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fore, that they should retire together into the country, and occupy their different villas in succession, where the fresh air, the warbling of birds, the green hills and vallies waving with the future harvest, and the clear, bright canopy of heaven above them, might, in some degree, relieve their spirits from the pressure of calamity.

This plan was applauded by all her companions; only Philomena, one of them, objected, that their situation would be open to calumny, and even to danger from the lawless wretches, who were roaming about the country, unless they had some gentlemen in their company to afford them countenance and protection. This difficulty embarrassed the ladies exceedingly; but while they were consulting on the point, three gentlemen of their acquaintance entered the church, who were delighted with their project, and declared themselves ready to depart at a moment's warning. Orders were despatched into the country to prepare for their reception; and the next morning the whole party set off for a villa about two miles from the city. After they were. arrived, one of the gentlemen, Dioneus, under which name Boccaccio is said to have described himself, told the ladies that, in accepting their invitation, he had left all his cares behind him, and unless they were of the same mood, he should speedily bid them farewell. Pampinea replied, that they were fully disposed to merriment

Within the limit of becoming mirth;

and, in order to regulate their diversions, she proposed that each of the company in rotation should act as head one day, the first to be elected by the whole, and each successor to be appointed by the king, or queen, of the preceding day. Accordingly Pampinea was chosen queen; and crowned with a laurel's wreath, as the ensign of sovereignty. The next day, when the sun became high, they retired into a meadow of deep grass sheltered from his rays; and in order to pass the time away agreeably, it was proposed, that each person should relate a story, or novel,* of some kind, for the entertainment

* It will be recollected by the Italian scholar, that the word novella, has a much wider meaning than our corresponding word. Novella signifies any story, whether it have a complete action or not, and oftentimes a joke, an apothegm, or a single adventure.

VOL. XIX.-No. 44.


of the company. The ten stories being concluded, they spent the rest of the day as they had the afternoon and evening before, in dancing, and singing, and conversation; and the next, and the following days, after the same manner; and thus are related the hundred novels, ten novels each day for ten days, which compose the Decameron.

The novels of the first day are on miscellaneous subjects. Those of the second are concerning persons, who, after being conducted by fortune through a variety of adverse vicissitudes, finally, beyond all hope, arrive at a happy issue. The two following days being Friday and Saturday, it was agreed to suspend their amusements, to be resumed again on Sunday; and on that day they removed to another more beautiful villa, which is depicted here with great fidelity, minuteness, and uncommon elegance of description, and is still pointed out to strangers as Boccaccio's Villa. The estate is called, Il Podere della Fonte, or the Farm of the Fountain, from a jet of water, which spouts up from a natural spring through a statue placed over a marble basin, and which supplies a constant stream of sufficient size to irrigate the whole of the grounds. This villa was formerly a domain of the Neroni di Nigi, but now belongs to the Pandolfini. Here the ' gay hermits' continued their amusements, and the subject of the third day was still the mutability of fortune; on the fourth, they discoursed of those whose love had terminated unfortunately; on the fifth, of what had terminated happily for lovers after the most cruel mischances; on the sixth, of persons who had successfully retorted some stroke of wit by a keen repartee, or by some prompt reply, or happy foresight, had averted peril or derision; on the seventh, concerning stratagems, with which wives had deceived their husbands; on the eighth, of tricks, such as are daily practised between different persons; on the ninth, concerning any subject which struck each one's fancy; and on the tenth and last, of persons, who, in whatever situation, had displayed uncommon liberality or magnificence. At the close of the tenth day, the party agreed to separate, and on the day following they returned to their respective homes in Florence.

Hoping we shall not have trespassed on the indulgence of our readers by going thus fully into a detail of the plan, we will now proceed to advert briefly to the literary history and

merits of the Decameron. It was published in two parts, the first in 1353, and the second in 1358; and immediately upon the invention of printing, it was printed and circulated freely in Italy, until it was condemned, in the middle of the sixteenth century, by the Council of Trent; but the printing of corrected and expurgated editions was afterwards licensed by the popes, at the earnest solicitation of the grand duke of Tuscany. Since then innumerable editions of it, with every species of critical and historical illustration, have been printed in the original; and it has been translated and circulated in all the languages of Europe.

Some authors have accused Boccaccio of plagiarism; the French particularly, whose sçavans, like her warriors, are a little too prone to claim what is not theirs of right, undertake to say many of his tales are borrowed from the fabliaux and old romances. There can be little doubt, however, as to the fact. Boccaccio does not pretend to invent the fable of his novels. He simply gathers up the popular tales of the day, such as his reading, travels, or friends could furnish him with, adorns them with new incidents, and embodies the whole into his own spirited and beautiful narrative, the admitted model of Italian prose. The great passion then was for narrative poetry and narrative prose; and the novellists, like the trouveurs, drew from the same common source; and, therefore, neither are chargeable with plagiarism, because neither aspire to the merit of originality. The origin of that whole school of literature itself is another and wider field of inquiry, which we may not enter here; although the result of such inquiry, we imagine, would be to trace the whole up to an oriental fountain. The praise, however, which will not, and cannot be denied him, is that of having first rescued these entertaining compositions from the mouths of court buffoons and street jesters, and elevated them into a new class of literature, while succeeding ages, and other nations, have been proud to imitate their great master, without surpassing him in excellence.

