Boccaccio, John

, one of the most eminent Italian poets and scholars, and one of the revivers of literature in Europe, was born in 1313. His father was a merchant of Florence, when to be a merchant was the first of situations, and his family was originally of Certaldo, a village about twenty miles from Florence, which accounts for Boccaccio always adding to his name the words “da Certaldo.” He was not, therefore, the son of a peasant, as reported by some biographers, but it cannot be denied that he was the fruit of an illicit connection which his father formed at Paris, where he happened to be on commercial ‘business, and where this son was born, and it appears, likewise, that his father was not very rich. Being, however, brought early to Florence, his education commenced there, and he is said to hav e evinced a decided attachment to poetry before he was ten years old, about which time his father placed him in a merchant’s counting-house, to learn- arithmetic and book-keeping, that he might be the sooner enabled to provide for him among his connections. Some years after, this merchant took him to Paris, where he went to set up in business, and for six years, during which Boccaccio resided in his house, endeavoured to reconcile him to trade; but finding after every experiment, either by persuasion or constraint, that this was impossible, he at length sent him home to his father.

At Florence, as at Paris, Boccaccio’s time was divided between mercantile employment, to which he had a fixed dislike, and his taste for literature, which he contrived to indulge whenever possible. This became more easy at Naples, where his father had sent him in 1333, that he might be detached entirely from his studies, and acquire a zest for commercial pursuits; but here, during a residence of eight years, instead of giving his company only to merchants, he formed an acquaintance with the most eminent men of letters, both Neapolitans and Florentines, who lived there under the liberal patronage of king Robert. There is no reason, however, to suppose that Boccaccio profited by this monarch’s bounty, but he appears to have acquired the good graces of one of the king’s natural daughters, a married lady, for whom he composed several pieces both in prose and verse, and whom, he often mentions un ier the name of Fiammetta. Generally admired for his personal accomplishments, wit, and. spirit, and happy in his attachment to a king’s daughter, it is not | very surprising that the fulfilment of his father’s wishes as to trade should become more and more difficult. The taste which his mistress had for poetry, his acquaintance with men of letters, the deep impression made on his mind by an accidental view of Virgil’s tomb, the presence of the celebrated Petrarch, who was received with the highest distinction at the court of Naples, in 1341, and who was about to receive the same honours at Rome, and the acquaintance Boccaccio had formed with him, all contributed, with his natural bent, to decide irrevocably that he should be a scholar and a poet. On his return to Naples, after a residence of two years with his father at Florence, he was favourably received by the queen, who now reigned in the room of her deceased husband, and it is said that it was to please her, as well as his beloved Fiammetta, that he began to write the “Decameron,” which unquestionably places him. in the first rank of Italian prose writers. In the mean time, his father finding it impossible to resist his inclination for literature, ceased to urge him more on the subject of trade, and only conditioned with him that he should study the canon law. Boccaccio endeavoured to please him, but found the Decretals worse than the ledger and the day-book, and returned with fresh ardour to the muses and the classics, studying to acquire a purer Latin style than hitherto, and to add t& his treasures a knowledge of the Greek. This he learned partly in Calabria, where he frequently went, or in Naples, where he had formed an intimacy with Paul of Perugia, an able Greek grammarian, and librarian to king Robert. He studied also mathematics, astronomy, or rather astrology, under a celebrated Genoese, Andelone del Nero, and even paid some attention to the outlines of theology, but it does not appear that he went much farther.

On the death of his father, being entirely at liberty, and with some little property, to pursue his inclination, he first settled at Florence, where his studies were interrupted only by his pleasures, and some very honourable employments confided to him by his fellow citizens. Among others, one must have been peculiarly gratifying to him. This was his being sent to Padua in 1350, to announce to Petrarch the news of his recall, and the restitution of his father’s property, who had formerly been banished from Florence, and died in exile. Such an errand had a natural tendency to cement their friendship, | Some years after, when Boccaccio had spent his little property, partly in purchasing books, and partly in gratifying his taste for pleasure, he found in Petrarch a friend, who, besides assisting his wants, gave him such affectionate and judicious advice as produced a very salutary change in his conduct. Before this, while suffering under the reflections of his follies, in 1361, a friar had persuaded him to renounce the world, and all that could be called profane learning. The fact seems to have been, that Boccaccio, in his Decamerone, which first appeared in 1353, had satirized the licentious lives of the monks, and this friar came to him with a story of his having seen a vision, and being commissioned to warn him of his danger, if he did not renounce his sins, and burn his Decamerone: and Boccaccio was so alarmed, that he actually put on the ecclesiastical habit, (for which, as being a natural son, he was obliged to apply to the pope for a dispensation) and resumed the study of theology; but he soon found that this was too late, and too averse from his habits, and he therefore had recourse to Petrarch, who persuaded him to remove to Certaldo, where he had a small estate, and pursue his literary labours in that retirement.

