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think of condoling with a man for being out of power, or of receiving hiin with less cordiality. She notices also, with a very alarming sort of admiration, that she understood when in England, that a gentleman of the law had actually refused a situation worth 6000J. or 7000£. a year, merely because he did not approve of the ministry by whom it was ottered; and adds, that in France, any man who would refuse a respectable office, with a salary of 8000 louis, would certainly be considered as lit for Bedlam: And in another place she observes, that it seems to be a fundamental maxim in that country, that every man must have a place. We confess that we have some difficulty in reconciling these incidental intimations with her leading position, that the great majority of the French nation is desirous of a free constitution, and perfectly fit for and deserving of it. If these be the principle?, not only upon which they act, but which they and their advocates avow, we know no constitution under which they can be free; and have no faith in the power of any new institutions to counteract that spirit of corruption by which, even where they have existed the longest, their whole virtue is consumed.
With our manners in society she is not quite so well pleased; .—though she is kind enough to ascribe our deficiencies to the most honourable causes. In commiserating the comparative dulness of our social talk, however, has not this philosophic observer a little overlooked the effects of national tastes and habits—and is it not conceivable, at least, that we who are used to it, may really have as much satisfaction in our own humrdrum way of seeing each ether, as our more sprightly neighbours in their exquisite assemblies? In all thjs part of the work, too, we think we can perceive the traces rather of ingenious theory than of correct observation; and suspect that a good part of the tableau of English society is rather a sort of conjectural sketch, than a copy from real life; or at least that it is a generalization from a very few, and not very common examples. May we be pardoned too for hinting, that a person of Mad. do S.'s great talents and celebrity, is by no means well qualified for discovering the true tone and character of English society from her own observation; both because she was not likely to see it in those smaller and more familiar assemblages in which it is seen to the most advantage, and because her presence must have had the unlucky effect of imposing silence on the modest, and tempting the vain and ambitious to unnatural display and ostentation.
With all its faults, however, the portion of her book which we have been obliged to pass over in silence, is well worthy of as ample a notice as we have bestowed on the other parts of ^ and would of itself be sufficient to justify us in ascribing to its lamented author that perfection of masculine understanding, and female grace and acuteness, which are so rarely to be met with apart, and never, we believe, were before united.
Art. II. Osservazioni Intorno alia Questione sopra la Originalita del Poema di Dante. Di F. Cancelueri. Roma, 181*.
Observations concerning the Question of the Originality of the Poem of Dante. By F. Cancelueri.
T^he limits of a late Number precluded us from entering, as fully as we would have wished, into the subject of Dante. We resume it the more willingly, from our having just received a work, published two or three years ago in Italy, but almost unknown in England, having for its object to ascertain, whether this great poet was an inventor, or an imitator only. The continental antiquaries and scholars have eagerly laid hold of a manuscript, said to have been discovered about the beginning of the present century, and affording evidence, according to some persons, that he had borrowed from others the' whole plan and conception of his wonderful work. The question, indeed, is of ancient date; and, long before such value had been set upon this manuscript, was so perplexed and prolonged, as now to call for definitive elucidation. We trust we shall place our readers in a condition to decide it for themselves.
An extract, or rather a short abstract of an old Vision, written in Latin, appeared in a pamphlet published at Rome in 1801, with an insinuation, that the primitive model of Dante's poem had at length been discovered. Some reader of new publications transmitted the intelligence of this discovery to a German journalist, who received it as of the utmost importance; and from him, a writer in a French paper, (the Publiciste of July 1809), transcribed, embellished, and diffused it over all Europe, through the medium of his universal language. Having nothing to do with politics, every body received it upon the faith of the author of the pamphlet, by whom alone the old manuscript had been read; and it was immediately settled, among the wits and critics of the day, that Dante was but the versifier of the ideas of others. Mr Cancellieri, a professed black-letter scholar, and animated, no doubt, with a laudable aeal for religion as well as literature, published the Vision entire in 1814, on the return of his Holiness to Rome. He ac
companietl it with an Italian translation, the whole comprising tome sixty pages, preceded by twice that number of pages of' his own remarks. In this ample dissertation, the question, however, is merely glanced at;—and all that its readers can make out with certainty is, that the learned author had selected this curious subject chiefly to astonish the world by his multifarious erudition, in a book which might have been not inaptly entitled—' l)e rebus omnibus, et de quibusdam aliis.' It must •be acknowledged* however, that, amidst the Unbounded variety of his citations, we meet with some things which it is agreeable to know; but they have so little to do with Dante, .that we are really but little beholden to him on the present occasion; and have been obliged to refer to many other authorities, in order to disentangle ourselves from the perplexities into which he had brought us,
Mr Cancellieri apprises us that there existed two famous Al~ berks, both monks of Monte-Cassino;—but he thought it immaterial to add, that the first was one of the few monks to whom the civilization of the -world is not without obligations^he having, in the midst of the barbarism of the 11th century, written treatises upon logic, astronomy, and music. * His works probably contributed more to form the mind of Dante, than the Visions of the other to form the plan of his poem.
