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(Editions of 1645 and 1673.)
This is a poem of remarkable interest, addressed to the most distinguished, in some respects, of all the Italians with whom Milton became personally acquainted during his Italian journey, viz. the Neapolitan, Giovanni Battista Manso, Marquis of Villa, and Lord of Bisaccio and Panca.
Manso was born in 1561, three years before Shakespeare; and his long life had been spent chiefly in such occupations as the political condition of Naples and Southern Italy, then subject to the Spaniards and governed by Viceroys from Madrid, permitted to a wealthy and high-minded native of those parts. The cultivation of philosophy, art, and poetry for himself, and the encouragement of these pursuits in others, and of a life of at least pleasant sociability where political independence was denied, had been his business and delight. He was not unknown as an author. In 1608 there had been published at Milan, under the title of Paradossi, ovvero dell' Amore Dialoghi, some philosophical dialogues of his on Love; another set of his dialogues, of a similar nature, called L'Erocallia, had been published at Venice in 1619, and republished at Milan in 1628; and at Venice in 1635 there had appeared a collection of his juvenile poems, chiefly Sonnets and Canzoni, entitled Poesie Nomiche, divise in Rime amorose, sacre e morali. But it was less as an author than as a friend and patron of authors that Manso was loved and honoured. His life had been identified with the history of Italian Literature for half a century. No Italian of note during that period but Manso had known; few but had known and been indebted to Manso. Above all, he had been the friend, the bosom friend, of the two greatest poets of Italy in his generation, Tasso and Marini.———————Tasso, in the strange madness that came over him in his manhood, clouding his beautiful mind, but leaving it still capable of the noblest poetry, had been led, in his wanderings over Italy, to Manso's door at Naples (1588). Manso, then in his twenty-eighth year, while Tasso was in his forty-fifth, had received the illustrious unfortunate, had kept him in his splendid villa at Naples and in
his country-house at Bisaccio, had tended him in his fits of gloom, and soothed him in those moments when the frenzy was at its strongest, and the air around him was full of visions and voices, and he would call on Manso to look and listen. Thus had grown up a friendship which lasted with Tasso's life. Twice again he had been Manso's guest; it was in Manso's house, in one of these visits, that he completed his Gerusalemme Conquistata, in one of the books of which he introduces Manso's name; in his Dialogue on Friendship Manso is one of the speakers, and it is dedicated to Manso and entitled Il Manso; and there are other recognitions of their intimacy in sonnets of Tasso addressed to Manso. Tasso's death-bed in Rome (1595) he spoke of Manso; a picture of Tasso which Manso had painted was bequeathed back to him; and it was Manso that, some years afterwards, caused the well-known inscription "Torquati Tassi Ossa" to be cut on Tasso's tomb. In 1619 there had been published at Naples a Life of Tasso, without Manso's name, but known to be his, and containing an affectionate collection of personal details respecting the poet. It was a popular book in Italy, and had been several times reprinted. Hardly less intimate than Manso's friendship with his illustrious senior, Tasso, had been his friendship with his junior, Marini (born 1569), Tasso's most celebrated successor in Poetry, though a corruption of Italian taste in Poetry is traced now to his sweet and sensuous genius. Marini, a Neapolitan by birth, but, like Tasso, much of a wanderer, had also been a frequent guest at Manso's villa, had been protected by him, and served in many ways; and, when Marini died, in 1625, two years after the publication of his Adone, the charge of his burial and of erecting his monument was left to Manso. It was understood that Manso was preparing a biography of Marini similar to that he had written of Tasso.And now, with all these recollections of the past circling round him, the Marquis Manso, verging on eighty years of age, was living on at Naples, the most venerable man in the city, and indeed, since the death of Molino of Venice and that of Strozzi at Rome, the one conspicuous private patron of Art and Literature in all Italy. In the society of Naples he was supreme. He had founded there a club or academy, called the Oziosi ("The Idlers"), of which he was president, and the meetVOL. II.
ings of which were held in his house; and there was another institution of his foundation, called the College Dei Nobili, the purpose of which was the education of the young Neapolitan nobles in manly arts and exercises. In the meetings of these institutions the old nobleman would be gay as the youngest present, joining even in their frolics. A certain high moral chivalry, however, for which he had been known from his youth, regulated his behaviour, and gave a dignity even to his humours in company. Also he was punctiliously scrupulous in matters of religion, and a most pious and orthodox son of the Church.
