Sarpi, Paul

, usually called in England, Father Paul, in Italian, Fra Paolo, a very illustrious writer, was born at Venice Aug. 14, 1552, and was the son of Francis Sarpi, a merchant, whose ancestors came from Friuli, and of Isabella Morelli, a native of Venice. He was baptized by the name of Peter, which he afterwards, upon entering into his order, changed for Paul. His father followed merchandize, but with so little success, that at his death, he left his family very ill provided for, but under the care of a mother whose wise conduct supplied the want of fortune by advantages of greater value. Happily for young Sarpi, she had a brother, Ambrosio Morelli, priest of the collegiate church of St. Hermagoras, who took him under his care. Ambrosio was well skilled in polite literature, which he taught to several children of the noble Venetians: and he took particular care of the education of his nephew, whose abilities were extraordinary, though his constitution was very delicate. Paul had a great memory, and much strength of judgment; so that he made uncommon advance* in every branch of education. He studied philosophy and divinity under Capella, a father belonging to the monastery of the Servites in Venice; and when only in his tender | years, made great progress in the mathematics, and the Greek and Hebrew tongues. Capelia, though a celebrated master, confessed in a little time that he could give his pupil no farther instructions, and with this opinion of his talents, prevailed with him to assume the religious habit of the Servites, notwithstanding his mother and uncle represented to him the hardships and austerities of that kind of life, and advised him with great zeal against it. But he was steady in his resolutions, and on Nov. 24, 1566, took the habit, and two years after made his tacit profession, which he solemnly renewed May 10, 1572.

At this time he was in his twentieth year, and defended in a public assembly at Mantua, several difficult propositions in natural philosophy and divinity, with such uncommon genius and learning, that the duke of Mantua, a great patron of letters, appointed him his chaplain, at the same time that the bishop of that city made him reader of canon law and divinity in his cathedral. These employments animated him to improve himself in Hebrew; and he applied also with much vigour to the study of history, in which he was afterwards to shine. During his stay at Mantua he became acquainted with many eminent persons; and his patron, the duke, obliged him to dispute with persons of all professions, and on all subjects. Paul had a profound knowledge in the mathematics, but the utmost contempt for judicial astrology: “We cannot, 17 he used to say,” either find out, or we cannot avoid, what will happen hereafter." Fulgentio, his biographer, relates a ludicrous story, in which his patron appears to have been a chief actor. The duke, who loved to soften the cares of government with sallies of humour, having a mare ready to foal a mule, engaged Paul to take the horoscope of the animal’s nativity. This being done, and the scheme settled, the duke sent it to all the famous astrologers in Europe, informing them, that under such an aspect a bastard was born in the duke’s palace. The astrologers returned very different judgments; some asserting that this bastard would be a cardinal, others a great warrior, others a bishop, and others a pope, and these wise conjectures tended not a little to abate the credulity of the times.

Sarpi, however, finding a court life unsuitable to his inclination, left Mantua in about two years* and returned to his convent at Venice. By this time he had made a surprising progress in the canon and civil law, in all parts of | physic, and in the Chaldee language; and, as usually happens, his great reputation had exposed him to much envy. For, before he left Mantua, one Claudio, who was jealous of his superior talents, accused him to the inquisition of heresy, for having denied that the doctrine of the Trinity conld be proved from, the first chapter of Genesis: but Paul, appealing to Rome, was honourably acquitted, and the inquisitor reprimanded for presuming to determine upon things written in a language he did not understand. At twenty-two he was ordained priest; and afterwards, when he bad taken the degree of doctor in divinity, and was admitted a member of the college of Padua, was chosen provincial of his order for the province of Venice, though he was then but twenty- six an instance which had never happened before among the Servites. He acquitted himself in this post, as he did in every other, with the strictest integrity, honour, and piety; insomuch that, in 1579, in a general chapter held at Parma, he was appointed, with two others, much his seniors, to draw up new regulations and statutes for his order. This employment made it necessary for him to reside at Rome, where his exalted talents recommended him to the notice of cardinal Alexander Farnese, and other great personages.

