Tasso, Torquato

, a most celebrated Italian poet, was descended from the illustrious house of the Tassi of Almcnno, about five miles from Bergamo, a family which had supported itself by alliances till the time of Bernardo Tasao, whose mother was of the house of Cornaro. The estate of Bernardo, the father of our poet, was no wise equal to his birth; but this deficiency, in point of fortune, was in some measure compensated by the gifts of understanding. His works in verse and prose are recorded as monuments of his genius; and his fidelity to Ferrante of Saiii.everino, prince of Salerno, to \\hom he was entirely devoted, entitled him to the esteem of every man of honour. This prince had made him his secretary, and taken


Dr. Gleig’s Supplement to the Encyclop. Britannia.

| him with him to Naples, where he settled, and married Portia di Rossi, of one of the most illustrious families in that city.

Portia was six months gone with child, when she was invited by her sister Hippolita to Sorrento, to pay her a visit. Bernardo accompanied her thither and in this place Portia was delivered of a son, on the 11th day of Mcirch, 154-4, at noon. The infant was baptised a few days after, in the metropolitan church of Sorrento, by the name of Torquato. Bernardo and Portia returned soon after to Naples with him, concerning whom historians relate incredible things of his early and promising genius’. They tell us, that at six months oid, he not only spoke and pronounced his words clearly and distinctly, bin thought, reasoned, expressed his wants, and answered questions that there was nothing childish in his words, but the tone of his voice that he seldom laughed or cried; and that, even then, he gave certain tokens of that equality of temper which supported him so well in his future misfortunes.

Toward the end of his third year, Bernardo his father was obliged to follow the prince of Salerno into Germany, which journey proved the source of all the sufferings of Tasso and his family. The occasion was this Don Pedro of Toledo, viceroy of Naples for the emperor Charles V, had formed a design to establish the inquisition in that city. The Neapolitans, alarmed at this, resolved to send a deputation to the emperor, and made choice of the prince of Salerno, who seemed most able, by his authority and riches, to oppose the viceroy. The prince having consented, Bernardo Tasso accompanied him into Germany; but, before his departure, committed the care of his son to a man of learning; under whom, at three years of age, they tell us, he began to study grammar; and, at four, was sent to the college of the Jesuits, where he made so rapid a progress, that at seven he was pretty wellacquainted with the Latin and Greek tongues; at the same age he made public orations, and composed some pieces of poetry, of which the style is said to have retained nothing of puerility.

The success the prince of Salerno met with in his embassy greatly increased his credit amongst the Neapolitans, but entirely ruined him with the viceroy, who so much, exasperated the emperor against the prince of Salerno, | that Ferrante, finding there was no longer any security for him at Naples, and having in vain applied to gain an audience of the emperor, retired to Rome, and renounced his allegiance to Charles V. Bernardo Tasso would not abandon his patron in his ill fortune; neither would he leave his son in a country where he himself was soon to be declared an enemy; and foreseeing he should never he able to return thither, he took Torquato with him to Rome.

As soon as the departure of the prince of Salerno was known, he, and all his adherents, were declared rebels to the state; and Torquato Tasso, though but nine years of age, was included by name in that sentence. Bernardo, following the prince of Salerno into France, committed his son to the care of his friend and relation Maurice Cataneo, a person of great ability, who assiduously cultivated the early disposition of his pupil to polite literature. After the death of Sanseverino, which happened in three or four years, Bernardo returned to Italy, and engaged in the service of Guglielmo Gonzaga, duke of Mantua, who had given him a pressing invitation. It was not long before Ije received the melancholy news of the decease of his wife Portia, which determined him to send for his son, that they might be a mutual support to each other in their affliction. He was now his only child, for his wife, before her death, had married his daughter to Martio Sersale, a gentleman of Sorrento. He was greatly surprised, on his son’s arrival, to see the vast progress he had made in his studies. Although but twelve years of age, he had, according to the testimony of the writers of his life, entirely completed his knowledge in the Latin and Greek tongues: he was well acquainted with the rules of rhetoric and poetry, and completely versed in Aristotle’s ethics. Bernardo soon determined to send him to the university of Padua, to study the laws, in company with the young Scipio Gonzaga, afterwards cardinal, nearly of the same age as himself. With this nobleman Tasso, then seventeen years of age, contracted a friendship that never ended but with hi life. He prosecuted his studies at Padua with great diligence and success: at the same time employ ing his leisure hours upon philosophy and poetry, he soon gave a public proof o/ his talents, by his poem of f< Rinaldo,“which he published in the eighteenth year of his age. This poem, which is of the romance kind, is divided into twelve books | in ottava rima, and contains the adventures of Rinaldo, the famous Paladin of the court of Charlemain, who makes so principal a figure in Ariosto’s work, and the first achievements of that knight for the love of the fair Clarice, whom he afterwards marries. The action of this poem precedes that of theOrlando Furioso.“It was composed in ten months, as the author himself informs us in the preface, and was first printed at Venice in 1562. Paolo Beni speaks very highly of this performance, which undoubtedly is not unworthy the early efforts of that genius which afterwards produced theJerusalem."