Before this time, all his works, and they only works of amusement, were written in Italian, but now he began to compose on the subjects of literature aud history in Latin, and one of these treatises was the first modern work that gave any account of the mythological notions of the antients. We have already noticed that he was well acquainted with Greek, and brought with him, at his own expense, from Venice to Florence, Leontius Pilatus of Thessalonica, and entertained him in his house for three years. During this time he improved his knowledge of Greek, and Leontius went over the Iliad and Odyssey with him, translating it into Latin. Boccaccio wa_s the first who was at the expence of importing from Greece Mss. of both the Iliad and Odyssey, among many other valuable Mss. both Greek and Latin, by which he endeavoured to introduce a taste for these valuable remains of antiquity, and particularly for the Greek authors, in preference to the scholastic studies, which alone were at this time pursued in the schools.

It must be confessed, however, tuat Boccaccio was not critically skilled in the Greek. For want of lexicons and grammars, he was obliged to content himself with the general sense of what he read, and did not acquire that accurate | knowledge, which distinguished the scholars of the two succeeding centuries. Still his acquisitions and his zeal entitle him to high praise, and he was the means of establishing a sort of Greek colony at Florence, at a time when that language was an absolute stranger in all the schools and universities of Europe.

While at Certaldo, he was not forgot. The high character he had already attained induced the republic of Florence to send him on two embassies to pope Urban V. which he accomplished to their satisfaction, but after his return to Certaldo, he experienced a long illness, which left a great degree of langour and dejection. Recovering, however, from this, he took upon him an employment peculiarly gratifying to him in every respect. He had always been a great admirer of Dante, had often copied his works, and inew them almost by heart .*

*

In 1559, Boccaccio sent to Petrarch a copy of Dante, whom he called his father, written with his own hand. And it is remarkable that he accompanied his present with an apology for sending this poem to Petrarch, who, it seems, was jealous of Dante, and in the answer speaks coldly of its merits. This circumstance, unobserved by the the generality of writers, and even by Fontanini, Crescembini, and Muratori, is brought forward, and related at large, in the third volume, p. 507, of the very entertaining Memoirs of the Life of Petrarch. The manuscript, which is beautifully written, and adorned with illuminations, is now in Imperial library of Paris.

The Florentines, who had persecuted and banished that celebrated poet, were now disposed to make some reparation, by instituting, by a decree of the senate, a professorship for lectures on his poems, and Boccaccio was appointed to this new chair. How much he was delighted in an employment, not only highly honourable, but congenial to his habits, may easily be conceived. The pains he took, however, retarded his recovery from his late illness, and the death of Petrarch, of which he was at this time informed, appears tohave’hastened his own. He became more and more weak, and did not survive his illustrious friend and master above a year, dying at Certaldo, Dec. 21, 1375. He was buried there in the church of St. James and St. Philip, and the following inscription, written by himself, was engraven on his tomb

Hac sub mole jacent cineres ac ossa Joannis,

Mens sedet ante Deum meritis ornata laborum

Mortalis vitæ. Genitor Boccaccius illi,

Patria Certaldum, studium fuit alma Poësis.

In person he is described, as inclining to corpulence, but his stature was portly, his face round, with a nose a little depressed above the nostrils, his lips somewhat full, but | nevertheless handsome and well-formed, his chin dimpled and beautiful when he smiled, his aspect jocund and gay, and his discourse agreeable and polished.

A short time before his death he made his will, bequeathing what property he had to his two nephews, the sons of James, his elder brother. The most valuable legacy, however, was that of his books, which were almost all copies by his own hand, or collected at great expence. These he left to one father Martin, an Augustine, who was his executor, and in this perhaps his adviser, with a view that they might become the property of his convent., They were, however, lost to the world. A celebrated scholar, Niccolo Niccoli, in the succeeding century, built in that convent a library for the express purpose of preserving Boccaccio’s books, but time destroyed them and it. It has been remarked as somewhat singular, that in this will, Boccaccio makes no mention of a natural son he had in his youth, and who was settled at Florence, yet this young man superintended his funeral, and caused the above inscription to be engraven on his tomb. He was universally regretted at Florence, where, in his poverty, he had not met with very liberal attentions. Verses, however, are more easily bestowed than money, and the poets of the time, particularly Sachetti, hastened with their contributions to his memory. Two medals also were struck, and twenty years afterwards, the republic wishing to pay higher honour to him as well as to Dante and Petrarch, deliberated on a magnificent monument to be erected to the three great ornaments of their country in the church of St. Maria del Fiore, but this was never carried into execution.

