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The precious volume Petrarch preserved with great care, and set an extreme value on it; when a man who had formerly been his preceptor, and treated him with great kindness, begged the Ioan of it, under the pretext of wanting it for a work which he was then composing. Petrarch could not refuse the request, and he never saw the book again. After making many excuses for retaining it, the man, being at last pressed, confessed that once, when in want of money, he had pawned it. Petrarch, anxious to recover the book at any rate, offered to pay the pledge-money; but his friend never could be brought to acknowledge the person in whose hands he had placed it. The borrower of the book, whose name is not mentioned, at last died in Tuscany while Petrarch was in France, and after his return he endeavoured in vain to hear any news of it, or regain its possession.*
Of the grounds of the charge against Alcyonius, a full and sufficient account is given in this letter from Jo. Burchard Mencken to John Robinson, Ambassador at the Court of Sweden, prefixed to our edition of the Medices Legatus, itself.
“Jam ut ad hunc ipsum, quem manibus tuis oblatum volui; vir excellentissime, libellum veniam, Venetiis is primum An. 1522. ex Aldi Manutii officina prodiit, et deinde non tantum cum Cardani libris de Sapientia, et Consolatione, Aureliop. 1624., verum et seorsim Basileæ 1546. recusus, curante Jo. Heroldo Hæchstetten, qui in erudita ad v. cl. Ludovicum Maigret adlocutione diserte scribit, in hoc Dialogorum de Exilio genere ap. Græcos nihil succulentius exstare, inter Latinos vero a Cicerone, cui in hoc argumento vetustas illi cariosa cladem intulerit, unicum, qui hoc tentarit. Alcyonium exstitisse, additque, eundem, quod auspicatus sit, tanta sermonis elegantia absolvisse, ut Ciceronis de Exilio commentarius ab iis, qui rerum, quam vetustatis, rationem
* Petrarca Epistoll. Senilium xvi. ep. i. (edit. Veneta, ap. Torresani de Asula, 1501.)...... obtulerat casus mihi jam antea venerabilem senem, cujus nomen, ut reor, adhuc in curia notum est, Raymondum Suranum, ad quem ante hos quadraginta annos, scripta juvenilis mea quædam nunc etiam extat epistola; ille copiosissimus librorum fuit; et ut jurisconsultus, in qua facultate pollebat, alia quidem cuncta despiciens, præter unum Titum Livium, quo mirum in modum calcatabatur; sed historiæ insuetum, magnum licet, ingenium hærebat. In eo studio me sibi utilem, ut dicebat, expertur, tanto ámore complexus est, ut patrem potius crederes quam amicum: ille mihi et commodando libros, et donando supra communem modum facilis fuit. Ab hoc habui et Varronis et Ciceronis aliqua. Cujus unum volumen de communibus fuit; sed inter ipsa communia libri de Oratore ac de Legibus imperfecti, ut fere semper inveniuntur; et præterea singulares libri duo de Gloria ; quibus visis me ditissimum existimavi. Longum est exequi, &c.
potius habent, non magnopere desideretur. Cum vero-plerosque alios suæ ætatis eruditos dicacissima obtrectatione in se provocasset, non defuere, qui, ut gloriam pulcerrimo opere partam, qua licet, offuscarent, fædissimi plagii eum accusarunt. In his princeps fuit Jovius, qui, ut in Elogiis suis plebeios et sordidos ejus mores alios perstringit, eumque impudens gulæ mancipium appellat, ita hoc quoque tradit, quod ex libro Ciceronis de Gloria, quem nefaria impietate abolerat, hunc velut centonem confecerit. Hunc Antonius Verderius in præf. ad Bibliothecam suam, Petr. Victorius in præf. ad Comment in Aristot. Poët., Paulus Colomesius in Opusculis, Abercombius in Fure Academico, et complures alii sequuntur. Neque adeo id ab ingenio Alcyonii alienum videtur, si vera narrat Valerianus noster, qui, ubi de Petri Martelli infelicitate agit, addit quatuor ejus libros exactissimæ interpretationis in Mathematicas Disciplinas, cum in Alcyonii manus incidissent, ita suppressos esse, ut nusquam amplius comparuerint. Prolixius vero rem enarrat Paulus Manutius, qui testatur libros duos, quos de Gloria Cicero scripsit, usque ad patrum suorum ætatem pervenisse. Nam Bernardus Justinianus, inquit, in Indice Librorum suorum nominat Ciceronem de Gloria. Is liber postea, cum universam Bibliothecam Monasterio legasset, magna conquisitus cura, neutiquam est inventus. Nemini dubium fuit, quin Petr. Alcyonius, cui Monachæ Medico suo ejus tractandæ Bibliothecæ potestatem fecerant, homo improbus, furto averterit. Et sane in ejus opusculo de Exilio adspersa nonnulla deprehenduntur, quæ non olere Alcyonium auctorem, sed