Tasso’s father saw with regret the success of his son’s poem: he was apprehensive, and not without reason, that the charms of poetry would detach him from those more solid studies-which he judged were most likely to raise him in the world: and he knew well, by his own experience, that the greatest skill in poetry will not advance a man’s private fortune. He was not deceived in his conjecture; Torquato, insensibly carried away by his predominant passion, followed the examples of Petrarch, Boccace, Ariosto, and others, who, contrary to the remonstrances of their friejids, quitted the severer studies of the law for the more pleasing entertainment of poetical composition. In short, he entirely gave himslf up to the study of poetry and philosophy. His first poem extended his reputation through all Italy; but his father was so displeased with his conduct that he went to Padua o’n purpose to reprimand him. Though he spoke with great vehemence, and made use of several harsh expressions, Torquato heard him without interrupting him, and his composure contributed not a little to increase his father’s displeasure. (t Tell me,“said Bernardo, lt of what use is that vain philosophy, upon which you pride yourself so much?” “It has enabled me,” said Tasso modestly, “to endure the harshness of your reproofs.” The resolution Tasso had taken to devote himself to the Muses was known all over Italy; the principal persons of the city and college of Bologna invited him thither‘ by means of Pietro Donato Cesi, then vice-legate, and afterwards legate. But Tasso had not long resided there, when he was pressed by Scipio Gonzaga, elected prince of the academy established at Padua, under the name of Etherei, to return to that city. He could not withstand this solicitation; and Bologna being at that time the scene of civil commotion, he was the more willing to seek elsewhere for | the repose he loved. He was received with extreme joy by all the academy, and being incorporated into lhat society, at the age of twenty years, took upon himself the name of Pentito; by which he seemed to show that he repented of all the time which he had employed in the study of the law. In this retreat he applied himself afresh to philosophy and poetry, and soon became a perfect master of both; it was this happy mixture of his studies that made him an enemy to all kinds of licentiousness. An oration was made one day in the academy upon the nature of love; the orator treated his subject in a very masterly manner, but with too little regard to decency in the opinion of Tasso, who, being asked what he thought of the discourse, replied, “that it was a pleasing poison.

Here Tasso formed the design of his celebrated poem, ie Jerusalem Delivered:“he invented the fable, disposed the different parts, and determined to dedicate this work to the glory of the house of Este. He was greatly esteemed by Alphonso II. the last duke of Ferrara, that great patron of learning and learned men, and by his brother, cardinal Luigi. There was a sort of contest between these two brothers, in relation to the poem: the cardinal imagined that he had a right to he the Maecenas of all Tasso‘ s works, as ’fRinaldo,” hi? first piece, had been dedicated to him: the duke, on the other bane), thought that, as his brother had already received his share pf honour, he ought not to be offended at seeing the name qf Alphonso at the head of the “Jerusalem Delivered.” Tasso for three or four years Suspended his deterrainatipn: at length, being earnestly pressed by both the brothers to take up his residence in Ferrara, he suffered himself to be prevailed upon. The duke gave him an apartment in his palace, where he lived in peace and affluence, and pursued his design of completing his “Jerusalem,” which be riov resolved to dedicate to Alphonso. The duke, who was desirous of fixing Tasso near him, had thoughts of marrying hiin advantageously, but he always evaded any proposal of that kind: though he appeared peculiarly devoted to Alphonso, yet he neglected not to pay his court to the cardinal.

The name of M asso now became famous through all Europe: and the caresses he received from Charles IX. in a journey he made to France with cardinal Luigi, who went thither in quality of legate, show that his reputation was not confined to his own country. The cardinal’s legation | being finished, Tasso returned to Ferrara, where he applied himself to finish his “Jerusalem,” and in the mean time published his “Aminta,” a pastoral comedy, which was received with universal applause. This performance was looked upon as a master- piece in its kind, and is toe original of the “Pastor Fido” and “Filli di Sciro.” It was not easy to imagine that Tasso could so well paint the effects of love, without having himself felt that passion: it began to be suspected that, like another Ovid, he had raised his desires too high, and it was thought that in many of his verses he gave hints of that kind. There were at the duke’s court three Leonoras, equally witty and beautiful, though of different quality. The first was Leonora of Este, sister to the duke, who having refused the most advantageous matches, lived unmarried with Lauretta, duchess of Urbino, her elder sister, who was separated from her husband, and resided at her brother’s court. Tasso had a great attachment to this lady, who, on her side, honoured him with her esteem and protection. She was wise, generous, and not only well read in elegant literature, but even versed in the more abstruse sciences. All these perfections were undoubtedly observed by Tasso, who was one of the most assiduous of her courtiers and it appearing by his verses that he was touched with the charms of a Leonora, they tell us that we need not seek any further for the object of his passion.

