Ariosto, Ludovico

, one of the most eminent Italian poets, was born Sept. 8, 1474. His father, while he was in the government of Rheggio, in Lombardy, espoused Daria de Malaguzzi, a lady of wealth and family, descended from one of the first houses in llneggio, and by her had five aons, Ludovico, Gabriele, Carlo, Galasso, and Alessandro; and the same number of daughters. These sons were all well accomplished, and, for their many excellent qualities, patronised by several princes. Gabriele gave himself up to literary pursuits, and is, said to have arrived at great excellence in Latin poetry, but to have been too close an imitator of Statius: he died at Ferrara. Carlo, who was of a disposition more inclined to dissipation and gaiety, led the life of a courtier, and. died at the court of Naples. Galasso embraced the profession of the church, | was employed in several important offices, and, at last, ended his days, ambassador from the duke of fc’crrara, at the court of Charles V. Alessandro, who was of an inquisitive and enterprising genius, having spent great part of his time in visiting foreign countries, at last finished his life in Ferrara.

Ludovico was the first-born of his father’s children, and is reported to have surpassed the rest in the endowments of the mind; giving, from his tender years, uncommon presage of a future genius. Being yet in hn rudiments, he composed a kind of tragedv from the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, which he caused to be represented by his brothers and sisters. He q>plied himself very early to the study of the Latin, in which he made greater progress than almost any one of his age; and, in the very beginning of his studies, he composed and recited an elegfuit Latin oration, which gave the highest expectations of him. Tito Strozza, a man of great learning and consummate knowledge, took particular delight to hear him, and to propose, difticult questions for his solution; often encouraging a dispute, on literary subjects, between him and Hercules his son, a youth whose age and studies agreed with Ariosto. But his father Niculo, having little taste for literature, was desirous, that, as his eldest-born, he should pursue some lucrative profession, and sent him to Padua, to study the civil law, under Angelo Castrinse and 11 Ma’mo; in which employment he spent five years, highly disagreeable to one of his disposition; which circumstance he laments in one of his satires addressed to Bembo. But although Ariosto durst not openly di’sobey his father, he could not so far conquer his inclinations as to desist from perusing trench and Spanish romances, with which languages h6 was well acquainted, having translated two or three of these authors himself into his native tongue; and availed himself, in his future works, of every beauty that occurred in these wild productions of imagination. Nicolo, atlnst, perceiving the aversion his son had to the profession of the law, and the little progress he made therein, permitted him to obey the strong propensity of genius, and is said to have been, in a great degree, influenced by Pandolfo Ariosto, a youth of excellent endowments, and a near kinsman to Ludovico.

Ludovico, being now left at liberty, put himself, at the age of twenty, under the tuition of Gregorio de Spqleti, a person of admirable taste, and well versed in the Latin and | Greek tongues, who then resided in the family of Rinaldo of Este, at Ferrara. Gregorio, observing the avidity with which Ariosto applied himself to study, took every possible care to cultivate his genius; and, by his instructions, his pupil soon made himself master of the most excellent Latin authors, particularly the poets, among whom Horace appears to have been his favourite. He explained many difficult and obscure parts in that author, which were never before understood. His intention was, to have also gone through a course of Greek literature; but he suddenly lost his preceptor Gregorio, who was constrained to take a journey into France, where he soon after died, to the inexpressible grief of Ariosto. About the same time died Nicolo Ariosto, the father of Ludovico, leaving behind him a numerous offspring. Ariosto, then only twenty-four years of age, found himself at once involved in the cares of a family, and obliged to take upon himself the management of domestic concerns, to introduce his brothers into the world, provide fortunes for his sisters, and, in every respect, supply to them the place of a father, who had left them but a very slender patrimony.

These multiplied cares obliged him not only to give over his intended prosecution of the Greek language, but almost to abandon the Latin, which he had but lately recovered, had not Pandolfo Ariosto so far stimulated him, that he still continued, in some degree, his studies, till death deprived him of so pleasing a companion. Yet all these disappointments did not much damp the vigour of his poetical genius. In his twenty-ninth year, he acquired an uncommon reputation for his Latin verses, and numerous poems and sonnets full of spirit and imagination. His conversation was coveted by men of the greatest learning and abilities; and cardinal Hippolito of Este, whose court was a receptacle for the most admired personages of the, age, received him into his service, where he continued fifteen years; during which time he formed a design of writing a poem of the romance kind; in which no one had yet written with the dignity of which the subject was capable. The happy versatility of his genius was such, that he could equally adapt himself to every species of poetry; and an Italian writer of his life observes, that whatever he wrote, seemed, at the time, to be his particular study.