aliquanto præstantiorem artificem videntur. Hactenus Manutius: enimvero facile est inventis aliquid addere. Ego autem nequissimi Elogii scriptorem, Jovium, quem præcipuum opinor, et primum hujus fabulæ auctorem extitisse, multo, quam Alcyonium, turpiorem censeo, quod non modo nulla ab eo contumelia lacessitus, verum et in hoc ipso opere, quod Medices Legatus, seu de Exilio, inscriptum est, quæsita de industria laudandi occasione, longe maximo ac splendidissimo præconio ornatus est. Sed una tanti odii causa fuit, quod fama acceperat, Alcyonium quoque ad historias scribendas animum convertisse, quam gloriam sibi soli servatam cupiebat homo sui, si quisquam alius, amantissimus. Memini autem, me abhinc octennio, cum illustri et doctissimo cive tuo, Ricardo Bentleio, quem cum Caveiis, Covelis, Hudsoniis, Newtoniis, Woodwardiis, aliisque summis Britanniæ tuæ luminibus, impense veneror, hac de re aliquando sermonem habuisse. Is igitur nihil se deprehendere in eo libro fatebatur, quod Alcyonium dolosi plagii convinceret; quæ enim ex libro illo Ciceronis proferantur ab Alcyonio, haberi eadem in fragmentis, quæ hodie supersunt. Neque sane mihi dubium est, calumniæ loco habendum esse, quicquid de plagio Alcyonii, et suppresso, seu potius combusto unico, qui supererat, Ciceronis de Gloria codice tradunt scriptores.”—Jo. Burchard. Mencken. (præf. Petr. Alcyoni Medices Legati s. de Exilio,) ad Jo. Robinson, Magna Britanniæ Reginæ ad Regem Suecia Legatum Extraordinarium et Plenipotentiarium.
Though Mencken here appears to be decidedly of opinion that the accusation had its foundation in malice,—his arguiments are by no means conclusive. The force of the authority of Manutius, as expressed in the passage from his commentaries here given, is the most difficult to resist. But it will be observed, that there is much vagueness in the evidence which Manutius gives, as having carried conviction to his mind. One Bernard Justin, it seems, leaves his library to a Nunnery; -in the catalogue, is found the title of the treatise of Cicero, de Gloria ; but, upon a search being afterwards set on foot, the book is no where to be found. Now, Alcyonius being physician to the Nuns, and having had free access to the library, and being homo improbus, a man of bad character, (in the opinion of Manutius,) he doubtless stole it and appropriated it to his own use. This, we think, it will readily be granted, is but an inconclusive piece of reasoning. It is supported by Manutius's critical opinion of the book itself. He avers, that in his opinion, there are passages in Alcyonius's treatise de Exilio, which Alcyonius himself could not write. Manutius, it must be allowed, was an excellent judge of the
peculiarities of style, and of the difference between that which was Cicero's and that which is Ciceronian. He was likewise, of course, well acquainted with the talents of the man who had long been the corrector of his press. On the other hand, it is a very difficult thing to say what an individual can or cannot do, upon an acquaintance however intimate. And in the case of Alcyonius, it is proved by the fact, that two orations which he afterwards published after the taking of Rome, against Charles V. and the barbarities of his army, materially increased his reputation, and manifestly proved him to be possessed of talents for which he would not previously have been given credit. Moreover, it does not seem very clear how Alcyonius could make much advantageous use, in a treatise on Exile, of passages filched from a treatise on Glory. He must, indeed, have been a very ingenious botcher, who could so curiously introduce the purple rag into his coarse foundationwork, as to deceive the sagacity of such a man as Bentley.Bentley, however, it seems from the letter of Mencken, saw nothing in the treatise of Alcyonius which looked like plagiarism. Though to this averment is added an exception, which considerably deteriorates the value of this testimony: for Mencken adds, as from the mouth of Bentley, that what is quoted in Alcyonius from Cicero on Glory, the same form part of the fragments of that work which still remain. Now we have carefully examined the little work of Petrus Alcyonius, and with confidence can assert that it does not contain any of the fragments of Cicero's treatise de Gloria : and, therefore, are justified in saying either that Dr. Bentley, in the moment of conversation, hazarded an assertion, which on a proper examination of the book he would have found unsupported by fact, or else that J.