His employment as provincial being ended, he retired for three years, which he said was the only repose he had ever enjoyed; and applied himself to the study of natural philosophy and anatomy. Among other experiments, he employed himself in the transmutation of metals; but not with any view of discovering the philosopher’s stone, which he always ridiculed as impossible. In the course of his experiments, he made some discoveries, the honour of which, it is said, has been appropriated by others. He likewise studied anatomy, especially that part of it which relates to the eye; on which he made so many curious observations, that the celebrated Fabricius ab Aquapendente did not scruple to employ, in terms of the highest applause, the authority of Paul on that subject, both in his lectures and writings. Fulgentio expresses his surprise at Aquapendente, for not acknowledging, in his “Treatise of the Eye,” the singular obligations he had to Paul, whom he declares to have merited all the honour of it. He asserts likewise, that Paul discovered the valves which serve for the circulation of the blood, and this seems to be allowed; but not that he discovered the circulation itself, as Walaeus, | Morhoff, and others have contended, against the claim of our countryman Harvey, to whom that discovery has been usually, and indeed justly, ascribed.

Father Paul’s great fame would not suffer him any longer to enjoy his retreat: for he was now appointed procuratorgeneral of his order; and during three years at Rome, where he was on that account obliged to reside, he discovered such extraordinary talents, that he was called by the pope’s command to assist in congregations where matters of the highest importance were debated. He was very much esteemed by Sixtus V. by cardinal Beliarmine, and by cardinal Castegna, afterwards Urban VII. Upon his return to Venice, he resumed his studies, beginning them before sun-rise, and continuing them all the morning. The afternoons he spent in philosophical experiments, or in conversation with his learned friends. He was now obliged to remit a little from his usual application: for, by too intense study, he had already contracted infirmities, with which he was troubled till old age. These made it necessary for him to drink a little wine, from which he had abstained till he was thirty years old; and he used to say, that one of the things of which he most repented was, that he had been persuaded to drink wine. He ate scarce any thing but bread and fruits, and used a very small quantity of food, because the least fulness rendered him liable to violent pains of the head.

His tranquillity was now interrupted by other causes. Upon leaving Venice to go to Rome, he had left his friends under the direction of Gabriel Collissoni, with whom he had formerly joined in redressing certain grievances. But this man did not answer Paul’s expectation, being guilty of great exactions: and, when Paul intended to return to Venice, dissuaded him from it, well knowing that his return would put an end to his impositions. He therefore artfully represented, that, by staying at Rome, he would be sure to make his fortune: to which Paul, with more honesty than policy, returned an answer in cypher, that “there was no advancing himself at the court of Rome, but by scandalous means; and that, far from valuing the dignities there, he held them in the utmost abomination.” After this he returned to Venice; and, coming to an irreconcileable rupture with Collissoni, on account of his corrupt practices, the latter shewed his letter in cypher to cardinal Santa Severina, who was then at the head of the inquisition. | The cardinal did not think it convenient to attack Paul himself, although he shewed his disaffection to him by persecuting his friends; but when Paul opposed Collissoni’s being elected general of the order, the latter accused him to the inquisition at Rome of holding a correspondence with the Jews; and, to aggravate the charge, produced the letter in cypher just mentioned. The inquisitors still did not think proper to institute a prosecution, yet Paul was ever after considered as an inveterate enemy to the court of Rome. He was charged also with shewing too great respect to heretics, who, on account of his reputation, came to see him from all parts; and this prevented pope Clement VIII. from nominating him, when he was solicited, to the see of Noia. He was also accused of being an intimate friend of Mornay, of Diodati, and several eminent Protestants; and, that when a motion was*made at Rome to bestow on him a cardinal’s hat, what appeared the chief obstacle to his advancement was, his having more correspondence with heretics than with Catholics. “Diodati informed me,” says Ancillon, in his “Melange de Literature,” that, “observing in his conversations with Paul, how in many opinions he agreed with the Protestants, he said, he was extremely rejoiced to find him not far from the kingdom of heaven; and therefore strongly exhorted him to profess the Protestant religion publicly. But the father answered, that it was better for him, like St. Paul, to be anathema for his brethren; and that he did more service to the Protestant religion in wearing that habit, than he could do by laying it aside. The elder Daille told me, that in going to and coming from Rome with de Villarnoud, grandson to Mornay, whose preceptor he was, he had passed by Venice, and visited Paul, to whom Mornay had recommended him by letters; that, having delivered them to the father, he discovered the highest esteem for the illustrious Mr. Da Plessis Mornay; that he gave the kindest reception to Mr. de Villarnoud his grandson, and even to Mr. Daille; that afterwards Mr. Daille” became very intimate with father Paul," &c. All this is confirmed by father Paul’s letters, which on every occasion express the highest regard for the Protestants.

