Maffei, Francis Scipio

, a celebrated Italian writer, and a marquis, was born of an illustrious family at Verona, in 1675, and was very early associated to the academy of the Arcadi at Home. At the age of twenty -seven, he distinguished himself at Verona, by supporting publicly a thesis on love, in which the ladies were the judges and assessors; and displayed at once his talents for gallantry, eloquence, and poetry. Anxious for glory of all kinds, he made his next effort in the army, and served as a volunteer at the battle of Donawert, in 1704; but the love of letters prevailed, and he returned into Italy. There his first literary enterprise, occasioned by an affair of honour, in which his elder brother was involved, was an earnest attack upon the practise of duelling. He brought against it all the arguments to which it is so evidently exposed; the opposite practice of the ancients, the suggestions of good sense, the interests of social life, and the injunctions of religion. He proceeded then to the drama, and produced his “Merope,” which was acted with the most brilliant success. Having thus purified tragedy, he proceeded to render the same service to comedy, and wrote one entitled “La Ceremonia,” which was much applauded. Jn 1732, he visited | France, where he passed four years, caressed in the greatest degree for his talents and learning; and then went into England, where he was much esteemed, to Holland, and finally to Vienna, and was most honourably received hy the emperor Charles VI. After several years thus employed, he returned into Italy, and in literary activity, extended his attention to almost every subject of human knowledge. He died in 1755, at the age of eighty. He was gifted with a comprehensive genius, a lively wit, and a penetrating mind, eager for discoveries, and well calculated for making them. His disposition was cheerful, sincere, and disinterested, full of zeal for religion, and faithful in performing its duties. The people of Verona almost idolized him. During his last illness they offered public prayers for his recovery, and the council of state decreed solemn obsequies after his death, with the ceremony of a funeral oration in the cathedral of Verona.

Lady Mary Wortley Montague, in her letters lately published, has given a very lively description of Maffei’s employments: “After having made the tour of Europe in search of antiquities, he fixed his residence in his native town of Verona, where he erected himself a little empire, from the general esteem, and a conversation (so they call an assembly) which he established in his palace, one of the largest in that place, and so luckily situated, that it is between the theatre and the ancient amphitheatre. He made piazzas leading to each of them, filled with shops, where were sold coffee, tea, chocolate, all sorts of sweetmeats, and in the midst, a court well kept, and sanded, for the use of those young gentlemen who would exercise their managed horses, or show their mistresses their skill in riding. His gallery was open every evening at five o’clock, where he had a fine collection of antiquities, and two large cabinets of medals, intaglios, and cameos, arranged in exact order. His library joined to it: and on the other side a suite of five rooms, the first of which was destined to dancing, the second to cards (but all games of hazard excluded), and the others (where he himself presided in an easy chair), sacred to conversation, which always turned upon some point of learning, either historical or poetical. Controversy and politics being utterly prohibited, he generally proposed the subject, and took great delight in instructing the young people, who were obliged to seek the | medal, or explain the inscription that illustrated any fact they discoursed of. Those who chose the diversion of the public walks, or theatre, went thither, but never failed returning to give an account of the drama, which produced a critical dissertation on that subject, the marquis having given shining proofs of his skill in that art. His tragedy of” Merope,“which is much injured by Voltaire’s translation, being esteemed a master-piece and his comedy of the” Ceremonies,“being a just ridicule of those formal fopperies, it has gone a great way in helping to banish them out of Italy. The walkers contributed to the entertainment by an account of some herb, or flower, which led the way to a botanical conversation; or, if they were such inaccurate observers as to have nothing of that kind to offer, they repeated some pastoral description. One day in the week was set apart for music, vocal and instrumental, but no mercenaries were admitted to the concert. Thus, at a very little expence (his fortune not permitting a large one), he had the happiness of giving his countrymen a taste of polite pleasure, and shewing the youth how to pass their time agreeably without debauchery.

The complete catalogue of his works would resemble that of a library; the chief of them are these: I. “Rime e prose,Venice, 1719, 4to. 2. “La scienza Cavalleresca,Rome, 1710, 4to. This is against duelling, and has passed through six editions. 3. “Merope,” of which there have been many more editions, and several foreign versions. 4. “Traduttori Italiani,” &c. Venice, 1720, 8vo, contains an account of the Italian translations from the classics. 3. “Theatre Italiano,” a selection of Italian tragedies, in 3 vols. 8vo. 6. “Cassiodori complexiones, in Epistola et Acta Apostolorum,” &c. Flor. 1721. 7. “Istoria Diplomatica,” or a critical introduction to diplomatic knowledge. 8. “Degli Anfiteatri,” on amphitheatres, particularly that of Verona, 1728. 9. “Supplementum Acaciarum,Venice, 1728. 10. “Museum Veronense,1729, folio. 11. “Verona Illustrata,1732, folio. 12. An Italian translation of the first book of Homer, in blank verse, printed at London, in 1737. 13. “La Religione di Gentili tiel morire,1736, 4to. 14. “Osservationi Letterarie,” intended to serve as a continuation of the Giornale de‘ Leterati d’ Italia. He published also a work on grace, some editions of the fathers, and | other matters. A complete edition of his works was published at Venice in 1790, in 18 vols. 8vo. 1


Fabroni Vitae Italorum. —Moreri. —Dict. Hist. Lady M. W. Montague’s Works, vol. IV. p. 266, edit. 1803.