130808 - POISON-FLOWER of the RENAISSANCE
A Critical and Biographical Study -
Samuel Putnam -
“Machiavel and Aretino knew fashions and were
acquainted with ye cunning of ye world.” -
“On the day set by Julius II., that is to say, on Monday,
Michelangelo betook himself once more to the Palace. He had been
given to understand that the Pope was leaving on a hunting
expedition in the Albanian mountains. The court was filled with
the joyous sound of horns, the barking of dogs, the cries of
hunters and the beating of the wings of falcons. From a distance,
Michelangelo saw the Pope, clad in hunting costume, strange
enough for a man of the church. Shod in high boots, wearing a
plumed hat and a leather round-jacket, he looked like an old
conqueror, as he mounted a superb horse. Accorsio1 held his
stirrup. The Pope appeared to be animated and whispered in the
earl of his favorite, who smiled like a woman, a fine, ambiguous
“Buonarotti understood that, at this moment, Julius II. was
little concerned with his mausoleum. He came back on Tuesday.
The Pope had not yet returned from the hunt. He put in an
appearance on Wednesday and met, in the gallery, a secretary
whom he knew, who informed him that His Holiness, having
received vexatious news from Bologna, was in a bad humor and had
just given the priest, d’Ancona, a caning. Courtezans, with a
discomfited air, were coming out of the audience chamber, and
Michelangelo overheard the ambassador from France remark, with a
smile, to a fat and insouciant chaplain:
“ ‘But he is terribly irritable, your Pope!’” 1
With these few vivid lines, Dmitri Merejkowski, in his novelized
biography of Michelangelo,2 puts us into the heart 10 of the
cinquecento, in all probability the most riotously colorful and
the most colorfully depraved epoch in civilized history.
Merejkowsky’s account is fiction, but if there ever was a time
when truth was stranger than fiction, that time was the
The Russian writer’s snapshot is, of course, not the whole
picture, but it is the focus of that larger photograph which
might be composed — and which, yet, so eludes any one who
attempts the task — from the documents of the age. For the
Papacy was the heart of a Romanized world, and the world was a
goodly apple rotten at the core.
To fill in the picture, we must add: the melodrama of dagger-thrusts
in the dark; the finest of the fine and Machiavellian arts, the
art of poisoning; and, finally, that most poisonous of all
weapons, the pen. Oscar Wilde’s shocking title3 becomes a
commonplace, in a world in which the Popes and princes of the
earth —’ and the pirates of the high seas, as well — pay
groveling tribute to the Prince of Blackmailers and even think
seriously of giving the fellow a cardinal’s hat. The cold-blooded
craft, cunning and self-centeredness of the era are reflected
for us in the political morality to be encountered in
Machiavelli’s Principe and Guicciardini’s Ricordi politici;4
while such highly chromatic names as the Medici, Lucrezia Borgia,
Cellini, Malatesta, Gonzaga, etc., round out the picture. Tasso
and Ariosto, today the most unread of authors outside their
native country, provide the literary background, while
Michelangelo, Titian, Raphael and Tintoretto do the honors in
paint, to say nothing of such lesser figures as Bellini,
Giorgione, Sansovino and others.
The world scene, too, which means the European scene, is a
fascinating one. While the Popes of Rome, in scarlet hunting
costume, are riding to the chase accompanied by their favorite
Ganymedes and the Doges are lording it over the world from their
rocca sicura, Venice, it is, at the same 11 time, the day of the
“Spanish flamingo,”5 the Emperor Charles V., of the wavering,
reactionary and stingy Francis I. in France, of Henry VIII., his
wives, divorces and religious schisms in England, of Luther in
Germany, nailing up his theses on the church door at Wittenberg,
and of Barbarossa, sailing the seas for Their Imperial Majesties,
the Sultan Selim I. and the King of Algiers. What more could be
asked in the way of color?
And out of all this welter of gorgeous semi-barbarism, there
emerges — there must emerge —’ for the student who seeks a
conscientious close-up, the figure of one man — the bastard son
of a prostitute, legend has it, though more likely the son of a
village shoemaker — who, by the sheer force of personality (since
what other explanation is there?), rules the rulers of this
turbulent world, flaying them into submission with the power of
his pen, accepting, with one hand, their regal bribes, and, with
the other, tossing the bulk of what he gets to the poor, living
all the while in princely splendor, amid a veritable harem of
wives and courtezans, and keeping open house to artists,
soldiers, statesmen, priests, the intellectual, social and
artistic èlite of his day. That man is Pietro Aretino, the last
fine poison-flower of the century that grew the Borgias.
Yet, Aretino today is barely a name. He is chiefly known in
Europe, and in America by a few collectors of erotica, as the
author of certain obscene Dialogues and obscener Sonnets. True,
some years ago, a couple of addle-pated college boys6 got hold
of him, went completely out of their heads and — well, the
criminal case that ensued, attended by world-wide notoriety,
familiarized the public for a fleeting moment with at least the
name; and Hearst newspapers even dug up one of Titian’s bearded
portraits of the “Scourge of Princes.” All this, doubtless, has
been long since forgotten by the 12 man in the street, and
Aretino remains a name for a few Romance professors to conjure
with, while if he has any other readers outside the curiosa
hounds, they are a few pale-handed youths with mildly decadent
ambitions who go abrousing in campus libraries.
If Aretino had been a non-literary personality, the oblivion
thus thrust upon him might be understandable. The public may
have heard of Machiavelli and the Borgia’s for the reason that
these names, in a manner, have passed into schoolboy language as
classy synonyms or flossy references; Cellini, too, may be
fairly well known by those more or less directly concerned with
the arts, or who have been told that his Autobiography is first-rate
reading; but how many would be able to state, for example, who
But though most of those who collect and read him — the smut-hounds
who trail him down, along with the Venus in Furs or Pierre Louys’
Aphrodite — have no suspicion of the fact, Aretino was something
a good deal more than a mere picturesque figure in a picturesque
age. He was, among other things, the first modern realist of
importance, the first writer who dared to break away from the
old, dead and deadening, hide-bound traditions of the
classicists and the academicians and to write in the language of
the people, the language of the street and the market place,
even that of the brothel. He was, in a way, the Ring Lardner of
his day (plus, of course, much more frankness than our twentieth-century
Puritan America permits). Or, we might call him the H. L.
Mencken (with all scruples removed) or, possibly, the Ben Hecht
of his time. (His defense of his Sonetti lussuriosi reads
strangely like Hecht’s flauntingly youthful preface to Fantazius
Mallare.) It would not be wholly improper to term him the
Rabelais of the cinquecento, though he lacks the gargantuan,
cosmic vitality of Francois of blessed memory. As a matter of
fact, he is the antecedent of Rabelais, his contemporary in 13
years, and of Molière, both of whom would seem to owe him no
little, as do, also, Shakespeare and Balzac.
Aretino is not only the first modern realist; he is the first
modern journalist. The founder and “first great Adventurer of
the Press” Edward Hutton,7 in his scholarly and lonesome English
biography, calls him. In his Pasquinades, his giudizii and his
letters, as Hutton points out, Aretino really conducted what
corresponds to a great modern newspaper, in which scheme, his
religious writings (the prose sacre) are the pompous, inflated
editorials. He is, in a sense, in his “yellow” proclivities, the
forerunner of Mr. Hearst, Lord Northcliffe and others, while he
is also the father of the awful tribe of modern press agents,
who, when they wish to put on airs, become “publicists.” It is
his boast that “throughout the world, Fame is sold by me.”8 He
had to have publicity; it was his living; and he certainly knew
how to set about to get it.
He is more than this, however. He is also the first modern
critic of the arts — of painting, as of literature. In deed, he
seems to have had, as will be shown later, even more feeling for
painting than for literature. His genius was essentially a
plastic one, and there was a reason for his almost life-long
intimacy with Titian. Like Titian, he was a realist of the
senses. De Sanctis, in the role of moralizing professor, finds
fault with him for not drawing any “moral impression or
elevation of soul” from his contemplation of and love for nature.
The kick which Aretino got was a purely sensuous, purely
aesthetic one; and in this, he is truly a modernist.
Here, then, we have a man who may be called, in point of
chronology, the first literary realist, the first journalist,
the first publicist, the first art critic. Surely, such a man
has his importance. Is a first-hand knowledge of that importance
to 14 be confined to a few Romance instructors and their
scattered seminars, for which only a handful of bespectacled
graduate students ever enroll? Is the public to know Aretino
only as a purveyor of smut, as a writer who is on the Index
expurgatorius of the contemporary Puritan, and who must,
therefore, be smuggled past the customs as a contraband?
Why is this? Why is it that Aretino for four centuries, has been
the victim of a world-wide conspiracy of shush? Even the
prurient virtue of our combined comstockeries is scarcely enough
to account for this, since, with the mouldering influence of
time, a bad boy of literature, usually puts on the more or less
sacrosanct garb of a “classic” and, thenceforth, is looked upon
as naughty but, for the sake of art, as comparatively innocuous.
Rabelais is a case in point. The Maitre is now seldom bothered
on the metropolitan stalls. He hardly could be sold, it is true,
in Dayton, Tenn., but in Chicago, the Committee of Fifteen does
not stay up nights tracking him down. And yet, Aretino, as has
been stated, is the godfather of Gargantua and Pantagruel. Why,
then, all the animus against Pietro?
The answer is, Aretino is a bad example, not on the sexual side,
but in his attitude toward life.