About 1602, he was diverted from his private studies, which he had now indulged, though amidst numerous vexations, for many years, by the state of public affairs. A dispute arose between the republic of Venice and the court | of Rome, relating to ecclesiastical immunities; and, as both divinity and Taw were concerned in it, father Paul was appointed divine and canonist for the republic of Venice, to act in concert with the iaw-consultors. The dispute had commenced, and been carried on, under ClementVIII.; but when Paul V. came to the popedom, he required absolute obedience without disputes. At length, when he found his commands slighted, the pope excommunicated the duke, the whole senate, and all their dominions, in April 1606, and the Venetians in return recalled their ambassador at Rome, suspended the inquisition by order of state, and published by sound of trumpet a proclamation to this eilect, viz. “That whosoever hath received from Rome any copy of a papal edict, published there, as well against the law of God, as against the honour of this nation, shall immediately bring it to the council of ten upon pain of death.” But as the minds, not only of the common burghers, but also of some noble personages belonging to the state, were alarmed at this papal interdict, Paul endeavoured to relieve their fears, by a piece entitled “Consolation of mind, to quiet the consciences of those who live well, against the terrors of the interdict by Paul V.” As this was written for the sole use of the government under which he was born, it was deposited in the archives of Venice; till at length, from a copy clandestinely taken, it was first published at the Hague, both in the Italian and French languages, and the same year in English, under this title, “The Rights of Sovereigns and Subjects, argued from the civil, canon, and common law, under the several heads of Excommunications, Interdicts, Persecution, Councils, Appeals, Infallibility, describing the boundaries of that power which is claimed throughout Christendom by the Crown and the Mitre; and of the privileges which appertain to the subjects, both clergy and laity, according to the laws of God and Man.Paul wrote, or assisted in writing and publishing, several other pieces in this controversy between the two states; and had the Inquisition, cardinal Bellarmine, and other great personages, for his antagonists. Paul and his brother writers, whatever might be the abilities of their adversaries, were at least superior to them in the justice of their cause. The propositions maintained on the side of Rome were these; that the pope is invested with all the authority of heaven and earth that all princes are his vassals, and that he may annul their laws at pleasure that kings may appeal | to him, as he is temporal monarch of the whole earth; that he can discharge subjects from their oaths of allegiance, and make it their duty to take up arms against their sovereign that he may depose kings without any fault committed by them, if the good of the church requires it that the clergy are exempt from all tribute to kings, and are not accountable to them even in cases of high treason; that the pope cannot err; that his decisions are to be received and obeyed on pain of sin, though all the world should judge them to be false; that the pope is God upon earth, and that to call his power in question, is to call in question the power of God; maxims equally shocking, weak, pernicious, and absurd, which did not require the abilities or learning of father Paul, to demonstrate their falsehood, and destructive tendency. The court of Rome, however, was now so exasperated against him, as to cite him by a decree, Oct. 30, 1606, under pain of absolute excommunication, to appear in person at Rome, to answer the charges of heresies against him. Instead cf appearing, he published a manifesto, shewing the invalidity of the summons; yet offered to dispute with any of the pope’s advocates, in a place of safety, on the articles laid to his charge.

