Maffei, John Peter

, a learned Jesuit, was born at Bergamo in 1536, and was instructed by his uncles Basil and Chrysostom Zanchi, canons regular of that city, in Greek, Latin, philosophy and theology. His studies being finished he went to Rome, where his talents became so well known that several princes invited him to settle in their dominions, but he gave the preference to Genoa, where in 1563 he was appointed professor of eloquence, with an ample salary. He continued in that office two years, and was chosen to the office of secretary of state; but in 1565, he returned to Rome, where he entered into the society of Jesuits. He spent six years as professor of eloquence in the Roman college, during which he translated, into the Latin language, the history of the Indies by Acosta, which was published in 1570. He then went to Lisbon at the request of cardinal Henry, and compiled from papers and other documents with which he was to be furnished, a complete history of the Portuguese conquests in the Indies, and of the progress of the Christian religion in that quarter. He returned to Italy in 1581, and some years after was placed, by Clement VIII. in the Vatican, for the purpose of continuing, in the Latin language, the annals of Gregory XIII. begun by him in the Italian of this he had finished three books at the time of his death, which happened at Tivoli Oct. 20, 1603. Soon after he entered among the Jesuits he wrote the life of Ignatius Loyola; but his principal work is entitled “Historiarum Indicarum,” lib. XVI. written in a very pure style, which has been frequently reprinted. The best edition is in two volumes 4to, printed at Bergamo in 1747. The purity of his style was the effect of great labour. Few men ever wrote so slowly; nothing seemed to please him, and he used to pass whole hours in polishing his periods; but we cannot readily credit all that has been reported on this subject, as that he never could finish above twelve or fifteen lines in a clay; that he was twelve years in writing his history of the Indies, and that, to prevent his mind being tainted with bad Latin, he read his breviary in Greek. There are, however, some other particulars of his personal | history which correspond a little with all this. He disliked the ordinary commons of the Jesuits’ college, aftid had always something very nice and delicate provided for him, considering more substantial and gross food as incompatible with elegant writing; yet with all this care, he was of such an irascible temper as to be perpetually giving offence, and perpetually asking pardon. 1


Niceron, vol. V.Moreri. Bib!. Du Maine et Du Verdier, vol. II.