The predominant passion of Boccaccio, in youth, was the love of pleasure tempered by that of study; as he advanced in age, study became his sole delight. He had no ambition either for rank or fortune. The public employments confided to him came unasked, and when he could lay them down, he did so. He was equally averse to any domestic employments which were likely to take up much of his time, and would accept of no private tutorships, which so often eventually promote a man’s interest. His character was frank and open, but not without a degree of pride, which, however, particularly when he was in low circumstances, kept him from mean compliances. With respect to his talents, it is eviuent that he had always made a false estimate of them he had the fullest confidence in his poetical powers, yet nothing he wrote in verse rises | above mediocrity, and many of his prose Italian writings desefve no higher praise. He is superior and inimitable only in his tales, on which he did not pride himself, nor indeed set any value. He fell into the same error with his master Petrarch in supposing that his serious Latin works would be the source of his fame, which he owes entirely to his Tales, as Petrarch owes his to his love-verses. All his Latin writings are crude and hasty. * In them, says Paul Cortesius, “he labours with thought, and struggles to give it utterance but his sentiments find no adequate vehicle, and the lustre of his native talents is obscured by the depraved taste of the times.” In his youth, he was flattered as having obtained the second place in poetry, his admiration for Dante not permitting him to aspire to the first, and the sonnets of Petrarch were not yet known. It is to his honour, however, that as soon us he saw the latter, he threw into the fire the greater part of his lyric compositions, sonnets, canzoni, &e. and seems to have determined to apply himself entirely to the perfection of Italian prose, in which it must be confessed he has succeeded admirably. As a recent event has rendered some of Boccaccio’s writings an object, of research among collectors, we shall enter somewhat more fully than is usual into a detail of their editions. Among his Latin works, we have, 1. “De genealogia Deorum lib. XV. De montium, sylvarum, lucuum, fluviorum, stagnorum, et marium nominibus, liber.” These two were first printed together in folio without date, but supposed to be at Venice, and. anterior to 1472, in which year appeared the second edition, at Venice, with that date. The third was published at the same place in 1473, and followed by others at Reggio, Vincenza, Venice, Paris, and Basle, which last, in 1532, is accompanied with notes and supplements. This account of the genealogy of the Gods, or the heathen mythology, must have been the fruit of immense reading, and as no information on the subject existed then, a high value was placed on it, although it has been since superseded by more recent and accurate works. He has been very unjustly accused of quoting authors no where else to be found, as if he had invented their names, but it is surely more reasonable to think they might be known in his days, although their memory has since perished, or that he might have been himself deceived. This same work, translated into Italian by Joseph Betussi, has gone through twelve or thirteen edi-. | tions, the first, of Venice, 1547, 4to. There are -also two French translations, the first anonymous, Paris, 1498, fol. and 1531, also in fol. the second by Claude Wittard, Paris, 1578, 8vo. The lesser book, or Dictionary of the names of mountains, forests, &c. was also translated into Italian by Niccolo Liburnio, and printed in 4to. without date or place, but there is a second edition at Florence, 1598, 8vo. 2. “De casibus Virorum et Foeminarum illustrium libri IX.Paris, 1535, 1544, fol. and at Vincenza the same year translated into Italian by Betussi, Venice, 1545, 8vo, and often reprinted. But there must have been an edition long previous to the oldest of these, as we find it translated into English in 1494, by John Lydgate, monk of Edmundsbury, at the commandment of Humphrey duke of Gloucester, under the title of “John Boccace of the Fall of Princes and Princesses .*

*

Lydgate, however, is supposed to have taken his translation from the Preach of 1476.