He is capable of being, upon occasion, the most tremendous
hypocrite, as in his official and semi-official letters and in
his “laudi,” those cringing, knuckling sonnets that he wrote to
order. In this, he was conforming, outwardly and for his own
shrewd purposes, to the custom of the age; it was a part of his
game. In reality, he is a hardened, ingrown and parading cynic,
and that is one thing your Babbitt will never forgive.
Hutton calls Aretino “the negation of the Renaissance.” He is
more than that. He is the living negation of all the copybook
maxims. He knows that early to bed and early to rise may make a
man healthy, but that it will never make him wealthy or wise.
Get all you can while the getting’s good is, rather, his motto,
as it is that of the American big 15 business man; only, the
latter will never, never stand for a formulation of his practice.
Aretino, like the captain of industry, started at the bottom and
worked his way up. But how? And to what? He should have ended on
the gallows, but as it was, he came near being made a prince of
the church. In other words, he beat the game, and that is, of
all things, unforgivable; it is worse than breaking the bank at
Aretino has no illusions about himself or, above all, about
humanity. He knows human lusts and meanesses and depravations,
and speculates in them; they are his stock in trade. He is a
non-conformist. He lives his own life amid his harem of
beautiful women and his art treasures, and remarks, with a sneer,
“Who’s going to keep me from it?” He prefers a talk with Titian
or an interview with a lady of fortune to going to mass. When,
on his death bed, he is given the holy oils, he bursts forth, to
the horror of the pious ones about him, with “Now that I’m all
greased up, don’t let the rats get me.” And he is the man who,
according to tradition,9 had for epitaph:
Here lies Aretino, the Tuscan poet,
Who slandered every one but God, and said:
Sorry, but if I ever met him, I did not know it.
No, Aretino is not, precisely, a Sunday school lad. He was no
worse, probably, than Machiavelli, Guicciardini or a hundred
others of his day; but Machiavelli and Guicciardini, putting on
the cloak of political necessity, have acquired a certain
respectability in their diablerie. What is wrong for an
individual may be, it seems, right for a nation. Aretino merely
applies the Principe and the Ricordi politici to private life;
but that is always dangerous. It is doubly dangerous in a
democracy. Every republic is replete with Aretinos, but 16 they
stay under cover and disguise their depradations under
moralistic croakings. To speak out, to be frank with one’s self
and others, is the unpardonable sin. It is to be doubted if,
after all, Aretino ever could have existed elsewhere than in
such an oligarchy as that which flourished in Venice under the
This is the real reason for the conspiracy of silence against
him. This is the reason the world has chosen to overlook his
undeniable contributions to literature, art and the spirit of
modernity. It is time, in the name of scholarship, that the veil
were lifted. Let us take the man as he was and, giving him his
dues, good and bad, endeavor to place him as accurately as
possible. In the course of the process, there are a few of us,
it is to be hoped, confirmed amoralists, who love color and take
it where we find it, who will be content to rejoice in the vivid
reds of the picture and to leave the rest to priests and pedants.
Aretino, like Baudelaire, has been the victim of a legend, a
legend which he encouraged, rather than discouraged. When they
accused him of being the son of a prostitute, he admitted it.
When it was found that he was, really, the son of a shoemaker (acconciator
di scarpe), which was far more damning, he trumpeted the fact to
the world in a letter to the Duke of Medici. Like Baudelaire, he
was quite willing to do anything pour è pater la bourgeoisie,
and, like the author of Les Fleurs du mal, he paid the penalty.
Baudelaire had his Maxime du Camp, of whom Huneker so
effectually disposes (see his “The Baudelaire Legend” in Egoists);
Aretino had his pseudo-Berni. And the resulting legend, in each
case, has displayed a surprising persistence, and resistance to
the discoveries of scholars.
Nevertheless, despite all legends and overthrowings of legends,
the man himself remains a miracle of vividness. The names and
titles that were conferred upon him during his 17 life timer are
an indication of this. Ariosto won Aretino’s undying gratitude
by referring to him, in the Orlando Furioso, as “the divine
Pietro Aretino, the Scourge of Princes.” The “Scourge,” as
Hutton remarks, might more aptly have been called “the Screw of
Princes.” “Buffone, cativo” his own townsman, Meforo Nucci,
calls him. He was looked upon, in turn, as a magician and a
“prophet” (propheta divino).10 He was the Ward McAllister of his
day and refers to himself as “censor del mondo altero.”11 Coming
to bless and remaining to curse, he stands forth as a “charlatan
of genius.” Francis I sends him a chain of gold, with vermilion-colored
serpents’ tongues, bearing the exergue: “Lingue eius loquetur
mendacium” (“His tongue speaks lies”).12 Aretino is delighted
and is never seen without the chain thereafter; it appears in
all his portraits. And yet, this man, whom the mighty college of
cardinals could not silence, boasts always that “I speak the
truth,” insisting that therein lies his strength. De Sanctis
implies that he is a “poltroon,”13 but it is still Aretino’s
vaunt that “With a goose-quill and a bottle of ink, I mock
myself of the universe.”
The facts of Aretino’s life may be told briefly.14
The first that strikes us is the year of his birth, 1492, the
same that, with the discovery of America, marks the beginning of
a new world. Aretino stands on the threshold of the modern era;
and it is, accordingly, not strange if in him we first hear
definitely sounded the note of revolt against Petrarch, Dante,
Boccaccio and the other old masters of literature, as well as
against Plato and Aristotle, Plautus and Terrence, Cicero and
Pliny — the dead weight of all the centuries.
It is significant, also, that his birth occurred two years after
that of Rabelais, who died (in 1553) three years before Pietro.
The latter was born just as the Age of Form, carried to a last
fine, hard coldness by Tasso and Ariosto, was drawing to a close.
With those two great names, poetry was to die a temporary death.
But across the border, barely beyond the span of Aretino’s
lifetime, were to come Galileo, with his epoch-making
discoveries in science, and a new birth of music.
Pietro was born — in a hospital,15 De Sanctis tells us — in the
little but well known town of Arezzo, the birthplace also of
Petrarch, Vasari and, in the eleventh century, of Guido of
Arezzo, inventor of the modern system of musical notation. His
birth occurred some time between the night of Holy Thursday and
the morning of Good Friday, April 19-20, as he himself indicates
in his sonnet, In questa chiara sacrosanta notte.16 The cynical
may find a humorous significance in the date.
In accordance with the Aretine legend, perpetrated by the pseudo-Berni
and repeated in the mid-Nineteenth century by such scholarly
critics as De Sanctis and Camerini, he was the son of Tita, the
“beautiful courtezan,” and one Luigi Bacci of Arezzo.
Scholarship, however, has shown that his real father was Luca,
the cobbler, whose wife Tita was. When, years later, a townsman
arose to reveal his true birth, Aretino exclaimed, in his letter
to Duke Cosimo: ‘I tell you, I glory in the title which he, to
vilify, has given me; and may it teach the nobility to procreate
sons like the one which a cobbler has borne in Arezzo . . . Yes,
I am the son of a maker of shoes.”17
Later, Aretino was accused of passing himself off as the son of
the Virgin, and so, as the Antichrist. The controversy 19 arose
over a portrait of the Virgin in a picture of the Annunciation
which stood over the church door in Arezzo. Pietro insisted his
mother had been the model for the Mary of this picture: “Witness
is borne to the sacred goodness of so modest a woman by the fact
that she is represented as Mary, Mother of Christ.”18 For
Aretino had a typically Italian sentimentality where his mother
was concerned, and he put himself to great exertions to get
Vasari to have this portrait copied and sent to him, which was
done. Doni, Aretino’s enemy, made capital of the matter and
assailed Pietro as “an Antichrist, a limb of the Great Devil.”19
As to his early education, Aretino would seem, like Ben
Johnson’s Shakespeare, to have had “little Latin and less Greek.”
He went to school, he informs us in one of his letters,20 “only
long enough to learn the santa croce,” that is, the elements of
religion. He appears to have been a poor pupil, stealing his
marks, and having to be condoned by his teachers (“componendo
ladramente, merito scusa”); and he brags of the fact that he was
“not one of those who pore over the art of the Greeks and the
All his life long, Aretino hated pedants, with a bitter, inborn,
unquenchable hatred. He speaks of them as those who “croak21 the
dead and crucify the living.” Pedantry to him is a crime worse
than murder. He extends it even into the moral realm: ‘I tell
you, it was pedantry that poisoned the Medici; it was pedantry
that cut the throat of Duke Alexander; and, what is worse, it
was pedantry that provoked the heresy against our faith by
Luther, the greatest pedant of them all.”22 Aretino was wise
enough to capitalize his deficiencies. He probably knew little
if any Latin — his secretary, Berni, who later claimed he had
“written” much of Aretino’s work, was, doubtless, his master’s
superior in 20 this — and so, spurning Cicero, Pliny and the
rest, he turns instinctively to the vulgate, the dialect of his
people and his time.
The legend then goes on to tell us that, at the age of thirteen,
Pietro robbed his prostitute mother and fled to Perugia. A more
likely story is that he was compelled to leave Arezzo on account
of a certain sonnet against indulgences.23 We know that in 1512
he was already a verse-maker, for in that year, a volume of his
poems was published in Venice24. He seems also to have been a
student of painting in his early youth.25
Aretino was next attracted to Rome. Rome then, under Julius II,
was on the verge of entering upon the golden, the Augustan age,
as it has been called, of Leo X., who was the son of Lorenzo de’
Medici. The papal court was thronged with artists, men of
letters, buffoons and adventurers of every sort; and so, it was
the logical, not to say the inevitable dream of every youth who
was on the make. It was the Paris, the London and the New York
of those days.
