in the dissenters, who eagerly deny the reality of any love which man has cared to express. Its success depends entirely on our absolute knowledge of the psychology of man's heart, of a poet's heart. What knowledge, then, have we which will enable us to divide what is ideal love here from what is base love, the false from the true? Is the parable of the tares and the wheat to go for nothing? And again, can we divide love, the love of any man for any woman, if indeed it be love, into "sensual," "ideal," and [135]so forth? Indeed, for such a desperate operation one would need a knowledge of man beside which that of Shakespeare would be as a rushlight to the sun. Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades or loose the bands of Orion? Who shall divide love into periods of the soul? These are things too wonderful for me, which I know not. Are not "idealism" and "sensuality" moods of the same passion, often simultaneous and always interchangeable? Or do the critics speak of affection? But I speak not of affection. I speak of love—a flame of fire. And whatever Boccaccio's love may have been, good or bad as you will, I care not what you decide to think, this at least it was, a passion, a passion which mastered him and destroyed in him much that was good, much that was bad, but that made of him a poet and the greatest story-teller in the world. Such a passion was composed of an infinite number of elements spiritual and physical, in which the sensual presupposes the ideal even as the ideal does the sensual. Who may divide what God has joined together? And if one might—what disaster!

As though this difficulty were not enough to stagger even the most precise among us, we have to take this also into account, that for the first time in modern literature, love, human love, is freely expressed in Boccaccio's sonnets. It is true Dante had sung of Beatrice till she vanishes away into a mere symbol, far and far from our world in the ever-narrowing circles of his Paradise. So Petrarch had sung of Laura till the coldness of her smile—ah! in the sunshine of Provence—has frozen his song on his lips, so that it is as smooth and as brittle as ice. It is not of such as these that Boccaccio sings, but of a woman mean and lovely, beautiful as the sea and as treacherous, infinitely various, licentious, sentimental, of two minds in a single heart's beat, who smiled his soul out of his body in a short hour on a spring morning in church, who passed with him for her own pleasure in the shadow[136] of the myrtles at Baia, whom he took by the hair, and kissed cruelly, thirsty for kisses, on the mouth, and who, being weary, as women will be, threw him aside for no cause but for this, that she had won his love. No man but Dante could have loved Beatrice, for he made her; and for Laura, she is so dim, so mere a ghost, I only know her name; but for Fiammetta, which of us would not have staked his eternal good, since in her we recognise the very truth; not "every woman"—God forbid—but woman, and if, as the dissenters would assert, she is a myth, a creation of Boccaccio's, then indeed he was an artist only second to the greatest, for she is only less human, less absolute than Cleopatra.

We may take it then, first, that Boccaccio's love was a reality, and not a "literary exercise" that he performed in these sonnets; and then, that if we are to get any order at all out of those which deal with so profound and difficult a subject as love, we must not hope to do it by dividing them into certain artificial categories, such as of "ideal love," of "sensual love," of "very sensual love."

Let us begin with certainties. We can dispose of certain of the poems at once. Sonnet xcvii. to Petrarch, who is dead, must have been written after July 20, 1374. Sonnets vii., viii., ix., which deal with certain censures which had been passed on his Exposition of Dante, were certainly written after August, 1373, when Boccaccio was appointed to lecture on the Divine Comedy. In sonnets i., xxvi., xlii., lxiv., lxviii., and xciii. he alludes to the fact that he is growing old.[370] In sonnet ciii. he says he is sorry to depart without hope of seeing his lady again:—

[137]"Ma ciò mai non avviene, e me partire

Or convien contra grado, nè speranza

Di mai vederti mi rimane alcuna.

Onde morrommi, caro mio disire,

E piangerò, il tempo che m' avanza,

Lontano a te, la mia crudel fortuna."

If this refers to Fiammetta, as seems certain, it should have been written in 1340-1. Finally, it is natural to suppose that the greater part of the sonnets written to Fiammetta living were composed between 1331 and 1341, while those to Fiammetta dead were written after 1348. From these facts I pass on to make the only possible distribution of the Rime that our present knowledge allows.

Let us begin by distinguishing the love poems from the rest, which for the most part belong to Boccaccio's old age. There are thirty-two poems which are not concerned with love, namely, twenty-nine sonnets: Nos. i., vi.-xii., xxvi.-xxviii., xxxvi., xlii., xlix., lvi., lxviii., lxxiv., lxxviii., xci.-xcvi., xcix., ci., Poi Satiro, Saturna al coltivar, Allor che regno, and to these we may add the capitolo, the ballata of the beautiful ladies, and the madrigal O giustizia regina.

There are nine, if not eleven, sonnets written in morte di Madonna Fiammetta: (xix.?), xxi., xxix., li., (lviii.?), lx., lxvii., lxxiii., lxxxviii., xc., xcviii.

All the rest are love poems. Let us begin with them. And the first question that must be answered is: Were they all written to Fiammetta, or were some of them composed for one or other of the women with whom Boccaccio from time to time was in relations?

Crescini tells us that it is only just to admit that at[138]least the greater part of the love poems of Boccaccio refer to Fiammetta. Landau is more precise, and Antona Traversi follows him in naming sonnets c. and ci. (the latter we do not call a love poem) as written for Pampinea or Abrotonia. To these Antona Traversi adds sonnets xii. and xvii. (the former we do not call a love poem), which he thinks were written for one of the ladies Boccaccio loved before he met Fiammetta.[371] I give them both in Rossetti's translation:—

"By a clear well, within a little field

Full of green grass and flowers of every hue,

Sat three young girls, relating (as I knew)

Their loves. And each had twined a bough to shield

Her lovely face; and the green leaves did yield

The golden hair their shadow; while the two

Sweet colours mingled, both blown lightly through

With a soft wind for ever stirred and still.

After a little while one of them said

(I heard her), 'Think! If, ere the next hour struck,

Each of our lovers should come here to-day,

Think you that we should fly or feel afraid?'

To whom the others answered, 'From such luck

A girl would be a fool to run away.'"

That might seem to be just a thing seen, perfectly expressed, so that we too feel the enchantment of the summer day, the stillness and the heat; but if indeed it be written for any one, it might seem to be rather for the blonde Fiammetta than for any other lady.


From the picture by Pesellino in the Morelli Gallery at Bergamo.

Sonnet xvii., however, is, it seems to me as it seemed to Rossetti, clearly Fiammetta's. Is it not a reminiscence of happiness at Baia?

[139]"Love steered my course, while yet the sun rode high,

On Scylla's waters to a myrtle grove:

The heaven was still and the sea did not move;

Yet now and then a little breeze went by

Stirring the tops of trees against the sky:

And then I heard a song as glad as love,

So sweet that never yet the like thereof

Was heard in any mortal company.

'A nymph, a goddess or an angel sings

Unto herself, within this chosen place,

Of ancient loves'; so said I at that sound.

And there my lady, 'mid the shadowings

Of myrtle trees, 'mid flowers and grassy space,

Singing I saw, with others who sat round."

Of the rest the following seem to be doubtfully addressed to Fiammetta:[372] Sonnet xxxv. may refer to his abandonment by Fiammetta; cix. seems to refer to the same misfortune; lxxxi. was possibly written before he possessed her; but these two and xlv., lxiv., lxv., and c. seem to Manicardi and Massera too much of the earth for Fiammetta, and they regard them as later work. As we have already said,[373] in sonnet lxiv. he speaks of growing grey.

When we have disposed of these, the rest seem to belong to Fiammetta. If we would have nothing but certainties, however, we must distinguish. In lxvii. and lxx. (the first in morte) her name occurs, while in xl., xli., xlvi., lxiii., in the ternaria, Amor che con sua forza (verse 18), and the fragment of the sestina, her name is clearly hinted at, as it probably is in sonnet lxxxiii. (verse 11).[374] Again in iv., xv., xxxiii., lxix., Baia is spoken of; and in xxxiv., xlvii., xlviii., Miseno. In v. and lii. Naples is named as Parthenope; in xxxii. and liii. the scene is on the sea, and [140]near it in xxxi.[375] In sonnet xxxviii. we see him falling in love:—

"All' ombra di mille arbori fronzuti,

In abito leggiadro e gentilesco,

Con gli occhi vaghi e col cianciar donnesco

Lacci tendea, da lei prima tessuti

De' suoi biondi capei crespi e soluti

Al vento lieve, in prato verde e fresco,

Un' angioletta, a' quai giungeva vesco

Tenace Amor, ed ami aspri ed acuti;

Da quai, chi v' incappava lei mirando,

Invan tentava poi lo svilupparsi;

Tant' era l' artificio ch' ei teneva,

Ed io lo so, che me di me fidando

Più che 'l dovere, infra i lacciuoli sparsi

Fui preso da virtù, ch' io non vedeva."

While in sonnets iii., xviii., xxiv., xxv., xxx., xl., xli., lxi. he praises who but Fiammetta:—

"Le bionde trecce, chioma crespa e d' oro

Occhi ridenti, splendidi e soavi...."

These sonnets were written to Fiammetta before the betrayal, and to them I would add sonnets xxii. and lxxxvi.—

"Se io potessi creder, che in cinqu' anni ..."

which I have already referred to and used in suggesting that five years passed between the innamoramento and the possession in Boccaccio's love affair.[376]

I now turn to the sonnets, which, in their dolorous complaint, would seem to belong to the period after his betrayal. In sonnets lxxix. and lxxx. he reproves Love, in lxx. he swears that love is more than honour, in lvii. he invokes death as his only refuge, in lxxvii. he burns with love and rage:—

"Ed io, dolente solo, ardo ed incendo

In tanto fuoco, che quel di Vulcano

A rispetto non è ch' una favilla."

[141]In sonnets iv., v., xliii., lv., and ballata i. he is altogether desperate. In iv. we have the splendidly bitter invective against Baia already quoted.[377]

It is true that we should not have recognised the soul of Fiammetta as the "chastest that ever was in woman"; but that Boccaccio could think so is not only evidence that he had been blind, as he says, but also of the eagerness of his passion. If we had any doubt of the reason of his misery, however, it is removed by sonnets xliii., lv., and ballata i., where his betrayal is explicitly mentioned.[378] In sonnet xvi. a thousand ways of dying present themselves to him; in cv. he hopes, how vainly, to win her back again:—

"Questa speranza sola ancor mi resta,

Per la qual vivo, ingagliardisco e tremo

Dubbiando che la morte non m' invole...."

With these sonnets we should compare xxxvii., xxxix., xlvi., lxxv., lxxxvii., and ciii. Sonnet lxxxvii. is perhaps the most beautiful of these poems written in despair: it has been quoted above.[379]

In sonnets xiv. and lxxi. he tries to rouse himself, to free himself, in vain, from love;[380] while in sonnet lxxii. he likens himself to Prometheus. He bemoans his fortune again and again in sonnets ii., xxx., lii., cx.; while in xx. and cvii. he tries to hope in some future. Whether [142]that future ever came we do not know. There is no hint of it in the sonnets, and on the whole one is inclined to think it did not.[381] His last sight of Fiammetta, recorded after her death, we may find in the beautiful sonnet so marvellously translated by Rossetti:—[382]

"Round her red garland and her golden hair

I saw a fire about Fiammetta's head;

Thence to a little cloud I watched it fade,

Than silver or than gold more brightly fair;

And like a pearl that a gold ring doth bear,

Even so an angel sat therein, who sped

Alone and glorious throughout heaven, array'd

In sapphires and in gold that lit the air.

Then I rejoiced as hoping happy things,

Who rather should have then discerned how God

Had haste to make my lady all His own,

Even as it came to pass. And with these stings

Of sorrow, and with life's most weary load

I dwell, who fain would be where she is gone."

Fiammetta's death is nowhere directly recorded in the sonnets, but in those which he made for her dead we find, as we might expect, that much of his bitterness is past, and instead we have a sweetness and strength as of sorrow nobly borne. Was not death better than estrangement, for who will deny anything to God, who robs us all? And so in that prayer to Dante we have not only the best of these sonnets, but the noblest too, the strongest and the most completely human. No one will to-day weep with Dante for Beatrice, or with Petrarch for Madonna Laura, but these tears are our own:—

"Dante, if thou within the sphere of love,

As I believe, remain'st contemplating

Beautiful Beatrice, whom thou didst sing

Erewhile, and so wast drawn to her above;—

Unless from false life true life thee remove

So far that love's forgotten, let me bring

One prayer before thee: for an easy thing

This were, to thee whom I do ask it of.

[143]I know that where all joy doth most abound

In the Third Heaven, my own Fiammetta sees

The grief that I have borne since she is dead.

O pray her (if mine image be not drown'd

In Lethe) that her prayers may never cease

Until I reach her and am comforted."[383]

Again in sonnet lxxiii. he sees her before God's throne among the blessed:—

"Sì acceso e fervente è il mio desio

Di seguitar colei, che quivi in terra

Con il suo altero sdegno mi fe' guerra

Infin allor ch' al ciel se ne salio,

Che non ch' altri, ma me metto in oblio,

E parmi nel pensier, che sovent' erra,

Quella gravezza perder che m' atterra,

E quasi uccel levarmi verso Dio,

E trapassar le spere, e pervenire

Davanti al divin trono infra i beati,

E lei veder, che seguirla mi face,

Sì bella, ch' io nol so poscia ridire,

Quando ne' luoghi lor son ritornati

Gli spiriti, che van cercando pace."

Like Laura, it is true, but more like herself,[384] she visits her lover in a dream (sonnets xix., xxix., and lxxxviii.).[385] All these sonnets were not necessarily or even probably written immediately after Fiammetta's death. The thought of her was present with Boccaccio during the rest of his life,[386] and it is noteworthy and moving that at the age of sixty-one he should thus address Petrarch dead in a sonnet (xcvii.):—

"Or sei salito, caro Signor mio

Nel regno, al qual salire ancora aspetta

Ogn' anima da Dio a quello eletta,

Nel suo partir di questo mondo rio;

[144]Or se' colà, dove spesso il desio

Di tirò già per veder Lauretta

Or sei dove la mia bella Fiammetta

Siede cui lei nel cospetto di Dio ...

    .       .       .       .       .       .

Deh! se a grado ti fui nel mondo errante,

Tirami dietro a te, dove giojoso

Veggia colei, che pria di amor m' accese."

Such was the poet Boccaccio.

In turning now for a moment to look for his masters in verse, we shall find them at once in Dante and Petrarch. In his sonnets he followed faithfully the classic scheme, and only three times did he depart from it, adding a coda formed of two rhyming hendecasyllabic lines. Nor is he more original in the subject of his work. Fiammetta is, up to a certain point, the sister of Beatrice and of Laura, a more human sister, but she remains always for him la mia Fiammetta, never passing into a symbol as Beatrice did for Dante or into a sentiment as Laura for Petrarch.

Finally, in considering his place as a poet, we must admit that it has suffered by the inevitable comparison of his work with that of Dante and of Petrarch. Nevertheless, in his own time the fame of his poems was spread throughout Italy. Petrarch thought well of them, and both Bevenuto Rambaldi da Imola and Coluccio Salutati hailed him as a poet: it was the dearest ambition of his life and that about which he was most modest. Best of all, Franco Sacchetti, his only rival as a novelist, if indeed he has a rival, and a fine and charming poet too, hearing of his death, wrote these verses:—

"Ora è mancata ogni poesia

E vote son le case di Parnaso,

Poichè morte n' ha tolto ogni valore.

S' io piango, o grido, che miracolo fia

Pensando, che un sol c' era rimaso

Giovan Boccacci, ora è di vita fore?"





As we have seen, Boccaccio returned to Florence probably in the end of 1349. His father, who was certainly living in July, 1348, for he then added a codicil to his Will,[387] seems still to have been alive in May, 1349,[388] but by January, 1350, he is spoken of as dead and Giovanni is named as one of his heirs.[389] And in the same month of January, 1350, on the 26th of the month, Boccaccio was appointed guardian of his brother Jacopo,[390] then still a child. But these were not [146]the only duties which fell to him in that year, which, as it proved, was to mark a new departure in his life. It is in 1350 that we find him, for the first time as we may think, acting as ambassador for the Florentine Republic, and it is in 1350 that he first met Petrarch face to face and entertained him in his house in Florence.

The condition of Italy at this time was, as may be easily understood, absolutely anarchical. While Florence and Naples were still in the throes of revolution and war, the Visconti of Milan had not been idle. Using every discontent that could be found in Italy, chiefly of Ghibelline origin, they were in the way to threaten whatsoever was left of liberty and independence. In the worst of this confusion the plague had suddenly appeared in 1348 with the same result as an earthquake might have caused. Old landmarks were overthrown, wealth was, as it were, redistributed, and the whole social condition, often bad enough, became indescribably confused.

i. The Marquis of Saluzzo, while out hunting, meets with Griselda, a peasant girl, and falls in love; he clothes her in fine things. From the picture in the National Gallery by (?) Bernardino Fungai.

The economical results of that awful catastrophe, not only for Italy, but for Europe, were not easily defined or realised anywhere, and least of all perhaps in Italy, where the conditions of life were so complex. An enormous displacement of riches had taken place. All those in any way concerned with the ministration to the sick or the burial of the dead were, if they survived, greatly enriched; and among these was such a society as that of the Or San Michele. But individuals also found themselves suddenly wealthy: doctors and druggists, undertakers, drapers, and poulterers, and such, all who had been able to render help were seemingly benefited, but the farmers and the merchants were ruined. Something perhaps of the awful transformation brought about by the plague may be[147]realised when we consider that, according to Boccaccio, Florence lost three out of every five[391] of her inhabitants, that is about 100,000 persons, that at Pisa six out of every seven died, that Genoa lost 40,000 people, Siena 80,000, while every one died at Trapani, in Sicily, not a soul escaping. Old Agnola de Tura, the Sienese historian, tells us that he buried five of his sons in the same grave, and this was not extraordinary. The economic result of such disaster may then be better imagined than described in detail. No one realised what had happened: it was inconceivable. Even the governments did not understand the new position. They saw the needy suddenly rich, those who had been clothed in rags went in silks and French fashions, and they came to the conclusion that the state was suffering from too great wealth: they revived sumptuary laws, raised taxes, fixed prices, and did, in fact, no good, but much harm. The problem to be solved was that of population and the prices of production. The moral condition was as disastrous as the economic and left a more lasting scar.

In this helpless and disastrous condition of the major part of Italy, from which indeed some of the communes never wholly recovered,[392] we find what in fact we might have expected, that those who had suffered least threatened to become dominant. Now, as it happened, of all Italy upper and lower Milan had escaped most easily, and it was in fact a domination of Milan that, with Naples in the grip of the invader and Tuscany almost depopulated, Florence had to face.

Things came to a head when the Visconti, in October, 1350, possessed themselves of Bologna. In such a case Florence might have expected help or at least resentment, one might think, from the Romagna, but the unruly barons of that region were fighting for their lives and their lordships [148]with Duraforte, whom the Pope had sent to bring them to order. Nor were Venice and Genoa able to render her aid, for they had entered on a mortal duel and cared for nothing else. Naples of course was helpless, and Siena and Perugia, the one stricken almost to death by the plague, the other confident in her mountain passes, thought themselves too far for the ambition of Milan.

So Florence faced the enemy alone, and while we admire her courage we must admit that she had no choice, for she would never have moved at all, nor in her condition would she have been justified in moving, but that she was directly threatened; for with Bologna in the hands of Milan her northern trade routes were at the mercy of the enemy. Thus it became necessary before all else to secure the Apennine passes, and this she foresaw so well that in February, 1350, she bought Prato from the Queen of Naples, who held her rights by inheritance from her father, Charles of Calabria; and not content with this, for Prato was no use without Pistoia, she tried to seize Pistoia also. There, however, she was not wholly or at first successful, but she was allowed to garrison the citadel as well as two important fortified places after guaranteeing full freedom to the Pistolese. In the former of these transactions, the donation of Prato, carried out by Niccolò Acciaiuoli, we catch a glimpse of Boccaccio, who was present as a witness in Florence.[393]

Just before the sale of Bologna to the Visconti we find Boccaccio in Romagna at Ravenna, whither he had gone apparently in September, as we have seen,[394] on the delicate and honourable mission entrusted to him by the Society of Or San Michele, of presenting a gift of ten gold florins to the daughter of Dante, a nun in the convent of S. Stefano dell' Uliva in that city. Thence he seems to have gone as ambassador for the republic to Francesco [149]degli Ordelaffi of Forlì, who was of course already known to him. This, however, is unfortunately but conjecture. We know in fact almost nothing of what, for reasons which will presently appear, I consider to have been Boccaccio's first embassy. All that we can assert is that before November 11, 1350, he went as ambassador into Romagna, and this we know from a document cited by the Abate Mehus,[395] bearing that date which says, "Dominus Johannes Boccacci olim ambasciator transmissus ad partes Romandioliæ."[396] Baldelli tells us[397] without supporting his assertions by a single document that Boccaccio went three times as ambassador for the republic into Romagna: first in the time of Ostasio da Polenta; later in October, 1350; and again a few months after. The first of these embassies, that to Ostasio, he bases on Petrarch's letter of 1365, which we have already quoted and used.[398] There Petrarch says: "Ortus est Adriæ in litore ea ferme ætate, nisi fallor, qua tu ibi agebas cum antiquo plagæ illius Domino ejus avo, qui nunc præsidet." That is to say, he says to Boccaccio: "Unless I am mistaken, you were on the shores of the Adriatic in the time of the grandfather of him who now rules there." He is speaking of Ravenna, not of Rimini, and quite apart from the fact that he says, "unless I am mistaken"—and he may have been mistaken—there is no mention there of an embassy, but only [150]of a visit, a visit to Ostasio da Polenta, who died in 1346, and was the grandfather of Guido da Polenta, who ruled in Ravenna when that letter was written in 1365. We have already used this letter to prove the date of that visit, in doing which we are making legitimate use of it, but to try to prove an embassy from it is to use it improperly.

The second embassy, Baldelli tells us, was to Francesco degli Ordelaffi, in October, 1350, "after the sale of Bologna on the 14th of that month." This again is pure conjecture, the only document which supports it being that quoted above, discovered by Mehus. We have, however, reason to suppose that Baldelli may be right here,[399] and may possibly have been in possession of a document or documents since lost to us, which unfortunately he has not quoted or even named. We know at least that Boccaccio was ambassador in Romagna before November 11, 1350. Now until late in 1349 we have seen him in Naples, and in January and February, 1350, in Florence. In October, 1350, we know him to have been in Florence again, for he there entertained Petrarch, as he did in December. What was he doing between February and October in that year?[151] Well, in September he was in Romagna, in Ravenna fulfilling his mission from the Or San Michele to the daughter of Dante. It seems likely, therefore, that it was at this time he was acting as Florentine ambassador at the court of the Ordelaffi of Forlì.

As to the third embassy of which Baldelli speaks, that to Bernardino da Polenta "a few months after" the second, we know nothing of it, and it remains absolutely in the air—a mere conjecture.[400]

Putting aside Baldelli's assertion, we may take it on the evidence as most probable that Boccaccio was the ambassador of Florence in Romagna at some time between March and October, 1350. If we are right in thinking so, his mission was of very great importance. What Florence feared, as we have seen, was the growing power of Milan, and, after the sale of Bologna, the loss of her trade routes north, and finally perhaps even her liberty. Already, in the latter part of 1349,[401] she had offered again and again to mediate between the Pope and Bologna and Romagna, fearing that in their distraction Milan would be tempted to interfere for her own ends. In the first months of 1350 she had written to the Pope, to Perugia, Siena, and to the Senate of Rome, that they should send ambassadors to the congress at Arezzo to form a confederation for their common protection.[402] In September she wrote the Pope more than once explaining affairs to him; but he had touched Visconti gold, and far away in Avignon cared nothing and paid but little heed. The sale of Bologna, however, brought things to a crisis so far as the policy of Florence was concerned, and having secured Prato, Pistoia, and the passes, her ambassadors in [152]Romagna had apparently induced the Pepoli to replace Bologna under the protection of the communes of Florence, Siena, and Perugia, till the Papal army was ready to act. But the Papal army was not likely to be ready so long as Visconti was willing to pay,[403] and we find the Pope, while he thanks Florence effusively, refusing to acknowledge the claim of the League to protect Bologna. The sale of Bologna to Milan, its seizure by the Visconti, brought all the diplomacy of Florence to naught for the moment, and in another letter, written on November 9, 1350,[404] she returns once more to plead with the Pope and to point out to him the danger of the invasions of the Visconti in Lombardy and in Bologna, which placed in peril not only the Parte Guelfa, but the territories of the Church and the Florentine contado. By the time that letter was written Boccaccio was back in Florence, and it must have been evident to the Florentines that the Pope had no intention of giving them any assistance and that they must look elsewhere for an ally.

That year, so troubled in Italy, incongruous as it may seem to us, had been proclaimed by the Pope a year of Jubilee, not without some intention that the Papal coffers should benefit from the faithful, then eager to express their piety and their thankfulness for the passing of the plague. To gain the indulgence of the Jubilee it was necessary to spend fifteen days in Rome. On April 17, 1350, the commune of Florence prayed the Papal Legate, partly, no doubt, on account of the unsettled condition of the City, and partly, perhaps, that Florence itself might not be long [153]without as many citizens as possible, to reduce the term of fifteen days to eight for all Florentines and for those who dwelt in the contado.[405]

ii. Her two children are taken from her, she is divorced, stripped, and sent back to her father's house. From the picture in the National Gallery by (?) Bernardino Fungai.

Now Petrarch, always a man of sincere piety, and especially at this time when he was mourning for Laura, had spent the earlier months of the year in Padua, Parma, and Verona. On February 14, the feast of S. Valentine, he had been present at the translation of the body of S. Anthony of Padua from its first resting-place to the church just built in its honour—Il Santo. On June 20 he had taken formal possession of his archdeaconry in Parma; and so it was not till the beginning of October that he set out, alone, on pilgrimage for Rome to win the indulgences of the Jubilee. As it happened, he travelled by way of Florence, entering that city for the first time about the middle of the month, and there, as is generally supposed, for the first time too, he met Boccaccio face to face.[406]

Petrarch, born in Arezzo on July 20, 1304, was nine years older than Boccaccio, and differed from him so much both in intellect and character that the two friends may almost be said to complement one another. Of a very [154]noble nature, Petrarch was nevertheless introspective, jealous of his reputation, and absolutely personal in his attitude towards life, of which, as his work shows, he was in many ways so shy. Nor was he without a certain puritanism which was his weakness as well as his strength. As a scholar he was at this time, as he always remained, incomparably Boccaccio's superior. For Boccaccio the ancient world was a kind of wonder and miracle that had no relation to himself or to the modern world. But Petrarch regarded antiquity almost as we do, and, though necessarily without our knowledge of detail, such as it is, with a real historic sense—as a living thing with which it was possible, though hardly, to hold communion, by which it was possible to be guided, governed, and taught, a reality out of which the modern world was born. Moreover, in 1350, at the time of his meeting with Boccaccio, Petrarch was indubitably the most renowned poet and man of letters in Europe. Every one knew his sonnets, and his incoronation as Laureate on the Capitol had sufficed in the imagination of the world, quite apart from the intrinsic and very real value of his work, to set him above all other poets of his time. He was the Pope's friend, and was honoured and welcomed in every court in Italy—at the court, for instance, of King Robert of Naples, where he had left so splendid a memory on his way to the triumph of the Capitol, at the courts of the signorotti of the Romagna. The youth of Italy had his sonnets by heart; all women read with envy his praise of Madonna Laura; the learned reverenced him as the most learned man of his time and thought him the peer of Virgil and of Cicero. Nor was the Church behind in an admiration wherein all the world was agreed, for she saw in the lettered canonico the glory of the priesthood, and would gladly have led him forward to the highest honours.[407] It was this man, one of the most famous and as it happened one of[155] the best of the age, that Boccaccio met in Florence in 1350.

Petrarch himself gives us an account of their first meeting.[408]

"In days gone by," he says in a letter to Boccaccio,[409] "I was hurrying across Central Italy in midwinter; you hastened to greet me, not only with affection, the message of soul to soul, but in person, impelled by a wonderful desire to see one you had never yet beheld, but whom nevertheless you were minded to love. You had sent before you a piece of beautiful verse, thus showing me first the aspect of your genius and then of your person. It was evening and the light was fading, when, returning from my long exile, I found myself at last within my native walls. You welcomed me with a courtesy and respect greater than I merited, recalling the poetic meeting of Anchises with the king of Arcadia, who, "in the ardour of youth," longed to speak with the hero and to press his hand.[410] Although I did not, like him, stand "above all others," but rather beneath, your zeal was none the less ardent. You introduced me, not within the walls of Pheneus, but into the sacred penetralia of your friendship. Nor did I present you with a "superb quiver and arrows of Lycia," but rather with my sincere and unchangeable affection. While acknowledging my inferiority in many respects, I will never willingly concede it in this either to Nisus or to Pythias or to Lælius.—Farewell."

Thus began a friendship that lasted nearly twenty-five years. They were, says Filippo Villani, "one soul in two bodies."

But Petrarch did not remain long in Florence; after a [156]few days he hurried on to Rome, whence he wrote to Boccaccio on his arrival:—

"... After leaving you I betook myself, as you know, to Rome, where the year of Jubilee has called—sinners that we are—almost all Christendom. In order not to be condemned to the burden of travelling alone I chose some companions for the way; of whom one, the oldest, by the prestige of his age and his religious profession, another by his knowledge and talk, others by their experience of affairs and their kind affection, seemed likely to sweeten the journey that nevertheless was very tiring. I took these precautions, which were rather wise than happy as the event proved, and I went with a fervent heart, ready to make an end at last of my iniquities. For, as Horace says, 'I am not ashamed of past follies, but I should be, if now I did not end them.'[411] Fortune, I hope, has not and will not be able to alter my resolution in anything...."[412]

But as he himself seems to have feared, he was unlucky that day, for as he passed with his companions up the hillside out of Bolsena he was kicked badly on the leg by his companion's horse and came to Rome with difficulty, suffering great pain all the time he was there. He seems to have reached the City on November 1, and to have left it again early in December for Arezzo, his birthplace, where he was received with extraordinary honour. Thence he returned to Florence, where he again saw Boccaccio with his friends Lapo da Castiglionchio and Francescho Nelli, whose father had been Gonfalonier of Justice and who himself became Secretary to Niccolò Acciaiuoli when he was Grand Seneschal of Naples. Nelli was in Holy Orders and Prior of SS. Apostoli. Lapo was a man of great learning; he now presented Petrarch with a copy of the newly discovered Institutions of Quintillian.

[157]In the New Year Petrarch left Florence, and three months later we find Boccaccio visiting him in Padua as ambassador for the republic, which, no doubt to his delight and very probably at his suggestion, wished to offer the great poet a chair in her new university. For partly in rivalry with Pisa, partly to attract foreigners and even new citizens after the plague,[413] the republic had founded a new university in Florence at the end of 1348, to which, in May, 1349, Pope Clement VI had conceded all the privileges and liberties of the universities of Paris and Bologna. For some reason or another, however, the new university had not brought to Florence either the fame or the population she desired. It was therefore a brilliant and characteristic policy which prompted her to invite the most famous man of learning of the day to accept a chair in it; for if Petrarch could have been persuaded to accept the offer, the university of Florence would have easily outshone any other then in existence: all Italy and half Europe might well have flocked thither.

The offer thus made, and if at Boccaccio's suggestion, then so far as he was concerned in all good faith, was characteristic in its impudence or astonishing in its generosity according to the point of view, for it will be remembered that Florence had banished Petrarch's father and confiscated his goods and all such property as it could lay its hands on two years before the birth of his son in 1302. With him into exile went his young wife. They found a refuge in the Ghibelline city of Arezzo, where for this cause Petrarch was born. Even in 1350, the year in which the poet entered Florence for the first time, the decree of banishment was in force against him; had he been less famous, less well protected, he would have been in peril of his life. As it was, Florence dared not attack him; nor, seeing the glory he had won, did she wish to do anything but claim a share in it.

[158] It was doubtless this consideration and some remembrance of her humiliation before the contempt of that other exile who had died in Ravenna, that prompted Florence, always so business-like, to try to repair the wrong she had done to Petrarch. So she decided to return him in money the value of the property confiscated from his father, and to send Boccaccio on the delicate mission of persuading him to accept the offer she now made him of a chair in her university.[414] With a letter then from the Republic, Boccaccio set out for Padua in the spring of 1351, meeting Petrarch there, as De Sade tells us, on April 6, the anniversary of the day of Petrarch's first meeting with Laura and of her death.

iii. A banquet is prepared for the new bride; Griselda is sent for to serve, but is reinstated in her husband's affections and finds her children. From the picture in the National Gallery by (?) Bernardino Fungai.

The letter which Boccaccio took with him was from the Prior of the Arti: Reverendo Viro D. Francisco Petrarcha, Canonico Padoano, Laureato Poetæ, concivi nostro carissimo, Prior Artium Vexillifer Justitiæ Populi et Communis Florentiæ. It was very flattering, laudatory, and moving. It greeted Petrarch as a citizen of Florence, spoke of his "admirable profession," his "excellent merit in studies," his "utter worthiness of the laurel crown," his "most rare genius which shall be an example to latest posterity," etc. etc. etc. Then it spoke of the offer. "No long time since," it said, "seeing our city deprived of learning and study, we wisely decided that henceforth the arts must flourish and ought to be cultivated among us, and that it [159]would be necessary to introduce studies of every sort into our city so that by their help our Republic, like Rome of old, should be glorious above the other cities of Italy and grow always more happy and more illustrious. Now our fatherland believes that you are the one and only man by whom this result can be attained. The Republic prays you, then, as warmly as it may, to give yourself to these studies and to make them flourish...." So on and so forth, quoting Virgil, Sallust, and Cicero, with allusions to that "immortal work the Africa which...." Boccaccio was to do the rest. "Other things," the letter ends, "many and of infinitely greater consideration, you will hear from Giovanni Boccaccio, our citizen, who is sent to you by special commission...."[415]

With this letter in his pocket Boccaccio made his way to Padua, where, as we know, he was delighted to come, nor was Petrarch less happy to see him. And when he returned he bore Petrarch's answer to the Republic: "Boccaccio, the bearer of your letter and of your commands, will tell you how I desire to obey you and what are my projects." No doubt while Boccaccio was with him, seeing his sincerity, Petrarch felt half inclined to accept; but he was at all times infirm of purpose. "If I break my word that I have given to my friends," he writes,[416] "it is because of the variation of the human spirit, from which none is exempt except the perfect man. Uniformity is the mother of boredom, that one can only avoid by changing one's place." However that may be, when later in the year he left Padua, it was to return not to Florence, but to France.

If we know nothing else of this embassy, we know, at least, that this sojourn in Padua passed pleasantly for Boccaccio. In a letter written to Petrarch from Ravenna, [160]in July, 1353,[417] he reminds his "best master" of his visit. "I think," he writes, "that you have not forgotten how, when less than three years ago I came to you in Padua the ambassador of our Senate, my commission fulfilled, I remained with you for some days, and how that those days were all passed in the same way: you gave yourself to sacred studies, and I, desiring your compositions, copied them. When the day waned to sunset we left work and went into your garden, already filled by spring with flowers and leaves.... Now sitting, now talking, we passed what remained of the day in placid and delightful idleness, even till night."

Some of that talk was doubtless given to Letters, but some too fell, as it could not but do, on politics. For that letter, so charming in the scene it brings before us of that garden at nightfall, goes on to speak in a transparent allegory of the affairs of Italy and of Petrarch's sudden change of plans, for whereas in 1351 he had promised to enter the service of Florence and had cursed the Visconti, when he returned to Italy in 1353, it was with these very Visconti he had taken shameful service—with the enemies of "his own country" Florence, whom he had spurned, and who in return had repealed the repeal of his banishment and refrained from returning to him the money value of his father's possessions. Is it in revenge for this, Boccaccio asks, that he has taken service with the enemy? He reproaches him in the subtlest and gentlest way, yet with an eager patriotism that does him the greatest honour, representing him to himself even as a third person, one Sylvanus, who "had been of their company" in Padua. Yet Boccaccio does not spare him, and though he loved and revered him beyond any other living man, he bravely tells him his mind and points out his treachery, when his country is at stake.

That Sylvanus, it seems—Petrarch himself really—had[161] lamented bitterly enough the unhappy state of Italy, neglected by the Emperors and the Popes, and exposed to the brutality and tyranny of the Archbishop Giovanni Visconti of Milan. More and more he cursed the tyrants, and especially the Visconti, and "how eagerly you agreed with him!... But now," the letter continues,[418] "I have heard that this Sylvanus is about to enter the service of those very Visconti, who even now menace his country. I would not have believed it had not I had a letter from him in which he tells me it is so himself. Who would ever have suspected him of so much mobility of character, or as likely to forswear his own faith out of greediness? But he has done so perhaps to avenge himself on his fellow-citizens who have retaken the property of his father, which they had once returned to him. But what man of honour, even when he has received a wrong from his country, would unite himself with her enemies? How much has Sylvanus mystified and compromised, by these acts, all his admirers and friends...."

Just here we come upon something noble and firm in the character of Boccaccio, something of the "nationalism" too which was to be the great force of the future, to which Petrarch was less clairvoyant and which Dante had never perceived at all. The Empire was dead; in less than a hundred years men were to protest they did not understand what it meant. The Papacy then too seemed almost as helpless as it is to-day. Internationalism—the latest cry of the modern decadent or dreamer—was already a mere ghost frightened and gibbering in the dawn, and the future lay in the growth of nationalities, in the variety and freedom of the world, perhaps in the federation of Italy. Were these the thoughts that occupied the two pioneers of the modern world on those spring nights in that garden at Padua?





Boccaccio did well to be anxious. The greed of the Visconti, the venality and indifference of the Pope, threatened the very liberty of Tuscany, and though Boccaccio had till now held no permanent public office in Florence, we have seen him as a witness to the donation of Prato, as ambassador for the Republic in Romagna, and as its representative offering Petrarch a chair in the new university. He was now to be entrusted with a more delicate and serious mission. But first, on his return from Padua in January-February, 1351, he became one of the Camarlinghi del Comune.[419] During the remainder of that year we seem to see him quietly at work in Florence,[420] most probably on the Decameron, and then suddenly in December he was called upon to go on a mission to Ludwig of Brandenburg, Count of Tyrol.[421]

[163]Florence was tired of appealing to the Pope always in vain and had at last looked for another champion against the Visconti. Deserted by the Church, at war with the Visconti, Florence had either to submit or to find a way out for herself, and with her usual astuteness she hoped to achieve the latter by calling to her aid the excommunicated Ludwig. The moment was well chosen. Ludwig was just reconciled with Charles IV, King of the Romans, the greatest enemy of his house. He was poor and in need of money, little loved in his own country, and not indisposed to try any adventure that offered. So Boccaccio set out. The letters given to him December 12, 1351, were directed to Conrad, Duke of Teck, who had already visited Florence in 1341, and to Ludwig himself.[422] We know, however, nothing personal to Boccaccio with regard to this mission. In fact save that it was so far successful that Ludwig sent Diapoldo Katzensteiner to Florence to continue the overtures we know little about it at all. Katzensteiner's pretensions, however, proved to be such that the Florentines would not accept them, and communications were broken off.[423] That was in March, 1352. On May 1 a new project was on foot. Florence decided to call the prospective Emperor Charles IV, the grandson of her old enemy Henry VII, into Italy to her assistance.[424]

That a Guelf republic should turn for assistance to the head of the Ghibelline cause seems perhaps more strange than in fact it was. Guelf and Ghibelline had become mere names beneath which local jealousies hid and flourished, caring nothing for the greater but less real quarrel between Empire and Papacy. Charles, however, was to fail Florence; for at the last moment [164]he withdrew from the treaty, fearing to leave Germany; when he did descend later, things had so far improved for her that she was anything but glad to see him especially when she was forced to remember that it was she who had called him there. After these two failures Florence was compelled to make terms with the Visconti at Sarzana in April, 1353, promising not to interfere in Lombardy or Bologna, while Visconti for his part undertook not to molest Tuscany.[425] But by this treaty the Visconti gained a recognition of their hold in Bologna from the only power that wished to dispute it. They profited too by the peace, extending their dominion in Northern Italy. In this, though fortune favoured them, they began to threaten others who had looked on with composure when they were busy with Tuscany. Among these were the Venetians, who made an alliance with Mantua, Verona, Ferrara, and Padua, and were soon trying to persuade Florence, Siena, and Perugia to join them.[426] Nor did they stop there, for in December, 1353, they too tried to interest Charles IV in Italian affairs. When it was seen that Charles was likely to listen to the Venetians the Visconti too sent ambassadors to him, nor was the Papacy slow to make friends.


In 1352 Clement VI had died, and in his stead Innocent VI reigned in Avignon. He was determined to assert his claims in Italy, and especially in the Romagna, and to this end despatched Cardinal Albornoz, the redoubtable [165]Spaniard, to bring the unruly barons of that region to order. The whole situation was delicate and complicated. Florence was in a particularly difficult position. She had called Charles into Italy without the Pope's leave—she, the head of the Guelf cause. He had not come. Now when she no longer wanted him he seemed to be coming in spite of her and with the Pope's goodwill. She seems to have doubted the reality of that, as well she might. Moreover, though she and her allies would have been glad enough to join the Venetians, the situation was too complicated for hurried action, especially as a treaty only two years old bound them not to interfere in Lombardy and Bologna so long as they were left alone.

Charles's own position can have been not less difficult. Now that he seemed really eager to enter Italy, both sides seemed eager for him to do so. Should he enter Italy as the "Imperatore de' Preti," and so make sure of a coronation, or descend as the avenger of the imperial claims? He hesitated. In these circumstances it seemed to the Florentines that there was but one thing to do—to inform themselves of the real intentions of the Pope, and when these were known, to decide on a course of action. In these very delicate missions his countrymen again had recourse to Boccaccio. He set out on April 28, 1354.[427][166] His instructions were to find out whether the Emperor was coming into Italy with consent of His Holiness, to speak of the loyalty of Florence to the Holy See, and to protest her willingness to do whatever the Pope desired. At the same time he had to obtain at least this, that the Pope should exert himself to save the honour and independence of the republic. Again, if the Pope pretended that he[167]knew nothing of the advent of Charles, but asked the intentions of Florence in case he should enter Italy, Boccaccio was instructed to say that he was only sent to ask the intentions of His Holiness. In any case he was to return as quickly as possible.

The Pope's answer seems to have been far from clear. Boccaccio returned, but a few months later Dietifeci di Michele was sent as ambassador to Avignon with almost the same instructions and with the same object in view.

Can it be that Florence really did not understand the situation as we see it, or was that situation in reality very dangerous to her liberty? It is difficult to understand how she can have failed to see that the Pope had already won. It was obvious that he had come to some arrangement with Charles, which proved to be that the Church would crown him on condition that he only spent the day of his incoronation in Rome and respected the sovereignty of the Pope in the states of the Church. Moreover, if this were not enough, as Florence knew, the presence of Albornoz in Romagna had already drawn the teeth of the Visconti so far as they were dangerous to Tuscany. However, it seems to have been in considerable fear and perplexity that she saw Charles enter Padua early in November, 1354. Now if ever, some thought doubtless, the White Guelf ideal was to be realised. Among these idealists was, alas, Petrarch, whose hymn, not long written perhaps, Italia Mia, surely dreamed of quite another king than a German prince. Boccaccio was, as I think, better advised. In his seventh Eclogue he mercilessly ridicules Charles, who in fact, though not maybe in seeming, was the instrument of the Pope. He entered Italy by the Pope's leave. Padua received him with honour, but Cane della Scala of Verona clanged to his gates, and the Visconti with bared teeth waited to see what he would do. He went to Mantua and Gonzaga received him well. There he expected the[168] ambassador of Tuscany, but as the Pope's friend the Ghibellines knew him not, they smiled bitterly at the "Priests' Emperor," only Pisa pathetically stretching out her hands to Cæsar's ghost, while, as claimant of the imperial title the Guelf republics would have none of him. Florence need have had no fear, the Church had out-manœuvred her enemies as in old time.

Charles, however, was not contemptible. Simple German as he was, he soon grasped the situation. He made friends in some sort with Visconti, and in this doubtless Petrarch, who had urged him on, was able to assist him. From them he received the iron crown, though not indeed at Monza, but in Milan, in the church of S. Ambrogio, and at their hands. That must have been a remarkable and unhappy time for the King of the Romans, in spite of Petrarch's talk and friendship. Presently he set out for Pisa and so to Rome, where he received the imperial crown on April 4, 1355, and, returning to Pisa, as though in irony of Petrarch's enthusiastic politics, crowned the grammarian Zanobi da Strada poet laureate. Yet this was surely but a German joke. As for Florence, still trembling it seems, she took as firm a stand as she could, and asked only the protection and friendship of the Emperor, offering no homage or subordination. The Sienese, on the other hand, in spite of their treaty with Florence, offered him their lordship. Others followed their example, and Pisa was filled with Ghibellines claiming the destruction of Florence, the head and front of the Guelf faction. Charles, however, refused to adventure. He demanded from Florence only money, as a fine, by paying which she was to be restored to his favour, and that her magistrates should be called Vicars of the Empire. She forfeited nothing of her liberty and none of her privileges as a free republic. Yet at first she refused to acquiesce. It was only after an infinite number of explanations that she was brought to consent. Indeed, we read that the "very notary who read out the[169] deed broke down, and the Senate was so affected that it dissolved. On the next day the Act was rejected seven times before it was passed. The bells were the only merry folk in Florence, so jealous were her citizens of the liberty of their state."





Those embassies, for the most part so unsuccessful one may think, which from time to time between 1350 and 1354 Boccaccio had undertaken at the request of the Florentine Republic, heavy though his responsibility must have been in the conduct of them, had by no means filled all his time or seriously prevented the work, far more important as it proved to be, which he had chosen as the business of his life. Between 1348 and 1353, as we shall see, he had written the Decameron; in 1354-5 he seems to have produced the Corbaccio, and not much later the Vita di Dante; while in the complete retirement from political life, from the office of ambassador at any rate, which followed the embassy of 1354 and lasted for eleven years, till indeed in 1365 he went again to Avignon on business of the Republic, he devoted himself almost entirely to study and to the writing of those Latin works of learning which his contemporaries appreciated so highly and which we have perhaps been ready too easily to forget.

It is generally allowed[428] that Boccaccio began the[171] Decameron in 1348, but that it did not see the light in its completeness till 1353, and this would seem reasonable, for it is surely impossible that such a work can have been written in much less than four years. That a considerable time did in fact divide the beginning from the completion of the book Boccaccio himself tells us in the conclusion, at the end of the work of the Tenth Day, where he says: "Though now I approach the end of my labours, it is long since I began to write, yet I am not oblivious that it was to none but to ladies of leisure that I offered my work...."

That the Decameron was not begun before 1348 would seem to be certain, for even if we take away the Prologue, the form itself is built on the dreadful catastrophe of the Black Death.[429] If the book was begun between that year and 1351, it cannot, however, have been suggested, as some have thought, by Queen Giovanna of Naples, for she was then in Avignon. In 1348 Boccaccio was thirty-five years old, and whether at that time he was in Naples or in Forlì with Ordelaffo is, as we have seen, doubtful, though that he was in Naples would appear more likely; but wherever he was he had ample opportunity of witnessing the appalling ravages of the pestilence which he so admirably describes, and which is the contrast of and the excuse for his book, for save in Lombardy and Rome the pestilence was universal throughout Italy. In 1353, however, we know him to have been resident in Florence, and if we accept the tradition, which there is no reason at all to doubt, it was in that year that the complete Decameron first saw the light.[430] It was known, however, in part, long before that, and would seem indeed to have been published—if one may so express [172]it—in parts; not perhaps ten stories at a time—a day at a time—as Foscolo[431] has conjectured, but certainly in parts, most likely of various quantity and at different intervals. This would seem to be obvious from the introduction to the Fourth Day, where Boccaccio speaks of the envy and criticism that "these little stories" had excited, and proceeds to answer his detractors. It is obvious that he could not at the beginning of the Fourth Day have answered criticisms of his work if some of it had not already seen the light and been widely read.

It must have been then when he was about forty years old that he finished the Decameron, that extraordinary impersonal work in which in the strongest contrast with his other books he has almost completely hidden himself from us. He might seem at last in those gay, licentious, and profoundly secular pages, often so delightfully satirical and always so full of common sense, so sane as we might say, to have lost himself in a joyous contemplation and understanding of the world in which he lived, to have forgotten himself in a love of it.

I speak fully of the Decameron elsewhere, and have indeed only mentioned it here for two reasons—to fix its date in the story of his life, and to contrast it and its mood with the work which immediately followed it, the Corbaccio and the Vita di Dante.

We cannot, I think, remind ourselves too often in our attempts—and after all they can never be more than attempts—to understand the development of Boccaccio's mind, of his soul even, that he had but one really profound passion in his life, his love for Fiammetta. And as that had been one of those strong and persistent sensual passions which are among the strangest and bitterest things in the world,[432] his passing love affairs—and doubtless they were [173]not few—with other women had seemed scarcely worth recounting.[433] That he never forgot Fiammetta, that he never freed himself from her remembrance, are among the few things concerning his spiritual life which we may assert with a real confidence. It is true that in the Proem to the Decameron he would have it otherwise, but who will believe him? There he says—let us note as we read that even here he cannot but return to it—that: "It is human to have compassion on the afflicted; and as it shows very well in all, so it is especially demanded of those who have had need of comfort and have found it in others: among whom, if any had ever need thereof or found it precious or delectable, I may be numbered; seeing that from my early youth even to the present,[434] I was beyond measure aflame with a most aspiring and noble love, more perhaps than were I to enlarge upon it would seem to accord with my lowly condition. Whereby, among people of discernment to whose knowledge it had come, I had much praise and high esteem, but nevertheless extreme discomfort and suffering, not indeed by reason of cruelty on the part of the beloved lady, but through superabundant ardour engendered in the soul by ill-bridled desire; the which, as it allowed me no reasonable period of quiescence, frequently occasioned me an inordinate distress. In which distress so much relief was afforded me by the delectable discourse of a friend and his commendable consolations that I entertain a very solid conviction that I owe it to him that I am not dead. But as it pleased Him who, being infinite, has assigned by immutable law an end to all things mundane, my love, beyond all other fervent, and [174]neither to be broken nor bent by any force of determination, or counsel of prudence, or fear of manifest shame or ensuing danger, did nevertheless in course of time abate of its own accord, in such wise that it has now left naught of itself in my mind but that pleasure which it is wont to afford to him who does not adventure too far out in navigating its deep seas; so that, whereas it was used to be grievous, now, all discomfort being done away, I find that which remains to be delightful ... now I may call myself free."

His love is not dead, but is no longer the sensual agony, the spiritual anguish it had once been, but it "remains to be delightful." That it remained, though perhaps not always "to be delightful," that it remained, is certain. For though he "may now call myself free," that Proem tells us that after all we owe the Decameron itself indirectly to Fiammetta. And who reading those tales can believe in his vaunted emancipation, if by that is meant his forgetfulness of her? She lives everywhere in those wonderful pages. Is she not one of the seven ladies of the Decameron? That is true, it will be said, but she has no personality there, she is but one of ten protagonists who are without life and individuality. Let it be granted. But whereas the others are in fact but lay figures, she, Fiammetta, though she remains just an idol if you will, is to be worshipped, is to be decked out with the finest words, to be honoured and glorified. Her name scarcely occurs but he praises her; he is always describing her; while for the others he seldom spares a word. Who can tell us what Pampinea, Filomena, Emilia, Neifile, or Elisa were like? But for Fiammetta—he tells us everything; and when, as in the Proem we have just discussed or in the Conclusion to the Fourth Day, he speaks for himself, it is her he praises, it is of her he writes. She is there crowned as queen. It is Filostrato who crowns her: "taking the laurel wreath from his own head, and while [175]the ladies watched to see to whom he would give it, set it graciously upon the blonde head of Fiammetta, saying: 'Herewith I crown thee, as deeming that thou, better than any other, will know how to make to-morrow console our fair companions for the rude trials of to-day.' Fiammetta, whose wavy tresses fell in a flood of gold over her white and delicate shoulders, whose softly rounded face was all radiant with the very tints of the white lily blended with the red of the rose, who carried two eyes in her head that matched those of the peregrine falcon, while her tiny sweet mouth showed a pair of lips that shone as rubies...."

In 1538 this woodcut appears in Tansillo's "Stanze" (By the courtesy of Messrs. J. & J. Leighton.)
A woodcut from "Le Cento Novelle" in ottava rima. (Venice, 1554.) (By the courtesy of Messrs. J. & J. Leighton.)

And it is the same with the Conclusion of the book, which in fact closes with her name, and with the question Boccaccio must have asked her living and dead his whole life long: "Madonna, who is he that you love?"

That he never forgot her, then, is certain; but Fiammetta was dead, and for Boccaccio more than for any other man of letters perhaps, love with its extraordinary bracing of the intellect as well as of the body was in some sort a necessity. Never, as we may think, handsome, in 1353, at forty years of age, he was already past his best, fat and heavy and grey-haired. The death of Fiammetta, his love affair with her, had left him with a curious fear of marriage, ill-disguised and very characteristic. If he had ever believed in the perfection of woman in the way of Dante and Petrarch and the prophets of romantic love—and without thereby damning him it is permissible to doubt this—he had long ceased to hold any such creed or to deceive himself about them. Woman in the abstract was for him the prize of life; he desired her not as a friend, but as the most exquisite instrument of pleasure, beyond the music of flutes or the advent of spring. In the Decameron, though we are not justified in interpreting all the sentiments and opinions there expressed as necessarily his own, the evidence is too strong to be put altogether[176] aside. He loves women and would pleasure them, but he is a sceptic in regard to them; he treats them always with an easy, tolerant, and familiar condescension, sometimes petulant, often ironical, always exquisite in its pathos and humanity; but beneath all this—let us confess it at once—there is a certain brutality that is perhaps the complement to Petrarch's sentiment. "The Muses are ladies," he says,[435] speaking in his own person—he had, as we have seen, been accused of being too fond of them—"and albeit ladies are not the peers of the Muses, yet they have their outward semblance, for which cause, if for no other, it is reasonable that I should be fond of them. Besides which ladies have been to me the occasion of composing some thousand verses, but of never a verse that I made were the Muses the occasion."

He loves women then, but he is not deluded by them—or rather, as we should say, because he loves them he does not therefore respect them also. He considers them as fair or unfair, or as he himself has it,[436] "fair and fit for amorous dalliance" or "spotted lizards." He does not believe in them or their virtue—their sexual virtue that is—nor does he value it very highly.[437] It is a thing for priests and nuns, and even there rare enough. But in the world——!

In one place in the Decameron[438] he speaks of the "insensate folly of those who delude themselves ... with the vain imagination that, while they go about the world, taking their pleasure now of this, now of the other woman, their wives, left at home, suffer not their hearts to stray from their girdles, as if we who are born of them and live among them could be ignorant of the bent of their desires." Moreover, he considers that "a woman who indulges herself in the intimate use with a man commits but a sin of [177]nature; but if she rob him or slay him or drive him into exile, her sin proceeds from depravity of spirit." Thus, as the story shows, to deny him the satisfaction of his desire would be a greater sin than to accord it to him.