It has likewise been translated and often reprinted in French, Spanish, and German. The first of the Spanish translations is dated Seville, 1495, and the first of the French was printed at Bruges in 1476, folio, then at Paris, 1483, at Lyons the same year, and again at Paris in 1494, 1515, folio, and 1578, 8vo. 3. “De claris Mulieribus.” The first edition of this is without place or date, in the black letter the second is that of Ulm, 1473, fol. followed by those of Louvain and Berne from 1484 to 1539. Of this work the Italians have two translations, one by Vincent Bagli, a Florentine, Venice, 1506, 4to; the other by Betussi, who prefixed a life of Boccaccio, Venice, 1545, and 1547, 8vo. The first edition of the Spanish translation is dated Seville, 1528, fol. That of the German translation is dated Augsburgh, 1471, and was followed by one at Ulm, 1473, 4to. The French have two translations, the oldest 1493, fol. 4. “Eclogae,” sixteen in number, and printed with those of Virgil, Calphurnius, &c. Florence, 1504, 8vo. They are also inserted in the “Bucolicorum auctorcs,Basil, 1546, 8vo. Like Petrarch, he introduces the events of his time in these eclogues, with the principal personages under fictitious names, but he has furnished us with a key to these in a letter to P. Martin de Signa, his confessor, of which Manni has givdn an extract in his history of the Decameron. His Italian works in verse are, 5. “La Teseide,” the first attempt at an epic in Italian, and written in the ottava | rima, or heroic verse, of which Boccaccio is considered as the inventor; printed at Ferrara, 1475, fol. Venice, 1528, 4to, and translated into French, 1597, 12mo. 6. “Amorosa visione,Milan, 1520 and 1521, 4to, and with grammatical observations and an apology for Boccaccio by Claricio d’Lmola, Venice, 1531, 8vo. This singular poem is divided into fifty cantos or chapters, which contain five triumphs, namely those of wisdom, glory, riches, love, and fortune, written in the terza rima, with a curious contrivance, gratifying to the bad taste of the times, by which the initial letters of each stanza are made to compose an acrostic in praise of the princess Mary, whom elsewhere he celebrates under the name of Fiammetta. 7. “II Filastrato,” a poetical romance in heroic verse, the hero of which is young Troilus, the son of Priam, and the subject, his amours with Chryseis, whom the poet does not make the daughter of Chryses, but of Calchas. Of this there are four editions Bologna, 1498, 4to, Milan, 1499, 4to, Venice 1501 and 1528, 4to. 8. “Nimfale Fiesolano.” It is thought that in this poem Boccaccio has concealed, under the disguise of a pastoral fiction, an amorous adventure which happened in his time in the environs of Florence. The first edition is in 4to. without place or date; the second is of Venice 1477, and was followed by many others at Venice and Florence, and one recently of Paris, 1778, 12mo. It was translated into French by Anthony Guercin du Crest, and printed at Lyons, 1556, 16mo. 9. “Rime,” or miscellaneous poems. We have noticed that he burned the greater part of his minor poems, but those which were dispersed in manuscript in various hands, have been often collected, and the publication of them announced. M. Baldelli, who has since, in 1806, published a good life of Boccaccio, collected all of these poems he could find, and printed them at Leghorn, 1802, 8vo.