At Perugia, Aretino, according to legend, had been apprenticed
to a bookbinder. The causes of his leaving are not exactly clear.
There is a discredited story, told by Mazzuchelli, as to his
having defaced a certain picture of a suppliant Magdalen by
going to it at night and painting a lute in the Madalen’s hands.
It is more likely that it was, simply, ambition that lured him.
Arrived in Rome, Aretino entered the service of a rich merchant,
a Croesus of his day, who, with his magnificence and munificence,
made the Holy Father “look like a piker,” as we in America would
remark. Agostino Chigi, one of the signs of the coming order, in
which money was to lord it 21 over the lords of the earth, is a
typical figure. On one occasion, he gave a banquet to the papal
court on gold and silver plates, which were tossed into the
Tiber as soon as used; but Chigi was shrewd enough to have had
nets laid to retrieve them. On another occasion, each guest
found his coat of arms engraved on the plates from which he ate.
Chigi, finally, had himself married by the Pope to one of his
Discharged from the house of Chigi, the legend relates, for
having stolen a silver cup, Pietro entered the house of the
Cardinal San Giovanni and, upon the death of His Eminence,
became valet to Pope Julius II. Ma ere sempre un valletto,
opines De Sanctis. The judgment is a little harsh. Dismissed
once more, he entered upon a period of vagabondage, in the
course of which he wandered over the greater part of Lombardy,
ending up by becoming a Capuchin in a monastery at Ravenna.
Pietro Aretino a monk! The picture is complete. Was it here that
he put the finishing touches to his education, not merely in
religion, but in vice and the refinements of vice? Was it here
that he gathered much of the material for the “Life of Nuns” in
the Ragionamenti? And was it here he acquired that smattering of
sanctity which he later was to make use of in his religious
best-sellers — for that is why his Life of Saint Catherine and
other homilies were written: to sell?
However, Pietro was not cut out for a friar, and he soon tired
of the life. Rome beckoned again.
All this, at least, is set forth in the Aretino legend, based
upon the Vita dell’ Aretino, published with the object of
vituperating the subject and formerly believed to have been
written by Berni. Hutton thinks there is not a word of truth in
this account of Aretino’s coming from Perugia to Rome and then
becoming a Capuchin at Ravenna. There is, the English biographer
points out, nothing in the letters to support it. He believes
that Aretino first came to Rome in 22 1516, at the age of 24,
“on foot and furnished only with what he had on his back.”
At any rate, it is certain that Pietro was in Chigi’s employ. As
to just what place he held in the house of his rich patron, we
are not sure. Those who would play Pietro down assert he was a
domestic. Whatever his status, he met there many famous men of
the day, including such artists and writers as Raphael, Iacopo
Sansovino, Sebastiano del Piombo, Giulio Romano, Bembo,
Castiglione, Paolo Giovio and others. Leo X. had succeeded to
the pontifical throne in 1514, and the “golden age” was on. We
know that Aretino made powerful friends at this time, among them
Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici, later to become Pope Clement VII.
It was in Rome, under Leo, that Aretino first became acquainted
with the vices of the Holy City, those vices which he lambasts
with so keen a power of satire in La Cortigiana and his other
comedies. The Courtezan is a take-off on the prostitution of an
Two misfortunes then befell Pietro. One was the death of his
patron, Chigi, the other the sudden death of Leo X. In the
confusion following the death of Leo and attendant upon the
naming of his successor, Aretino found himself launched in his
career of journalist. He became a writer of Pasquinades, as the
vitriolic articles, affixed to the recently excavated statue of
Pasquin in the Piazza Navona, were called. Pasquin, or Pasquino,
had been, tradition had it, a fifteenth century schoolmaster
with a bitter tongue, and the form of journalism named after him
lived up to his reputation. Aretino, becoming so well known as a
journalist of this type that he even had a tavern named after
him,26 strenuously opposed the election of the pious weakling,
Adrian VI., and it was for this reason, probably, that he was
forced to flee from Rome, in the year 1522.
Supplied with excellent recommendations, through the friendships
with the great which he had been wise enough to make, Aretino
seems to have visited a number of cities, Milan, Pisa, Ferrara
and Bologna, ending at Mantua, where he settled down for a while
under the joint protection of the Marquis of Mantua and Cardinal
de’ Medici. These two powerful personages even indulged in a
friendly quarrel over the honor of Pietro’s company.
Finally, Pope Adrian inquiring a bit too anxiously after
Aretino, the Medici shipped him off to join Giovanni delle bande
nere, the leader of Italy’s only organized military force at
that time. Pietro and Giovanni at once became bosom-cronies. The
were, indeed, two of a kind. Barbarossa, the Corsair pirate, was
later to remark that Aretino had “the head of a captain, rather
than that of a poet,” and there was in him, the fact is, no
little of the soldier and the buccaneer of letters. Giovanni
later died in Aretino’s arms, his death being described in one
of the finest and most touching letters the latter ever wrote;27
and Giovanni’s son, Cosimo, and the widow, Maria, remained
devoted to the “Scourge,”28 who, it may be, first got his title
from his warrior friend.
The death of Adrian, the last of the Pontefici barbari, or
foreign Popes, brought Aretino’s friend, Cardinal de’ Medici, to
the chair as Clement VII. Aretino at once returned to Rome. He
was now distinctly in the swim. He traveled in style, and the
great and powerful were his friends. He wrote sonnets in praise
of Clement, the Pope made him a Knight of Rhodes, and all went
well — till the little affair of the Sonnets.
What happened was this. Giulio Romano, the artist, had executed
a number of obscene designs — sixteen of them, each supposed to
represent a different modus sexualis — and had them engraved by
Marcantonio Raimondi, the first 24 man of his day with the burin.
Aretino, according to his own version of the affair, saw the
engravings and was inspired to write his famous, and infamous,
Sonetti lussuriosi as a commentary.
The storm broke. Even the Rome of Clement VII. was shocked.
Marcantonio was thrown into prison. Giulio’s reputation, a
splendid one theretofore, was shadowed, and Pietro had to do
some tall talking to get out of the scrape, though he did
succeed, by intervening with the Pope, in procuring the release
In a letter written to Battista Zatti,29 Aretino says he
dedicates his sonnets to “the hypocrites, out of patience with
their villainous judgment and with the hoggish custom that
forbids the eyes what most delights them.” And he exclaimed, in
conclusion: “The beasts are more free than we!” Does not this
sound like Hecht’s preface?
In any event, Rome had now become a trifle too warm for Pietro;
so he fled for a time. The legend says he was driven out, and it
seems to have amounted to that. Giulio also saved himself by
flight. Aretino went back to Arezzo, perhaps to visit his family,
then joined his friend, Giovanni, again. He appears to have
vacillated for some little time between Giovanni, who wanted him
badly, and Rome, eventually returning to Rome and the sunshine
of Clement’s favor. His Holiness having forgiven, and, no doubt,
It was in Rome at this time that the famous attempt to
assassinate Aretino was made by Achille della Volta, who stuck a
dagger in Pietro’s back one night as the latter was riding home
alone on horseback. Aretino, badly wounded — mortally, it was
believed at first — escaped with a maimed hand, which he carried
for the rest of his life. The attempted slaying, which was
traced to Giberti, the Pope’s counsellor and Aretino’s deadly
enemy stirred Rome. Aretino once more left, this time, in
October, 1525, for Mantua.
He did not stay long in Mantua but was soon back with Giovanni
delle bande nere. After the death of the sturdy captain, Pietro
returned to Mantua and looked about him. His future was
uncertain. Rome was out of the question. What was he to do?
It was at this time that he entered upon another phase of his
journalistic activity and began issuing his giudizii. The
giudizio, an institution of which Aretino was not the originator,
had started out as a respectable enough almanac. In his hands,
it became a scandal sheet.
1 One of the papal “Ganymedes”.
2 Michel Ange, Roman, Dmitry Merejkowski, Traduit du russe par
Dumesnil de Gramont, Paris, Artheme Fayard & cie, 1926.
3 Reference is, of course, to Pen, Pencil and Poison.
4 See also his Storia d’Italia.
5 I lift the phrase from Eugenio Camerini, Prefazione al primo
volume delle Lettere dell’ Aretino.
6 Loeb and Leopold.
7 Pietro Aretino, the Scourge of Princes, Edward Hutton,
Constable and company, 1922.
8 “. . . in tutto il mondo per me negozia la Fama.” In a letter
to Bernardo Tasso, quoted by De Sancti; see the latter’s essay,
9 Probably no more than a tradition. The original runs:
Qui giace l’Aretin poeta tosco,
Che disse mal d’ognun, fuor che di Dio,
Scusandosi col dir, no lo conosco.
10 Cf. Giovan Battista Diedo (quoted, Appendix II): Dico che
Iddio l’ha fatto di poeta diventar profeta, etc.
11 See in this volume, Miscellaneous Sonnets, IV.
12 See De Sanctis’ essay, Vol. II., and my note.
13 See the De Sanctis essay, Vol. II., and my note. See also
14 I am particularly indebted to Hutton in the biographical part
of this paper.
15 In uno spedale.
16 See, in this volume, Miscellaneous Sonnets, I.
17 “Dico che mi glorio del titolo che per avilirmi egli dammi,
conciosiache ai nobili insegna a procrear figliuoli simili a
quello, che un calzolaio ha generato in Arezzo . . . Io natoci
d’un acconciator di scarpe.”
18 Letter from Venice, December, 1548, Lettere, V., 66.
19 See the Berni Vita, Milano, Daelli, 1864.
20 Lettere, I., 200. See the quotation from this letter in De
Sanctis’ essay, Vol. II.