Burchard Mencken had misrepresented what fell from the lips of Dr. Bentley. However this may be, the question of the dishonesty of Peter Alcyon must still remain a mout point-his memory must still be darkened with a shade of suspicion ; though we, in charity, recommend to our readers the noble maxim of the English law, to hold the accused as innocent until he has been proved guilty. And this, probably, will not take place till the discovery of some still existing copy of Cicero's lost work.
This, we fear, is an improbable event; but the exploits of Signor Maio, in the libraries under his care, forbid us to despond. We understand that it was the opinion of the intelligent Lord Hutchinson, that the MS. had been traced to Constantinople, and that he had some reason for supposing it to be buried in the library of that city. During his lordship’s residence in Egypt, he used every possible means to obtain the liberty of inspecting that literary sepulchre, but in vain. His lordship is said to have declared, that he would have gladly sacrificed all his military honors to the glory of having rescued, from the hands of barbarians, Cicero's Treatise on Glory.
“Cedant arma togæ; concedat laurea lingua." We fear, however, that all the hopes which have been entertained of recovering the lost decades of Livy and other classical MSS. from Constantinople, either has or will prove an old, though not unpleasing illusion, which the inferences to be drawn from the accounts of Dr. Clarke and Dr. Carlyle, in Mr. Walpole's Memoirs of Greece, are well calculated to dispel. The forgotten and vamped up apartments of the Constantinopolitan seraglio-the Arabic translations of the Escurial—the yet to be discovered remains of ancient Persian literature-have all been successively pointed out to the eager scholar, as the secret depository of the treasures which his soul thirsts after. We fear, that his researches, in these quarters, will only appear
feasible in the enthusiastic ardour with which we are apt to fume and swell in the retirement of our own closets; and that a nearer approach to the site of the spots, where our imaginations have built massive cases in dusty and neglected recesses, with countless shelves arranged in regimental order, and groaning beneath the weight of ponderous volumes, will cause to vanish the fairy vision: reminding us of the stories of our youth, where the silent ghost appears at the bed-side, and beckons the affrighted dreamer to follow its steps to some damp and choked apartment, where, being arrived, the awful guide points out to the delighted beholder the rusty ring, which, being raised, will disclose the buried treasure. The dreamer pulls and exerts himself, and with the exertion he awakes, and the stoney apartment vanishes from his aching sight. We would not wish, however, to discourage the literary pilgrim who is disposed to wander in search of these gems, which the unfathomable caves of Byzantium, Persia, or Spain, may bear; but on the contrary, in despite of the anticipations in which we have for a moment indulged, would . be glad to join in the hunt, and raise the view-holla with as delighted a cry as any classical enthusiast in the country.
ART. XII.—Chester Mysteries,* MS. in the Harleian Collection,
British Museum. Coventry Plays, MS. in the Cottonian Library, British Museum. Hawkins's Origin of the English Drama, 3 vols. 8vo. Oxford, 1773. Dodsley's Select Collection of old Plays, 12 vols. 12mo. 1744.
As it is one of the objects of this work to trace the history of literature, and particularly the literature of our own country, it is our design, in pursuance of that plan, to present our readers with a series of articles on the English Drama; more especially of that part of it which is most ancient and little known, except to antiquaries and professed scholars. Before, however, we can enter upon this task, with any pleasure either to our readers or ourselves, it will be necessary to take a review of the earliest specimens of the dramatic art in this kingdom, if we may be allowed to apply the term of art to compositions as inartificial, as crude and jejune, as can be well imagined. It will, at all events, prepare the way for more interesting disquisitions and more agreeable extracts than those with which we shall
The Fall of Lucifer was represented by the Tanners. The Creation, by the Drapers. The Deluge, by the Dyers. Abraham, Melchisedech, and Lot, by the Barbers. Moses, Balak, and Balaam, by the Cappers. The Salutation and Nativity, by the Wrights. The Shepherds feeding their flocks by night, by the Painters and Glaziers. The three Kings,
by the Vintners. The Oblation of the three Kings, by the Mercers. The killing of the Innocents, by the Goldsmiths. The Purification, by the Blacksmiths. The Temptation, by the Butchers. The Last Supper, by the Bakers. The Blind Men and Lazarus, by the Glovers. Jesus and the Lepers, by the Corvesarys. Christ's Passion, by the Bowyers, Fletchers, and Ironmongers. “Descent into Hell, by the Cooks and Innkeepers. The Resurrection, by the Skinners. The Ascension, by the Taylors. The election of S. Matthias, Sending of the Holy Ghost, &c. by the Fishmongers. Antichrist, by the Clothiers. Day of Judgment, by the Websters.