The latter Alberjc was born about the year 1100, soon after the death of the former. When in his 9th year, he fell sick, and remained in a lethargy for nine days. Whilst in this state, a dove appeared to him, and catching him by the hair lifted him up to the presence of Saint Peter, who, with two angels, conducted the child across Purgatory, and, mounting thence from planet to planet, transported him into Paradise, there to contemplate the glory of the blessed. His vision restored him to perfect health ;—the miraculous cure was published to the world;—the monks received the child at Monte-Cassino;—and, because he repeated his vision tolerably well, and was of a rich family, they devoted him to Saint Benedict, before he had reached his 10th year. He lived from that time in constant penitence, tastfng neither flesh or wine, and never wearing shoes; and the monastery had thus the glory of possessing a Jiving saint, who, by his virtue, confirmed tlie belief that he had seen Purgatory and Paradise.
They took care to have the vision of Alberic reduced to writing, first by one of their own lettered brethren, and, some years after, by Alberic himself, assisted by the pen of Peter the 'Deacon, of whom there are yet remaining some historical piece*
which occasionally throw li•>ht upon the dr.rkness of that age. We subjoin what he says of Alberic in his own words. f
It' there existed but this one vision before the time of Dante* there might be some ground for presuming, that it suggested to him the idea of his poem. But the truth is, that such visions abounded from the very earliest ages of Christianity. Saint Cyprian had visions,—Saint Perpetua had visions,—and both, with, many others, were declared divine by Saint Augustine. The revelations of each turned upon the doctrine which each thought the best for establishing the faith. Accordingly, the creed written ibr the church over which he presided, by Saint Gregory Thau mat urgus, was dictated to him in a vision by Saint John the Evangelist. But the zeal of the early bishops was soon replaced by the interested views of their successors. About the 10th century, the great object was, to establish the doctrine of Purgatory, in which the period of expiation was shortened in favour of souls, in proportion to the alms given by their heirs to the Church. The monk Alberic describes Purgatory with minuteness, and sees Hell only at a distance. All those visions, having the same object, resembled each othcr; and whoever will take the trouble to examine the legends of the saints, and archives of the monasteries, will find hundreds, of the same epoch, and the same tenor. It may be said, that Dante cither profited by all, or by none; but, if there be any one to which he can be supposed to be indebted more than another, it is the vision of an English monk, not named by any one that we know, though told circumstantially by Mathew Paris. * The English monk, like the Italian, gives no description of Hell, but, like Dante, describes his Purgatory as a mount;—the passage from Purgatory to Paradise, a vast garden, intersected by delightful woods, as in our poet: Both had their visions in the holy week;—both allot the same punishments to the same infamous crimes, with some other points of resemblance, which those who are curious may find in Mathew Paris. The vision related by that historian, suffices to give as idea of
f Tanta usque in hodiernum abstinentia, tanta morum gravitate pollet, ut pcenas peccatorum perspexisse, et pertimuisse, et gloriain sanctorum vidisse nemo quis dubitet: Non enim carnem, non adipetn, non rinum, ab illo tempore usque nunc, Deo annuentw, assumpsit j ca|ciamento nullo penitus tempore utitur; et sic, in tanta cordis, ae corporis coutritione, et humilitate usque nunc in hodiernum, in hoc Cu-iinensi ccenobio persevcrat, ut multa ilium quse alios laterent vel metuenda> vel desideranda vidisse, etiamsi lingua taceret, vita loqueretur. (De Viris illustr. Casin.)
* Hist. Aug. ad an. 1196. .5
all the othersand proves, indeed, that there existed, at that time, a systematic style for working, in this way, upon popular credulity. The English monk also had his vision immediately after a long and dangerous malady, and in a state of lethargy and inanition, which lasted nine days, also followed by a miraculous cure.
It is sufficiently probable, that Dante had read the history of Mathew Paris, the historian having died before the birth of the poet; and still more probable, that he had read the vision of Alberic. The resemblance which we have pointed out between the visions of the two monks, and the infinity of other visions of the same kind, show that there was then established, in the popular belief, a sort of Visionary mythology, which Dante adopted in the same manner as the mythology of Polytheism had been adopted by Homer. Besides, the discovery of the manuscript of the Vision of Alberic, about which so much noise has been made for the last eighteen years, really took place about a century ago. It is mentioned, but without much stress, by Mazzuchelli, Pelli, and Tiraboschi. * Mr Bottari was the first who confronted it with the poem of Dante, in the"year 1753; and the vanity which turns the heads of so many erudite persons, when. they make discoveries to their own infinite surprise, made him imagine he had discovered, in Dante, diverse close imitations of the manuscript. The following is one of his great instances. Dante calls the Devil 'the great worm,' (Inferno, Cant. 31.)r and therefore he must have copied from Alberic, who saw 'a great worm that devoured souls.' Monsignor Bottari was a prelate; the author of the pamphlet is a Benedictine abbot; Mr Cancellieri is a good Catholic, and all three are antiquarians. How has it escaped them, that the Devil is called 'the serpent' in the Scriptures, and that ' worm ' was constantly used for ' serpent' by the pld Italian writers? Shakespeare indeed uses it in the same sense, in 'Anthony and Cleopatra;' and Johnson, in his note upon the passage, adduces a variety of other instances, in which the term was so employed. Another alleged imitation is, that in Purgatory an eagle grasps Dante with his talon, and raises him on nigh> in the same manner as Alberic had been caught by the hair, and lifted up by a dove.—Here, too, three pious persons have forgotten their Bible. In the two chapters of Daniel, retained in the Vulgate, Habakkuk is thus caught and lifted up by an angel; and the prophet Ezekiel says, chap. viii. v. 3. 'And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock 'of mine head, and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and