Again, in another tale,[439] we see his insistence upon what he considers—and not certainly without reason—as the reality of things, to deny which would be not merely useless, but even ridiculous. Certain "very great merchants of Italy, met in Paris," are "discussing their wives at home...."[440] "I cannot answer for my wife," says one, "but I own that whenever a girl that is to my mind comes in my way, I give the go-by to the love I bear my wife and take my pleasure of the new-comer to the best of my power." "And so do I," said another, "because I know that whether I suspect her or no my wife tries her fortune, and so it is 'do as you are done by.'" All agree save a Genoese, who stakes everything on his wife's virtue. He proves right, his wife is virtuous; but the whole company is incredulous, and when one of them tells him he is talking nonsense, and that the general opinion of women's virtue "is only what common sense dictates," he carries the whole company with him. He admits that "doubtless few [women] would be found to indulge in casual amours if every time they did so a horn grew out on the brow to attest the fact; but not only does no horn make its appearance, but not so much as a trace or vestige of a horn, so only they be prudent; and the shame and dishonour consist only in the discovery; wherefore if they can do it secretly they do it, or are fools to refrain. Hold it for certain that she alone is chaste who either had never a suit made to her, or suing herself was repulsed. And albeit I know that for reasons true and founded in nature this must needs be, yet I should not speak so positively [178]thereof as I do had I not many a time with many a woman verified it by experience."

It is not that in the Decameron virtue is not often rewarded in the orthodox way, but that such cases are not to the point; they are as unreal, as merely poetical or fictional as they are to-day. But where real life is dealt with—and in no other book of the fourteenth century is there so much reality—the evidence is what we have seen. It was not that woman as we see her there is basely vicious; but that she is altogether without ideality, light-hearted and complacent, easily yielding to caprice, to the allure of pleasure, to the first solicitation that comes to her in a propitious hour, and this rather because of a certain gaminerie, a lightness, an incorrigible naughtiness, than because of a real depravity. Like all Italians—the great exceptions only prove the rule—she is without a fundamental moral sense. She sins lightly, easily, without regret, dazzled by life, by the pleasure of life.

Such, then, was the attitude of Boccaccio towards woman at the time when he was writing the Decameron, that is to say, from his thirty-fifth to his fortieth year. And we may well ask whether he had always thought as he did then, and if not, what had been the cause of his disillusion and what was to be the result of it?

It is difficult to answer the first of these questions with any certainty. And yet it might seem incredible that in his youth he had already emancipated himself from an illusion—if illusion it be—that seems proper to it in all ages, and that was so universal in the Middle Age as to inform the greater part of its secular literature—the illusion that woman was something to be worshipped, something almost sacred, to be approached in great humility, with gentleness and reverence.

In reading the early romances of Boccaccio, it must be confessed that while his attitude towards woman is not so[179] assured, nor so masterful in its realism and humour as in the Decameron, it is nevertheless much the same in character. In the Filocolo, as in the Ameto, he thinks of her always as a prize, as something to be hunted or cajoled, yes, like a barbarian; nor are his early works less sensual than the Decameron. The physical reality is for him—and not only in regard to woman—so much more than the spiritual.

Yet in spite of the general character of his work, we observe from time to time, and more especially in the Rime, a certain idealism, still eagerly physical, if you will, but none the less ideal on that account, which centres in Fiammetta and his thoughts concerning her.

We have already traced that story from its beginning to its end, we shall but return to it here to repeat that whatever we may come to think of it, this at least is assured and certain: that it was a genuine and sincere passion in which Boccaccio's whole being was involved—inextricably involved—soul as well as body. To a nature such as Boccaccio's, so lively and full of energy, that awakening, so far as his physical nature was concerned, came not without preparation—he had had other loves before he saw Fiammetta—but spiritually it seems to have been in the nature of an unexpected revelation. It made him a poet, as we have seen, and one cannot read the Rime without being convinced that something more was involved in his love for his lady than the body.

It would seem, then, that we have here under our hands a history, logical and inevitable, developed by the character of the man in the circumstances which befell him. Like all the men of his day, he was in love with love. Without the profound spiritual energy of Dante, but with a physical vitality greater far than Petrarch's, Boccaccio was inevitably in youth at the mercy of the lust of the eye, following woman because she was beautiful and because he desired her with all the fresh energy of his[180] nature. He met Fiammetta and loved her. And then, though his desire abated no jot, there was added to it a certain idealism in which to some extent, sometimes greater, sometimes less, the spirit was involved to his joy and his sorrow. So, when Fiammetta forsook him, she wounded him not only in his pride, but in his soul, a wound that might never altogether be healed. That at least might seem certain, for had he loved her only as he had loved the others, to forget her would have been easy; but he could not forget.

Well, this wound, as we might say, grew angry and festered, poisoning his whole being with its bitterness. Thus in the years which follow his betrayal by Fiammetta we see him regarding woman now with a furious bitterness and anger, as in the subtle cruelty of the Fiammetta, now merely sensually as the instrument and means of the pleasure of man—a flower to be plucked in the garden of life, worn a little and thrown away e'er one grow weary of it.

But this phase, mixed of too bitter and too sweet, unhealthy too and without the capacity of laughter, presently passed away before the essential virility and energy of his nature. In the fullness of his youth from thirty-three to forty, busy with important work, engaged in responsible missions, the friend of great men of action as well as of poets and scholars, almost all that bitterness and anger passes away from him, and instead he assumes the pose we see in the Decameron, to which all his knowledge of the world, his tolerance of life, his sense of humour, and in some sort his sanity, must have urged him. He has lost every illusion with regard to woman save that she is able to give him pleasure. He may "call himself free" from her, he says, and he shows her to us, well, as the realist sees her, as she appears, that is, to the bodily eye, and as we find her in the Decameron.

Let it be granted if you will that such an attitude as[181] that of the poets of romantic love was ridiculous, and that like all illusion and untruth it entailed in some sort a denial of life and brought its own penalty. But was Boccaccio's attitude really, fundamentally any nearer the truth? And if not, must not it too be paid for? Assuredly. Life will not be denied. If woman be nothing but the flesh, however we may glorify her, she is but dust, and our mouth, eloquent with her praises, full of ashes. So it was with Boccaccio. All his early works, including the Decameron, had been written to please women. In the Corbaccio we see the reaction.

It seems that during the time he was writing the Decameron, towards his forty-first year, he found himself taken by a very beautiful woman, a widow, who pretended to encourage him, perhaps because of his fame, provoked his advances, allured him to write to her, and then laughing at this middle-aged and obese lover, gave his letters to her young lover, who scattered them about Florence.

Boccaccio had already been hurt, as we have seen, by the criticisms some had offered on his work.[441] This deception by the widow exasperated him, his love for women turned to loathing, and he now composed a sort of invective against them, which was called the Corbaccio, though whether he so named it himself remains unknown.[442]

[182]The story is as follows: A lover finds himself lost in the forest of love, and is delivered by a spirit. The lover is Boccaccio, the spirit is the husband of the widow who has returned from hell, where his avarice and complaisance have brought him. In setting Boccaccio in the right way, the spirit of the husband reveals to him all the imperfections, artifices and defects, the hidden vices and weaknesses of his wife with the same brutality and grossness that Ovid had employed in his Amoris Remedia. "Had you seen her first thing in the morning with her night-cap on, squatting before the fire, coughing and spitting.... Ah, if I could tell you how many different ways she had of dealing with that golden hair of hers, you would be amazed. Why, she spent all her time treating it with herbs and washing it with the blood of all sorts of animals. The house was full of distillations, little furnaces, oil cups, retorts, and such litter. There wasn't an apothecary in Florence or a gardener in the environs who wasn't ordered to send her fluid silver or wild weeds...."

Such was Boccaccio's revenge. But he was not content with this fierce attack on the foolish woman who had deceived him; he involved the whole sex in his contempt and ridicule. "Women," he says, "have no other occupation but in making themselves appear beautiful and in [183]winning admiration; ... all are inconstant and light, willing and unwilling in the same heart's beat, unless what they wish happens to minister to their incorrigible vices. They only come into their husband's house to upset everything, to spend his money, to quarrel day and night with the servants or with his brothers and relations and children. They make out that they are timid and fearful, so that if they are in a lofty place they complain of vertigo, if in a boat their delicate stomachs are upset, if we must journey by night they fear to meet ghosts, if the wind rattles the window or they hear a pebble fall they tremble with fright; while, as you know, if one tries to do anything, to go anywhere without warning them, they are utterly contrary. But God only knows how bold and how ready they are in things to their taste. There is no place so difficult, precipices among the mountains, the highest palace walls, or the darkest night, that will stop them. Their sole thought, their only object, there one ambition is to rob, to rule, and to deceive their husbands, and for this end they will stoop to anything."[443]

The Corbaccio, however, was not the only work in which his pessimism and hatred of woman showed itself. It is visible also in the Vita di Dante, which was written about this time or a little later than the Corbaccio,[444] perhaps in [184]1356-7. All goes well till we come to Dante's marriage, when there follows a magnificent piece of invective which, while it expresses admirably Boccaccio's mood and helps us to date the book, has little or nothing to do with Dante. Indeed, we seem to learn there, reading a little between the lines, more of Boccaccio himself than of the husband of Gemma Donati.

A woodcut from the "Decameron." (Venice, 1525.)
Appeared in Sansovino's "Le Cento Novelle." (Venice, 1571.) (By the courtesy of Messrs. J. & J. Leighton.)

[185]"Oh, ye blind souls," he writes there,[445] "oh ye clouded intellects, oh, ye vain purposes of so many mortals, how counter to your intentions in full many a thing are the results that follow;—and for the most part not without reason! What man would take another who felt excessive heat in the sweet air of Italy to the burning sands of Lybia to cool himself, or from the Isle of Cyprus to the eternal shades of the Rhodopæan mountains to find warmth? What physician would set about expelling acute fever by means of fire, or a chill in the marrow of the bones with ice or with snow? Of a surety not one; unless it be he who shall think to mitigate the tribulations of love by giving one a bride. They who look to accomplish this thing know not the nature of love, nor how it maketh every other passion feed its own. In vain are succours or counsels brought up against its might, if it have taken firm root in the heart of him who long hath loved. Even as in the beginning every feeblest resistance is of avail, so when it hath gathered head, even the stoutest are wont many times to turn to hurt. But returning to our matter, and conceding for the moment that there may (so far as that goes) be things which have the power to make men forget the pains of love, what hath he done who to draw out of one grievous thought hath plunged me into a thousand greater and more grievous? Verily naught else save by addition of that ill which he hath wrought me, to bring me into a longing for return into that from which he hath drawn me. And this we see come to pass to the most of those who in their blindness marry that they may escape from sorrows, or are induced to marry by others who would draw them hence; nor do they perceive that they have issued out of one tangle into a thousand, until the event brings experience, but without power to turn back howsoever they repent. His relatives and friends gave Dante[186] a wife that his tears for Beatrice might have an end; but I know not whether for this (though the tears passed away, or rather perhaps had already passed) the amorous flame departed; yet I do not think it. But even granted that it were quenched, many fresh burdens, yet more grievous, might take its place. He had been wont, keeping vigil at his sacred studies, to discourse whensoever he would with emperors, with kings, with all other most exalted princes, to dispute with philosophers, to delight himself with most pleasing poets and giving heed to the anguish of others to mitigate his own.[446] Now he may be with these only so much as his new lady chooses; and what seasons it is her will shall be withdrawn from so illustrious companionship, he must bestow on female chatter, which, if he will not increase his woes, he must not only endure but must extol. He who was wont, when weary of the vulgar herd, to withdraw into some solitary place, and there consider in his speculations what spirit moveth the heaven, whence cometh life to the animals that are on earth, what are the causes of things; or to rehearse some rare invention, compose some poem which shall make him though dead yet live by fame amongst the folk that are to come; must now not only leave these sweet contemplations as often as the whim seizes his new lady, but must submit to company that ill sorts with such like things. He, who was wont to laugh, to weep, to sing, to sigh, at his will, as sweet or bitter emotions pierced him, now dares it not; for he must needs render an account to his lady, not only of greater affairs, but of every little sigh, explaining what started it, whence it came, and whither it tended; for she takes gladness as evidence of love for another, and sadness as hatred of herself.

"Oh weariness beyond conception of having to live and hold intercourse, and finally grow old and die with so suspicious an animal! I choose not to say aught of the new[187] and most grievous cares which they who are not used to them must bear, and especially in our city; I mean how to provide for clothes, ornaments, and rooms crammed with superfluities that women make themselves believe are a support to an elegant existence; how to provide for man and maid servants, nurses and chambermaids ... I speak not of these ... but rather come to certain things from which there is no escape.

"Who doubts that judgment will be passed by the general whether his wife be fair or no? And if she be reputed fair, who doubts but she will straightway have a crowd of lovers who will most pertinaciously besiege her unstable mind, one with his good works and one with his noble birth and one with marvellous flattery and one with gifts and one with pleasant ways? And that which many desire shall scarce be defended against every one; and women's chastity need only once be overtaken to make them infamous and their husbands miserable in perpetuity. But if, by misfortune of him who brings her home, she be foul to look upon—well, it is plain to see that even of the fairest women men often and quickly grow weary, and what are we then to think of the others, save that not only they themselves, but every place which they are like to be found of them who must have them for ever with them, will be detested? And hence springs up their wrath; nor is there any wild beast more cruel than an angry woman—no, nor so much. Nor may any man live in safety of his life who hath committed him to any woman who thinketh she hath good cause to be in wrath against him. And they all think it.

"What shall I say of their ways? Would I show how greatly they all run counter to the peace and repose of men, I must draw out my discourse to an all too long harangue; and therefore let me be content to speak of one common to almost all. They imagine that any sorriest[188] menial can keep his place in the house by behaving well, but will be cast out for the contrary. Wherefore they hold that if they themselves behave well theirs is no better than a servile lot; for they only feel that they are ladies when they do ill, but come not to the evil end that servants would.

"Why should I go on pointing out that which all the world knows? I judge it better to hold my tongue, than by my speech to give offence to lovely woman. Who doth not know that trial is first made by him who should buy ere he take to himself any other thing save only his wife—lest she should displease him or ever he have her home? Whoso taketh her must needs have her not such as he would choose, but such as fortune yieldeth her to him. And if these things above be true (as he knoweth who hath tried) we may think what woes those chambers hide, which from outside to whoso hath not eyes whose keenness can pierce through walls, are reputed places of delight.

"Assuredly I do not affirm that these things chanced to Dante; for I do not know it: though true it is that (whether such like things or others were the cause) when once he had parted from her (who had been given him as a consolation in his sufferings!) never would he go where she was, nor suffered he her to come where he was, albeit he was the father of several children by her. But let not any suppose that from the things said above I would conclude that men ought not to take to themselves wives. Contrariwise, I much commend it; but not for every one. Let philosophers leave marrying to wealthy fools, to noblemen and peasants; and let them take their delight with philosophy, who is a far better bride than any other."

Such then was Boccaccio's mood, "his state of soul" in the years between 1354 and 1357. Well might Petrarch discern in him "a troubled spirit": "from many letters of yours," he writes from Milan on December 20, 1355, "I have extracted one thing, that you have a troubled spirit."





That a profound change had already taken place in Boccaccio's point of view, in his attitude towards life, in his whole moral consciousness, it might seem impossible to doubt after reading the Corbaccio and the Vita di Dante; but though its full significance only became apparent some years after the publication of those works, the curious psychologist may perhaps find signs of it before the year 1355. For while that change was on the one hand the inevitable consequence of his youth and early manhood, a development from causes that had always been hidden in his soul, it was also a result, as it was a sign, of his age, of his passing from youth to middle age, and it declares itself with the first grey hairs, the first sign of failing powers and loss of activity, in a sort of disillusion and pessimism. From this time his life was to be a kind of looking backward, with a wild regret for the mistakes and wasted opportunities then perhaps for the first time horribly visible.

Yes, a part at least of that bitterness, scorn, and anger against woman might seem to be but the approach of old age. But side by side with that moral and spiritual revolution that by no means reached its crisis in 1355, we may see an intellectual change not less profound, that in[190] its own way too is also a "looking backward." His creative powers were paralysed. The Corbaccio is the last original or "creative" work that he achieved; henceforth his life was to be devoted to scholarship and to criticism, and however eager we may be to acknowledge the debt we owe him for his labours in those fields, we cannot but admit that they are a sign of failing power, of a lost grip on life, on reality; and though we can hardly have hoped for another Decameron, we are forced to allow that the energy which created the one we have was of quite another and a higher sort than that which produced the works of learning which fill the last twenty years of his life.

When Petrarch first met Boccaccio, as we have seen, it was not so much of Italian letters as of antiquity that they spoke; and ever after we find that the elder poet brings the conversation back to that, to him the most important of subjects, when Boccaccio, with his keener sense of life and greater vitality, would have involved him in political discussion, or persuaded him to consider such aspects of the life of his own time as are to be found, for instance, so plentifully in the Decameron. Seeing the way Petrarch was determined to follow, venerating him as his master and leader, always ready to give him the first place, it is not surprising that Boccaccio interested himself more and more in what so engrossed his friend. In 1354 Petrarch thanks him[447] for an anthology from the works of Cicero and Varro that he had composed and given him, and in the same year he thanks him again for S. Augustine's Commentary on the Psalms.

Long before he met Boccaccio in Florence in 1350, however, Petrarch had begun the study of Greek in Avignon in 1342 under the Basilian monk Barlaam,[448] whom he had met there in 1339.

[191]According to Boccaccio, Barlaam was a man of small stature but of prodigious learning, the Abbot of the monastery of S. Gregory, a bitter theological disputant with many enemies, but in high favour at the court of Constantinople, whence the Emperor Andronicus had sent him to Avignon ostensibly on a mission for the reunion of the Churches, but really to ask for the assistance of the West in the struggle with the Turks. Barlaam was in fact a Calabrian, but most of his life had been spent in Salonica and Constantinople. He knew Greek; that was his value in Petrarch's eyes, and he seems to have read with the poet certain dialogues of Plato.[449] In 1342, however, Barlaam become Bishop of Gerace,[450] and Petrarch lost him before his greatest desire had begun to be satisfied, to wit, the translation of Homer, which, with the Middle Age, he only knew in the mediocre abridgment Ilias Latina, the weakness of which he recognised.[451] Eleven years later, in 1353, however, Petrarch met in Avignon Nicolas Sigeros, another ambassador of the Emperor of Constantinople, come on a similar mission to Barlaam's. They spoke together of Homer, and in the following year when Sigeros was departed, he sent Petrarch as a gift the Greek text of the Iliad and the Odyssey. This the poet received with an enthusiastic letter of thanks, at the same time confessing his insufficiency as a Hellenist.[452]

Now in the winter of 1358-9, during a sojourn at Padua, there was introduced to Petrarch by one of his friends a certain Leon Pilatus, who gave himself out for a Greek; and the poet seized the opportunity to get a [192]translation of a part of his MS. of Homer.[453] In the spring, however, he went to Milan, and it was there, on March 16, 1359, that Boccaccio visited him, finding him in his garden "in orto Sanctæ Valeriæ Mediolani."[454]

That visit, from one point of view so consoling for Boccaccio, must have cost him a pang; for he had, as we have seen, always blamed Petrarch for accepting the hospitality of the Visconti, those enemies of his country. But he had not allowed the fact that Petrarch had disregarded his protests to interfere with their friendship. Keen patriot as he always remained, Boccaccio, without in any way changing his opinion, accepted Petrarch's strange conduct, his indifference to nationalism, with a modesty as charming as it is rare, and allowing himself to take up the attitude of a disciple, made a pilgrimage to the city he hated for the sake of the friend he loved; and cost what it may have done, that visit, long planned we gather, must [193]have been full of refreshment for Boccaccio. We see them in that quiet garden in Visconti's city planting a laurel, a favourite amusement of Petrarch's, for it reminded him alike of Laura and of his coronation as poet;[455] and, "as the pleasant days slipped by," talking of poetry, of learning, above all of Greek and of that Leon Pilatus recently come into Italy, whom Petrarch had met in Padua.

It is probable that Boccaccio met this man in Milan before he returned to Florence;[456] it is certain that Petrarch spoke to him of Pilatus, and that Boccaccio asked him to visit him. That invitation was accepted, and before the end of the year we see Pilatus established in Florence.

This man who makes such a bizarre figure in Boccaccio's life seems to have belonged to that numerous race of adventurers half Greek, half Calabrian, needy, unscrupulous, casual, and avaricious, who ceaselessly wandered about Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries seeking fortune. It might seem strange that such an one should play the part of a teacher and professor, but he certainly was not particular, and Petrarch and Boccaccio were compelled to put up with what they could get. Pilatus, however, seems to have wearied and disgusted Petrarch; it was Boccaccio, more gentle and more heroic, who devoted himself to him for the sake of learning. Having persuaded Pilatus to follow him to Florence, he caused a Chair of Greek to be given to him in the university, and for almost four years imposed upon himself the society of this disagreeable barbarian. For as it seems he was nothing else; his one claim on the attention of Petrarch [194]and Boccaccio being that he could, or said he could, speak Greek.

We know very little about him. He boasted that he was born in Thessaly, but later owned that he was a Calabrian.[457] His appearance, according to Boccaccio [458] and Petrarch,[459] had something repellent about it. His crabbed countenance was covered with bristles of black hair, an untrimmed beard completing the effect; and his ragged mantle only half covered his dirty person. Nor were his manners more refined than his physique; while his character seems to have been particularly disagreeable, sombre, capricious, and surly. Petrarch confesses that he had given up trying to civilise this rustic, this "magna bellua."[460]

Such was Leon Pilatus; but for the love of Greek Boccaccio pardoned everything, and he and two or three friends, the only persons in Florence indeed able to do so, followed the lectures[461] of this improvised professor. But it was above all in admitting this creature to his own home that Boccaccio appears most heroic. There he submitted him to long interviews and interminable séances in order that he might accomplish the great task of a complete translation of Homer.

(By the courtesy of Messrs. J. & J. Leighton.)

Afar off Petrarch associated himself with this work and tried to direct it with wise counsels that Leon Pilatus was doubtless too little of a scholar to understand and too ignorant to follow blindly. In fact but for Petrarch, as the following letter proves, they would have lacked the text itself:—

"You ask me," he writes in 1360,[462] "to lend you, if as [195]you think I have bought it, the book of Homer that was for sale at Padua, in order that our friend Leon may translate it from Greek into Latin for you and for our other studious compatriots, for you say I have long since had another example. I have seen this book, but I have neglected it, because it appeared to me inferior to my own. One could easily get it, however, through the person who procured me the friendship of Leon; a letter of his would be all-powerful and I will write him myself. If by chance this book escapes us, which I do not believe, I will lend you mine. For I have always been desirous of this translation in particular and of Greek literature in general, and if Fortune had not been envious of my beginnings in the miserable death of my excellent master (? Barlaam), I should perhaps have to-day something more of Greek than the alphabet.

"I applaud, then, with all my heart and strength your enterprise.... I am sorry to see so much solicitude for the bad and so much negligence of the good. But what would you? One must resign oneself to it....

"I hope also here and now to prevent you in one thing, so as not to repent myself later for having passed it by in silence. You say that the translation will be word for word. Hear how on this point S. Jerome expresses himself in the preface to the book De Temporibus of Eusebius of Cæsarea that he translated into Latin. It pleases me to send you the very words of one so learned in both tongues and in many others, and especially in the art of translation. 'Let him who says that in translation one does not lose the grace of the original try to translate Homer literally into Latin, and into any tongue which he has, and he will see how ridiculous is the order of the words and how the most eloquent of poets is made to[196]stammer like a child.' I tell you this for your advice whilst there is yet time, so that such a great work may not be useless.

"For myself I desire only that the thing be well done.... In truth the portion I have which the same Leon translated for me into Latin prose—the beginning of Homer—has given me a foretaste of the complete work.... It contains indeed a secret charm.... Go on then with the aid of Heaven; give us back Homer who was lost to us....

"In asking me at the same time for the volume of Plato that I have with me and that escaped the fire in my house across the Alps, you give me a proof of your ardour, and I will hold this book at your disposition when you want it. I will second with all my power such noble enterprises. But take care that the union of these two great Princes of Greece be not unseemly, and that the weight of these two geniuses does not crush the shoulders of mortals.... And remember that the one wrote many centuries before the other. Good-bye. Milan, 18 August (1360)."[463]

From that letter we may gather how eagerly Boccaccio had turned to this new labour. Was it in order to escape from himself? Certainly it might seem that in his new enthusiasm he found for a time, at any rate, a certain consolation; but the crisis was not long delayed. In those long months while the wretched Pilatus was with him, however, he was able for a time to ward off the danger; and realising this, the comedy of that friendship is almost pathetic.

We seem to see him eagerly drinking in the words that fell from the surly Calabrian, pressing him with questions, taking note of all and trying to understand everything—even what his master himself could not understand. As for the master, flattered and puffed up by the confidence[197] that Boccaccio seems to have felt in him, he no doubt replied to all his questionings in the tone of a man who knew perfectly what he was talking about, and had nothing to fear or to hide. Sometimes, no doubt, the adventurer showed itself. Weary and bored by the incessant work, his sullen humour exasperated by the sedentary life, Pilatus would demand his liberty. Then Boccaccio would have to arm himself with all his patience, and by sweetness and gentleness and good-humour would at last persuade the wretched man to remain a little longer with him.

Suddenly in the midst of this difficult work with Pilatus his trouble descended upon him, with a supernatural force as he thought. He received a message from a dying saint—a message that warned him of his approaching end and certain damnation unless he should repent. When exactly this message reached him we do not know. It may well have been in the end of 1361, but it was more probably in the first months of 1362. He was in any case in no fit state to meet the blow.

In those days when political crises followed hard on one another, and the very aspect of a city might change in the course of a few years, Boccaccio's youth must then have seemed infinitely far away. His Corbaccio had been written "to open the eyes of the young" to the horror of woman. While in very many ways he is the pioneer of the Renaissance, in his heart there lingered yet something, if only a shadow, of the fear of joy. All his joys had been adventures on which he scarcely dared to enter, and while he was never a puritan, as one sometimes thinks Petrarch may have been, he was so perfectly of his own time as to "repent him of his past life." For a nature like that of Boccaccio was capable only of enthusiasm. He had loved Fiammetta to distraction, and those who only see there a lust of the flesh have never understood Boccaccio. His other loves were what you will, what they always are[198] and must be; but when Fiammetta died, the very centre of his world was shaken.[464] He could not follow her through Hell and Purgatory into the meadows of Paradise as Dante had followed Beatrice: he was of the modern world. For Dante, earth, heaven, purgatory, and hell were but chambers in the universe of God. For Boccaccio there remained just the world.

Having the religious sense, he accused himself of sin as St. Paul had done, as St. John of the Cross was to do, with an astonishing eccentricity, an exaggeration which lost sight of the truth, in a profound self-humiliation. Of such is the lust of the spirit. He too had found it difficult "to keep in the right way amid the temptations of the world." And then, suddenly it seems, on the threshold of old age, poor and alone, he thought to love God with the same enthusiasm with which he had loved woman. He was not capable of it; his whole life rose up to deny him this impassioned consolation, and his "spirit was troubled," as the wise and steadfast eyes of Petrarch had seen.

It was in the midst of this disease, to escape from which, as we may think, he had so eagerly thrown himself into the translation of Homer with Pilatus, that a certain Gioacchino Ciani sought him out to warn him, as he intended to warn Petrarch, of the nearness of death. In doing this the monk, for he was a Carthusian, was but obeying the dying commands of the Beato Pietro Petroni,[465] [199]a Sienese who had seen on his death-bed "the present, the past, and the future." Already drawn towards a new life—a life which under the direction of the Church he was told would be without the consolations of literature—at the sudden intervention, as it seemed, of Heaven, Boccaccio did the wisest thing of his whole life—he asked for the advice of Petrarch.

The letter which Petrarch wrote him takes its rank among the noblest of his writings, and is indeed one of the most beautiful letters ever written.

"Your letter," he says—"Your letter, my brother, has filled me with an extraordinary trouble. In reading it I became the prey of a great astonishment, and also of a great chagrin: after reading it both the one and the other have disappeared. How could I read without weeping the story of your tears and of your approaching death, being totally ignorant of the facts and only paying attention to the words? But at last when I had turned and fixed my thoughts on the thing itself, the state of my soul changed altogether, and both astonishment and chagrin fled away....

"You tell me that this holy man had a vision of our Lord, and so was able to discern all truth—a great sight for mortal eyes to see. Great indeed, I agree with you, if genuine; but how often have we not known this tale of a vision made a cloak for an imposture? And having visited you, this messenger proposed, I understand, to go to Naples, thence to Gaul and Britain, and so to me. Well, when he comes I will examine him closely; his looks, his demeanour, his behaviour under questioning, and so forth, shall help me to judge of his truthfulness. And the holy man on his death-bed saw us two and a few others to whom he had a secret message, which he charged this visitor of yours to give us; so, if I understand you rightly, runs the story. Well, the message to you is twofold: you have not long to live, and you must give up poetry. Hence your[200] trouble, which I made my own while reading your letter, but which I put away from me on thinking it over, as you will do also; for if you will only give heed to me, or rather to your own natural good sense, you will see that you have been distressing yourself about a thing that should have pleased you. Now if this message is really from the Lord, it must be pure truth. But is it from the Lord? Or has its real author used the Lord's name to give weight to his own saying? I grant you the frequency of death-bed prophecies; the histories of Greece and Rome are full of instances; but even though we allow that these old stories and your monitor's present tale are all true, still what is there to distress you so terribly? What is there new in all this? You knew without his telling you that you could not have a very long space of life before you. And is not our life here labour and sorrow, and is it not its chief merit that it is the road to a better?... Ah! but you have come to old age, says your monitor. Death cannot be far off. Look to your soul. Well, I grant you that scholarship may be an unreasonable and even bitter pursuit for the old, if they take it up then for the first time; but if you and your scholarship have grown old together, 'tis the pleasantest of comforts. Forsake the Muses, says he: many things that may grace a lad are a disgrace to an old man; wit and the senses fail you. Nay, I answer, when he bids you pluck sin from your heart, he speaks well and prudently. But why forsake learning, in which you are no novice but an expert, able to discern what to choose and what to refuse?... All history is full of examples of good men who have loved learning, and though many unlettered men have attained to holiness, no man was ever debarred from holiness by letters.... But if in spite of all this you persist in your intention, and if you must needs throw away not only your learning, but the poor instruments of it, then I thank you for giving me the refusal of your books. I will buy your library, if it[201] must be sold, for I would not that the books of so great a man should be dispersed abroad and hawked about by unworthy hands. I will buy it and unite it with my own; then some day this mood of yours will pass, some day you will come back to your old devotion. Then you shall make your home with me, you will find your books side by side with mine, which are equally yours. Thenceforth we shall share a common life and a common library, and when the survivor of us is dead, the books shall go to some place where they will be kept together and dutifully tended, in perpetual memory of us who owned them."[466]

That noble letter, so sane in its piety, in some sort cured Boccaccio. We hear no more of the fanatic monk, and the books were never bought, for they were never sold. Petrarch, however, did not forget his friend. He caused the office of Apostolic Secretary to be offered him, and that Boccaccio had the strength and independence to refuse the sinecure assures us of his restored sanity.

But we may well ask ourselves what had brought Boccaccio to such a pass that he was at the mercy of such infernal humbugs and liars as the Blessed Pietro and his rascal friend. That he was in a wretched state of mind and soul we know, and the causes we know too in part, but they by no means account for the fact that the first enemy of monks and friars and all their blackguardism should have fallen so easily into their hands. Was Boccaccio superstitious? That he was less superstitious, less credulous, than the men of his time generally is certain; that he was content to believe what Petrarch attacked and laughed at we shall presently see; but that he can be properly accused of superstition remains doubtful. Certainly he believed in dreams;[467] he believed in astrology;[468] he believed that a [202]strabism or squint was an indication of an evil soul;[469] he believed in visible devils;[470] he believed that Æneas truly descended into Hades and that Virgil was a magician.[471] He may well have believed all such things and have been no worse off than many a Prince of the Church to-day; at any rate, such beliefs, unreasonable as they may appear to us, cannot have led him to the incredible folly of believing in the Blessed Pietro and his messenger.

It might seem inexplicable that he who had exposed the lies and tricks of the monks so often should have been himself so easily deceived. Had he not exposed them? There was Fra Cipolla—true he was a friar—part of whose stock-in-trade was a tale of relics—"the finger of the Holy Ghost as whole and entire as ever it was, the tuft of the seraph that appeared to S. Francis and one of the nails of the cherubim, one of the ribs of the Verbum caro fatti alle finestre (factum est) and some of the vestment of the Holy Catholic Faith, some of the rays of the star that appeared to the Magi, a phial of the sweat of S. Michael abattling with the Devil, the jaws of death of S. Lazarus, and other relics."[472]

It might seem inexplicable! Unfortunately, however, Boccaccio also believed that those about to die can participate in the spirit of prophecy.[473] Thus he was for the moment, at any rate, altogether at the mercy of the Blessed Pietro. The splendid common-sense, the caustic wit of Petrarch helped him, it is true, to recover himself, but that bitter and humiliating experience left a permanent mark upon him. He was a changed man. With an immense regret he looked back on his life, and would have destroyed if he could the gay works of his youth, even the Decameron, [203]and, for a time at least, he would have been content to sacrifice everything, not only his poetry in the vulgar and his romances and stories, but the new learning itself, the study of antiquity, and to enter into some monastery.

That he did not do so we owe in part at least to Petrarch. For when he had read his letter and come to himself, he returned to Pilatus and the translation of Homer.[474]

That translation was scarcely finished when Pilatus wished to be gone, and he seems in fact to have accompanied Boccaccio to Venice on his visit to Petrarch probably in May, 1363.[475] That visit was a kind of flight; he seems to have taken refuge with Petrarch from the fears of his own heart, and that it was as full of pleasure and enjoyment for Petrarch, as of consolation for Boccaccio, happily we know and can assert.

[204]"I have always thought," Petrarch writes to him after his return to Tuscany,[476] "I have always thought that your presence would give me pleasure, I knew it would, and I felt that it would please you too. What I did not know, however, was that it would bring good fortune. For during the very few months, gone so quickly, that you have cared to dwell with me in this house that I call mine, and which is yours, it seems to me, in truth, that I have contracted a truce with fortune who, while you were here, dared not spoil my happiness...."

We know nothing more of that visit save that Boccaccio must have returned to Tuscany before the writing of that letter, before the 7th of September then. As for Pilatus, he too left Venice "at the end of the summer"[477] to return to Constantinople, "cursing Italy and the Latin name," as Petrarch says. "One would have thought him scarcely arrived there," Petrarch continues, "when I received a badly written and very long letter, more untidy than his beard or his hair, in which among other things he said he loved and longed for Italy as for some heavenly country, that he hated Greece which he had loved and execrated Byzantium which he had praised, and he supplicated me to send for him back as eagerly as Peter, about to be shipwrecked, prayed Christ to still the waves."

To make a long story short, Petrarch ignored his petition. This, however, did not stop Pilatus. He embarked for Italy, but a storm wrecked the ship in which he sailed in the Adriatic, and though he was not drowned he was struck and killed by lightning. Petrarch wonders if amid his "wretched baggage, which, thanks to the honesty of the sailors, is in safety, I shall find the Euripides, Sophocles, and other manuscripts which he had promised to procure for me."[478] The two friends mourned him sincerely, forgetting their disgust in remembering that [205]Pilatus had known Greek, and finding touching words to deplore the tragic death of the first translator of Homer.

(By the courtesy of Messrs. J. & J. Leighton.)

As for the translation he had made, Petrarch did not see it for some years. The first time he asks for it is in a letter of March 1, 1364.[479] There he asks for a fragment of the Odyssey, "partem illam Odysseæ qua Ulyxes it ad inferos et locorum quæ in vestibulo Erebi sunt descriptionem ab Homero factam ... quam primum potes ... utcumque tuis digitis exaratam." Later he asks for the whole: "In futurum autem, si me amas, vide obsecro an tuo studio, mea impensa fieri possit ut Homerus integer bibliothecam hanc ubi pridem graecus habitat, tandem latinos accedat." These words are very clear. Petrarch says he will pay the copyist himself. So that, as Hortis asserts, the first version of Homer was made at the suggestion of Petrarch by Pilatus at the expense of Boccaccio.

In the letter of December 14, 1365,[480] Petrarch thanks Boccaccio for sending him the Iliad and a part of the Odyssey; but that part did not contain the details he wanted concerning the descent of Ulysses into Hades and his voyage along the Italian shores. Even this incomplete copy, though sent off in 1365 by Boccaccio, was a long time in reaching him. On January 27, 1366, he had not yet received it.[481] But at last it arrived, and Petrarch wrote to thank Boccaccio for it.[482] This letter, however, is not dated, and its contents do not help us to decide exactly when it was written. At any rate, it was after January, 1366, that Petrarch received the precious work. He promised to return this MS. to Boccaccio when he had had it copied; but he seems to have found it difficult to get a capable person to do this; and when he had found [206]him we see him travelling about with him, that the work might be done under his constant supervision.[483]

It is this MS., which M. de Nohlac discusses and describes, that is now in Paris (Bib. Nat., 7880, 1). In it we are able to judge of the extent of Pilatus's knowledge. That he knew Greek seems incontrovertible, but that he knew the Homeric idiom very imperfectly is not less certain; he seems too to have had a poor knowledge of Latin. His translation is full of obscurity, platitude, and mistranslations—in fact, crammed with all the errors of a schoolboy: when he does not know a word, and has to confess it, he writes the Greek word in Latin characters; what we see in fact is not a faithful but a blind translation. And it was for this that Petrarch had waited so patiently! "Penelope," he says, "had not more ardently longed for Ulysses."[484] He studied it with passion, often deceived, no doubt, but never discouraged. The notes with which he covered page after page show us the growing feebleness of his hand, but never of his spirit. He died while he was annotating the Odyssey.

Boccaccio, on the other hand, with a charming and naive sincerity, owns that he did not understand much, but adds that the little he did understand seemed to him beautiful. He was very proud of his victory, and rightly; for by its means the Renaissance was able to give Homer his rightful place in its culture.





Boccaccio returned from Venice to Tuscany some time before September, 1363, not long before, as we may think, for the letter Petrarch wrote him on September 7[485] seems to have followed close on his heels. It appears that as he was on the eve of leaving Petrarch, for the last time as it proved, he had learned that the plague which was raging in Central and Southern Italy had carried off Lello di Pietro Stefano and Francesco Nelli, their common friends, Lelius and Simonides, as Petrarch calls them. Disliking to be the bearer of ill-tidings, Boccaccio had departed from Venice, leaving Petrarch to learn of this disaster from others, and a good part of the letter Petrarch wrote him, immediately after he was gone, it seems, is devoted to deploring the death of their friends.

"An hour after your departure," he writes, "the priest whom I had charged to carry a letter to my friend Lelius returned bringing me my letter unopened. It was not necessary for him to speak; his face told me the news.... But while with my hand I soothed this new wound, and tried to catch my breath, a second blow fell upon me. He in whose arms he expired told me of the death of our Simonides.... You are almost the only companion in[208] learning left to me.... This year 1363, which is the sixteenth from the beginning of our miseries [from the plague of 1348], has renewed the attack on many noble cities, among others on Florence.... To this disaster is added the fury of a war against the Pisans ... of which the issue is still uncertain."

Petrarch might well be uneasy. Though never a good patriot as Boccaccio always was, he could not but be moved at the misfortunes of Florence, which had only escaped the attentions of Pandolfo Malatesta by placing herself almost at the mercy of Hawkwood and his White Company of Englishmen, fighting in the Pisan service. That winter, to the astonishment of all, a campaign was fought, for the English laughed at the Italian winter, colder maybe, but so much drier than their own, and by the spring Visconti had made peace with the Pope and with the Marquis of Montferrat, so that they were able to send Baumgarten's German company, 3000 strong, to the assistance of the Pisans, who had now not less than 6000 mercenaries in their service. Those were very anxious times in Florence, the whole contado being at the mercy of Hawkwood, and when, by the intervention of the Pope, peace was signed in the autumn of 1364, she must have been thankful, more especially as Pisa engaged to pay her 100,000 florins indemnity within ten years.

The Pope, however, was far from satisfied with Florence. He found her to have been lukewarm in the service of the Church when Romagna and the Marche rebelled, which, if true, was not surprising, for he had played fast and loose with her liberty, and now accused her of neglecting his interests and of attempting to detach other cities from his cause. These among other accusations; in return he threatened no longer to grant her his goodwill.

The whole situation was serious. The temporal power of the Church with the victories of Albornoz was[209] again growing in Italy; it was now certain that the Pope would one day return. It was necessary to placate him. And again in this delicate mission the Florentines employed Boccaccio.

It cannot have been with very great enthusiasm that Boccaccio learned he was once more to cross the Alps on a mission as difficult as any he had handled. He had returned from Venice in 1363 quieted, altogether reconciled, for a time at any rate, with himself, determined not to abandon his work. Ever since 1359, certainly, he had devoted himself to learning, to the study of Greek and the Latin classics, of the great early Christian writers, and to the accumulation of knowledge. For ten years now, ever since the failure of his mission in 1354, he had not been asked to undertake diplomatic business, and whether or no that neglect had been due to his failure or to his intercourse with Pino de' Rossi, who in 1360 was implicated in a conspiracy against the Guelfs, it cannot have been anything but distressing, we may think, to one so patriotic, so interested in politics too, as Boccaccio, to have been so long neglected, only to be made use of again in his old age. But the true patriot is always ready to serve his country, be she never so neglectful, and so, in spite of the interference with his plans, and the hardness and trials of the journey, it was not altogether, we may be sure, without a sort of pride and gladness that he set out for Avignon in August, 1365.[486]

[210] His business was to convince the Pope that the Florentines were "the most faithful and most devout servants of Holy Church." Besides the letters which he bore for Francesco Bruni and others in Avignon, Boccaccio also carried one from the Republic to the Doge of Genoa,[487] and he remained in that city for a season. It is to his stay there that, as he tells us in the argomento, his thirteenth Eclogue refers. In that poem he tells us that he and the poet called Dafni had a discussion with a merchant Stilbone, of which Criti was judge. Stilbone eagerly praises riches at the expense of poetry, reminding Dafni how many are the perils that menace that fragile glory which poets value so highly, such as fire and war, which may easily destroy their works. Dafni, on the other hand, celebrates the power of poetry, which recalls the minds of men from the depths of Erebus. Criti praises both riches and poetry, but does not decide between them.

While Boccaccio was in Genoa, it seems, Petrarch thought he should have visited him in Pavia on his way to Avignon, but owing to the need for haste, the fatigue of the way, and the difficulties he feared to encounter at his age on the route, he was compelled not to do so. Later, on December 14, Petrarch wrote him of his disappointment:—[488]

"You have done well to visit me at least by letter, since you did not care, or you were unable, to visit me in person. Having heard that you were crossing the Alps to see the Babylon of the West, far worse than that of the East, because she is nearer to us, I was uneasy about the result of your voyage until I heard that you had returned. Knowing now for many years, by my frequent journeys, the difficulties of the roads, and remembering the weightiness of your body and the gravity of your spirit, friends [211]of a studious leisure, and by consequence enemies of such cares and of such business, not a day, not a night has passed tranquilly for me. I thank God that you have remained safe and sound.... Assuredly, if you had not been very pressed, it would not have been difficult, since you were in Genoa, to come on here. It is only two days' journey. You would have seen me ... and you would have seen what you have not seen it seems to me—the town of Pavia (Ticinum) on the banks of the Ticino.... But since circumstances have willed that I should be deprived of your greeting, as you say, because of the fatigue of the journey and your mistrust of your strength, and because of the shortness of the time at your disposal and the order of the fatherland which awaits your return, I could have desired at least that you should have met my friend Guido [Guido Settimo], Archbishop of Genoa. In seeing him you would have seen me, for since infancy I have lived with him in perfect conformity of will and sentiment. And, believe me, you would have seen a man who, though weak in body, has a spirit of great energy; you would have said you had never seen any one more full of vitality...."

Petrarch was evidently hurt that Boccaccio had not been able to go to Pavia. It was necessary, however, for him to reach Avignon with all speed. And there, indeed, he was welcomed by Petrarch's friends. For that letter, so full of regrets, continues:—

"But to end my complaints with a congratulation, I am glad that in Babylon itself you have seen those friends that death has left me, and, above all, him who, as you say, is a veritable father: my dear Filippo, Patriarch of Jerusalem. To paint him in a few words, he is a man as great as his title, and indeed he is worthy of the Papacy if one day that should add itself to his merits. You write me that without having known you till then, he held you in a long embrace and pressed you closely and[212] affectionately, even as I myself would have done, in the utmost friendship, in the presence of the sovereign pontiff and his astonished cardinals...."

Boccaccio seems to have remained in Avignon till November. His mission did not meet with much success: the Pope was hard to persuade and to convince. For all this trouble and fatigue Boccaccio received from the Republic ninety florins of gold, at the rate of four florins a day. This certainly could by no means have met all his expenses. Poor as he was, he had to pay for the honour of serving his country.[489]

That was probably the most important, though, as we shall see, not the last of Boccaccio's missions. It was the eve of the Pope's return to Rome, and once more Italy seemed to be in sight of a kind of peace.

The year 1366 was probably spent by Boccaccio at Certaldo in meditation and work; but in 1367, troubled again in spirit, as it seems, and very poor, he suddenly decided to set out for Venice to see Petrarch.

He left Certaldo on March 24,[490] but coming to Florence, "the continual rains, the dissuasions of friends, and the fear of the dangers of the way," added to the tales of those who had made the journey from Bologna, caused him to hesitate. Then he learned that Petrarch had left Venice for Pavia, and was once more a guest of the Visconti, so that he was on the point of giving up his journey. But the desire to see again some of those friends he had met before in Venice, and, above all, the thought of seeing Petrarch's daughter and her husband, "Thy Tullia and her Francesco," whom he had not met before, decided him to continue a journey he accomplished not without much weariness.

On the way, as it happened, he met Petrarch's son-in-law [213] Franceschino da Brossano di Amicolo, whose character, voice, and beauty he praises so highly. "After festive and friendly greetings, after learning from him that you were safe and sound, and much other good news concerning you, I began to consider him, his form and beauty (cœpi aliquandiu mecum meditari pregrandem hominis formam), his quiet and pleasing face, his calm words ... how I praised your choice. Finally he left me, for he had business to do. And I in the earliest dawn went aboard my little boat (naviculam) and immediately set out for the Venetian shore, where I landed and would have sent at once to announce myself, but some of our brother citizens were already about me and offering me hospitality.... In spite, however, of Donato's pressing invitation, I went off with Francesco Allegri.... I tell you all this in all these words to excuse myself for not having accepted the offer you made me so warmly by letter; but if my friends had not been there to meet me I should have gone to an inn rather than have dwelt in the house of Tullia while her husband was absent. However, although you know in this and in many other things the integrity of my heart towards you, all others would not know it, and some would have jeered in spite of my white hair (canum caput) and my age and my fatness and feebleness, which should surely shut their mouths. This kind of thing is easily and willingly believed by evil-minded scandal-mongers, who prefer a lie to the truth.

"After reposing myself a little I went to salute Tullia, who had already heard of my arrival.... She met me joyfully, blushing a little, and looking on the ground, with modesty and filial affection, and she saluted and embraced me....

"Presently we were talking in your charming little garden with some friends, and she offered me with matronly serenity your house, your books, and all your things there. Suddenly little footsteps—and there came towards[214] us thy Eletta, my delight, who, without knowing who I was, looked at me smiling. I was not only delighted, I greedily took her in my arms, imagining that I held my little one (virgunculam olim meam) that is lost to me. What shall I say? If you do not believe me, you will believe Guglielmo da Ravenna, the physician, and our Donato, who knew her. Your little one has the same aspect that she had who was my Eletta, the same expression, the same light in the eyes, the same laughter there, the same gestures, the same way of walking, the same way of carrying all her little person; only my Eletta was, it is true, a little taller when at the age of five and a half I saw her for the last time.[491] Besides, she talks in the same way, uses the same words, and has the same simplicity. Indeed, indeed, there is no difference save that thy little one is golden-haired, while mine had chestnut tresses (aurea cesaries tuæ est, meæ inter nigram rufamque fuit). Ah me! how many times when I have held thine in my arms listening to her prattle the memory of my baby stolen away from me has brought tears to my eyes—which I let no one see."

(By the courtesy of Messrs. J. & J. Leighton.)

That love of children so characteristic in an Italian, and yet so surprising in Boccaccio to those who without [215]understanding the real simplicity of his nature have been content to think of him as a mere teller of doubtful stories, is one of the most natural and beautiful traits in his character. The little Eletta, "my delight," appears like a ray of sunshine in a lonely and even gloomy old age, which we may think perhaps, had Violante lived, might have been less bitter, less hard to bear than it proved to be. Nor is this by any means the only glimpse he gives us of his interest in children. Apart from the neglected portraits of the Decameron, we find him referring to them, their health and upbringing, in the Commentary on the Divine Comedy, when he speaks of the danger they are in from careless or neglectful nurses, who put them to rest or sleep in the light and thus hurt their eyes and induce them to squint; and yet he can believe, though probably with less than the common conviction, that a squint is the sign of an evil nature dangerous alike to the afflicted person and to those whom he may encounter.

The letter to Petrarch, however, does not end with Eletta. Boccaccio proceeds to speak of Tullia and her husband Francesco, who presently returned to Venice, and finding him there would have made him his guest,[216] and when he refused insisted on his daily presence at his table. Nor was this all, for Boccaccio tells us that on the eve of his departure, Francesco, knowing him to be very short of money, managed to get him into a quiet corner, and putting his strong hand on the feeble arm of his guest, would not let him depart till he had given him succour, rushing away before he could thank him. "Knowing me to be poor," Boccaccio writes, "on my departure from Venice, the hour being already late, he led me into a corner (in secessu domus me traxit) and in a few words, his great hands on my feeble arm (manibus illis giganteis suis in brachiolum meum injectis), forced me in spite of my embarrassment to accept his great liberality and then escaped, saying good-bye as he went, leaving me to blame myself. May God render it him again!"

It is perhaps in that letter we see Boccaccio better than in any other of his writings; the greatest man then in Italy playing with a little child, obliged in his poverty to accept assistance from one who was almost a stranger. It was on the 30th June that Boccaccio wrote that letter to Petrarch from Florence, so that he would seem to have arrived home about midsummer.

In the following year we catch sight of him again in the service of the Republic, first, as one of the Camarlinghi,[492] later, on an embassy to the Pope, who had set out for[217] Italy in April, and had entered Rome in October, 1367.[493]

In 1365 Urban had been besieged in Avignon by Duguesclin on his way to Spain, and had had to pay an enormous ransom as well as to absolve his enemy and his followers from all censures. This mishap, coupled with the invitation of the Romans, the passionate exhortations of Peter of Aragon, the eloquent appeal of Petrarch, and the urgent call of Albornoz, seems to have induced the Pope to undertake this adventure, which he had always looked forward to. He sailed, in spite of the opposition of the King of France, for Corneto, and at last came safely to Viterbo, which he entered in state on June 9, 1367, "with such grace and exultation that it seemed the very stones would cry, 'Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord.'"[494] In Viterbo the Pope began to arrange a league against the Visconti, but he was already having trouble with Siena, and on August 20 the great Albornoz died. In September, too, a French tumult broke out in the city, and though Florence, Siena, and even Rome sent aid, Urban was besieged for three days, and was doubtless very glad to set out under the escort [218]of the Marquis of Ferrara on October 14 for Rome. Two days later he entered the City in triumph riding on a white mule; he was received with "universal joy and acclamation."

In the spring of 1368 the Emperor, in accordance with his long unfulfilled promise to the league, came into Italy with an army to bridle the Visconti. The Papal forces and those of Giovanna of Naples joined his, but achieved nothing. Then the Emperor came into Tuscany. The rising of the Salimbeni followed in Siena, and the Emperor passed through Siena on his way to Viterbo. On October 21 he entered Rome leading the Pope's mule on foot.

It seems to have been at this moment that the Florentines thought well to send an embassy to Urban and to choose Boccaccio once more as their ambassador. All we know about the affair is, however, that on December 1, 1368, Urban wrote to the Signoria of Florence that he understood from their ambassador Giovanni Boccaccio that they desired to assist him in reforming the affairs of Italy, and that Boccaccio, whom he praises, bears his reply viva voce.[495]

The truth of the matter was that all Italy was uneasy. The advent of the Emperor had ruined the peace of Tuscany, Lombardy was ablaze with war, the Papacy was divided against itself. The French party—five French cardinals had altogether refused to leave Avignon—now ceased urging the Pope to return. Helpless and disillusioned,[219] Urban was at the mercy of the circumstances in which he found himself, and a year later he in fact abandoned Italy again, setting out for Avignon in September, and dying there in December, 1369.

It has been said that in 1368 Boccaccio went to Padua to see Petrarch.[496] But this seems extremely unlikely, for quite apart from the fact that his growing infirmities made such a journey difficult, as we have seen in the previous year the circumstances of the time made such a journey almost impossible. Even Petrarch, a born traveller, a man who delighted in journeying, found it extremely difficult to make his way from Milan in July of that year, where he had been present at the marriage of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, to Violante, Duke Galeazzo Visconti's daughter, to Padua. "He chartered a boat," we read, "coaxed a half-frightened company of boatmen to work her, with no weapons to defend himself, and sailed down the Po. The adventure had an astonishing success. Through the river-fleets and between the manned squadrons of both armies sailed this invalid old man of a perfect courage, and the officers of both hosts vied with one another in doing him honour. His voyage was a triumphal progress...." But Boccaccio was not the world-famed Petrarch.

What does seem certain is that in 1370 he went to Naples, where he remained till 1371. This journey southward seems to have been undertaken at the invitation of a certain Abbate Niccolò di Montefalcone, who, probably during a sojourn in Tuscany, having borrowed his Tacitus of Boccaccio, invited the poet to visit him in his convent, the Certosa di S. Stefano, in Calabria.[497]

[220]He set out from Certaldo much charmed by the affection which the Abbate had professed for him, and delighted at the prospect of visiting his convent, with its shady woods and tranquil country-side watered by limpid streams; a place rich in books and in peace. But he had not reached his destination before he learned that the Abbate had left Calabria, as he suspected on purpose to avoid him. He was compelled to turn aside in the winter rains and to take refuge in Naples. There, justly angry at the treatment he, a poor and old man, famous too, and the friend of Petrarch, had received at the hands of a rascal, he wrote the wretched monk a letter which, that posterity may add its indignation to his, has happily come down to us. In that letter, so full of just resentment, Boccaccio accuses this blackguard of being a liar and a hypocrite. It is in fact impossible to excuse this unworthy but too common son of the Church from the accusations of Boccaccio. He must have known that the poet was old and infirm and very poor, yet apparently to amuse himself he put him to the great expense of energy and money which such a journey entailed.[498] In Florence[221] it was said Boccaccio had gone to make him a monk.

That letter to the Abbate bears the date of xiii. Kal. Feb. and was written in Naples. The year is indicated by the fact that Boccaccio speaks there of the death of Urban V and the election of his successor, Gregory XI.[499] It seems certain then that in January, 1371, Boccaccio was in Naples.[500] There he was befriended by Conte Ugo di S. Severino, who as soon as he heard of his arrival and his poverty came to salute him and to offer to maintain him during his stay, and on his departure presented him with gifts "more worthy of the giver than the receiver."