22 See De Sanctis’ essay.
23 Hutton, op. cit., p. 13.
24 Published by Nicolo Zopino. See Bibliography, Appendix IV.
25 “Alquante cose de uno adolescente Aretino Pietro, studioso in
questa faculta et in pictura.” (Prefatory note to first volume
26 The “Accademia di Pietro Aretino.”
27 See Volume II., Letters, III.
28 See correspondence, Appendix I.
29 Lettere, I., 258.
Venice proved to be the solution. Indeed, it might be said that
Venice was the solution of Aretino’s life problem. Here alone,
in the city of the Doges, under the oligarchical sway of the
Medici, was freedom to be had; here alone was safety and
security. Read the glowing tribute which Aretino, in one of his
letters,1 pays to Venice. His letters, the truth is, are a part
of the Venetian picture in the Sixteenth century. This was the
Venice of Shakespeare’s plays. Tintoretto was there, and so were
Titian and Sansovino, with whom Aretino was to set up a lasting
“triumvirate.” As Hutton points out, Bellini, Sebastiano,
Mansueti, Giorgione and others have preserved for us, in their
canvases, the Venice that Pietro knew.
It was in Venice that Aretino began his life-long friendship
with Titian, whom he met through Sansovino. The last named
commemorated the triple alliance in his painting over the doors
of the sacristy of San Marco, and Aretino celebrated it in a
sonnet, one of his finest.2 As to Titian, Pietro became to him a
sort of press agent de luxe. He secured many commissions for his
painter friend, and it has been thought that he possibly took
his percentage on these commissions. (If he did, Hutton remarks,
it would be “only 26 another mark of modernity in him.”) It was
Aretino who introduced Titian to Charles V.
Aretino, as we have seen, like Baudelaire, probably had studied
painting. At any rate, he soon became a first-rate painting
critic. Not only that. He was used by Titian, over and over
again, as a model. Three months after he had arrived in Venice,
Titian did a portrait of him. In this portrait, Aretino is
represented as disdaining the laurels of Homer and Caesar, as
described in the sonnet which he sent with the picture to the
Marquise of Mantua; the one beginning: “Togli il lauro per te
Cesare e Omero.”3 He also served as the model for Pilate (role
fitting enough, some would say!) in Titian’s Ecce Homo. It has
been thought, even, that Titian might have made use of Aretino’s
face —’ minus the beard, of course — for some of his Christs!
Here, then, in Venice, Pietro comes into his own. His house, the
famous casa Aretina,4 is filled with art treasures from all over
the world; for Aretino, as Merejkowski tells us, à propos of
Michelangelo, was not backward in levying contributions on
artists whom he knew and did not know. Sometimes, as in the case
of Michelangelo,5 they may have been reluctant to comply, but
they were usually compelled to make at least a show of homage;
Aretino and the famed Aretino pen were too potent to be ignored.
While Aretino’s house was filled with paintings and rare objects
of art, it had almost no books;6 for Pietro prided himself upon
his originality and disdained “the vulpine modesty of the
asinine pedants who write books.”7
In such surroundings as these, he maintained his harem and kept
open house for his friends. His cuisine was famous, and he never
dined in the town, for he insisted the Venetians 27 did not know
how to dine. At times, his own house became so unbearably
crowded that he was forced to flee to Titian’s abode for a
little peace and comfort. He was constantly besieged by the
poor, to whom he always gave with a lavish prodigality. He would
stand no reproaches on this score. Great souls always spend
freely, would be his reply.8 He resented also any gratuitous
advice on the part of his benefactors as to the better
husbanding of his income.9
In Venice, Aretino’s fame grew, and from Venice it spread to all
parts of the known world — to the courts of Charles and Francis,
to the semi-barbarous wilds of Germany, to India, to Barbarossa
on the seas, even to the Rio de la Plata. In France, he was
almost a household author, 10 and he seems early to have been
translated into German.
His fame showed in other ways. A race of ponies, named after one
of his nags — “which Pope Clement gave to me, and which I gave
to Duke Federigo” — bore the name, aretina. A certain variety of
crystal vase was called the aretino. His women — former
mistresses, near-wives, procuresses, housekeepers and
chambermaids — were known, collectively, as the aretine. The
street in which he lived, the lane that ran past his house, the
portion of the Grand Canal that washed his casa — all bore his
And Aretino, by no means neglected to advertise himself. He
would not have been the first of press agents, if he had done
so. He tells us, in his letters, that he had had his image
reproduced in every conceivable form, even on his mirrors and
comb-cases; and in addition, he boasted that it was to be seen
on “the facades of palaces.” He sent a head of himself to
Barbarossa, which drew the comment already quoted. His home was
all Aretino — “Aretino to the right, Aretino to the left,” De
Sanctis says. For Pietro had 28 discovered the rather important
fact that the world has been known to take a man at his own
valuation. He was, De Sanctis adds, a great man on his own
In such settings as these, he lived his life, because he was
“born to live this way.” The world might go hang, so long as it
did not forget that it owed him a living. To this end, he
proposed to see that it did not forget. He may have lived, as he
says, by the sweat of his ink, but the motive power (“il motore
del suo inchiostro“) was money. He, therefore, had to have
publicity. He was of a new commercial age, which is never slow
in learning that it pays to advertise.
Blackmail? The word12 is a harsh one — too harsh, it may be; yet
we find it used repeatedly in connection with Pietro. He seldom
made downright threats, though he often made specific demands,
and generally drove a shrewd and definite bargain. And princes
and the powerful paid him, for his favor or for his silence. He
often sold his “praises” (laudi) as a writer of today sells his
manuscripts. There was in him, De Sanctis observes, “a species
of mercantile morality.” He was the camorrista of literature.
There were times when he had pretty hard sledding, financially.
This was most of the time. His charities actually seem to have
kept him chronically “broke.” At one time, he even thought of
starting a lottery, and the Marquis of Mantua issued him a
patent for the purpose, but the scheme seems to have fallen
through. Falling out with the Marquis, he turns to Francis I.
and, for a while, seriously thinks of going to France. He
distrusted, however, the close watch which the French monarch
kept upon his purse strings. Had he gone, he probably would have
made it decidedly uncomfortable for the Italian princes,
including his old friend, Mantua.
It was at this time that Aretino conceived the idea of an epic
poem, La Marfisa, to be a continuation of the Orlando 29 Furioso
of Ariosto. Pietro proceeded to peddle his poem about, not, as a
poet today would do, for a publisher, but for a patron. The
prince that came across with sufficient money was to have the
pleasure of seeing his house celebrated in the Aretine epic. For
the printing of his poem, Aretino wanted a privilegio from the
Pope. To get it, he pulled all sorts of strings. Finally, the
Doge himself, Andrea Gritti, intervened in Pietro’s behalf. The
privilegio at last was granted, along with a collar from the
Aretino’s poem, though it was afterward printed and dedicated to
the Marchese del Vasto, is not the important thing. The
important thing is the fact that the Doge had seen fit to
interfere in his behalf. This definitely established Aretino’s
position in Venice. He had been, as it were, officially
recognized by the government.
Nevertheless, the circumstances surrounding the securing of a
patron for the Marfisa are interesting, illustrative as they are
of the Aretino tactics. After first proposing to dedicate his
immortal opus to Federigo Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua, Aretino
quarreled with him. We then find him making overtures to
Alessandro de’ Medici, proposing to sing the “genealogy of the
Medici, not without disdain for the house of Mantua.” But
Alessandro eludes him. So Aretino, at last, turned to the
pompous del Vasto, and the epic, which is far from remarkable,
was dedicated to him and published in Venice, in 1535.
Another point to be made, in connection with the Marfisa, is
that, through it, Aretino was reconciled with the Pope, with
whom he had been on none too friendly terms since his attempted
assassination by the papal favorite, Giberti; Aretino had dealt,
in his giudizii, none too gently with the sovereign pontiff. The
Medici, disliking to have so prominent a citizen on bad terms
with the see of Rome, had exerted their influence, and the
author of the Marfisa agreed to leave out all references which
might be offensive.
This probably marks the happiest period of Aretino’s 30 life,
the height of his worldly success. The rest of his career was to
be embittered by repeated betrayals on the part of his numerous
secretaries, by domestic troubles and by literary feuds. But at
this time, he could write:
“They say I am the son of a courtezan. It may be so, but I have
the heart of a king.”
Aretino seems to have been unfortunate or unwise in his choice
of secretaries. At any rate, he had nothing but trouble with
The question may be raised as to whether, or why, he needed a
secretary. He must have had good use for one, he who was, as the
Neapolitan Alessandro Andrea called him “il secretario del
mondo“ — the “secretary to the world.”13 His hand, too, it must
be remembered, had been hopelessly maimed the night that Giberti
stabbed him in the back. Moreover, he doubtless felt that his
position called for one; for Pietro always insisted on the place
which he had stolen for himself in the world being given all the
formalities and respect that were its due.
Every one of his young men, as Hutton remarks, appears to have
been “a scoundred and a traitor.” Possibly the first was Lorenzo
Veniero, who was, also, one of Aretino’s dearest friends.
Aretino, there is little doubt, was leading a very corrupt life
at this time. Just how corrupt, or what form his corruption
took, it might be difficult to say. A little later, there was to
be a nasty scandal, as a result of which Pietro was all but
driven out of his beloved haven, Venice. Unnatural vice figured
in this affair, which has been largely smoothed over by
historians. It was patched up some way, and Aretino contrived to
live it down. It is, likely, a fact that he was something of a
satyr in his habits. He would have been able to give John
Addington Symonds light on a certain problem 31 in Greek, as
well as in modern ethics. The Sonetti lussuriosi and the
Ragionamenti represent a very real, and for that reason a very
sincere, side of the man.
