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intellectual life they returned with their Northern brains more powerfully stimulated. To produce, by masterpieces of the imagination, some work of style that should remain as a memento of that glorious country, and should vie on English soil with the art of Italy, was their generous ambition. Consequently the substance of the stories versified by our poets, the forms of our metres, and the cadences of our prose periods reveal a close attention to Italian originals.
JOHN ADDINGTON SYMONDS, Sketches and Studies in Southern Europe.
LEO THE TENTH.
By no circumstance in the character of an individual is the love of literature so strongly evinced, as by the propensity for collecting together the writings of illustrious scholars, and compressing “the soul of ages past” within the narrow limits of a library. Few persons have experienced this
a passion in an equal degree with Leo X., and still fewer have had an equal opportunity of gratifying it. We have already seen, that in the year 1508, whilst he was yet a cardinal, he had purchased from the monks of the convent of St. Marco, at Florence, the remains of the celebrated library of his ancestors, and had transferred it to his own house in Rome. Unwilling, however, to deprive hís native place of so invaluable a treasure, he had not, on his elevation to the pontificate, thought proper to unite this collection with that of the Vatican; but had entrusted it to the care of the learned Varino Camerti; intending again to remove it to Florence, as to the place of its final destination. This design, which he was prevented
from executing by his death, was afterward carried into effect by the cardinal Giulio de' Medici, who before he attained the supreme dignity, had engaged the great artist, Michael Angelo Buonarotti, to erect the magnificent and spacious edifice near the church of St. Lorenzo, at Florence, where these inestimable treasures were afterward deposited ; and where, with considerable additions from subsequent benefactors, they yet remain, forming an immense collection of manuscripts of the Oriental, Greek, Roman, and Italian writers, now denominated the “Bibliotheca Mediceo-Laurentiana.”
The care of Leo X. in the preservation of his domestic library did not, however, prevent him from bestowing the most sedulous attention in augmenting that which was destined to the use of himself and his successors in the palace of the Vatican. This collection, begun by that excellent and learned sovereign, Nicholas V., and greatly increased by succeeding pontiffs, was already deposited in a suitable edifice, erected for that purpose by Sixtus IV., and was considered as the most extensive assemblage of literary productions in all Italy. The envoys employed by Leo X. on affairs of State in various parts of Europe, were directed to avail themselves of every opportunity of obtaining these precious remains of antiquity, and men of learning were frequently dispatched to remote and barbarous countries for the sole purpose of discovering and rescuing these works from destruction. Nor did the pontiff hesitate to render his high office subservient to the promotion of an object which he considered of the utmost importance to the interest of literature, by requiring the assistance of the other sovereigns of Christendom in giving effect to his researches. In the year 1517 he dispatched as his envoy, John Heytmers de Zonvelben, on a mission to Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Gothland, for the sole purpose of inquiring after literary works, and particularly historical compositions. This envoy was furnished with letters from the Pope to the different sovereigns through whose dominions he had to pass, earnestly entreating them to promote the object of his visit by every means in their power. Some of these letters yet remain, and afford a decisive proof of the ardor with which Leo X. engaged in this pursuit. With a similar view he dispatched to Venice the celebrated Agostino Beazzano, whom he furnished with letters to the doge Loredano, directing him to spare no expense in the acquisition of manuscripts of the Greek authors. Efforts so persevering could not fail of success ; and the Vatican library, during the pontificate of Leo X., was augmented by many valuable works, which without his vigilance and liberality would probably have been lost to the world.
After the pages which have been already devoted to enumerate the services rendered by Leo X. to all liberal studies, by the establishment of learned seminaries, by the recovery of the works of the ancient writers, and the publication of them by means of the press, by promoting the knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages, and the munificent encouragement bestowed by him on the professors of every branch of science, of literature, and of art; it would surely be as superfluous to recapitulate his claims, as it would be unjust to deny his pretensions to an eminent degree of merit.
That an astonishing proficiency in the improvement of the human intellect was made during the pontificate of Leo X. is universally allowed. That such proficiency is principally to be attributed to the exertions of that pontiff, will now perhaps be thought equally indisputable. Of the predominating influence of a powerful, and accomplished, and fortunate individual on the character and manners of the age, the history of mankind furnishes innumerable instances; and happy it is for the world, when the pursuits of such individuals,