Imágenes de página

monarch. If we compare him with the despots of Italy, he holds a high place, and only those who believe that nothing is worth striving for save an illusory "freedom" will withhold from the meed of praise. If he were stern, he was just also, and his gift to Florence was a century of stable government and material prosperity.

In the seventeenth century the Medici, like their portraits, grew in pomp and security. Much as they changed in temper and character, they remained true to one at least of their ancient ideals. They never permitted ambition to obscure their intellect. When the arts fell into decay, they turned to archeology and to science as a relief from the cares of state. Cosimo I. had a passion for Etruscan art. Ferdinand, his son, built the Villa Medici at Rome, and filled it with the monuments of ancient sculpture, which they then first brought to light. If his famous Venus did not deserve all the indiscreet praise that was lavished upon it, it was the best that he knew, and it was his collection which inspired Wincklemann to another revival of the ancient spirit. To Cosimo II., and to his son Ferdinand, Galileo owed all the encouragement and protection which he received at the hands of an unsympathetic world, and it was Ferdinand's brother, Leopold, who in 1657 founded the Accademia del Cimento, the first society for the investigation of natural science which Europe knew, and which was

accepted as the model for our own Royal Society, and for the French Académie des Sciences. Thus it was that the Medici remained loyal to their earliest ideals. Nor was the last of them all-the Electress Anna Maria Ludovica-the least deserving of our grateful memory. She grew up in an evil hour. She saw the grandeur of her house perish in ignominy. She knew herself the last of a great and honoured race. And she gave to the world the last testimony of the wisdom of her ancestors. The throne of Tuscany had passed from the Medici for ever. The vast treasures, which for three centuries the Medici had been gathering with foresight and wisdom, belonged to the Electress. And these she bequeathed to the State of Tuscany for ever, on condition that nothing should ever be removed from Florence, and that the collection should be for the benefit of the public of all nations. Was there ever a more noble gift, bequeathed in nobler terms?

[blocks in formation]

of Dennistoun,1 is touched with brilliant romance, which might have dazzled the eyes even of Lorenzo the Magnificent himself. The arts of war were interrupted at Urbino only by the other arts of peace. The greatest of all its Dukes, Federigo Montefeltro, differed from the most of his fellows only in this, that if his life were splendid, it was also blameless. Not for him the poisoned chalice nor the stealthy dagger. Though Sigismondo Malatesta himself was his determined enemy, he fought always with the weapons of a most scrupulous honour. He cultivated the gracious taste of his time with an unsurpassed enthusi88m. Under his benign governance literature and painting flourished exceedingly. Not even Cosimo Pater Patria was

[ocr errors]

more fortunate collector of ancient manuscripts than he. In fourteen years he made such a library as had no rival in Italy. If he learned the existence of a desirable book at home or abroad, he sent for it without heed of its cost. He maintained thirtyfour transcribers, and neglected nothing that might add to the usefulness of his collection. Of the poets, historians, and philosophers in Greek and Latin, then within human knowledge, none was lacking to him, and all were expounded by the wisest commentators. In theology he was equally well

[ocr errors]

equipped, and "he had the Bible, that best of books,' says a contemporary, "written in two volumes, with the richest and most beautiful illustrations, bound in brocade of gold, and lavishly ornamented with silver; and he made it be thus gorgeously adorned as the chief of all literature." Of all that affected the care and fortune of his books he wrote and thought with the reverence of a true scholar. He imposed the patronage of literature as a policy upon his successors, and so faithfully did they carry out the behests of Federigo that their Court was made immortal by Castiglione, whose masterpiece, I Cortegimo, remains, with the works of Raphael, the great glory of Urbino.

Federigo regarded his subjects as his children, and illustrated by his reign the benefits of paternal government. Nothing that touched their prosperity or happiness was indifferent to him, and he died to a universal pean of applause. For this reason his character is not so easy to disengage as the characters of many worse men. Who shall describe virtue, or paint nobility? The differences upon which our knowledge of men depends are less easily discernible in the magnanimous than in the depraved, and for this reason none of his panegyrists seem to do Federigo justice. "He was gifted," says Pietro Cyrneo, a Venetian and

1 Memoirs of the Dukes of Urbino, illustrating the Arms, Arts, and Literature of Italy, 1440-1630, by James Dennistoun of Dennistoun. A New Edition by Edward Hutton. 3 vols. London: Lane.

an adversary, "with all virtues beyond all other mortals; for he was a man of consummate prudence, truthful in his discourse, righteous in his judgments, provident in his counsels, conspicuous for his worth, distinguished for the uniform purity of his morals, liberal of his charities; most eloquent, of unprecedented equity, consummate justice, singular sincerity, superhuman wisdom; equally learned in every branch of study, patient under reverses; most moderate in prosperity; the bravest of generals.' The panegyric tells us how great and good he was. It does not reveal his character.