The second Leonora that was given him for a mistress was the countess of San Vitale, daughter of the count of Sala, who lived at that time at the court of Ferrara, and passed for one of the most accomplished persons in Italy. Those who imagined that Tasso would not presume to lift his eyes to his master’s sister, supposed that he loved this lady. It is certain that he had frequent opportunities of discoursing with her, and that she had frequently been the subject of his verses. The third Leonora was a lady in the service of the princess Leonora of Este. This person was thought by some to be the most proper object of the poet’s gallantry. Tasso, several times, employed his muse in her service: in one of his pieces he confesses that, considering the princess as too high for. his hope, he had fixed his affection upon her, as of a condition more suitable to his own. But if any thing can be justly drawn from this particular, it seems rather to strengthen the opinion, that his desires, at least at one time, had aspired to a greater | height. It appears, however, difficult to determine with certainty in relation to Tasso‘ s passion; especially when we consider the privilege allowed to poets: though M. Mirabuud makes no scruple to mention it as a circumstance almost certain, and fixes it without hesitation on the princess Leonora. Tasso, himself, in several of his poems, seems to endeavour to throw an obscurity over his passion. In the mean while Tasso proceeded with his <c Jerusalem," which he completed in the thirtieth year of his age; but this poem was not published by his own authority; it was printed against his will, as soon as he had finished the last book, and before he had time to give the revisals and corrections that a work of such a nature required. The public had already seen several parts, which had been sent into the world by the authority of his patrons. The success of this work was prodigious: it was translated into the Latin, French, Spanish, and even the oriental languages, almost as soon as it appeared-, and it may be said, that no such performance ever before raised its reputation to such a height in so small a space of time. But the satisfaction which Tasso must have felt, in spite of all his philosophy, at the applause of the public, was soon disturbed by a melancholy event. Bernardo Tasso, who spent his old age in tranquillity at Ostia upon the P<>, the government of which place had been given him by the duke of Mantua, fell sick. As soon as this news reached his son, he immediately went to him, attended him with the most filial regard, and scarce ever stirred from his bedside during the whole time of his illness: but all these cares were ineffectual; Bernardo, oppressed with age, and overcome by the violence of his distemper, paid the unavoidable tribute to nature, to the great affliction of Torqua:o. The duke of Mantua, who had a sincere esteem lor Bernardo, caused him to be interred, with much pomp, in the church of St. Egidius at Mantua, with this simple inscription on his tomb:

Ossa Bernardi Tassi.

This death seemed to forebode other misfortunes to Tasso; for the remainder of his life proved almost one continued series of vexation and affliction. About this time a swarm of critics began to attack his “Jerusalem,” and the academy della Crusca, in particular, published a criiicisnii of his poem, in which they scrupled not to prefer the | rhapsodies of Pulci and Boyardoto the “Jerusalem Delivered.” During Tasso’s residence in the duke’s court, he had contracted an intimacy with a gentleman of Ferrara, and having entrusted him with some transactions of a very delicate nature, this person was so treacherous as to speak of them again. Tasso reproached his friend with his indiscretion, who received his expostulation in such a manner, that Tasso was so far exasperated as to strike him: a challenge immediately ensued: the two opponents met at St. Leonard’s gate; but, while they were engaged, three brothers of Tasso’s antagonist came in and basely fell all at once upon Tasso, who defended himself so gallantly that he wounded two of them, and kept his ground against the others, till some people came in and separated them. This affair made a great noise at Ferrara: nothing was talked of but the valour of Tasso; and it became a sort of proverb, “That Tasso with his pen and his sword was superior to all men.” The duke, being informed of the quarrel, expressed great resentment against the four brothers, banished them from his dominions, and confiscated their estates; at the same time he caused Tasso to be put under arrest, declaring he did it to screen him from any future designs of his enemies. Tasso was extremely mortified to see himself thus confined; he imputed his detention to a very different cause from what was pretended, and feared an ill use might be made of what had passed, to ruin him in the duke’s opinion.

Though writers have left us very much in the dark with regard to the real motives that induced the duke to keep Tasso in confinement, yet, every thing being weighed, it seems highly probable that the affair of a delicate nature, said to have been divulged by his friend, must have related to the princess Leonora, the duke’s sister *: and indeed it will be extremely difficult, from any other consideration, to account for the harsh treatment he received from a prince, who had before shown him such peculiar marks of esteem and friendship. However, Tasso himself had undoubtedly secret apprehensions that increased upon him every day, while the continual attacks which were made


It must be observed that his late biographer, Serassi, denies that there was ever any intrigue between Tasso nd the princess Leonora. The queslion is discussed at great length, and with much acuteness, by Mr. Black, to whom the reader may be referred for many particulars respecting the disputable events of Tasso’s life, on which it would be impossible to enter in a work like the present.