Of his Italian works in prose, we may notice, 10. “Il Filocopo, owero amorosa fatica, &c.” a romance written by our author when very young, defective in interest, and altogether so in style, when compared with what he wrote afterwards. The first edition of this romance is without place or date the others, which are all rare, are those of Venice, 1472, Florence, 1472, Milan 1476 and 1478, all in fol. Venice, 1514, 4to, and often reprinted during the same century, and twice translated into French, Paris, 1542, fol. &c. 11. “L’Ammorosa Fiammetta,” another romance | not much more valuable than the preceding. Fiammetta, as we have already noticed, is the princess Mary of whom he was enamoured, and Pamphile, whose absence she is made deeply to regret, was himself. Whether this was a real or a poetical amour is not very clear. The romance was first published without date or place, in 4to, but is supposed to have appeared at Padua, with a Latin title, and, at the end of the volume, the date of 1472; the second, which has not the place, is dated 1480, 4to, and was followed by others in the sixteenth century at Florence, Venice, &c. and a French and Spanish translation, often reprinted. 12. “L’Urbano,Florence, 1598, 8vo, translated into French under the title “Urbain le Mescogneu,Lyons, without date, 4to, black letter, was a piece which Boccaccio is said to have written to divert his melancholy for the death of his friend Petrarch, but Mazzuchelli and other critics consider it as spurious. 13. “Ameto, or Nimfale d’Ameto,” written with a mixture of prose and verse, is supposed to relate to a real adventure concealed under a poetical allegory. It has gone through a great number of editions, Rome and Venice, 1478, 4to; Trevisa, 1479, 4to Venice, 1503, fol. Rome, 1520, 4to; Florence, 1521, 8vo. 14. “II Corbaccio, o sia Laberinto d’Amore,” a very bitter and indecent satire on a female who had given him some offence after his return to Florence. In spite of the licentiousness of this work, the style has recommended it to the curious, but we doubt whether this was the cause of its passing through so many editions: Florence, 1487, 4to, Venice, 1516, 24mo, &c. &c. and a valuable edition, Paris, 1569, 8vo, by Corbinelli, with a preface and notes. Belleforest translated it into French, Paris, 1571, 1573, and there was a second translation or imitation, by Premont, entitled “Songe de Boccace, ou de Labyrinthe d‘ Amour,Paris, 1699, &c. in which the editor has abridged so much, and added so much, that it can scarcely be called Boccaccio’s work. 15. “Origine Vitaet costumi di Dante Alighieri,Rome, 1544, 8vo, Florence, 1576, 8vo. lit this life of Dante we have many anecdotes not elsewhere to be found, but the author upon, the whole inclines too much to the romantic to attend sufficiently to the strict veracity of the biographer yet the purity of the style recommends it, and the affection and sincerity with which he praises Dante, form, perhaps, a curiosity, from one who had the ambition to be placed so | near him. This is naturally connected with 16. “Commento sopra la Commedia di Dante Alighieri,” a valuable work, not only for style, but for the many difficult passages of Dante which are admirably illustrated, although it must be confessed they are at the same time intermixed with much matter that has very little connection with the text. It was an abridgement of the lectures which he gave at Florence, when attacked with the disorder which shortened his days, and was not printed until th;e last century. It extends only to the 17th chapter of the Inferno, and forms the two last volumes of the edition of Boccaccio’s prose works (with the exception of the Decameron) published at Naples (with the false title of Florence), in 1724, 5 vols. 8vo. Lastly, we come to his 17. “II Decamerone,” the work on which his fame is permanently established, and which, of all works, it is difficult to characterize in few words. The assertion, that the greater part of the hundred novels which it contains are taken from the ancient French writers of tales, only shows that those who maintain this opinion are not acquainted either with these writers, or with the Decamerone, of which, at most, ten of the stories only are imitated from the French Fabliaux, or taken from the same remote sources, and it is equally unjust to consider them merely as a collection of amorous and licentious stories. The greater part of the poets, indeed, who have stolen from him have stolen only what is of this obnoxious description, and therefore easily brought a reproach on the whole. Boccaccio, in this work, depicts, as on a vast canvass, men of all conditions, all characters and all ages and events of every kind, comic and serious. He exhibits models of every species of eloquence, and carries the purity and elegance of the Italian language to a degree of perfection unknown before his time. Perhaps few works of the kind have ever been so popular. For more than three centuries it has gone through repeated editions, of which an hundred at least may be mentioned, and his biographer very properly asks, what criticism can stand against this fact

In order to appreciate these editions, it is necessary to advert to the fate of this extraordinary work in the press. For about a century, it was circulated in manuscript, and liberties of every kind were taken at every transcription. At length it was printed for the first time, as has been supposed, in 1470, and run through various editions to the end of the fifteenth, | and for more than sixty years of the sixteenth century. During this period it was prohibited by the popqs Paul IV. and Pius IV. who were in this respect more scrupulous than their twenty-five or twenty-six predecessors in the papal chair. Two grand dukes of Tuscany, Cosmo I. and Francis I. applied one after the other to two other popes, Pius V. and Gregory XIII. in consequence of which the academicians were employed to reform the Decameron important corrections were made, and many passages suppressed, and in this state various editions were permitted to be printed. But with respect to the ancient editions, it is now necessary to observe that there are two opinions, which we shall state, without attempting to reconcile. We have already noticed that the first edition has been supposed to have been printed in 1470, without a date but on the other hand, it is contended that the edition of 1471, by Valdarfer, is not only the first with a date (which those who maintain the existence of the edition of 1470 are disposed to allow), but that in fact there was no previous edition. Those who are of this latter opinion very naturally ask their antagonists to produce the edition of 1470, or an edition without date that can be supposed of that period. In England it is certain that no such edition is known but the French bibliographers seem to be of a different opinion. Ginguene 1 to whom we are indebted for the greater part of this life of Boccaccio, who has written the literary history of Italy, and is considered in France, we apprehend justly, as their first critic and bibliographer in Italian literature this writer speaks of the first edition without a date in the following terms “Elle est sans date et sans nom de lieu ni d’imprimeur, in-fol. en caracteres inegaux et mal formes.” (Hist. Litt. d’ltalie, vol. III. p. 129). It remains, therefore, for the reader to determine whether this is the language of a man who has seen the book, and describes what he has seen; and if this be decided in the affirmative, the existence of the edition is proved, as far as his authority goes. But it must be confessed Ginguene goes no fa ther. He says nothing of any library which possesses this treasure, nor of its supposed value but when he comes to speak of Valdarfer’s edition of 1471, he informs us that it- has been valued by bibliomaniacs (bibliomanes) at 3000 francs, or 125l. And this brings us to notice the copy of this edition recently sold from the duke of Roxburgh’s library, to the | marquis of Blandford, for the immense (and with respect to the value of books, the unprecedented) sum of Two Thousand Two Hundred And Sixty Pounds. In the catalogue of this library, it is stated that “no other perfect copy is yet known to exist, after all the fruitless researches of more than three hundred years;” but, notwithstanding this, we find that the French bibliographers set a value on the edition, as if copies, however rare, were still occasionally to be found. We cannot suppose that the French booksellers or collectors would fix a price-current on an article which had not been seen, for three hundred years, still less that our authority is speaking of imperfect copies, the value of which can only be estimated by the quantum of imperfection. It remains also to be noticed that the French bibliographers speak precisely with the same familiarity of the Junti edition of Florence, 1527, 4to, which they value at 600 francs, or 25l. and which sold at the Roxburgh sale for 29 1. no great advance upon the French price. They certainly speak both of this edition, and of the 1471, as of rare occurrence, but by no means hint that the latter is of that extreme rarity imputed to it in this country .*