In any case, we know that Veniero fell very much — too much —
under his master’s influence. When it came to writing filth,
Aretino, as his British biographer says, was inimitable. He was,
in a manner, as inimitable as Rabelais, and any one who
endeavored to imitate him inevitably floundered. That was what
happened in the case of Veniero. He produced a work in verse
entitled La Puttana errante (The Wandering Whore), which has
been wrongly attributed to Aretino in the past. A close
inspection of its style reveals, to any student of Aretino, the
fact that it is not the latter’s. This work first appeared in
1530. It was dedicated to Aretino, who seems to have fathered
it, and the latter sent a copy to the Marquis of Mantua, who
smacked his chops over it. A quarrel over the authorship of the
thing followed, and Veniero’s reputation was shattered.
Aretino was scarcely out of this before he became involved in
another literary feud, in the course of which he was accused, as
were the Edinburgh Review and Blackwood’s Magazine in the case
of Keats, of having been the death of a young poet, Antonio
Broccardo. The fracas grew out of an attack which young
Broccardo had made on Monsignore, later to be Cardinal, Bembo,
one of the worst pedants of his day and a man designed by nature
to be Aretino’s butt, if not his enemy. However, Aretino, for
politic reasons, sided with Bembo in counter-attacking
Broddardo. After the latter’s death, Aretino characteristically
penned four sonnets praising his adversary. Later, on Bembo’s
death, he wrote sonnets praising the Cardinal.
Honors were coming to Pietro now. His home town, Arezzo, at last
had awakened to the fact that it had, at least from a worldly
point of view, a great son. It, accordingly, conferred upon
Aretino, the title of Salvator della patria (saviour of his
country). Then, in 1532, came Ariosto’s 32 Orlando Furioso, with
its historic reference to Aretino as “il divin” and “il Flagello
de’ Principi.” As we have seen, the title of “Scourge of
Princes” probably had been conferred on Aretino long before, not
unlikely by his soldier friend, Giovanni delle bande nere.
Ariosto merely immortalizes it. Three years later, Ariosto’s
comedy, the Negromante, is dedicated to Aretino by Lodovico
Dolce. All this was literary success with a vengeance. Pietro,
the great faker and, as it were, the scavenger of literature —
“il condottière della letteratura,” Titian called him — the
“street-car conductor of literature,” if we Americanize the
idiom — Pietro, the blackmailer and the paid panegyrist, had at
last won recognition, become respectable through his very vices!
Nevertheless, he had many enemies. This, of course, with a man
of Aretino’s temperament and his habits of the literary
abbattoir, was unavoidable. He would have been, one imagines,
lost and unhappy without them; he would have suspected himself.
At the same time, he had the faculty of making capital out of
the worst calumny. In 1532, for example, the Rialto was
placarded with the announcement that no bank or shop would trust
Non è banca
Non è botiga a farti credenza
and also with the report that he
“had no wood to warm himself at the fire:”
Chi non ha legna da
scaldarsi al focho.
He was always bankrupt, but that was part of his scheme of
things. His popularity with the great ones remained undiminished.
Luigi Gritti, natural son of the Doge of Venice and the latter’s
ambassador in Constantinople, writes urging Aretino to join him
to “make me happy with your charming conversation.” Florence,
too, tried to steal him from Venice. Alessandro de’ Medici twice
attempted to lure Pietro there, promising him the Strozzi Palace
if he would come.
When Paul III. (Alessandro Farnese) became Pope, he 33 was so
friendly that Aretino, for once, came near giving up his Venice
to return to the Holy City; but he was wise enough not to do so.
He had had enough of courts and their ways. For his reasons in
declining, see the letter on the subject which he wrote to
Monsignor Guidiccione.14 See, also, his sonnet: Sett’ anni
traditori ho via gettati,15 describing the “seven traitor years”
which he had “thrown away” in the papal service.
Then came the chain of gold from Francis. This was the
recognition in the world of affairs which Ariosto had conferred
in the world of letters. Aretino had become an institution.
Continuing his literary, or near-literary activity with
tremendous force, publishing comedies, religious works, his
obscene Ragionamenti, and keeping up all the time his
journalistic letters, Aretino led an amazingly full life and
displayed an astounding vitality. Honored by Ariosto and by
Francis, he drew to the end amid domestic troubles and more
Aretino never married within the law, he disdained the
institution of matrimony; but he had children by his mistresses
and adored his offspring. There was his daughter, Adria, whose
mother was Caterina Sandella, one of Titian’s blonde types and a
member of the harem at casa Aretina. Her father spends much time
in getting Adria properly married off to the worthluess young
Diovatelli Rota and levies a tax on his princely friends to
provide the dowry which her prospective husband demands. The
marriage was not a success. Adria, after twice returning to the
paternal roof, died in 1554. There was also Austria, likewise
the daughter of La Sandella, probably, and of whom Pietro was
almost — but not quite — as fond as he was of Adria. His
children, he maintained, were “legitimate in my heart.”
With Pierina Riccia, the abandoned wife of one of his
secretaries (Polo Bartolini), Aretino carried on a touching
affair, if affair it might be called. She was a consumptive, and
Aretino, like a mother, nursed her back to health, only to have
her abandon him for a younger lover. Four years later, she
returned, and he took her back. She again fell ill, and he
nursed her again. She died this time, and her memory colored the
remainder of Aretino’s life. Years later, he exclaimed: “I think
I died with her.”
Caterina and Pierina were the two chief women in his life, it
would seem, but he had numerous affairs and escapades.
Aretino frequently became mixed up with husbands. He had no
hesitancy in using them when he wanted their wives; and when a
husband grew annoyed at Pietro’s “Platonic” intentions, as did
Giovanni Antonio Sirena, he was capable, at once, of waxing
virtuously indignant and of strutting like a peacock.
“My pen has made Madame Angela Sirena immortal . . . Do you not
know that there is not a woman in the world who would not be
proud to be chastely sung and celebrated in my verses? A time
will come when this very letter that I send you and which I
deign to sign with my own hand will be a title of pride and
nobility for your son.”
And, needless to say, Aretino saw to it that the letter was
When one of his harem, Marietta d’Oro, wished to leave him,
Aretino married her off to his secretary, who at that time
happened to be Ambrogio degli Eusebii, aged 20. Then, having
solved, as the thought, that problem, Aretino sent young Eusebii
off on an embassy to Francis I. He even went part way with him
to be sure he left. While he was gone, Marietta looted his house
and sailed for Cyprus. Aretino was the laugh of the town, but it
is to be doubted if he greatly cared.
It was this same Eusebii who lost at play the six hundred scudi
which Francis I. had consigned to him for his master. The money
was lost in the house of Cardinal Gaddi, with whom Aretino was
on none too good terms, anyway; and this led to a row between
Pietro and the Cardinal. His Eminence, eventually, made good the
Later, Eusebii lost eight hundred crowns which he had received
in England, got two hundred of them back, then lost these (as he
wrote Aretino) in a shipwreck. The last we hear of him is from
the Rio de la Plata, whence he writes to say that he is
“preaching Aretino’s name” there.
Leonardo Parpaglioni, another secretary, robbed Aretino of two
hundred scudi while Nicolò Franco, still another amanuensis,
became his bitterest enemy and detractor. Franco, a pedant of
the pedants and a “parasite of letters,”16 in the controversy
that followed, asserted that he had “written” a good part of
Aretino’s work, and that his former master was “an ignorant
dunce.” The truth of the matter is, France was Pietro’s superior
in academic learning — which Aretino disdained — and probably
did furnish some of the material for the religious works. But
Aretino’s best work, as Hutton says, was done before Franco
appeared on the scene.
In 1538, Aretino published his first book of Letters, printed by
Marcolini. These letters, he tells us, had been collected
through “the Love of my young men for what I do.” Among these
“young men” must have been Franco. But in November of the same
year, we find Franco publishing his own book of letters (Pistole
vulgari) in fine format. This was too much. Aretino could not
stand a rival in his own house; so he turned Franco out. In
later editions of Aretino’s own letters, the name, Franco, has
entirely disappeared. But Franco’s enmity, as has been hinted,
was a potent one. It led, indirectly at least, to the calumnies
of the 36 pseudo-Berni Vita and the fostering of the Aretine
In the course of the Franco quarrel, Eusebii, who had succeeded
Franco as Aretino’s secretary, stabbed his predecessor in the
face, and Aretino supported him in court and even made him
parade up and down in front of the house where Franco was lying
wounded. The incident is typical.
When Franco fell ill. Aretino forgave him, but Franco, as soon
as he was well again, renewed his attacks. Aretino prophesied he
would die on the gallows, as he did. He was hanged by Pius V.
for publishing an obscene work, the Priapeia.