While he was in Naples he also met a friar minor, by name Ubertino di Corigliano, who had been sent by Frederic of Sicily to conclude peace with Queen Giovanna. He was a professor of theology, a learned man and good talker. Boccaccio spoke with him of the revival of learning. "God," he says, "has been moved to compassion for the Italian name.... For in our days great men have descended from heaven, unless I am mistaken, gifted with great souls, who have brought back poetry from exile to [222]her ancient throne."[501] Who were these men but Dante, "worthy to be named before all," and his master Petrarch. He does not add himself, as he well might.[502]

He seems to have left Naples in the autumn of 1371 and to have returned to Certaldo, where we find him in 1372, for he writes thence to Piero di Monteforte a letter dated "Nonis Aprilis."[503] From that quiet retreat, save to go to Florence, where indeed he had yet to hold the most honourable post of his whole life, he did not stir again, during the few years that remained to him.




Those ten years from 1363 to 1372 had not only been given by Boccaccio to the study of Greek and the service of his country, they had also been devoted to a vast and general accumulation of learning such as was possessed by only one other man of his time, his master and friend Petrarch. It might seem that ever since Boccaccio had met Petrarch he had come under his influence, and in intellectual matters, at any rate, had been very largely swayed by him. In accordance with the unfortunate doctrine of his master, we see him, after 1355, giving up all work in the vulgar, and setting all his energy on work in the Latin tongue, in the study of antiquity and the acquirement of knowledge. From a creative writer of splendid genius he gradually became a scholar of vast reading but of mediocre achievement. He seems to have read without ceasing the works of antiquity, annotating as he read. His learning, such as it was, became prodigious, immense, and, in a sense, universal, and little by little he seems to have gathered his notes into the volumes we know as De Montibus, Sylvis, Fontibus, Lacubus, Fluminibus, Stagnis seu Paludibus, De Nominibus Maris Liber, a sort of dictionary of Geography;[504] the De Casibus Virorum Illustrium, in[224] nine books, which deals with the vanity of human affairs from Adam to Petrarch;[505] the De Claris Mulieribus, which he dedicated to Acciaiuoli's sister, and which begins with Eve and comes down to Giovanna, Queen of Naples;[506] and the De Genealogiis Deorum, in fifteen books, dedicated to Ugo, King of Cyprus and Jerusalem, who had begged him to write this work, which is a marvellous cyclopædia of learning concerning mythology[507] and a defence of poetry and poets.[508] In all these works it must be admitted that we see Boccaccio as Petrarch's disciple, a pupil who lagged very far behind his master.

As a creative artist, as the author, to name only the best, of the Fiammetta and the Decameron, Boccaccio is the master of a world Petrarch could not enter; he takes his place with Dante and Chaucer and Shakespeare, and indeed save Dante no other writer in the Italian tongue can be compared with him.

It is seldom, however, that a great creative artist is also a great scholar, for the very energy and virility and restless impatience which have in some sort enabled him to create living men and women prevent him in his work as a student, as an historian pure and simple, in short, as a scholar. So it was with Boccaccio. The author of the Latin works is not only inferior to the author of the Fiammetta and the Decameron, he is the follower and somewhat disappointing pupil of Petrarch, who contrives to show us at every step his inferiority to his master, his feebler sense of proportion, of philosophy, of the reality of history, above all his feebler judgment. The consideration of these works then would seem to demand of us the consideration of his [225]relations with Petrarch, and it will be convenient at this point to undertake it as briefly as possible.

From a miniature in the French version of the "De Casibus Virorum," made in 1409 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Showcase V, MS. 126.)

Even in his youth Boccaccio had regarded Petrarch with an enthusiasm and an unenvying modesty that, lasting as it did his whole life long, ripening as it did into one of the greatest friendships in the history of Letters, was perhaps the most beautiful trait in his character. It always seemed to him an unmerited grace that one who was sought out by princes and popes, whose fame filled the universe, should care to be his friend, and this wonder, this admiration, remained with him till death; he never writes Petrarch's name without, in his enthusiasm, adding to it some flattering epithet. He calls him his "illustrious and sublime master," his "father and lord," "a poet who is rather of the company of the ancients than of this modern world," "a man descended from heaven to restore to Poetry her throne," the "marvel and glory" of his time.[509] He had known and loved his work, as he says, for forty years or more,[510] but he had never dared to approach him, though opportunities had not been altogether lacking,[511] till Petrarch came to Florence in the autumn of 1350 on his way to win the indulgence of the Jubilee in Rome.[512] This was the beginning of that friendship[513] which is almost without precedent or imitation in the history of literature. In the following spring, as we have seen, Boccaccio, in the name of Florence, went to Padua to recall Petrarch from exile, to offer him a chair in the new university of his native city, and to restore him the goods confiscated from his father. In Padua he had [226]been Petrarch's guest for some days; he was a witness of Petrarch's enthusiasm for "sacred studies," but apparently was not personally much interested in them, though he calls them sacred, for he employed himself with no less enthusiasm in copying some of Petrarch's works; by which I at least understand some of his poems in the vulgar. The evenings were spent in the garden, talking, on Boccaccio's part of politics, on Petrarch's, as we may suppose, of learning, often till dawn.[514]

Boccaccio did not see Petrarch again for eight years, till in 1359 he visited him in Milan, and in that year sent him the Divine Comedy, which he had had copied for him; four years later, after his "conversion," his hysterical adventure with the messenger of the Blessed Pietro, he went to meet his master in Venice for the last time,[515] as it proved, for in 1367 he missed him, Petrarch being then in Pavia.[516] In all these meetings it is Boccaccio who seeks out Petrarch; his visits are never returned. It is indeed almost touching to see with what ardour and with what abnegation Boccaccio cultivates this friendship which was in fact his greatest pride. He makes Petrarch presents, poor as he is; he sends him the Divine Comedy, S. Augustine's Commentary on the Psalms, and with his own hand copies for him a book of extracts from Cicero and Varro.[517] We do not hear of Petrarch giving him anything in return. It is true he lent him the MS. of Homer and another of Plato, but he borrowed the translation of the former made at Boccaccio's expense in order to have it copied for his library. It is ill, however, reckoning up benefits. Petrarch was not small-minded, as the noble letter in which he offers to buy his friend's library proves. He procured for him the offer of the office of Apostolic [227]Secretary, which Boccaccio had the strength and independence to refuse, and in his will left him, since he knew him to be poor, a cloak to keep him warm on winter nights in his study. If we find his praise of Boccaccio's work, especially of the Decameron, a little cold and lacking in spontaneity—in fact he admits he has not read the Decameron, but only "run through it"[518]—we must remember his absurd and pedantic contempt for work in the vulgar which came upon him in his middle life, so that he was at last really incapable of judging and was in fact hostile to Italian literature,[519] and would have destroyed if he could all his own work in that kind.

[228]Boccaccio, on the other hand, was always eager on Petrarch's behalf and in his defence. He composed an Elogium[520] on him and his poetry, in which he defended him from certain reproaches which had been brought against him, and when, as it is said in 1372, a French cardinal attacked his venerated master in the presence of the Pope and denied him the title of "Phœnix of Poets" that was ordinarily given him, Boccaccio replied with an apology in his favour.[521] Nor was this all, for it was mainly by Boccaccio's efforts that that very disappointing poem the Africa was preserved to us; and indeed, such was his delight in Petrarch, that he arranged in order in a book the letters he had received from him, for he thought himself assured of immortality rather by them than by his own works.[522]

It is indeed strange and lovely to come upon Boccaccio's extraordinary modesty: the greatest prose-writer in the Italian language, the greatest story-teller in the world, considered himself of no account at all beside the pedantic lover of Laura, the author of the Africa which he had not seen. The very thought of comparing himself with Petrarch seemed to him a crime. He considered him as not altogether of this world; he dwelt, according to his friend, in a superior region; and as for his work, his writings, his style, they are marvellous and ornate, abounding in sublime thoughts and exquisite expressions, for he only wrote after long reflection, and he drew his thoughts from the depths of his spirit.[523] And when Petrarch honoured him with the title of Poet, he declined it;[524] his ideal was "to follow very modestly the footsteps of his Silvanus."

"The illustrious Francesco Petrarca," he writes in [229]another place,[525] "neglecting the precepts of certain writers who scarcely attain to the threshold of poetry, began to take the way of antiquity with so much force of character, with such enthusiasm and perspicacity, that no obstacle would arrest him, nor could ridicule turn him from his way. Far from that, breaking through and tearing away the brambles and bushes with which by the negligence of men the road was covered, and remaking a solid road of the rocks heaped up and made impassable by inundations, he opened a passage for himself and for those who would come after him. Then, cleansing the fountain of Helicon from slime and rushes, he restored to the waters their first chastity and sweetness. He opened the fount of Castalia, hidden by wild branches, and cleared the grove of laurels of thorns. Having established Apollo on his throne, and restored to the Muses, disfigured by neglect and rusticity, their ancient beauty, he climbed the highest summits of Parnassus. And having been crowned with a leafy garland by Daphne, he showed himself to the Roman people, with the applause of the Senate, a thing which had not been seen perhaps for more than a thousand years. He forced the gates of the ancient Capitol, creaking on their rusty hinges, and to the great joy of the Romans he made their annals famous by an unaccustomed triumph. O glorious spectacle! O unforgettable act! This man by his prodigious effort, by his work everywhere famous, as though he commanded through the universe the trumpet of Fame, sounded the name of Poetry, brought back again by him from darkness into light. He re-awakened in all generous spirits a hope almost lost till then, and he made it to be seen—what most of us had not believed—that Parnassus was still to be won, that her summit was still to be dared...."

The enthusiasm, the unselfishness of that! But he does not stop there. Petrarch is as admirable morally as he is as an artist or as a scholar.

[230] "Petrarch," he tells us,[526] "living from his youth up as a celibate, had such a horror of the impurities of the excess of love that for those who know him he is the best example of honesty. A mortal enemy of liars, he detests all vices. For he is a venerable sanctuary of truth, and honours and joys in virtue, the model of Catholic holiness. Pious, gentle, and full of devotion, he is so modest that one might name him a second Parthenias [i.e. Virgil]. He is too the glory of the poetic art. An agreeable and eloquent orator, philosophy has for him no secrets. His spirit is of a superhuman perspicacity; his mind is tenacious and full of all knowledge that man may have. It is for this reason that his writings, both in prose and in verse, numerous as they are, shine so brilliantly, breathe so much charm, are adorned with so many flowers, enclosing in their words so sweet a harmony, and in their thoughts an essence so marvellous that one believes them the work of a divine genius rather than the work of a man. In short he is assuredly more than a man and far surpasses human powers. I am not singing the praises of some ancient, long since dead. On the contrary, I am speaking of the merits of a living man.... If you do not believe these words, you can go and see him with your eyes. I do not fear that it will happen to him as to so many famous men, as Claudius says, 'Their presence diminishes their reputation.' Rather I affirm boldly that he surpasses his reputation. He is distinguished by such dignity of character, by an eloquence so charming, by an urbanity and old age so well ordered, that one can say of him what Seneca said of Socrates, that 'one learns more from his manners than from his discourse.'"

In this enormous praise, in this humility, Petrarch does not seem to have seen anything extraordinary; in fact he seems to have taken it as the most natural thing in the [231]world. We gather that he considered it was to have much regard for Boccaccio to let him hope for some little glory after him.[527] And we may suspect that he found in him a friend after his own heart. He showed his gratitude by addressing a number of letters to him and by leaving him in his Will fifty florins of gold to buy a mantle to protect him against the cold during the long and studious nights of winter.[528] Boccaccio was ill when he heard of that benefaction and the death of his beloved master. The letter he then wrote in praise of the dead, his hand trembling with emotion and weakness, his eyes full of tears, is perhaps the most beautiful, if not the most touching, document of their friendship.[529]

A woodcut from the "De Claris Mulieribus" (Ulm, 1473), cap. 92. (By the courtesy of Messrs. J. & J. Leighton.)

And then, as we have already seen, the love of Boccaccio for his master, his solicitude for his memory, did not cease with Petrarch's death. His first thought was for the Africa of which his master had made, in imitation of Virgil perhaps, so great a mystery, and, as it was said, had wished to burn it. Though he was as ignorant as others of its contents, believing as he did in Petrarch, he was altogether convinced that it was a great and marvellous poem, worthy of Homer and full of a divine inspiration.[530] While some said Petrarch had left instructions to burn it, others declared that he had appointed a commission to decide whether it should live or die. Boccaccio does not seem to have thought that he himself would necessarily have been on any such commission; but immediately addressed a supplication in verse to the tribunal, which he feared would be composed of lawyers, demanding in the name of the Muses, of kings, of peoples, of cities that this masterpiece should not be allowed to perish.

So Boccaccio loved Petrarch. And that Petrarch was [232]good for him, as we might say, who can doubt after reading that noble letter on the vision of the Blessed Pietro? But that Boccaccio was intellectually altogether at his mercy unhappily we cannot doubt either after reading his Latin works. He follows Petrarch so far as he can, but nearly always blindly, exaggerating the predilections or prejudices of his master even in little things. In all his works in Latin he makes no allusion to his works in the vulgar: Petrarch often mentions his, but always with an affected disdain. Yet Boccaccio was by no means destitute of a passion for literary glory. He desired it as eagerly as Petrarch, but more modestly; and following the precept of his master to the letter, he does not believe he can attain to it by any other means than by classical studies. Like his master too, he regretted the writings of his youth, and would have destroyed them if they had not been spread through all Italy and well out of his reach. In all these things Boccaccio is but the follower of Petrarch, and nothing can be more to the point than to compare them, not indeed as artists, but as students, as scholars, as philosophers.

And here let us admit, to begin with, that as a student, as a man of culture, in a sense of the reality of history and in a due sense of the proportion of things, Petrarch is as much Boccaccio's superior as Boccaccio is Petrarch's as a creative artist. For Petrarch antiquity was a practical school of life. Convinced of the superiority of his spirit, he possessed himself of what he read and assimilated what he wanted.[531] Boccaccio, on the other hand, remained entirely outside, and can claim no merit as a scholar but that of industry. As a student he is a mere compiler. His continual ambition is to extend his knowledge, but Petrarch dreams only of making his more profound. He too in reading the ancients has collected an incalculable number of extracts, but after putting them in order from various[233] points of view he has only begun; he proceeds to draw from them his own works.

Nor is Petrarch deceived in his own superiority. He was by far the most cultured man of his time; as a critic he had already for himself disposed of the much-abused claims of the Church and the Empire. For instance, with what assurance he recognises as pure invention, with what certainty he annihilates with his criticism the privileges the Austrians claimed to hold from Cæsar and Nero.[532] And even face to face with antiquity he is not afraid; he is sure of the integrity of his mind; he analyses and weighs, yes, already in a just balance, the opinions of the writers of antiquity; while Boccaccio mixes up in the most extraordinary way the various antiquities of all sorts of epochs. Nor has Boccaccio the courage of his opinions; all seems to him worthy of faith, of acceptance. He cannot, even in an elementary way, discern the false from the true; and even when he seems on the point of doing so he has not the courage to express himself. When he reads in Vincent de Beauvais that the Franks came from Franc the son of Hector, he does not accept it altogether, it is true, but, on the other hand, he dare not deny it, "because nothing is impossible to the omnipotence of God."[533] He accepts the gods and heroes of antiquity; the characters in Homer and the writers of Greece, of Rome, are equally real, equally authentic, equally worthy of faith, and we might add equally unintelligible. They are as wonderful, as delightful, as impossible to judge as the saints. What they do or say he accepts with the same credulity as that with which he accepted the visions of Blessed Pietro. Petrarch only had to look Blessed Pietro in the eye, and he shrivelled up into lies and absurdities. But to dispose of a charlatan and a rascal of one's own day is comparatively easy: the true superiority of Petrarch is [234]shown when he is face to face with the realities of antiquity—when, for instance, venerating Cicero as he did, he does not hesitate to blame him on a question of morals. But Boccaccio speaks of Cicero as though he scarcely knew him;[534] he praises him as though he were a mere abstraction, calls him "a divine spirit," a "luminous star whose light still waxes."[535] He does not know him. He goes to him for certain details because Petrarch has told him to do so.

The truth seems to be that as soon as Boccaccio was separated from life he became a nonentity. If this is not so, how are we to explain the fact that he who was utterly incapable of criticism, of any sense of difference or proportion in regard to the ancients, could appreciate Petrarch so exquisitely, not only as a writer, where he is often at sea, but as a man? He has a philosophy of life, but he cannot apply it to antiquity because he cannot realise antiquity. Nor does he perceive that Petrarch is continually opposing the philosophy of life to the philosophy of the schools. It is true he defends Petrarch against the more obvious absurdities of scholastic philosophy; but, like his opponents, philosophy for him is nothing but the trick, we cannot say the art, of reasoning, of dialectic.[536] While Petrarch with an immense and admirable courage bravely dares to attack the tyranny of Aristotle in the world of thought, he remains for Boccaccio "the most worthy authority in all things of importance."[537] And so, for example, when Aristotle affirms that the founders of religion were the poets, Boccaccio does not hesitate to oppose this theory to the theologians of his time.[538] Where in fact Petrarch shows himself really superior to the vulgar prejudices of his time his disciple cannot follow him. For [235]instance, in regard to astrology: Boccaccio attributed an immense importance to it, but Petrarch never misses a chance of ridiculing it even in his letters to Boccaccio.[539] Nevertheless Boccaccio remains persuaded that the art of astrology combines in itself much truth, and at any rate rests on a solid basis. If it sometimes deceives us, we must seek the cause in the greatness of the heavens, so difficult to explore, and in the imperfect knowledge we have of the movements and conjunctions of the planets.[540]

A woodcut from the "De Claris Mulieribus." (Ulm, 1493). Cap. 91. (By the courtesy of Messrs. J. & J. Leighton.)

In all these things and in many others Boccaccio is little more than Petrarch's disciple, following him without discrimination, more violent in his abuse, more extreme in his advocacy of those things or professions or ideas or people whom his master had come to consider bad or good, reasonable or unreasonable. And it is in the Latin works that we find him most a disciple, really obeying orders that he has by no means understood, compiling with an immense and heroic labour a vast collection of facts or supposed facts which have no relation to one another, and reformed and revivified by no composing or commanding idea, are for the most part just a heap of dead and grotesque extravagances that for us at least can have no meaning.

Let me confess it at once: after labouring with an immense weariness through the whole of these works in Latin, I have found but one complete work and two fragments which seem to have been written with any personal conviction: the Eclogues, parts of the De Montibus, and the fourteenth book of the De Genealogiis Deorum. The rest are vast compilations, made, one cannot say without enthusiasm, for nothing but an immense enthusiasm could have carried him through such a labour, but without any unifying idea, without personal conviction or art or [236]delight. They are the notebooks of an omnivorous but indiscreet and undiscerning reader.[541]

The earliest among them, as we may think,[542] the De Claris Mulieribus, constitutes as it were the transition from the writings full of imagination and life in the vulgar tongue to the works of erudition. Its chief purpose would seem to be rather to entertain and to amuse women than to write history or biography, and though now and then a more serious idea might seem to discover itself, it remains for the most part a wretched and awkward piece of work, in which virtue and vice are dealt with and distinguished, if at all, to hide the droll pleasantries which are intended to divert the reader. In this Boccaccio was successful, and the book had a great vogue in spite of its absurdity.[543]

The idea of the work was, as he confesses in the proem suggested to him by Petrarch's De Viris Illustribus. Ordered chronologically, beginning with Eve, much space is given to women of antiquity—Greek, Roman, and Barbarian, little to Jewesses and Christians, saints and martyrs, because, says Boccaccio, "I wish to spare them the neighbourhood of Pagans." He has little to say either, of the women of his own and the preceding age. He mentions, however, Pope Joan, the virtuous Gualdrada,[544] the Empress Constance, mother of Frederic II, and Queen Giovanna of Naples, whom he praises for her personality and character as one of the most remarkable women of his time.

But it is in dealing with the more modern characters [237]that he dates his work for us. We find there the same contempt for, the same aversion from women in general as have already come upon in the Corbaccio and the Vita di Dante. It is possible that his contempt in some sort excuses, or at least explains, the wretchedness of this work. For if it was written for women, we know that he considered that culture and learning were not only useless to women, but even harmful, since they helped them to evil. And he himself tells us with the most amazing humour or effrontery that he has composed this work "less with a view to general usefulness than for the greater honour of the sex,"[545] yet, as we shall see, he abuses women roundly on almost every possible occasion, and introduces a tale like that of Paolina, which would not be out of place in the Decameron.

"Paolina, the Roman lady," says Boccaccio, "lived in the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, and above all the ladies of her time she was famous for the beauty of her body and the loveliness of her face, and, married as she was, she was reputed the especial mirror of modesty. She cared for nothing else, she studied no other thing, save to please her husband and to worship and reverence Anubis, god of the Egyptians, for whom she had so much devotion, that in everything she did she hoped to merit his grace whom she so much venerated. But, as we know, wherever there is a beautiful woman there are young men who would be her lovers, and especially if she be reputed chaste and honest, so here a young Roman fell in love beyond hope of redemption with the beautiful Paolina. His name was Mundo, he was very rich, and of the noblest family in Rome. He followed her with his eyes, and with much[238] amorous and humble service as lovers are wont to do, and with prayers too, and with promises and presents, but he found her not to be won, for that she, modest and pure as she was, placed all her affection in her husband, and considered all those words and promises as nothing but air. Mundo, seeing all this, almost hopeless at last, turned all his thoughts to wickedness and fraud."

A woodcut from the "De Claris Mulieribus" (Ulm, 1473), cap. 89. (By the courtesy of Messrs. J. & J. Leighton.)

"It seems that Paolina used to visit almost every day the Temple of Isis, where, with continual oblations and sacred offerings, she worshipped and honoured the god Anubis with the greatest devotion; which, when the young man knew of it, love showed him a way, and he thought and imagined in his heart an unheard-of evil. Telling himself then that the priests and ministers of Anubis would be able to assist and favour his desires, he went to them, and after many prayers and many rich gifts opened to them the matter. And it happened as he wished. For when Paolina next came to the temple the most venerable high priest himself, in a quiet and humble voice, told her that the god Anubis had appeared to him in the night and had bidden him say to her that he, Anubis himself, was well pleased and delighted with her devotion, and that in that temple where she worshipped him he would, for her good and repose of heart, speak with her in the darkness of night. Now when Paolina heard this from so venerable a priest, judging that this had come to her though her devotion and holiness, she rejoiced without measure at the words, and returning home told all to her husband, who, like a fool, believing all to be true, consented that she should spend the following night in the temple. And so it befell at nightfall Paolina came to the preordained place, and after solemn ceremonies and holy prayers alone she entered the rich bed to await Anubis, the god of her devotion. And when she had fallen asleep, came, introduced by the priests, Mundo, covered with the vestments and ornaments of Anubis and full of the most [239]ardent desire; then with a soft voice, taking her in his arms, he awakened her.[546] And Mundo, in the voice of Anubis, seeing her afraid and confused at first waking, bade her be of good heart, saying that he was Anubis whom she had for so long venerated and worshipped, and that he was come from heaven because of her prayers and devotions that he might lie with her, and of her have a son a god like to himself. Which, when Paolina heard, before all else she asked if it were the custom of the supernal powers to mix themselves with mortals; to whom Mundo answered, even so, and gave the example of Jove, who had descended from heaven and passed through the roof where Danäe lay, into her lap, from which intercourse Perseus, now in heaven, was born. And hearing this Paolina most joyfully consented. Then Mundo, all naked, entered into the bed of Anubis, and so won the desired embraces and kisses and pleasures; and when it was dawn he left her, saying that she had that night conceived a son. And when it was day Paolina arose, and, carried by the priests, returned to her house, believing everything and recounting all to her foolish husband, who received his wife joyfully with the greatest honour, thinking that she would be the mother of a god. Nor would either have doubted this but for the want of caution on the part of the too ardent Mundo. For it seemed to him that Paolina had returned his embraces with the greatest readiness and delight, and thinking therefore that he had conquered her modesty and hoping to enjoy her again, he went to her one day in the temple, and coming close to her whispered, 'Blessed art thou who hast conceived of the god Anubis.' But the result was quite other than he had expected. For stupefied beyond measure, Paolina, bringing all things to her remembrance that had befallen on that night, understood the fraud, and altogether broken-hearted told her husband, opening all her thoughts; and he went immediately in the[240] greatest sorrow and distress to Tiberius Cæsar. And Cæsar ordered that all the priests should be slain with grievous torments, and that Mundo should be sent into exile; and as for the simple and deceived Paolina, she became the laughing-stock of the Roman people."

Such is one of the stories of the De Claris Mulieribus. But though it be one of the best tales there, and indeed we may compare it with a famous story in the Decameron,[547] it is by no means characteristic of the whole book, which has its more serious side, for Boccaccio uses his facts, his supposed facts, often enough to admonish his contemporaries, and therefore to some extent the work may be said to have had a moral purpose.

Yet after all, what chiefly interests us in an inferior piece of work is the view of woman we find there. And strangely enough, in this book so full of mere foolishness and unhappy scolding we find a purer and more splendid praise of woman than anywhere else in his work. "A woman," he tells us, "can remain pure in the midst of corruptions and every horror and vice as a ray of sunlight remains pure even when it falls on a filthy puddle." Yes, they can do so, and that he admits it, is at least something, but if we may judge from this book it was by no means his opinion that commonly they do. For he is always pointing in scorn at the women of his time. He tells of the death of Seneca's wife, who killed herself that she might not survive her husband, in order that he may preach to the widows of his day, who do not hesitate, we learn, to remarry, "not twice nor thrice, but five or six times." Again, he tells the story of Dido more according to the legends that had grown up around it than according to the Æneid, in order that it may be an example "above all among Christians" to those widows who take a third or fourth husband.[548] Having been betrayed by a widow, he is as personally suspicious of and vindictive against them as the elder Mr. Weller.

[241]Nor is he sparing in his abuse of women in general. They can only keep a secret of which they are ignorant, he tells us. And like many men who have lived disorderly, he puts an extraordinary, a false, value on chastity. For after recommending all parents to bring up their daughters chastely, which is sane and right, he bids women guard their chastity even to the death, adding that they should prefer a certain death to an uncertain dishonour.[549] And after giving more than one example to bear this out, he cites the women of the Cimbri, who, when their husbands fled, besought the Romans to let them enter the house of the Vestals, and when this was denied them killed themselves after murdering their children. Nor does he ever cease to deplore the luxury and coquetry of women, blaming the Roman Senate when, in honour of Volumnia, mother of Coriolanus, who had saved the Republic, it allowed matrons to wear earrings. For luxury, says he, is the ruin of women, and so of men also, for the world belongs to men, but men to women.

Again and again he returns to the attitude he assumed in the Decameron,[550] but without its gaiety. Man is the more perfect and the firmer and stronger: how then can a woman do else but yield to her lover? If there are exceptions it is because some women partake of the nature of man, Sulpicia, for instance, who was, he says, "rather a man than a woman," and indeed some women have a man's soul in a woman's body. Nor does he omit any sort or kind of temperament. He shows us the courageous woman in Sofonisba, the voluptuous in Cleopatra, the chaste in Gualdrada, the simple in Paolina, the proud in Zenobia, the resigned in Costanza, the wise in Proba, the intriguer in Poppea, the generous in Sempronia.[551] He writes three hundred lives, and in every one [242]we find the same sentiments of passionate interest, suspicion, distrust. If it were possible to gather from this vast depository the type of woman Boccaccio himself preferred, we should find, I think, that she was by no means the intelligent, learned, energetic, independent, and strong-willed woman that negatively, as it were, he praises, for to him she would seem not a woman but a kind of man. No, he remains to worship the beautiful, subtle, credulous, and distracting creature that he had found in that Fiammetta who had betrayed him,—in two minds during a single heart's beat, cruel and sensual too, eager to love and without responsibility, afraid of the dark, but ready to do anything in things to her mind; in fact, the abused heroine of all his books. But while he adores her, he makes fun of her, he scorns her, he curses her, he hates her, yet in a moment she will be in his arms.

It was to one such he thought to dedicate this book of Famous Ladies,[552] to that Queen Giovanna of Naples, the granddaughter of King Robert the Wise, who had been the father of his own Fiammetta. But in the last chapter of the book, which is a long panegyric in her honour, he praises her not as a woman but as a great and powerful king. We do not know, alas! what he really thought of her, for eager Guelf and Angevine as he always was, he would be the last to tell us the truth, if it were evil, about this unhappy lady, and here at least his work is so full of praise that there is no room for judgment. If he had once spoken evil of her[553] he has here made amends, but [243]in such a way that we are in no way enlightened and remain as always at the mercy of the chroniclers.[554]

If we needed any evidence other than the works themselves that these compilations in Latin worried and bored Boccaccio, we should find it in the De Casibus Virorum, a vast work in nine books, which was taken up and put aside in disgust not less than three times, and at last only completed by the continual urgings of Petrarch, who, not understanding the disgust of the creative artist for this kind of book-making, was reduced to reply to the protests of Boccaccio that "man was born for labour."[555] The De Casibus Virorum is certainly a more considerable work than the De Claris Mulieribus, but it is without the occasional liveliness of the earlier work, as we see it, for instance, in the story of Paolina, and is in fact merely an enormous compilation, as I have said, made directly under the influence of Petrarch, who, in imitation of the ancients, was always willing to discourse concerning the instability of Fortune. It was a theme which suited his peculiar genius, and in the De Viris Illustribus and the De Remediis Utriusque Fortunæ we see him at his best in this manner.[556] But for Boccaccio such moralising became a mere drudgery, a mere heaping together of what he had read but not digested. Eager to follow in Petrarch's footsteps, however, he took up the same theme as the subject of an historical work, in which he sets out to show the misfortunes of famous men. Beginning with Adam and Eve—for he admits a few women—he passes in review with an enormous languor that makes the book one of the most wearying in all literature the personages of fable and legend and history, [244]treating all alike, down to his own time. Sometimes he is merely dull, sometimes absurd, sometimes theatrical, but always lifeless in these accounts of the tragic ends of "Famous Men" or of their fall from power. He is never simple, nor does he take his work simply; by every trick he had used in his creative work he tries in vain to give this book some sort of life. He sees his characters in vision, then, in imitation of Petrarch, he interrupts the narrative to preach, to set down tedious moral sentiments—that bad habit of his old age—or philosophical conclusions, or to lose himself in long digressions upon a thousand and one subjects—on riches, on fortune, on happiness, on rhetoric, on the lamentable condition of Rome, on the sadness (acedia) of writers, of which Petrarch had cured him, or again in defence of poetry, never choosing a subject, however, that had not been already treated by Petrarch, except it be woman, whom he again attacks, more soberly perhaps, but infinitely more tediously, warning us against her wiles in the manner of a very minor prophet. As long as he is a mere historian, a mere compiler, a mere scholar, he remains almost unreadable, but as soon as he returns to life, to what he has seen with his own eyes, even in this uncouth jargon, this Church Latin, he becomes an artist, a man of letters, and we find then without surprise that one of the last episodes he recounts, the history of Filippa la Catanese was, even in the seventeenth century, still read apparently with the greatest delight, for very many editions were published of this fragment of his book, of which I have already spoken.[557]

A woodcut from Lydgate's "Falles of Princes of John Bochas." (London, 1494.)


Certainly the most original and probably the best of Boccaccio's Latin works in prose is the De Genealogiis Deorum, with which is generally printed the De Montibus, Sylvis, etc. The first, however, is really but a mass of facts and confused details quite undigested and set forth without any unity, while the latter is an alphabetical dictionary of ancient geography to assist those who read the Latin poets.[558] At the time these books appeared, however, such matters were a novelty, and we have in them the first complete manual of an ancient science and the first dictionary of geography of the modern world. I say of the modern world, yet though we cannot but admire their erudition and the patient research of the author, these do not suffice to place these works really above the meagre compilations of the Middle Age,[559] yet we find there perhaps a change of method which makes them important. Both books are, however, full of credulities, they altogether lack judgment and any system, and can therefore scarcely be said to belong to humanism.

In the De Genealogiis Deorum Boccaccio gathers every mythological story he can find, and would explain them all by means of symbols and allegories, and in doing this he very naturally provoked the fervent applause of his contemporaries.[560] But what renders the volume really interesting and valuable to us is the eager and passionate defence of poetry which forms its epilogue.

Boccaccio had always fought valiantly in defence of [246]"poetry," by which he understood the art of literature, and the new learning, the knowledge of antiquity. This art, for it was by no means yet a science, had many more enemies than friends. To a great extent Petrarch refused to meet these foes, considering them as beneath his notice; it was left for Boccaccio to defend not only letters, but Petrarch and his Muse. To this defence he consecrates two whole books of the De Genealogiis Deorum, the fourteenth and fifteenth, and there he takes under his protection not only the poets of antiquity, but poetry in general and his own occupation with mythology. He pounds away with much success at the scholastic philosophers and theologians, who had no idea that they were already dead and damned, and while they declared poetry to be a sheer tissue of fables he busily dug their graves or heaped earth upon them. He left really nothing undone. He attacked their morality, and where so much was an absurdity of lies that was easy; but he appealed too to S. Augustine and S. Jerome, which was dangerous;[561] and at last, somewhat embarrassed by certain Latin poets who had proved to be too involved in their frivolity to defend, he abandoned them to their fate, reluctantly, it is true, but he abandoned them, and among these were Plautus, Terence, whom he had copied with his own hand, and Ovid, who had been the companion of his youth. The men whom Petrarch refused to touch lest he should soil his hands had to be content with these.

In Boccaccio's definition of the poet, which owed very much to Petrarch we may think, he comprehended the philosopher, the mystic, the prophet—especially the mystic; for he is much concerned with allegory and the hidden meaning of words. For him the work of the poet, and truly, is with words, but with words only. He must find new material if he can it is true, but, above all, he must dress it in long-sought-out words and rhythms[247] that shall at once hide and display the real meaning. He seems to leave nothing to the moment, to spontaneous feeling. The true mistress of the poet does not enter into his calculations; yet there is more spontaneity in the Decameron than in all Petrarch's work. Still he lays stress on that truly Latin gift, the power to describe or contrive a situation which will hold and excite men.

What he most strongly insists upon, however, is the hidden meaning of the ancient poets. He declares that only a fool can fail to see allegories in the works of antiquity.[562] One must be mad not to see, in the Bucolics, the Georgics, and the Æneid of Virgil, allegories, though we may not certainly read them.[563] Is it not thus, he asks, that Dante has hidden in the Comedy the mysteries of the Catholic religion? Are there not allegories in the work of his master Petrarch?[564]

He turns from Petrarch to Homer, whom he declares he has always by him. He speaks of Pilatus, to whom he says he owes much: "A little man but great in learning, so deep in the study of great matters that emperors and princes bore witness that none as learned as he had appeared for many centuries." He closes the book with an appeal to Ugo, King of Cyprus and Jerusalem, who had begged him to write this work, which is a truly marvellous cyclopædia of learning and mythology, with this defence of poetry and poets added to it in the two last books, which are later than the rest.[565]

[248]It is not, however, in the De Genealogiis but in the De Montibus, Sylvis, Lacubus, Fluminibus, Stagnis seu Paludis, de Nominibus Maris that we have the true type of these works. They are all really dictionaries of learning and legend, but it is only this that is actually in the form of a dictionary, the various subjects being set forth and described in alphabetical order.

The enormous popularity of these works in their day is witnessed by the numerous editions through which they passed both in Latin and Italian in Italy and abroad. They were the textbooks of the early Renaissance, and we owe Boccaccio, as one of the great leaders of that movement, all the gratitude we can give him; all the more that the work he began has been so fruitful that we can scarcely tolerate the works that guided its first steps.




In the summer of the year 1373 when Boccaccio was sixty years old the Signoria of Florence was petitioned by a number of citizens to appoint a lecturer who should publicly expound "librum qui vulgariter appellatur el Dante," the work which is commonly called "el Dante," the Divine Comedy, that is to say, the work of one who little by little was coming to be known as a very great poet, as a very great man, but who more than seventy years before had been ignominiously expelled from Florence and had died in exile.

The petition, a copy of which may still be found in the Florentine Libro delle Provvisioni for 1373, is as follows:—[566]

[250] "Whereas divers citizens of Florence, being minded as well for themselves and others, their fellow-citizens, as for their posterity, to follow after virtue, are desirous of being instructed in the book of Dante, wherefrom, both to the shunning of vice and to the acquisition of virtue, no less than in the ornaments of eloquence, even the unlearned may receive instruction; The said citizens humbly pray you, the worshipful Government of the People and Commonwealth of Florence, that you be pleased, at a fitting time, to provide and formally to determine, that a worthy and learned man, well versed in the knowledge of the poem aforesaid, shall be by you elected, for such term as you may appoint, being not longer than one year, to read the book which is commonly called el Dante in the city of Florence, to all such as shall be desirous of hearing him, on consecutive days, not being holidays, and in consecutive lectures, as is customary in like cases; and with such salary as you may determine, not exceeding the sum of one hundred gold florins for the said year, and in such manner and under such conditions as may seem proper to you; and further that the said salary be paid to the said lecturer from the funds of the Commonwealth in two terminal payments, to wit, one moiety about the end of the month of December, and the other moiety about the end of the month of April, such sum to be free of all deduction for taxes whatsoever...."

From a miniature in the French version of the "De Casibus Virorum," made in 1409 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Rothschild Bequest. MS. XII.)

The petition was favourably considered by the Signoria on August 9, and was put to the vote of the assembly. Two hundred and five persons voted in all, one hundred[251]and eighty-six in its favour, and nineteen against it.[567] The voting was by ballot and secret, and no names have come down to us, but it is perhaps permitted us to suppose, as Mr. Toynbee suggests, that the opposition came from those whose ancestors, whose fathers and grandfathers, Dante had placed in Hell, or had otherwise insulted and condemned. The decision come to on August 9 was carried on the 25th, when the Signoria appointed "Dominus Johannes de Certaldo, honorabilis civis Florentinus," to lecture on the Divine Comedy[568] for a year from the 18th [252]October at a salary of one hundred gold florins, half of which, as the petition had suggested, was paid to him on December 31, 1373.[569] And on Sunday, October 23, 1373,[570] Boccaccio delivered his first lecture in S. Stefano della Badia.[571]

In thus appointing Boccaccio to the first Cathedra Dantesca that had anywhere been established, the Signoria not only in some sort made official amends for the cruel sentence by which the greatest son of Florence had been [253]proclaimed and exiled,[572] but they also showed their goodwill by choosing for lecturer the man who above all others was best fitted to expound his work and to defend his memory.

As we have already seen, Boccaccio had been an eager student of Dante in the first years of his literary life.[573] It is probable that he was first introduced to Dante's work by Cino da Pistoja, whom he seems to have met in Naples between October, 1330, and July, 1331,[574] and in his first book, the Filocolo, he imitates and speaks of him;[575] in the Filostrato he copies him so closely that in fact he quotes from him;[576] in the Rime he not only, to a large extent, [254]models his work on the sonnets of Dante, but he appeals to him and mentions his name more than once, in one case, in the sonnet already quoted addressed to Dante in Paradise after the death of Fiammetta, certainly before the Vita was written or the lectures begun.

"Dante, if thou within the sphere of love,

As I believe, remain'st contemplating

Beautiful Beatrice whom thou didst sing

Erewhile ..."

while the Corbaccio is in some sort modelled on the allegory of the Divine Comedy.[577] This was in 1355, and immediately after the completion of the Corbaccio we find him at work, about 1356-7, on the Vita di Dante.[578] About this time too he seems to have begun to copy the Divine Comedy[579] with his own hand in order to send it to Petrarch, and we may understand perhaps how great a pioneer he was in the appreciation of Dante when from that fact we learn that Petrarch had no copy in his library. With this MS. in his own hand he sent a Carme to Petrarch of forty lines written in Latin in praise of Dante,[580] and before 1359 [255]he evidently wrote to Petrarch excusing himself for his enthusiastic praise of Dante. That letter is unfortunately lost, but happily we have Petrarch's answer, in which he most unsuccessfully tries to excuse himself for his coldness towards the Divine Comedy, and indeed attempts to set the charge aside.

"In your letter," he writes in 1359,[581] "there are many things that need no answer, for instance those of which we have lately spoken face to face. But there are two besides, which I have singled out, and these I do not wish to pass over in silence.... Firstly, then, you excuse yourself with some eagerness for having been so prodigal in your praise of our countryman, a poet for the people assuredly as to his style,[582] yet undoubtedly noble if one consider the subject of which he writes. But you seek to justify yourself as though I might see in your praise of him or another a stain on my own reputation. You say too that all the praise you give him—if I look at it closely—turns to my glory. And you excuse too yourself by saying that in your youth he was the first guide, the first light in your studies. Well, then, you are acting with justice, with gratitude, in not forgetting him, and in short, with piety. If we owe everything to those who have given us life, if we owe much to those who have enriched us, what do we not owe to those who have nurtured and formed our spirits? Those who have cultivated our souls have indeed greater titles to our remembrance than those who have cared for our bodies.... Courage, then; I not only permit you, I invite you to [256]celebrate and to honour this torch of your mind who has given you of his heat and of his light in this path along which you pass towards a glorious goal. It has been long blown upon and, so to say, wearied by the windy applause of the vulgar, and I bid you elevate it then even to the heaven by true praises worthy of him and of yourself. Such will be pleasing to me, because he is worthy of this commendation and, as you say, it is for you a duty. I approve then your commendatory verses,[583] and in my turn I crown with praise the poet you commend.

But in your letter of excuse the only thing that has really hurt me is to see how little you know me even now; yet I thought you at least knew me altogether. What is this? You think I should not rejoice, that I should not even glory in the praise of illustrious men? But believe me, nothing is stranger to my character than envy, nothing is more unknown...."

Perhaps Petrarch protests too much. Yet one may well think that, noble as he was, he was at least above envying Dante Alighieri, for he knew very little about him, and sincerely thought him of small account since his greatest work was written not in Latin, the tongue as he so wonderfully thought absolutely necessary to immortality, but in the sweeter and lovelier "Florentine idiom," the "glory" of which, as Boccaccio had already said in the Vita, Dante had revealed.

Thus all his life long we see Boccaccio as the enthusiastic lover and defender of the greatest of Italian poets, gently protesting against Petrarch's neglect of him, passionately protesting against the treatment "Florence, noblest among all the cities of Italy," had measured out to him, fiercely contemptuous of "those witless ones," priests and the scholastics, who considered his works to be "vain and silly fables or marvels," and could not perceive that "they have concealed within them the sweetest fruits of historical[257] or philosophical truth." Indeed, alone among his contemporaries he values the Divine Comedy at its true worth and for the right reasons. Nor in fact should we know half we do know concerning Dante—much more that is than we know of Chaucer and Shakespeare, for instance—if Boccaccio had not loved him and shared, as he says, "the general debt to his honour" in so far as he could, "that is to say in letters, poor though they be for so great a task. But hereof I have, hereof I will give; lest foreign peoples should have power to say that his fatherland had been alike unthankful to so great a poet, whether taken generally or man by man."

It has become the fashion of late, and yet maybe it was always so, to sneer at, to doubt and to find fault with Boccaccio's Vita di Dante[584] in season and out of season on[258] all possible points, and on some that are impossible. Scholars of Dante generally, with some eminent exceptions, seem to consider it a kind of impertinence in the author of the Decameron to have interested himself in Dante.

Mr. Wicksteed, for instance, to whom we owe a charming translation of the Vita[585]—so charming and so full of Boccaccio's own flavour that in all modesty I have taken leave to use it when I must—though he is himself its translator, finds it necessary not so much to commend it to us as to give us "some needful warnings" and "further cautions" in introducing us to it. He nowhere, I think, tells us how very valuable it is, nor instructs us why above all other works of the kind it is valuable to us. He nowhere takes the trouble to tell his readers that Boccaccio[259] was the most eminent student of Dante in his day—the years that immediately followed the poet's death—nor that he must have met and talked with many who had known Dante. He nowhere thinks it necessary to record that Boccaccio spent more than one considerable period of time in Romagna and the Marche, and even in the very city and at the same court where Dante lived and died. It did not occur to him as a point of honour before giving us his "warnings" and "cautions" to state that Boccaccio was well acquainted with Dante's daughter Beatrice, nor to mention that it was probably during a sojourn in Ravenna, where she was a nun, that Boccaccio conceived, or at any rate "pondered" the Vita itself.[586] Mr. Wicksteed does none of these things; but having spoken somewhat vaguely of the "versions" of the Vita and still more vaguely of its date, he proceeds to discuss its "documentary value," assuring us a little reluctantly that "scholars appear to be settling down to the conclusion that ... [Boccaccio] is to be taken as a serious biographer, who made careful investigations and who used the material he had gathered with some degree of critical judgment."[587]

[260]It will be seen, then, that such scholars are right, and that we have indeed in the Vita not only the earliest, but incomparably the most authoritative life of Dante that has come down to us, for it was written not merely by the greatest lover and defender of Dante in the years that immediately followed his death in 1321, but by one who was then already a boy of eight years old, and who in his manhood was well acquainted with Dante's daughter Beatrice, and with others who had known him in Ravenna and Romagna, where he had passed so much of his time.

The Vita then comes to us with a certain unassailable authority, and is besides a work of piety, of love, of vindication.[261] It opens a little pedantically perhaps with an appeal to Solon, that "temple of human wisdom," against the policy of the Florentine Commonwealth in its failure to reward the deserving and to punish the guilty. A passionate attack on those who had exiled Dante follows in which he demands: "If all the wrongs Florence hath wrought could be hidden from the all-seeing eye of God, would not this one alone suffice to call down His wrath upon her? Yea, verily!" Then follows the reason for his book, which it seems he has determined to write in expiation of the sin of Florence, "recognising that I myself am a part, though[262] but a small one, of the same city whereof Dante Alighieri, considering his deserts, his nobility, and his virtue, was a very great one." His book will consist, he tells us, of "those things as to which he [Dante] kept seemly silence concerning himself, to wit, the nobility of his origin, his life, his studies, and his character; and after that I will gather together the works he composed; wherein he hath rendered himself so illustrious amongst those to come...." And he will write in the vulgar "in style full humble, and light ... and in our Florentine idiom, that it may not depart from what he used in the greater part of his works." He returns more than once to praise the vulgar tongue, praising Dante in one place as he who "was first to open the way for the return of the Muses banished from Italy. It was he who revealed the glory of the Florentine idiom. It was he that brought under the rule of due numbers every beauty of the vernacular speech. It was he who may be truly said to have brought back dead poesy to life." In another place he says: "by his teachings he trained many scholars in poetry, especially in the vulgar, which to my thinking he first exalted and brought into repute among us Italians, no otherwise than did Homer his amongst the Greeks or Virgil his amongst the Latins.... He showed by the effect that every lofty matter may be treated in it; and made our vernacular glorious above every other."

Having thus introduced his work to us, he proceeds to speak of the birth of Dante, who, he says, was born in 1265.[588] He speaks then of his "boyhood continuously given to study in the liberal arts"; of his reading of Virgil, Horace, Ovid, and Statius; of his mastering history "by himself," and philosophy under divers teachers by long study and toil. He then tells us of his places of[263] study, naming Florence, Bologna, and Paris.[589] He then passes on to his meeting in his ninth year with Beatrice, who, he tells us, was the little daughter of Folco Portinari, and recounts her death in her twenty-fourth year and Dante's grief, his relations' purpose to cure him by giving him a wife, and his marriage with Gemma. There follows the famous interpolation against marriage which I have already quoted at length,[590] but which, as he confesses, has nothing to do with Dante.

Having thus brought Dante to manhood, Boccaccio speaks of his entrance into politics, "wherein the vain honours that are attached to public office so entangled him that, without considering whence he had departed nor whither he was going, with loosened rein he gave himself almost wholly up to the management of these things; and therein fortune was so favourable to him that never an embassy was heard nor answered, never a law enacted nor cancelled, never a peace made, never a war undertaken, and, in short, never a deliberation of any weight conducted till he first had given his opinion thereon." We are told of the factions into which the city was divided, and how the faction opposed to that of which Dante was in some sense the leader got the mastery and "hurled Dante in a single moment from the height of [264]government of his city," so that he was cast out from it an exile, his house gutted and plundered, and his real property confiscated.

He shows us the poet wandering hither and thither through Tuscany "without anxiety" on account of his wife and children, because he knew Gemma "to be related to one of the chiefs of the hostile faction ... and some little portion of his possessions she had with difficulty defended from the rage of the citizens, under the title of her dowry, on the proceeds of which she provided in narrow style enough for herself and for his children; whilst he in his poverty must needs provide for his own sustenance by industry, to which he was all unused.... Year after year he remained (turning from Verona, where he had gone to Messer Alberto della Scala on his first flight, and had been graciously received by him), now with the Count Salvatico in the Casentino, now with the Marquis Moruello Malespina in the Lunigiana, now with the Della Faggiola in the mountains near Urbino, held in much honour so far as consisted with the times and with their power." Thence Boccaccio tells us he went to Bologna and Padua, and again to Verona. It was at this time, seeing no way yet of returning to Florence, that he went to Paris and there studied philosophy and theology. While he was in Paris, Henry of Luxemburg was elected King of the Romans and had left Germany to subdue Italy. Dante "supposed for many reasons that he must prove victorious, and conceived the hope of returning to Florence by his power ... although he heard Florence had taken sides against him." So he crossed the Alps, "he joined with the enemies of the Florentines, and both by embassies and letters strove to draw the Emperor from the siege of Brescia in order to lay siege to Florence ... declaring that if she were overcome, little or no toil would remain to secure the possession and dominion of all Italy free and unimpeded." This proved [265]a failure, for Florence was not to be beaten, and the death of the Emperor "cast into despair all who were looking to him, and Dante most of all; wherefore no longer going about to seek his return, he passed the heights of the Apennines and departed to Romagna, where his last day that was to put an end to all his toils awaited him." There in Ravenna ruled Guido Novello da Polenta, who, as Boccaccio says, "did not wait to be requested" to receive him, "but considering with how great shame men of worth ask such favours, with liberal mind and with free proffers he approached him, requesting from Dante of special grace that which he knew Dante must needs have begged of him, to wit, that it might please him to abide with him.... Highly pleased by the liberality of the noble knight, and also constrained by his necessities, Dante awaited no further invitation but the first, and took his way to Ravenna...." There in "the middle or thereabout of his fifty-sixth year he fell sick ... and in the month of September in the years of Christ one thousand three hundred and twenty-one, on the day whereon the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is celebrated by the Church, not without the greatest grief on the part of the aforesaid Guido, and generally all the other Ravennese, he rendered up to his Creator his toilworn spirit, the which I doubt not was received into the arms of his most noble Beatrice, with whom ... he now lives most joyously in that life the felicity of which expects no end." Then after speaking of the plans of Guido for Dante's tomb, and again reproaching Florence for her ingratitude, and inciting her for her own honour to demand his body, "not but that I am certain he will not be surrendered to thee," what we may call the first part of the Vita comes to an end.


From the fresco in S. Apollonia, Florence. By Andrea dal Castagno. (1396(?)-1457)

The second part opens with a portrait of the poet very careful and minute in its description.

"This our poet, then, was of middle height; and when he had reached maturity he went somewhat bowed, his[266] gait grave and gentle, and ever clad in most seemly apparel, in such garb as befitted his ripe years. His face was long, his nose aquiline, and his eyes rather large than small; his jaws big, and the under lip protruding beyond the upper. His complexion was dark, his hair and beard thick, black, and curling, and his expression was ever melancholy and thoughtful."[591] There follow several stories about him in Verona and at Paris. And Boccaccio seems to have come very near to the secret of Dante's tragedy when he tells us at last that "he longed most ardently for honour and glory; perchance more than befitted his illustrious virtue." He understood the enormous pride of the man, his insatiable superiority, his scorn of those who had wronged him; and he is full of excuses for him, full of pity too for his sorrows and eager to heap praise on praise of the great poet he so much reverenced and loved.[592]

The rest of the Vita is concerned with Dante's work, and forms, as it were, a third part, introduced by a long dissertation on poetry and poets, followed by a short chapter on Dante's pride and some in which he gives certain instances of it. Then he passes to the consideration of the Vita Nuova, of the Divine Comedy,[593] the [267]De Monarchia, the Convivio, the De Vulgari Eloquentia, and the Rime in the briefest possible manner. As a critic it must be confessed Boccaccio is lacking in judgment, but the facts he gives us, the assertions he makes in matters of fact regarding these works must be received, I think, with the utmost seriousness. It is impossible to doubt that Boccaccio wrote in all good faith, and it must be remembered that there were any number of people living who had he departed from the truth could have contradicted him. No one of whom we have any record did contradict him; we hear no whisper of any protest. Most of those who busied themselves with Dante, on the contrary, gladly copied him. Had he been a liar with regard to Dante the Republic of Florence would scarcely have appointed him to the first Cathedra Dantesca; but they gave him the lectureship just because he was the one person who could fill it with honour.

And so when he tells us that in his maturer years Dante was ashamed of the Vita Nuova we must accept it, reminding ourselves that this was no impossibility, for Petrarch too was ashamed of his Italian sonnets, while Boccaccio actually destroyed a great part of his own. When he tells us again that Dante left behind him seven cantos of the Inferno when he fled from Florence, we must accept it in the same way as we must accept the story of the recovery of the last thirteen cantos of the[268]Paradiso by Dante's son Jacopo. Indeed, there is no good reason to find Boccaccio either careless or a liar anywhere in the work. The immense care he bestowed upon the collection of his facts has, on the contrary, been admitted by one of the best Dante scholars of our day[594] and proved by another not less learned,[595] so that we have no right at all to regard his work as anything less than the most valuable document we possess on Dante's life. It has often been treated as a mere romance, it has been sneered at and abused, but it has never yet been proved to be at fault in any matter of the least importance touching Dante, or in any matter of personal fact. Of course it is not the work of a modern historian; it has not the reassurance of dullness or the mechanical accuracy of "scientific" history. But to sneer at it because its "account of the Guelf and Ghibelline disputes and of the political events in which Dante was chiefly concerned" may seem "vague and inadequate in the extreme" is merely absurd. Boccaccio is not writing of these events, he does not propose to give an account of them; he confesses in the most sincere fashion that he does not rightly know what the words Guelf and Ghibelline originally implied. He is writing of Dante; and on Dante's life, on Dante's work, he had enquired and studied and read and, as he himself says, "pondered" for many years.

We must not demand from the Vita more than it will readily give us. It was written with a purpose. Its intention was both to praise Dante and to arrest the attention of the Florentines to the wrong they had done him; Boccaccio wished to set the facts before them as an advocate of the dead. The facts: he had known Beatrice, Dante's daughter, and three other relations or friends of Dante's whom he names, Pier Giardino of Ravenna,[596] one of Dante's most intimate friends; Andrea [269]Poggio,[597] Dante's nephew, and Dino Perini, Andrea's rival in the discovery of the lost cantos of the Inferno, and many others who had known both Dante and Beatrice;[598] thus he could if he wished come by facts; and that he set down just facts has been proved over and over again. And then there were still living those who had hated Dante bitterly and would gladly have found fault if they could. There were others too who would certainly have allowed nothing entirely to the detriment of Dante to pass unchallenged: they made no sign. That they were silent is in itself a sufficient tribute to the truthfulness of the book.