| upon his credit as an author, not a little contributed to heighten his melancholy. At length he resolved to take the first opportunity to fly from his prison, for so he esteemed it, which after about a year’s detention he effected, and retired to Turin, where he endeavoured to remain concealed; but notwithstanding all his precautions, he was soon known, and recommended to the duke of Savoy, who received him into his palace, and showed him every mark of esteem and affection. But Tasso’s apprehensions still continued; he thought that the duke of Savoy would not refuse to give him up to the duke of B’errara, or sacrifice the friendship of that prince to the safety of a private person. Full of these imaginations he set out for Rome, alone and unprovided with necessaries for such a journey. At his arrival there he went directly to his old friend Mauritio Cataneo, who received him in such a manner as entirely to obliterate for some time the remembrance of the fatigue and uneasiness he had undergone. He was not only welcomed by Cataneo, but the whole city of Rome seemed to rejoice at the presence of so extraordinary a person. He was visited by princes, cardinals, prelates, and by all the learned in general. But the desire of revisiting his native country, and seeing his sister Cornelia, soon made him uneasy in this situation. He left his friend Mauritio Cataneo one evening, without giving him notice; and, beginning his journey on foot, arrived by night at the mountains of Veletri, where he took up his lodging with some shepherds: the next morning, disguising himself in the habit of one of these people, he continued his way, and in four days time reached Gaieta, almost spent with fatigue: here he embarked on board a vessel bound for Sorrento, at which place he arrived in safety the next day. He entered the city and went directly to his sister’s house: she was a widow, and the two sons she had by her husband being at that time absent, Tasso found her with only some of hr i <-n:ale attendants. He advanced towards her, without discovering himself, and pretending he came with news from her brother, gave her a letter which he had prepared for that purpose. This letter informed her that her brother’s life was in great danger, and that he begged her to make use of all the interest her tenderness might suggest to her, in order to procure letters of recommendation from some powerful person, to avert the threatened misfortune. For further particulars of the affair, she was referred to the | messenger who brought her this intelligence.The lady, terrified at the news, earnestly entreated him to give her a detail of her brother’s misfortune. The feigned messenger then gave her so interesting an account of the pretended story, that, unable to contain her affliction, she fainted away. Tasso was sensibly touched at this convincing proof of his sister’s affection, and repented that he had gone so far: he began to comfort her, and, removing her fears by little and little, at last discovered himself to her. Her joy at seeing a brother whom she tenderly loved, was inexpressible after- the first salutations were over, she was very desirous to know the occasion of his disguising himself in that manner. Tasso acquainted her with his reasons, and, at the same time, giving her to understand, that he would willingly remain with her unknown to the world, Cornelia, who desired nothing further than to acquiesce in his pleasure, sent for her children and some of her nearest relations, whom she thought might be entrusted with the secret. They agreed that Tasso should pass for a relation of theirs, who came from Bergamo to Naples upon his private business, and from thence had come to Sorrento to pay them a visit. After this precaution, Tasso took up his residence at his sister’s house, where he lived for some time in tranquillity, entertaining himself with his two nephews Antonio and Alessandro Sersale, children of great hopes. The princess Leonora of Este, however, who was acquainted with the place of his retreat, invited him to return to Ferrara, which he did in company with Gualingo, ambassador from the duke to the pope. Concerning the motive of Tasso’s return to Ferrara, some authors think that, weary of living in obscurity, he had resolved to throw himself upon the duke’s generosity. This opinion seems indeed drawn from Tasso’s own words in a letter written by him to the duke of Urbino, in which he declares, “that he had endeavoured to make his peace with the duke, and had for that purpose written severally to him, f the duchess of Ferrara, the duchess of Urbino, and the princess Leonora; yet never received any answer but from the last, who assured him it was not in her power to render him any service.” We see here that Tasso acknowledges himself the receipt of a letter from the princess; and in regard to what he says to be the purport of it, it is highly reasonable to suppose, that he would be very cautious of divulging the real contents to the duke of Urbino, when his affairs with | that lady were so delicately circumstanced. This apparent care to conceal the nature of his correspondence with her, seems to corroborate the former suppositions of his uncommon attachment to her; and when all circumstances are considered, it seems more than probable that he returned to Ferrara at the particular injunction of Leonora.

The duke received Tasso with great seeming satisfaction, and gave him fresh marks of his esteem: but this was not all that Tasso expected; his great desire was to be master of his own works, and he was very earnest that his writings might be restored to him, which were in the duke’s possession; but this was what he could by no means obtain: his enemies had gained such an ascendancy over the mind of’ Alphonso, that they made him believe, or pretend to believe, that the poet had lost all his fire, and that in his present situation he was incapable of producing any thing new, or of correcting his poems: he, therefore, exhoried him to think only of leading a quiet and easy life for the future: but Tasso was sensibly vex-ed at this proceeding, and believed the duke wanted him entirely to relinquish his studies, and pass the remainder of his days in idleness and obscurity. “He would endeavour,” says he, in his letter to the duke of Urbino, “to make me a shameful deserter of Parnassus for the gardens of Epicurus, for scenes of pleasures unknown to Virgil, Catullus, Horace, and even Lucretius himself.” Tasso, therefore, reiterated his entreaties to have his writings restored to him, but the duke continued inflexible, and, to complete our poet’s vexation, all access to the princesses was denied him: fatigued at length with useless remonstrances, he once more quitted Ferrara, and fled (as he expresses it himself) ITke another Buis, leaving behind him even his books and manuscripts.