All this time, Aretino was playing politics on a big scale —
world politics. He must have a finger in every pie, no matter
how impressive the size. When Charles V. imprisons Clement VII.,
we find him writing to the Emperor urging him to liberate the
pontiff, and writing to the Holy Father, urging him to forgive
the Emperor. The nerve of the man is almost beyond belief. He
plays a hide-and-seek game with Francis, finally, chiefly on
account of the French monarch’s lack of generosity, lining up
against him with Charles. When Francis made an alliance with the
Turks, against Charles and the Empire, Aretino wrote him an
insulting letter which, as Hutton remarks, “reverberated
On the assassination of Alessandro de’ Medici, Duke of Florence,
in fulfilment of an apparent prophecy of Aretino’s, Cosimo, the
son of Giovanni delle bande nere, became Duke and Aretino’s new
A second attempt to assassinate Aretino occurred in 1539, in the
course of a quarrel between him and Ercole II., successor to
Federigo Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua. This trouble soon blew over,
Then came the fitting climax to Aretino’s picaresque career,
when, upon the visit of the Emperor Charles V. to 37 Venetian
territory, a personal, very warm and human meeting occurred
between the foremost prince of his age and the Scourge of
Princes. This meeting took place, in July, 1543, at Peschiera,
near Verona, where Charles, upon catching sight of Aretino,
spurred his horse toward him, saluted him with affection and
then rode along with Aretino at his right hand, conversing
amiably. Later, when the stage was set, Aretino read his
Capitolo and then went in to dine with His Majesty, again at the
royal right hand. Charles urged Pietro to accompany him, but the
latter declined, preferring to return to Venice.
What a triumph was here, for the legendary son of a prostitute,
the defrocked friar and vagabond of tradition, the author of the
Sonetti lussuriosi and the Prince of Blackmailers! Ariosto’s
flagellum principum and Francis’ chain of gold may have marked
the definite achievement of literary success, such as it was,
and of worldly triumph, but this meeting with Charles was,
veritably, Pietro Aretino’s Field of the Cloth of Gold.
If Aretino, at this time, was probably the most powerful man in
Italy, perhaps in the world, the reason is to be found in the
new force which he had discovered, that force which we today
would call “the power of the press.” Aretino himself regarded it
as the power of his pen. He himself did not realize the right
Promethean fire with which he was playing. All he knew was that
he had a tremendous instrument in his hands, and he employed it
quite as unscrupulously as it, consistently, has been employed
since his time. he was capable — see his Letters — of being
quite as hypocritical as the press of today.
We have seen, largely, who his worldly friends were — kings and
emperors, dukes and doges, popes and prelates — and there would
be little point in repeating their names here. A glance at the
names of those to whom his letters are addressed is indicative.
As to his literary friends, Hutton 38 lists: Ariosto; Bembo;
Machiavelli; Guicciardini; Vittoria Colonna, she for whom
Michelangelo platonically pined away; Annibal Caro; Monsignore
della Casa; Bernardo Tasso; Benedetto Varchi; Trissino; Speroni;
Molza; Agnuolo Firenzuola; Paolo Manuzio; Alamanni; Bernardo
Accolti; Guidiccione; Benedetto Marcello; Paolo Giovio; Lorenzo
Veniero; Girolamo Parabasco; Bernardo Clesio, Cardinal of tent:
and Veronica Gambara. It is the authors’ blue book of an age.
Many of these ostensible friendships, when not inspired by fear,
were due, it is probable, to policy; but a surprising number of
them were deep-rooted and sincere. As to just how much illusion
the writers of the time harbored with regard to the work of
Pietro, one cannot say. It is hard to get a perspective on one’s
As to Aretino’s friendships among artists, they included: Titian;
Sansovino; Giovanni da Udine; Sodoma; Leone Leoni; Moretto;
Tintoretto; Vasari; Sebastiano del Piombo; Luigi Anichi and
Marcantonio Raimondi, engravers; Giulio Romano; Raphael; and
Michelangelo. A good account of Aretino’s relations with
Michelangelo will be found in Merejkowski’s work. He met Raphael
in Rome, at the house of his early patron, Chigi. “It is a part
of the fame of Aretino,” says Hutton, “that such men as
Michelangelo were his friends.” We see, however, in
Michelangelo’s case, that the nature of the “friendship” was,
upon occasion, somewhat dubious. His very real friendship with
Titian — who was, in all likelihood, as fleshly in his appetites
as the blonde women he painted, or as Aretino himself — was the
noblest side of the great Scourge’s life.
Pietro’s last years were of a piece with the rest of his weird
life. He was crowned by academies. His second book of Letters,
published in 1542, was dedicated to Henry VIII. of England, who
gave the author, in return, a promise — it proved to be no more
than a promise — of a reward of three 39 hundred crowns. Aretino
was led to accuse the British ambassador of having stolen the
money, and this brought on one of the scenes of his old age,
when the ambassador, accompanied by six armed men, waylaid
Aretino, then an old man, and beat him. Aretino then had to
suffer the reproaches of his numerous enemies for not avenging
himself. But the general feeling was with Aretino. The shading
which De Sanctis, for example, gives this affair is misleading.
In 1550, Aretino’s native village rises up to honor him again,
this time with the high-sounding title of gonfaloniere.17 In
payment for a sonnet praising Pope Julius III. he receives one
thousand scudi, and in June of 1550, the pontiff creates him a
cavalier of St. Peter, with — what was more to Aretino’s taste,
for he always preferred cash to empty honors — a pension of
eighty scudi a year.
It was then that there came talk of the cardinal’s hat. Titian
interested himself in the matter with Charles V., who looked
favorably upon the idea. But there was a hitch somewhere; the
hat was not offered. The question is, if it had been, would
Aretino have left Venice, his “rock of safety,” to return to
Though he was not made a cardinal, the Pope did invite him to
come to Rome as his guest, telling him it would be a second
jubilee, and that all the world would flock to see him. Drawn,
possibly, by a lingering hope of the red hat, Aretino journeyed,
old as he was, to the city of the seven hills and was splendidly
received. They endeavored to persuade him to remain there, but
He returned to die in his loved Venice, not in the famous casa
Aretina, where he had spent so many colorful years18 — he had
been forced to give that up in 1551 — but in his new home, the
house of Leonardo Dandolo in the parish of San Luca on the Riva
In 1556, one of his oldest friends, Doni, the writer, turned 40
on him and attacked him, prophesying his death. Aretino died
It is with the extremities of his career, his birth and death,
that the detractors and vilifiers of Aretino seem to have done
their worst. It is at these points that Legend steps in to add
its touch of mendacious picturesqueness. We have seen Pietro,
according to the Legend, born the son of a prostitute, robbing
his mother at the age of thirteen, kicked out of Rome for his
Sonnets, becoming a Capuchin, etc. And now, with his death —
He died, the prevailing account tells us, by falling over
backward from his chair in a fit of laughter — ribald laugher,
the followers of the Vita add. Look up Aretino in the
Encyclopedia Britannica, and you will find this account repeated
there, that he died in a fit of laughter at an obscene story
told him by one of his own sisters. Camerini19 tells us that
Aretino’s sisters20 (he makes it plural) were narrating to him
the experiments in lust which they had made in a bordello of
Arezzo — “experiments,” he says, “Of which Giulio Romano had not
dreamed in those designs of which Aretino illustrated with his
pen and Marco Aurelio21 Raimondi with his burin.”
It is Camerini, also, who gives the story of the holy oils.
It is, from a literary point of view, all very satisfying,
especially when rounded out by the cosmic insolence of that
ascribed epitaph, which, in its Latin version, reads:
Intactus Deus est illi, causamque rogatus
Hanc dedit. Ille, inquit, non mihi notus erat.
The “non mihi notus erat” is superb but, in all probability,
The facts seem to be that Aretino did die by falling backward
from his chair. His death was due to apoplexy. Il divino 41 had
become, in the words of Cosimo de’ Medici, il mortal Pietro
Aretino. No sooner was he dead than he became a name that was
not mentioned in the presence of a lady.22
This, then, was the end of Pietro Aretino, the first modern
journalist, perhaps the greatest blackmailer in all history, the
first truly modern exponent of the “poison pen,” to lift one of
the pet phrases of our own brethren of the yellow press. There
is a constant temptation, in the case of Aretino, to pile up
names and adjectives; he lends himself to it so readily. But
when the adjectives and the picturesque and picaresque titles
have been sifted, what remains?
Edward Hutton calls him “the founder of the European press” and
adds that he “used the hitherto unsuspected weapon of publicity
with an incomparable appreciation of its power.” For “European
press,” one might read “modern press.”
“And if we add to this,” continues the Englishman, in the
introduction to his biography, “that he contrived a weapon for
his own ends which has in our day come to be more powerful than
any established government or elected parliament or hereditary
monarchy — publicity, the press — there is more than sufficient
excuse for this book. . . . Aretino’s virtues . . . are always
those of a journalist, never those of a man of letters. His
strength is in his spontaneity, his ability to write what is in
his head almost without a second thought.”
And, it may here be parenthesized, is not this the prime virtue
of the modern newspaper man — his spontaneity? Your present-day
reporter also writes “what is in his head, almost without a
second thought;” and if he does not happen, usually, to have a
head, it is that which accounts for the poor quality of our
contemporary journalism. Aretino, who, in his more pompous
letters, is the prototype of the 42 twentieth-century editorial-writer,
in his giudizii and his Pasquinades is, frequently, the
antecedent of the rewrite-man; while in his Ragionamenti, he is
the Ring Lardner, risen out of the local room.
Yes, Aretino was the first of the tribe of “yellow” journalists.
He told the truth, not lies — “per finger no, ma per predire il
vero,”23 he assures us in one of his sonnets — and he strutted
all over the shop about it; but so, too, does Mr. Hearst.
Something, it is to be presumed, may depend on the manner in
which the truth is told, and the act of telling it may readily
become the worst form of blackmail. In any event, the man who
goes in for it makes the discovery of a certain power; he makes
powerful friends and powerful enemies; and this is what Aretino
did. If the latter were living today, there is not much doubt
that he would be one of our “Napoleans of the Press.”