At about thirty years of age he began his Orlando; and cardinal Bembo, to whom he communicated his design, | would have dissuaded him from writing in Italian, advising him to cultivate the Latin; to which Ariosto answered, that he would rather he the first among the Tuscan writers, than scarcely the second among the Latin. At the same time, it fortunately happened, that he had already written seme stanzas of his Orlando, in which he met with such encouragement, that he determined vigorously to prosecute his design. He chose the subject of Boyardo, which was very popular; and by adopting the fictions of Boyardo, Ariosto had not only an opportunity of bringing the romance of the count to a conclusion, but of celebrating, under the person of Rogero, the family of his patron.

Ariosto had proposed to write a poem in tevza rima (like Dante), in praise of the house of Este, different from the Furioso; but not being satisfied with the work, he laid it aside, and pursued the design of his Furioso, in ottavarima. In order to pursue his studies with less interruption, he chose the situation of llheggio, retiring to a pleasant villa, belonging to Sigismundo Mataguzzi, his kinsman, where he spent his leisure in the prosecution of his principal design.

While he was busied in these literary pursuits, Alphonso duke of Ferrara, having occasion to send ambassadors to Rome, in order to appease the anger of pope Julius II. who prepared to make war against him, was, by his brother the cardinal, recommended to Ariosto, as a proper person to be entrusted with such a negotiation, and he acquitted himself so well in his commission, that he returned with an answer much more favourable than was expected. However, the pope, still continuing at enmity with the duke, made a league with the Venetians, and collected a powerful army against Ferrara: but was defeated at the battle of Ravenna. Part of a Meet was sent up the Po, against Ferrara, and met with a repulse from the duke’s party. In this engagement, Ariosto, who was present, behaved with great courage, and took one of the largest of the enemy’s vessels, filled with stores and ammunition. The papal army being dispersed, Alphonso thought it advisable to send an ambassador again to Rome, and dispatched Ludovico a second time, who found his holiness so incensed against the duke, that his indignation was very near showing itself to the ambassador; and it was not without difficulty that Ariosto escaped with life to Ferrara. The duke’s affairs being established, Ariosto returned to his | studies; but was employed in various public occupations, that often broke in upon his retirement, and obliged him to defer the completion of his Orlando. However, he found means to bring it to a conclusion; and though it was far from that perfection which he desired, yet, in order to avail himself of the opinion of the public, he caused it to be first printed in 1515.

Some time after, the cardinal having a design to go into Hungary, was desirous of being accompanied by the ingenious men who lived under his patronage; but Ariosto openly declared his inclination to be left behind; for, being now afflicted with a catarrh, he was fearful of the consequences from the fatigues and inconveniences of so long a journey. Besides, the service of the cardinal began to grow very irksome to him; those who were about him being frequently obliged to watch the greatest part of the night. It appears, likewise, that Ariosto was in his nature averse to travelling, and had visited few countries.

The refusal of Ariosto to accompany the cardinal so exasperated him, that he partly withdrew his protection from him; which circumstance gave our poet great uneasiness, though it is thought that Hippolito might have taken him again into favour, but for the ill offices of some malicious persons, who had the address to keep them at a distance from each other. On this difference between the cardinal and him, Ariosto strongly Dwells in his satires. The only consolation Luclovico had, was the leading a retired life, which suited his disposition far more than the bustle of a court, and he now applied himself, without interruption, to give every improvement to his Orlando; and in 1521 published another edition of it, with corrections.

In the meantime, cardinal Hippolito died; and Ariosto, who for fifteen years lived in a state of uneasy dependence, and had now reached the forty-fourth year of his age, was determined never more to be connected with a coart; but being persuaded by his intimate friend Buonaveritura Pistofolo, secretary to Alphonso, he engaged in the service of that prince, from whom he met with a most gracious and affectionate reception. Not long after, when Adrian II. succeeded to the papal chair, Grafagnana, a province on the Appennine, being torn to pieces by factions, it was necessary to appoint a person, whose prudence and authority might reduce them to a due subjection, and Ariosto was chosen, who, though very averse to the journey, would not | again hazard incurring the displeasure of his patron. Here he continued three years, and not only brought the people to a proper sense of their duty to their sovereign, but entirely gained their affections to himself, and was highly applauded by the duke for his good services. An extraordinary instance of the veneration paid to his character by all ranks and degrees of men, is thus given by Baretti.