He then went to Mantua, where he found duke Guglielmo in a decrepid age, and little disposed to protect him against the duke of Ferrara: the prince Vincentio Gonzaga received him indeed with great caresses, but was too young to take him under his protection. From thence he went to Padua and Venice, but carrying with him in every part his fears of the duke of Ferrara, he at last had recourse to the duke of Urbino, who shewed him great kindness, but perhaps was very little inclined to embroil himself with his brother-in-law, on such an account: he advised Tasso rather to return to P’errara, which counsel he took, resolv ing once more to try his fortune with the duke. | Alphonso, it may be, exasperated at Tasso’s flight, and pretending to believe that application to study had entirely disordered his understanding, and that a strict regimen was necessary to restore him to his former state, caused him to be strictly confined in the hospital of St. Anne. Tasso tried every method to soften the duke and obtain his liberty; but the duke coldly answered those who applied to him, “that instead of concerning themselves with the complaints of a person in his condition, who was very little capable of judging for his own good, they ought rather to exhort him patiently to submit to such remedies as were judged proper for his circumstances.” This confifiement threw Tasso into the deepest despair; he abandoned himself to his misfortunes, and the methods that were made use of for the cure of his pretended madness had nearly thrown him into an absolute delirium. His imagination was so disturbed that he believed the cau&e of his distemper was not natural; he sometimes fancied himself haunted by a spirit, that continually disordered his books and papers; and these strange notions were perhaps strengthened by the tricks that were played him by his keeper. This second confinement of Tasso was much longer than the first; but after seven years confinement, his release was procured by Vincentio Gonzaga, prince of Mantua, who took him with him to Mantua. It is said that the young prince, who was naturally gay, being desirous to authorize his pleasures by the example of a philosopher, introduced one day into Tasso’s company three sisters, to sing and play upon instruments: these ladies were all very handsome, but not of the most rigid virtue. After some short discourse, he told Tasso, that he should take two of them away, and would leave one behind, and bade him take his choice. Tasso answered “that it cost Paris very dear to give the preference to one of the goddesses, and, therefore, with his permission, he designed to retain the three.” The prince took him at his word, and departed; when Tasso, after a little conversation, dismissed them all handsomely with presents.

At last, weary of living in a continual state of dependence, he resolved to retire to Naples, and endeavour to recover his mother’s jointure, which had been seized upon by her relations when he went into exile with his father Bernardo. This appeared the only means to place him in the condition of life he so much desired. He applied to his friends, and having procured favourable, | letters to the viceroy, he took leave of the duke of Mantua and repaired to Bergamo, where he stayed some time, and thence went to Naples. While here, dividing his time between his studies and the prosecution of his law-suit, the young count of Palena, by whom he was highly esteemed, persuaded him to take up his residence with him for some time; but in this affair he had not consulted the prince of Conca, his father, who, though he had a value for Tasso, yet could not approve of his son’s receiving into his house the only person that remained of a family once devoted to the prince of Salerno. A contention being likely to ensue, on this account, between the father and son, Tasso, with his usual goodness of disposition, to remove all occasion of dispute, withdrew from Naples, and retired to Bisaccio with his friend Manso, in whose company he lived some time with great tranquillity.

In this place Manso had an opportunity to examine the singular effects of Tasso’s melancholy; and often disputed with him concerning a familiar spirit, which he pretended to converse with. Manso endeavoured, in vain, to persuade his friend that the whole was the illusion of a disturbed imagination; but the latter was strenuous in maintaining the reality of what he asserted; and, to convince Manso, desired him to be present at one of those mysterious conversations. Manso had the complaisance to meet him the next day, and while they were engaged in discourse, on a sudden he observed that Tasso kept his eyes fixed upon a window, and remained in a manner immovable: he called him by his name, several times, but received no answer: at last Tasso cried out, “Theer is the friendly spirit who is come to converse with me: look, and you will be convinced of the truth of all that I have said.” Manso heard him with surprize: he looked, but saw nothing except the sun-beams darting through the window: he cast his eyes all over the room, but could perceive nothing, and was just going to ask where the pretended spirit was, when he heard Tasso speak with great earnestness, sometimes putting questions to the spirit, and sometimes giving answers, delivering the whole in such a pleasing manner, and with such elevated expressions, that he listened with admiration, and had not the least inclination to interrupt him. At last, this uncommon conversation ended with the departure of the spirit, as appeared by Tasso’s words; who turning toward Manso, asked him if his doubts were removed. Manso | was more amazed than ever; he scarce knew what to think of his friend’s situation, and waved any further conversation on the subject.