It is interesting to note that modern journalism grew out of the
Renaissance, in the person of Pietro Aretino, the greatest of
the Renaissance decadents. Aretino revolutionized the character
of two of the nearest approaches to the thing that the Revival
of Learning had sported: the Pasquinade and the giudizio.
Pasquin was a fifteenth-century schoolmaster. Like many
schoolmasters, he had a scurrilous tongue. The Pasquinade,
therefore, retains the qualities of its nominal founder:
scholasticism and scurrility.
“Pasquin, indeed,” says Hutton, “is of the modern world and is a
sign of the return of free satire, anonymous and violent and
often as vulgar and salacious as anything in antiquity. He is
not really of the people: he is the creation of the learned, of
scholars and men of letters. He is part of the Renaissance, and,
in the age of Aretino, was bound to be abused. But he was
already famous before Aretino transformed 43 him for his own
purposes during the election of Pope Adrian VI.”
The Pasquinades were originally attached to the statue of
Pasquino, but they seem very early to have been distributed in
the form of fly-sheets, in the manner of the istorie or “extras”
which are cried in the first act of La Cortigiana. The first
Pasquinades were extremely pedantic; they were of the scholars,
not of the people. Aretino transformed these exercises and made
them popular, for his own purpose, which at the time happened to
be the advancement of Cardinal de’ Medici’s claim to the papal
throne. Aretino turned out his Pasquinades, furiously and daily.
The fact that he “lost the election” mattered little; he had
made himself famous — and infamous. It was at this time that
amazement was expressed at the college of cardinals’ not being
able to silence him. It was the old order against the new; the
latter had shown its teeth and won, even in the temporary
victory of the old.
And when, later, the Doge of Venice interfered to make peace
between Aretino and the Pope, it was but another sign that the
press had been recognized and had to be tolerated, whether the
powers that be liked it, altogether, or not. A new social entity
had been discovered, public opinion, the new tyrant of the new
democracies. The same might be said of Francis I.’s chain of
gold; kings as well as doges bowed.
Aretino revolutionized the giudizio, as well as the Pasquinade.
The former, before his time, had been an Old Moore’s Almanac.
Pietro cut out the astrology and the weather and, as the modern
journalist would say, “played up the news,” putting in, often,
even a little more “punch” than would get by the average copy
desk of today. The giudizzi had at first appeared once a year,
but who ever heard of a once-a-year newspaper? Aretino issued
one whenever he felt the need of self-expression or money,
particularly the latter.
Indeed, Aretino’s writings as a whole constitute a sort of daily
journal of his times. Their quality, with the exception of the
Ragionamenti and his plays, is essentially ephemeral. It is
because their author so sums up his age, the chromatic
cinquecento, that they are worth preserving and worth reading.
Aretino is not only the first modern journalist, he is the first
modern critic of painting.
Like Baudelaire, whom Courbet taught to mix a palette, Pietro,
it is likely, studied painting in his youth, and like Baudelaire,
he retained a keen interest in the art all his life, while his
dearest and closest friendships lay among painters. We know, at
any rate, that he was lampooned by his enemies as having been
formerly a painter;24 but if it was the fact that he had been,
there was in it nothing strange. Many a writer has walked
through the studio, returned to it and remained to chat.
Aretino’s chattings (“ciancie,” he would have called them) are
our first modern art criticism.
Speaking of this, Eugenio Camerini says:
“The truth is, Aretino, in his writings, displays sometimes the
desire to compete with the rich palette of his painter friends.
His familiarity with Titian and his affection for the art helped
him sufficiently. Certainly, the best colorists among French
writers of today have served their apprenticeship to art, either
as students or as admirers. Dante drew. Aretino was fond of
decoration and color-harmony, both in his habits of thought and
in his person; dissonance appeared only in his actions.”
The italics here are the present writer’s own; they are employed
to stress what impresses him as being an important point in any
“psyching” which may be attempted of Pietro.
The fact would seem to be, Aretino had a natural inclination 45
toward the art of painting, which was piqued by association.
When a man is found consorting with painters or writers, barbers
or plumbers, as a class, it generally means that he has some
predilection for one pursuit or the other. In Rome, we find
Aretino, with Raimondi and Giulio Romano, getting into a scrape
over the artists’ designs and Pietro’s Sonnets. When he goes to
Venice, his friend, Sansovino, makes him acquainted with Titian,
and the three set up their “triumvirate.” The triple friendship,
so far as we are able to judge, was a very genuine one on all
sides. It is easy to point out that Aretino was useful to both
Titian and Sansovino in the capacity of press agent. In a way,
he was their press agent. He introduced Titian to Charles V. and
put himself out of the way to procure commissions for his
painter friend. We have seen that he was accused of taking a
“rake-off” on these orders. But there was, in this three-sided
friendship, something far deeper than this. Any one who doubts
it has but to read Aretino’s letters to Titian. They are, by far,
the sincerest he ever penned. In these, he is human, not pompous,
and at least one of them, the one describing the view from his
window in Venice, has a true plastic quality.25
In these letters, too, we glimpse a total absence of “side”
between the men. Titian, like the women he painted, had a good,
lusty appetite for life that almost rivaled Aretino’s own. We
see him as a chap who liked a good bottle of wine, and pretty
girl and a well-cooked thrush.26 Highest compliment of all,
Titian often painted in the casa Aretina, the walls of which he
decorated with his brush. And Aretino sought the painter’s
opinion on everything from the character of his daughter Adria’s
face to the color qualities of a landscape. He took a keen
interest in his friend’s work, and his description of the “Annunciation,”
now lost to us, is a bit of verbal coloring in the master’s own
No, there would seem to be some deeper explanation of this
triumvirate than mere utility.
“We may, perhaps ask,” writes Hutton, “what can have been the
attraction of such a man as Aretino for the noble Titian? This
certainly: that Aretino, who respected nothing else, respected
the arts. But to ask such a question is to misunderstand not
only Aretino, but still more Titian himself. A thousand things
bound them together. . . . for Aretino was undoubtedly one of
the most living and the most rich personalities of his day: he
could give Titian as much as he took from him . . . he knew
everything about everybody, he enjoyed enormously everything
about everybody. His intellect, too, was of a high order, he
understood everything and perhaps everybody. In a sense he must
have completed Titian . . . He must not only have completed, but
have amused Titian. Titian painted him, and he certainly never
had a more splendid or a richer subject. He painted him over and
over again: in the portrait now in the Pitti Palace, then in
that one in the Chigi Palace at Rome. He appears, too, as Pilate
in the Ecce Homo, now in Vienna. They enjoyed life together
intellectually, socially, and sensually.”
Pietro sat as a model to other painters, including Sebastiano
del Piombo. Of the latter’s portrait of the Scourge, Vasari, in
his Vita di Sebastiano, gives us the following description:
“He made a portrait also, at this time, of M. Pietro Aretino,
and he did it in such a manner that, beyond obtaining a likeness,
he achieved a stupendous bit of painting, through the five or
six different shades of black which he obtained in the subject’s
clothes: velvet, satin, sarcanet, damask and cloth, while over
it all trailed the blackest of black beards, as living and life-like
as possible. In his hand, he (Aretino) has, in this portrait, a
branch of laurel and a tablet, on which is inscribed the name of
Clement VII., with, in front of this, two masks, the one
beautiful for its expression of virtue, the other for its
appearance of vice. This painting 47 Pietro gave to his native
province, and his fellow citizens have placed it in the public
hall of their Consiglio, thus honoring the memory of the genius
who is their townsman and receiving no less honor from him.”
Aretino had a real flair for painting criticism. In his
criticism, he is a pure realist, of the school of Titian. He has
no suspicion that painting may have any other end. He would not
have appreciated the Byzantines or other primitives. But in this,
he was true to his age. It is only within the last century that
something beyond realism has come into painting.
We should be grateful for one thing, and that is, that he was
not a moralist in his criticism. De Sanctis finds fault with him
on this score, but De Sanctis is wrong. There is no reason why
the sight of a beautiful landscape should awake “any moral
impression or any elevation of soul.” Aretino was not a nature-worshiper
or a theorist of any sort. He was a pure sensualist in his
reactions, and this it was that would have made him an excellent
critic of the art of painting at any time from his own century
to, let us say, the advent of Manet.
What, finally, is the literary significance, the literary
importance of Pietro Aretino? This question has been answered,
to a degree, at the outset of this paper; the answer is the
justification of the present translation of Aretino’s
representative works. But a few details remain to be sketched
In the first place, Pietro had few if any illusions with regard
to his own literary quality. Just as he made capital of his lack
of academic knowledge by turning on the pedants, so he sometimes
bragged about the manner in which he “got by,” as we would say,
in a literary way. In his sonnet, Togli il lauro, he tells us,
quite frankly, “Non son poeta” — “I am not a poet” — and boasts
that, while “neither a poet nor 48 an emperor,” he yet has
filched the laurels from Homer’s and from Caesar’s brow. In this
sonnet also he asserts that his style has been his star, and
that his reputation is due, not to fictionizing (per finger no)
but to speaking the truth. We know that, while with unwise
worldlings, he sometimes passed as a “learned man,” he himself
had no such illusions; and we know, too, that he had a vast and
slightly overweening respect for writers and men of letter;
these latter were the only ones towards whom he seems to have
cherished a salutary fear; a mere prince of the earth might be
cast down by the thunder of the famed Aretino pen, but a minor
pedant, through the employment of a similar weapon, might work
What was this “Aretino style?” Aretino himself tells us that the
phrase was coined through “the hairsplittings of pedants,” but
he nourished the legend. Speaking of Aretino’s style, Hutton is
worth quoting once more:
“Aretino’s page is full of life, hard to read, spontaneous and
yet packed tight, worked upon and forged, full of queer
instances and odd comparisons, glittering with wit and every
sort of comic exaggeration. Such work does not exist outside his
pages. His successor was Rabelais; but also Molière. He has the
robust joy of the one, but something of the intellectual charm
of the other.”