I have already said something as to the versions of the Life:[599] it remains to add that though the MSS. of the Compendium are rare, those of the Vita are very numerous,[600] while the first printed edition of the work was published in Venice in 1477 by Vindelin da Spira before the edition of the Divine Comedy with the comment of Jacopo della Lana, erroneously attributed to Benvenuto da Imola. Prof. Macri Leone describes nineteen later editions, making with his own some twenty-one in all.[601]

It is not surprising that the author of this eager defence of Dante, of the first life of the poet, should on the petition of the Florentines for a lecturer in the Divine Comedy have been chosen by the Signoria to fill that honourable and difficult post. His first lecture, as we have seen, was delivered in the church of Santo Stefano on Sunday, October 23, 1373. Already an old man, infirm in health, he can scarcely have hoped to finish his work, and as it proved he was not able to [270]complete a sixth part of it, for attacked by illness in the winter of 1373, he broke off abruptly at the seventeenth verse of the seventeenth canto of the Inferno and returned to Certaldo really to die. That, after that sudden breakdown, if such it was, he never resumed his lectures seems certain, and although it was at the time supposed that Boccaccio had written a complete commentary on the Divine Comedy, and a fourteenth-century Comento, now commonly known as Il Falso Boccaccio,[602] was accepted even by the Academicians of the Crusca as his work,[603] it seems certain that the fragment we know as his Comento was all that was ever written, though how much of it was actually delivered in lectures it is impossible to say.[604]

That the Comento we have and no other is really the work of Boccaccio was proved long ago by Manni,[605] for it seems, that when Boccaccio died at last, a dispute arose among his heirs as to the meaning of his Will, the bone of contention being this very Comento, which both Fra Martino da Signa of Santo Spirito in Florence, to whom he had left his books, claimed as part of his library, and also Jacopo his half-brother, to whose children Boccaccio had left all the other property he had.[606] The affair was at last referred to the Consoli dell' Arte del Cambio, the two sides submitting their claims in writing. We find there that Fra Martino, if the Comento were adjudged his property, professed his willingness to let Jacopo have it, a sheet at [271]a time, to copy. Jacopo, however, makes no such offer; we should nevertheless be grateful to him—he was the victor—for in his claim he minutely describes the MS. in question and so enables us to identify it with those we possess.[607] "Dinanzi a voi domando," we read there, "ventiquattro quaderni, et quattordici quadernucci, tutti in carta di bambágia, non legati insieme, ma l' uno dall' altro diviso, d' uno iscritto, o vero isposizione sopra sedici Capitoli, e parte del diciassettesimo del Dante, il quale scritto il detto Messer Giovanni di Boccaccio non compiè...."

This incomplete work,[608] which breaks off so suddenly really in the middle of a paragraph, might seem to be rather a true commentary, a sort of full notes on the work in question, such as is still common in Italy, than a series of lectures delivered vivâ voce. Indeed the living voice is almost entirely absent, and as Dr. Toynbee says, "if it were not for a single passage at the beginning of his opening lecture in which he directly addresses his audience as 'Voi, Signori fiorentini,' it would be difficult to gather from the work itself that it was composed originally for public delivery."[609] He seems to have composed it as he would have composed a book, with the utmost care and foresight, often referring some point forward to be discussed later; and thus we may see that he had already considered as a critic and as a commentator the whole of the work, and had made up his mind that such and such a reference would be better discussed at some point in the Purgatorio or at another in the Paradiso, and so refused to discuss it at the moment. His work too is not only filled with Dantesque thought and phraseology, but is in its form [272]composed in the manner of Dante, that is to say, he expounds first the literal meaning, the obvious sense, and then the secondary meaning or sense allegorical, just as Dante does in the Convivio when speaking of his Canzoni, and as he had already begun to do even in the Vita Nuova. Nor was this anything new for Boccaccio; all his life he had himself written in allegory, and had been used to condemn those who found no secondary meaning in the poets.[610]

But the most characteristic part of the Comento, its greatest surprise for us too, is perhaps to be found in its opening. For after excusing himself with his usual modesty as wholly insufficient for the task, he addresses his audience as "men of lofty understanding and of wonderful quickness of understanding"—facts his commentary does not altogether lead us to endorse, for he feels called upon to explain the simplest things,[611] and then after quoting Plato[612] in the Timæus as to the propriety of invoking divine aid, he asks for God's help not in any Christian prayer, but in the words of Anchises in the second Æneid:—

"Jupiter omnipotens, precibus si flecteris ullis,

Aspice nos: hoc tantum: et, si pietate meremur

Da deinde auxilium, pater!"[613]

He was so much a man of the Renaissance that he does not seem to have felt it at all inappropriate to ask thus for God's aid in expounding the greatest of Christian poems, by addressing himself to Jupiter: he merely explains that as the work he is to explain is in verse it is proper to invoke God in verse also.

Having thus asked for God's blessing, he proceeds to [273]open his lecture. He first examines the work he is to discuss as to its kind, then as to its causes, its title and school of philosophy. In doing so he shows us that he was aware of the doubtful letter of Dante to Can Grande della Scala,[614] for he quotes it, though he names it not. He does not approve of the title—The Comedy—for such is used for low subjects and common people; but Dante's poem is concerned with the greatest persons and deeds, with sin and penitence, the ways of angels and the secrets of God. The style too of comedy, he asserts, is humble and simple, while Dante's poem is lofty and ornate, although it is written in the vulgar tongue, and he is obliged to admit that in the Latin it would have had a finer dignity.

From this he proceeds to discuss Dante's name and its significance much as he had already done in the Vita, and having decided that the poem belongs to moral philosophy, proceeds, after formally submitting all he may say to the judgment of the Catholic Church, to deal with the Inferno. Yet even now he cannot come at the poem without discussing the Inferno itself, whether there be a Hell, or maybe more than one, where it is placed, how it is approached, what are its shape and size and its purpose, and lastly why it is called Infernus.[615] Then on the very brink of the poem he turns away again to discuss why Dante wrote in Tuscan instead of in Latin; and having given practically the same explanation as that we have already noted in the Vita,[616] he proceeds at long last to the Commentary proper.

And here we cannot but be astonished at the extraordinary [274]mixture of simplicity and subtlety, of elementary knowledge and profound learning which are heaped together without any discrimination. There is something here of the endless leisure of the Middle Age in which Boccaccio seems determined to say everything. "One wonders," says Dr. Toynbee, "for what sort of audience Boccaccio's lectures were intended." In the terms of the petition the lecturer was to expound the Commedia for the benefit of "etiam non grammatici." But it is difficult to conceive that any audience of Florentines, even of Florentine children, however ignorant of Latin, let alone the "uomini d' alto intendemento e di mirabile perspicacità" to whom Boccaccio refers in such flattering terms in his opening lecture, could require to be informed, as Boccaccio carefully informs it, that an anchor is "an instrument of iron which has at one end several grapples, and at the other a ring by which it is attached to a rope whereby it is let down to the bottom of the sea,"[617] or that "every ship has three principal parts, of which one is called the bows, which is sharp and narrow, because it is in front and has to cut the water; the second is called the poop and is behind, where the steersman stands to work the tiller, by means of which, according as it is moved to one side or the other, the ship is made to go where the steersman wishes; while the third part is called the keel, which is the bottom of the ship, and lies between the bows and the stern,"[618] and so on.

Nor is this all, for even the Bible stories are retold at length,[619] and a whole discourse is given upon Æneas.[620] The elementary subjects dealt with at such length cheek by jowl with the most profound questions seems to us extraordinary, nor apparently are we the only readers to be surprised; for possibly on this account Boccaccio was bitterly reproached in his own day for lecturing on the [275]Commedia to the vulgar. He replied, really admitting the offence, and pleading poverty as his excuse in two sonnets,[621] one of which I quote here:—[622]

"If Dante mourns, there wheresoe'er he be

That such high fancies of a soul so proud

Should be laid open to the vulgar crowd

(As touching my Discourse, I'm told by thee)

This were my grievous pain; and certainly

My proper blame should not be disavow'd;

Though hereof somewhat, I declare aloud

Were due to others, not alone to me.

False hopes, true poverty, and therewithal

The blended judgment of a host of friends,

And their entreaties, made that I did this.

But of all this there is no gain at all

Unto the thankless souls with whose base ends

Nothing agrees that's great or generous."

So much for the vulgar. But, as I have already said, beside these elementary discourses we find a vast mass of learning and research that bears eloquent testimony not only to the extent of Boccaccio's reading, but also to his eager and careful study of the works of Dante.

Dr. Toynbee has suggested that it was probably owing to his failing health and energy that he introduced into the Comento so many and so copious extracts from his own previous works, the De Claris Mulieribus,[623] the De Casibus Virorum Illustrium,[624] the De Montibus, Sylvis, Lacubus, etc.,[625] and the De Genealogiis Deorum,[626] but I think probably Boccaccio never gave the matter a thought. His business was to expound, and he used his own previous works as works of reference—the best works [276]of the sort, we must remember, that were to be had in his day. To have named these works—he never does refer to them—would have been useless in those days before the invention of the printing press; and then they were themselves mere collections for the most part, the vast notebooks of his enormous reading.

It is not, however, by any means on them alone he relies, for he uses and lays under contribution, as it might seem almost every writer with whose works he was acquainted.[627] Of these, two are especially notable, namely, Homer and Tacitus. He quotes the former six times in all, four times in the Iliad[628] and twice in the Odyssey;[629] the last quotation from the Iliad being verbatim from the Latin translation of Pilatus which Petrarch had copied, the MS., as we have already noted, being now preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris.[630] As for Tacitus—and Boccaccio is the first modern writer to show any acquaintance with his work—he uses the fifteenth book of the Annals[631] for his account of the death of Lucan, and names his source of information,[632] and books twelve to fifteen for his account of the death of Seneca.[633] The Comento is thus not only a most precious source of information with regard to the Divine Comedy, but a kind of Encyclopædia Dantesca into which the whole learning of the age, the whole reading of Boccaccio had been emptied.

We may perhaps gather something of its significance, its importance, and its extraordinary reputation if we [277]consider for a moment the freedom with which it was exploited by the commentators who came after.[634] Beginning with the Anonimo Fiorentino, who wrote some thirty years after Boccaccio's death, perhaps the worst offender, for he never once mentions Boccaccio's name, while he copies from him page after page, there follow Benvenuto da Imola (1373), Francesco da Buti (1385), who make a very considerable use of his work, the latter especially, while Landino (1481), the best of the Renaissance commentators, freely quotes him,[635] calling him "huomo, et per dottrina, et per costumi, et per essere propinquo a' tempi di Dante, degno di fede." In the sixteenth century Gelli, who lectured before the Academy of Florence between 1541 and 1561, quotes Boccaccio sixty times, "oftener," says Dr. Toynbee, "than he quotes any other commentator save Landino." He more than once declares that Boccaccio has explained a passage so well that he can only repeat his words: "Non saprei io per me trovarci miglior esposizione che quella del Boccaccio." He at least and indeed for the first time appreciates the Comento truly.

Considering then this long chorus of praise, though it be more often the silent praise of imitation than the frank commendation of acknowledgment, it is strange that only four MSS. of the Comento have come down to us, three in the Magliabecchiana and one in the Riccardiana libraries in Florence;[636] while of these only three are complete.[637] Nor is it less surprising that the first printed edition of such a work should not have appeared till 1724.[638] This edition and that by Moutier,[639] which followed it nearly [278]a hundred years later, founded on the same single MS., are of little critical value, and that of Fratticelli, published in 1844, is but a reprint of the Moutier text. It remained for Gaetano Milanesi, that man of herculean labour and vast learning, to produce the first critical text in 1863, three more MSS. of the Comento having been discovered in the meantime. He divided the book into lezioni, which are but doubtfully of any authority; but his text holds the field, and he was not slow or cold in his recognition of the value of the work of one who, almost a contemporary of Dante, had loved and honoured him, not only in writing his life and composing a commentary on his work, but in verse too, as in this inscription for his portrait:—

"Dante Alighieri, a dark oracle

Of wisdom and of art, I am; whose mind

Has to my country such great gifts assign'd

That men account my powers a miracle.

My lofty fancy passed as low as Hell

As high as Heaven, secure and unconfined;

And in my noble book doth every kind

Of earthly love and heavenly doctrine dwell.

Renounèd Florence was my mother,—nay,

Stepmother unto me her piteous son,

Through sin of cursed slander's tongue and tooth.

Ravenna sheltered me so cast away;

My body is with her,—my soul with One

For Whom no envy can make dim the truth."[640]





That illness which brought those lectures on the Divine Comedy so swiftly to an end in the winter of 1373 was no new thing; for long, as we have seen, Boccaccio had had a troubled spirit. If he had recovered from his grief at the death of Fiammetta, he had never wholly been himself since his conversion. The disease which then declared itself was no new thing. In his versatile and athletic spirit there had always been a strain of melancholy that had shown itself even in his earliest childhood, when he imagined he was persecuted; on his arrival in Naples as a boy, when only a kiss could restore his confidence; in the long years of his troubled and unstable love and in the loneliness of his manhood; with old age at his elbow it needed but little for his spirit, so easily joyful, to be lost in a strange darkness.

Already before he had been appointed to that lectureship in Florence he had felt himself seriously ill. Writing at the end of August, 1373, to Messer Maghinardo de' Cavalcanti he had excused himself for his long delay in answering his letter, pleading the "long infirmity which prevented me from writing to you ... and which only in the last few days has given me a little respite. Since the last time I saw you ... every hour of my life has been very like death, afflicted, tedious, and full of weariness[280] to myself.... First of all I was beset by a continuous and burning itching, and a dry scab, to scratch the dry scales and the flakes of which I had scarce nails enough day or night; then I was afflicted by a heaviness, a sluggishness of the bowels, a perpetual agony of the veins, swelling of the spleen, a burning bile, a suffocating cough and hoarseness, heaviness of head, and indeed more maladies than I know how to enumerate; all my body languished, and all its humours were at war. And so it happened that I looked on the sky without happiness; my body was weary, my steps vacillating, my hand trembled; I was deathly pale, cared nothing for food, but held it all in abhorrence. Letters were odious to me, my books, once so delightful to me, could not please me, the forces of the soul were relaxed, my memory almost gone, my energy seemed drugged, and my thoughts were all turned to the grave and to death."[641]

But this was not all. He had scarcely got so far in his letter, he writes, when on August 12 a new ill befell him. At sunset a burning fever attacked him so fiercely that he could not leave his bed. As the night advanced the fever increased, his head ached violently, and without respite he turned and turned again in his bed, wearily looking thus for some relief. He was alone with only an old servant, who could do nothing but weep. Day came and with it some friends, who would have sent for a physician; but Boccaccio, with less gentleness than Petrarch showed, refused, till at last, utterly worn out, he allowed himself to be persuaded. The doctor who came to him was "a country doctor, accustomed to attend the peasants," as he says, "but kind and thoughtful." He told Boccaccio that unless he could rid himself of the poison which was killing him he would be dead in a few days. [281]He brought in a cautery, a furnace, and other terrible instruments used then in medical practice. He then proceeded to use them, burning the patient largely, in many places cutting him with a razor and slashing his skin. He suffered dreadfully, but the doctor told him he was healed. And, it might seem by a direct miracle of God, he was saved out of the hands of this criminal lunatic; he slept, and little by little recovered. He was, however, very feeble. Nothing he can say against doctors can seem absurd, or exaggerated, or less than just when we remember that he had the unhappiness to fall at last into their hands.[642]



It is possible that his friends in Florence heard of his miseries and his poverty—for he was very poor, and it was really on his behalf the Cathedra Dantesca was founded. However that may be, it might have seemed impossible that one in his case could have accepted it, yet in spite of his weakness he left Certaldo and went to Florence, where, as we have seen, in accordance with the decree of the Signoria he began to lecture in October. That he broke down is not surprising; it is only wonderful that he got as far as he did. But that brief burst of energy was his last; in the winter of 1373 he returned to Certaldo really to die.

From that moment all his melancholy seems to have returned to him with fourfold strength: he who had taken his fill of life, now could no more look happily on the sky, he was a dying man and he knew it. He groped about far from Petrarch looking for some appalling certainty. He seems to have thought he could find it in the monastic life, and his solitude must have been not less profound.[282] Death and thoughts about death haunted him, as they are wont to do imaginative people. It must have been in some such darkness as that which then fell upon him that he wrote more than one of the sonnets in which he seems to have sought in verse the power to realise what it was that was about to befall him.

"Dura cosa è ed orribile assai

La morte ad aspettare e paurosa,

Ma così certa ed infallibil cosa

Nè fu, nè è, nè credo sarà mai;

E 'l corso della vita è breve c' hai,

E volger non si può nè dargli posa;

Nè qui si vede cosa sì gioiosa

Che il suo fine non sia lacrime e guai.

Dunque perchè con operar valore

Non c' ingegnamo di stender la fama,

E con quella far lunghi i brevi giorni?

Questa ne dà questa ne serva onore,

Questa ne lieva dagli anni la squama,

Questa ne fa di lunga vita adorni."[643]

In the summer of 1374 a new blow fell upon him. Petrarch was dead.[644] He heard the news first as a rumour, and then, some three months after his friend had passed away, in a letter from Francesco da Brossano, the poet's son-in-law, whom he had met at Venice. That he had already heard of his loss when he got Franceschino's letter we gather from his reply, written in the beginning of November:—

"I received your sorrowful letter, most well beloved [283]brother, on the 31st October,"[645] he writes, "and not knowing the writing I broke the seal and looked for the name of the writer, and as soon as I read your name I knew what news you had to tell me, that is to say, the happy passing of our illustrious father and master, Francesco Petrarch, from the earthly Babylon to the heavenly Jerusalem. Although none of my friends had written me save you, since every one spoke of it I had known it for some time—to my great sorrow—and during many days I wept almost without ceasing—not at his ascension, but for myself thus unhappy and abandoned. And that is not wonderful, for no one in the world loved him more than I. And so to acquit myself, my intention was to go at once to mix my tears with yours, to lament with you and to say a last farewell at the tomb of this illustrious father. But more than ten months ago now[646] a malady, rather long and wearying than dangerous, surprised me in my native city [patria], where I was publicly expounding the Comedy of Dante. And because for four months, at the request of my friends, I followed the advice, I will not say of the doctors, but of charlatans [fabulonum], my malady did nothing but increase. The potions and the diet so upset all nutrition that unless you saw me you would not believe how weak I am become, and my appearance only too well confirms it. Wretched man that I am, you would no longer recognise him whom you saw in Venice. My skin, lately well filled, is empty now, my colour is changed, my sight dulled, while my knees shake and my hands tremble. It follows that, far from crossing the proud summits of the Apennine, on the advice of some of my friends I have [284]just been able to return from my native city into the country of my ancestors at Certaldo. It is there I am now, half dead and restless, utterly idle and uncertain of myself, waiting only on God, who is able to heal me. But enough about myself.

"The sight and the reading of your letter having renewed my sorrow, I wept anew almost all night long. It is not Petrarch for whom I weep, for in recalling his integrity, his way of life, his youth, his old age, his prayers, his innate piety, his love of God and of his neighbour, I am assured that, delivered from the anguish of this miserable life, he has flown away to the heavenly Father, where he joys in Christ and the glory everlasting; it is for myself I weep and for his friends left in this tempestuous world like ships without rudders, driven by the winds and the waves into the midst of rocks. And in considering thus the innumerable agitations of my soul, I can easily divine what are your feelings and those of Tullia, my dear sister and your wife, whom I will always honour. I am sure you must feel a still keener bitterness than I ... but this you know too if you are wise, as I believe you to be, that we are all born to die. Our Silvanus has done what we shall do too in a little while. He is dead who was full of years. What do I say? He is not dead, but he has gone before us. Seated among the just, he pities our miseries, praying the Father of Mercy that He will give us strength to combat our faults during our pilgrimage, that when death comes He will give us a perfect end pleasing to Him; and that notwithstanding the snares of our adversary, He will lead us to Himself. I will say no more, for, as you will think I am sure, those who love this great man ought not only to cease from weeping, but to think only of the joy and hope of their coming salvation. I pray you then, in the name of your fidelity and of our friendship, offer this consolation to Tullia. For women are less able to support such shocks as this than we, and [285]have therefore need of the firmer stay of men. But you have without doubt already done so.



"You say that he has ended his days at the village of Arquà in the contado of Padua; that he wished his ashes to remain always in that village, and that, to commemorate him for ever, a rich and splendid tomb is there to be built. Alas, I admit my crime, if it can be called a crime. I who am a Florentine grudge Arquà this shining good fortune that has befallen her rather through his humility than through her merit: the guardianship of the body of the man whose soul has been the favourite dwelling-place of the Muses and of all Helicon, the sanctuary of philosophy, the splendid ornament of the liberal arts,—of the man who above all others was possessed of Ciceronian eloquence as his writings show, has been confided to her. It follows that not only Arquà, almost unknown even to the Paduans, will now be known by all foreign nations however far off, but that her name will be held in honour by the whole universe. One will honour thee, Arquà, as, without seeing them, we honour in our thoughts the hill of Posilipo, at the foot of which are placed the bones of Virgil; ... and Smyrna, where Homer sleeps, and other like places.... I do not doubt that the sailor returning laden with riches from the farthest shores of the sea, sailing the Adriatic and seeing afar the venerable summits of the Euganean Hills, will say to himself or to his friends: 'Those hills guard in their breast the glory of the universe, him who was once the triumph of all knowledge, Petrarch the poet of sweet words, who by the Consular Senate was crowned in the Mother City with the laurel of triumph, and whose many beautiful works still proclaim his inviolable renown.' The black Indian, the fierce Spaniard ... seized with admiration for this sacred name, will one day come and before the tomb of so great a man salute with respect and piety the ashes which it holds, complaining the while of their misfortune that they should[286] not have seen him living whom dead they visit. Alas, my unhappy city, to whom it has not been given to guard the ashes of so illustrious a son, to whom so splendid a glory has been refused, it is true that thou art unworthy of such an honour, thou hast neglected to draw him to thee when he was alive and to give him that place in thy heart which he merited. Ah, had he been an artisan of crimes, a contriver of treasons, a past master in avarice, envy, and ingratitude, thou wouldst have called him to thee. Yet even as thou art I should prefer that this honour had been accorded thee rather than Arquà. But it is thus is justified the old saying, 'A prophet is not without honour save in his own country.' For he always knew how to avoid it, that he might imitate Christ his Master and Redeemer in humility, Who preferred to be born according to the flesh at Nazareth rather than at Jerusalem, and Who loved better to have for mother a poor virgin who was holy than the most proud and powerful queens of His time. And so, since God has wished it, let the name of Arquà live through the centuries and let her inhabitants preserve always an honour for which they should indeed be thankful.

"But I am glad that a tomb is to be erected, for the splendour of his name and the magnificence of his works render him worthy of it. It is very probable, however, that it will seem of little importance to the eyes of the learned, who consider rather the qualities of the dead than the honours done to their bodies, to whom he has manifested himself in many volumes, outshining the sun. But that tomb will be a means of impressing the ignorant, whose books are sculptures and paintings....

"As for his generosity towards his friends and to myself, I cannot briefly tell it over, and so I leave it for another time, should it offer, contenting myself for the moment with these words. I have known by his many benefits towards me in time past how much he loved me[287] while he lived. I see now by his actions[647] that his friendship has followed me even in his death, and unless in a better life after this passage that we call death one loses one's friends, I think he will love me still. He will love me not because I have merited it, but because he is always faithful to him whom he has once adopted for his own, and I have been his during forty years and more.[648] And now, when he can no longer show his affection by words or by writings, he has wished to number me among his heirs, so you write me, leaving me a very ample portion of his wealth. How happy I am, and how I rejoice that he has acted as he has done, but I regret to be forced to come so soon into possession of his legacy that I shall accept with joy. I should like better to see him live and to be deprived of his gift; but this is a pious wish, and in thanking you for your affection I accept as the supreme gift and legacy of his kindness what you sent me some days ago.

"This letter should have finished there, but friendship constrains me to add something more. I should have learned with pleasure what has been done with the library—so very precious as it is—of this illustrious man, for with us opinion is divided. But what worries me most is to know what is become of the works he composed, and especially his Africa, which I consider as an inspired work. Does it still exist, and will it be preserved, or has it been burned, as when he was alive you know well this severe critic of his own work threatened? I learn that the examination of this work and of others has been confided, by I know not whom, to certain persons. I am astonished at the ignorance of him who has had the management of this affair, but still more do I wonder at the temerity and lightness of those who have undertaken [288]the examination. Who would dare to criticise what our illustrious master has approved? Not Cicero himself, if he returned, nor Horace, nor Virgil, would dare to do so. Alas, I fear that this examination has been confided to the jurists, who because they know law, just those by which they impudently live, imagine they know everything. I pray God that He take notice of it, and that He protect the poems and other sacred inventions of our master. Let me hear if the cause is yet submitted to these judges, and if those who desire can approach these men. Tell me too what is become of the other works, and especially of the book of the Trionfi, which, according to some, has been burnt on the advice of the judges ... than whom learning has no more ignorant enemies. Besides, I know how many envies still attack the reputation of this most eminent man. Certainly, if they can, they will spoil his works, they will hide them, they will condemn them; they do not understand, and they will make every effort that they may be lost to us. Prevent this with all your vigilance, for the best men now and in the future of Italy will be deprived of a great advantage if all these works remain at the mercy of the ignorant and the envious....

"I have finished this letter at Certaldo, the 7th November,[649] and as you see, I cannot say I have written in haste, I have taken almost three whole days to write this short epistle, with a few intervals to allow me to rest my exhausted body.

"Your Giovanni Boccaccio, if he still exists."

That letter was in truth his swan song. In the previous August he had made his Will,[650] and lonely in the dark house in Certaldo,[651] he had little else to do than to [289]pray "the Father of Mercy to lead him to Himself." In those last months, at any rate, he seems to have given himself up almost with passion to religious contemplation. He who had been so scornful of relics filled his house with them, eagerly collecting them whenever he could in spite of his poverty.[652] He seems too to have consoled himself, as many another has done, with the perfect beauty of the Divine Office, for a Breviary was among his books, and is named in his Will. That is almost all we know or may conjecture concerning those last days, which he passed, it seems, almost in solitude[653] on that hill of Certaldo—a magician, as was said of Virgil and Ovid by the folk of Naples and Sulmona, knowing all the secrets of Nature.



Infirm and ill as he was, he must often have looked from his room over the world that lay there as fair as any in Tuscany, a land of hills about a quiet valley where the olives are tossed to silver in the wind, and the grapes are kissed by the sun into gold and purple, where the corn whispers between the vines—till for him too at last the [290]grasshopper was become a burden. There, on December 21, 1375, he died and was buried, as he had ordained in his testament, in the church of SS. Jacopo e Filippo, leaving, as it is said, the following verses for his epitaph:—

"Hac sub mole jacent cineres ac ossa Johannis;

Mens sedet ante Deum meritis ornata laborum

Mortalis vitæ. Genitor Bocchaccius illi;

Patria Certaldum, studium fuit alma poesis."

There beside the quiet waters of the Elsa, which puts all to sleep, lies the greatest story-teller in the world.




But we cannot leave him there. For he is not dead, but living; not only where, in the third heaven, he long since has found his own Fiammetta and been comforted, but in this our world also, where

"Not marble, nor the gilded monuments

Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme."

And so for this cause, if for no other, it seemed well to leave our consideration of his greatest work till now; that we might take leave of him, when we must, in turning its ever-living pages.

The greatest story-teller in the world! Does that seem a hard saying? But by what other title shall we greet the author of the Decameron, who is as secure in his immortality and as great in his narrative power as the author of the Arabian Nights, and infinitely greater in his humanism and influence?

The greatest work of the fourteenth century, as the Divine Comedy had been of the thirteenth, the Decameron sums up and reflects its period altogether impersonally, while the Divine Comedy would scarcely hold us at all without the impassioned personality of Dante to inform it everywhere with his profound life, his hatred, his love, his judgment of this world and the next. It is strange that[292] the work which best represents the genius of Boccaccio, his humour and wide tolerance and love of mankind, should in this be so opposite to all his other works in the vulgar tongue, which are inextricably involved with his own personal affairs, his view of things, his love, his contempt, his hatred. Yet you will scarcely find him in all the hundred tales of the Decameron.[654] He speaks to us there once or twice, as we shall see, but always outside the stories, and his whole treatment of the various and infinite plots, incidents, and characters of his great work is as impersonal as life itself.

The Decameron is an absolute work of art, as "detached" as a play by Shakespeare or a portrait by Velasquez. The scheme is formal and immutable, a miracle of design in which almost everything can be expressed. To compare it with the plan of the Arabian Nights is to demonstrate its superiority. There you have a sleepless king, to whom a woman tells a thousand and one stories in order to save her life which this same king would have taken. You have, then, but two protagonists and an anxiety which touches but one of them, the fear of death on the part of the woman, soon forgotten in the excitement of the stories. In the Decameron, on the other hand, you have ten protagonists, three youths and seven ladies, and the horror which is designed to set off the stories is an universal pestilence which has already half depopulated the city of Florence, from which they are fled away.

From a miniature in the French version of the "Decameron," made in 1414 by Laurent le Premierfait. MS. late XV century. (Brit. Mus. Rothschild Bequest. MS. XIV.)

The mise en scène is so well known as scarcely to need describing, for the Prologue in which it is set forth is one of the most splendid pieces of descriptive narrative in all literature, impressionist too in our later manner, and absolutely convincing. Boccaccio evokes for us the city of [293]Florence in the grip of the Black Death of 1348. We see the streets quite deserted or horrible with the dead, and over all a dreadful silence broken only by the more dreadful laughter of those whom the plague has freed from all human constraint. Fear has seized upon such of the living as death has not driven mad, "wherefore the sick of both sexes, whose number could not be estimated, were left without resource but in the charity of friends (and few such there were), or the interest of servants, who were hardly to be had at high rates and on unseemly terms, and being moreover men and women of gross understanding and for the most part unused to such offices, concerned themselves no further than to supply the immediate and expressed wants of the sick and to watch them die, in which service they themselves not seldom perished with their gains. In consequence of which dearth of servants and dereliction of the sick by neighbours, kinsfolk, and friends, it came to pass—a thing perhaps never before heard of—that no woman, however dainty, fair, or well born she might be, shrank, when stricken with the disease, from the attentions of a man, no matter whether he were young or no, or scrupled to expose to him every part of her body with no more shame than if he had been a woman, submitting of necessity to that which her malady required; wherefrom, perchance, there resulted in after time some loss of modesty in such as recovered.... What need we add, but that such and so grievous was the harshness of heaven, and perhaps in some degree of man, that, what with the fury of the pestilence, the panic of those whom it spared and their consequent neglect or desertion of not a few of the stricken in their need, it is believed without any manner of doubt, that between March and the ensuing July upwards of a hundred thousand human beings lost their lives within the walls of the city of Florence, which before the deadly visitation would not have been supposed to contain so many people![294] How many grand palaces, how many stately homes, how many splendid houses once full of retainers, of lords, of ladies, were now left desolate of all, even to the meanest servant!...

"Irksome it is to myself to rehearse in detail so mournful a history. Wherefore, being minded to pass over so much thereof as I fairly can, I say that our city being thus depopulated, it so happened, as I afterwards learned from one of credit, that on Tuesday morning after Divine service the venerable church of Santa Maria Novella was almost deserted save for the presence of seven young ladies, habited sadly, in keeping with the season.... The first, being the eldest of the seven, we will call Pampinea, the second Fiammetta, the third Filomena, the fourth Emilia, the fifth we will distinguish as Lauretta, the sixth as Neifile, and the last, not without reason, shall be named Elisa. 'Twas not of set purpose but by mere chance that these ladies met in the same part of the church, but at length, grouping themselves into a sort of circle, ... they gave up saying paternosters and began to converse (among other topics) on the times.... Here we tarry (said Pampinea) as if one thinks for no other purpose than to bear witness to the number of corpses that are brought hither for interment.... If we quit the church we see dead or sick folk carried about, or we see those who for their crimes were of late exiled, ... but who now in contempt of the law, well knowing its ministers are sick or dead, have returned.... Nor hear we aught but: Such and such are dead.... Such and such are dying.... Or go we home, what see we there? I know not if you are in like case with me; but there where once were servants in plenty I find none left but my maid and shudder with terror.... And turn or tarry where I may, I encounter only the ghosts of the departed, not with their wonted mien but with something horrible in their aspect that appals me.... So (she continues) I should deem it most[295] wise in us, our case being what it is, if, as many others have done before us and are doing now, we were to quit the place, and shunning like death the evil example of others, betake ourselves to the country and there live as honourable women on one of the estates of which none of us has any lack, with all cheer of festal gathering and other delights so long as in no particular we overstep the bounds of reason. There we shall hear the chant of birds, have sight of green hills and plains, of cornfields undulating like the sea, of trees of a thousand sorts; there also we shall have a larger view of the heavens, which, however harsh to usward, yet deny not their eternal beauty; things fairer far for eyes to rest on than the desolate walls of our city.... For though the husbandmen die there even as here the citizens, they are dispersed in scattered homes, and so 'tis less painful to witness. Nor, so far as I can see, is there a soul here whom we shall desert; rather we may truly say that we are ourselves deserted.... No censure then can fall on us if we do as I propose; and otherwise grievous suffering, perhaps death, may ensue."

Pampinea's plan was received with eagerness, and while they were still discussing it there came into the church three young men, Pamfilo, Filostrato, and Dioneo, the youngest about twenty-five years of age. These seemed to the ladies to be sent by Providence, for their only fear till now had been in carrying out their plans alone. So Pampinea, who had a kinsman among them, approached them, and greeting them gaily, opened her plan, and besought them on behalf of herself and her friends to join their company. The young men as soon as they found she was in earnest answered with alacrity that they were ready, and promptly before leaving the church set matters in train for their departure, and the next day at dawn they set out. Arrived at the estate they entered a beautiful palace in the midst of a garden, and again it was[296] Pampinea who proposed that one among them should be elected chief for a day so that each might be in turn in authority. They at once chose Pampinea, whom Filomena crowned with bay leaves. Later, towards evening, they "hied them to a meadow ... and at the queen's command ranged themselves in a circle on the grass and hearkened while she spoke thus: 'You mark that the sun is yet high, the heat intense, and the silence unbroken save by the cicale among the olives. It were therefore the height of folly to quit this spot at present. Here the air is cool, and the prospect fair, and here, observe, are dice and chess. Take then your pleasure as you will; but if you hear my advice you will find pastime for the hot hours before us, not in play in which the loser must needs be vexed, ... but in telling stories in which the invention of one may afford solace to all the company of his hearers.'"

This was found pleasing to all, and so Pampinea turned at last to Pamfilo, who sat at her right hand, and bade him lead off with one of his stories. So begins the series of immortal tales which compose the Decameron.[655]

Such, then, is the incomparable design which the Decameron fills, beside which the mere haphazard telling of The Hundred Merry Tales seems barbarous, the setting of The Thousand and One Nights inadequate. That Boccaccio's design has indeed ever been bettered might well be denied, but in The Canterbury Tales Chaucer certainly equalled it. If the occasion there is not so dramatic nor the surroundings at once so poignant and so beautiful, the pilgrimage progresses with the tales and allows of such a dramatic entry as that of the Canon and the Canon's yeoman at Boghton-under-Blee. That[297] entry was most fitting and opportune, right in every way, and though there is no inherent reason why the Decameron itself should not have been similarly broken in upon, the very stillness of that garden in the sunshine would have made any such interruption less acceptable.[656]

The true weakness of the Decameron in comparison with that of the Canterbury Tales is not a weakness of design but of character. Each of Chaucer's pilgrims is a complete human being; they all live for us more vividly than any other folk, real or imagined, of the fourteenth century in England, and each is different from the rest, a perfect human character and personality. But in the protagonists of the Decameron it is not so. There is nothing, or almost nothing, to choose between them. Pampinea is not different from Filomena,[657] and may even be confused with Pamfilo or Filostrato. We know nothing of them; they are without any character or personality, and indeed the only one of them all who stands out in any way is Dioneo, and that merely because he may usually be depended upon for the most licentious tale of the day.[658] In Chaucer the tales often weary us, but the tellers never do; in Boccaccio the tales never weary us, but the tellers always do. Just there we come upon the fundamental difference between English and what I may call perhaps Latin art. It is the same to-day as yesterday. In the work of D' Annunzio, as in the work of the French novelists of our time, it is always an affair of situation, that is to say, the narrative or drama rises [298]out of the situation, rather than out of the character of the actors, while even in the most worthless English work there is, as there has always been, an attempt at least to realise character, to make it the fundamental thing in the book, from which the narrative proceeds and by which it lives and is governed.

In dealing with the Decameron, then, we must, more or less, leave the narrators themselves out of the question; they are not to be judged; they are but an excuse for the stories, and are really puppets who can in no way be held responsible for them, so that if now and then an especially licentious tale is told by one of those "virtuous" ladies, it is of no account, for the tales are altogether independent of those who tell them. But if these young and fair protagonists soon pass from our remembrance in the infinitely vivid and living stories they tell, yes, almost like a phonograph, the setting, the background of a plague-stricken and deserted city, the beauty and languorous peace of the delicious gardens in which we listen, always remain with us, so much so that tradition has identified the two palaces which are the setting of the whole Decameron with two of those villas which are the glory of the Florentine contado.

The first of these palaces—that to which they came on that Wednesday morning—was, Boccaccio tells us, not more than "two short miles from the city" There "on the brow of the hill was a palace, with a fine and spacious courtyard in the midst, and with loggias and halls and rooms, all and each one in itself beautiful and ornamented tastefully with jocund paintings. It was surrounded too with grass plots and marvellous gardens, and with wells of coldest water, and there were cellars of rare wines, a thing perhaps more suited to curious topers than to quiet and virtuous ladies. And the palace was clean and in good order, the beds prepared and made, and everything decorated with spring flowers, and the floors covered with [299]rushes, all much to their satisfaction." This "estate" has always been identified with Poggio Gherardo,[659] which now stands above the road to Settignano, about a mile from that village and some two miles from the Porta alle Croce of Florence. In the fourteenth century certainly it must have been equi-distant on all sides from the roads, the nearest being the Via Aretina Nuova by the Arno and the road to Fiesole or the Via Faentina, for the way from Florence to Settignano was a mule-track.

By permission of Mrs. Ross

(The scene of the first two days of the "Decameron.")

Poggio Gherardo is but a stone's throw from Corbignano, the country house—half farm, half villa—which Margherita brought to Boccaccino as part of her dowry, and where, as we have seen, it appears likely that Boccaccio spent his first youth. But Poggio Gherardo is not the only palace of the Decameron. At the close of the second day Madonna Filomena took the laurel crown from her head and crowned Neifile queen, and it was she who then proposed that they should change their residence.

"To-morrow, as you know," said she, "is Friday, and the next day is Saturday, and both are days which are apt to be tedious to most of us on account of the kind of food we take on them; and then Friday was the day on which He who died that we might live suffered His Passion, and it is therefore worthy of reverence, and ought, as I think, to be spent rather in prayer than in telling tales. And on Saturday it is the custom for women to wash the powder out of their hair, and make themselves generally sweet and neat; also they use to fast out of reverence for the Virgin Mother of God, and in honour of the[300] coming rest from any and every work. Therefore, since we cannot, on that day either, carry out our established order of life, I think it would be well to refrain from reciting tales also. And as by then we shall have been here already four days, I think we might seek a new place if we would avoid visitors; and indeed I have already a spot in my mind."

And it happened as she said, for they all praised her words and looked forward longingly to Sunday.

On that very day the sun was already high when, "with slow steps, the queen with her friends and the three gentlemen, led by the songs of some twenty nightingales, took her way westward by an unfrequented lane full of green herbs and flowers just opening after the dawn. So, gossiping and playing and laughing with her company, she led them ... to a beautiful and splendid palace before half of the third hour was gone." It is by this "unfrequented lane" that we too may pass to the Villa Palmieri,[660] which tradition assures us is the very place. "When they had entered and inspected everything, and seen that the halls and rooms had been cleaned and decorated and plentifully supplied with all that was needed for sweet living, they praised its beauty and good order, and admired the owner's magnificence. And on descending, even more delighted were they with the pleasant and spacious courts, the cellars filled with choice wines, and the beautifully fresh water which was everywhere round about. Then they went into the garden, which was on one side of the palace, and was surrounded by a wall, and[301] the beauty and magnificence of it at first sight made them eager to examine it more closely. It was crossed in all directions by long, broad, and straight walks, over which the vines, which that year made a great show of giving many grapes, hung gracefully in arched festoons, and being then in full blossom, filled the whole garden with their sweet smell, and this, mingled with the odours of the other flowers, made so sweet a perfume that they seemed to be in the spicy gardens of the East. The sides of the walks were almost closed with red and white roses and with jessamine, so that they gave sweet odours and shade not only in the morning, but when the sun was high, and one might walk there all day without fear. What flowers there were there, how various and how ordered, it would take too long to tell, but there was not one which in our climate is to be praised that was not found there abundantly. Perhaps the most delightful thing therein was a meadow in the midst, of the finest grass, and all so green that it seemed almost black, all sprinkled with a thousand various flowers, shut in by oranges and cedars, the which bore the ripe fruit and the young fruit too and the blossom, offering a shade most grateful to the eyes and also a delicious perfume. In the midst of this meadow there was a fountain of the whitest marble, marvellously carved and within—I do not know whether artificially or from a natural spring—threw so much water and so high towards the sky through a statue which stood there on a pedestal that it would not have needed more to turn a mill. The water fell back again with a delicious sound into the clear waters of the basin, and the surplus was carried off through a subterranean way into little water channels, most beautifully and artfully made about the meadow, and afterwards it ran into others round about, and so watered every part of the garden, and collected at length in one place, whence it had entered the beautiful garden, it turned two mills, much to the[302] profit, as you may suppose, of the signore, pouring down at last in a stream clear and sweet into the valley."

If this should seem a mere pleasaunce of delight, the vision of a poet, the garden of a dream, we have only to remember how realistically and simply Boccaccio has described for us that plague-stricken city, scarcely more than a mile away, to be assured of its truthfulness. And then, Villa Palmieri is nearly as beautiful to-day as it was so long ago; only while the gardens with their pergolas of vines, their hedges of jasmine and crimson roses, their carved marble fountains remain, the two mills he speaks of are gone, having been destroyed in a flood of the Mugnone in 1409, less than sixty years after he wrote of them.


(The scene of the third and following days of the "Decameron.")

Nor are the two palaces the only places mentioned in the Decameron, set as it is in the country about Florence, that we may identify. It was a summer afternoon, six days had almost passed, Dioneo had just been crowned king by Madonna Elisa: the tales had been short that day, and the sun was yet high, so that Madonna, seeing the gentlemen were set down to play at dice (and "such is the custom of men"), called her friends to her and said: "'Ever since we have been here I have wished to show you a place not far off where, I believe, none of you has ever been; it is called La Valle delle Donne, and till to-day I have not had a chance to speak of it. It is yet early; if you choose to come with me, I promise you that you will be pleased with your walk.' And they answered they were all willing: so without saying a word to the gentlemen, they called one of their women to attend them, and after a walk of nearly a mile they came to the place which they entered by a strait path where there burst forth a fair crystal stream, and they found it so beautiful and so pleasant, especially in those hot still hours of afternoon, that nothing could excel it; and as some of them told me later, the little plain in the valley was an exact circle, as though it had been described by a pair of compasses, [303]yet it was indeed rather the work of Nature than of man. It was about half a mile in circumference, surrounded by six hills of moderate height, on each of which was a palace built in the form of a little castle.... And then what gave them the greatest delight was the rivulet that came through a valley which divided two hills, and running through the rocks fell suddenly and sweetly in a waterfall seeming, as it was dashed and sprinkled in drops all about, like so much quicksilver. Coming into the little plain beneath this fall, the stream was received in a fine canal, and running swiftly to the midst of the plain formed itself in a pool not deeper than a man's breast and so clear that you might see the gravelly bottom and the pebbles intermixed, which indeed you might count; and there were fishes there also swimming up and down in great plenty; and the water that overflowed was received into another little canal which carried it out of the valley. There the ladies all came together, and ... finding it commendable ... did, as 'twas very hot and they deemed themselves secure from observation, resolve to take a bath. So having bidden their maid wait and keep watch over the access to the vale, and give them warning if haply any should approach it, they all seven undressed and got into the water, which to the whiteness of their flesh was even such a veil as fine glass is to the vermeil of the rose.[661] They being then in the water, the clearness of which was thereby in no wise affected, did presently begin to go hither and thither after the fish, which had much ado where to bestow themselves so as to escape out of their hands.... 'Twas quite early when they returned to the palace, so that they found the gallants still at play."

This delicious spot, called to this day the Valle delle Donne,[662] may be reached from the "unfrequented lane" [304]by which they all passed from Poggio Gherardo to Villa Palmieri; as Landor, who lived close by, tells us:—

"Where the hewn rocks of Fiesole impend

O'er Doccia's dell, and fig and olive blend,

There the twin streams of Affrico unite,

One dimly seen, the other out of sight,

But ever playing in his swollen bed

Of polisht stone and willing to be led

Where clustering vines protect him from the sun—

Here by the lake Boccaccio's fair brigade

Bathed in the stream and tale for tale repaid."

The hundred tales that were thus told in the shade of those two beautiful gardens may doubtless be traced to an infinite number of sources—Egyptian, Arabian, Persian, and French;[663] but these origins matter little. Boccaccio was almost certainly unaware of them, for the most part at any rate, gathering his material as he did from the tales he had heard, up and down Italy. Certainly to the Contes and Fabliaux of Northern France a third part of the Decameron may be traced, much too to Indian and Persian sources, and a little to the Gesta Romanorum. But one might as well accuse Chaucer or Shakespeare of a want of originality because they took what they wanted where they found it, as arraign Boccaccio for a dependence he was quite unaware of on sources such as these.[664] He has made the tales his own. The Decameron is a work of art, a world in itself, and its effect upon us who read it is the effect of life which includes, for its own good, things moral and immoral. The book has the variety of the world, and is full of an infinity of people, who represent for us the fourteenth century in Italy, in all its fullness, almost.[665] [305]It deals with man as life does, never taking him very seriously, or without a certain indifference, a certain irony and laughter. Yet it is full too of a love of courtesy, of luck, of all sorts of adventures, both gallant and sad. In details, at any rate, it is true and even realistic, crammed with observation of those customs and types which made up the life of the time. It is dramatic, ironic, comic, tragic, philosophic, and even lyrical; full of indulgence for human error, an absolutely human book beyond any work of Dante's or Petrarch's or Froissart's. Even Chaucer is not so complete in his humanism, his love of all sorts and conditions of men. Perfect in organism, in construction, and in freedom, each of these tales is in some sort a living part of life and a criticism of it. Almost any one could be treated by a modern writer in his own way, and remain fundamentally the same and fundamentally true. What immorality there is, might seem owing rather to the French sources of some of the tales than to any invention on the part of Boccaccio, who, as we have seen, later came to deplore it. But we must remember that the book was written to give delight to "amorous" women, and women have always delighted in "immoral literature," and in fact write most of it to-day.[666] Yet only a Puritan, and he foul-minded, could call the Decameron vicious, for it is purified with an immortal laughter and joy.

But it is in its extraordinary variety of contents and character that the Decameron is chiefly remarkable. We are involved in a multitude of adventures, are introduced to innumerable people of every class, and each class shows us its most characteristic qualities. Such is Boccaccio's art, for the stories were not originally, or even as they are, ostensibly studies of character at all, but rather anecdotes, tales of adventure, stories of illicit love, good stories about[306] the friars and the clergy and women, told for amusement because they are full of laughter and are witty, or contain a brief and ready reply with which one has rebuked another or saved himself from danger. But I have given the subjects of the stories of the Decameron elsewhere.[667] Whatever they may be, and they are often of the best, of the most universal, they are not, for the real lover of the Decameron, the true reason why he goes to it always with the certainty of a new joy. The book is full of people, of living people, that is the secret of its immortality. Fra Cipolla, whom I especially love, Calandrino, whom I seem always to have known, poor Monna Tezza, his wife, whom at last he so outrageously gives away, Griselda, Cisti, the Florentine baker, the joyous Madonna Filippa, or Monna Belcolore should be as dear to us as any character in any book not by Shakespeare himself. They live for ever.

And yet it must be confessed that while the book is a mirror of the world, and doubtless as true to the life of its time as any book that was ever written, it lacks a certain idealism, a certain moral sense which is never absent from English work, and which, even from a purely æsthetic point of view, would have given a sort of balance or sense of proportion to the book, which, I confess, in my weaker moments, it has sometimes seemed to me it lacks.

From a print of the XVIII century in Baldelli's "Vita di Gio: Boccaccio."

It is true that Boccaccio deals with life and with life alone. It is true that life then as now made little of sexual morality. But with Boccaccio, as with almost all Latin art, sexual immorality usurps, or seems to us to usurp, a place out of all proportion to its importance in life. One is not always thinking of one's neighbour's wife, even though one should have the misfortune to affect her. Yet it is just there that Boccaccio's comic genius is seen at its best; it is his most frequent theme. And just there too we come upon the unreality of this most real book. His spose are all beautiful young women [307]who live in the arms of beautiful youths; they are nearly all adulteresses; Griselda, indeed, might seem to be the only faithful wife among them. Consider, then, the wife of Pietro di Vincolo,[668] who sells herself fresh and lovely as she is. Consider the pretty Prunella the Neapolitan, who abandons herself voluptuously in her husband's presence to Gianello Galeone.[669] She, like the rest, is not only without regret, but without scruple. They all have this extraordinary astuteness, this readiness of the devil. There is Sismonda, the wife of the rich merchant Arriguccio Berlinghieri.[670] There is Isabella, who loved Leonetto, and Monna Beatrice, who to her adultery adds contempt of her husband, when, victorious at last, trembling with voluptuousness, she kisses and re-kisses "the sweet mouth" of the happy and delighted Lodovico.[671] Nor is she by any means alone, they are all her sisters. Lydia[672] is even more wily, Bartolommea more shameless.[673]

And if the women are thus joyful, lustful, and cunning, the husbands are fools. Yet Boccaccio knows well how to draw the honest peasant, the hard-working artisan, the persistent and adventurous merchant, and a harder thing—the man of good society, such as Federigo degli Alberighi,[674] when he will.

What he cannot do is to compose a tragedy; he has not a sufficiently virile moral sense for it, and so just there he fails with the rest of his Latin brethren. But as a writer of comedy he is one of the greatest masters; and as a master of comedy he was in some degree at the mercy both of it and of his audience. This may excuse him perhaps for his too persistent stories about adulteries. The deceived husband was always a comic figure; he probably always will be. This being granted, we shall not judge the women of Boccaccio's time by his tales, and it [308]might seem that we should discount in the same way his stories about the clergy. Like every other comic master, he naturally finds some of his choicest material among them, who always have been, are now, and ever will be a never-failing source of amusement. But here we must go warily, for Boccaccio's treatment of the clergy might almost be said to exhaust what little moral indignation he was possessed of. "I have spoken the truth about the friars," he tells us with an immense relief in the conclusion to his work, and if he had not time, courage, or opportunity to tell us the truth about the monks, the nuns, and the secular clergy, he has left us, it must be confessed, some very remarkable evidence. His whole attitude of attack is different when he exposes the clergy; moreover, while we have no evidence at all in support of his supposed representation of the married woman as universally adulterous—and it may be questioned whether it was his intention to leave us with any such impression—we have ample evidence from the best possible sources of the frightful wickedness, immorality, and general rottenness of the clergy, both religious and secular, monks, friars, nuns, and priests. We have only to consult the pages of S. Catherine of Siena[675] to find every separate accusation of Boccaccio's confirmed ten times over, with a hundred others added to them which he has failed to bring forward. Nor is it only in the mouth of S. Catherine that Boccaccio is justified. Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, had long ago[309] informed Innocent IV that the Curia was the source of all that vileness which rendered the priesthood a reproach to Christianity. Alexander IV himself described the corruption of the people as proceeding from the clergy. What this had become after the Black Death we know not only from Boccaccio, Petrarch, and S. Catherine, but from every writer of the time. The Church was rotten to the core, she seemed about to sink for ever into the pit of her abominations. Consider, then, what such a beast as the priest of Varlungo must have been in a village; consider the rector of Fiesole. Is Boccaccio's irony too bitter? Is it any wonder that Monna Belcolore answers the wolf of Varlungo, "There is never a one of you priests but would overreach the very devil."

As for the friars, we should not recognise in any one of them the brother of S. Francis or S. Dominic. Consider them then: Fra Cipolla[676] is a lovely rogue of the best; who more cunning than Fra Alberto da Imola;[677] who more eagerly wily than Fra Rinaldo;[678] who more goat-like and concupiscent than Fra Rustico? The only son of S. Francis illumined with light and piety is the confessor of Ser Ciappelletto,[679] and he has no name, and is, I fear, quickly forgotten.

Nor have we better news of the nuns[680] or the monks,[681] and indeed, so far as the clergy are concerned, the Decameron is as eager in its attack on wickedness as the Divine Comedy itself, though its justice is tempered with kindness and its scorn with a sort of pity, a sort of understanding.

And indeed, if we compare the book with that of Dante, a much greater man, it holds its own because of its humanity. Dante puts the centre of gravity into the next world. He hates this world almost without ceasing, [310]and has dared to arraign it before his hatred. His satire is cruel, unjust, intolerant, and vindictive. Of course we are wont to excuse all this on account of the genius which it expressed, of its sincerity and beauty of form. Boccaccio, however, with less than half Dante's genius, was not subject to his madness. He was content to satirise what is bad, the bad customs of ecclesiastics and of fools; but he excuses and pardons all too because of the "misfortunes of the time," and above all he understands.

But if we may not compare the Decameron, the Human Comedy, with the Divine Comedy of Dante as a work of art, we may claim for it that it was the greatest though not quite the first prose work in the Tuscan tongue. But Italian prose maybe said to consist of the Decameron alone for a hundred years after Boccaccio's death. It is written in a very beautiful but very complicated style, a sort of poetical prose—exquisite, it is true, but often without simplicity. Yet who will dare to attack it? It has justified itself, if need be, as every great work has done, by its appeal to mankind, its utter indifference to criticism.

That the Decameron, though widely read and enthusiastically received, was censured very strongly in its own day we gather from the Proem to the Fourth Day and from the Conclusion to the work; while later the book did not escape the knife of the Church, though it was never suppressed.[682] That it was enthusiastically received in its[311] day we know from contemporary documents,[683] and though Petrarch failed to understand it, he praised it in certain places, which were those, it seems, that were the most rhetorical. He translated the last tale of Griselda into Latin, however, but as he tells us, he had known this for many years. Petrarch, however, stood alone; from the day the Decameron was finished its influence both in Italy and abroad was very great.