At the approach of winter they returned to Naples, when the prince of Palena again pressed Tasso to reside with him; but Tasso, who judged it highly unadvisable to comply with his request, resolved to retire to Rome, and wait there the issue of his law-suit. He lived in that city about a year in high esteem with pope Sixtus V; when, being invited to Florence by Ferdinando, grand duke of Tuscany, who had been cardinal at Rome when Tasso first resided there, and who now employed the pope’s interest to procure a visit from him, he could not withstand such solicitations, but went to Florence, where he met with a most gracious reception. Yet not all the caresses he received at the duke’s court, nor all the promises of that prince, could overcome his love for his native country, or lessen the ardent desire he had to lead a retired and independent life. He therefore took his leave of the grand duke, wbo would have loaded him with presents; but Tasso, as usual, could be prevailed upon to accept of no more than was necessary for his present occasions. He returned to Naples by the way of Rome, and the old prince of Conca dying about this time, the young count of Palena prevailed upon Tasso, by the mediation of Manso, to accept of an apartment in his palace. Here he applied himself to a correction of his Jerusalem, or rather to compose a new work entitled “Jerusalem Conquered,” which he had begun during his first residence at Naples. The prince of Conca, being jealous lest any one should deprive him of the poet and poem, caused him to he so narrowly watched that Tasso observed it, and being displeased at such a proceeding, left the prince’s palace, and retired to his friend Manso’s, where he lived master of himself and his actions; yet he still continued upon good terms with the prince of Conca.

In a short time after he published his “Jerusalem Conquered,” which is a sufficient proof of the injustice of the criticisms that have been passed upon his “Jerusalem Delivered;” since the “Jerusalem Conquered,” in which he endeavoured to conform himself to the taste of his critics, was not received with the same approbation as the former poem, where he had entirely given himself up to the enthusiasm of his genius. He had likewise designed a third | correction of the same poem, which, as we are informed, was to have been partly compounded of the Jerusalem Delivered and Conquered; but this work was never completed. In all probability, this last performance would not have equalled the first: and indeed our poet seems to owe his fame to the “Jerusalem Delivered,” the second poem upon that subject being little known.

Manso’s garden commanded a full prospefct of the sea. Tasso and his friend being one day in a summer-house with Scipio Belprato, Manso’s brother-in-law, observing the waves agitated with a furious storm, Beiprato said, “that he was astonished at the rashness and folly of men who would expose themselves to the rage of so merciless an element, where such numbers had suffered shipwreck.” “And yet,” said Tasso, “we every night go without fear to bed, where so many die every hour. Beheve me, death will rind us in all parts, and those places that appear the least exposed are not always the most secure from his attacks.” While Tasso lived with his friend Manso, cardinal Hippolito Aldobrandirii succeeded to the papacy by the name of Clement VIII. His two nephews, Cynthio and Pietro Aldobrandini, were created cardinals: the first, afterwards called the cardinal of St. George, was the eldest, a great patron of science, and a favourer of learned men: he had known Tasso when he resided last at Rome, and had the greatest esteem for him; and now so earnestly invited him to Rome, that he could not peluse, but once more abandoned his peaceful retreat;it Naples. As in consequence of the confines of the ecclesiastical state being infested with banditti, travellers, for security, used to go together in large companies, Tasso joined himself to one of these; but when they came within sight of Mola, a little town near Gaietu, they received intelligence that Sciarru, a famous captain of robbers, was near at hand with a great body of men. Tasso was of opinion, that they should continue their journey, and endeavour to defend themselves, if attacked: however, this advice was overruled, and they threw themselves for safety into Mola, in which place they remained for some time in a manner blocked up by Sciarra. But this outlaw, hearing that Tasso was one of the company, sent a message to assure him that he might pass in safety, and offere.i himself to conduct him wherever he pleased. Tasso returned him thanks, but declined accepting the offer, not choosing, | perhaps, to rely on the word of a person of such character. Sciarra upon this sent a second message, by which he informed Tasso, that, upon his account, he would withdraw his men, and leave the ways open. He accordingly did so, and Tasso, continuing his journey, arrived without any accident at Rome, where he was most graciously welcomed by the two cardinals and the pope himself. Tasso applied himself in a particular manner to cardinal Cynthio, who had been the means of his coming to Rome; yet he neglected not to make his court to cardinal Aldobrandini, and he very frequently conversed with both of them. One day the two cardinals held an assembly of several prelates, to consult, among other things, of some method to put a stop to the license of the pasquinades. One proposed that Pasquin’s statue should be broken to pieces and cast into the river. But Tasso‘ s opinion being asked, he said, “it would be much more prudent to let it remain where it was; for otherwise from the fragments of the statue would be bred an infinite number of frogs on the banks of the Tyber, that would never cease to croak day and night.” The pope, to whom cardinal Aldobrandini related what had passed, interrogated Tasso upon the subject. “It is true, holy father,” said he, “such was my opinion; and I shall add moreover, that if your holiness would silence Pasquin, the only way is to put such people into employments as may give no occasion to any libels or disaffected discourse.