Ariosto, while governor, took his residence in a fortified castle, from which it was imprudent to step out without guards, as the whole neighbourhood was swarming with outlaws, smugglers, and banditti, who, after committing the most enormous excesses all around, retired, for shelter against justice, amidst the rocks and cliffs. Ariosto, one morning, happened to take a walk without the castle, in his night-gown, and, in a fit of thought, forgot himself so much, that, step after step, he found himself very far from his habitation, and surrounded, on a sudden, by a troop of these desperadoes, who certainly would have ill-used, and perhaps murdered him, had not his face been known by one of the gang, who informing his comrades that this was signor Ariosto, the chief of the banditti addressed him with intrepid gallantry, and told him, that since he was the author of the Orlando Furioso, he might be sure none of the company would injure him, but would see him, on the contrary, safe back to the castle; and so they did, entertaining him all along the way with the various excellencies they had discovered in his poem, and bestowing upon it the most rapturous praises. A very rare proof of the irresistible powers of poetry, and a noble comment on the fables of Orpheus and Amphion, who drew wild beasts, and raised walls, with the enchanting sound of their lyres.

The term of his government being expired, he returned to court, where, finding the duke took great delight in theatrical representations, he applied himself to the drama; and, besides the “Cassaria” and “Suppositi,” he composed “La Lena,” and “II Negromante,” in prose and verse, and the “Scolastica” in verse; though the last was Jeft imperfect by his death, and the fifth act added by his brother Gabriele. Of these comedies, four were first printed in prose, and afterwards turned into verse. They were performed with universal applause, before many faniilies of rank, the actors being generally persons of condition; insomuch, that when the Lena was first acted, in | 1528, signer Don Francisco of Este, afterwards marquis of Massa, spoke the prologue himself.

Ariosto now appeared to lead a life of tranquillity; which was the more agreeable to him, as he was not so deeply engaged by the duke, but that he had sufficient leisure to pursue his studies; the service of Alphonso being far more easy than that of Hippolito. About this time he published his Satires, besides those he had formerly written; in the whole, to the number of seven, till, being again involved in family difficulties, and harassed with law-suits, he was obliged, for some time, to lay aside his compositions. At last, having brought his affairs to a happy crisis, he purchased a piece of ground opposite the church of St. Benedict, where he built a commodious dwelling; which, some say, he was enabled to do by the liberality of the duke. He had a garden adjoining to this house, the usual scene of his poetical meditations. Here he passed the remainder of his life, as much as possible secluded from all public employments. Having attained the 59th year of his age, he was seized, on the last day ‘but one of the year 1532, with a lingering illness, though some say his illness first came upon him in October or November, about which time the ducal palace took fire, which accident consumed the superb theatre that had been built for the exhibition of his comedies; in the sameyear he had sent his Furioso to the press with his last improvements, corrected and enlarged as we now have it. Some physicians attributed the cause of his malady to the custom he had of eating fast, and chewing his victuals little, that occasioned an indigestion; the means they made use of to remove this co nplaint brought on a consumption, which, in spite of all the assistance of medicine, at last put a period to his life, at Ferrara, on the 6th of June, or, as others say, on the 8th of July, 1533.

Ludovico Arios-to was a man of uncommon eminence, whether we consider him as a member of the republic of society, or of the more extensive world of literature: as the first, he acquired the affection and esteem of persons of the highest consideration; he contracted the closest intimacy with the family of Medicis, and was beloved by Leo X. the Augustus of that age; as the second, he was one of the few great poets who see that reputation attend their works, during their life-time, which continues to be transmitted down to posterity; and perhaps few books have been so | often printed as the Orlando, which has passed through upwards of eighty editions, and not only been rendered into all the European languages, but is said to have found its way into every part of the world. The uncommon popularity of this author may be further gathered from the numbers that have drawn their subjects from his original.

