Castelvetro, Lewis

, an Italian critic, celebrated for his parts, but more for the seventy of his criticisms, was born at Modena in 1505. Being despised for his poverty by the ignorant part of mankind, and hated for his knowledge by the learned, says Moreri, he left his own country, and went into Germany, where he resided at the court of the emperor Maximilian II. After six years’ absence he returned to Modena, and distinguished himself chiefly by his Commentary upon Aristotle’s Poetics; in | which, Rapin assures us, he always made it a rule to find something to except against in the text of Aristotle. He attacked his contemporary and rival in polite literature, Hannibal Caro, as we have observed under his article; and the quarrel did not end without many satirical pieces written on both sides in verse and prose. Castelvetro, however, was assisted here by his friends; for though he knew how to lay down rules for writing poetry, yet he was not a poet himself. His rival 'Hannibal Caro at length brought him under the cognisance of the inquisition at Rome, by which he was accused of paying too much deference 1 to the new opinions, and not enough to the old. It is probable that during his travels into Germany, win -re Lutheranism was established, he had imbibed the principles of the reformation, which appeared in his conversation and writings. He wished to be tried at a distance, as he then was, before a council; but the pope acquainted the cardinal of Mantua, his legate, that since Castelvetro had been accused before the inquisition at Rome, it was necessary for him to appear there, under the character of a person accused. Upon the pope’s assuring him of* high honours if he was found innocent, and of clemency if guilty, he appeared before the inquisition, and was examined in October 1560: but, finding himself embarrassed by the questions put to him, and especially in regard to a bouk of Melancthon, which he had translated into Italian, he fled to Basil in Switzerland, where he pursued the study of the belles lettres to the time of his death, which happened Feb. 20, 1571.

We learn from the Menagiana, that Castelvetro’s house being on fire at Lyons, he cried out “Save my Poetics!” which shews that he considered this work as the best of his performances, and it ought to be so, if what is said be true, that it cost him half his life in composing. His other pieces are inferior to his Poetics; and his posthumous works, fall greatly short of that perfection to which, if he had lived to correct them, they would probably have attained. 1


Gen. Dict. —Moreri. —Saxii Onomast.