At last, being again disgusted with the life of a courtier, he obtained permission to retire to Naples to prosecute his law-suit. At his arrival there, he took up his lodging in the convent of St. Severin, with the fathers of St. Benedict. Thus was Tasso once more in a state of tranquillity and retirement, so highly agreeable to his disposition; when cardinal Cynthio again found means to recall him, by prevailing on the pope to give him the honour of being solemnly crowned with laurel in the capitol. Though Tasso himself was not in the least desirous of such pomp, yet he yielded to the persuasion of others, particularly of his dear friend Manso, to whom he protested that he went merely at his earnest desire, not with any expectation of the promised triumph, which he had a secret presage would never be. He was greatly affected at parting from Manso, and took his leave of him as of one he should never see again. In his way he passed by Mount Cassino, to pay his devotion to the relics of St, Benedict, for whom he had a particular | veneration. He spent the festival of Christmas in that monastery, and thence repaired to Rome, where he arrived in the beginning of 1595. He was met at the entrance of that city by many prelates and persons of distinction, and was afterward introduced, by the two cardinals, Cynthio and Pietro, to the presence of the pope, who was pleased to tell him, “that his merit would add as much honour to the laurel he was going to receive, as that crown had formerly given to those on whom it had hitherto been bestowed.

Nothing was now thought of but the approaching solemnity: orders were given to decorate not only the pope’s palace and the capitol, but all the principal streets through which the procession was to pass. Yet Tasso appeared little moved with these preparations, which he said would be in vain: and being shewn a sonnet composed upon tha occasion by his relation, Hercole Tasso, he answered by the following verse of Seneca:

Magnifica verba mors propé admota excutit.

His presages were but too true, for, while they waited for fair weather to celebrate the solemnity, cardinal Cynthio fell ill, and continued for some time indisposed: and, as soon as the cardinal began to recover, Tasso himself was seized with his last sickness.

Though he had only completed his fifty- first year, his studies and misfortunes had brought on a premature old age. Being persuaded that his end was approaching, he resolved to spend the few days he had yet to live in the monastery of St. Onuphrius. He was carried thither in cardinal Cynthio’s coach, and received with the utmost tenderness by the prior and brethren of that order. His distemper was now so far increased, and his strength so exhausted, that all kind of medicine proved ineffectual. On the 10th of April he was taken with a violent fever, occasioned perhaps by having eat some milk, a kind of aliment he was particularly fond of. His life now seemed in imminent danger: the most famous physicians in Rome tried all their art, but in vain, to relieve him: he grew worse and worse every day. Rinaldini, the pope’s physician, and Tasso’s intimate friend, having informed him that his last hour was near at hand, Tasso embraced him tenderly, and with a composed countenance returned him thanks for his tidings; then looking up to Heaven, he “acknowledged the goodness of God, who was at last pleased | to bring him safe into port after so long a storm.” From that time his mind seemed entirely disentangled from earthly affairs: he received the sacrament in the chapel of the monastery, being conducted thither by the brethren. When he was brought back to his chamber, he was asked where he wished to be interred; he answered, in the church of St. Onuphrius: and being desired to leave some memorial of his will in writing, and to dictate himself the epitaph that should be engraven on his tomb, he smiled and said, “that in regard to the first, he had little worldly goods to leave, and as to the second, a plain stone would suffice to cover him.” He left cardinal Cynthio his heir, and desired that his own picture might be given to Giovanni Baptista Manso, which had been drawn by his direction. At length having attained the fourteenth day of his illness, he received the extreme unction. Cardinal Cynthio hearing that he was at the last extremity, came- to visit him, and brought him the pope’s benediction, a grace never conferred in this manner but on cardinals and persons of the first distinction. Tasso acknowledged this honour with great devotion and humility, and said, “that this was the crown he came to receive at Rome.” The cardinal having asked him “if he had any thing further to desire,” he replied, “the only favour he had now to beg of him, was, that he would collect together the copies of all his works (particularly hisJerusalem Delivered,“which he esteemed most imperfect) and commit them to the flames: this task, he confessed, might be found something difficult, as those pieces were dispersed abroad in so many different places, but yet he trusted it would not be found altogether impracticable.” He was so earnest in his request, that the cardinal, unwilling to discompose him by a refusal, gave him such a doubtful answer as led him to believe that his desire would be complied with. Tasso then requesting to be left alone, the cardinal took his farewel of him with tears in his eyes, leaving with him his confessor and some of the brethren of the monastery. In this condition he continued all night, and till the middle of the next day, the 25th of April, being the festival of St. Mark; when, finding himself fainting, he embraced his crucifix, uttering these words: In manus tuas, Domine but expired before he could finish the sentence. Tasso was tall and well-shaped, his complexion fair, fyut rather pale through sickness and study; the hair of his head was of a chesnut colour, but that of his beard | somewhat lighter, thick and bushy; his forehead square and high, his head large, and the tore part of it, towards the end of his life, altogether bald; his eye-brows were dark; his eyes full, piercing, and of a clear blue; his nose large, his lips thin, his teeth well set and white; his neck well proportioned; his breast full; his shoulders broad, and all his limbs more sinewy than fleshy. His voice was strong, clear, and solemn; he spoke with deliberation, and generally reiterated his last words: he seldom laughed, and never to excess. He was very expert in the exercises of the body. In his oratory, he used little action, and rather pleased by the beauty and force of his expressions, than by the graces of gesture and utterance, that compose so great a part of elocution. Such was the exterior of Tasso: as to his mental qualities, he appears to have been a great genius, and a soul elevated above the common rank of mankind. It is said of him, that there never was a scholar more humble, a wit more devout, or a man more amiable in society. Never satisfied with, his works, even when they rendered his name famous throughout the world; always satisfied with his condition, even when he wanted every thing; entirely relying on Providence and his friends; without malevolence towards his greatest enemies; only wishing for riches that he might be serviceable to others, and making a scruple to receive or keep auy thing himself that was not absolutely necessary. So blameless and regular a life was ended by a peaceable death, which carried him off in 1595, in the fifty-second year of his age.