In April 1607, the division between Rome and the republic was healed by the interposition of France; and Fulgentio relates, that the affair was transacted at Rome by cardinal Perron, according to the order of the king his master. But some English writers are of opinion, that this accommodation between the Venetians and the pope was owing to the misconduct of king James I., who, if he had heartily supported the Venetians, would certainly have disunited them from the see of Rome. Isaac Walton observes, that during the dispute it was reported abroad, “that the Venetians were all turned Protestants, which was believed by many: for it was observed, that the English ambassador (Wotton) was often in conference with the senate and his chaplain, Mr. Bedel, more often with father Paul, whom the people did not take to be his friend and also, for that the republic of Venice was known to give commission to Gregory Justiniano, then their ambassador in England, to make all these proceedings known to the king of England, and to crave a promise of his assistance, if need should require,” c. Burnet tells us, “That the breach between the pope and the republic was brought very wear a crisis, so that it was expected a total separation not | only from the court, but the church of Rome, was like td follow upon it. It was set on by father Paul and the seven divines with much zeal, and was very prudently conducted by them. In order to the advancing of it, king James ordered his ambassador to offer all possible assistance to them, and to accuse the pope and the papacy as the chief authors of all the mischiefs of Christendom. Father Paul and the seven divines pressed Mr. Bedel to move the ambassador to present king James’s premonition to all Christian princes and states, then put in Latin, to the senate; and they were confident it would produce a great effect. But the ambassador could not be prevailed on to do it at that time; and pretended, that since St. James’s day was not far off, it would be more proper to do it on that day. Before St. James’s day came, the difference was made up, and that happy opportunity was lost; so that when he had his audience on that day in which he presented the book, all the answer he got was, that they thanked the king of England for his good will, but they were now reconciled to the pope; and that therefore they were resolved not to admit any change in their religion, according to their agreement with the court of Rome.” Welwood relates the same story, and imputes the miscarriage of that important affair to “the conceit of presenting king James’s book on St. James’s day.” But JDr. Hickes attempts to confute this account, by observing, that the pope and the Venetians were reconciled in 1607, and that the king’s premonition came not out till 1609, which indeed appears to be true; so that, if the premonition was really presented, it must have been only in manu* Script.

The defenders of the Venetian rights were, though comprehended in the treaty of April 1607, excluded by the Romans from the benefit of it; some, upon different pretences, were imprisoned, some sent to the gallies, and all debarred from preferment. But then their malice was chiefly aimed against father Paul, who soon found the effects of it; for, on Oct. 5, 1607, he was attacked, on his return 19 his convent, by five assassins, who gave him fifteen wounds, and left him for dead. Three of these wounds only did execution: he received two in the necki^ the third was made by the stiletto’s entering his right ear* a,)d coming out between the nose and right cheek; and so violent was the stab, that the assassin was obliged to leave his weapon in the wound. Being come to himself, and | having had his wounds dressed, he told those about him, that the first two he had received seemed like two flashes of fire, which shot upon him at the same instant; and that at the third he thought himself loaded as it were with a prodigious weight, which stunned and quite confounded his senses. The assassins retired to the palace of the pope’s nuncio at Venice, whence they escaped that evening either to Ravenna or Ferrara. These circumstances discovered who were at the bottom of the attempt; and Paul himself once, when his friend Aquapendente was dressing his wounds, could not forbear saying pleasantly, that “they were made Stilo Romans Curia.” The person who drew the stiletto out of his head, was desirous of having it; but, as father’s Paul’s escape seemed somewhat miraculous, it was thought right to preserve the bloody instrument as a public monument: and^therefore it was hung at the feet of a crucifix in the church of the Servites, with the inscription, “Deo Filio Liberatori,” “To God the Son the Deliverer.” The senate of Venice, to shew the high regard they had for Paul, and their detestation of this horrid attempt, broke up immediately on the news; came to the monastery of the Servites that night in great numbers; ordered the physicians to bring constant accounts of him to the senate; and afterwards knighted and richly rewarded Aquapendente for his great care of him.