The original manuscript has disappeared, and the oldest we possess seems to be that written in 1368 by Francesco Mannelli, though the later Hamilton MS. now in Berlin is the better of the two.[684] More than ten editions were, however, printed in the fifteenth century, and some seventy-seven in the sixteenth; while there is not a Novelliere in Italian literature for many centuries who has not inspired himself with the Decameron. Its fortune abroad was almost equally good. Hans Sachs, Molière, La Fontaine,[685] Lope de Vega, to mention only European names, were in its debt; and in England our greatest poets have drawn from it, once the form and often the substance of their work. One has only to name Chaucer, Sir Philip Sidney, Shakespeare, Dryden,[686] Keats,[687] and Tennyson[688] to suggest England's debt to Boccaccio. And although our prose literature, strangely enough, produced no great original example of this school of fiction, its influence was shown [312]by the number of translations and imitations of the "mery bookes of Italy," when, according to Ascham, "a tale of Bocace was made more account of than a story out of the Bible."[689]

In his Praise of Poets, Thomas Churchyard, referring to Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, says—

"In Italy of yore did dwell

Three men of special spreete,

Whose gallant stiles did sure excell,

Their verses were so sweet"

Of these three great Italians Dante was by far the least known, and William Thomas, in his Dictionarie (1550) defines "Dante Aldighieri" as "the name of a famous poet in the Italian tongue," while he does not think it necessary to explain who Petrarch and Boccaccio are.[690] Sir Philip Sidney, it is true, refers to Dante several times, with the other two, and even mentions Beatrice in his Defence of Poesie, yet there is no trace of Dante's influence in his work. The only writer after Chaucer who shows internal evidence of knowing Dante fairly well is Sir John Harrington, the translator of Orlando Furioso. In his Apology of Poetry he refers to Dante's relations to Virgil, and in the Allegorie of the fourth book of his translation he translates the first five lines of the Inferno:—

"While yet my life was in the middle race

I found I wandered in a darksome wood,

The right way lost with mine unsteadie pace ..."[691]

Spenser does not mention Dante though he used him; but in the Epistle to Gabriel Harvey prefixed to the [313]Shepherd's Calendar he speaks of Boccaccio as well as of Petrarch and others.


That Boccaccio was well known in England, at least by name, in the fourteenth century, seems certain. Sacchetti (1335-1400) in the Proemio to his Novelle writes as follows: "... and taking into consideration the excellent Florentine poet Messer Giovanni Boccaccio, who wrote the Book of the Hundred Tales in one material effort of his great intellect, ... that (book) is so generally published and sought after, that even in France and England they have translated it into their language ... and I, Franco Sacchetti, though only a rude and unrefined man, have made up my mind to write the present work." All trace of any such translation, if indeed it was ever made, has been lost.[692] In fact, it might seem that the only man in England at that time really capable of carrying out such a task, worthily at least, was Geoffrey Chaucer, who, though for some reason we can never know he refused to mention Boccaccio's name, adapted and translated the Teseide, the Filostrato, and it seems, three tales from the Decameron—the first of the Eighth Day, the fifth of the Tenth Day, and the tenth of the Tenth Day.[693] May it not have been Chaucer's work to which Sacchetti referred? It was not until 1566 that any translation even of isolated stories from the Decameron appeared; in that year and [314]the following Painter's Palace of Pleasure was published, which contained sixteen stories translated from the Decameron. Then in 1579 came the Forest of Fancy, by H. C., in which two more appeared, while Tarlton's News out of Purgatorie (1590) contained four more, and the Cobler of Caunterburie, published in the same year, two more. These and other translations of isolated stories will best be shown by a table.[694]

[315] Such were the stories from the Decameron that had been translated in English when in 1620 the first practically complete edition appeared, translated inaccurately, but very splendidly, apparently from the French version of Antoine Le Macon. Isaac Jaggard published it, in folio in two parts, with woodcuts, and the title bore no translator's name. In 1625 this edition was reprinted, the title bearing the legend "Isaac Jaggard for M. Lownes":[695] other editions appeared in 1655 and 1657 and 1684, making five editions in all during the seventeenth century. In 1700 Dryden's translations appeared of the Three Tales: Decameron, IV 1, V 1, and V 8. A new translation, practically complete, appeared in 1702, and was, I think, twice reprinted in 1722 and 1741. Certainly eight editions were published in the nineteenth century[696] and two have appeared already in the twentieth.[697] The first really complete translation [316]to appear in English, however, was that of Mr. John Payne, printed for the Villon Society (1886), but the first complete translation to pass into general circulation was that of Mr. J. M. Rigg, 1896-1905, which is rendered with a careful accuracy and much spirit.

"The ordinary recreations which we have in Winter," says Burton in the Anatomy of Melancholy, "and in most solitary times busy our minds with, are Cards, Tables and Dice, Shovel-board, Chess-play, the Philosopher's game, Small Trunks, Shuttle-cock, Billiards, Musick, Masks, Singing, Dancing, Yulegames, Frolicks, Jests, Riddles, Catches, Purposes, Questions and Commands, Merry Tales of Errant Knights, Queens, Lovers, Lords, Ladies, Giants, Dwarfs, Thieves, Cheaters, Witches, Fairies, Goblins, Friars, etc., such as the old women told [of] Psyche in Apuleius, Boccaccio's Novels and the rest, quarum auditione pueri delectantur, senes narratione, which some delight to hear, some to tell, all are well pleased with."

Well, after all, we are our fathers' sons, and (God be thanked) there are still winter evenings in which, while the rest are occupied with Burton's frolicks and jests, dancing and singing and card-play, we, in some cosy place, may still turn the old immortal pages.






That the date of the arrival of Boccaccio in Naples commonly accepted, namely the end of 1330, is inadmissible, has, I think, been proved by Della Torre (op. cit., caps. ii. and iii.), who gives us many good reasons to think that the true date was December 13, 1323. With his conclusions I agree, nor do I see how they are easily to be put aside.

To begin with, the departure of Idalagos in the Filocolo[698] forms part of the same episode as the birth of the fratellastro, so that it would seem the two events cannot have been separated by any great length of time; certainly not by nine years, which would be the case if Boccaccio really left Florence in 1330, for Francesco the fratellastro was born in 1321.[699]

Again, Boccaccio tells us that at the time of his departure Idalagos was "semplice e lascivo,"[700] which would scarcely be epithets to apply to a youth of seventeen years. And then, even [320]though we pass that, what are we to think of a youth of seventeen who is so mortally afraid of his stepmother and his little brother, aged say nine, that to save his life, as he thinks, he runs away? Certainly this youth is very unlike Boccaccio. Whatever the date may be, then, the year 1330 would seem to be out of the question.

At that time it was the custom of men to divide human life into seven ages, as Shakespeare records later. These seven ages we find were Infanzia, Puerizia, Gioventù or Adolescenza, Virilità, Vecchiaia, and Decrepitezza. The first three of these ages corresponded to the following years, thus:—[701]

Infanzia  1-7
Puerizia  7-14

Now Boccaccio tells us quite clearly, "io ... fanciullo cercai i regni Etrurii, e di quelli in più ferma età venuto, qui [that is to Naples] venni."[702] That is to say: "I came to Tuscany before I was seven years old, and during my boyhood (Puerizia) between the ages of seven and fourteen, between the years 1320-1327, I came to Naples."

Does that seem a little far-fetched, a little as though we were trying to prove too much, with such vague words? Let us have patience. When after six years with the merchant in Naples, Boccaccio is abandoned by Abrotonia and Pampinea, they appear to him in a dream and tell him it was not for them he really sang, but for another. Then there comes to him a dream in which he sees this other, and recognises her as the lady who had welcomed him to Naples—"questa era colei, che nella mia puerizia vegnendo a questi luoghi, apparitami e baciatomi, lieta m' avea la venuta profferta."[703] Nor does this passage stand alone. When on Holy Saturday he sees Fiammetta face to face, he recognises her as the lady who had lately appeared to him it is true, but first—"Questa è colei che nella mia puerizia e non ha [321]gran tempo ancora, m' apparve ne' sonni miei...." Now puerizia, boyhood, fell, as we have seen, between the ages of seven and fourteen—between the years 1320 and 1327 in Boccaccio's case.

To clinch the matter, as we might think, in the De Genealogiis, xv. 10, Boccaccio tells us that he entered the merchant's office before he was adolescent—"adolescentium nondum intrantem," that is to say before he was fifteen and before the year 1328. So that it might seem to be proved not only that he came to Naples before 1330, but that he came to Naples between the years 1320 and 1327. Now old Boccaccio himself came to Naples in the autumn of 1327—did Boccaccio then come with him? This at first sight seems likely; let us enquire into it.

In the De Genealogiis, xv. 10, Boccaccio tells us that he was six years with the merchant, wasting his time, "Sex annis nil aliud feci quam non recuperabile tempus in vacuum terere." That is to say, if he came to Naples with his father in 1327, he was still with the merchant in 1333, when he was twenty years old. But Benvenuto da Imola[704] seems to tell us that Boccaccio was sixteen when he began to study Canon Law; in other words, if we read that author aright, Boccaccio began to study Canon Law in 1329. This will not square with the theory that he came to Naples in 1327, but it admirably fits our claim that he came to Naples in 1323, and after six years with a merchant began to study Canon Law in 1329, when he was sixteen years old.

But we know that whatever else may be insecure in this question, it is at least certain that the departure of Boccaccio for Naples took place before the meeting with Fiammetta, for it was in Naples that he first saw her. At first sight this might seem to help us little, for the date of the meeting with Fiammetta is more disputed than anything else in Boccaccio's chronology, the date usually given being either 27th March, 1334, or 11th April, 1338.[705] We do not accept either of these dates. However, let us examine what evidence we have.

[322]In the introduction to the Filocolo Boccaccio tells us that he first saw and fell in love with Fiammetta on that Holy Saturday which fell in the sixteenth grado after the sun was entered into Aries. I give the whole passage, as the argument depends upon it:—

"Avvene che un giorno, la cui prima ora Saturno avea signoreggiata, essendo già Febo co' suoi cavalli al sedecimo grado del celestiale Montone pervenuto, e nel quale il glorioso partimento del figliuolo di Giove dagli spogliati regni di Plutone si celebrava, io, della presente opera componitore, mi trovai in un grazioso e bel tempio in Partenope, nominato da colui che per deificarsi sostenne che fosse fatto di lui sacrificio sopra la grata, e quivi con canto pieno di dolce melodia ascoltava l' uficio che in tale giorno si canta, celebrato da' sacerdoti successori di colui che prima la corda cinse umilemente esaltando la povertade quella seguendo. Ove io dimorando, e già essendo secondo che il mio intelletto estimava la quarta ora del giorno sopra l' orientale orizzonte passata, apparve agli occhi miei le mirabile bellezza della prescritta giovane...."[706]

The whole question is then: on what day did the sun enter Aries, in other words, on what day did Spring begin. We seem to be on the point of solving the difficulty by answering that question—an easy task—for sixteen days afterwards in the year we seek it was Holy Saturday, and Boccaccio then saw Fiammetta for the first time. The solution is, however, on consideration, not quite so simple. We have to ask not only when did Spring begin, but on what day did Boccaccio think it began; when did he think the sun entered Aries?

As we know, Chaucer, Boccaccio's contemporary, thought Spring began on 12th March,[707] but Chaucer's "Treatise on the Astrolabe" was written in 1391, more than fifty years after the Filocolo.

All sorts of opinions have been expressed by scholars as to the date that was in Boccaccio's mind as that which marked the entry [323]of the sun into Aries. Baldelli[708] thinks it was March 21st; Witte[709] and Koerting[710] say the 25th; Casetti[711] says the 14th; and Landau[712] says the 11th. The whole question is more or less complicated by the fact that the Julian Calendar was in use.

We shall, then, find ourselves in agreement with many good scholars if we say that Boccaccio thought Spring began on the 25th March (see infra), and calculating thus, we shall find that he first met Fiammetta on April 11th, 1338, when he was twenty-five years old.[713] This, however, is only conjecture.

If we ask ourselves, then, on what day Spring really did begin, we shall find ourselves in agreement with Casetti, who names the 14th March. Why should Boccaccio have been ignorant of this? He cannot have been ignorant of it. Are all his studies with Calmeta and Andalò di Negro to go for nothing? He must have known when Spring began better than most men. If then we take the 14th March as the date and add the sixteen gradi to it, we arrive at the 30th. Now Holy Saturday fell on the 30th March in 1331 and in 1336. Which of these two dates is the true one? The earlier we think.

If for the moment we admit that he came to Naples in 1323, he must have met Fiammetta in 1331, not in 1336, for he himself gives us to understand that seven years and four months passed between his advent and that Holy Saturday.[714] It seems then most likely that he left home in 1323 and saw Fiammetta for the first time in 1331. If we argue back from the year 1336 (and, as has been shown, he met Fiammetta certainly either in 1331 or in 1336), we find that he left home in 1329, when he [324]was sixteen. That would be open to as many objections as the year 1330 (see supra). Without actual certainty we may claim that the years 1323 and 1331 that have a secure relationship exactly fit in with all the secondary evidence that has been brought to bear upon the argument.

Our conclusions are then: that Boccaccio entered Naples in December, 1323; that he was with a merchant for six years, till 1329, in which year he began to study Canon Law. For sixteen months he had followed this study (so that he left the merchant in the winter of 1329), when on Holy Saturday, March 30, 1331, at the age of eighteen, he first saw and fell in love with Fiammetta.[715]




In Dei Nomine Amen. Anno ejusdem incarnationis millesimo trecentesimo trigesimo sexto indictione quarta et die decimo octavo mensis Madij.

Pateat etc. etc. etc.

Item postea eodem die Bocchaccinus olim Chellini de Certaldo qui olim morabatur in populo Sancti Petri maioris et hodie moratur in populo Sancte Felicitatis de Florentia iure proprio et in perpetuum dedit vendidit tradidit et concessit Niccholo olim Vegne populi Sancti Simonis de Florentia ementi recipienti et stipulanti pro se ipso suisque heredibus habentibusque causam ab eodem pro ducentis quadraginta partibus pro indiviso ex trecentis quinquaginta partibus et Niccholao nepoti dicti Niccholi et filio olim Pauli olim Vegne dicti populi Sancti Simonis ementi stipulanti et recipienti pro se ipso suisque heredibus habentibusque causam ad eodem pro residuis centumdecem partibus pro indiviso ex trecentis quinquaginta partibus. Quoddam Podere cum domibus, curte, puteo, portibus, terra laborativa et vineata et olivis et arboribus, fossatis in medio, positis in parte in populo Sancti Martini la Melsola et in parte in populo Sancte Marie de Septignano Comitatus Florentie loco dicto Corbignano que esse dicuntur ad cordam et rectam mensuram Comunis Florentiæ stariorum trigintaocto et panorum duo vel circa et duo tamen capanne, quatuor orgiorum vel circa et quamdam bigonciam da ricever vino et quemdam suem ibidem existentem; quibus omnibus tales dixit esse confines, a primo olim heredes Becit Bonaccursii, et hodie Cose olim Banchi Cose, a secundo olim dictorum heredum Becti et hodie dicti Cose, via[326] dicti poderis et rerum venditarum in medio, a tertio olim Chiarozzi de Lamone et hodie heredum Vantis Rimbaldesis, via dictorum poderis et rerum venditarum in medio in partem, et olim Omodeii Spadari et hodie Andree Aghinecti in partem, a quarto olim dicti Homodey et hodie dicti Andree in partem et Pieri Boni in partem; infra predictos confines vel alios si qui forent pluries vel veriores, accessibus, aggressibus, ingressibus et egressibus suis et cuiuslibet vel alterius earum usque in viam publican et cum omni iure, actione, possessione, tenuta usu, usufructu seu requisitione eidem Boccaccino pro dictis rebus venditis vel earum aliqua aut ipsis rebus venditis vel earum alicui modo aliquo pertinenti vel spectanti; et cum omnibus et singulis que super se, infra, seu inter se habent dicte res vendite vel earum aliqua ad habendum, tenendum, possidendum, fruendum, usufructandum, et quidquid eisdem Nicchole Vegne pro partibus supradictis et Niccholao Pauli pro partibus supradictis pro inde deiceps placuerit perpetuo faciendum. Que quidem podere et res vendite et earum quamlibet predictus Boccaccinus pro eisdem Niccholo Vegne pro partibus supradictis et Niccholao Pauli pro partibus supradictis constituit possidere donec exinde dicti Niccholas Vegne pro partibus supradictis et Niccholaus Pauli pro partibus supradictis vel aliquis eorum pro se et alio eorumdem vel aliis pro eis corporalem possessionem sumere adeptas vel adeptis. Que et quas intrandi et exinde corporalem possessionem adipisci et retinendi deinceps dictus Boccaccinus venditor eisdem emptoribus et eorum cuilibet pro partibus supradictis quandocumque, quocumque, quotiescumque et qualitercumque voluerint, vel eorum aliquis licentiam concessit omnimodam atque dedit. Insuper dictus Boccaccinus venditor fecit et constituit suum procuratorem Bencivennem Mactheii dicti populi Sancti Simonis ibidem presentem et recipientem specialiter ad ponendum et immittendum pro eo et eius nomine dictos Niccholam Vegne pro partibus supradictis et Niccholaum Pauli pro partibus supradictis, vel alium recipientem pro eis et eorum quolibet in tenutam et corporalem possessionem dictorum poderis et rerum venditarum, et cuiuslibet earum et earum cuiuslibet, earum tenutam et corporalem possessionem tradendi cum omni iure eidem Bocchaccino in dictis rebus venditis vel earum aliqua[327] pertinentia. Et generaliter ad omnia facienda que ipse constituens posset facere si adesset. Insuper etiam dictus Bocchaccinus ex caussa vendictionis predicte dedit, cessit, transtulit et exinde eisdem Niccholò Vegne et Niccholao Pauli et cuilibet eorum pro partibus supradictis omnia et singula iura et actiones reales et personales, utiles et directas mixtas tacitas et expressas preter civiles et conventionales omnesque alias eidem Bocchaccino competentes et spectantes, et que et quas ipse Bocchaccinus habet eidemque competunt contra et adversus quemlibet et quoslibet et quemcumque et quoscum auctores suos eidemque Bocchaccino pro dictis seu occasione dictorum poderis et rerum quomodolibet obligavit faciens et costituens predictus Bocchaccinus eosdem Niccholam Vegne et Niccholaum Pauli ibidem presentes, procuratores in rem suam eosdemque ponens in locum suum in iuribus et nominibus supradictis quo ad possint dicti Niccholas Vegne et Niccholaus et quilibet eorum pro partibus supradictis, pro dictis, et contra predictis agere etc. Et promisit et convenit dictus Bocchaccinus venditor eidem Nicchole Vegne et Niccholao Pauli et cuilibet eorum stipulanti et recipienti ut supra pro partibus supradictis, pacifice et quiete permittere et permicti facere dictos emptores et eorum quemlibet pro partibus supradictis eorumque et cuiuslibet eorum heredibus, habentibusque caussam ab eisdem ipsum podere et res vendite et earum quamlibet earumque et cuiuslibet earum obventionum habere etc. Et nullam litem questionem seu brigam eisdem emptoribus vel eorum alicui eorumque vel alicuius eorum heredum habentibusque caussam ab eisdem in dictis rebus venditis vel earum aliqua vel earum seu alicuius earum parte seu partiolam vel in earum seu alicuius earum obventionis inferre facere vel movere seu inferenti, facienti, vel moventi consentire. Set omnes et singulas lites et questiones eisdem emptoribus vel eorum alicui eorumque vel alicuius eorum heredum vel habentibusque caussam ab eisdem in dictis rebus venditis vel earum aliqua vel in earum seu alicuius earum parte seu particola, vel in earum seu alicuius earum obventionis per libelli oblationem simplicem requisitionem, tenutam, notitiam vel usuras, vel tenute dationem, pronumptiationem, acquisitionem, vel immissionem vel partim de disgombrando, vel alio quocumque modo motas vel[328] movendas in se suscipere a die qua eidem Bocchaccino vel eius heredibus delatum fuerit personaliter vel ad domum ad tres dies tunc proxime secutoros. Ita quod a dictis emptoribus vel eorum quolibet eorumque et cuiuslibet eorum heredum habentibusque causam ab eisdem in totum tollantur et ad causam ire etc. Et ipsas res venditas et earum quamlibet earumque et cuiuscumque earum obventionum eisdem emptoribus stipulantibus et recipientibus ut supra defendere, auctorizare, et disbrigare, et ab omni homine loco et universitate, et ab omni obventione, conventione preterea atque pignoris, et ab omni debito, negotio et contumacia, et ab omni tenuta, notitia, et usuris et tenute datione, pronumptiatione, acquisitione vel immissione et de iure et de facto in omnibus causis videlicet ab omni libra, factione, prestantia, impositione, gabella quadam, banno inquisitione heretice pravitatis eteius officio facto vel fiendo et ab omne heresis ammonitione et ab officialibus Universitatis Mercatorum et Mercantie Comunis Florentie, et ab omnibus et singulis Sindacis et officialibus deputatis vel deputandis per Commune Florentinum super negociis alicuius vel aliquorum mercatoris vel mercatorum nunc vel in futurum pronumptiatione cessantium et fugitivorum cum pecunia et rebus debitoris et eorum creditorum, et a Iudice et Officio Bonorum Rebellium, exbannitorum et condepmnatorum, et cessantium ac libris et factionibus Communis Florentie et ab omni et quolibet officio dicti Communis Florentie presentibus et futuris nec non a Comuni Florentino supradicto et eisdem emptoribus cuilibet videlicet eorum ut supra stipulanti et recipienti ipsarum rerum venditadum et cuiuslibet earum vacuam possessionem tradere et ipsos ut supra stipulantes et recipientes in earum et cuiuslibet earum possessionum facere et defendere penitus et in earum et cuiuslibet earum possessu vero domino indepmne servare tueri et defensare. Remissis eisdem emptoribus ut supra stipulantibus et recipientibus ex pacto etiam appellandi necessitate si super evictione pronumptiatione contigerit contra eos vel eorum aliquem vel eorum vel alicuius eorum heredum vel habentibusque caussam ab eisdem. Et acto inter eos expresse quod non possit dici, allegari vel exponi eisdem emptoribus vel eorum alicui vel eorum vel alicuius eorum heredum habentibusque caussam ab eisdem vel eorum aliquo pro eisdem vel[329] eorum alicui factum sit vel fuerit vel facta esset seu foret vel fieret iniuria vel ininstitia. Si ipse res vendite vel earum aliqua vel earum seu alicuius earum obventionis evinceretur ab eis vel eorum aliquo vel quod ipsi vel eorum aliquis in curia seu ad curiam non comparuerint vel non comparuerit, vel quod libellium seu caussam in sè non susceperint vel non suceperit, vel quod litem non fuerint vel non fuerit contestatam, vel quod ipsarum rerum vel alicuius earum defensor non opposuerit vel non opposuerint, vel quod eorum vel alicuius eorum culpa vel negligentia fuerit evictus. Et quod ipsi vel eorum aliquis non teneantur seu teneatur in curia seo ad curiam comparere, esse vel stare, vel libellum seu causam in se suscipere vel litem contestari vel defensari dictarum rerum vel alicuius earum aliqualiter se offereret. Et si, quod absit, evenerit dictas res venditas in totum vel in partem dictis emptoribus vel eorum alicui eorumque vel alicuius eorum heredum vel habentibusque caussam ab eisdem vel eorum aliquo quoquo modo evinci vel super evictione etiam contra eos vel eorum aliquem quoquo modo ferri sententiam proinde et contra dictum Bocchaccinum, eisdem Nicchole Vegne et Niccholao Pauli et cuilibet eorum stipulanti et recipienti ut supra et pro partibus supradictis infrascriptum pretium cum omnibus et singulis dapmnis expensis et interesse propterea secutis vel factis dare, solvere, reddere et restituere a die videlicet evictionis quoquo modo secute vel sententie super evictione quoquo modo late ad tres dies tunc proxime secuturos Florentie, Prati, Pistorii, Luce, Senis, Pisis, Aretii, Perusii et alibi ubicumque locorum et terrarum dictus Bocchaccinus inventus vel conventus fuerit. Et promisit et convenit dictus Bocchaccinus venditor eisdem emptoribus vel eorum cuilibet stipulantibus et recipientibus ut supra, et pro partibus supradittis predictam vendictionem, traditionem, concessionem, promissionem et omnia et singula supracitata et eorum quodlibet firma habere et tenere et haberi et teneri facere et se in omnibus contra predicta dedit etc. Si vero contra predicta vel predictorum aliquid idem Bocchaccinus venditor dederit vel fecerit aut dabit vel faciet in futurum aut datum vel factum quomodolibet apparuerit in aliquo capitulo in loco seu publico presenti contractu supra vel etiam imposito aut si ut promissum est et superius expressum factum non erit, promisit et[330] convenit dictus Bocchaccinus eisdem Niccholo Vegne et Niccholao Pauli et cuilibet eorum stipulanti et recipienti ut supra, dare et solvere nomine pene et pena duplum infrascripti pretii et insuper florenos aurei quadringentos bonos et puros solepni stipulatione promisit cum refectione dapnorum etc. Que quidem pena totiens committatur et peti et exigi possit cum effectu quotiens contra predicta vel predictorum aliquid datum aut factum fuerit seu ventum vel predictorum aliquid non servatum.

Et pena soluta vel non, exacta vel non, una vice vel pluribus predicta omnia et singula firma perdurent; pro quibus omnibus et singulis observandis obtulit et constituit precario etc. Pro qua vero venditione, traditione et cessione et contractu et omnibus et singulis supradictis fuit in veritate confessus et contentus dictus Bocchaccinus venditor et non spe alicuius future numerationis habuisse et recepisse sibique datum solutum et numeratum fuisse et in presentia mei Notarii et infrascriptorum se habuit et recepit in quodam cono sigillato prout ipse Bocchaccinus confessus fuit tantam esse quantitatem nomine pretii et pretio a dicto Niccholo Vegne florenos aurei Ducentos quadraginta bonos et puros. Et a dicto Niccholao Pauli florenos dare centumdecem bonos et puros de quibus se dictus Bocchaccinus bene pagatum tacitum et contentum vocavit et dixit. Et quod plus valerent dicte res vendite pretio supradicto, dictus Bocchaccinus eisdem Niccholo Vegne et Niccholao Pauli et cuilibet eorum stipulanti et recipienti ut supra et partibus supradictis inter vivos et irrevocabiliter nulla de cetero ingratitudinis caussa obstante donavit. Insuper in agendo et contrahendo et exercendo predicto casu predictus Bocchaccinus per solepmnem stipulationem et pactum promisit et convenit eisdem Niccholo Vegne et Niccholao Pauli et cuilibet eorum stipulanti et recipienti ut supra se facturum et curaturum ita et taliter omni exceptione remota quod hinc ad octo dies proxime venturos seu infra ipsum tempus et terminum Biagius olim Pizzini dicti populi Sancte Felicitatis vel alius eque bonus et hinc ad unum mensem proxime venturum seu infra ipsum tempus et terminum Vanni eius frater et filius olim dicti Chelini dicti populi vel alius eque bonus et quilibet eorum in solidum et in totum predictis venditioni, traditioni, concessioni[331] proinde pretii soluti et confessati donationi, contractui, ed instrumento et omnibus et singulis supradictis actis, factis, gestis et promissis per dictum Bocchaccinum fideiubebunt et se principales constituent auctores et in omnibus et per omnia et quilibet eorum in solidum facient, promictent et se et eorum quemlibet in solidum obligaverunt ut ipse idem Bocchaccinus in presenti fecit promisit et se obligavit contractu. Que si non fecerit et fieri curaverit promisit et convenit dictus Bocchaccinus eisdem emptoribus et eorum cuilibet stipulanti et recipienti ut supra dare et solvere nomine pene et pro pena Florenos auri centum bonos et puros solepmni stipulatione promisit cum refectione dapmnorum etc. sub ypotecha et obventione etc. precario etc. et reservatione etc. Insuper dictus Bocchaccinus iuravit ad sancta Dei evangelia corporaliter tactis scripturis deo, et dictis emptoribus stipulantibus et recipientibus ut supra se non venire contra predicta vel predictorum aliquid seu contra ea vel eorum aliquid restitutionem aliquam in integrum impetrare seu petere occasione minoris pretii vel alia occasione quacumque. Set predicta omnia et singula totaliter et effectualitir observare et firma habere et tenere perpetuo promisit convenit etc. Actum Florentie in populo Sancte Felicitatis presentibus testibus Bene Manni populi Sancte Lucie de Ligliano plebatus Campoli Comitatus Florentie. Salimbene Benuccii dicti populi Sancte Felicitatis et Nerio Dati populi plebis Sancte Marie in Pineta comitatus predicti ad hec vocatis etc.

Item postea eodem die. Actum Florentie in domo habitationis dicti Bocchaccini sita in dicto populo Sancte Felicitatis presentibus tunc supradictis etc. Domina Margherita uxor dicti Bocchaccini et filia olim Jandonati de Martolis certificata ante omnia per me ipsum notarium de iure suo et omnibus et singulis infrascriptis cum consensu dicti Bocchaccini viri sui ibidem presentis, predictis venditionem, traditionem, concessionem, promissionem, oblationem pretii, solutionem et confessionem, donationi, contractui et instrumento et omnibus et singulis supradictis actis, factis, gestis, et promissis per dictum Bocchaccinum consensit et parabolam dedit, et omni iuri, ypothece, et cuilibet alii iuri eidem domine in dictis rebus venditis vel earum aliqua competentia seu spectantia occasione dotis et donationis suarum[332] vel alia occasione quacumque. Renuntiavit eisdem Niccholo Vegne et Niccholao Pauli et cuilibet eorum stipulanti et recipienti ut supra et pro partibus supradictis. Et promisit et convenit dicta domina Margherita cum consensu dicti sui viri eisdem emptoribus et cuilibet eorum stipulanti et recipienti ut supra nihil in dictis rebus venditis vel earum aliqua in perpetuum petere vel dicere nec aliquam litem molestiam vel gravamen inferre facere vel movere aliqua occasione iure vel modo in causa vel extra, curia vel extra vel aliquo alio modo qui dici vel exigi possit, et se nihil contra predicta dedit etc. sub pena dupli pretii supradicti et insuper Florenorum aurei quadringentorum sollepmni stipulatione promisit et refectione dapmnorum etc. sub ypotheca et obligatione etc. precario etc. et recusavit etc.

Item postea anno, die, et indictione predictis die vigesima prima mensis Maii actum Florentie in domo in qua Consules Artis Medicorum Spetiariorum et Merciariorum Civitatis Florentie morantur ad iura reddenda sita in populo Sancte Cecilie presentibus tunc S. Spigliato Dini Notario populi Sancte Margherite et Sandro Fioris Spine populi Sancte Marie in Campo de Florentia ad hec vocatis precibus et mandatis dicti Bocchaccini et pro eodem Bocchaccino Biagius olim Pizzini populi Sancte Felicitatis et Vanni olim Chelini de Certaldo dicti popuii et quilibet eorum in solidum et in totum predictis venditioni, traditioni, concessioni, promissioni, pretii solutioni, et confessioni, donationi, contractui et instrumento, et omnibus et singulis supradictis actis, factis, gestis, et promissis per dictum Bocchaccinum fideiusserunt et se et eorum quemlibet in solidum ipsarum rerum venditarum et cuiuslibet earum principales auctores et defensores constituerunt principaliter ei quilibet eorum in solidum et in totum promiserunt et convenerunt mihi Salvi notario infrascripto tamquam persone pubblice stipulanti et recipienti vice et nomine dictorum Nicchole Vegne et Niccholaj Pauli et cuiuslibet eorum pro partibus supradictis eorumque et cuiuscumque eorum heredibus habentibusque caussam ab eisdem se facturum et curaturum ita et taliter omni exceptione remota quod dictus Bocchaccinus pacifice et quiete permictet et permicti faciet dictos emptores et eorum quemlibet pro partibus supradictis eorum et cuiuslibet eorum heredibus habentibusque caussam ab eisdem ipsas res[333] venditas et earum quamlibet habere et lites et questiones in se suscipere et ipsas res venditas et earum quamlibet earumque et cuiuslibet earum obventionum defendet auctorizabit et disbrigabit, et predictam venditionem traditionem, concessionem, promissionem, et omnia et singula supradicta et eorum quodlibet firma habebit et tenebit et in omnibus et per omnia faciet, attendet et observabit ut promisit et superius continetur. Alioquin ipsi fideiussores et quilibet eorum in solidum et in totum promiserunt et convenerunt mihi Salvi Notario infrascripto tamquam persone pubblice stipulanti et recipienti ut supra pacifice et quiete permicti facere dictos emptores et eorum quemlibet pro partibus supradictis earumque et cuiuslibet eorum heredibus habentibusque caussam ab eisdem ipsas res venditas et earum quamlibet earumque et cuiuslibet earum obventionum habere et lites et questiones motas vel movendas in se suscipere, et ipsas res venditas et earum quamlibet earumque et cuiuslibet earum obventionum defendere auctorizzare et disbrigare et in omnibus et per omnia et quilibet eorum in solidum promiserunt et convenerunt et remiserunt et fecerunt mihi Notario stipulanti et recipienti ut supra ut ipse Bocchaccinus promisit convenit remisit et fecit ut supra continetur. Que si non fecerint et fieri curaverint promiserunt et convenerunt predicti fideiussores et quilibet eorum in solidum et in totum mihi iamdicto notario stipulanti et recipienti ut supra dare et solvere nomine pene et pro pena duplum pretii supradicti et insuper Florenos aurei quadringentos bonos et puros solepmni stipulatone promiserunt cum refectione dapmnorum etc. Que quidem pena totiens committatur et peti et exigi possit cum effectu quotquot contra predicta vel predictorum aliquid datum aut factum fuerit seu ventum vel predictorum aliquid non servatum, et pena soluta vel non, exacta vel non, una vice vel pluribus predicta omnia et singula firma perdurent sub ypoteca et obligatione etc. precario etc. eisdem etc. Insuper dicti Biagius et Vanni Fideiussores et quilibet eorum iuraverunt ad Sancta dei Evangelia corporaliter tactis scripturis se vel eorum aliquem non venturos contra predicta vel predictorum aliquid seu contra ea, vel eorum aliquid restitutionem aliquam in integrum impetrare seu petere occasione minoris pretii vel alia occasione quacumque, set predicta omnia[334] et singula totaliter et effectualiter observare et firma habere et tenere perpetuo quibus domino et fideiussoribus precepi per guarentigiam etc.

Estratto dalle imbreviature di ser Salvi Dini a 164 esistenti nel Pubblico Archivio dei Contratti.





Messer Gio. di Boccaccio gode in proprietà la Villa che fu del Sigr Berti a Corbignano ove pare che egli nascesse e cresciuto restasse invaghito della Vallata posta sotto il Convento de P. Pi MM. Osservanti della Doccia e poi si trasportasse ad abitare in Firenze e vi comprasse varie Case suo Padre. Si fa l' illustrazione del poema di Mo Gio. nel quale narrati gli amori e gli accidenti seguiti fra il fiume d' Affrico e Mensola e le fortune di Pruneo diloro figlio si trova la moderna e antica topografia dè detti luoghi e dell' origine dello Spedale di Bonifazio e del fine del Convento di S. Ma a Querceto e del giogo delle collinette luogo detto Monte.

Fra gli ammiratori del nostro Villaggio di Maiano e delle sue adiacenze fu il nostro celebre maestro della Toscana eloquenza Messer Giovanni di Boccaccio di Chellino da Certaldo, il quale fino dalla prima età e dipoi nel fiore della gioventù si trattenne molto tempo nella piccola villetta unita al podere, che possedeva suo padre pochi passi sotto il Sobborgo di Corbignano, che per la misura del suo lo goduto con essa, per il fossato che sbocca in Mensola, che lo divide, per i confini che lo specificano, e per le due Cure, una di S. Martino a Mensola, e l' altra di S. Maria a Settignano che vi esercitano la giurisdizione e vengono a individuarla altra non può essere che quella di Corbignano dè[336] Signori Berti posseduta di presente con titolo Livellare dal Signor Ottavio Ruggeri, come il tutto si può riscontrare dal Contratto di vendite della medesima, fatta per rogito di Ser Salvi Dini esistente all' Archivio Fiorentino del dí 18 Maggio 1336, allorchè il nostro Boccaccio si ritovava in età d' anni 23. Questa fiorita età del medesimo e le dolci compagnie di quella villeggiatura, chi sà che non gli infiammassero il cuore e nella sua commedia delle Ninfe Fiorentine, lo portassero ad encomiare e comparire nel Prologo sotto nome d' Ameto e principalmente a fissare lo sguardo a quella parte "dilettevole di graziose Ville e di campi fruttiferi copiosa, ove sorge un infruttuoso monte Corito nominato, prima che Atlante vi salisse; nelle piaggie del quale fra gli strabocchevoli balzi surgea d' alberi, di querce, di cerri, e di abeti, un folto bosco e disteso fino alla sommità del monte. Dalla sua destra un chiaro fiumicello, mosso dalla ubertà dei monti vicini, fra le pietrose valli, discendeva gridando vesso il piano: dove giunte le sue acque con l' Arno mescolando il poco avuto nome perdea." Per il monte di Corito non vi ha dubbio che egli intenda il monte di Fiesole, poichè nel fine dell' istessa commedia trattando delle guerre tra i Fiesolani e i Fiorentini successe nell' anno 1125 allorchè furono distrutti i Fiesolani colla loro rocca e accomunate le famiglie e l' insegne di questi due popoli. Egli dice che la fortuna "dante nè principj i beni con mano troppo larga a quelli di Corito, gli rendè invidiosi e tra loro determini della Jurisdizione della loro Città, nata mortale questione, nuove battaglie cominciaron tra popoli," e poco dopo parlando di Firenze, e de' suoi abitatori dice "che levatosi l' aspro giogo dè Coritani già sovrastanti per le indebolite virtudi si rintuzzarono le loro forze, che appena il monte erano usati di scendere." Per il fiumicello, il quale a chi riguarda il monte di Fiesole comparisce alla destra si conosce che egli intese il fiume d' Affrico, che ha l' origine e discende per le balze descritte; et Ameto chiamò Sarno il fiume d' Arno, in cui Affrico si sperde poichè rappresentava tempi così remoti, giusta il parere dello Storico Malaspina, allorchè il detto fiume non aveva ancora mutato il suo nome Sarno con quello d' Arno. "Era di piacevoli seni ed ombra graziosa la selva ripiena d' animali veloci, fierissimi, e paurosi, e in più parti di se abbondanti fontane[337] rigavano le fresche erbette. In questa selva sovente Ameto vagabondo giovane i Fauni, le Driadi abitatrici del luogo solea visitare. Et ella forse dalli vicini monti avuta antica origine quasi da carnalità costretto, di ciò avendo memoria con pietosi affetti gli onorava talvolta." Dice, che Ameto vagabondo giovane perchè forse dalli vicini monti avuta antica origine, quasi da umana simpatia costretto, e de ciò ricordandosi solea visitare ed onorare talvolta i Fauni e le Driadi abitatrici del luogo pieno di Ville, di fonti, di seni, e boschetti. E chi ne assicura, che il Boccaccio non fosse nato nella sua villa di Corbignano quivi poco distante? Infatti per quanto sia cognita l' età e in conseguenza la nascita del nostro Mo Giovanni di Boccaccio, nulladimeno però fino ad ora ne il Sigr Manni, ne altro Scrittore della sua vita hanno potuto indagare dove ei nascesse, non essendo stato procreato qual frutto di legittimo matrimonio, ma bensi quale aborto di malnata passione, come si può riscontrare dalla dispensa addomandata per farsi cherico, riferita nella storia d' Avignone e dalla dilui legittimazione narrata dal Sigr Della Rena. Io credo, che raccontandoci in figura d' Ameto il Boccaccio avere avuta forse l' origine nei colli vicini a Maiano, e che perciò spinto da natural simpatia andava spesso a visitare le Ninfe e le Driadi di quelle magioni, abbia voluto farci comprendere essere egli venuto alia luce nella sua piccola villetta unita al Podere posto parte nel popolo di S. Martino a Mensola, e parte di S. Maria a Settignano, e tramezzato dal fosso che forma con altri due fossi dipoi il fiume di Mensola presso il Borgo di Corbignano, distante circa a mezzo miglio dalle Ville di Maiano. Tuttociò si rende vie più credibile, quanto è naturale il persuadersi che il dilui genitore abbandonata la sua patria di Certaldo comprasse tosto quella villetta e podere di Corbignano, e che poi essendogli nato il nostro Messer Giovanni facesse acquisto circa al 1314 d' una Casa nella Città di Firenze presso quella porta, che conduceva alla sua Villetta, come si usava in quei tempi, e questa casa la scegliesse posta nel popolo di S. Pier Maggiore in via S. Maria e nel Gonfalone delle Chiavi come si scuopre dal libro delle Riformagioni segnato R. che tira dal 1313 al 1318 sotto di 10 Ottobre 1318 ove si ordina che detto Boccaccio sia levato dalla Libra delle gravezze di Certaldo, e resti aggravato in[338] quella di Firenze, per essere egli tornato ad abitarvi nel Gonfalone delle Chiavi dai quattro anni già scorsi. Questa casa del Boccaccio non può essere altro, che quella posta nel detto popolo di S. Pier Maggiore nella detta Via S. Maria presso la cantonata che fa la detta strada con la via del Giardino di proprietà in oggi dei P. Pi Minori Conventuali, scoperta da me per mezzo dei confini d' altra casa che le sta al fianco venduta nè tre Luglio 1333 per rogito di Ser Salvi Dini e descritta come Appo "Una Casa posta nel popolo di S. Pier Maggiore, ed in Via S. Maria cui a primo detta Via, a secondo, la Chiesa di S. Reparata, a terzo di Ruggero di Scotto o degli Albizi, a quarto, a tempo d' altra vendita delle medesima, seguita nel 25. Aprile 1326 per rogito de Sigr Bonacosa di Compagno etc. confinava Boccaccio da Certaldo e in oggi gli Eredi di Cino Bicchierai."

Osservandosi il contorno dei confini di questa Casa venduta si scuopre esser quella istessa che in' oggi è divenuta dell' Opera del Duomo che sta in mezzo all' altra, che ora, e fin di quel tempo è stata posseduta dall' Opera medesima che fa cantonata in via del Giardino, e dall' altra parte, vale a dire vesso mezzogiorno resta accanto alia Casa dei P. Pi di S. Croce di Firenze presentemente, e che in antico fu di proprietà del Boccaccio il quale bisogna che la vendesse poco dopo al 1326 poichè avendo egli emancipato Francesco, altro suo figlio, che si trovava vicino alia pubertà gli fece comprare nel 31. Agosto 1333 un altra casa in Firenze nel popolo di S. Felicità per rogito di Ser Salvi Dini, ove esso con i suoi figli abitò, e di cui parla il Signor Manni nella sua illustrazione, che confina a primo e secondo Via a terzo Domenico Barducci, a quarto Vanni di Cera e degli Eredi di Ghino Canigiani. Lo stesso Boccaccio fece poscia acquisto d' altra mezza Casa il di 13. Dicembre 1342 pei rogiti di Sigri Francesco di Ser Matteo, come si riscontra da un Libro di Gabella di detto tempo esistente nell' Archivio del Monte Comune di Firenze, la quale penso che sia quella posta nel popolo di S. Ambrogio donata dipoi alla Compagnia d' Orsanmichele, come dal registro della medesima principiato nel 1340 a N 133 si vede.

Dopo questa breve digressione torniamo a Fiesole coll' istesso[339] Giovanni di Boccaccio, il quale non solo nella sua Genealogia degli Dei, ma ancora nel Ninfale riconosce Atlante per fondatore della medesima, ed insieme nel suo poema Toscano, primo, che si trovi alla luce in ottava rima, rappresenta gli amori di Affrico e Mensola piccoli fiumicelle che irrigano la nostra celebre Campagna e mette in vista i casi veri, o finti che siano, seguiti nel contorno di Maiano situato in mezzo a questi due fiumi. Racconta egli adunque che

Pria che Fiesole fosse edificata

Di mura o di steccato o di fortezza

venne Diana Dea Cacciatrice in quelle vicinanze ed armata d' arco e di strali con gran corteggio di Driadi, e che era nel Mese di Maggio.

Quando la Dea Diana a Fiesol venne,

E con le Ninfe sue consiglio tenne

Intorno ad una bella e chiara fonte

Di fresca erbetta e di fiori intorniata.

La quale ancor dimora a piè del monte

Ceceri, che in quella parte che il Sol guata

Quand' è nel mezzogiorno a fronte a fronte,

E fonte è oggi quella nominata

Intorno a quella Diana ancor si volse

Essere, e molte Ninfe vi raccolse....

Incominciò la Dea la sua concione alle Ninfe compagne, esortandole al disprezzo e alla fuga degli uomini ed alla vita celibe, solitaria ed occupata nella caccia di Belve. Africo, che languiva d' amore per Mensola una delle Ninfe fra quelle più vistosa dell' altre, udendo nascoso tali consigli l' andava ricercando col cupido sguardo, e non avendola potuta scoprire ne ivi ne altrove già lasso e sbigottito:

E verso Fiesol volto piaggia a piaggia

Giudato dall' amor ne già pensoso,

Cercando la sua amante aspra e selvaggia,

Che faceva lui star maninconioso;

Ma pria che mezzo miglio passat' haggia

Ad un luogo perviene assai nascoso,

Dove una valle due monti divide

Quivi udi cantar Ninfe, e poi le vide.

Perchè senza iscoprisse s' appressava

Tanto che vidde donde uscia quel canto

Vidde tre Ninfe, che ognuna cantava

L' una era ritta e l' altre due in un canto


A un acquitrin, che il fiossato menava

Sedieno elle e lor gambe vidde al quanto,

Chi si lavavano i pie bianchi e belli

Con lor cantavan li dimolti uccelli.

Incontratosi Africo presso l' acquitrino, che per la valle scorrea interrogò le Ninfe per sapere qualche nuova di Mensola diloro compagna, ma veggendosi elleno scoperte dal pastorello piene di vergogna fuggirono senza darli risposta, esso le segue, nè le puote raggiungere e finalmente disperato.

Verso la casa sua prese la via.

Giunge tardi alla magione e inganna Calimena e Girafone suoi genitori sopra il motivo del suo ritardo; il tenero padre finse non avvedersi della passione del figlio ed esortollo a fuggire l' amore delle Ninfe come pericoloso, adducendoli in esemplo la vendetta presa da Diana con Mugnone suo genitore trasmutato in fiume per un tale delitto. Non curò il giovane gli avvertimenti del vecchio, nè l' esempio del nonno, e non avendo non che sfogata neppure sopita la sua fiamma per mezzo dei disprezzi istessi e delle repulse di Mensola che lo fuggiva, ma prendendo augurio di poter sodisfare le pazze brame dal sacrifizio fatto a Venere, che gli comparve scoprendoli la maniera d' ingannare la sua Ninfa ritrosa risolve di tutto azzardare per sodisfazione di sua follia. Prende ancor esso le spoglie e le divise di Ninfa, e trovata Mensola con la comitiva delle altre ingannandole tutte et infingendosi verginella si mette con esse a tirar dardi e a saettar per giuoco. Delusa Mensola scorre i boschi ed i monti di Fiesole con chi le tende le più terribili insidie.

Elle eran già tanto giù per lo colle

Gite, che eran vicine a quella valle

Che due monti divide——

Non furon guari le Ninfe oltre andate

Che trovaron due Ninfe tutte ignude

Che in un pelago d' acque erano entrate

Dove l' un monte con l' altro si chiude

E giunte li s' ebber le gonne alzate

E tutte quante entrar nell acque crude.

Ove ora risiedeva il pelagaccio sotto il Convento dei P. Pi della Doccia in questo bagno il giovanetto Africo in abito di Ninfa immersosi in compagnia di Mensola tradì la semplicità della verginella e la lasciò di se incinta. Fugge ella per la vergogna di tanto oltraggio e per l' inganno del garzoncello; smania[341] e paventa per lo timore di Diana, talchè avría detto di lei l' Ariosto:

Di selva in selva timida s' en vola

E di paura freme e di sospetto,

E ad ogui sterpo, che passando tocca

Esser le pare alla gran Diva in bocca.

Erivoltandosi contro l' insidiatore affermato che

Tra l' invita e natural furore

A spiegar l' unghie a insanguinar le labbia

Amor la intenerisce e la ritira

Affrico a rimirare in mezzo all' ira.

Prevasse all' odio al furore e alla paura l' amore talmente che promesse Mensola al pastorello di ritornare in quel luogo

Affrico se ne va inverso del piano

Mensola al Monte su pel colle tira,

Molto pensosa col suo dardo in mano

E del mal fatto forte ne sospira...

Cosi passò del gran mente la cima[716]

E poi scendendo giu per quella costa

Laddove il sol perquote quando prima

Si leva e che a Oriente e contrapposta

E secondo che il mio avviso stima

Era la sua caverna in quella posta,

Forse a un trar d' arco sopra il fiumicello

Che a piè vi corre un grosso ruscello.

A qual precipizio non conduce un forsennato amore! Tornò più volte Africo all ingannevole luogo insidioso; ma si trovò più volte deluso ancor esso dalla sua Ninfa, che non vi comparve; sicchè vinto infine dalla disperazione di rivederla,

E pervenuto a piede del vallone

E sopra all acque del fossato gito.

Disperato e pien di furore si trafisse col proprio dardo: dicendo

Io me ne vo all inferno angoscioso

E tu, fiume, terrai il nome mio

E manifesterai lo doloroso

Caso, ch' è occorso si crudele e rio

A chiunque ti vedrà si sanguinoso

Correre, o lasso, del mio sangue tinto

Paleserai dove amor m' ha sospinto.

L' infelice garzone cadde morto nell' acqua, e quella

Dal sangue tinta si divenne rossa,

Facea quel fiume siccome fa ancora

Di se due parti alquanto giù più basso.

[342] Presso alla maggior riviera, de cui era situata la casa di Girafone, sicchè l' onda che scorrea sanguinosa scuopri all' infelice padre la disgrazia del figlio; Mensola poi per lo peccato, e lo timor di Diana e delle Ninfe sue compagne nascosa e palpitante aspettava l' ora del parto; partori finalmente; ma in quel tempo appunto, che la Dea Cacciatrice essendo tornata a Fiesole e ne suoi contorni a rivedere le sue seguaci fra le quali non avendo ritrovata Mensola piena d' ira e sospetto la ricercava. Mensola occultò il piccolo figlio in una macchia fra i pruni (onde Pruneo fu chiamato) e si dette alia fuga; ma per il vagito del bambinello avendo scoperto Diana il di lei delitto; gridò

Tu non potrai fuggir le mie saette

Se l' arco tiro o sciocca peccatrice

Mensola già per questo non ristette

Ma fugge quanto puote alia pendice,

E giunta al fiume dentro vi si mette

Per valicarlo, na Diana dice

Certe parole e al fiume le manda

E che ritenga Mensola comanda.

La sventurata era già in mezzo all' acque

Quand ella i piè venir meno sentia

E quivi siccome a Diana piacque

Mensola in acqua allor si convertia

E poi sempre in quel fiume si giacque

Il nome suo, che ancora tuttavia

Per lei quel fiume Mensola è chiamato

Or v' ho del suo principio raccontato.

Dopo seguito l' atroce caso e l' orribile metamorfosi prese Diana quel piccolo pargoletto, che per essere stato trovato tra i pruni, Pruneo fu chiamato, e lo consegnò a Sinidechia scaltra vecchia ed informata del tutto abitante in quei contorni, che dopo lo condusse a Girafone e Calimena suoi avi, ai quale l' affido con gran premura, essi l' educarono con sommo amore e attenzione.

Passo allora Atlante in questa parte

D' Europa con infinita gente

Atlante fece allora fare

Una Città, che Fiesole chiamossi....

E tutti gli abitanti del paese

Atlante gli volle alla Cittade

Girafon quando questo fatto intese

Tosto n' andò con bona volontade

E menò seco il piacente, il cortese

Pruneo, etc. etc.

[343] Piacque fuor di misura Girafone ad Atlante perlochè lo dichiarò suo consigliere ed al giovane Pruneo dilui nipote:

Atlante gli pose tanto amore,

Veggendo ch' era si savio e valente,

Che Siniscalco il fe con grande onore

Sopra la terra, e sopra la sua gente,

E di tutto il paese guidatore,

Ed ei guidava si piacevolmente

Che da tutti era amato e benveduto

Tanto dava ad ogn' uno il suo dovuto

E gia più di venticinqu' anni avea

Quando Atlante gli diè per mogliera

Una fanciulla, la qual Tironea

Era il suo nome e figliola si era

D' un gran Baron, che con seco tenea

E dielli tutta ancor quella riviera

Che è in mezzo tra Mensola e Mugnone,

E questa fù la dote del garzone.

Pruneo fe far dalla Chiesa a Maiano

Un po di sopra un nobil casamento

D' onde ei vedeva tutto quanto il piano,

Et afforzollo d' ogui guernimento,

E quel paese ch' era molto strano

Tosto dimentico siccome sento, etc. etc.

Morirono dopo gli avi suoi Girafone e Calimena e Pruneo avendo avuti da sua moglie Tironea dieci figlinoli tutti gli accoppiò con vantaggioso Imeneo sicchè:

In molte genti questa schiatta crebbe

E sempre furon a Fiesol cittadini

Grandi e possenti sopra i lor vicini.

Morto Pruneo con grandissimo duolo

Di tutta la Città fu seppellito,

Così rimase a ciascun suo figliuolo

Tutto il paese libero e spedito,

Che Atlante donato avea a lui solo,

E bene l' ebbon tra lor dipartito

E sempre poi le schiatte di costoro

Signoreggiaron questo territoro.

Narrati gli amore, i casi, e le seguite trasformazione di Africo e Mensola, rappresentate nel Ninfale di Giovanni Boccaccio senza ricercare quello che abbia voluto indicare nel favoloso racconto noterò i luoghi descritti dal medesimo. Osservo che Diana colle sue seguaci conduce a tenere assemblea.

Intorno ad una bella e chiara fonte

Di fresche erbette e di fiori intorniata,

[344]La quale ancor dimora appiè del monte

Ceceri in quella parte, che il sol guata

Quand' è nel mezzodi a fronte a fronte,

E Fonte è oggi quella nominata, etc. etc.

