Varchi, Benedict

, an Italian historian, poet, and critic, was born at- Florence in 1502. His father, a lawyer, placed him with a master, who reported that he was not fit for literature, and advised him to breed the boy up to merchandise. He was accordingly sent to a counting-­house, and there his masters discovered that he never was without a book, and minded nothing but reading. His father then, after examining him, found that he had been deceived by the school-master, and determined to give his son a learned education, and for that purpose sent him to Padua and Pisa. Unfortunately, however, he prescribed the study of the law, which Varchi relished as little as commerce; and although, out of filial respect, he went through the usual courses, he immediately, on his father’s death, relinquished both the study and practice of the law, and determined to devote all his attention to polite literature. In this he acquired great reputation; but when Florence became distracted by civil commotions, he joined the party in opposition to the Medici family, and was banished. During his exile he resided at Venice, Padua, and Bologna, where his talents procured him many friends; and his works having diffused his reputation more widely, Cosmo de Medicis had the generosity to forgive the hostility he had shewn to his family, and, respecting him as a man of letters, recalled him home, and appointed him his historiographer. In this capacity he recommended him to write the history of the late revolutions in Florence. All this kindness, accompanied with a handsome pension, produced a great change in the mind of the republican Varchi, who became now the equally zealous advocate of monarchy. As soon as he had finished a part of it, he submitted it to the inspection of his patron, and some copies were taken of it. These being seen by soma persons who suspected that he would make free with their characters, or the characters of their friends, they conspired to assassinate the apostate author, as they thought him; and having one night attacked him, left him weltering in his blood, but his wounds were not mortal; and although it is said he knew who the assassins were, he declined appearing against them. He was, however, so much affected by the affair, that he embraced the ecclesiastical profession, and obtained some preferment. He died at Florence in 1565. His history, which extends from 1527 to 1538, was not published until 1721, at Cologne, and reprinted at Leydeu | 1723; but both these places are wrong, as both editions were published in Italy. There is a recent edition, Milan, 1803, 5 vols. 8vo. The style, like that of all his works, is pure and elegant, though a little too much elaborated. The facts, of course, are strongly tinctured with an attachment to the house of Medici.

Varchi was a man of extensive literature, and particularly excelled in criticism, grammar, and the classics; nor was he unacquainted with philosophy, law, morals, and the fine arts. He published many orations, delivered in the Florentine academy, and wrote some poetry, greatly applauded in his time. But his chief merit lay in the elegance of his Italian style, which is still reckoned a model. His principal philological work is his “L’Ercolano,” a dialogue on language, one object of which is to prove that the Italian ought to be called the Florentine language, an opinion which has been successfully opposed. 1