On the whole, Hutton finds him “the most significant and
certainly the nearest to life of any Italian writer of his day.”
Aretino’s greatest contribution lies in the breath of realism
which, in his revolt against pedantry and academicism, he
brought to literature. As his British biographer remarks, his
work has “the smell of the city” and “the odour of life.” It has
all the futile turmoil, all the grandiloquent and sterile
gestures of the metropolis.
But Aretino was not always, by any means, the realist and the
modernist. As a matter of fact, by far the greater bulk of his
prose work, if we take his pompously inflated letters 49 (many
of them)27 and his turgidly pietistic religious writings over
against his Ragionamenti and his plays, is of the old, rather
than of the newer school.
Among the severer of Aretino’s critics were the Frenchmen, Bayle
and Montaigne. The former wrote:
“This man who is so satiric a poet, is prodigal of his praises
to the last degree. We find the most pompous hyperboles and the
most rampant flatteries in those letters which he wrote to kings
and princes, to the generals of armies, to cardinals and to the
other great ones of the world. To such an extent is this true
that one sees in him the airs of an amateur, who is endeavoring
to make himself feared or to extort favors, and all the baseness
of an author who is demanding, very humbly, a morsel of bread.
He draws upon the most touching expressions to depict his
poverty; and he resorts even to the language of Canaan — makes
use of devout phrases, that is — the better to excite compassion
and to move to charity those persons who look to God for the
recompense of their good works.”
Bayle then goes on to speak of the letters.
“We have,” he says, “six volumes of the letters, which are not
worth a great deal (qui ne valent pas grand’ chose) . . . It is
a dry work, and one very like an unfurnished house in a waste
and sandy place.”
Mènage also has something to say on the subject.
“I have read,” he says, “all the letters of Pietro Aretino,
without finding in them anything which I was able to make use of
in any of my books. There is nothing but the style to be had
from their reading.
While Mènage praises the style, Montaigne condemns it as: “A
fashion of speaking that is puffed and gushy, made up of
ingenious points, in truth, but far-fetched and fantastic.” 50
The author of the Essays, nevertheless, concedes Aretino a
Commenting on such passages as these, Camerini makes what
impresses one as being a very good criticism of Aretino’s
“Bayle and Montaigne,” he says, “were not able to savor
Aretino’s style, for the reason that the one was not looking for
and the other did not grasp that species of erudition which is
to be found in Aretino’s writings: an erudition based, not upon
ancient standards or solemn facts, but upon a feeling for life,
the same erudition that Macaulay was to transform into a
splendid picture of the life of nations.”
And this, finally, is Aretino’s contribution: that, breaking the
chains of a tradition that had become slavery, he as the first
to declare war on the tribe of pedants, whom, like the poor, we
have always with us. The fact that his revolt was motivated by
purely selfish reasons means, simply, that it was a vital matter
And yet, Aretino’s direct influence, even upon his own
literature, has been surprisingly small. He may have had “the
root of all good literature in him, in his freedom from pedantry
and closeness to life,”28 but it was slow in telling. His
influence was greater in France than in Italy. It is generally
conceded that Rabelais owes him a distinct debt, as does Molière,
particularly in his Tartuffe. We do not know just how direct
Shakespeare’s indirect debt was, but Aretino’s Marescalco would
appear to have been the antecedent of Malvolio, though it cannot
compare with the Elizabethan character in full-flavored richness.
But the Venice of Pietro was the Venice of Shakespeare’s early
plays, from whatever source the English poet got them.
Otherwise, Aretino’s influence in English has been almost
entirely negligible. Sir Thomas Wyatt, in his Penitential 51
Psalms, owes Aretino something; the early part of Sir Thomas’
work was translated, and the latter part imitated, from the
Italian writer’s Sette Psalmi. One agrees with Hutton, however,
that Sir Thomas is “very dull stuff.”
“We also find Thomas Nash referred to by Lodge as “the true
English Aretino.” This seems to have been due, chiefly, to the
fact that Nash, like Aretino, employed the vernacular for comic
effect and was given to the coining of “boisterous” words from
other languages. Aside from this, there is not much in common
between the two.
“Here, it may be remarked that Shakespeare also shares these
same qualities with Aretino, and it was only a few years later
that he was to perform his own experiments in the use of the
vernacular (also for “comic relief”).
“References to Aretino in the sixteenth century are fairly
numerous. Hutton cites a number from Gabriel Harvey’s Marginalia,
published under the editorship of G. C. Moore Smith at the
Shakespeare Head Press, Stratford-upon-Avon, in 1913.
As to translation, Aretino, as stated, has been practically
untouched in English. Hutton says that the only translation into
English of any of his works was The Crafty Whore, published in
London in 1658 and taken partly from the Ragionamenti. This is
not precisely correct.29 There is a translation of the
Dialogues, made by I do not know whom, that is sold by the
“bookleggers” at an exorbitant price. There is also a very lewd
rendering of the Sonetti lussuriosi, by “an English poet,”
rumored to be from the pen of Oscar Wilde, but which, those who
have read it assure me, Oscar undoubtedly never saw. At the time
I write this, I have not been able to get hold of either of
these translations. That of the Dialogues is, probably, the 6-volume
one published by Isodore Liseux in 1889.30
There would seem, then, to be room for a translation of at least
the representative works, not for the smut-hounds, whose
exclusive property Aretino has been in the past, but for the
general cultivated reader, as well as for scholars whose working
language happens to be English.
Aretino’s ultimate importance lies, not so much in what he wrote
as in what he was, what he stood for. With Ariosto, Titian and
Machiavelli, he is the cinquecento. But the others, even Cellini,
invoked the past; Aretino insulted it — insulted it, wholesomely.
His archetypal enemy is Luther, from whose half-baked pedantry
has sprung the unlovely phenomenon of Protestantism, which
achieves a horrible culmination in the barren and ugly little
frame meeting house of the American prairies. Luther appealed to
the individual conscience and, and by so doing, set up a new
tyranny, the tyranny of the illiterate. Aretino appealed only to
— Pietro Aretino and his will; but in the course of the process,
he set in motion the tyranny of the modern press.
Hutton calls Aretino “the negation of the Renaissance.” He was,
if we take “Renaissance” in its narrower sense, that of the
Revival of Classical Learning; but this, as any undergraduate
student of history knows, was not the whole Renaissance; it was
merely one side of the Renascence. Let us say that Aretino was,
rather, the Renaissance on its last legs, the Renaissance gone
to seed. He represents the well known phenomenon of decadence.
There is no need to get out our Paul Bourget and our Havelock
Ellis to tell us this. What a glorious red rag he would have
been to that Philistine bull, Max Nordau!
The trouble is, the word decadence is too frequently garbled to
imply something naughty, like the Fleurs du mal. 53 Suppose we
take it for once, in its true technical sense,31 as a process of
breaking up and breaking down — as an expansion, a pushing out
and back of the limits of language, life and thought. In this
process, the old becomes a manure-heap to fertilize the growth
of the new. But from this rich and decomposing earth there
sometimes spring strange, poisonous flowers, like the mandragora.
Of such was Pietro Aretino, the nightshade of the sixteenth
1 See the quotation from this letter in De Sanctis’ essay.
2 See Miscellaneous Sonnets, III.
3 Ibid., IV.
4 This was “the house of Domenico Bolani, halfway between the Ca
d’Oro and the Rialto bridge opposite the Rialto in the best part
of the Grand Canal.” (Hutton, op cit.)
5 See Appendix III.
6 See Appendix I.
7 See the quotation from this letter in De Sanctis.
8 See De Sanctis’ note to his essay.
9 See Appendix I.
10 See ibid.
11 See De Sanctis; also Camerini, Appendix I.
12 Ricatto, in Italian. See Appendix II.
13 See Appendix I.
14 See, in Vol II., Letters, XV.
15 Miscellaneous Sonnets, II.
16 Hutton’s phrase.
18 About twenty, in all.
19 See Appendix I.
20 Apparent family relationships in Aretino’s case are almost
always to be distrusted.
22 See De Sanctis’ shudders.
23 See Miscellaneous Sonnets, IV.
24 “ . . . Non havessi lassato il tuo pennello,
Se pyntor fustu un tempo, come io odo.”
(Quoted by A. Luzio, Pietr Aretino nei primi suoi anni a Venezia.
See Bibliography, Appendix IV.
25 See De Sanctis’ essays.
26 See Letters, XI.
27 On the other hand, compare his letters to his real cronies,
such as the one to Girolamo Agnelli, thanking him for his gift
of wine (Letters, VII.) or the one to the Count Manfredo di
Collalto, acknowledging a gift of thrushes (Letters, XI.)
28 Hutton, op cit., p. 264.
29 The author catches himself up in a footnote, with a reference
30 I have, since, confirmed this.
31 See Bourget’s paper on Baudelaire in Essais sur la
psychologie contemporaine. The passage will be found translated
by Havelock Ellis in the latter’s introduction to John Howard’s
English version of Huysmans’ A Rebours (Lieber and Lewis, 1922).
32 Alfred Semerau (Pietro Aretino, Ein Bild aus der Renaissance,
Verlag Karl Konig, Wien und Leipzig) objects to Pietro’s being
termed “den Caesar Borgia der Literature.’