How scandalous soever this design against his life was, it was attempted again more than once, even by monks of his own order: but the senate took all imaginable precautions for his security, and he himself determined to live more privately. In his recess, he applied himself to write his “History of the Council of Trent,” for which he had begun to collect materials long before. Walton tells us, that the contests between the court of Rome and the senate of Venicewere the occasion of father Paul’s knowledge and interest with king James, for whose sake principally he compiled that eminent history of the remarkable council of Trent; which history was, as fast as it was written, sent in several sheets in letters by sir Henry Wotton, Mr. Bedell, and others, unto king James, and the then bishop of Canterbury, into England.” Wotton relates, that James himself “had a hand in it; for the benefit,” he adds, “of the Christian world.” This history was first published by sir Nath. Brent (See Brent), at London, in 1619, in folio, under the feigned name of Pietro Soave Polano, | which is an anagram of Paolo Sarpi Venetiano, and dedicated to James I. by Antony de Dominis, archbishop of Spalatro. It was afterwards translated into Latin, English, French, and other languages; and a new translation of it into French by Dr. le Courayer, with notes critical, historical, and theological, was published at London, 1736, 2 rols. folio. Burnet’s account of this work may serve to shew the opinion which Protestants of all communities have ever entertained of it: “The style and way of writing,” says he, “is so natural and masculine, the intrigues were so fully opened, with so many judicious reflections in all the parts of it, that as it was read with great pleasure, so it was generally looked on as the rarest piece of history which the world ever saw. The author was soon guessed, and that raised the esteem of the work: for as he was accounted one of the wisest men in the world, so he had great opportunities to gather exact informations. He had free access to all the archives of the republic of Venice, which lias been now looked on for several ages as very exact, both in getting good intelligence, and in a most careful way of preserving it: so that among their records he must have found the dispatches of the ambassadors and prelates of that republic, who were at Trent; which being so near them, and the council being of such high consequence, it is not to be doubted, but there were frequent and particular informations, both of more public and secreter transactions transmitted thither. He had also contracted a close friendship with Camillus Oliva, that was secretary to one of the legates, from whom he had many discoveries of the practices of the legates, and of their correspondence with Rome: besides many other materials and notes of some prelates who were at Trent, which he had gathered together. His work came out within fifty years of the conclusion of the council, when several, who had been present there, were still alive; and the thing was so recent in men’s memories, that few thought a man of so great prudence as he was would have exposed his reputation, by writing in such a nice manner things which he could not justify. Never was there a man more hated by the court of Rome than he was; and now he was at their mercy, if he had abused the world by such falsehoods in matter of fact, as have been since charged on his work; but none appeared against him for fifty years.

Early in the winter of 1622, his health began to decline | greatly; and he languished till January the 14th, when he expired, in his seventy-second year'. He behaved with the greatest constancy and piety during his illness, and the last words he uttered were “Esto perpetua,” which was understood to be a prayer for the republic.

When the news of his death reached Rome, the courtiers rejoiced; nor could the pope himself forbear saying, that the hand of God was visible in taking him out of the world, as if it had been a miracle surely that a man of seventy-two should die! His funeral was distinguished by the public magnificence of it, and the vast concourse of nobility and persons of all ranks attending it: and the senate, out of gratitude to his memory, erected a monument to him, the inscription upon which was written by John Anthony Venerio, a noble Venetian. He was of middle stature; his head very large in proportion to his body, which was extremely lean. He had a wide forehead, in the middle of which was a very large vein. His eye-brows were well arched, his eyes large, black, and sprightly his nose long and large his beard but thin. His aspect, though grave, was extremely soft and inviting and he had a very fine hand. Fulgentio relates, that though several kings and princes had desired him to sit for his picture, yet he never would suffer it to be drawn but sir Henry Wotton, in his letter to Dr. Collins, writes thus “And now, sir, having a fit messenger, and not long after the time when lovetokens use to pass between friends, let me be bold to send you for a new-year’s gift a certain memorial, not altogether unworthy of some entertainment under your roof; namely, a true picture of father Paul the Servite, which was first taken by a painter whom I sent unto him, my house then neighbouring his monastery. I have newly added thereunto a tide of my own conception,” Concilii Tridentini E viscera tor, &c. You will find a scar in his face, that was from the Roman assassinate, that would have killed him as he was turned to a wall near his convent."