Questa fonte è l' istessa chiamata modernamente Fonte all' erta, a piè e nel base di Monte Ceceri situata a Mezzogiorno e sotto la Villa dei Signori Pitti Gaddi, della qual fontana ora non se ne veggono che le scomposte mura, le rovine ed i vestigi nella pubblica strada al principio della costa; ma vivono persone, che mi hanno assicurato che circa all' anno 1710 ne fu deviata l' acqua procedente dal vivaio un po superiore alla medesima e dall' unione di quelle, che vi concorrevano d' altrove perchè infrigidiva i terreni sottoposti e noceva alle piante e alle raccolte dell istesso podere. Al tempo del nostro Boccaccio (chiamerò da qui avanti con tal nome benchè di suo padre il nostro Mo Giovanni) io trovo che questo podere con case, vivaio etc., esistente alla fine del piano di S. Gervasio fu venduto nel 5 Giugno 1370 per rogito di Sigre Ristoro di Jacopo da Figline, da Giovanni di Agostino degli Asini a Messer Bonifazio Lupo Marchese di Soragona e Cavaliere Parmigiano, che in quel tempo fu ascritto alla fiorentina cittadinanza, il quale spinto da lodevole pietà e grata riconoscenza alla repubblica fiorentina ottenne dalla medesima fino sotto li 23 Dicembre 1377 come attesta l' Ammirato nel Libro decimo terzo, di poter fondare lo Spedale in Via S. Gallo di detta città chiamato appunto di Bonifazio dal nome de sì pio e grato benefattore; fu posto questo Spedale nel luogo comprato sino ne 2 Febbraio 1309 da Messer Giovanni del già Migliore dè Chiaramontesi di Firenze per edificare il Monastero e Convento di S. Maria a Querceto per rogito di Ser Benedetto di Maestro Martino come si vede dall' Archivio dell' Arcivescovado e dagli spogli del Migliore, le quale Monache vi tornarono e vi si trovavano ancora nell' anno della peste del 1348 come per i rogiti di Ser Lando di Ubaldino da Pesciola del 4 Maggio 1336, e di Ser Benvenuto di Cerreto Maggio del dì 24 Marzo 1346, e d' altri si riscontra, e dopo molto tempo Eugenio Quarto uni ed assegnò al predetto Spedale il detto monastero e Monache di Querceto quivi contigue come dallo Zibaldone di No. 90 Del Migliore a 127 e 202 nella Magliabechiana[345] si può vedere. Ecco scoperto il luogo ove declamava Diana (ma senza frutto) se riguardo a Mensola che all' altre Ninfe di quei contorni, poiche io osservo, che tutti quei villeggianti s' imparentavano e sposavano le zittelle dei villeggianti vicini. Partito Africo dalla fonte predetta salendo verso Fiesole, traversando la costa formata da più effetti della Casa Albizi, Covoni, Asini ed altre posti tanto nel popolo della Canonica, che della Badia di Fiesole e di S. Gervasio dei quali per non tediare non produrrò i Contratti ritrovati, quali Poderi tutti si denominano Monte negli antichi Istrumenti per essere situati sul poggio ove risiede in oggi il Convento di S. Domenico. E dopo tal viaggio giunse il pastorello alla Valle formata da questo giogo dè Colli di Fiesole; e da quelle degli altri di Maiano sotto la Doccia, chiamata nel Decamerone la Valle delle Donne di cui in seguito ragioneremo. Le acque delle superiori piagge che scorrevano, formavano gli acquitrini, quali si univano e davano l' origine al fiume d' Affrico ed in uno di questi acquitrini vidde il pastorelle le Ninfe lavarsi le piante, e che s' involarono da lui tostochè lo scopersero; onde afflitto e turbato scese verso la pianura di detta Valle e tornò alla sua magione. Venere lo speranza, egli si traveste da Ninfa cerca di Mensola, la ritrova, gira con essa verso le cime del Monte di Fiesole saettando per giuoco, ritorna al pelago sotto la Doccia nella valle vede le Ninfe che si bagnavano s' immerge ancor esso con la compagna nelle acque, e quivi principiano le comuni sciagure. Questo luogo pare, che sia devenuto cosi famoso nell' antichità e nei tempi del nostro Boccaccio da potere aver comunicata la denominazione agli stessi fondi di terreni che lo compongono, o perchè fosse ivi seguito qualche accidente che avesse dato luogo al favoloso poema, o perchè la favola istessa sia stata forse adattata al luogo medesimo. Infatti io ritrovo nei rogiti di Ser Roberto di Talento da Fiesole del 27 Novembre 1347 e del 28 Maggio 1352 descritto un podere di Tuccio del già Diedi de Falconieri posto verso Ponente e perciò nel popolo della Canonica di Fiesole con Case etc. chiamato il Bagno allo Scopetino, ed in quelli di Ser Giovanni Bencini da Montaione si vede una reciproca donazione fra Andreola, figlia del già Carlo dei Pazzi, e Vedova di Piero di Cione Ridolfi e Carlo Pazzi suo[346] fratello, di più luoghi, fra i quali si trova un podere nel popolo di S. Martino a Maiano luogo detto la Valle al Bagno, fino sotto di II Luglio 1343. Di più nel libro F Primo a ć 76 della Gabella dei Contratti si osserva nè dì II Dicembre 1349 per rogito di Ser Francesco di Bruno di Vico Dal Pozzo, che Ma Dolce figlia di Mannino e Vedova di Bindo Buonaveri (famiglia molto illustre di Firenze) vendè a Ma Simona Pinzochera di S. Maria Novella, e Sorella di Cenni di Giotto, ma non del pittore, per fiorini 500 d' oro un podere etc., posto nel popolo di S. Martino a Maiano luogo detto la Valle del Bagno in Affrico. Nel Decamerone veggo descritta dal Boccaccio questa medesima Valle, e che la medesima adunanza d' acque in essa valle, che due "di quelle montagnette divideva, e cadeva giù per balzi di pietra viva, e cadendo facea un rumore a udire assai dilettevole, e sprizzando parea da lungi ariento vivo, che d' alcuna cosa premutta minutamente sprizzasse; e come giù al piccol pian pervenire, così quivi in un bel canaletto raccolta infino al mezzo del piano velocissima discorreva ed ivi faceva un piccol laghetto quale talvolta per modo di vivaio fanno ne lor giardini i Cittadini che di ciò hanno destro." Il podere con casa etc., etc., posto nel popolo di S. Martino a Maiano che gode di presente la Signora Berzichelli, Vedova del già Signor Barone Agostino Del Nero, nella Valle d' Ameto e delle Donne, e presso addove s' unisce il poggio della Doccia con quel di Maiano, si chiama il Vivaio, e più Vivaietti e Acquitrini si trovano in quella valle sovrabbondante di acque, le quali dettero varie denominazioni ad esse allusive di luoghi circonvicini, e credo, che il detto luogo sia il medesimo, che donò una volta Ma Andreola de' Pazzi al suo fratello, e dipoi pervenuto in Ma Dolce, Vedova del Bonavieri, lo vendè alla figlia di Giotto suddetto, situato d' appresso all' altro del Falconieri. Quest' effetto acquistarono i Signori Del Nero del Sigr Jacopo del Feo nel 1568 in cui era passato nel 1559 dal Sigr Niccolo di Filippo Valori, e questo lo avea descritto in suo conto alla Decima del 1498 nel Gonfalone delle Chiavi a 176. Questo Jacopo di Feo di Savona ebbe per moglie Caterina Sforza de' Duchi di Milano naturale, Vedova Girolamo Riario Signore di Forlì e poi rimaritata a Gio. di Pier Francesco de' Medici e Nonna percio di Cosimo I Gran[347] Duca di Toscana. Mensola intimorita varca il poggio in cui risiede Maiano e si nasconde nel suo refugio sotto le cave in faccia a Levante ed al piano di Novoli presso del Fiume, Affrico all' incontro scende verso la pianura, e dopo esser tornato e ritornato poi vesso del pelago disperato per non avere rintracciata la Ninfa si trafigge col proprio dardo vicino alla magione di Girafone suo padre posta sul ramo maggiore, uno chiamato Affrico e l' altro Affricuzzo, che poi s' uniscono insieme formandone il suo fiume presso allo sbocco della valle predetta. Altro per ora non resta da notarsi sopra la Topografia del racconto, poichè nato il figlio Pruneo e trasmutata da Diana in pena del delitto nel fiume che porta il suo nome, Mensola sua Madre, e dalla disperazione il padre in quello d' Affrico, fu chiamato dipoi questo pargoletto Pruneo dall' essere stato scoperto fra i pruni dalla Dea. Nel corso degli anni comparve a Fiesole Atlante ed edificò quella Città, ed a questo fanciullo, già fatto adulto, diede per moglie Tironea, e per dote tutto il paese collocato fra il Fiume Mensola e quel di Mugnone.




This acrostic consists of three ballate composed by reading the first letters of the first verses of each terzina throughout the poem.


Mirabil cosa forse la presente

Vision vi parrà, donna gentile,

A riguardar, sì per lo novo stile

Sì per la fantasia ch' è nella mente.

Rimirandovi un dì subitamente

Bella, leggiadra et in abit' umile,

In volontà mi venne con sottile

Rima trattar parlando brievamente.

Adunque a voi, cui tengo Donna mia,

Et chiu sempre disio di servire,

La raccomando, madama Maria:

E prieghovi, se fosse nel mio dire

Difecto alcun, per vostra cortesia

Correggiate amendando il mio fallire.

Cara Fiamma, per cui 'l core ó caldo,

Que' che vi manda questa Visione

Giovanni è di Boccaccio da Certaldo.


Il dolce immaginar che 'l mio chor face

Della vostra biltà, donna pietosa,

Recam' una soavità sì dilectosa,

Che mette lui con mecho in dolce pace.

Poi quando altro pensiero questo disface

Piangemi dentro l' anim' angosciosa,

Cercando come trovar possa posa,

Et sola voi disiar le piace.

Et però volend' i' perseverare

Pur nello 'nmaginar vostra biltate,

Cerco con rime nuove farvi onore.


Questo mi mosse, Donna, a compilare

La Visione in parole rimate,

Che io vi mando qui per mio amore.

Fatele onor secondo il su' valore

Avendo a tempo poi di me pietate.


O chi che voi vi siate, o gratiosi

Animi virtuosi,

In cui amor come 'n beato loco

Celato tene il suo giocondo focho;

I' vi priego c' un poco

Prestiate lo 'ntelletto agli amorosi

Versi, li quali sospinto conposi,

Forse da disiosi

Voler troppo 'nfiammato: o se 'l mio fioco

Cantar s' imvischa nel proferer broco,

O troppo è chiaro o roco,

Amendatel' acciò che ben riposi.

Se in sè fructo, o forse alcun dilecto

Porgesse a vo' lector, ringratiate

Colei, la cui biltate

Questo mi mosse affar come subgiecto.

E perchè voi costei me' conosciate,

Ella somigli' amor nel su' aspecto,

Tanto c' alcun difecto

Non v' à a chi già 'l vide altre fiate;

E l' un dell' altro si gode di loro

Ond' io lieto dimoro.

Rendete allei il meritato alloro,

E più non dic' omai,

Perchè decto mi par aver assai.




In Dei nomine amen. Anno Domini millesimo trecentesimo septuagesimo quarto, indictione duodecima, secundum cursum et consuetudinem Florentiæ. Tempore domini Gregorii, divina providentia Pape XI, die vigesimo octavo mensis augusti. Actum Florentiæ in ecclesia et populo Sanctæ Felicitatis, presentibus testibus Pazino Alessandri De Bardis populi Sanctæ Mariæ supra Arnum de Florentia, Angelo Niccoli dicti populi Sanctæ Felicitatis, Andrea Biancardi, Orlandino Jacobi, Burando Ugolini, Francisco Tomasi, omnibus dicti populi Sanctæ Felicitatis, et Brunellacio Bianchini de Certaldo, comitatus Florentiæ, ad infrascripta vocatis et rogatis et ab infrascripto testatore suo proprio hore [sic] habitis et rogatis et aliis suprascriptis.

Cum nil sit certius morte et incertius ora mortis et actestante veritate, vigilare sit opus, cum diem ignoremus et horam qua qua [sic] homo sit moriturus idcircho venerabilis et egregius vir dominus Johannes olim Boccacii de Certaldo Vallis Elsæ, comitatus Florentiæ, sanus mente, corpore et intellectu, suorum bonorum dispositionis per presens nuncupativum testamentum sine scriptis in hunc modum facere procuravit.

In primis quidem recomendavit animam suam Deo omnipotenti et beatæ Mariæ semper Virgini gloriosæ et sepulturam sui corporis si eum mori contigerit in civitate Florentiæ elegit in ecclesia Fratrum Sancti Spiritus Ordinis heremitarum Sancti Augustini de Florentia, in eo loco ubi videbitur magistro Martino in sacra theologia, venerabili Magistro dicti Ordinis. Si autem mori contigerit in castro Certaldi, judicavit corpus suum sepelliri in ecclesia Sancti Jacobi de Certaldo, in ea parte ubi videbitur actinentibus et vicinis suis.


Item reliquit ecclesiæ Sanctæ Reparate de Florentia soldos decem florenorum parvorum.

Item reliquit constructioni murorum civitatis Florentiæ soldos decem florenorum parvorum.

Item reliquit societati Sanctæ Mariæ de Certaldo libras quinque florenorum parvorum.

Item reliquit constructioni seu operi ecclesiæ Sancti Jacobi de Certaldo pro remedio animæ suæ et suorum parentum libras decem florenorum parvorum.

Item reliquit Brunæ filiæ Cianchi de Montemagno, quæ antiquitus moram traxit cum eo, unum lectum in quo ipsa erat consueta dormire in castro Certaldi, cum letteria, cultrice, pimacio [sic] una coltre alba parva at usum dicti letti cum uno pario litiaminum, cum pancha que consueta est stare iuxta lettum predictum.

Item unum dischum parvum pro comedendo de nuce, duas tabolettas [sic] usitatis longitudinis trium brachiorum pro qualibet.

Item duas tovagliuolas.

Item unum botticellum capacitatis trium salmarum vini.

Item unam robam Panni Monachini foderatam zendadi porperini, unam gonellam, guarnachiam et caputeum et sibi Brunæ etiam de omni eo, quod a dicto testatore restat habere occasione sui salarj.

Item voluit, disposuit et mandavit et reliquit omnibus et singulis hominibus et personis qui reperirentur descripti in quodam suo libro signato A debentibus aliquid recipere vel habere a dicto testatore, et omnibus aliis, qui legiptime ostenderent debere habere, non obstante quod non reperirentur descripti in dicto libro, quod eis et cuilibet ipsorum satisfiat per infrascripto eius executores de massaritiis, rebus et bonis dicti testatoris, exceptis libris dicti testatoris, et maxime de una domo posita in Certaldo, cui a primo via vocata Borgho, a secundo Fornaino Andree domini Benghi de Rubeis, a tertio la Via Nuova, a quarto dicti testatoris vendenda per infrascriptos ejus executores vel majorem partem ipsorum, et si hoc non sufficeret, possint vendere de aliis suis bonis.

Item reliquit venerabili fratri Martino de Signa, Magistro in[352] sacra theologia, conventus Sancti Spiritus Ordinis heremitarum Sancti Augustini omnes suos libros, excepto Breviario dicti testatoris cum ista condictione, quod dictus Magister Martinus possit uti dictis libris, et de eis exhibere copiam cui voluerit, donec vixerit, ad hoc ut ipse teneatur rogare Deum pro anima dicti testatoris, et tempore suæ mortis debeat consignare dictos libros conventui fratrum Sancti Spiritus, sine aliqua diminutione, et debeant micti in quodam armario dicti loci et ibidem debeant perpetuo remanere ad hoc ut quilibet de dicto conventu possit legere et studere super dictis libris, et ibi scribi facere modum et formam presentis testamenti et facere inventarium de dicti libris.

Item reliquit et dari voluit et assignari per infrascriptos ejus executores, et majorem partem ipsorum superviventem ex eis, Monasterio fratrum Sanctæ Mariæ de Sancto Sepulcro dal Pogetto sive dalle Campora extra muros civitatis Florentie omnes et singulas reliquias sanctas, quæ dictus dominus Johannes, magno tempore, et cum magno labore, procuravit habere de diversis mundi partibus.

Item reliquit operariis ecclesiæ Sancti Jacobi de Certaldo pro dicta ecclesia recipientibus unam tabulum alebastri Virginis Mariæ, unam pianetam cum istola et manipolo zendadi vermigli, unum palium parvum pro altare drappe vermigli, cum uno guancialetto pro altare cum tribus guainis corporalium.

Item unum vasum stagni pro retinendo aquam benedictam.

Item unum paliettum parvum drappi, foderatum cum fodera zendadi gialli.

Item reliquit dominæ Sandræ, uxori Francisci Lapi Bonamichi unam tavolettam in qua est pictum signum Virginis Mariæ cum suo filio in brachio et ab alio latere uno teschio di morto.

In omnibus autem aliis suis bonis mobilibus et immobilibus presentibus et futuris, Boccacium et Antonium ejus nepotes et filios Jacobi Boccacii predicti de Certaldo equis portionibus, sibi universales heredes instituit et omnes alios filios et filias, tam natos quam nascituros de dicto Jacobo ex legiptima uxore dicti Jacobi una cum dictis Boccacio et Antonio equis portionibus sibi heredes instituit cum pacto quod omnes fructus et redditus bonorum dicti testatoris debeant duci in domo dicti Jacobi, prout dictus Jacobus voluerit, ad hoc ut possit alere se et ejus[353] uxorem et filios, quos tunc habebit, et hoc quoque pacto quod suprascripti ejus heredes non possint, audeant, vel presumant directe, vel indirecte, tacite vel expresse vendere vel alienare de bonis dicti testatoris, nisi excesserint ætatem triginta annorum, et tunc cum consensu dicti Jacobi eorum patris, si tunc viveret, salvo quod in casu in quo vellent nubere aliquam vel aliquas eorum sorores, et tunc fiat cum consensu infrascriptorum tutorum.

Et simili modo mandavit infrascriptis suis heredibus ne aliquo tempore donec, et quousque invenirentur de discendentibus Bocchaccii Chellini patris dicti testatoris, et dicti Jacobi per lineam masculinam, etiam posito quod non essent legiptimi, possint audeant vel presumant vendere vel alienare domum dicti testatori, positam in populo Sancti Jacobi de Certaldo, confinatam a primo Via Publica, Chiamato [sic] Borgho a secundo dicti testatoris, a tertio la Via Nuova, a quarto Guidonis Johannis de Machiavellis.

Item unum petium terræ laborativæ et partim vineatæ positum in comuni Certaldi in dicto populo Sancti Jacobi loco dicto Valle Lizia cui a primo Fossatus, a secundo dicti testatoris et Rustichelli Nicolai a tertio dicti testatoris, a quarto Andrea vocato Milglotto.

Tutores seu defensores dictorum heredum Bocchacii et Antoni licet de jure non expedit reliquit, fecit et esse voluit Jacobum Lapi Gavaciani, Pierum Dati de Canigianis, Barducium Cherichini, Franciscum Lapi Bonamichi, Leonardum Chiari domini Bottis, Jacobum Boccacii et Angelum Turini Benciveni cives florentinos et majorem partem ipsorum superviventem in eis.

Executores autem dicti testamenti reliquit, fecit et esse voluit fratrem Martinum de Signa predictum, Barducium Cherichini, Franciscum Lapi Bonamichi Angelum Turini Bencivenni, Jacobum Bocchacii cives Florentinos et majorem partem ipsorum superviventum ex eis, dans et concedens dictus testator dictis suis executoribus et majori parti ipsorum non obstantibus omnibus supradictis plenam baliam et liberam potestatem de bonis dicti testatoris pro hujusmodi executione sequenda et adimplenda vendendi et alienandi et pretium recipiendi et confitendi et de evictione bonorum vendendorum promictendi tenutam et corporalem possessionem dandi et tradendi jura et actiones dandi[354] et vendendi et quamlibet quantitatem pecunie petendi et recipiendi et finem et remissionem de receptis faciendi, et si opus fuerit coram quibuscumque rogandi, agendi et defendendi, et omnia faciendi quæ sub agere et causari nomine et principaliter ordinaverit et omnia alia faciendi quæ in predictis fuerint opportuna.

Et hanc suam ultimam voluntatem asseruit esse velle, quam valere voluit jure testamenti, quod si jure testamenti non valeret, seu non valebit, valeat et valebit, et ea omnia valere jussit et voluit jure codicillorum, et cujuscumque alterius ultime voluntatis, quo et quibus magis valere et tenere potest, seu poterit, cassans, irritans et annullans omne aliud testamentum, et ultimam voluntatem actenus per eum conditum, non obstantibus aliquibus verbis derogationis inscriptis in illo vel illis, quorum omni etiam derogatione idem testator asseruit se penitere, et voluit hoc presens testamentum et ultimam voluntatem prevalere omnibus aliis testamentis, actenus per eum conditis, quo et quibus magis et melius valere et tenere potest seu poterit.

Ego Tinellus filius olim ser Bonasere de Pasignano, civis fiorentinus, imperiali auctoritate judex ordinarius et notarius publicus predictis omnibus dum agerentur interfui, et ea rogatus scripsi et publicavi, in quorum etc. me subscripsi.





Creighton, M.

In The Academy, vol. i (London, 1875), p. 570. A review of Corazzini: Le Lettere edite e inedite.

Dubois, H.

Remarks on the Life and Writings of Boccaccio (London, 1804).

Hewlett, Maurice.

Giovanni Boccaccio as Man and Author, in The Academy, vol. xlvi (1894), pp. 469-70.

Hutton, Edward.

Giovanni Boccaccio. Introduction to The Decameron in The Tudor Translations (London, 1909).

Hutton, Edward.

Country Walks about Florence (London, 1908).

Deals with the Casa di Boccaccio, Poggio Gherardo, and Villa Palmieri.

Landor, W. S.

The Pentameron, or Interviews of Messer Giovanni Boccaccio and Messer Francesco Petrarca, etc. etc. (London). Cf. also The Quarterly Review, vol. lxiv (1839), pp. 396-406.

Owen, J.

The Skeptics of the Italian Renaissance (London, 1893), pp. 128-47.


Preston, H. W., and Dodge, L.

Studies in the Correspondence of Petrarch, in The Atlantic Monthly (Boston, U.S.A.), vol. lxxii (1893), pp. 89, 284, and 395.

Robinson, J. H., and Rolfe, H. W.

Petrarch, the First of Modern Scholars, etc. (New York and London, Putnams, 1898).

A selection from his correspondence with Boccaccio and others.

Ross, Janet.

A Stroll in Boccaccio's Country, in National Review, May, 1894, pp. 364-71.

Deals with the country about Fiesole and Settignano, where Boccaccio spent his earliest childhood.

Symonds, J. A.

Giovanni Boccaccio as Man and Author (London, 1895).

This was, till the publication of the present work, the fullest account of Boccaccio in English; but it is untrustworthy and altogether unworthy of the author.

Wilkins, E. H.

Calmeta, in Modern Language Notes, vol. xxi, no. 7.

Mr. Wilkins tries to identify Calmeta with Andalò di Negro. See supra, p. 20.



The Decameron of Boccaccio, in The Edinburgh Review (1893).


Novels of the Italian Renaissance, in The Edinburgh Review (1897).


Boccaccio as a Quarry, in The Quarterly Review, (1898), p. 188.


Collier, J. P.

The History of Patient Grisel: two early tracts in black-letter, with introd. and notes. Publications of the Percy Society, vol. iii (London, 1842).

Cotte, C.

An Old English Version of the Decameron, in The Athenæum (1884), no. 2954.

Cunliffe, J. W.

Gismond of Salern. Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, vol. xxi (1906), part 2.

This deals with the origins of Decameron, iv, 1.

Dibdin, T. F.

The Bibliographical Decameron (London, 1817).

Deals with editions of the Decameron, the Fiammetta, and the Ameto.

Einstein, Lewis.

The Italian Renaissance in England (New York, 1902).

Deals with the influence of Boccaccio on English Renaissance Literature.

Garnett, R.

A History of Italian Literature (London, 1898).

Cap. vii deals with Boccaccio.

Kuhns, O.

Dante and the English Poets from Chaucer to Tennyson (New York, 1904).

The author speaks also of Boccaccio.

MacMechan, M.

The Relation of Hans Sachs to the Decameron (Halifax, 1889).

Melhuish, W. F.

Boccaccio's "Genealogy of the Gods," in The Bookworm, (1890), pp. 125-8.

Neilson, A. W.

The Origins and Sources of the Court of Love, in Harvard Studies and Notes in Philology and Literature, vol. vi (1899).


Neilson, A. W.

The Purgatory of Cruel Beauties: a Note on Decameron, v, 8, in Romania, xxix, p. 85 et seq. (1900).

Scott, F. N.

Boccaccio's "De Genealogia Deorum" and Sidney's Apologie, in Modern Language Notes, vi (1891), part iv.

Spingarn, J. E.

A History of Literary Criticism in the Renaissance (New York, 1899).

Stillmann, W.

The Decameron and its Villas, in The Nineteenth Century, August, 1899.

Symonds, J. A.

The Renaissance in Italy, vol. iv (Italian Literature), (London, 1881).

Toynbee, Paget.

Benvenuto da Imola and the Iliad and Odyssey, in Romania, vol. xxix (1900), No. 115.

Toynbee, Paget.

The Bibliography of Boccaccio's Genealogia Deorum, in Athenæum, 1899, No. 3733.

Wagner, C. P.

The Sources of El Cavallero Cifar, in Revue Hispanique, vol. x (1903), Nos. 33-4, p. 4 et seq.

Wiltshire, W. H.

The master of the subjects in the Bocace of 1476, in Catalogue of Early Prints in the Brit. Mus., vol. ii, p. 113 et seq. (London, 1883).

Woodbridge, E.

Boccaccio's Defence of Poetry as contained in Lib. XIV of the De Genealogia Deorum, in Pub. of the Mod. Lang. Assoc. of America, vol. xiii (1900), part 3.



Cook, A. S.

The Opening of Boccaccio's Life of Dante, in Modern Language Notes, vol. xvii (1902), pp. 276-9.

Dinsmore, C. A.

Aids to the Study of Dante (Boston, 1903). Cap. ii speaks of Boccaccio's life of Dante.

Moore, E.

Dante and his Early Biographers (London, 1890). Cap. ii deals with the Life and lives attributed to Boccaccio, pp. 4-5.

Smith, T. R.

The Earliest Lives of Dante, translated from the Italian of Giovanni Boccaccio and Leonardo Bruni Aretino (New York, 1901).

Toynbee, P.

Boccaccio's Commentary on the Divina Commedia, in Mod. Lang. Rev. (Cambridge, 1907), vol. ii, p. 97 et seq.

Wicksteed, P. H.

The Early Lives of Dante (London, 1907).

Witte, K.

The Two Versions of Boccaccio's Life of Dante, in Essays on Dante, etc., p. 262 et seq. (London, 1898).





The standard histories, e.g. Cambridge History of English Literature; Jusserand, Histoire Littéraire du Peuple Anglaise; and Ten Brink, English Literature, I have not mentioned.


Axon, W. E. A.

Italian Influence on Chaucer. In Chaucer Memorial Lectures (London, Asher, 1900).

Bryant, A.

Did Boccaccio Suggest the Character of Chaucer's Knight? In Modern Language Notes, vol. xvii (1902), part 8.

Buchheim, C. A.

Chaucer's Clerke's Tale and Petrarch's Version of the Griselda Story. In Athenæum, 1894, No. 3470, p. 541 et seq.

Child, C. G.

Chaucer's House of Fame, and Boccaccio's Amorosa Visione. In Modern Language Notes, vol. x (1895), part 6, pp. 190-2.

Child, C. G.

Chaucer's Legend of Good Women and Boccaccio's De Genealogia Deorum. In Modern Language Notes, vol. xi (1896).


Clerke, E. M.

Boccaccio and Chaucer. In National Review, vol. viii (1886), p. 379.

Hamilton, G. L.

The Indebtedness of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde to Guido delle Colonne's Historia Troiana (New York, 1903). Speaks of the Filostrato.

Hammond, E. P.

Chaucer: a Bibliographical Manual (New York, 1908).

This is a splendid piece of work. For Chaucer and Boccaccio, see pp. 80-81, 151-2, 270-3, 305-7, 398-9, 486-7.

Jusserand, J. J.

Did Chaucer meet Petrarch? In The Nineteenth Century, No. 232 (1899), pp. 993-1005.

Ker, W. P.

Essays in Mediæval Literature (London, 1906).

Koch, Johann.

Essays on Chaucer, pp. 357-417 (1878).

Launsbury, Thos.

Studies in Chaucer, his Life and Writings, p. 235 (London, 1892).

Lowes, J. L.

The Prologue of the Legend of Good Women considered in Chronological Relation.

Publications of Mod. Lang. Ass. of America, vol. xx (1906).

Mather, A.

Chaucer in Italy. In Modern Language Notes, vol. xi (1896).

Ogle, G.

Gualtherus and Griselda, or The Clerke of Oxford's Tale, from Boccace, Petrarch, and Chaucer (Bristol, 1739).


Palgrave, F. T.

Chaucer and the Italian Renaissance. In The Nineteenth Century, vol. xxiv (1838), pp. 350-9.

Rossetti, W. M.

Chaucer's Troylus and Criseyde (from Harl. M.S., 3943), compared with Boccaccio's Filostrato. Chaucer Society (Trübner), part 1, 1875—part 2, 1883.

Tatlock, J.

Chaucer's Vitremyte. In Modern Language Notes, vol. xxi (1906), p. 62.

Tatlock, J.

The Dates of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde. In Modern Philology (Chicago, 1903).

Ward, A. W.

Chaucer, (London, 1879), p. 166.


Ballmann, O.

Chaucers einfluss auf das englische drama im Zeitalter der Königen Elisabeth und der beiden ersten Stuart-Könige. In Anglia, Zeitschrift für Eng. Philologie, xxv (1902), p. 2 et seq.

Bellezza, P.

Introduzione allo studio de' fonti italiani di G. Chaucer, etc. (Milano, 1895).

Chiarini, C.

Dalle "Novelle di Canterbury" di G. Chaucer (Bologna, 1897).

Chiarini, C.

Intorno alle "Novelle di Canterbury" di G. Chaucer. In Nuova Antologia, vol. lxxii (1897), fasc. 21, p. 148, and fasc. 22, p. 325.


Demogoet, J.

Histoire des littératures étrangères considérées dans leurs rapports avec le développement de la littérature française. Littératures Méridionales. Italie-Espagne (Hachette, 1880). See cap. vi.

Engel, E.

Geschichte der englischen Litteratur von ihren Anfangen bis auf die neueste Zeit mit einem Anhange: Die amerikanische Litteratur (Leipzig, 1883).

Vol. iv of the Geschichte der Weltlitteratur in Einzeldarstellung. At pp. 54-76, Boccaccio and Chaucer are spoken of; at p. 133, Boccaccio and Sackville; at p. 263, Boccaccio and Dryden, etc.

Fischer, R.

Zu den Kunstformen des mittelalterlichen Epos. Hartmann's Iwein, Das Nibelungenlied, Boccaccio's Filostrato und Chaucer's Troylus und Cryseide. In Weiner Beiträge zur Englischen Philologie, vol. ix (1898).

Hortis, A.

Studj sulle opere Latine di Gio. Boccaccio con particolare riguardo alla storia dell' erudizione nel medioevo e alle litterature straniere (Trieste, 1879).

Kissner, A.

Chaucer in seinen Beziehungen zur italienischen Litteratur (Bonn, 1867).

This is the only general study of Chaucer's indebtedness to Italy.

Koch, T.

Chaucer Schriften. In Englische Studien, vol. xxxvi (1905), part i, pp. 131-49.

Koch, J.

Ein Beitrag zur Kritik Chaucers. In Englische Studien, vol. i (1877), pp. 249-93.


Koeppel, Emil.

Boccaccio's Amorosa Visione. In Anglia (under Chauceriana), vol. xiv (1892), pp. 233-8.

Landau, Marc.

Beiträge zur Geschichte der italienischen Novelle (Vienna, 1875).
Especially iv, 5.

Mounier, M.

La Renaissance de Dante à Luther (Paris, 1884).

See p. 183 et seq. for Boccaccio and Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dryden.

Rajna, P.

Le origini della novella narrata dal "Frankeleyn" nei Canterbury Tales del Chaucer. In Romania, xxxii (1903), pp. 204-67.

Refers to Decameron, v, 5.

Segré, C.

Chaucer e Boccaccio. In Fanfulla della Domenica, vol. xxii (1900), p. 47.

Segré, C.

Studi petrarcheschi (Firenze, 1903).

Torraca, F.

Un passo oscuro di G. Chaucer. In Journal of Comparative Literature, vol. i (1903).

Von Wlislocki, H.

Vergleichende Beiträge zu Chaucers Canterbury-Geschichten. In Zeitschrift für vergleichende Litteraturgeschichte und Ren. Litt., N.S., ii (1889), pp. 182-99.

Willert, H.

G. Chaucer, The House of Fame. Text, Varianten, Ammerkungen, Progr. Ostern., 1888 (Berlin, 1888).

For the Amorosa Visione and Chaucer.



See also under Chaucer.

Chiarini, G.

Le fonti del mercante di Venezia. In Studi Shakespeariani (Livorno, 1897).

Concerned with Gower and Shakespeare, Decameron, x, 1.

Koeppel, E.

Studien zur Geschichte der italienischen Novelle in der Englischen Litteratur des sechzehnten Jahrhunderst (Strassburg, 1892). This is vol. lxx of the Quellen und Forschungen zur Sprach und Culturgeschichte der Germanischen Völker. A most important study of the English versions of the Decameron.

Leonhardt, B.

Zu Cymbelin. In Anglia, vii (1884), fasc. iii.

Levi, A. R.

Shakespeare e la parodia omerica. In Nuova Rassegna di Lett. Mod., vol. iv (1906), fasc. 2, pp. 113-16.

Concerning the Filostrato.

Levy, S.

Zu Cymbelin. In Anglia, vii (1884), p. 120 et seq.

S. Levy contends that Decameron, ii, 9 is the source of Cymbeline. B. Leonhardt denies it.

Mascetta-Caracci, L.

Shakespeare e i classici italiani a proposito di un sonetto di Guido Guinizzelli (Lanciano, 1902).

Ohle, R.

Shakespeares Cymbeline, und seine romanischen Vorläufer (Berlin, 1890).

P[aris], G.

Une version orientale du thème de "All's well that ends well." In Romania, vol. xvi (1887), p. 98 et seq.


Segré, C.

Un' eroina del B. e l' "Elena," Shakespeariana.

In Fanfulla della Domenica, vol. xxiii (1901), p. 16.

Compares "All's well that ends well" with Decameron, iii, 9.

Siefken, O.

Der Konstanze-Griseldetypus in der englischen Litteratur bis auf Shakespeare (Ruthenow, 1904).

For Decameron, x, 10.





Manni, D. M. Istoria del Decameron (Firenze, 1742).

Bottari, G. Lezioni sopra il Decameron (Firenze, 1818).

Massarini, T. Storia e fisiologia dell' arte di ridere (Milan, 1901), vol. ii.

Concerning several tales

Di Francia, L. Alcune novelle del Decameron, in Giornale Stor. della Lett. Ital., vol. xliv (1904).

Treats of i, 2; iv, 2; v, 10; vii, 2; vii, 4; vii, 6; viii, 10; x, 8.

Zumbini, B. Alcune novelle del B. e i suoi criterii d' arte, in Atti della R. Acc. della Crusca (Firenze, 1905).

Treats of ii, 4; ii, 5; ii, 6; iii, 6; iv, 1; iv, 10; v, 6; vii, 2; x, 6.



Here begins the first day of the Decameron, on which, after it has been shown by the author how the persons mentioned came together to relate these stories, each one, under the presidency of Pampinea, related some amusing matter that they could think of.

The Proem is divided into two parts in the best editions. The first part having for title:

"Here begins the book called Decameron, otherwise Prince Galeotto, wherein are combined one hundred novels told in ten days by seven ladies and three young men."

In the second part the irony against the clergy is obvious.

For the Palace in which the gathering takes place see G. Mancini, Poggio Gherardi, primo ricetto alle Novellatrici del B. (Firenze, Cellini, 1858), and W. Stillman, The Decameron and its Villas, in The Nineteenth Century, August, 1899, and N. Masellis, I due palagi di rifugio e la valle delle donne nel Decameron in Rassegna Nazionale, June 16, 1904, and Janet Ross, Florentine Villas (Dent, 1903), and Edward Hutton, Country Walks about Florence (Methuen, 1908), cap. i.


Pampinea Queen

Subject of Tales.—Various.


By Pamfilo

Ciappelletto deceives a holy friar by a sham confession, and dies; and although he was an arch-rogue during his life, yet he was regarded as a saint after his death, and called San Ciappelletto.

Against the Friars.

For a Latin version of this tale consult G. Da Schio, Sulla vita e sugli scritti di Antonio Loschi (Padova, 1858), p. 145.

For some interesting documents see C. Paoli, Documenti di Ser Ciappelletto, in Giornale St. d. Lett It., vol. v (1885), p. 329. G. Finzi, La novella boccaccesca di Ser Ciappelletto, in Bib. d. scuole it., vol. iii (1891), p. 105 et seq., is a good comment. And Silvio Pellini, Una novella del Decameron (Torino, 1887), gives us a reprint from the Basle edition of 1570 of the Latin translation of Olimpia Morata.



By Neifile

Abraham the Jew went to Rome at the instigation of Jehannot de Chevigny, and seeing the wicked manner of life of the clergy there, he returned to Paris and became a Christian.

Against the clergy.

B. Zumbini, in Studi di Lett. Straniere (Firenze, 1893), p. 185 et seq., compares this novel with Lessing's Nathan der Weise. P. Toldo, in Giornale St. d. Lett. Ital., xlii (1903), p. 335 et seq., finds here a Provençal story. L. Di Francia, in Giornale, sup., xliv (1904), examines the origins with much care. J. Bonnet, Vie d'Olympia Morata (Paris, 1851), cap. ii, p. 53, speaks of the Morata translation of this novel and of Decameron, x, 10.


By Filomena

The Jew Melchisedec escapes from a trap which Saladin laid for him, by telling him a story about three rings.

Appeared in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, vol. i (1566), No. 30.

See G. Targioni-Tozzetti, Novelletta del Mago e del giudeo (Ferrara, 1869). L. Cappelletti, Commento sopra la 3a novella della prima giornata del Dec. (Bologna, 1874). A. Tobler, Li dis dou vrai aniel. Die Parabel von dem achten Ringe französische Dichtung des dreizehnten Jahrhunderts (Leipzig, 1884). G. Paris, La poésie du moyen âge, 2e série (Paris, 1903), No. 12. La parabole des trois anneaux. G. Bertino, Le diverse redazioni della Novella dei tre anelli, in Spigolature Letterarie (Sassari, Scano, 1903). T. Giannone, Una novella del B. e un dramma del Lessing (Nathan the Wise), in Rivista Abruzzese, xv (1900), p. 32 et seq.


By Dioneo

A monk who had incurred a severe punishment for an offence that he had committed, saved himself from it by convicting his abbot of the same fault.

Against the Monks.

See J. Bédier, Les fabliaux études de littérature populaire et d'histoire littéraire du moyen âge (Paris, 1893).


By Fiammetta

The Marchioness of Monferrat cures the King of France of his senseless passion by means of a repast of hens and by a few suitable words.

Appeared in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, ii (1567), No. 16.

For sources see S. Prato, L' orma del leone, racconto orientale considerato nella tradizione popolare, in Romania, xii (1883), p. 535 et seq.



By Emilia

An honest layman, by means of a fortunate jest, reproves the hypocrisy of the clergy.

Against the clergy.

See V. Rossi, in Dai tempi antichi ai tempi moderni; da Dante al Leopardi (Milano, 1904). Una novella boccaccesca in azione nel secolo xv, p. 419 et seq.


By Filostrato

Bergamino reproves Messer Cane della Scala in a very clever manner, by the story of Primasso and the Abbot of Cluny.

See P. Rajna, Intorno al cosidetto "Dialogus creaturarum" ed al suo autore, in Giornale Stor. d. Lett. Ital., x (1887), p. 50 et seq.


By Lauretta

By a few witty words Guglielmo Borsiere overcomes the covetousness of Ermino de' Grimaldi.

Appeared in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, vol. i (1566), No. 31.


By Elisa

The King of Cyprus, being reproved by a lady of Gascony, from being indolent and worthless becomes a virtuous prince.


By Pampinea

Messer Alberto of Bologna modestly puts a lady to the blush, who wished to do the same by him, as she thought that he was in love with her.

Appeared in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, vol. i (1566), No. 32.



Filomena Queen

Subject.—The fortune of those who after divers adventures have at last attained a goal of unexpected felicity.


By Neifile

Martellino disguises himself as a cripple, and pretends that he has been cured by touching the dead body of St. Arrigo. His fraud is exposed, he is thrashed, taken into custody, and narrowly escapes being hanged, but luckily manages to get off.


By Filostrato

Rinaldo d' Asti having been robbed, comes to Castel Guglielmo, where a handsome widow entertains him, and amply recompenses him for his losses, and he returns home well and happy.

Appeared in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, vol. i (1566), No. 33.

See G. Galvani, Di S. Giuliano io Spadaliere e del Pater noster, usato dirgli dai viandati ad illustrazione di un luogo del Decamerone del B., in Lezioni accademiche (Modena, 1840), vol. ii; also A. Graf, Per la novella XII del Decamerone, in Giorn. Stor. d. Lett. Ital., VII (1886), pp. 179-87, and Idem., Miti leggende e superstizioni del Medio Evo, vol. ii (Torino, 1893); also G. Fogolari, La Leggenda di S. Giuliano: Affreschi della 2a meta del sec. xiv. nel Duomo di Trento, in Tridentum, v (1902), fasc. 10, pp. 433-44, vi, fasc. 2 and fasc. 12. See also E. Baxmann, Middleton's Lustpiel, "The Widow," Boccaccio's "Decameron," II, 2, and III, 3 (Halle, 1903).


By Pampinea

Three gentlemen, having squandered their fortunes, are brought to poverty; one of their nephews going home in despair, makes the acquaintance of an abbot, whom he afterwards recognises as the daughter of the King of England, who marries him, makes good all his uncles' losses, and reinstates them all in their former prosperity.

Appeared in Painters's Palace of Pleasure, vol. i (1566), No. 34.



By Lauretta

Landolfo Ruffolo becomes very poor and turns pirate. He is taken prisoner by the Genoese, is shipwrecked, and saves himself on a chest full of jewels, is entertained by a poor woman in Corfù, and returns home a rich man.

Appeared in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, vol. i (1566), No. 35.

See B. Zumbini, La novella di Landolfo Ruffolo, in La Biblioteca delle scuole Italiane, XI (1905), fasc. 6, pp. 65-6.


By Fiammetta

Andreuccio of Perugia, coming to Naples in order to buy horses, meets with three unfortunate adventures in one night; but escapes from them all fortunately, and returns home with a very valuable ruby.

Appeared in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, i (1566), No. 36.

See L. Cappelletti, Andreuccio da Perugia: commento sopra la V novella della 2a giornata del Decamerone (Firenze, 1879). F. Liebrecht, Zum "Decamerone," in Jahrbuch für rom. und eng. Literatur, xv (1877), fasc. 3, compares this story with an Eastern tale.


By Emilia

Madame Beritola was found on an island with two young goats, having lost her two children. She went to Lunigiana, where one of her sons had entered the service of a gentleman of that district, and being found with his master's daughter, was thrown into prison. When the Sicilians rebelled against King Charles, the mother recognised her son, who marries his master's daughter, finds his brother, and they rise again to great distinction.

Appeared in Greene's Perimedes the Blacksmith (1588).

See L. Cappelletti, Madonna Beritola: Commento, in Propugnatore, xii (1879), pt. i, pp. 62 et seq.


By Pamfilo

The Sultan of Babylon sends his daughter to become the bride of the King of Algarve, but during the space of four years she, through different accidents, passes through the hands of nine different men in various countries. At last she is restored to her father, and goes, as a virgin, to the King of Algarve, as whose bride she had first set out.

See E. Montégut, La fiancée du roi du Garbe et le Décaméron, in Revue de deux mondes, June 1, 1863.



By Elisa

The Count of Antwerp is accused, though he is innocent, and goes into exile, leaving his two children in England. Returning from Ireland as a stranger, he finds them both in very prosperous circumstances. He himself enters the army of the King of France as a common soldier, is found to be innocent, and restored to his former position.

Appeared in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, vol. i (1566), No. 37.


By Filomena

Bernabò of Genoa is cheated out of his money by Ambrogiuolo, and orders his own innocent wife to be put to death. She escapes in men's clothes, and enters the Sultan's service, meets the cheat, and sends for her husband to Alexandria, where Ambrogiuolo meets with his due reward. She then resumes her female attire, and returns to Genoa with her husband, and with great wealth.

Appeared in Westward for Smelts, by Kind Kit of Kingston (1620).

For the origin of "Cymbeline" from this tale see B. Leonhardt, Zu Cymbelin, in Anglia, vii (1884), fasc. 3, and S. Levy, in Anglia, vii, p. 120 et seq.; R. Ohle, Shakespeare's Cymbeline und seine romanischen Vorläufer (Berlin, 1890). For a Sicilian original of this tale see G. L. Perroni, Un "cuntu" siciliano ed una novella del Boccaccio, in Archivio per lo studio delle tradizioni popolari, xix (1900), fasc. 2. See also G. Paris, Le conte de la gageure dans Boccace, in Misc. di studi critici in onore di A. Graf (Bergamo, 1903), pp. 107-16.


By Dioneo

Paganino of Monaco carries off the wife of Ricciardo da Chinzica, who, finding out where she is, goes after her and makes friends with Paganino. He demands his wife back, and Paganino promises to restore her if she herself wishes it. She, however, has no desire to return to him, so remains with Paganino, who marries her after Chinzica's death.



Neifile Queen

Subject.—The luck of such as have painfully acquired some much coveted thing, or having lost it have recovered it.


By Filostrato

Masetto da Lamporecchio feigns dumbness, and becomes gardener to a convent of nuns, which leads to the consequence that they all lie with him.

Against the Nuns.

For some sources and precedents for this story see P. Toldo, Rileggendo le Mille e una Notte, in Miscellanea di studi critici ed. in onore di A. Graf (Bergamo, 1903), p. 491 et seq.


By Pampinea

A groom of King Agilulf takes his place with the queen. Agilulf finds it out, discovers the offender, and cuts off his hair, whilst he pretends to be asleep. He, however, marks all his fellow-grooms in the same way, and thus escapes punishment.


By Filomena

A lady, who has fallen in love with a handsome gentleman, makes use of a friar, under the cloak of confession and scruples of conscience, and without his perceiving it, to act as her intermediary.

Against the Friars.

On this tale see E. Baxmann, Middleton's Lustpiel, "The Widow," und Boccaccio's "Decameron" III, 3, and II, 2 (Halle, 1903).


By Pamfilo

Dom Felice teaches "Friar" Puccio how he may be saved by doing a penance; while "Friar" Puccio is performing the penance, Dom Felice passes the time pleasantly with his wife.

Against the Monks.



By Elisa

Zima gives his palfrey to Messer Francesco Vergellesi on the condition of being allowed to speak to his wife out of earshot of anyone, and the wife making no response, he answers for her himself, and the usual consequence soon follows.

Appeared in H. C.'s Forest of Fancy (1579).

In this and the following tale cf. P. Toldo, Quelques sources italiennes du théâtre comique de Houdard de la Motte, in Bulletin Italien, vol. i (1901), p. 200 et seq.


By Fiammetta

Ricciardo Minutolo loves the wife of Filippello Fighinolfi, whom he knows to be jealous of her husband. He tells her that Filippello has an assignation the following day at a bagnio with his wife, and the lady goes there to meet her husband. Imagining herself to be in bed with her husband, she finds herself with Ricciardo.

This story, told by Fiammetta, is, in my opinion, significant for Boccaccio's own love affair. In it is told how a woman is tricked into love.

Cf. also P. Toldi, ubi supra.


By Emilia

Tedaldo, angry with one of his mistresses, quits Florence. Some time after he returns in the disguise of a pilgrim, speaks with the lady, and convinces her of her error; saves the life of her husband, who has been condemned for killing him, reconciles him to his brothers, and enjoys unmolested the favours of the lady.

Censure of the clergy.

Consult M. Colombo, Due lettere scritte al Can. Dom. Moreni sopra due luoghi del Decam., in Opuscoli (Padova, 1832), vol. iii, p. 176 et seq.


By Lauretta

Ferondo having swallowed a certain drug, is buried for dead. He is taken out of the sepulchre by the abbot, who has a liaison with his wife, put in prison, and made to believe that he is in purgatory; he is then resuscitated, and brings up a child as his own, which the abbot has begotten by his wife.

Against the Monks.

Consult P. Toldo, Les morts qui mangent, in Bulletin Italien, vol. v (1905), P. 291 et seq.



By Neifile

Gillette de Narbonne cures the king of a fistula. As a reward she demands the hand of Bertram de Roussillon, who, espousing her against his will, leaves for Florence in disgust. There he has a love affair with a young lady, and lies with Gillette, believing himself to be with his mistress. She bears him twin sons, and by that means, he loving her dearly, honours her as his wife.

Appeared in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, vol. i (1566), No. 38.

For the connection with All's well that ends well, see C. Segré, Un' eroina del Boccaccio e l' "Elena" Shakespeariana, in Fanfulla della Domenica, xxiii, 16, and G. P[aris], Une version orientale du thème de "All's well that ends well," in Romania, xvi (1887), p. 98 et seq.


By Dioneo

Alibech becomes a hermit, and is taught by one Rustico, a friar, how to put back the devil into hell; on returning home she becomes the wife of Neerbale.

Against the Friars.

This does not appear in the anonymous translation of the Decameron of 1620, another story being in its place.


Filostrato King

Subject.—Love that ended in disaster.


By Fiammetta

Tancred, Prince of Salerno, caused his daughter's lover to be put to death, and sends her his heart in a golden goblet. She pours poison into it, drinks it and dies.

Appeared in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, vol. i (1566), No. 39.

For the sources and influence of this tale consult: G. Cecioni, La Leggenda del cuore mangiato e tre antiche versioni in ottava rima di una novella del B., in Rivista contemporanea, vol. i (1888), fasc. 9. J. Zupitza, Die Mittelenglischen Bearbeitungen der Erzählung Boccaccios von Ghismonda und Guiscardo, in Vierteljahrsschrift für Kultur u. Litt. der Renaissance, vol. i (1885), fasc. 1. Sherwood, Die neuenglischen Bearbeitungen der Erzählung Boccaccios von Ghismonda und Guiscardo, in Litteraturblatt für german. und roman. Philologie, xiii (1892), p. 412. J. W. Cunliffe, Gismond of Salern, in Publications of Mod. Lang. Ass. of Am., xxi (1906), fasc. 2.



By Pampinea

Friar Alberto makes a woman believe that the Archangel Gabriel is in love with her, and visits her several times at night under that pretence. Afterwards he is obliged to escape out of a window for fear of her relations, and takes refuge in the house of a poor man, who the next day takes him publicly into the square and exhibits him, disguised as a wild man; he is recognised, taken away by his fellow-friars, and put into prison.

Against the Friars.

Appeared in Tarlton's News out of Purgatorie (1590).


By Lauretta

Three young men are in love with three sisters and take them to Crete, where the eldest sister kills her lover from jealousy. The second saves her sister from death, by giving herself to the Prince of Crete, and because of this, her lover kills her and goes away with the eldest sister. The third couple is accused of this murder, and forced to confess it by torture, and being certain that they will be put to death, they bribe their keeper to escape with them and flee to Rhodes, where they die in poverty and misery.


By Elisa

Gerbino, contrary to a promise which his grandfather Guglielmo had given the King of Tunis, fights with a Tunisian ship in order to carry off the king's daughter. The crew kill the princess, for which he puts them all to the sword, but is himself beheaded for that deed.

Appeared in Turberville's Tragical Tales (ca. 1576).

See L. Cappelletti, La novella di Gerbino, imitazioni e raffronto, in Cronaca minima (Livorno, Aug. 14, 1887.)


By Filomena

Isabella's brothers put her lover to death. He appears to her in a dream, and tells her where his body is buried; whereupon, she secretly brings away his head and buries it in a pot of basil, over which she weeps for hours every day, and when her brothers take it away she dies soon afterwards.

Appeared in Turberville's Tragical Tales (ca. 1576).

Consult T. Cannizzaro, Il lamento di Lisabetta da Messina e la leggenda del vaso di basilico (Catania, Battiato, 1902).

On the poem of Keats see U. Mengin, L'Italie des romantiques (Paris, 1902).

There is a Sicilian love song at end of this tale.



By Pamfilo

A young lady called Andreuola is in love with Gabriotto. She tells him a dream that she has had, and whilst relating one that he has had, he suddenly falls into her arms, dead. Whilst she is trying to get the body to his own house, with the aid of her maid, they are both arrested by the watch. She tells the magistrate how it happened, and resists his improper advances. Her father hears what has happened to her and procures her release, as her innocence is established, but she renounces the world and becomes a nun.


By Emilia

Simona and Pasquino are lovers, and, being in a garden together, Pasquino rubs his teeth with a leaf of sage, and dies immediately. Simona is arrested, and, on being brought before the judge, she wishes to explain how Pasquino met his death, and, rubbing her teeth with a leaf front the same plant, she dies on the spot.

Appeared in Turberville's Tragical Tales (ca. 1576).


By Neifile

Girolamo is in love with Salvestra. His mother urges him to go to Paris, and on his return, finding his mistress married, he secretly introduces himself into her house, and dies at her side. Whilst he is being buried, Salvestra also dies on his body in the church.

Appeared in Turberville's Tragical Tales (ca. 1576).


By Filostrato

Guillaume de Roussillon gives his wife the heart of de Cabestaing to eat, whom he had killed because he was her lover. When she discovers this, she throws herself out of a high window, and being killed, is buried with him.

Appeared in Turberville's Tragical Tales (ca. 1576).

See G. Paris, La légende du Châtelain de Couci dans l'Inde, in Romania, vol. xii (1883), p. 359 et seq., for a similar story.



By Dioneo

A surgeon's wife puts her lover, who is in a deep sleep, into a chest, thinking him dead, and two usurers steal it. In their house he wakes up and is taken for a thief. The lady's maid tells the magistrate that she had put him into the chest which the money-lenders had stolen. By these means she saves him from the gallows, and the usurers are fined for the theft.


Fiammetta Queen

Subject.—Good fortune befalling lovers after many dire and disastrous adventures.


By Pamfilo

Cymon becomes wise through love, and carries off Iphigenia, his mistress, by force of arms, to sea. He is put in prison at Rhodes, where he is set at liberty by Lysimachus, and they together carry off Iphigenia and Cassandra on their wedding-day, flee to Crete, marry their mistresses, and are happily summoned to return home.

First English translation, A Pleasant and Delightful History of Galesus, Cymon, and Iphigenia, etc., by T. C. Gent (ca. 1584).

Consult Tribolati, F., Diporto sulla novella I della quinta giornata del Decamerone: saggio critico, in Arch. Stor. per le Marche e per l' Umbria, vol. ii (1885), fasc. 8-9. v.


By Emilia

Constanza loves Martuccio Gomito. When she hears that he has perished, in despair she goes quite by herself into a boat, and is driven to Susa by the wind and waves. She meets Martuccio alive in Tunis, makes herself known to him; and as he is very high in the king's favour there, because of his good counsels, the monarch bestows great wealth on him, and he marries his beloved, and returns to Lipari with her.

Appeared in Greene's Perimedes the Blacksmith (1588).



By Elisa

Pietro Boccamazza runs away with Agnolella, his mistress, and falls among thieves. She escapes into a wood, and is taken to a castle. Pietro is taken prisoner by the thieves, but escapes and comes to the same castle with some adventures, where he marries Agnolella, and they return to Rome.


By Filostrato

Ricciardo Manardi is found by Lizio da Valbona in bed with his daughter, whereupon he marries her, and lives in peace and friendship with her father.


By Neifile

On his death-bed Guidotto of Cremona appoints Giacomino of Pavia as guardian of his adopted daughter. Giannole di Severino and Minghino di Mingole both fall in love with the girl, and fight on her account, when it is discovered that she is the sister of Giannole, and Minghino marries her.

Consult Prato, S., L' orma del leone, racconto orientale considerato nella tradizione popolare, in Romania, xii (1883), p. 535 et seq.

Chasles, E., La Comédie en France au XVI Siècle (Paris, 1867). Rajna, P., Le origini della novella narrata dal "Frankeleyn" nei Canterbury Tales del Chaucer, in Romania, xxxii (1903), p. 204 et seq.


By Pampinea

Gianni di Procida is surprised in the arms of a girl who had been given to King Frederick, and he intends to have them burnt at the stake together. Ruggieri dell' Oria, however, recognises them both, and they are set at liberty, and marry.