*

At this memorable sale of the Roxburgh library, the following prices were given for some other of Boccaccio’s works: Il Fiarnmetta, 1472, 21l.—The English. Translation, Lond. 1587, 10l. 10s.—II Philocopo, 1476, 37l. 17s.—IlCorbaccio, 1569, 1l. 9s. De Genealogia Deorum, 1472, 16l. 16s. Lydgate’s Ihon Bochas, 1558, 13/ 2s. 6d. &c. &c.

The third edition,of Mantua, 1472, fol. Salviati thinks the best of all the early editions, the scarcity of which may now be accounted for by the following extraordinary fact. As soon as they appeared, and became generally read, the monks who felt that much of the satire was directed against them, issued their anathemas and prohibitions and in 1497, Savonarola excited the abhorrence of the Florentines to such a degree, that they collected all the Decamerons, Dantes, and Petrarchs they could find, and burnt them together the last day of the carnival. It is of importance to notice that, of the edition of 1527, a very well executed counterfeit was printed at Venice in 1729, with the date of Florence 1527 at the end. The next valuable edition is that corrected by the academicians of Florence, by order of the grand duke, and with the approbation of pope Gregory XIII. and published at Florence by the Junti, 1573, 4to. Longuerue observes | that it is a curious thing to see at the head of this edition a privilege of Gregory XIII. who says, that in this he follows the steps of Pius V. his predecessor of blessed memory, and which threatens with severe punishments, all those who shall dare to give any disturbance to those booksellers to whom this privilege is granted. There is also a decree of the inquisition in favour of this edition. The edition of Salviati, which was also subjected to reform, Venice, 1584, 4to, maybe consulted with the preceding for the sake of the curious corrections and amendments introduced; and perhaps the reader may discover a great difference in the purity of the style between the original and the reformed part. With respect to the translations of* the Decameron, they are too numerous, and in general too unimportant, for a particular detail. Every nation has its Decameron, but as the purpose of the translators was mere amusement, they seem to have been little anxious about the author’s reputation. The English editions particularly have conveyed his Tales in a most vulgar and ungraceful style. They were first translated in 1566, by "William Paynter, and have been often reprinted since in various forms the best, we think, was an edition in two volumes, Loud. 1804, 8vo, in which the editor has taken much pains in repressing the licentiousness of our author, and has omitted entirely those tales which could not be rendered proper for general perusal. In a critical view, however, the work must be allowed to be the production of a great genius. The generality of the beaux esprits in. Italy agree that the Decameron is the best book in their language, at least in point of style. It is surely very remarkable that Boccaccio should’ carry a barbarous language to its perfection all at once a language left entirely to the people, and which had orly a small part of its rust rubbed off by the immortal Dante. 1

1

Principally from the Biog. Universelle,—and an excellent life, by the same author, Ginguenè, in his Histoire Litteraire d’italie, vol. III.