Father Fulgentio, his friend and companion, who was a man of great abilities and integrity, and is allowed on all hands to have drawn up Paul’s life with great judgment and impartiality, observes, that, notwithstanding the animosity of the court of Rome against him, the most eminent prelates of it always expressed the highest regard for him; and Protestants of all communities have justly supposed him one of the wisest and best men that ever lived. | ther Paul,“says sir Henry Wotton,” was one of the humblest things that could be seen within the bounds of humanity; the very pattern of that precept, quanta doctior, tanto submissior, and enough alone to demonstrate, that knowledge well digested non wflat. Excellent in positive, excellent in scholastical and polemical, divinity: a rare mathematician, even in the most abstruse parts thereof, as in algebra and the theoriques; and yet withal so expert in the history of plants, as if he had never perused any book but nature. Lastly, a great canonist, which was the title of his ordinary service with the state; and certainly, in the time of the pope’s interdict, they had their principal light from him. When he was either reading or writing alone, his manner was to sit fenced with a castle of paper about his chair and over his head; for he was of our lord St. Alban’s opinion, that all air is predatory, and especially hurtful, when the spirits are most employed. He was of a quiet and settled temper, which made him prompt in his counsels and answers; and the same in consultation which Themistocles was in action, ayro-xE&aÆiv ivavoTarogj as will appear unto you in a passage between him and the prince of Conde. The said prince, in a voluntary journey to Home, came by Venice, where, to give some vent to his own humours, he would often divest himself of his greatness; and after other less laudable curiosities, not long before his departure, a desire took him to visit the famous obscure Servite. To whose cloyster coming twice, he was the first time denied to be within; and at the second it was intimated, that, by reason of his daily admission to their deliberations in the palace, he could not receive the visit of so illustrious a personage, without leave from the senate, which he would seek to procure. This set a greater edge upon the prince, when he saw he should confer with one participant of more than monkish speculations. So, after Jeave gotten, he came the third time; and then, besides other voluntary discourse, desired to be told by him, who was the true unmasked author of the late Tridentine History? To whom father Paul said, that he understood he was going to Rome, where he might learn at ease, who was the author of that book."

Cardinal Perron gave his opinion of father Paul in these terms “I see nothing eminent in that man he is a man of judgment and good sense, but has no great learning I observe his qualifications to be mere common -ones, and | little superior to an ordinary monk’s.” But the learned Morhoff has justly remarked, that “this judgment of Perron is absurd and malignant, and directly contrary to the clearest evidence; since those who are acquainted with the great things done by father Paul, and with the vast extent of his learning, will allow him to be superior, not only to monks, but cardinals, and even to Perron himself.” Courayer, his French translator, says, that “in imitation of Erasmus, Cassander, Thuanus, and other great men, Paul was a Catholic in general, and sometimes a Protestant in particulars. He observed every thing in the Roman religion, which could be practised without superstition; and, in points which he scrupled, took great care not to scandalize the weak. In short, he was equally averse to all extremes: if he disapproved the abuses of the Catholics, he condemned also the too great heat of the reformed; and used to’say to those who urged him to declare himself in favour of the latter, that God had not given him the spirit of Luther.” Courayer likewise observes, that Paul wished for a reformation of the Papacy, and not the destruction of it; and was an enemy to the abuses and pretences of the popes, not their place.“We see by several of Paul’s letters, that he wished well to the progress of the reformation, though in a gentler manner than that which had been taken to procure it; and, if he himself had been silent on this head, we might have collected his inclinations this way, from circumstances relating to Fulgentio, the most intimate of his friends, and who was best acquainted with his sentiments. Burnet informs us, that Fulgentio preaching upon Pilate’s question,” What is Truth“told the audience, that at last, after many searches, he had found it out and holding forth a New Testament, said, it was there in his hand but, adds he, putting it again in his pocket,” the book is prohibited."

Of father Paul’s whole works, “Tutte le sue opere, con un supplemento,” an edition was published at Verona, under the name of Helmsted, 1761—68, 8 vols. 4to; and another at Naples in 1790, 24 vols. 8vo. In 1788, a treatise was published at London in Italian, entitled “Opinione di Fra Paolo Sarpi, toccente il governo della republica Veneziana,” 8vo, we know not whether in any of the preceding editions. Of his works, we have English translations, printed at various times, of “The Rights of Sovereigns and Subjects,” “The History of the Council of | Trent;” his “Letters;” “Maxims of the Government of Venice, in an advice to the Republic;” and a “Treatise of Ecclesiastical Benefices and Revenues.1


Life by Fulgentio. Life of sir Henry Wotton, prefixed to his works, edit. 1685. Burnet’s Life of Bedel. Welwood’s Memoirs. Hickes’s Discourses upon Dr. Burnet and Dr. Tillotson, 1695, 4to, p. 30. Morhoffs Polyhistor. Courayer’s edition of the Council of Trent. Life by Dr. Johnson.