II Doni, an Italian writer, in a register of the manuscript works of several poets, has attributed two pieces to Ariosto, one called “Rinaldo Ardito;” and the other, “Il Termine del Desiderio;” neither of which appears to have been printed. Besides the forty-six books of his Orlando Furioso, he left behind him five books on the same story, which were first printed in addition to the original poem in 1545, twelve years after Ariosto’s death.

Several writers have affirmed, that he was solemnly crowned with laurel by the victorious Charles Y. in the city of Mantua, in 1532, for his Orlando Furioso; and this circumstance has been as positively denied by others. Mazzuchelii, in his life of Ariosto, has considered the arguments on both sides; and observes, that the silence of those authors on the subject, who certainly would not have passed over such an event, may justly render the whole suspected; that, among others, surely little attention can be paid to the authority of one writer, who relates that Ariosto had scarcely received the laurel crown, when, transported with joy, and inspired as it were with a poetical phrensy, he ran. through the city apparently as mad as his own Orlando. P’ornari speaks of the coronation; but Pigna and Garafolo make no mention of it. II siu;nore Dottore Barotti thus examines the supposed fact: “Many have doubted of the coronation by Charles, and writers, who speak of it, do not agree upon the time or place: some say that the ceremony was performed at Mantua, and others at Bologna; some, that it happened in 1530, and others, in 1532; but, surely it could not be in 1530, as the complete edition of the poem, with the praises of the emperor, was not published till 1532. In a manuscript book, delivered down for the hand -writing of his son Virginio, are these words: <E una baia che fosse coronato.‘ But, in a public instrument between his son Virginio and his brother, in October 1542, we read as follows: ’ Cum annis decursis animam egerit magnificus et Laureatus D. Ludovicus Areostus, &c.’ both which, the manuscript book and instrument, are in my possession. In a letter of Galasso Ariosto it is said, that | Ariosto had scarce published the last edition of his work when he fell ill, and died after eight months. The publication was in October 1532, and it is difficult to suppose that he could be crowned in November, the time mentioned. Yet the epitaph, caused to be engraved by his nephew’s son Ludovico, sets forth the coronation. If Pigna and Garafolo affirm that he fell ill in December, it may be understood that he then took to his bed; and as to the medal of Ariosto crowned, nothing can be proved front that.” To this Mazzuchelli adds, that We may refer to the declaration of Franco, who asserts that he was not crowned; and concludes the argument, by opposing to all these, the authority of the exact Apostolo Zeno, who observes, that Franco petulantly denies that Ariosto was crowned poet, though, besides other testimonies, we have the exclusive privilege granted him by Charles V. The fact upon the whole appears doubtful.

The name of this poet is still held in that kind of veneration by his countrymen with which the English consider their Shakspeare. Antonio Zatta, in his edition of Ariosto‘ s works of 1772, relates, that a chair and ink-standish, which, according to tradition, belonged to Ariosto, were then in the possession of II signor Dottore Giovanni Andrea Barotti, at Ferrara, and that a specimen of his hand -writing was preserved in the public library of that city. The republic of Venice did him the honour to cause his picture to be painted, and hung up with the senators and other illustrious men in the great council hall, which was afterwards destroyed by fire. It appears, however, that Ariosto did not finally receive from his professed patrons those rewards, or obtain that establishment, to which he thought his merits had entitled him. Probably the government of Grafagnana added more to his reputation than his fortune; and, from what he says in several parts of his Satires, he was by no means satisfied with his patrons of Ferrara. Nothing particular is recorded of the benefactions of the cardinal to him, before he incurred the displeasure of that prelate. The duke, indeed, gave him two assignments on certain gabels or taxes, the first of which ceased with the abolition of the tax; and the second, which produced him only twenty-five crowns every fourth month, collected, as he says himself, with great trouble, was contested and withheld from him during the wars of Lombardy; and some say, that the cardinal, upon withdrawing his patronage, | deprived him of this slender advantage^ Such were the great advantages which he derived from those in whose service he had engaged, and whose names he had immortalized by his Muse.