What then is the extraordinary merit, which has conferred this rank on Boccaccio? It is the elegance of his style, his felicity and choice of expression, the rich variety of his subjects, the spirit and faithfulness of his delineations, the unaffected naïveté of his narrative, the dramatic eloquence of his dialogue, the poignancy of his satirical touches; it is from

qualities like these, that he derives the celebrity of his name. He raises before us a moving panorama of life in all its complicated varieties. We cannot give an idea of the nature of the animated scene more clearly, than by translating the words of Ginguené. Priests, crafty and libertine as they were then,' says he, 'monks abandoned to luxury, gluttony, and debauch; duped and credulous husbands; artful and coquettish wives; the young devoted to pleasure, the old to gain; oppressive and cruel lords, frank and courteous knights; ladies either frail and addicted to gallantry, or else generous and proud, often the victims of their weakness, and tyrannised over by jealous husbands; pirates, banditti, hermits, workers of false miracles, and of tricks of jugglery; persons, in short, of every condition, country, age, all with their appropriate costume of passions, habits, and language; these are the objects, which fill up this immense picture, and which men of the severest taste are never weary of admiring.' Nothing could be more exact than the view Ginguené thus gives of the Decameron. And yet Boccaccio looked upon the work as a slight thing thrown out, if we may so speak, in a frolic of the imagination, and prized himself on his heavy compilation of heathen criticisms; but posterity, more just than himself to his fame, has allowed the latter to sink, as they were floating down the tide of time, while the lighter graces of the former have kept them buoyant above the stream, to remain an imperishable-monument of his genius.

We will not stop to recount the numerous imitators of Boccaccio, who immediately sprang up in Italy. Nor will we examine how much the poets and dramatists of later times are indebted to him; just observing, as we pass, that many of La Fontaine's fables, two of Molière's best comedies, George Dandin and L'Ecole des Maris, Lope de Vega's Discreta Enamorada, and several others of the best pieces in foreign literature, are extracted from the treasures of the Decameron. We will pause only on English literature a moment, where we find, not to speak of meaner authors, that Chaucer, Shakspeare, and Dryden, are under great obligations to Boccaccio. Witness several of the finest among the Canterbury_Tales, which Chaucer took from our author, and which Dryden wrought up into some of the most gorgeous and majestic of his Fables. Witness the whole plot, many of the particular

incidents, and the very names of the principal persons in All's Well that Ends Well, which may be traced to Boccaccio's Giletta di Nerbona. Witness, finally, some of the finest parts of Cymbeline, borrowed, the commentator Stevens to the contrary notwithstanding, from the Bemabo da Genova of the Decameron. All these instances will attest the early and wide popularity, and the genuine merits of Boccaccio.

We wish we could close our article here, and were not obliged, in justice to historic truth, to subjoin that many of the tales in the Decameron are disgraced by the most unpardonable impurities; a circumstance, which, as we have already intimated, fastens a deep stain, indelibly deep, on the memory of Boccaccio. But, in his latter years, he most bitterly lamented the immoral tendency of portions of his writings, and desired in vain to recall the winged messenger of corruption, which had flown forth among men, and could no longer be stayed in its course. The taste and moral sense of our own days would effectually interdict the composition of such tales; but Boccaccio did only what the feelings and manners of his age sanctioned. And yet this was an age of incipient illumination; and slight as must have been the elevation, or the influence of women, it was an age, when Italy was the commercial medium of the world, and the asylum of letters, arts, and refinement, adorned with the superb paintings of the modern masters, and all those magnificent structures, which signalised the pomp of the great cities and families, the taste of the Medici of Florence, the splendor of the Visconti of Milan, of the Gonzaghi of Mantua, and of the yet more princely Ferrarese House of Este.

But, notwithstanding all these outward indications of highly cultivated manners, the fact that a work, like the one we have examined, was avowedly published for the recreation of the female sex, is enough to show what was, in truth, the moral standard of the times. The Decameron abounds in the delineations of domestic incidents, manners, and scenery; and we cannot suppose the character of women, as it then existed, would be mistaken or misrepresented by so acute an observer, and so faithful a painter as Boccaccio. The brilliancy on the surface of things, of which we have spoken, arose more from the political revolutions of wealthy states, than from genuine refinement. Many of the first cities of Italy were just.

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