He was buried the same evening, without pomp, according to his desire, in the church of St. Onuphrius, and his body was covered with a plain stone. Cardinal Cynthio had purposed to erect a magnificent monument to his memory; but the design was so long prevented by sickness and other accidents, that, ten years after, Manso coming to Rome, went to visit his friend’s remains, and would have taken on himself the care of building a tomb to him; but this cardinal Cynthio would by no means permit, having determined himself to pay that duty to Tasso. However, Manso prevailed so far as to have the following words engraven on the stone:

Hic Iacet Torqvatvs Tassvs.

Cardinal Cynthio dying without putting his design in execution, cardinal Bonifacio Bevilacqua, of an illustrious | family of Ferrara, caused a stately sepulchre to be erected, in the church of St. Onuphrius, over the remains of a man whose works had made all other monuments superfluous.

As to his works, we have mentioned his principal his “Rinaldo,” “Aminta,” and “Gierusalemme liberate,” an epic poem in twenty-four books. This poem had been published in an imperfect state, through the importunity and authority of some of his noble patrons, but the first complete edition of it appeared at Ferrara in 1581, 4to. The critics falling upon this work, he proposed to give a new and corrected edition of it, or, more properly speaking, to write it over again, which he did, and published at Home, under the title of “Gierusalemme conquistata,” in 1593, 4to. But the poem, thus accommodated to the taste and humour of his critics, was not received by the world at large with the same applause as the first edition had been, which is the only one now read. Many writers, especially among the Italians, have compared Tasso to Virgil; and their partiality has, perhaps, made Boileau criticize him more severely than he would otherwise have done: he calls Tasso’ s verses tinsel, when compared with the gold of Virgil; and censures the simple judgment of those, who prefer “le clinquant du Tasse a tout Tor de Virgile,” In the mean time some virtuosi of Italy have made it a question for a long while, whether Ariosto does not deserve the precedency of Tasso: a comparison which more judicious critics think never ought to have been instituted; and Tiraboscbi says we may as well compare Virgil’s Æneid with Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Tasso’s “Jerusalem” is regularly epic in its whole construction, and ranks deservedly among the few of that species of composition, ancient or modern, which all ages will probably admire. A little too much of the marvellous, one or perhaps two of the episodes, and part of his machinery, are the only subjects to which the most rigid criticism has ventured to object. Where some of his defects, some of his conceits, are visible, they have been referred to his age, but these are not frequent, and it seems generally acknowledged that while he is inferior to Homer, in simplicity and fire, to Virgil, in tenderness, and to Milton, in daring sublimity of genius, he yields to no other in any poetical talents.

The works of Tasso have been often printed separately, at various times and places. The abbe“Serassi has enumerated 132 editions of theJerusalem Delivered,“of | which he thinks the best was that printed at Mantua by Francisco Osanna, in 1584, 4to. TheJerusalem Conquered“had but thirteen editions, of which the last is in 1642.Rinaldohad fifteen, and” Aminta“fifty-eight, without reckoning those which appeared out of Italy. Of the translations of the first poem, Serassi mentions eleven in the different dialects of the Italian, and twenty-three in the other languages in Europe, but he has omitted some, particularly the French translation in Alexandrian verses, by M. Montenlas. Tasso’s whole works, together with his life, and several pieces for and against his” Gierusalemme Liberata,“were published at Florence, 1724, in six volumes, folio. The life was written by his friend Battista Man so, and printed at Rome in 1634; of which that by the abbe” de Charnes, printed at Paris in 1690, 12mo, is only an abridgment. But the best edition of the whole works, in Mr. Black’s opinion, is that of Venice, 12 vols. 4to, although it does not bear so high a price. His “Aminta,” and “Gierusalemme liberata,” have been translated into English; the former being published at London in 1628 the latter in 1713; and again, with the true spirit jf the original, by Mr. Hoole, in 1762. Within these few years English literature has been enriched by a very valuable and elaborate “Life of Torquato Tasso; with an historical and critical account of his writings, by John Black,1810, 2 vols. 4to. In this the reader will receive ample satisfaction as to the disputed parts of Tasso’s eventful history, and many illustrations of the times in which he lived, and of the lives of his contemporaries, the relative state of literary histoiy, and, indeed, will find an assemblage of every kind of evidence that can now be expected to throw light on the genius of this truly great poet. 1


Life by Hoole, prefixed io his Translation.—Life, as above, by Mr. Black.