Two medals are said to have been struek, both bearing his effigies, but the devices different: on the first was figured a serpent, over which was suspended a hand, with a pair of shears ready to cut off the head or sting; and the other representing a bee-hive, where the bees are driven from their habitation with fire and smoke, that the countryman may possess himself of their honey. The motto of both these medals was “Pro bono malum.” Some affirm that these devices were of Ariosto’s invention; the first to express the nature of his detractors; and the second, to show that, instead of honours and rewards for his labours, he met only with scoff and derision, alluding to the reception given his Orlando by the cardinal, who, having perused it, asked him, with the most tasteless indifference, where he had collected so many fooleries. Dolce relates, that he caused the device of the serpent to be prefixed to the second edition of his poem; but that in the third he changed it into the bee-hive. In an edition of the Orlando, printed at Bologna in 1540, is a device in the titlepage of two serpents, with a band and shears; the tongue of one of these serpents is cut out, with this motto round them: “Dilexisti malitiam super benignitatem.

With respect to pope Leo X. the acknowledged patron of literature and arts, whom Fornari calls particularly liberal to poets, and by whom he relates that Ariosto was highly esteemed, he is said to have made him a present of some hundred crowns for the prosecution of his work, though Ariosto himself is sile’nt upon that head; and yet in the verses published by Gabriele Simeoni, in his satire upon Avarice, it is said in a note, that “Leo X. gave Ariosto several hundred crowns to complete his work.” Upon the exaltation of this pontiff to the papal chair, be paid a visit to him, with great expectations of advantage. The pope gave him a very gracious reception, and a bull or licence entitling him to the profits of his poem; and he left Home dissatisfied in his expectation, but bore testimony to the pope’s honourable reception of him.

But it seems that Ariosto had raised his thoughts to some great ecclesiastical preferment; on which occasion | signor Rolli observes, that one reason why he was not preferred was, that he was devoted to Alphonso of Ferrara, whom the pope hated, and therefore could not give our author a cardinal’s hat. Leo died in 1521, six years after the finst publication, and the year in which Ariosto published the third edition of his poem. Perhaps had he lived longer, the poet might have experienced further marks of his generosity.

His Italian biographers inform us, that in his conversation he was modest and affable to every body, demeaning himself in such a manner, as if altogether unconscious of that great superiority which Nature had given him; he was close in argument and ready in repartees, but was seldom observed to laugh more than became the dignity of a philosopher; yet, though his temper was rather inclined to melancholy, he was very remote from a rigid disposition; being particularly open and sprightly in his conversation with women, by whom his company was much coveted. He was an avowed enemy to ceremony, though always ready to pay due respect to place and rank. He abhorred all those dignities that could only be acquired by servility; he was a sincere lover of his country, loyal to his prince, and steady in his friendships. In his diet he was abstemious, making only one meal a day, ’and that generally towards the evening, and was neither curious for variety or luxuries, being indeed a contemner of luxury in general. While he was composing his Orlando, he would frequently rise in the middle of the night, and cause his servant Gianni to bring him pen, ink, and paper, when he wrote down what had immediately occurred to his imagination, which in the day he communicated to his friends. His integrity was incorruptible, as appears by what he says to his brother Galasso of the old man, who, being possessed of great wealth, was fearful of being poisoned by his relations, and therefore would trust himself in no hands but Ariosto. He took great delight in building, but was an economist in his expences that way: a friend once expressing an astonishment, that he, who had described such magnificent edifices in his poem, should be contented with so poor a dwelling, Ariosto answered very aptly, that “words were much easier put together than bricks;” and leading him to the door of his house, pointed to this distich which he had caused to be engraved on the portico:


Parva, sed apta mihi, sed nulli obnoxia, sed non

bordida, purta meo sed tamt-n iere domus.

Small is my humble roof, but well design’d

To suit the temper of the master’s mind;

Hurtful to none, it boasts a decent pride,

That my poor purse the modest cost supplied.

Notwithstanding what has been mentioned of his personal bravery in the engagement between the pope’s vessels and the duke’s, he is reported to have been naturally of a timid disposition: when on horseback he would alight oa the least appearance of danger; he was particularly timorous on the water; and when he went out of a vessel, would always stay till the last, frequently using this expression: “De puppe novissimus exi.” In every other respect his temper was firm and unruffled.