Milton's introduction to Manso, as he tells us himself (Defensio Secunda), was through a certain Eremite Friar, who was his companion in his journey from Rome to Naples in November 1638. The Marquis appears to have taken a great liking to the young Englishman, and to have been particularly gracious to him. "As long as I staid at Naples," says Milton, “I found him "truly most friendly to me, he himself acting as my guide
through the different parts of the city and the palace of the "Viceroy, and coming himself more than once to my inn to visit "me; and at my going away he seriously excused himself to me "in that, though he wished extremely to have shown me much 'greater attention, he had not been able to do so in that city, "because I would not be more close in the matter of Religion." In the two Latin lines of compliment given by Manso to Milton, and included by Milton among the Testimonies prefixed to his Latin Poems, there is a hint at this Protestantism of Milton as the only fault he had in the old man's eyes. "Were but your "creed like your mind, form, grace, face, and morals, then you "would be not Anglic only, but, in faith, Angelic," says the old man, reviving in Milton's favour the play upon the words Anglus and Angelus attributed in the legend to Pope Gregory when he beheld the English youths in the Roman slave-market and grieved that such comely youths should be Pagans. But Milton carried away with him another token of Manso's regard. He describes distinctly in his Epitaphium Damonis (lines 181—197) two cups which Manso had given him, as a keepsake, carved round or painted by Manso himself with two designs, the one of an oriental subject, the other of a subject from classic mythology.
In return for Manso's distich and his cups, or possibly before receiving them, and in mere acknowledgment of Manso's great courtesy generally, Milton, before leaving Naples (Jan. 1638-9), sent to Manso the hundred hexameter lines now under notice. They are a very graceful acknowledgment indeed. Manso's venerable age and character, his long celebrity in the Literature of Italy, and the special interest attaching to him as the friend and biographer of Tasso, and the friend and patron of Marini to the last, are all touched on with feeling and with good taste; there is the due expression of gratitude to Manso for his kindness to an unknown stranger from the far-off and foggy island; and there is one passage, of information and compliment finely blended, which may have told Manso more about the stranger than he already knew, and roused his curiosity. It is the passage beginning "O mihi si mea sors at line 78. "O were I to have such a friend to me in my intended career of Poetry as Manso was to Tasso and Marini!" is the drift of the passage; which contains, moreover, the first published hint by Milton of his contemplated Arthurian Epic, or poem from British legendary History. The passage is worth reading, not only on this account, but also for its pathos and eloquence. Manso must have admired it, and may have thought of the young Englishman sometimes through the next few years, and wondered what he was doing in his native land. Much news of Milton, however, in Poetry at least, can hardly have reached Manso before his death. He died at Naples, at the age of eighty-four, in 1645, the very year when Milton's first edition of his Poems was published.
(Editions of 1645 and 1673.)
In the Introductions to the Elegia Prima and the Elegia Sexta, the story of Milton's friendship with the half-Italian youth Charles Diodati has been brought down to the end of the year 1629. Since then there had been no interruption of the friendship, but rather a strengthening of it by new ties as the two friends grew older. Two Latin letters of Milton to Diodati, both written in September 1637, and now printed among Milton's Epistolæ
Familiares, are the best information we have as to the mutual position of the two friends at that date, when Milton was in his thirtieth year and Diodati had just passed that age.
Diodati, it appears from those letters, had finished his medical education, and was in practice somewhere in the north of England; near Chester, it has been supposed, but that is only a guess from the fact that he had been in that neighbourhood in 1626, the date of the Elegia Prima. Milton, on the other hand, was mainly at Horton, but sometimes in London; whence, indeed, his two letters are written. They are full of gossip and affection. "How is it with you, pray?" asks Milton in the first, dated Sept. 2. "Are you in good health? Are there in those
parts any learned folks or so with whom you can willingly "associate and chat, as we were wont together? When do you "return? How long do you intend to dwell among those hyper"boreans?" Again, in the second, dated Sept. 23, Diodati having replied in the meanwhile, and there having been the usual excuses on both sides for laziness in letter-writing: "I would not "that true friendship turned on balances of letters and salutations, "all which may be false; but that it should depend on both sides
on the deep roots of the mind and sustain itself there, and that, "once begun on sincere and sacred grounds, it should, though "mutual good offices should cease, yet be free from suspicion " and blame through the whole of life-for the fostering of which "friendship there is not need so much of writing as of a loving "recollection of virtues on the one side and on the other. Nor
even now, should you not have written, would there be a lack “of means for supplying that good office. Your probity writes "with me in your stead and indites true letters on my inmost "heart; your blamelessness of morals writes to me, and your love "of the good; your genius also, by no means a common one, "writes to me, and commends you to me more and more. "Know that it is impossible for me not to love men like you." There is added some talk about Milton's doings. He is thinking, he says, of taking chambers in London, in one of the Inns of Court, having begun to find Horton inconvenient. He has been engaged in a continuous course of historical reading, and has reached the medieval period. Could Diodati lend him