[ocr errors]



barbarian. A murderer, per-
haps, stained with the most
flagitious crimes, he might be;
but he must seek his absolution
in works of munificence, he
must atone for his outrages
against public morality by his
devotion to the cause of learn-
ing and homage to the public
taste." This devotion and this
homage were scrupulously paid
by Sigismondo Malatesta. Ad-
venturer though he was, he
entertained poets and scholars
at his court. Alberti, the
greatest of architects, built the
church of St Francesco
Rimini under his
under his auspices.
Valturio, the most skilful of
military engineers, discoursed,
at his bidding, of the science
of war, and put his theory into
practice by the fortification
of Sigismondo's stronghold.
Whatever were his vices, how-
ever harshly he be judged by
the standards of to-day, he
was at least a zealous scholar,
as he was a generous patron,
and humanism found no better
friend than he, even in, Italy.
Such are some of the princes
who make the history of
Italy glorious, and their deeds
cannot be more pleasantly
considered than in these vol-
umes of Dennistoun, which,
though written fifty years ago,
have not lost their scholar-
ship, and have preserved in
addition that amiable flavour

In Sigismondo Malatesta, his arch-enemy, he found a perfect foil. One quality only they shared in common, a passionate love of learning and of the arts. In all other respects they are far as the poles asunder. Sigismondo Malatesta was soldier of fortune, who cultivated with equal success the virtues and vices of paganism. Though attempts have been made of late to paint his portrait in fairer colours than heretofore, he will still be regarded by the most of men as the monster of prowess and iniquity that he appeared to Dennistoun, who cites Mariotti's judgment of an Italian prince, and applies it fearlessly to Sigismondo. "An of severe simplicity which Italian prince," says Mariotti, marked the early Victorian "in those days durst not be a age.

[ocr errors]


I SAW my first tiger in a scrub - jungle two miles from the Nepal frontier. We were out camping - -the Collector and I-making an inspection of the more remote police "thanas" or outposts, and the day before, under a brilliant January sun, we had ridden twenty miles from one to another along the ploughed fields and grassy wastes, intersected with river-courses, some old, some new, some dried-up, some brimming with limpid water, that make this lessknown portion of Bengal at once so monotonous and 80 fascinating. In the end we came to what was a unique formation for that part-a low inland cliff. There we found our tents pitched just over the dried bed of a stream, and a Bengali sub-inspector of police awaiting us in the dreadful mustard-coloured uniform and pork-pie cap which the Government has ordained for these usually fat servants.

He was a wily man, this sub-inspector. There had been many dacoities in the neighbourhood, and it was the Collector's business to demand, in a cold-blooded and menacing manner, why the police had apparently done nothing to stop them. Did the sub-inspector suppose that he was stationed there just in order to enjoy himself? Or was he perhaps in league with the dacoits? What had he to say about the



The sub-inspector had a great deal to say, and not over-much English to say it in. Still that never depresses a Bengali. He begged his Honour most respectfully to believe that the sole thing he really cared about in this world was the performance of his duty. Only the district he had to inspect was a large one-forty miles by thirty. His Honour was mistaken in thinking it smaller. Or the map might be wrong. In any case there were many villages in it-countless villages, full of timid people, who, if a dacoity occurred, did not help the police at all. They were afraid to. That was because the dacoits could so easily be avenged on them. In a few hours of the night they could come over from Nepal territory, fall upon witnesses and kill them, and return before dawn. They were the most audacious men. Only two days ago they had actually stolen an elephant -a valuable female elephant belonging to a Babu who lived close by-and had gone off with it. Such a thing was unheard of.

The Collector interposed to say that this was exactly what he thought himself. Such a thing was not only unheard of, but if heard of again would suggest the inference that the sub-inspector was grossly neglecting his duty, and would require to be removed. Thereupon the sub-inspector's face fell, and only lighted up after


the Collector, having given one of those brief lectures, at once moral and practical, which only Anglo-Indian officials of experience can give, in this case, upon the method of following up clues and the need of eschewing idleness,-inquired if there was any shikar in the neighbourhood.

[blocks in formation]


"I was about to mention it," said the sub-inspector. was a full-grown cow, and was dragged some distance." "By a panther, no doubt?” said the Collector jeeringly.

"By a big bagh," said the sub-inspector with great seriousness,-"so big, that it is like a horse." He measured the air up to eight feet. "People in the village have seen it. There are many small baghs, too,-panthers,― but this is a big one. big. It is bigger than horse. Your Honour will go after it, perhaps, to-morrow morning?"

You can impress a Bengali, was Bengali, but you cannot beguile him. I was watching the sub-inspector's face as the Collector put that question quite dispassionately, and I could see flashing over it the idea that the Collector was a great hunter, that of all things the Sahib loves most to shoot a big bagh, and that if he were the means of putting his Honour on the track of a big bagh, which would then assuredly be killed, he would be remembered by his Honour not as a policeman who had failed badly to catoh dacoits, but as one who had helped intelligently to set before him a tiger. All men, says the East, are corruptible; and here, thought the sub-inspector, was the Collector's. weak point.

"There is undoubtedly a bagh near by," he said after a pause. "A big bagh," he measured the air with his hand up to about six feet.

"How do you know?" said the Collector.

Only a month ago a cow was taken two miles from where your Honour's tents stand."

"What is the good," asked the Collector, "of telling me that a cow was taken a month ago? The bagh that took it may have travelled fifty miles since then!"


[ocr errors]

"Yes-if you find some tic kabbar," said the Collector. "But it must be tic."

The sub-inspector went off, saying it should be very tic indeed. "Tio" means acourate, and it therefore means what no Bengali ever is. Nevertheless, as the Collector said, it would be worth trying for a tiger if the jungle was not too thick. Tigers are not so plentiful in Bengal nowadays (except, of course, in the Sunderbunds, where the trees are so dense and the air so pestilent that hunting is about 90 per cent in favour of the tiger) that one can afford to miss a chance, and this part of the district was reported to contain few. At all events, we might

« AnteriorContinuar »