« PreviousContinue »
NOW YBST COLLATED WITH THE NEW TEXT OF GIUSEPPE MOLINI
AND CORRECTED AND ENLARGED FROM THE LAST
NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS OF G. P. CARPANI.
TRANSLATED BY THOMAS ROSCOE.
" Celliai was one of the most extraordinary men of an extraordinary age : bis life
LONDON: GEORGE BELL & SONS, YORK STREET,
As a very curious piece of autobiography, this work undoubtedly possesses the most striking claims to attention. The Italian literati, particularly Parini and Tiraboschi, have carried their admiration of it to the very highest pitch, describing it as the most entertaining and delightful work in the whole compass of Italian literature; an opinion corroborated by that of Horace Walpole, who regarded it
more amusing than any novel.” The distinguished eminence of Benvenuto Cellini in the times of the Old Masters (an age peculiarly fertile in genius, and to which, next to Grecian antiquity, we owe all the most noble monuments of the fine arts); his intimacy with Michael Angelo, Titian, and all the great Italian sculptors and painters of the age ; and his intercourse with Francis I., Charles V., Popes Clement VII. and Paul III., the Dukes Alessandro and Cosmo of Florence, and many princes, statesmen, commanders, and dignified ecclesiastics of that turbulent age ; afforded him opportunities of making the most interesting observations; and perhaps no man was ever more capable of availing himself of such advantages. Of those great and prominent characters, who then disposed of the destinies of mankind, and whom the historic page presents in all the formality and dignity of state ceremony, Cellini gives us, at every turn, a transient but distinct view — a glimpse—which displays them in their private domestic moments, when they little thought they were sitting for their portraits to one whose pen was no less effectively descriptive, than his pencil was strikingly imitative. The native genius which directed the one, animated the other, and produced with inconceivable facility the most masterly sketches of the persons, manners, and characters of that mass of power, rank, and splendour with which it was the fortune of Cellini to come into contact.
As to the incredibility which attaches to some of his narrations, his own confined education, his susceptible nerves, his superlative credulity and superstition, and wild imagination, may in general be sufficient apologies for him, and save him from the charge of intentional misrepresentation. And as the other parts of his work are universally allowed to abound in knowledge of life, and of the passions and conduct of mankind, so these incredible stories, gravely asserted by a disinterested man of unquestionable talents, may contribute to convince us of the strict caution with which we should receive all marvellous accounts, however well attested.
In presenting a new edition of this curious autobiography to the public, it may be proper to state what additional claims it possesses, in addition to its intrinsic attractions. In the year 1830, Signor Giuseppe Molini, of Florence, brought out a new and most valuable edition of Cellini's Life, printed word for word from the original MS., as dictated by the author, forming one of the volumes of his “ Biblioteca Italiana Portatile."
Aware probably of my preceding English edition, printed in 1822, collated with the text, and enriched with notes from the Milan edition of G. P. Carpani, Signor Molini had the kindness to present me with a copy of his new Cellini. From this source I have derived several interesting additions, of which I have availed myself in the present popular form of publication.
The learned Italian editor describes “ this precious document” as having been accidentally discovered by Signor Poirot, in 1810, at the shop of “one of” our "booksellers - we are led to inferat Florence. At the death of the “ Segretario" (Poirot) in 1825, it passed, with all his “MŠS.," into the Laurentian library, in compliance with the tenor of his will. With permission of the grand duke, the editor of the “ Biblioteca” took a verbatim copy, which he collated with the Milan edition of 1821, from the Bettoni press. This is stated to have been done with the most scrupulous care and attention. Without assigning