Consult Zumbini, B., Alcune novelle del Boccaccio e i suoi criterii d' arte, in Atti della R. Acc. della Crusca (Firenze, 1905), No. 29th Jan.



By Lauretta

Teodoro is in love with Violante, the daughter of his master, Amerigo, Abbot of Trapani. She becomes pregnant, and he is sentenced to be hanged. As he is being led to execution, after being scourged, his father recognises him, he is set at liberty, and marries his mistress.

Appeared in H. C.'s Forest of Fancy, ii (1579).


By Filomena

Nastagio degli Onesti loves the daughter of Paolo Traversaro, and spends much of his fortune without being able to gain her love in return. At the advice of his friends he goes to Chiassi, where he sees a lady being pursued by a huntsman, who kills her and lets his dogs devour her. He invites his own relations and those of the lady to an entertainment, lets them see this terrible chase, and she, from fear of suffering the same fate, marries him.

Appeared in A Notable History of Nastagio and Traversari, etc., in English verse by C. T. (1569), and in Turberville's Tragical Tales (ca. 1576), vol. i, and in H. C.'s Forest of Fancy (1579).

Consult Cappelletti, L., Commento sopra l' VIII nov. della V. giornata dell Decameron in Propugnatore, vol. viii (1875), parts i and ii. Borgognoni, A., La XLVIII nov. del Decameron, in Domenica Letteraria, iii (1883), 13. Neilson, W. A., The purgatory of cruel beauties. A note on the sources of the 8th novel of the 5th day of the Decameron, in Romania, xxix (1900), p. 85 et seq. And for the influence of Dante here: Arullani, V. A., Nella scia dantesca, alcuni oltretomba posteriori alla Divina Commedia (Alba, 1905).


By Fiammetta

Frederigo being in love without any return, spends all his property for the lady's sake, and at last has nothing left but one favourite hawk. The lady coming to see him unexpectedly, he has this prepared for dinner, having nothing else to give her; and she is so touched when she hears this, that she alters her mind and makes him master of herself and all her wealth.

Cappelletti, L., Commento sopra la IX novella della quinta giornata del Decameron, in Propugnatore, vol. x, part i.

Tosi, I., Longfellow e l' Italia (Bologna, 1906), esp. p. 89 et seq.



By Dioneo

Pietro di Vinciolo goes out to supper, and in the meanwhile his wife has a young fellow come to see her. Pietro returns home unexpectedly and discovers his wife's trick, but as he is no better himself, they manage to make it up between them.

Consult De Maria, U., Dell' Asino d' oro di Apuleio e di varie sue imitazioni nella nostra letteratura (Roma, 1901).


Elisa Queen

Subject.—Of such as by some sprightly sally have repulsed an attack, or by some ready retort or device have avoided loss, peril, or scorn.


By Filomena

A knight engages to carry Madonna Oretta behind him on the saddle, promising to tell her a pleasant story by the way; but the lady finding it not to be according to her taste, begs him to allow her to dismount.


By Pampinea

Cisti the baker, by a sharp retort, makes Signor Geri Spina sensible of an unreasonable request.

Consult Cappelletti, L., La novella di Cisti fornaio, in Cronaca minima (Livorno, 1887, 28 August).


By Lauretta

Madonna Nonna de' Pulci, by a sharp repartee, silences the Bishop of Florence for an unseemly piece of raillery.


By Neifile

Chichibio, cook to Currado Gianfiliazzi, by a prompt rejoinder which he makes to his master, turns his wrath into laughter, and escapes the punishment with which he had threatened him.

Appeared in Tarlton's News out of Purgatorie (1590), No. 4.



By Pamfilo

Forese da Rabatta and Giotto the painter, coming from Mugello, jest at the meanness of each other's appearance.


By Fiammetta

Michele Scalza proves to certain young gentlemen how that the family of the Baronci is the most ancient of any in the world, and of Maremma, and wins a supper by it.


By Filostrato

Madonna Filippa being found by her husband with a lover, is accused and tried for it, but saves herself by her witty reply, and has the law moderated for the future.


By Emilia

Fresco recommends his niece not to look at herself again in a mirror since, as she had averred, looking at ugly people was disagreeable to her.


By Elisa

Guido Cavalcanti reproves in polite terms certain Florentine knights who had taken him unawares.

Consult Cappelletti, L., La novella di Guido Cavalcanti, in Propugnatore, vol. x (1677).


By Dioneo

Friar Cipolla promises some country people to show them a feather from the wing of the Angel Gabriel, instead of which he finds only some coals, which he tells them are the same that roasted St. Laurence.

Appeared in Tarlton's News out of Purgatorie (ca. 1576), No. 5.



Dioneo King

Subject.—Of the tricks which either for love or for their deliverance from peril ladies have heretofore played their husbands, and whether they were by the said husbands detected or no.


By Emilia

Gianni Lotteringhi hears at night a knocking at his door, and wakes his wife. The latter makes him believe it is a spirit. They both go to conjure it away with a prayer, and the noise ceases.

Appeared in The Cobler of Caunterburie, No. 2.


By Filostrato

Peronella, hearing her husband enter, conceals her lover in a lie tub, which tub the husband had just sold. She tells him that she had also sold it to a person who was then in it, to see if it was sound. Hereupon the man jumps out, makes the husband clean it for him, he caressing the wife meanwhile, and carries it home.

Consult De Maria, U., op. cit., supra.


By Elisa

Friar Rinaldo is in bed with the wife of a neighbour. The husband finding him in the bedroom of his wife, both make him believe that they are busy about a charm to cure their child of the worms.

Against the Friars.


By Lauretta

Tofano shuts his wife one night out of doors, and she, not being able to persuade him to let her in, pretends to throw herself into a well, and drops a big stone in; he runs thither in a fright; she slips into the house, and, locking him out, abuses him well.

Appeared in Westward for Smelts, by Kind Kit of Kingston (1620), No. 3.

Consult Marcocchia, G., Una novella indiana nel Boccaccio e nel Molière (Spalatro, 1905).



By Fiammetta

A jealous man confesses his wife under a priest's habit, who tells him that she is visited every night by a friar; and, whilst he is watching the door, she lets her lover in at the house-top.

Cf. Thomas Twine's Schoolmaster (1576).


By Pampinea

Isabella, being in company with her gallant, called Leonetto, and being visited at the same time by one Lambertuccio, her husband returns, when she sends Lambertuccio away with a drawn sword in his hand, whilst the husband escorts Leonetto safely to his own house.

Appeared in Tarlton's News out of Purgatorie (1590), No. 7.

Consult Paris, G., Le lai de l'épervier, in Romania (1878).


By Filomena

Lodovico being in love with Beatrice, she sends her husband into the garden, disguised like herself, so that her lover may be with her in the meantime; and he afterwards goes into the garden and beats the husband.

Appeared in The Hundred Mery Talys (1526), No. 2.

Consult Schofield, W. H., The source and history of the seventh novel of the seventh day in the Decameron, in Studies and Notes in Philology and Literature, vol. ii (Boston, 1893).


By Neifile

A woman, who had a very jealous husband, tied a thread to her great toe, by which she informed her lover whether he should come or not. The husband found it out, and whilst he was pursuing the lover, she put her maid in her place. He takes her to be his wife, beats her, cuts off her hair, and fetches his wife's relations, who find nothing of what he had told them, and load him with reproaches.

Appeared in the Cobler of Caunterburie.



By Pamfilo

Lydia, the wife of Nicostratus, being in love with Pyrrhus, did three things which he had enjoined her, to convince him of her affection. She afterwards used some familiarities with him before her husband's face, making him believe that what he had seen was not real.


By Dioneo

Two inhabitants of Siena love the same woman, one of whom was godfather to her son. This man dies, and returns, according to his promise, to his friend, and gives him an account of what is done in the other world.


Lauretta Queen

Subject of Tales.—Those tricks that daily woman plays man, or man woman or one man another.


By Neifile

Gulfardo obtains from the wife of Guasparruolo a favour by giving her a sum of money. He borrows the money from her husband. He afterwards tells Guasparruolo, in her presence, that he had paid it to her, which she acknowledges to be true.

This is Chaucer's Shipmanne's Tale or Story of Don John.


By Pamfilo

The priest of Varlungo receives favours from a woman of his parish, and leaves his cloak in pawn. He afterwards borrows a mortar of her, which he returns, and demands his cloak, which he says he left only as a token. She mutinies, but is forced by her husband to send it.

Against the clergy.

Consult Tribolati, F., La Belcolore: diporto letterario sulla novella VII della giornata VIII del Decameron, in Borghini, vol. iii (1865).



By Elisa

Calandrino, Bruno, and Buffalmacco go to Mugnone, to look for the Heliotrope; and Calandrino returns laden with stones, supposing that he has found it. Upon this his wife scolds him, and he beats her for it; and then tells his companions what they knew better than himself.


By Emilia

The rector of Fiesole is in love with a lady who has no liking for him, and he, thinking that he is in bed with her, is all the time with her maid, and her brothers bring the bishop thither to witness it.

Against the clergy.

Appeared in the Nachgeahunt of Whetsone (1583).


By Filostrato

Three young sparks play a trick with a judge, whilst he is sitting upon the bench hearing causes.


By Filomena

Bruno and Buffalmacco steal a pig from Calandrino, and make a charm to find out the thief, with pills made of ginger and some sack; giving him, at the same time, pills made of aloes; thereby they make it appear that he had furtively sold the pig, and they make him pay handsomely, for fear they should tell his wife.

Consult Giannini, A., Una fonte di una novella del B., in Fanfulla della Domenica, August 27, 1905. Drescher, K., Zu Boccaccios Novelle Dekam, viii, 6, in Studien zur vergleichende Litteraturgeschichte, vi (1906), fasc. 3.


By Pampinea

A scholar loves a widow lady, Helena, who, being enamoured of another, makes him wait a whole night for her in the snow. The scholar, in order to be revenged, finds means in his turn to make the lady stand quite naked at the top of a tower for a night and a day, in the middle of July, exposed to flies, insects, and the sun.

Appeared in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, ii, 31 (1567).



By Fiammetta

Two married men constantly meet together, when one of them sleeps with the wife of the other; which, that other discovering, agrees with the wife of the traitor to close him up in a chest, on which they together take their amusement.

Consult Tribolati, F., Commento sulla novella VIII della giornata VIII del Decameron, in Poliziano, vol. i (1892), No. 5.


By Lauretta

Messer Simone, a doctor, having been conducted during the night to a certain place by Buffalmacco to make part of a company of rovers, is thrown by Buffalmacco into a filthy ditch and left there.


By Dioneo

A Sicilian girl, by a ruse, cheats a merchant out of the money he has made at Palermo; afterwards he returns, pretending to have a larger stock of goods than before, borrows a large sum of money from her, and leaves her in security nothing but water and tow.

Vidal Bev, Boccacce et les docks et warrants, in Bulletin de l'institut Égyptien (1883).


Emilia Queen



By Filomena

Madonna Francesca, beloved by a certain Rinuccio and a certain Alessandro, and not loving either of them, got rid of them cleverly, by making one of them enter a tomb as if he were dead, and sending the other to fetch him out, so that neither of them could accomplish their purpose.



By Elisa

An abbess going in haste, and in the dark, to surprise one of her nuns, instead of her veil puts on the priest's breeches. The lady accused makes a just remark upon this, and so escapes.

Against the Nuns.

Appeared in Thomas Twyne's Schoolmaster (1576), and William Warner's Albion's England (1586-1592).


By Filostrato

Messer Simone, at the instigation of Bruno, Buffalmacco, and Nello, makes Calandrino believe that he is with child. The last-named, in return for food and money, obtains a medicine from them, and is cured without being delivered.


By Neifile

Cecco Fortarrigo loses at play all the money he had of his own, as well as that of Cecco Angiulieri, his master; then he runs away in his shirt, and pretending that the other had robbed him, he has him taken hold of by the peasants; after which he put on his clothes, and rode away on the other's horse, leaving him in his shirt.


By Fiammetta

Calandrino is in love with a young girl; Bruno makes a written talisman for him, and tells him that as soon as he touches her she will follow him; Calandrino having got this from him, his wife surprises him and makes a great scene.


By Pamfilo

Two young gentlemen lodge at an inn. The one lies with the landlord's daughter, the other with his wife. He who has lain with the daughter gets into the father's bed afterwards, and tells him all about it, thinking it was his friend. A great noise is made in consequence. The landlord's wife, having gone into her daughter's bed, arranges everything in a few words.

Cf. A Right Pleasaunt Historie of the Mylner of Abingdon.

Consult Varnhagen, H., Die Erzählung von der Wiege, in Englische Studien, vol. ix (1886), fasc. 2.



By Pampinea

Talano of Molese dreams that his wife has her throat and face torn by a wolf. He warns her, but she refuses to follow his advice, the result being that what he had dreamed really happened.


By Lauretta

Biondello jests at Ciacco's expense by giving him a bad dinner, after which Ciacco revenges himself by causing Biondello to be beaten.


By Emilia

Two young men ask advice from Solomon, the one in order to know how he can be loved, the other how he may correct his bad-tempered wife. He tells the first to love, and the other to go to the Geese's Bridge.

Consult Imbriani, V., I consigli di Salamone, in Rivista Europea, n.s., vol. xxiii (1882), p. 37 et seq. Burdach, K., Zum Ursprung der Salomo Sage, in Arch. für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Litteraturen, cviii (1902), fasc. 1 and 3.


By Dioneo

Dom Gianni, at the request of his friend Pietro, works an enchantment so as to change the latter into a mare. When he got as far as to attach the tail, Pietro, saying that he didn't want any tail, spoils the whole operation.

Against the monks.


Pamfilo King

Subject.—Of such as in matters of love or otherwise have done something with liberality or magnificence.


By Neifile

A certain knight in the service of the king of Spain thinks that he is not sufficiently rewarded. The king gives a remarkable proof that this was not his fault so much as the knight's bad luck, and afterwards nobly requites him.

Consult Chiarini, G., Le fonti del mercanti di Venezia, in Studi Shakespearani (Livorno, 1897).



By Elisa

Ghino di Tacco makes the abbot of Cligni prisoner, and cures him of a stomach disease; then he gives him his liberty. The abbot, on his return to the Court of Rome, reconciles Ghino to Pope Boniface, and has him made prior of a hospital.

Consult Hutton, E., In Unknown Tuscany, with notes by W. Heywood (Methuen, 1909), p. 101-11.


By Filostrato

Mitridanes envies the generosity of Nathan and goes to kill him, when, conversing with him, but not knowing him, and being informed in what manner he may do the deed, he goes to meet him in a wood as Nathan had directed. There he recognises him, is ashamed, and becomes his friend.

Appeared in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, ii (1567), No. 18.


By Lauretta

Messer Gentile de' Carisendi, on his return from Modena, takes out of the grave a lady whom he had loved, and whom they had buried for dead. She recovers, and is delivered of a son, which he presents with the lady to her husband, Niccoluccio Caccianimico.

Appeared in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, ii (1567), No. 19.


By Emilia

Madonna Dianora demands from Messer Ansaldo a garden as beautiful in January as in the month of May. Messer Ansaldo, by the help of necromancers, does it. Her husband gives him permission to put himself at the disposal of Messer Ansaldo. He, having heard of her husband's generosity, relieves her of her promise, and on his side the necromancer, without wishing anything from him holds Messer Ansaldo at quits.

Appeared in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, ii (1567), No. 17.


By Fiammetta

King Charles the Victorious, when old, becomes enamoured of a young girl; ashamed of his foolish love, he marries her honourably like one of his sisters.



By Pampinea

King Pietro, hearing that a lady was love-sick for him, makes her a visit, and marries her to a worthy gentleman; then kissing her forehead, calls himself ever afterwards her knight.

Consult Cappelletti, L., La Lisa e il re Pietro d' Aragona, in Propugnatore, vol. xi (1879), part ii, p. 108 et seq.


By Filomena

Sophronia, believing herself to be the wife of Gisippus, is really married to Titus Quintius Fulvus, who takes her off to Rome. There Gisippus arrives some time afterwards in great distress, and thinking him despised by Titus, declares himself guilty of a murder, in order to put an end to his life. Titus recollects him, and to save him, accuses himself, which when the murderer sees, he delivers himself up as the guilty person. Finally, they are all set at liberty by Octavius, and Titus marries Gisippus to his sister, and gives him half his estate.

Appeared in The History of Tytuse and Gesyppus, out of the Latin by William Wallis, (?) and in The Boke of the Governors, by Sir Thomas Elyot, lib. ii, cap. xii (1531).

Consult Wagner, C. P., The sources of El Cavallero Cifar, in Revue hispanique, vol. x (1903), p. 4 et seq.


By Pamfilo

Saladin, disguising himself like a merchant, is generously entertained by Messer Torello, who, going upon an expedition to the Holy Land, allowed his wife a certain time to marry again. In the meantime he is taken prisoner, and being employed to look after the hawks, is recognised by the Soldan, who shows him great respect. Afterwards Torello falls sick, and is conveyed by magic art, in one night, to Pavia, at the very time that his wife was to have been married; when he makes himself known to her, and returns with her home.

Appeared in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, vol. ii (1567), No. 20.

Consult Rajna, P., La leggenda Boccaccesca del Saladino e di messer Torello, in Romania, vol. vi (1877), p. 349 et seq. Landau, M., La novella di messer Torello e le sue attinenze mitiche e leggendarie, in Giornale stor. della Lett. Ital., vol. ii (1883), p. 52 et seq. Ibid., Le tradizioni giudaiche nella novellistica italiana, in Giornale cit., vol. i (1883), p. 535 et seq.



By Dioneo

The Marquis of Saluzzo, having been prevailed on by his subjects to marry, in order to please himself in the affair made choice of a countryman's daughter, by whom he had two children, which he pretended to put to death. Afterwards, seeming as though he was weary of her and had taken another, he had his own daughter brought home, as if he had espoused her; whilst he sent away his wife in a most distressed condition. At length, being convinced of her patience, he brought her home again, presented her children to her, who were now of considerable years, and ever loved and honoured her as a lady.

Appeared as The Pleasant and Sweet History of Patient Grissel (s.a.), and again in 1619.

Consult Tribolati, F., La Griselda in Borghini, vol. iii (1865). Bucheim, C. A., Chaucer's Clerkes Tale and Petrarch's version of the Griselda Story in Athenæum, No. 3470 (1894). Siefken, O., Der Konstanze Griseldetypus in der englischen Litteratur bis auf Shakespeare (Ruthenow, 1904). Jusserand, J. J., Au tombeau de Pétrarque, in Revue de Paris (July, 1896), pp. 92-119. Savorini, L., La Leggenda di Griselda, in Rivista Abruzzese, vol. xv (1900), p. 21 et seq.




Abraham, a Jew, i, 2

Abruzzi, vi, 10

Achaia, vii, 9

Acre, fair of, ii, 9

Adriano, ix, 6

Adulterous wife, way of dealing with, vii, 8

Adultery, defence of, vi, 7
distinction between, and prostitution, vi, 7; viii, 1
night with wife sold for 500 florins, vi, 3

Agilulf, King of Lombards, iii, 2

Agnese, Madonna, vii, 3

Agnesa, v, 5

Agnolella, v, 3

Agolante de' Lamberti, ii, 3

Alatiel, daughter of Beminedab, ii, 7

Alba, ii, 9

Alberto of Bologna, physician, i, 10

Alessandro Chiarmontesi, ix, 1

Alessandro de' Lamberti, ii, 3

Alesso Rinucci, vi, 3

Alexandria, ii, 6; ii, 7; ii, 9; x, 9

Alexis, St., chant of, vii, 1

Algarve, King of, ii, 7

Alibech, iii, 10

Alps, x, 9

Altopascio, abbey near Lucca, vi, 10

Amalfi (see Salerno), iv, 10

Ambruogia Madonna, wife of Guasparruolo Cagastraccio, viii, 1

Ambruogio Anselmini of Siena, vii, 10

Ambrogiuolo da Piacenza, ii, 9

Amerigo, Abate da Trapani, v, 7

Anagni, v, 3

Ancona, iii, 7
March of, ix, 4

Andreuola, iv, 6

Andreuccio di Pietro da Perugia, ii, 5

Anichino alias Lodovico, vii, 7

Animals, love of, ii, 6

Ansaldo Gradense, x, 5

Antigonio of Formagosta, ii, 7

Antioch, ix, 6

Antioco, dependant of Osbech, king of Turks, ii, 7

Antonio d' Orso, Bp. of Florence, vi, 3

Apulia, x, 6
fairs of, ix, 10
holy places of, ii, 6

Aquamorta, ii, 7

Aragon, King Peter of, ii, 6; x, 7
[395]Queen of, x, 7

Arcite and Palamon, Dioneo and Fiammetta sing of, vii, 10

Arezzo, vii, 4

Argos, vii, 9

Aristippus, v, 1

Aristippus, philosopher, x, 8

Aristotle, vi, 10

Armenia, ii, 7; v, 7

Arno, vi, 2; viii, 9

Arrighetto Capece of Naples, ii, 6

Arrigo, a German, ii, 1

Atheism imputed to Guido de' Cavalcanti, vi, 9

Athens, ii, 7; x, 8
Duke of, ii, 7

Atticciato, iv, 7

Aubade, v, 3

Authari, King of Lombards, iii, 2

Avicenna, viii, 9

Avignon, viii, 2

Azzo da Ferrara, Marquis, ii, 2

Babylon, Soldan of, x, 9

Bachi, mountains of the, vi, 10

Baffa, ii, 7

Bagnio, lady goes to, without distress, iii, 6

Balducci, Filippo, iv, Introd.

Barbanicchi, my lady of the, viii, 9

Barbary, iv, 4; v, 2

Barletta, ix, 10

Baronci, the, of S. M. Maggiore, vi, 6

"Baroncio a," vi, 5

Baroni, the, vi, 10

Bartolommea di Lotto Gualandi, ii, 10

Basano, King of Cappadocia, ii, 7

Basil, the pot of, iv, 5

Basques, viii, 3
Queen of, viii, 9

Baths, men and women use same water, ii, 2
women bathe on Saturday, ii, 10

Battledore, Lady, alias Lackbrain, Featherbrain, Vanity, Slender-Wit. (See Lisetta da Ca' Quirino.)

Beatrice Madonna, wife of Egano de' Galluzzi, vii, 7

Belcolore Monna, viii, 2

Belfry-Breeches, vii, 8

Beminedab, Soldan of Babylon, ii, 7

Benedict, St., house of, iii, 4

Benevento, Battle of, ii, 6

Bengodi (see Berlinzone), viii, 3

Beritola Caracciola, ii, 9

Bergamina, viii, 9

Bergamino, a jester, i, 7

Berlinghieri Arriguccio, vii, 8

Berlinzone, viii, 3; viii, 9

Bernabò Lanellin, Genoese, merchant, ii, 9

Bernabuccio, v, 5

Bernard, St., lament of, vii, 1

Bertelle, youngest daughter of Narnald Cluada, iv, 3

Berto della Massa, iv, 2

Betto Brunelleschi, vi, 9

Biagio Pizzini, vi, 10

Bible quoted, iii, 7

Biliuzza, viii, 2

Binguccio dal Poggio, viii, 2

Biondello, ix, 8

Birds in Tuscany, vii, Introd.

Boccaccio's poverty, iv, Introd.
defence of illicit love, iii, 7

Boccamazza Pietro, v, 3

Body-snatching in Naples, ii, 5

[396]Bologna i, 10; iii, 8; vii, 7; viii, 9; x, 4; x, 10

Bologna, praise of ladies of, vii, 7

Brescia, iv, 6

Bridge of Greese, ix, 9

Brigantine, a, iv, 3

Brindisi, ii, 4

Bruges, ii, 3

Brunetta, vi, 4

Bruno, a painter, viii, 3; viii, 6; viii, 9; ix, 3; ix, 5

Buffalmacco, a painter, viii, 3; viii, 6; viii, 9; ix, 3; ix, 5

Buffia, the land of, vi, 10

Buglietto, viii, 2

Buonaccorri da Ginestreto, Ser, viii, 2

Buonconvento, ix, 4

Burgundians, wickedness of, i, 1

Cacavincigli, viii, 9

Calabria, v, 6

Calais, ii, 8

Calandrino, a painter, viii, 3; viii, 6; viii, 9; ix, 3; ix, 5

Camaldoli, ix, 5

Camerata (under Fiesole), vii, 1; ix, 5

Campi, v, 9

Candia, iv, 3

Capsa (Tunis), iii, 10

Carapresa, v, 1

Carthage, iv, 4

Casolan apple, iii, 4

Cassandra, v, 1

Castel Guglielmo, ii, 2

Castello da Mare di Stabia, x, 6

Catalina Madonna, x, 4

Catella, iii, 6

Caterina di Lizio, v, 4

Cathay, x, 3

Cavalcanti Guido, iv, Introd.; vi, 9

Cecco, son of Angiulieri, ix, 4

Cecco, son of Fortarrigo, ix, 4

Cephalonia, island of, ii, 4

Cerchi, Vieri de, ix, 8

Certaldo, vi, 10

Charles, King, the victorious, x, 6

Chastity, Neifile on, viii, 1

Chattilon, Sieur de, vi, 10

Chremes, x, 8

Chess, iii, 10

Chiassi (near Ravenna), v, 8

Chichibio, a cook, vi, 4

Chios, ii, 7

Ciacco, the glutton, ix, 8

Ciapperello da Prato, i, 1

Cicale, v, 4; v, 10

Ciesca, niece of Fresco da Celatico, vi, 8

Cimon. (See Galesus.)

Cino da Pistoia, iv, Introd.

Cipseus, father of Iphigenia, v, 1

Cisti, the baker, vi, 2

Ciuriaci, chamberlain to the Prince of Morea, ii, 7

Ciuta, maid to Monica Piccarda, viii, 4

Civellari, Countess of, viii, 9

Clergy, corruption of, i, 6 and 7; iii, 7; viii, 2 and 4
gluttony of, i, 2
live by alms, iii, 4
simony of, i, 2

Cluny, Abbot of, i, 7; x, 2

Compline, iii, 4

Confession of the dying, i, 1

Constantine and Manuel, nephews of Emperor of Constantinople, ii, 7

Constantinople, iii, 7

Coppo di Borghese Domenichi, v, 9

Corfù, ii, 4

Corsairs, Genoese, v, 7

Corsignano, ix, 4

[397]Corso Donati, ix, 8

Crete, iv, 3; v, 1; x, 9
Duke of, iv, 3

Crivello, v, 5

Crucifixion, punishment of, x, 8

Currado Gianfigliazzi, vi, 4
King of Sicily's lieutenant, v, 7
de' Malespini, ii, 6

Customs, old Florentine, vi, 9

Cypriotes, the, histories of, v, 1

Cyprus, i, 9; ii, 4; ii, 7; iii, 7; v, 1
merchants of, x, 9

Dante, iv, Introd.

Dead, return of, vii, 10

Dego della Ratta, vi, 3

Decameron, Boccaccio's defence of, iv, Introd. and Epilogue
contemporary opinion of, iv, Introd. and Epilogue
ladies of, Proem
effect of Dioneo's most licentious tale on, iii, 3
Fiammetta's story, iii, 6
her gravity and severe manner, iii, 5
Filomena's cynical prayer, iii, 3

Dentistry, vii, 9

Dianora, Madonna, x, 5

Dining, water served for hands, i, 7

Dogana, viii, 10

Dominic, St., vii, 3

"Don Meta," viii, 9

Dreams, iv, 6

Egano de' Galluzzi, vii, 7

Egina, ii, 7

Egypt, x, 9

Elena, viii, 7

Encarch, a Catalan, ii, 9

England, ii, 3; ii, 8

England, Barons of, borrow from Lombards, ii, 3
daughter of King, disguised as abbot, ii, 3
fair ladies of, vii, 7
King of, ii, 3
Queen of, viii, 9

Epicureans, vi, 9

Epicurus, i, 6

Ercolano, v, 10

Ermellina, wife of Aldobrandino Palermini, iii, 7

Fableaux, French, iii, 10

Faenza, v, 5

Fano, v, 5

Fast Days, Friday and Saturday, wearying therefore, Proem, ii, 10

Faziuolo da Pontremoli, iii, 7

Federigo di Filippo Alberighi, v, 9

Federigo di Neri Perlgolotti, i, 7

Felice, Dom, iii, 4

Ferondo, iii, 8

Ferrara, viii, 10

Fiammetta, description of, iv, 10
her knowledge of the evils of Naples, ii, 5

Fiesole, viii, 4
pardoning at, vii, 1

Filippa, wife of Rinaldo de' Pugliesi, vi, 7

Filippello Fighinolfi, iii, 6

Filippo, son of Niccolò Comacchini, ix, 5

Filippo Argenti, ix, 8

Filippo Minutolo, Archbp. of Naples, ii, 5

Filippo Santodeccio alias Tedaldo Elisei, q.v.

Fineo of Armenia, v, 7

[398]Fiordaliso, Madonna, ii, 5

Fire, death by, v, 6
penalty of murder, iv, 7

Fire-ship, use of, iv, 4

Flagellants (Battuti), iii, 4

Flanders, iv, 2

Florence, iii, 7; iii, 9; iv, 7; v, 9; vi, 2; vi, 3; vii, 6; viii, 7; ix, 8
account of, iii, 7
Fra Cipolla's journey in, vi, 10
Podestas of, from the Marche, viii, 5
rich in humanity, iii, 6
wiles abound in, iii, 3
Algarve, vi, 10
Baldacca, inn at, vi, 10
Borgo de' Greci, vi, 10
Corso degli Adimari, vi, 9
S. Croce, i, 6
S. Giovanni, viii, 3
tombs around, vi, 9
Loggia de' Cavicciuli, ix, 8
Macino, viii, 3
S. Maria Novella, Proem, viii, 9
S. Maria della Scala, viii, 9
S. Maria a Verzaia, viii, 5
Mercato Vecchio, ix, 3
Ognissanti, field of, viii, 9
Or San Michele, vi, 9
S. Pancrazio, iii, 4
quarter of, vii, 1
S. Paolo, iv, 7
Parione, vi, 10
Plague in, Proem
Porta a S. Gallo, viii, 3
Porta S. Piero, vi, 3
S. Reparata, vi, 9
Ripoli, convent of the ladies of, viii, 9
Sardinia (a suburb), vi, 10
Via del Cocomero, viii, 9

Florentine customs, vi, 17. (See Palio and under Camerata.)

Florin, iii, 3

Forese da Rabatta, vi, 5

Forlimpopoli, viii, 9

Fortune in love, its results, iii, 7

Foulques, iv, 3

Fra Alberto da Imola. (See Berto della Massa.)

Fra Cipolla, vi, 10

Fra Nastagio, iii, 4

Fra Rinaldo, vii, 3; vii, 10

France (as opposed to Provence), iv, 9
blood royal of, vi, 8
fair ladies of, vii, 7
King of, iii, 9; vii, 7; x, 9
Queen of, viii, 9

Francesca de' Lazzari, ix, 1

S. Francis, iv, 2; vii, 3
Order of, iii, 4. (See also Puccio de' Rinieri for a Tertiary called Frate.)

Frederic, Emperor, v, 5; x, 9
Second, i, 7; ii, 5; ii, 6; v, 6

Fresco da Celatico, vi, 8

Friar of S. Anthony, vi, 10

Friars admitted freely to prisoners, iii, 7
attacks on, i, 1 and 2; iii, 3 and 10; iv, 2; vii, 7
character of, iii, 7
dirtiness of, iv, 2
executors of wills, iv, 2
hypocrisy of, iv, 2
immorality of, with nuns, iii, 7, and elsewhere
meanness of, i, 6; i, 7
Minor, i, 6; viii, 9
old and new, iii, 7
power over women, iii, 7
rapacity of, iii, 3
tricks of, iv, 2
[399]truth about. (See Epilogue.)

Friars, vanity of, iii, 7
wickedness of, iii, 7

Friuli, x, 5

Fulvia, x, 8

Fulvus, Titus Quintius, x, 8

Gabriel, St., Archangel, iv, 2
feathers of, vi, 10

Gabriotto, iv, 6

Gaeta, beauty of coast thence to Reggio, ii, 4

Galen, i, 6

Galeone, vi, 2

Galesus (or Cimon), v, 1

Gangrene, iv, 10

Garden, songs in, by torchlight, iii, 10
love scene in, iv, 7, et passim

Gautier, Count of Antwerp, ii, 8

Gemmata, ix, 10

Genoa, i, 5; i, 8; ii, 6; ii, 9; iii, 3; iv, 3; viii, 1
nobility of, i, 8

Genoese carracks, piracy by, ii, 4

Gentile Carisendi, x, 4

Gerard of Narbonne, iii, 9

Gerbino, grandson of Guglielmo, of Sicily, iv, 4

Geri Spina, vi, 1; vi, 2

German guards, ii, 1

Germans, disloyalty of, viii, 1

Gherardo di Bonsi, vi, 10

Ghibelline, some of the seven ladies were, x, 8

Ghino di Tacco, x, 2

Ghismonda, daughter of Tancred, Prince of Salerno, iv, 1
her defence of love, iv, 1

Ghita, Monna, vii, 4

Giacomina, v, 4

Giacomino da Pavia, v, 5

Gian di Procida, ii, 6

Giannello Sirignario, vii, 2

Gianni, v, 6

Gianni di Barolo, Dom, x, 10

Gianni Lotteringhi, master spinner, vii, 1

Gianni di Nello of Porta S. Piero, vii, 1

Giannole di Severino, v, 5

Giannucolo, father of Griselda, x, 10

Gigliuozzo Saullo, v, 3

Giliberto, x, 5

Gillette of Narbonne, iii, 9

Ginevra the Fair, x, 6

Giosefo, ix, 9

Giotto, vi, 5

Giovanna, v, 9

S. Giovanni, vi, 3

Giovanni del Bragoniera, vi, 10

Giovanni Gualberto, San, iii, 4

Girolamo di Leonardo Sighieri, iv, 8

Gisippus, x, 8

Giusfredi, ii, 6

Gostanza, v, 2
daughter of Guglielmo of Sicily, iv, 4

Granada, King of, iv, 4

Grassa the tripe woman, viii, 5

S. Gregory, his forty masses, iii, 3

Grignano, Niccolò da, ii, 6

Grimaldi, Ermino de', i, 8

Griselda, x, 10

Guasparrino d' Oria of Genoa, ii, 6

Guasparruolo da Saliceto, viii, 9

Guccio Imbrata, iv, 7; vi, 10

Guglielmo, King of Sicily, v, 7
II, King of Sicily, iv, 4
Borsiere, jester, i, 8
della Magna, x, 6
da Medicina, v, 5
[400]and the Lady of Vergiù, iii, 10

Guidi, the Counts, vii, 8

Guido degli Anastagi, v, 8

Guidotto da Cremona, v, 5

Guillaume de Cabestaing, iv, 9

Guiscardo, iv, 1

Gulfardo, German mercenary, viii, 1

Hawking, vi, 4

Holy Land, vi, 10

Holy Sepulchre, iii, 7; vii, 7

Hormisdas, v, 1

Horse, buying a, iii, 5

Hugnes, iv, 3

Husband as confessor, vii, 5

Immorality, abbot's excuse for, iii, 8
Filomena's prayer, iii, 3
of the times, Epilogue, vi, 10

Imola, vi, 2

India, vi, 10

Inns, iii, 7

Inquisition, i, 6

"Intemerata," vii, 1

Iphigenia, v, 1

Ippocrasso, viii, 9

Ireland, ii, 8
life in, "a very sorry suffering sort of life," ii, 8
Stamford in, ii, 8

Irony of Boccaccio against the Church, i, 2, et passim

Isabella, vii, 6

Isabetta, ix, 2
wife of Puccio de' Rinieri, q.v.

Ischia, v, 6

Isotta the Blonde, x, 6

Jacques Lamiens. (See Violante, daughter of Gautier.)

Jancofiore, viii, 10

Jasmine blossom, viii, 10

Jealousy, vii, 5

Jehannot de Chevigny, i, 11

Jerusalem, ix, 9
relics in, vi, 10

Jesters in Boccaccio's day, i, 8
their business of old, i, 8

Klarenza, ii, 7

Knight of the Bath, viii, 9

Lagina, iv, 7

Lamberto de' Lamberti, ii, 3

Lambertuccio, vii, 6

Lamentations of the Magdalen, a devotion, iii, 4

Lamporecchio, iii, 1

Landolfo di Procida, v, 6

Landolfo Ruffolo, ii, 4

Lapuccio, viii, 2

Laterina, viii, 9

Latin spoken by poor women, v, 2

Lauds, iii, 3

Laud-singers of S. Maria Novella, vii, 1

S. Laurence, vi, 10

Law, injustice of, to women, vi, 7

Lawyers, wickedness of, i, 1

Lazistan, v, 7; ix, 9

Lazzarino de' Guazzagliotri, vi, 7

Legnaia, viii, 9

Leonardo Sighieri, iv, 8

Leonetto, vii, 6

Lerici, ii, 6

Levant, the, iii, 8; v, 7

Licisca, a servant, Introd. to, vi, 10

Liello di Campo di Fiore, v, 3

Lipari Islands, ii, 6; v, 2
[401]women of, sailors, v, 2

Lippo Iopo, painter, vi, 10

Lisa, x, 7

Lisabetta, iv, 5

Lisetta da Ca' Quirino, iv, 2

Lizio da Valbona, v, 4

Lo Scacciato, ii, 6

Lodovico alias Anichino, vii, 7

"Lombard Dogs," i, 1

Lombards, i.e. Italian merchants, bankers, i, 1
in London, ii, 3
one marries daughter of King of England, ii, 3
usury of, ii, 3

Lombardy, ix, 2; x, 9

London, ii, 8; iii, 2

Lorenzo of Pisa, iv, 5

Lotto, second-hand dealer, viii, 2

Louis, son of Gautier, ii, 8

Love, cause of death, iv, 8
great humaniser, v, 1
lovers pleading, iii, 5
making, a strange, iii, 5
may not be held in partnership like money, ii, 7
to be loved, ix, 9

Lunigiana, i, 4; ii, 6; iii, 7

Lusca, vii, 9

Lydia, vii, 9

Lysimachus, v, 1

Madeleine, twin sister of Ninette, iv, 3

Maffeo da Palizza, x, 6

Magistrates, mistaken zeal of, xii, 7
trick against, viii, 5

Magra, the, ii, 6

Majorca, ii, 7

Malagevole, iv, 7

Malgherida de' Ghisolieri, i, 10

Manfred, ii, 6; x, 6

Mangione, ix, 5

Manico di Scopa, viii, 9

Mannuccio della Cuculla, vii, 1

Marato, brother of Pericone, ii, 7

Marches, viii, 5

Marchese, Florentine actor, ii, 1

Marcus Varro, x, 8

Maremma, iv, 2
"in the world and in ——," vi, 6

Margarita, ix, 7

Maria Bolgaro, v, 6

Mariabdela, King of Tunis, v, 2

Marriage, early age of, ii, 6; iv, 3
in bed, ii, 3
merchant's idea of a perfect, ii, 9
without a priest, v, 4

Marseilles, iv, 3

Martellino, Florentine actor, ii, 1

Martuccio Gomito, v, 2

Masetto, iii, 1

Masetto da Lamporecchio, iii, 10

Maso del Saggio, vi, 10; viii, 3

Matilda, Lady, her laud, vii, 1

Matteuzzo, viii, 5

Mattins, iii, 3; iii, 4; iii, 8

Melchisedec, i, 3

Melisso, ix, 9

Menzogna, land of, vi, 10

Merchants of Italy, ii, 6; and see Lombards
hatred of, i, 2
think by marriage to have gentility, vii, 8

Messina, iv, 4; iv, 5; viii, 10

Meuccio di Tura, vii, 10

Michele Scalza, vi, 6

Mico da Siena, poet, x, 7

Milan, iii, 5; viii, 1; x, 9

[402]"Milanese fashion" (to find a coarse moral in a tale), iii, 4

Minerva, v, 6

Minghino di Mingole, v, 5

Minuccio d' Arezzo, x, 7

Mita, Monna, vii, 10

Mitridanes, x, 3

Modena, x, 4

Monaco, ii, 10
pirates of, viii, 10

Monferrato, Marquis of, i, 5

Monks attacked, i, 4; iii, 4; iii, 8; ix, 10

Mont' Ughi, vi, 6

Monte Asinaio, iv, Introd.

Monte Morello, vi, 10; viii, 3

Monte Nero, ii, 10

Montesone, cross of, viii, 9

Montfort, Guy de, x, 6

Montisci, viii, 3

Morality, passim. (See ii, 9.) Boccaccio emphasises the base view of women. The whole story is told to this end, and the ladies themselves endorse this view. (See ii, 10.)
in merchant class, ii, 9

Morea, ii, 7
Prince of, ii, 7

Mother-in-law's tirade, vii, 8

Mourning, Florentine fashion of, iv, 8

Mugnone, viii, 3; ix, 6

Murderers beheaded in place of crime, iii, 7

Musciatto, Franzesi, i, 1

Musical boxes in beds of lovers, viii, 10

Naldino, v, 2

Naples, ii, 5; iii, 6; iv, 5; v, 6; vii, 2; viii, 10
arrival in, on Sunday eve at vespers, ii, 5
Bagnio in, iii, 6

Naples, body-snatching in, ii, 5
Charles I of, ii, 6
Charles II of, ii, 5
dangers of evil quarters in, ii, 5
loveliest city in Italy, iii, 6
mistress tricked into love in, iii, 6
Ruga Catalina, ii, 5
summer pleasures of, iii, 6
tilting, jousting at, iii, 6
Via Avorio, vii, 2

Narnald Cluada, iv, 3

Narsia, viii, 9

Nastagio degli Onesti, v, 8

Nathan, x, 3

Neerbale, iii, 10

Negro da Ponte Carraro, iv, 6

Nello, painter, ix, 3; ix, 5

Neri Mannini, vi, 6

Niccola da Cignano, viii, 10

Niccola da S. Lepidio, viii, 5

Niccolò Comacchini, ix, 5

Niccolosa, ix, 5; ix, 6

Niccoluccio Caccianimico, x, 4

Nicostratus of Argos, vii, 9

Nightingales, v, 4; vi, Epilogue

Ninette, iv, 3

Noble birth, Boccaccio's admiration of, iii, 7

Nones, iii, 6; v, Introd., vi, 10

Nonmiblasmetesevoipiace, Father, Patriarch of Jerusalem, vi, 10

Nonna de' Pulci, vi, 3

Nornieca, viii, 9

Nuns attacked, iii, 1 and 7; ix, 2

Nuta, vi, 10

Nuto Buglietti, viii, 2

Nuto, a gardener, iii, 1

Octavianus Cæsar, x, 8

[403]Octroi officers vexatious people, viii, 3

Old Man of the Mountain, iii, 8

Orange blossom, viii, 10

Oretta, Madonna, vi, 1

Orsini, v, 3

Osbech, king of Turks, ii, 7

Paganino da Mare, a corsair, ii, 10

Palermini, Aldobrandino, iii, 7
Rinuccio, ix, 1

Palermo, ii, 5; iv, 4; v, 6; viii, 10; x, 7

Palio in Florence, the, vi, 3

Panago, the Counts of, x, 10

Paris, i, 1; i, 2; i, 7; ii, 8; ii, 9; iii, 9; iv, 8; vii, 7; viii, 7; viii, 9

Pasignano, the most holy god of, vii, 9

Pasimondas the Rhodian, v, 1

Pasquino, iv, 7

Paternoster, S. Julian's, ii, 2

Pavia, iii, 2; x, 9
S. Piero in Ciel d' Oro, x, 9

Penance, a curious, iii, 4

Peretola, vi, 4; viii, 9

Pericone da Visalgo, ii, 7

Peronella, vii, 2

Perrot, ii, 8

Persia, x, 4

Perugia, ii, 5; v, 10

Philippe le Borgne, i, 5

Pietro di Vinciolo, of Perugia, v, 10

Picardy, ii, 8

Piccarda, Monna, viii, 4

Piero di Fiorentino, vi, 6

Pietro. (See Teodoro.)

Pietro del Canigiano, viii, 10

Pineta of Ravenna, the, v, 8

Pinuccio, ix, 6

Piracy, ii, 10

Pirates, Italian, ii, 4

Pisa, ii, 10; viii, 10

Pisa, women of (ugly), ii, 10

Pistoia, iii, 5; ix, 1
church of Friars Minor, ix, 1

Podestà, power of, ii, 1

Poison, iv, 1; iv, 3

Ponza, island of, ii, 6

Pope, v, 7
Boniface, ii, 6; ii, 10

Porcellana, privileges of, vi, 10

Poverty no bar to gentilesse, iv, 1

Prato, vii, 7
S. Lucia di, viii, 7

Prester John, viii, 9

Priest, a body-snatcher, ii, 5
concerned in pig-stealing, viii, 6

Priests, Belcolore's verdict on, viii, 2
great pesterers of women, viii, 4
and village life, viii, 2
wrongers of husbands, viii, 2

Primasso the grammarian, i, 7

Procida, v, 6

Provençals = Troubadours, iv, 9

Provence, iv, 3

"Psalter, the" = a nun's veil, ix, 2

Publius, Quintis Fulvus, x, 8

Puccini, Bernardo, x, 7

Puccino. (See Stramba.)

Puccio, Fra. (See Puccio de' Rinieri.)

Puccio de' Rinieri, iii, 4

Purgatory, iii, 8

Pyrrhus, vii, 9

Quintillian, vi, 10

Radicofani, x, 2

Ragnolo, Braghiello, iii, 8

Ravello, ii, 4

[404]Ravenna, v, 8

Ravenna, every day a saint's day in, ii, 10
women of, easy lovers, v, 8

Reconstruction, crime of, iv, 7

Relics, vi, 10

Religious (friars), stupidity of, iii, 4
incapable of earning a livelihood, iii, 3
reasons for retirement from world, iii, 3
vanity of, iii, 3

Restagnon, iv, 3

Restituta, v, 6

Rhodes, ii, 7; iv, 3; v, i

Ribi, viii, 5

Ricciardo di Chinzica, judge of Pisa, ii, 10; iv, 10

Ricciardo de' Manardi da Bertinoro, v, 4

Ricciardo Minutolo of Naples, iii, 6

Ricciardo of Pistoia, called Zima, iii, 5

Rimini, vii, 5

Rinaldo d' Asti, ii, 2

Rinaldo de' Pugliesi, vi, 7

Rinieri, viii, 7

Robbery, highway, ii, 2

Romagna, v, 4; v, 8; ix, 6
cloth of, vi, 5

Rome, v, 3
bears and wolves near, v, 3
country around, state of, in Boccaccio's day, v, 3
deserted during papal exile, v, 3
faction in, v, 3

Romeo and Juliet. (See Sleeping potion.)

Rose water, viii, 10

Roses, white and red, iv, 6

Roussillon, Bertrand de, iii, 9

Roussillon, Guillaume de, iv, 9
Isnard de, iii, 9

Ruberto, King, vi, 3
lover of Sismonda, vii, 8

Ruggieri de' Figiovanni, x, 1

Ruggieri, son of Guglielmo of Sicily, iv, 4

Ruggieri da Jeroli, iv, 10

Ruggieri dell' Oria, v, 6

Rustico, iii, 10

Sage-bush, poisonous, iv, 7 (See Toad.)

Saint, scene at shrine of, ii, 1
how to become a, iii, 4

Saladin, i, 3; x, 9

Salerno, iv, 1; iv, 10
basil of, iv, 5
beauty of, ii, 4
fair of, viii, 10

Saluzzo, x, 10
Marquis Gualtieri of, x, 10

Salvestra, iv, 8

San Gallo, near Florence, pardoning at, iv, 7
Lucifer of, viii, 9

San Gimignano, iv, 5

Sandro Agolanti, ii, 1

Santa Fiora, Counts of, x, 2

Saracens, iv, 4
ships of the, v, 2

Sardinia, ii, 7; iii, 8; iv, 4

Saturday is holy after One, i, 1

Scala, Cane della, i, 7

Scalea in Calabria, v, 6

Scannadio, ix, 1

Scarabone Buttafuoco, house of (a dangerous brothel), ii, 5

Scholars a match for the devil, viii, 7
rash for woman to try conclusions with, viii, 7

[405]Scotland, King of, ii, 3

Scott, Michael, viii, 9

Seneca, vi, 10

Settignano, viii, 3

Sicilian vespers, ii, 6

Sicily, iv, 4; v, 2; v, 7; x, 9
French in, x, 7

Sicofante and his wife, vi, Introd.

Siena, vii, 3; vii, 8; ix, 4; x, 2
S. Ambrose of, vii, 3
Camollia di, viii, 8
Campo Reggi, vii, 10
Porta Salaia, vii, 10

Sienese, simplicity of the, vii, 10

Simona, iv, 7

Simone, a doctor, ix, 3
da Villa, viii, 9

Sinigaglia, unhealthiness of, in summer, viii, 3

Sismonda, Monna, vii, 8

Sleeping potion used by abbot, iii, 8

Smyrna, ii, 7

Sodomy, i, 1; v, 10
of clergy, i, 2

Soldan, consort of, viii, 9

Solomon, vi, 10; ix, 9

Sophronia, x, 8

Spain, iv, 3; x, 1. (See also Basques.)
Alfonso of, x, 1

Spina, daughter of Currado de' Malaspina, ii, 8

Spinelloccio Tanena, viii, 8

Spinning, iv, 7

Spitting in church, i, 1

Squacchera, viii, 9

Stadic, the (chief of police in Naples), iv, 10

Stake erected in Piazza at Palermo, v, 6

Stecchi, an actor, ii, 1

Stramba alias Puccino, iv, 7

Strappado, the, ii, 1; iii, 2

Sunday observance, i, 1

Supper in garden, iii, 10

Susa, v, 2

Talano di Molese, ix, 7

Tamignano della Porta, viii, 9

Tancred, Prince of Salerno, iv, 1

"Te lucis ante terminum," vii, 1

Tedaldo Elisei, iii, 7

Tedaldo de' Lamberti, ii, 3

Teodoro, v, 7

Tessa, Monna, wife of Gianni Lotteringhi, vii, 1
wife of Caladrino, viii, 3; viii, 6; viii, 9; ix, 3; ix, 5

Thebaid desert, iii, 10

Theodelinde, wife of Agilulf, King of Lombardy, iii, 2

Tierce, Proem; iv, 10; v, 3; v, 6; v, 7; viii, 8

Tilt and joust in honour of mistresses, iii, 5; iii, 6

Tingoccio Mini, vii, 10

Toad poisonous, iv, 7

Tofano, vii, 4

Torello d' Istria da Pavia, x, 9

Torrenieri, ix, 4

Torture, ii, 3; ii, 9; iv, 10; v, 7. (See also Strappado.)

Trani, ii, 4

Trapani, v, 2; v, 7

Travelling in fourteenth century (from England to Rome), ii, 3

Traversari, Paolo, v, 8

Trecca, viii, 5

Tresanti, Pietro da, ix, 10

Treviso, ii, 1

Trial of bread and cheese, viii, 6

Troilus and Cressida, vi, Introd.

[406]Trudaro, vi, Introd.

Truffia, land of, vi, 10

Tunis, iv, 4; v, 2
King of, iv, 4

Uberti, Neri degli, x, 6

Udine, x, 5

Ughi, S. Maria, vi, 2

Usimbalda, Abbess, ix, 2

Ustica island, iv, 4

Usury, i, 1
reviled by the people, i, 1

Val d' Arno, viii, 7

Val d' Elsa, vi, 10

Valle delle Donne, vi, 10, Epilogue

Varlungo, near Florence, viii, 2

Venetians all unstable, iv, 2

Venial sins quit by holy water, iii, 4

Venice, vi, 10
common sink of abomination, iv, 2
Grand Canal, iv, 2
Piazza di S. Marco, iv, 2
Rialto, iv, 2

"Verdiana Santa," v, 10

Vergellesi, Francesco dei, iii, 5

Vespers, iii, 4; v, 2; v, 3; x, 7
and a surgical operation, iv, 10

Villa Cuba, v, 6

Villeggiatura, v, 9

Violante, v, 7
daughter of Gautier, ii, 8

Wales, ii, 8

Washing hands before dining, ii, 2

Wax images as votive offerings, vii, 3

Were-wolf, ix, 7

Whipping of women servants, vi, Introd.

Wine, Greek, ii, 8
Vernaccia, ii, 10

Wit, vi, 3

Wives, partnership in, viii, 9

Women, an old woman's advice to, v, 10
attack on, vii, 7
Boccaccio dedicated to them from boyhood, iv, Introd.
Boccaccio's defence of a love of, iv, Introd.
cause of Boccaccio's verses, iv, Introd.
excuses for taking lovers, iii, 5
frailty of, ix, 9
honour intact until they sell their love, viii, 1
injustice of law to, vi, 7
obedience to their husbands, iii, 6
occupations of, iii, Prelim.
sleep naked, ii, 9

Wool trade, iv, 7

Zeppa di Mino, viii, 8

Zima. (See Riccardo of Pistoia.)