He was of an amorous constitution, and very apt to receive impressions from every beautiful object; violent in his attachments, impatient of a rival; but in his amours he was discreet, cautious, and secret. It has been said that he might possibly allude to this by the sculpture of his ink-standish, on the top of which was a Cupid, with his fore-finger placed on his lip, as an emblem of silence. This disposition to gallantry, which he retained to the last year of his life, is confirmed by many parts of his writings. The names of the women, whom he loved, do not appear to’be mentioned, except one whom he is said to have been strongly attached to, of the name of Geneura, to whom he is supposed to allude in one of his sonnets.

In his early life he contracted an intimacy with a noble Florentine called Nicolo Vespucci, whom he accompanied into Florence in 1513, being then thirty-nine years old, to perfect himself in the Tuscan dialect, and to be present at the magnificent ceremony used at the feast of St. Baptist; here he fell violently in love with a kinswoman of Vespucci, whom he found preparing a dress of silver embroidered with purple for her sons to appear in at, the jousts. It has been the opinion of some, that he was privately married, but that he was obliged to keep it secret for fear of forfeiting some church benefices which he enjoyed; some go so far as to say that his wife’s name was Alexandra.

Concerning the person of Ariosto, he was rather above the common size, of a countenance generally grave and contemplative, as appears from the admirable picture | painted by Titian: his head was partly bald; his hair black and curling; his forehead high; his eye-brows raised; his eyes black and sparkling; his nose large and aquiline; his lips well formed; his teeth even and white; his cheeks rather thin, and his complexion inclining to the olive; he was well made, except that his shoulders were somewhat large, which made him appear to stoop a little; his walk was slow and deliberate, as indeed were his actions in general. Ariosto left behind him two sons by Alexandra, who were always considered illegitimate; Virginio before named, and J. Baptista; the first of whom being brought up under his father, who took great pains to instruct him, was made a canon of the house of Ferrara, and Ariosto resigned a great part of his benefices to him; the latter went very young into the army, and, having acquired considerable reputation as a soldier, returned to Ferrara a little while before Ariosto’s death, and died himself an officer in the duke’s service.

Ariosto’s reputation rests now entirely on his Orlando, concerning which modern critics are nearly agreed, and can perceive its blemishes without a wish to detract from its genuine merit. The monstrous extravagance of his fictions, as far as respects the agency of demons and aerial beings, were not ill suited to the age in which he lived, and supported the reputation of his poem, until it attracted the admiration of more enlightened minds, by the display of an imagination infinitely exuberant, yet directed by the finest taste, by the extraordinary power the author possessed of interesting both the gentler and severer passions, and by his masterly skill in all graphical paintings and descriptions. “Orlando,” says Dr. Blair, who seems to have collected the opinions of all the modern critics on this poem, <: unites all sorts of poetry sometimes comic and satiric; sometimes light and licentious; at other times, highly heroic, descriptive, and tender. Whatever strain the poet assumes, he excels in it. He is always master of his subject; seems to play himself with it; and leaves us sometimes at a loss to know whether he be serious or in jest. He is seldom dramatic; sometimes, but not often, sentimental; but in narration and description, perhaps no poet ever went beyond him. He makes every scene which he describes, and every event which he relates, pass before our eyes; and in his selection of circumstances, is eminently picturesque. His style is much varied, always suited | to the subject, and adorned with a remarkable smooth and melodious versification. The most valued editions of the Orlando are, that printed at Venice, fol. 1584, with Ruscelli’s notes, and engravings by Porro; and the edition of Molini, published in 1772, in 4 vols. 8vo, which has very beautiful engravings, and was printed with Baskerville’s types. There is likewise a very correct edition published at Paris by Pankouke in 10 vols. 12mo, 1787; and another, likewise very correct, in 4 vols. 8vo, by Mr. Isola, at London, 1789. Ariosto’s other pieces have been frequently reprinted, but none of them are in much demand. The English reader has been made acquainted with the merits of the Orlando by Mr. Hoole, who, in 1783, completed his translation, in 5 vols. 8vo. His predecessors in that labour were sir John Harrington and Mr. Huggins, but they are now little known and little read. In 1759 the satires of Ariosto were translated into English, and published in a 12mo volume. Ariosto had a nephew, Horace, who was born in 1555, and died in 1593. He defended the Orlando Furioso against the criticisms of Pellegrino, and was himself a poet, and a writer of comedies. 1


Hoole’s life of Ariosto, prefixed to his trapslation, Gen. Dict. Roscoe’s Leo. —Saxii Onomasticon. Biog. Universelle.