Zinevra, ii, 9

Zita Carapresa, ix, 10







Abrotonia, 22, 23, 138, 320

Abruzzi, the, 117

Absalom, 88

Acciaiuoli, family of the, 101

Acciaiuoli, Andrea, 237 note, 242 note

Acciaiuoli, Angelo, 222 note

Acciaiuoli, Niccolò, 5 note, 122 note, 148, 156, 224
Boccaccio's letters to, 24 note, 59 note, 61
friendship with Boccaccio, 57, 150 note
probable invitation to Boccaccio, 108, 113, 203 note
schemes for Louis of Taranto, 116-18

Accoramboni, Paolo, 217 note

Achilles, 75

Acquasparta, Cardinal of, xv

Acquettino da Prato, Giovanni, 8

Acrimonia, 85, 86

Acta Sanctorum, 198 note

Adam, 224, 243

Adimari, Antonio, 104

Adiona, 85, 86

Æneas, 57, 202, 274

Affrico, 11, 12, 93, 304

Afron, 86

Agamemnon, 81

Agapes, 85, 86

Agnes de Perigord, 44

Aimeric, Cardinal, 113, 114

Albanzani, Donato degli, 227 note

Alberighi, Federigo degli, 307

Alberigo, Frate, 261 note

Albert of Hapsburg, xiv, xix

Albertazzi, 296 note

Alberti, the, 57

Alberto da Imola, Fra, 309

Albizzi, the, 104

Albornoz, Cardinal, 164, 167, 208, 217

Aldobrandini, the, 104

Alexander IV, 309

Alexander the Great, 89

Alexandria, 66, 94

Alexis, 122, 215 note

Allegri, Francesco, 213

Alleiram, 34

Altomonte, Count of, 110

Altoviti, Guglielmo, 102, 104

Alunno, Niccolò, 25 note

Amalfi, La Regina Giovanna nella tradizione, 115 note

Amaryllis, 164 note

Amazons, the, 79

Ambrosio, Matteo d', 222 note

Ameto, 179, 183 note
autobiographical nature of, 6, 7, 9 note, 10, 11, 13, 61, 86, 87
beauty of women in, 22 note
Boccaccino, 97 note
date of, 62, 70 note
dedication of, 194 note
description of the, 84-7
Fiammetta in, 29 note, 30, 32 note, 36, 52, 85, 323 note
journey to Naples, 15, 16, 320
Lia, 22 note
publication of, 87

Amicolo, Franceschino da Brossano, 213-16, 219 note

Amorosa Visione, 25 note, 26 note, 62
date of, 96
dedication of, 87, 132 note, 348, 349
description of, 88
Fiammetta in, 29 note, 30, 35, 37, 41, 43 note
Lucia, 22 note

Anchises, 155, 272

Andalò di Negro, 323

Andrew, King of Hungary, marriage of, 108 note, 109-11
administration of, 112-14
[410]murder of, 114, 121, 124

Andronicus, 191

Anselmi, Nuovi documenti, 4 note

Antellesi, the, 101

Anubis, 237-40

Apaten, 86

Apiros, 86

Apollo, 229, 239

Apuleius, 48, 58, 84, 88, 316

Aquila, 15

Aquino, Conte d', 9 note, 30, 31

Aquino, Maria d'. See Fiammetta

Arabian Nights, 292, 296

Aragon, 16

Arcadia, 155

Arch. di Stato Firenze Mercanzia, 4 note, 5 note

Arch. Stor. Ital., 151 note, 163 note, 209 note, 218 note

Arch. St. per le prov. nap., 31 note, 109 note

Arcite, 80-3

Aretino, Domenico, on Boccaccio's birth, 8, 9 note

Arezzo, xiv, 151, 153, 156, 157

Argo, 121, 122

Ariosto, Ludovico, 94 note

Aristotle, 234

Arno, the, xx, 10, 94 note, 126

Arnolfo di Cambio, xiii

Arquà, 282 note, 285

Ars Amandi, 12 note, 25, 33

Arthur, King, 26

Artois, Charles d', 110

Ascalione, 69

Ascham, Roger, 312

Astrology, Boccaccio's belief in, 235

Athens, 79
Duke of, 101, 244 note

Atlas, 64, 94

Avernus, lake of, 53

Aversa, 113-15, 117, 150 note

Avignon, 60, 114, 151, 164, 167, 171, 218, 219
Boccaccio in, 165-7, 170, 209, 211, 212
ceded to the Holy See, 118
Petrarch in, 190
popes in, xviii, xix, 15 note, 152 note
Robert the Wise crowned in, 17, 31
siege of, 217

Azzo da Correggio, 60


Baal, 88

Babylon, Sultan of, 66

Baddeley, King Robert the Wise, 109 note, 113-15 notes

Bagno, 53

Baia, Fiammetta at, 39, 40, 47, 49, 53-5, 67, 92, 134, 136, 138, 139, 141, 303 note

Baldelli, on Boccaccio in Romagna, 119, 120
on Boccaccio's embassies, 149-51
on Boccaccio's letters, 222 note
on Boccaccio's master, 24 note
on Boccaccio's meeting with Fiammetta, 323
on Boccaccio's metres, 94
on Pilatus, 203 note
on the Vita di Dante, 120 note, 183 note
The Rime, 132 note, 133
Vita di Boccaccio, 7 note, et passim

Baldi, Piero de', 100, 103

Baluzius, Vitæ Paparum, 115 note

Balzo, Ugo del, 116, 117

Bandino, 132

Barbi, ed. Vita Nuova, 254 note

Bardi, the, 104
Franceschino de', 128

Barlaam, 190, 191, 195

Baroncelli, Gherardo, 98 note

Barrili, Giovanni, 48

Bartoli, I precursi del Boccaccio, 70 note, 304 note

Bartolo del Bruno, Niccola di, 87

Bartolommeo da Siena, 198 note, 307

Bassi, P. A., 84

Beatrice, Dante's. See Dante

Beatrice di Dante, 120, 148, 259, 268

Beauveau, Louis de, 78

Bechino, 248 note

Belcolore, Monna, 306, 309

Bella, Giano della, xiv

Bellona, 86

Benedict XI, xviii, 109

Benevento, xiii, xiv

Benn, A. W., 304 note

Benvenuto da Imola, 104 note, 144, 220 note, 269, 277, 282 note, 321

Bergamo, xx

Brescia, xx, xxi, 264

Berlin, Hamilton MS. in, 171 note, 311

Berlinghieri, Arriguccio, 307

[411]Bernardino da Polenta, 119 note, 151

Bernicole, in Giornale Dantesco, 120 note

Bertinoro, 150 note

Bertolotto, Il Trattato dell' Astrolabio, 26 note

Betussi, G., 132 note, 270 note
Genealogia, 321 note

Baumgarten, 208

Biagi, G., La Rassettatura del Decamerone, 310 note
La vita privata dei Fiorentini, 126 note

Biagi and Pesserini, Codice Diplomatico Dantesco, 120 note

Bianchi, the, quarrel with the Neri, xiii-xvi
support Henry VII, xix

Biancofiore, letters to Florio, 25
story of, 63-9

Biscioni, 257 note

Bisdomini, Cerrettieri, 106, 107

Black Death in Italy, 125, 147, 171, 292

Boccaccino, humble origin of, 4
in Florence, 4, 10
position in Paris, 5-10
sells Corbignano, 11, 325-34
relations with his son, 13
in Naples, 20-2, 321
displeased with his son, 45
ruined, 57, 59 note, 88
marriage of, 87
second marriage of, 62 note, 98, 127
home of, 97
death of, 128, 130, 145
will of, 145

Boccaccio, Francesco di, 13, 14, 59 note, 319

Boccaccio, Giovanni, humanity of, xi, xii, 304
compared with Dante and Petrarch, xi, 144, 222, 224, 305
numerous works of, xi. (See separate headings)
their autobiographical character, xii, 6, et passim
declines the title of poet, xii, 94, 144, 228
bibliography of, 3 note
signatures of, 3 note
epitaph of, 3 note, 291
will of, 3 note, 289, 350-4
birth of, xxi, 3-9, 43 note
parentage of, 3, 6-10
childhood of, 10-12, 320
studies of, 12, et passim
English, 355-62
dislike of commercial life, 12-14, 19
sent to Naples, 14-16, 19 note, 319-21
first years there, 18-20
friendship with Calmeta, 20-2, 323
presented at Court, 21
studies Canon Law, 22, 24, 44, 321-4
his early loves, 22
dreams of Fiammetta, 23, 30
reads the classics, 25, 62
reads Dante, 25, 253
reads the French romances, 26
meets Fiammetta, 27-30, 33 note, 71 note, 321-4
his love for Fiammetta, 27-53, 130-2, 135, 136, 174, 197, 198 note
period of uncertainty in love, 35-43, 140
period of courtship, 36, 44-50
period of possesso completo, 35-40, 51-3, 140
betrayed by Fiammetta, 39, 40, 53-6, 141, 180
reads Petrarch, 45
writes Rime, 46, 47, 56
abandons the law, 47, 48
his literary studies, 48, 58
change of fortune, 56
leaves Naples, 59-61
his life in Florence, 61, 62, 96-9
his early works, 62-96
returns to Naples, 95, 99, 107-9, 113, 119
on Walter, Duke of Athens, 101, 106
on Robert the Wise, 110 note
relations with Queen Giovanna, 117 note
in Romagna, 117, 119, 259
meets King Louis of Hungary, 124
translates Livy, 119 note
during the plague, 126-9
returns to Florence, 128, 130, 145
appointed guardian to his brother, 128, 130, 145
his songs, 132-44
embassy to Ravenna, 146, 148-52
[412]embassy to Forlì, 150

Boccaccio first meets Petrarch, 153, 155, 190, 225
offers him a chair at the Florentine University, 157-60, 225
reproaches Petrarch with lack of patriotism, 160-1, 164 note, 192, 208
becomes Camarlingo, 162
at work on the Decameron, 162, 170-2
embassy to Ludwig of Brandenburg, 162
embassy to Avignon, 165-7
opinion of Charles IV, 167
his changed attitude to women, 172, 176-89
his children, 173 note, 214-16
his anthology of Cicero and Varro, 190
visits Petrarch in Milan, 192, 193, 226
studies Greek under Pilatus, 193-206, 209
his spiritual troubles, 197-203
offered post of Apostolic Secretary, 201, 227
visits Petrarch in Venice, 203, 204, 207, 226
embassy to Avignon, 209-12
stays in Genoa, 210
does not go to Pavia, 210, 226
in Certaldo, 1366, 212
visits Venice again, 212-16, 226, 282
embassy to the Pope, 1365, 216, 218
visits Naples, 219-22
his indignation with Montefalcone, 220
returns to Certaldo, 1371, 222
his Latin works, 223
his creative work, 224, 267
as Petrarch's disciple, 224-48
his Elogium on Petrarch, 228
appointed to expound the Divine Comedy, 249-53, 269, 279, 281
as a student of Dante, 253-7, 267
his Vita di Dante, 257-69
returns to Certaldo, 270, 281
his Comento sopra Dante, 270-8
his illness, 280
his letter on Petrarch's death, 282-8
his collection of relics, 289
his death, 290

Boccaccio as the greatest of story-tellers, 291-316
English works on, 355-9
and Dante, works on, 359
Chaucer and Shakespeare, works on, 360-6

Boccaccio, Jacopo di, 98, 99, 128, 130, 145, 270

Boghton-under-Blee, 296

Boll. di Soc. Dant. Ital., 252 note

Bologna, 123
Dante in, 263, 264
Visconti take possession of, 147, 148, 151, 152, 164

Bolsena, 156

Boniface VIII establishes the Neri in Florence, xiv-xvi
death of, xviii

Bordini, the, 104

Bostichi, Bice de', 98

Brescia, xx, xxi, 264

Brienne, Count of, 101

Brossano, Francesco da, 45 note, 153 note, 282

Bruna di Ciango, 289 note

Bruni, Francesco, 209 note, 210

Bruni, Leonardo, 258 note

Brutus, 88

Bucolics, 247

Buonaccorsi, the, 101

Buonamichi, Francesco di Lapo, 289 note

Buonconvento, xxi

Buonmattei, 183 note

Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, 316


Cabannis, Roberto de, 113, 116

Cabannis, Sancia de, 113, 116

Cabassoles, Philip de, 110, 112

Calandrino, 306

Calchas, 71, 73

Caleone, 6, 86, 87

Calmeta, friendship with Boccaccio, 20, 48, 58, 323

Calò, Filippo Villani, 8 note

Camarlinghi, the, 162, 216

Campaldino, xiv

Canestrini in Arch. St. It., 165 note, 218 note

Canzoni, Dante's, 272

Cappelletti, Osserv. e notiz. sulle fonti del Dec., 304 note

Capua, 15, 50, 57

Cara, 69

[413]Carbonara, 112 note

Carducci, Giuseppe, 9, 93 note
on the Ninfale, 93
on the Vita di Dante, 184 note

Carme, 254, 256, 263 note

Carthage, 63, 89

Casa di Boccaccio, 11, 325-34

Casentino, the, xx, xxi, 107, 257 note, 264

Casetti, Il Boccaccio a Napoli, 14 note, 31 note, 32
in Nuova Antologia, 323 note
on Fiammetta, 42

Cassandra, 74

Castalia, 229

Castel Capuano, 116

Castellamare, 114

Castel Nuovo, 116

Castello dell' Ovo, 117

Castor and Pollux, 81

Castracani, Castruccio, 100

Castracaro, 150 note

Catherine de Courteney, 44

Cato, 88

Cavaillon, Bishop of, 110

Cavalcanti, Maghinardo de', xiii, 279, 281 note

Cavicciulli, the, 104, 106

Cecco da Meleto, 123

Cerchi, the, 104

Certaldo, Boccaccio in, xi, 3, 7, 8, 10, 195 note, 212, 222, 270, 281, 284, 288
S. Jacopo, 289 note, 290

Chalcidius, 272 note

Charles of Anjou, King of Naples, xviii, 16
enters Florence, xvi
genealogical table of, 111 note

Charles IV, 163-8

Charles of Apulia, 88

Charles, Duke of Calabria, 18, 21, 44, 100-2, 109-10, 148

Charles, Duke of Durazzo, 39 note, 110-17

Charlemagne, 88

Charles Martel, death of, 16
son of Giovanna, 115-18

Charles of Valois, xv, xix

Chaucer, Geoffrey, and Boccaccio, English works on, 360-2
foreign works on, 362-4
debt to Boccaccio, 224, 257, 305, 311-13
in Italy, 313 note
Canterbury Tales, 84, 296, 313
Treatise on the Astrolabe, 322
Troilus and Criseyde, 73 note, 76 note, 78

Chellino, Boccaccio di. See Boccaccino

Chiose sopra Dante, 270 note

Churchyard, Thomas, Praise of Poets, 312

Ciampi, Monumenti, 150 note

Ciani, Gioacchino, 198, 203 note

Ciappelletto, Ser, 309

Cibele, 86

Ciccarelli, Lorenzo, 277 note

Cicero, 88, 154, 159, 190, 226, 234, 288

Cimbri, the, 241

Cini, Bettone, 103

Cino da Pistoja, 24, 25, 253

Cipolla, Fra, 202, 297 note, 306, 309

Cisti, 306

Città di Castello, 15 note

Claricio, Girolamo, 90

Claudian, 88

Claudius, 230

Clement IV, 262 note

Clement V, flies to Avignon, xviii
crowns Robert the Wise, 17, 31
supports Robert the Wise, 110
supports Andrew of Hungary, 112-18

Clement VI, 157
death of, 164

Cleopatra, 18, 88, 136, 241

Clerc, Discours, 68 note

Clonico, 69

Cobler of Caunterburie, 314

Cochin, H., Boccaccio, 24 note
Études Italiennes, 280 note
Un Amico del Petrarca, 192 note

Colonna, Cardinal, 17

Colonne, Guido delle, 77

Columbini, Giovanni, 198 note

Comento sopra Dante, 12, 127 note, 136, 201 note, 202 note, 225 note, 234 note, 268 note, 269 note, 270-8
children in, 215
summary of, 270-8

Comneno, Alessio, 26 note

Compendio, 257 note, 269. See Vita di Dante

Conrad, Duke of Teck, 163

Constance, Empress, 236

[414]Constantinople, 191, 204

Convenevole da Prato, 110

Convito, 254 note, 267, 272

Coote, H. C., 313 note

Corazzini, Lettere di Boccaccio, 9 note, et passim
on the Egloghe, 120 note

Corbaccio, 19, 190, 197
attitude to women, 134, 138 note, 237
date of, 170
influence of Dante in, 254
story of, 182
title of, 181

Corbignano, sale of, 11, 325-34

Coriolanus, 241

Cornelia, 88

Corneto, 217

Corradino, 88

Costanza, 241

Cotier, Gabriel, 95

Council of Trent, 310 note

Creighton, History of the Papacy, 152 note

Cremona, xx

Creon, 80

Crescimbeni, 94 note

Crescini, Contributo agli Studi sul Boccaccio, 4 note, et passim
Due Studi, 22 note
Idalagos, 6 note
lucia non Lucia, 22 note
on Boccaccino, 99
on Boccaccio's birth, 9 and note
on Calmeta, 20
on Fiammetta, 35, 36, 38, 323 note
on the Rime, 137, 143
on the Teseide, 83
on the two bears, 14 note
on the Visione, 89 note

Criseyde, 71-7

Criti, 210

Crowe and Cavalcaselle, ed. Hutton, 18 note

Cugnoni, Prof., 133

Cuma, 67

Curia, the, 309

Cyprus, 26 note, 185


D' Ancona e Bocci, Manuale della Lett. Ital., 321 note

Dafni, 210

Danäe, 239

D' Annunzio, Gabriele, 297

Dante Alighieri, xi, xiii, 16, 88, 151, 175, 179, 222, 224, 289 note
daughter of. See Beatrice di Dante
birth of, xiii
one of the Bianchi, xiv
in exile, xvi, xx, 253, 257 note
his dream of the empire, xvii
letters of, xx
death in Ravenna, 120
his Beatrice, 135, 136, 142-4, 186, 198, 263, 265, 307
influence on Boccaccio, 25, 77
life of, by Boccaccio, 120. See Vita di Dante
Boccaccio's sonnet to, 142, 254
Boccaccio expounds, 249-53
and Boccaccio, English works on, 359
De Monarchia. See infra
Divine Comedy. See intra
Rime, 267

Dante, Jacopo di, 268

Daphne, 210, 215 note, 229

"Dares Phrygius," 77

Dati, Goro di Stazio, Storia di Firenze, 104 note

Davidsohn, Forschungen zur Geschichte von Florenz, 4 note, 21 note
Il Padre di Boccaccio, 4 note, 21 note

De Blasiis, Cino da Pistoia, 24 note, 25 note
De Casibus, 21 note
La Dimora di Boccaccio in Napoli, 14 note, et passim
Le Case de' Angioni, 44 note

Decameron, 31, 33 note, 63, 105 note, 127 note, 190, 224, 240
as a source of inspiration, 311
attitude to women in, 174-9
Black Death in, 125, 128, 292
Church's treatment of, 310
clergy in, 202, 306, 308
compared with the Divine Comedy, xi, 309
contrasted with Corbaccio, 172
date of, 162, 170-2, 181, 183 note
Dogana, 19 note
Fiammetta, 174
foreshadowed in Filocolo, 69, 70
friars in, 309
human comedy, the, xi
humanism of, 305
impersonal character of, xi, 291
known in England, 311-16
[415]La Valle delle Donne, 302
MSS. of, 171 note, 311
palaces of, 298-302
Petrarch on, 311
plan of, 296
Proem, 172 note, 173, 174, 292-6
prose style of, 310
protagonists of, 297, 305, 306
sources of, 304
title of, 292 note
Tuscan setting of, 11
synopsis of and works on, 367-93
index to, 394-406

De Casibus Virorum Illustrium, 5 note, 6 note, 21 note, 101 note, 108, 124, 201 note, 223, 234 note, 243-4, 275, 313 note

De Claris Mulieribus, 224, 275
story of, 236-43
attitude to women in, 240-2

De Genealogiis Deorum, 119, 194, 201, 220, 224, 230, 235, 245-7, 272 notes, 275, 321
Andalò di Negro, 26 note
autobiographical nature of, 12 note, 24, 45 note
material of, 245-7
on commercial pursuits, 13, 19, 21 note, 22 note

Deiphobus, 75

Dejob, A propos du Décaméron, 305 note

Della Torre, La Giovinezza di Boccaccio, 8 note, et passim
St. della Accademia, 53 note
on Boccaccio's journey to Naples, 15, 57, 59 note, 60 note, 319
on Calmeta, 20
on Fiammetta, 31, 36, 38, 42

De Monarchia, 267
claims of the Empire, xvii

De Montibus, 4 note, 223, 228 note, 235, 245, 248, 275

De Nohlac, Les Scholies, 194 note, 203 note
Pétrarque et son jardin, 192 note
Pétrarque sur Homère, 191 note, 206 note

De Sade, 158

Desjardins, Négotiations Diplomatiques, 5 note

De Vulgari Eloquentia, 267

Diana, 86, 93

"Dictys Cretensis," 77

Dido, 57, 240

Diomede, 74, 75

Dioneo, 86, 295, 297, 302

Dionisi, 257 note

Divine Comedy, xi, 87, 90, 183 note, 226, 291
compared with the Decameron, 309
expounded by Boccaccio, 136, 249-53, 257, 266, 269. See Comento sopra Dante
Petrarch on, 227 note
Inferno, 254 note, 267, 269, 270, 273, 312, 324 note
Paradiso, 13 note, 104 note, 143 note, 253 note, 268, 271, 319 note
Purgatorio, 253 note, 258 note, 271

Dobelli, Il culto del Boccaccio per Dante, 26 note, 46 note, 253 note

Doccia, La, 304

Donati, Amerigo, 106

Donati, Corso, xv, xvi, 104, 106

Donati, Gemma, 184

Donati, Manno, 104

Donato de' Martoli, Gian, 7, 214

Doni, forged letter by, 24 note

Dryden, John, 311, 315

Duff Gordon, Lina, Home Life in Italy, 50 note

Duguesclin, Bertrand du, 217

Duraforte, Astorgio di, 123, 148


Edward III of England, 57 note

Egloghe, 19 note, 167, 235
evidence of the, 120-2, 124
Boccaccio's children in, 214 note

Egon, 164 note

Eletta, Petrarch's granddaughter, 88, 214-16

Elisa, 174, 294, 297

Elogium di Petrarca, 228, 231 note

Elsa, the, 290

Elyot, Sir Thomas, Boke of the Governors, 315 note

Emilia, 79-82, 85, 86, 174, 294

Esmondson, Godfrey, 245 note

Eucomos, 6

Euganean Hills, 227 note, 285

Euripides, 204

Eusebius, De Temporibus, 195

Eve, 224, 236, 243


Faenza, 150 note

Faggiuola, Uguccione della, 264, 267 note

[416]Faraglia, Barbato di Sulmona, 21 note, 48 note

Fauno, 120-2

Felice, King of Spain, 64, 65

Feramonte, 69

Ferrara, 84, 164

Ferrara, Marquis of, 218

Ferretus Vicentinus, 120 note

Fiammetta, bastard daughter of Robert the Wise, Boccaccio's love for, 6, 9 note, et passim
prevision of, 16 note, 23, 30, 320
Boccaccio's meeting with, 19 note, 27-30, 33 note, 321-4
descriptions of, 28, 29, 46, 47
birth of, 30-2
in the care of nuns, 32, 42
marriage of, 33
her voluptuous nature, 33, 34
accepts Boccaccio's suit, 35-40, 48-53
betrays Boccaccio, 54, 180, 242
death of, 127-30, 279
Boccaccio's poems to, 137
in the Ameto, 85
in the Amorosa Visione, 87-9
in the Decameron, 294

Fiammetta, the, 10, 31 note, 32 note, 47 note, 224
Boccaccino in, 14 note
criticism of, 92
date of, 62, 74 note, 90, 96
Florence, described in, 96 note, 108
meeting of Boccaccio and F., 28 note, 29 note
Naples, described in, 18, 44, 45
on marriage, 34 note
Panfilo, in, 59 note
publication of, 93
sources of, 93
story of, 51-5, 91, 98
strategy of love, 49 note, 50

Fiesole, 11, 12, 84, 94, 299, 304, 309

Filippa la Catanese, 108 note, 113, 114, 116, 244, 306

Filippo, Patriarch of Jerusalem, 211

Filocolo, 51 note, 52 note, 55, 56, 138 note, 179
Abrotonia, 22
autobiographical nature of, 6, 7, 9 note, 10, 12, 13, 23, 67, 78, 319
Calmeta, 20
criticism of, 68
Dante, 25 note
date of, 62
Fiammetta, 28-33 notes, 37 note, 38 note, 43 note, 66, 322
Florio, 54 note, 63-9
germ of the Decameron, xii
influence of Dante in, 253
Naples, 19
narrative of, 63-8
on the Ars Amandi, 25
origin of name, 66 note
publication of, 70
Questioni d' Amore, 66, 69, 70
source of, 68
two bears, 10 note, 14, 319 note
written at Fiammetta's bidding, 42, 43, 63

Filomena, 174, 294, 296

Filostrato, 174, 295, 297

Filostrato, The, 70-8, 313
criticism of, 76, 77
date of, 47, 62, 70 note, 78
dedication of, 70, 78
Fiammetta, 28 note, 29 note
influence of Dante in, 253, 26 note
narrative of, 71-7
publication of, 78
secret vice, 34 note
song by Cino, 25 note
sources of, 77

Fiorentino, Anonimo, 277

Floire et Blanceflor, 68 note

Florence, allied with King Robert against Henry VII, xix-xxi, 17
allied with Siena and Perugia, 15 note
appeals to the Pope, 152, 163
appeals to Ludwig of Brandenburg, 163; and Charles IV, 163
appoints Boccaccio to expound Dante, 249-53, 267, 269
at Hawkwood's mercy, 208
Bishop of, xv
Boccaccino in, 4, 10
Boccaccio in, 25 note, 59, 60 note, 96-107, 150
Boccaccio's birth claimed for, 8, 9
Casa di Boccaccio, 57 note
employs Boccaccio as ambassador, 146-52, 157, 165, 209-12, 218
Henry VII's attack on, xxi, 17
Leon Pilatus in, 193
makes terms with the Visconti, 164, 165
[417]Mercato Vecchio, 105
Neri established in, xiv-xvi
offers Petrarch a chair in the university, 157-60
Or San Michele, 120 note, 146, 148, 151
Petrarch in, 153-7, 225
Piazza di S. Croce, 102
Piazza della Signoria, 102
plague in, 125, 147, 293
political condition of, 1341-5, 96, 100-7; 1352-9, 165-9
prosperity of, xiii
Rettori, 103
Robert the Wise in, 17, 31
S. Ambrogio, 62, 99, 107
S. Felicità, 97, 99, 107
S. Maria del Fiore, 106
S. Maria Novella, xvi, 294
S. Stefano ad portam ferram, 252 note
S. Stefano della Badia, 252, 269
Signori, 102, 103
threatened by Milan, 147-8, 151-3, 162
trades with France, 5
university of, 157, 193

Florio, story of, 25, 42, 63-9

Foligno, 123

Forest of Fancy, 314

Forlì, 122 note, 127, 149, 150 note, 164 note, 171

Foscolo, Disc. Storico, sul testo del D., 172 note, 184 note, 257 note, 310 note
on the Vita di Dante, 184 note

Fracassetti, Lettere di Petrarca, 119 note, 123 note, 203 note

France, papacy under influence of, xviii

Franceschino da Brossano, 45 note, 153 note, 282

Francesco da Buti, 277

Fra Roberto, 112

Fratticelli, The, 278

Frederic II, 236
death of, xiii

Frederic III of Sicily, 221, 267 note

Frescobaldi, Bardo, 100, 103, 104


Galen, 88

Galeone, 66, 67, 69

Galeone, Gianello, 307

Galletti, Philippi Villani, Liber, 8 note

Gamba, Serie dei Testi di Lingua, 251 note, 257 note

Gambatesa, Carlo di, 113

Gannai, 7

Gardner, E. G., S. Catherine of Siena, 217 note

Gaspary, A., 108 note
Filocolo oder Filocopo, 63 note

Gebhart, Prologue du Décaméron, 296 note

Gelli, 277

Gemma, 259 note, 263, 264

Genoa, 17, 26 note, 44, 147, 148
Boccaccio in, 210, 211

Georgics, 247

Gerace, Bishop of, 191

Germany, feudal union with Italy, xix

Gerola, Alcuni documenti, 252 note

Gharamita, 6

Gherardi, Ruberto, La Villeggiatura di Maiano, 97 note, 335-47

Ghibellines, the, xiv, 11
support Henry VII, xix

Giardino, Pier, 268

Gigli, Il Disegno del Decamerone, 91 note
I sonetti Baiani del Boccaccio, 24 note

Ginguené, 9

Giotto, xiii, 289 note
in Naples, 18
tower of, 100

Giovanna, Queen of Naples, 218, 221
marriage of, 109-11
influence of, 112
suspected of her husband's murder, 115, 122, 124
second marriage of, 116-18
sells Prato, 148
and the Decameron, 171
in De Claris Mulieribus, 224, 236, 242

Giovanni of Florence, 109

Giovenale (Juvenal), 183 note

Giulia Tropazia, 63, 64, 88

Giulio di Boccaccio, 215 note

Glorizia, 64

Gonfaloniere, the, xiv

Gonzaga, 167

Goth, Bertrand de, xviii

Graf, Fu Superstizioso il Boccaccio, 198 note

Grandi, the, in power, xiv

[418]Grantham, H., 70 note

Graziosa, 69

Greene, Robert, Perimedes the Blacksmith, 314 note

Gregory XI, 221

Grillo, Giovanni, 25 note

Griselda, 33 note, 297 note, 306, 307, 311

Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, 308

Gualdrada, 236

Gubbio, 217 note

Guelfs, the, xiv, xxi, 152, 163
triumph at Benevento, xiii
Robert the Wise, 16

Guercin du Crest, Anton, 95

Guglielmo da Ravenna, 214

Guido da Polenta, 119 note, 150

Guinevere, 38 note, 42, 89


Hager, Programmata III, 289 note

Hamilton MS., 171 note

Hannibal, 88

Harrington, Sir John, Apology of Poetry, 312

Harvey, Gabriel, 312

Hauvette, H., Ballades du Décaméron, 297 note
Il MS. Berlinese, 171 note
Le Professeur de Grec de Boccace, 194 note
on the Corbaccio, 181 note
Recherches sur le Casibus, 224 note, 243 note
Une Confession de Boccace, 22 note, 108 note, 323 note

Havemann, Geschichte des ausgangs des Tempelherrenordens, 5 note

Haviland, John, 245 note

Hawkwood, Sir John, 208

Hecate, 52 note

Hecker, Boccaccio Funde, 12 note, 48 note, 108 note

Hector, 73, 233

Hecuba, 88

Helicon, 229, 285

Henry VII, 5, 31, 163, 264
crowned in Rome, xx, 17
death of, xiii, xxi
election of, xix
his attack on Florence, xxi
opposed by Robert the Wise, 17

Henry VIII of England, 243 note

Heroides, 25

Herrick, Robert, 133

Heywood, William, Ensamples of Fra Filippo, 126 note
on Perugia in 1323, 15 note
Palio and Ponte, 104 note

History of Trytone and Gesyppus, 315 note

Hollway-Calthrop, Mr., Petrarch, 112 note, 201 note

Homer, 81, 88, 231, 233, 276, 285
translation of, 191, 195, 196, 203, 205, 226

Horace, 88, 257 note, 262, 288
Epistolæ, 156

Hortis, 9, 108 note, 125 note, 149 note
Acceni alle Scienze, 53 note, 223 note, 235 note, 245 note
Boccaccio Ambasciatore, 159 note, 162 note, 165 note, 209 note, 210 note, 212 note, 217 note
Le Donne famose, 224 note, 242 note
on the Eclogues, 122 note, 123 note
Studi sulle Opere Latine di Boccaccio, 25 note, 220-3, 236, 241, et passim

Hundred Merry Tales, 296, 315 note

Hutton, Edward, 315 note
Country Walks about Florence, 12 note, 299 note, 300 note, 303 note
See Crowe and Cavalcaselle

Hystoria Troiana, 77


Ibrida, 6, 86, 97 note

Idalagos, 6, 14, 67, 319
learns astronomy, 20

Ilario, 67

Il Cortigiano, 34 note

Il Falso Boccaccio, 270

Iliad, 77, 191, 205, 276

Ilias Latina, 191

Il Sangro, 15

Imola, 90

Inferno. See Divine Comedy

Innocent IV, 309

Innocent VI, policy of, 164-8

Ippolyta, 79

Isabella, 307

Isernia, 15

Iseult, 89

Italy, federation of, 161


Jacopo, Domenico di, 145 note

Jaggard, Isaac, 315

Jason, 88

[419]Jean d'Anjou, 44

Jeanne, mother of Boccaccio, 9, 87, 97

Jerusalem, King of, 16

Joan, Pope, 236

Juliet, 33 note


Katzensteiner, Diapoldo, 163

Keats, John, 311

Knights Templars, 5, 6

Koch, Dr., 313 note

Koeppel, Studien, 314 note

Koerting, Boccaccio's Leben, 9 note, 257, 323, et passim
on the Rime, 138 note

Kuhns, Dante and the English Poets, 312 note


Lælius, 155

La Fontaine, 311

Lagonessa, Giovanni di, 116

Lagonessa, Rostaino di, 116

Lana, Jacopo della, 269

Lancelot, 38 note, 42, 89

Landau, Vita di Boccaccio, 9, 60 note, 81, 138, 149 note, 155 note, 165 note, 170 note, 184 note, 323
Die Quellen des Dekam., 304 note

Landino, 277

Lando, Giovanni di, 25 note

Landor, W. S., 304

Lapo da Castiglionchio, 156

Laura, Petrarch's, 135, 142-4, 193

Laurentian library, 226 note, 254 note

Lauretta, 294

La Valle delle Donne, 302, 303

Lello di Pietro Stefano, 207

Leonetto, 307

Leucippe and Clectophon, 94 note

Lia, 22 note, 84, 86, 89, 98 note

Libro delle Provvisioni, 249, 251 note

Licisca, 297 note

Lionel, Duke of Clarence, 219

Lipari Islands, 101

Livy, Boccaccio translates, 88, 119 note

Lodovico, 307

Lo Parco, Petrarca e Barlaam, 190 note

Louis of Bavaria, 100

Louis of Durazzo, 117

Louis of Hungary, invades Italy, 121-5, 150 note
invades Naples, 117, 118

Louis of Taranto, 113, 116-18, 124

Lownes, M., 315

Lucan, 276

Lucca, 44, 84, 257 note
pays tribute to Robert the Wise, 17
sold to Pisa, 100, 101, 103

Lucia, 22 note

Ludwig of Brandenburg, 162

Lucrece, 18, 51 note

Lunigiana, 264

Lybia, 185

Lycia, 155

Lydgate, John, The Falle of Princes, 101 note, 106 note, 244 note

Lydia, 307

Lyons, 95


Machiavelli, Niccolò, Lettere, 186 note
on Walter, Duke of Athens, 101, 104, 107

Macon, Antoine Le, 315

Macri Leone, ed. Vita di Dante, 184 note, 257 note, 263 note, 269 note

Magliabecchiana library, 277

Malatesta, Pandolfo, 208

Malatesta, Sigismondo, 123

Malespina, Moruello, 264, 267 note

Mancini, the, 104

Mancini, Poggio Gherardo, 299 note

Manetti, 132 note

Manfredi, the, 150 note

Manicardi e Massera, Introduzione al Canzoniere, 46 note, 48 note, 133 note, 134, 136 note, 139, 143

Mannelli, Francesco, 171 note, 311

Manni, 145 note, 217 note
Istoria del Decameron, 10 note, 170 note, 128 note, 222 note, 251 note, 270 note, 304 note
on Boccaccio's birth, 8

Mantua, 164, 167

Mare Morto, 67

Margherita di Gian Donato, Boccaccino marries, 7, 9 note, 10, 11 note, 13, 59, 299

Maria, Duchess of Durazzo, 110

Marie de Valois, 44

Mario di Boccaccio, 215 note

Marmorina, 64, 65

Mars, 65, 81

Martial, 88

Martini, Simone, his portrait of Robert the Wise, 18

[420]Martino da Signa, Fra, 120, 125, 270

Martoli, Donato de', 7

Mary of Hungary, 111 note

Marzano, Goffredo, 110

Massalino, 69

Massamutino, 65

Massera, Le più antiche biografie del Boccaccio, 8 note, 12 note

Matteo da Signa, 214 note

Mazalotti, the, 104

Mazzinghi, Brief Notice of Recent Researches, 263 note

Mazzuchelli, 132 note
Gli Scrittori d' Italia, 217 note, 270 note

Mazzuoli, Zanobi, 12

Mazzuoli da Strada, Giovanni di Domenico, 12

Medea, 88

Medici, the, 104, 106
Giovanni de', 102

Mehus, Abate, Ambrosii, 149 note

Melezino, Niccolò di, 116

Meldola, 150 note

Menedon, Longanio, 69

Mensola, 11, 12, 93

Méril, Edélestand du, 68 note

Metamorphoses, 25, 48

Michele, Dietifeci di, 167

Midas, 87

Milan, 90, 147
Petrarch in, 188, 192, 196, 219, 226
power of, 147, 148, 151-3

Milanesi, Gaetano, 278
Il Comento di Boccaccio, 249 note, 251 note, 252 note, 271 note, 277 note

Mini, G., Il Libro d' Oro, 4 note

Minos, 81

Miseno, 67, 139

Molay, Jacques de, 6

Molière, 311

Monaldi, Guido, Diario, 252 note

Monte Cassino, 220 note

Monte Ceceri, 94 note

Montefalcone, Niccolò di, 219-21

Monte Falerno, 58, 59

Monteforte, Pietro di, 203 note, 222

Monte Miseno, 49

Montferrat, Marquis of, 208

Montorio, 64

Montorio, Duke of, 69

Monza, 168

Moore, Dr. E., Dante, 257 note, 268 note

Mopsa, 85, 86

Morandi, Antol. della Critic. Mod., 224 note

Morcone, Contessa di, 113

Morelli, Giovanni, on the plague, 126

Morini, Il prologo del Decameron, 296 note

Morley, Lord, 243 note

Morrozzo, Matteo di, 103

Moschus, 87

Mugnone, the, 94, 302

Mundo, 237-40

Mussafia, Il Libro XV, 224 note, 248 note

Mussi, Luigi, 257 note, 269 note


Nachgeahunt of Whetstone, 315 note

Naples, xxi, 289
Angevins in, xix
Boccaccio in, 11 note, 13, 16-18, 150, 219, 220, 222 note, 321
court of, 18, 21, 26, 44
invaded, 147
King of. See Charles of Anjou and Robert the Wise
political condition in 1344, 108-18
S. Chiara, 109
S. Lorenzo Maggiore, 18 note, 27, 30, 42, 71 note

Narcissus, 81, 215 note

Nationality, spirit of, xvii, xviii

Negro, Andalò del, 20, 26
Tabula, 36

Neifile, 174, 294, 299

Nelli, Francesco, 156, 164 note, 193 note, 203 note, 207

Neri, the quarrel with the Bianchi, xiii-xvi

Nero, 233

Nestor, 81

Niccolò di Vegna, 11

Nicoletti, 132 note

Ninfale Fiesolano, countryside in, 11
criticism of, 94
date of, 62, 93, 96
publication of, 95
sources of, 94
story of, 93, 94

Niobe, 89

Nisus, 155

[421]Notable History of Nastagio and Traversi, 314 note

Novati, Giornale St. d. Lett. It., 226 note

Novello da Polenta, Guido, 265


Odyssey, 191, 205, 276

Olympia, 214 note

Orcus, 81

Ordelaffi, Francesco degli, 120-5, 128, 149-51, 171

Orlandini, Baldo, 5 note

Orlando Furioso, 312

Orsini, Niccolò degli, 221 note, 222 note, 225 note

Orsini of Sovana, Count, 117

Ostasio da Polenta, 117, 119, 149, 150

Ovid, 33, 87, 246, 257 note, 262, 289
Amoris Remedia, 182
Boccaccio's love of, 25, 45, 48
Heroides, 93
Metamorphoses, 12 note, 94

Oxford, Dante in, 263 note


Paccio, 109

Paccone, Biagio, 25 note

Padua, 93, 153, 164, 167
Boccaccio in, 219, 226
Dante in, 263 note, 264
Petrarch in, 157-60, 191, 193, 195, 219, 225, 285, 313 note

Painter's Palace of Pleasure, 314, 315 note

Palemon, 80-3, 120

Palio, the, 104

Pallas Athene, 86

Pamfilo, 91, 98, 120, 295, 297

Pampinea, 22, 23, 138, 174, 294, 296, 320

Pan, 164 note

Pandarus, 71, 73, 76

Paolina, 237-40, 241, 243

Paolo da Perugia, 48

Paolo il Geometra, 248 note

Papacy, fall of the, xiii, xviii
the medieval idea of, xvi
the, removes to Avignon, xviii

Papia, Elementarium, 320 note

"Pargoletta," 257 note

Paris, 24 note
Boccaccino in, 5
Boccaccio's birth in, xxi, 3, 6, 7
Dante in, 258 note, 263, 264, 266
Homer translation in, 206, 276

Paris of Troy, 81, 88

Parker, Henry, Lord Morley, 243 note

Parma, 100, 153

Parmenione, 69

Parnassus, 229

Partenope, 66

Paur, 257 note

Pavia, Petrarch in, 210, 212, 226

Payne, Mr. John, 316

Pazzi, the, 104

Peleus, 81

Pelli, Memorie, 120 note, 257 note

Penelope, 57, 206

Pepoli, the, 152

Percopò, I bagni di Pozzuoli, 53 note

Perini, Dino, 269

Peritoo, 79, 80

Perseus, 239

Perugia, 15, 24 note, 148, 151, 152, 163 note, 164

Peruzzi dal Parlagio, the, 17, 57 note, 101

Peter of Aragon, 217

Petrarch, xi, xiii, 175, 179, 222
birth of, xvi, 4 note
reports Boccaccio's birth in 1313, 6, 7, 10 note
on Robert the Wise, 17, 110, 111
Boccaccio reads, 45
Boccaccio's friendship with, 45, 59, 146, 150, 155, 156, 190, 223-35
visits Naples, 60, 109, 111, 112, 154
on Naples, 112
letters to and from Boccaccio, 119, 120 note, 153 note, 155, 156, 159, 188, 194, 199-201, 204, 205, 207, 210, 212-16
his Laura, 135, 136, 142-4, 153, 158
Boccaccio's sonnet to, 136, 143
first meeting with Boccaccio, 152, 155, 190, 225, 287
in Rome, 153 note, 156
character and position of, 154
offered a chair in Florence, 157-60
his studies in Greek, 190, 206
in Padua, 219, 313 note
Boccaccio's master in classical attainments, 223, 224, 232-5, 242, 247
Boccaccio's opinion of, 225-32, 246, 247
will of, 227, 231, 287 note
[422]on the Decameron, 227
on the Divine Comedy, 254-6
his hatred of the vulgar tongue, 255 note
illness of, 280 note
death of, 282
known in England, 312
Africa, 159, 228, 231, 287
De Remediis, 243
De Viris Illustribus, 236, 243
Egloga, 110 note, 122 note
Epistol. Fam., 190, 205, 225, 231, 233, 255 notes
Epistol. Sen., 194, 203, 205, 207, 210, 225, 227, 233 notes
Epistol. Varie, 196 note
Italia Mia, 167
Trionfi, 90, 288

Petroni, Pietro, 198, 201, 202, 226, 232, 233

Pheneus, 155

Philip IV of France, xv, 5
asserts the rights of the State against the Papacy, xviii
supports Henry VII, xix

Philip of Taranto, 44

Phœnix of Poets, 228

Piero, Gabriele di, 70

Pilatus, Leon, relations with Petrarch, 191-3
in Florence with Boccaccio, 193-8, 203-5, 276
translation of Homer, 206

Pinelli, Corbaccio, 183 note
La moralità nel Decam., 305 note

Pisa, xxi, 100, 125, 157, 168
plague in, 147
indemnity to Florence, 208

Pisani, the, xiii

Pistoia, 17, 148, 151

Pizzinghe, Jacopo, 221 note, 222 note, 229 note

Plato, 191, 196, 226
Timæus, 272

Plautus, 246

Pleasant and Sweet History of Patient Grissel, 315 note

Pleasant History of Galesus, Cymon, 314 note

Po, the, 219

Poe, E. A., 132

Poggibonsi, xxi

Poggio, Andrea, 268

Poggio Gherardo, 12 note, 97 note, 299, 304, 335

Pola, 69

Polissena, 73

Poliziano, Stanze, 82 note

Pomona, 86

Pompeano, 55

Pompey, 89

Poppea, 241

Portinari, Folco, 263

Porto Ercole, 117

Posilipo, 58, 285

Pozzuoli, 67

Prato, 17, 151, 162
bought by Florence, 148, 150 note

Priam of Troy, 71

Proba, 241

Prometheus, 141

Provence, Count of, 16

Prunella, 307

Pruneo, 94

Psyche, 316

Pucci, Antonio, 138 note

Pygmalion, 81

Pynson, Richard, 101 note, 244 note

Pythias, 155


Questioni d' Amore. See Filocolo

Quintillian, Institutions, 156

Quinto Lelio Africano, 63


Raimondo di Catania, 113, 116

Rajna, Pio, L' Episodio, 53 note, 69 note
Le fonti, 94 note, 292

Rambaldo di Vaqueiras, 68 note

Ravello, Lorenzo di, 25 note

Ravenna, Boccaccio in, 119, 120, 148, 149, 151, 159, 164 note, 259
Dante in, 158, 265

Renaissance, the, xii, 206, 227 note
beginning of, xxi
Boccaccio a pioneer of, 248

Renier, Di una nuova opinione, 131 note
La Vita Nuova e Fiammetta, 22 note, 24 note, 63 note

Rhadamanthus, 81

Riccardiana library, 277

Rienzi, 128

Rieti, 15

Rigg J. M., 299 note, 300 note, 315 note, 316

Right Pleasant Historie of the Mylner of Abingdon, 315 note

[423]Rime, 53 note, 54, 56, 179, 227 note
accepted canon of, 133
analysed, 134, 136, 137
certainties of, 136
Fiammetta, 46, 47
influence of Dante in, 253
love poems of, 137-44
on Dante, 275
on death, 282
order of, 133

Rimini, 149, 150

Rinaldo, Fra, 309

Robert the Wise, King of Naples, 87, 121, 154, 242
opposes Henry VII, xix-xxi, 17
relations of Boccaccino with, 5
Fiammetta, the daughter of, 6, 9 note
influence of, 16-18
coronation of, 17, 31
portrait of, 18
entertains Petrarch, 60
appealed to by Florence, 100
death of, 109
will of, 110

Roberto, Fra, 112

Roberti, Dionisio, da Borgo Sansepolcro, 24 note, 59

Rodoconachi, Boccace, 241 note, 245 note

Romagna, 117, 147, 149

Roman de Thèbes, 83

Roman Empire, xiii, xvii

Rome, 87, 171
Castel S. Angelo, xx
Henry VII crowned in, xx, 17
Lateran, xx, 17, 67
papal exile from, xiii, xviii
Petrarch in, 153 note, 156
S. Peter's, xx

Romeo, 22

Rosaline, 22

Ross, Mrs., 97 note, 335
Florentine Villas, 299 note

Rossellini, Della casa di Boccaccio in Certaldo, 288 note

Rossetti, D., Petrarca, Celso e Boccaccio, 158 note, 228 note, 247 note

Rossetti, D. G., translations of, 133 note, 138, 142, 275, 276

Rossetti, W. M., 313 note

Rossi, the, 104

Rossi, Pino de', 194, 209

Rucellai, Nardo, 102
the, 104, 106

Rufolo, Niccolò, 25 note

Rustichesi, Francesco, 102

Rustico, Fra, 309, 315 note


Sacchetti, Franco, 125, 144
Novelle, 313

Sachs, Hans, 311

Sadoc, 66

S. Agata, Count of, 110

Sainte-More, Benoît de, Roman de Troie, 77

Salimbeni, the, 218

Sallust, 88, 159

Salonica, 191

Salutati, Coluccio, 144, 282 note

Salvatico, Count, 264

Salvi di Dini, 11

Salviati, Il Decamerone, 170 note

Salvini on Boccaccio's birth, 8

Samnium, 70

Sancia, Queen, 110, 114

Sanesi, 145 note
on Lia, 98 note

Sanguinetto, Filippo di, 110

S. Anne, feast of, 105

Sansovino, 132 note

S. Anthony of Padua, 153

S. Arcangelo a Baiano, 32, 42

Sarzana, 164

Saturn, 69, 88

S. Augustine, 246
Commentary, 190, 226
Confessions of, xii

Savi-Lopez, P., Sulle fonti delle Teseide, 83 note

S. Bartholomew's Day, xxi

S. Benedict, Order of, 32

Scala, Alberto della, 258 note, 264

Scala, Cane della, 167, 267 note, 273

Scala, Martino della, 100, 104

Scartazzini, 257 note

S. Catherine of Siena, 308

Scefi, Guglielmo da, 106, 107

Schaeffer-Boichorst, 257 note

S. Chiara, 18

Schuck, 245 note

Schulz, Denkmäler, 18 note

Scipio Africanus, 63

S. Clemente, Cardinal di, 115

Scott, F. N., Boccaccio and Sidney, 224 note, 247 note

Scythia, 79

S. Dominic, 309

Sempronia, 241

[424]Seneca, 59 note, 230, 276
wife of, 240

Serravalle, Giovanni di, 263 note

Settignano, 11, 94 note, 299, 335

Settimo, Guido, 211

Seville, 64

Sevin, Adrien, 70

S. Felicità, 11

S. Francis, 202, 289 note, 309

S. Gregory, monastery of, 191

Shakespeare, William, xii, 224, 257, 292, 306, 311
and Boccaccio, works on, 365, 366
his "dark lady," 130
Troilus and Cressida, 75 note

Sichæus, 81

Sicily, King of, 16, 17
love in, 52 note

Sidney, Sir Philip, 224 note, 311, 312
his Stella, 130, 131
Defense of Poesie, 312

Siena, 15, 125, 127, 163 note, 164, 217, 218, 258 note
opposes Henry VII, 17
allied with Florence, 151, 152
plague in, 147, 148

Sigeros, Nicolas, 191

Silvanus, 160, 164 note, 228, 284

Silvio, 214 note

Simonides, 164 note, 207

Sismonda, 307

S. Isidoro di Siviglia, Origines, 320 note

S. James of Compostella, 63, 69

S. Jerome, 184 note, 195, 246, 263 note

S. John Baptist's Day, 104

S. John of the Cross, 198

S. Lazarus, 202

S. Lorenzo dell' Arcivescovato di Capua, 57, 59

S. Louis of Toulouse, 18

S. Marco, Cardinal di, 115

S. Maria di S. Sepolchro dal Pogetto, 289 note

S. Maria Maggiore, 57 note

S. Mary's Day, 17

S. Michael, 202

Smyrna, 285

Società de' Bardi, 5, 21, 57 note

Socrates, 230

Sofonisba, 241

Solerti, Le vite di Dante, Petrarca e Boccaccio, 8 note

Solomon, 88

Solon, 261

Sophocles, 204
Antigone, 28 note

S. Paul, 198

Spenser, Edmund, 130, 312

S. Pier Maggiore, 11

Spoleto, siege of, 15

Squarciafico, Girolamo, 70, 132 note

Squillace, Count of, 110

S. Scholastica, 32

S. Severino, Count Ugo di, 221

S. Stefano, Certosa di, 219

Statius, 257 note, 262
Thebais, 59, 83

Stella, Sidney's, 130

S. Thomas Aquinas, his idea of the Papacy, xvi, xvii

Stilbone, 210

Strozzi, the, 104

Suares, 289 note

Sulmona, 15, 289
Barbato di, 111

Sulpicia, 241

S. Valentine, 153

Symonds, J. A., 315 note
Boccaccio, xii note


Tacitus, 219, 220 note
Annals, 276

Tanfani, Niccolò Acciaiuoli, 148 note, 150 note

Taranto, Catherine of, 111 note, 113, 115
Philip of, 117
Robert of, 113, 116

Tarlati, the, 15 note

Tarlton's News out of Purgatorie, 314

Tasso, 94 note

Tatius, Achilles, 94

Teano, 15

Teck, Duke of, 163

Tennyson, Lord, 311

Terence, 226 note, 246

Terlizzi, Count of, 116

Teseide, 62, 74 note, 76, 78, 313
criticism of, 82, 83
dedication of, 79, 83
narrative of, 79-82
publication of, 84
sources of, 83

Testili, 120-2

Teza, La parola Decameron, 292 note

Tezza, Monna, 306

[425]Thebais, 59

Thebes, 80, 89

Theocritus, 87

Theophrastus, 263 note

Theseus, 79, 80

Thessaly, 194

Thomas, William, Dictionarie, 312

Thorold, Algar, Dialogue of S. Catherine of Siena, 308 note

Thrace, 81

Tiberius Cæsar, 237, 240

Tindaro, 297 note

Tiraboschi, 132 note
Storia della Lett. Ital., 9 note, 22 note, 119 note, 158 note, 257 note

Tironea, 94

Tityrus, 122

Todeschini, Opinione, 203 note

Tommaso d' Alessandria, 95

Torre, Giovanni di, 25 note

Tosca, Giovanni della, 102

Tottel, 101 note

Toynbee, Paget, Bibliography of Genealogia, 224, 247, 248, 252 notes
Boccaccio's Commentary, 220 note, 270 note, 271 note
Dante in English Literature, 263 note, 312 note
Dante Studies and Researches, 221 note
Life of Dante, 268 note

Trapani, 147

Trattatello in Lode di Dante, 258 note

Traversari, Guido, Bibliografia Boccaccesca, 3 note
Il Beato Pietro Petroni, 198 note

Traversi, Antona, 9, 155 note
Della patria di Boccaccio, 6 note, 8 note
Della realtà dell' amore di Boccaccio, 49 note, 131 note
La Lia dell' Ameto, 22 note
Le prime amanti di Boccaccio, 22 note
on the Rime, 134, 138
on the Vita di Dante, 184 note

Trebizond, 26 note

Trionfi of Boccaccio, 90

Trissino, 94 note

Tristram, 89

Troilus, 70-7

Troilus and Criseyde, 313 note

Tropea, Mambriccio di, 114

Tropea, Tommaso di, 114

Troy, 89

Tullia di Petrarca, 212-16, 219 note, 284

Tura, Agnola di, 147

Turbeville's Tragical Tales, 314 note

Tuscany, Boccaccio's childhood in, 10, 320
claims of Holy See on, xiv
power of Florence in, xiii
Vicar-General of, xv

Twyne, Thomas, Schoolmaster, 314 note

Tyrol, Count of, 162


Ubertino di Corigliano, 221

Ugo, King of Cyprus and Jerusalem, 224, 247

Ulysses, 57, 81, 205, 206

Urban IV, 262 note

Urban V, dissatisfaction with Florence, 208-12, 217
enters Rome, 217, 218
death of, 219, 221

Urbino, 264


Valdelsa, 4

Valla, Bruno, 95

Vanello, Francesco di, 145 note

Varlungo, 309

Varro, 190, 226

Vega, Lope de, 311

Velasquez, 292

Venafro, 15

Veneto, Luca, 78

Venice, 44, 70, 78, 84, 148, 269
alliance of 1353, 164
Boccaccio in, 203, 207, 209, 213, 226, 282, 283

Venus, 65, 81, 86, 92

Vernon, Lord, 270 note

Verona, 100, 153, 164, 167
Dante in, 258 note, 264, 266

Vesta, 86

Via Francigena, 15

Villa Ciliegio, 304 note

Villani, Filippo, Le Vite d' uomini illustri Fiorentini, 4 note, 7 note
Liber de Civitatis Florentiæ, 236 note, 245 note
on Boccaccino, 7, 8, 13
on Petrarch and Boccaccio, 155

Villani, Giovanni, Cronica, 17 note, 31 note, 101 note, 104 note, 122 note
on Robert the Wise, 17, 109 note
[426]death of, 125-7

Villani, Matteo, Cronica, 125 note, 281 note
on the plague, 125
on Boccaccio's love affairs, 132

Villa Palmieri, 300, 304

Villari, First Two Centuries of Florentine History, xv, 5 note

Villeggiatura di Maiano, La, 335-47

Villon Society, 316

Vincolo, Pietro di, 307

Vincent de Beauvais, 233

Vincent, I., 70

Vindelin da Spira, 269

Violante di Boccaccio, 214 note, 215

Virgil, Boccaccio's love of, 58, 87, 88, 154, 159, 202, 230, 257 note, 262, 285, 288, 312
Æneid, 67 note, 83, 94, 240, 247, 272

Visconti, the, 100, 160, 192, 208, 212, 217
take Bologna, 146, 147
treaty with Florence, 164

Visconti, Duke Galeazzo, 219

Visconti, Giovanni, 161

Visconti, Violante de', 219

Vita di Dante, 120 note, 170, 193 note, 234 note
attitude to women in, 183-8, 189, 237
authority of, 260, 268
critical opinions on, 257-60
date of, 170, 183, 254, 259
summary of, 261-6
versions of, 257 note, 269

Vita Nuova, 16 note, 272
date of, 258 note
Boccaccio on, 266, 267

Viterbo, 217, 218

Voigt, Pétrarque, Boccace, 232 note, 234 note, 245 note

Volpi, Una Canzone di