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her daily lessons to Petrarch. In short, such was her fond and thoughtful solicitude for his welfare, in all the vicissitudes through which she had to pass as a wandering exile, it is not to be wondered at that no man ever entertained a higher idea of the unselfish devotion and generosity of woman than he. For he has not merely immortalized Laura; by common consent of enlightened mankind for many generations, if ever a mortal has been made divine by human genius, Laura may justly be ranked among the divinities, as an illustration of all those virtues, qualities, and personal charms which render woman at once an object of respect and esteem, admiration and love.
But those hitherto unacquainted with the story of Petrarch, if any such there be among our readers, must not be made to anticipate incidents and events which can be adequately appreciated only in their natural order. Although Convennole da Prato was, as we are informed, not a brilliant educator, it was no slight source of pleasure both to Petrarch and his mother that the old grammarian also was induced to remove to Carpentras, for he immediately resumed his lessons to the young poet. Thus while Convennole instructed Petrarch.in grammar, rhetoric, and logic, his mother instructed him in ethics, and at the same time imbued his mind with the precepts of religion. Some of the poet's biographers give the lady the further credit of being the best Latin teacher he ever had, adding that to her he was indebted for that thorough knowledge of that noble tongue which enabled him to write in it with such classical elegance and precision, and induced him to write so many of his works in it, especially those which he considered most important and most likely to endure. We shall see, as we proceed, that if Petrarch was mistaken as to the effect on his own fame of composing so many of his works in Latin, it was not the less true that his taste and love for that noble tongue were of incalculable benefit to literature. True, Dante had done a good deal for the revival of letters before Petrarch, but the efforts of the former in that direction were trifling in themselves and in their results compared to those of the latter; for it should be remembered that the world is in. debted to Petrarch for the discovery of several classic manuscripts long supposed to be hopelessly lost. Suffice it to mention here Quintilian's Institutes of Oratory, which he discovered at Arezzo, the Familiar Epistles of Cicero, which he discovered at Verona, and Cicero's Letters to Atticus, which he found among a quantity of rubbish offered for sale by a coachman at Venice as matter for lining trunks. Had his studies and researches resulted in nothing more than bringing these priceless works to light, not to mention the active and enthusiastic part he took during a period of nearly half a century in contributing in every way in his power to the establishment of colleges and libraries, he would have had a strong claim on modern civilization.
At the outset, Petracco, who had some taste for learning himself, was proud of the progress made by Petrarch in Latin. The young poet's admiration for Cicero was particularly gratifying to him, as it led him to hope that the study of the great Roman orator and advocate would inspire his son with a love for the law. It was under this impression that he sent Petrarch to the University of Montpellier, at the age of fifteen (1318). But it was not long before he became satisfied that it was an erroneous impression, and therefore entirely altered his wishes in that respect. He went so far in his efforts to modify the tastes and aspirations of Petrarch as to request his tutors at the university to prohibit · him altogether from the study of the classics. It is, however, but justice to the honest notary to remember that he did not do this until he found that for every hour Petrarch devoted to the study of law he devoted at least twelve hours to the study of Virgil and Cicero ; and, as is generally the case in such circumstances, it was in vain the professors of the university tried to divert his attention from ancient Roman literature to modern French law. While his fellow-students found it sufficiently difficult and irksome to study the grammar, in connection with such selections from the easier classics as were given in the textbooks of the day, the young poet delighted in reading the Æneid of Virgil and the Tusculan Disputations of Cicero in
dust of ages.
manuscripts rendered more or less illegible by the smoke and
. As might have been expected from these facts, when Petrarch had spent the prescribed four years at the University of Montpellier, he knew little more about law than he did before he entered ; and however little he knew about it, he had no ambition to know any more.
Yet his father still hoped to make him a great jurist. The University of Bologna was then the most celebrated school in Europe of both canon and civil law, and it was resolved that Petrarch should complete his legal studies there. `Accordingly, he was sent thither in 1323, accompanied by his brother Gherardo, and his inseparable friend Guido Settimo. But it was soon found that neither threats nor rewards could induce the young poet to forego the charms of the classics.
His father being much displeased at this resolved to adopt harsher means for carrying out his wishes than he had yet had recourse to. With this view he proceeded to Bologna, expecting to surprise his son in the midst of his transgressions. It seems his mother sent word to Petrarch, so that fearing the worst his first care was to hide his Latin books. But Petracco was too fully determined to be diverted from his purpose without making a strong, earnest effort for its accomplishment. He searched high and low for the hidden treasures. To the horror of Petrarch, he finally succeeded in finding them, and so far forgot himself in his indignation that he threw them into the fire. But he soon relented ; deeply affected at his son's agony and tears, he eagerly snatched Virgi) and Cicero from the flames, and presenting them to Petrarch, said, “ Virgil will console you for the loss of your other MSS., and Cicero will prepare you for the study of the law.”
This soothed Petrarch, and he thanked his father, but while he had every disposition to please him, his tastes remained unchanged. If he ever hesitated for a inoment in his choice, he did so no longer after he had formed the acquaintance of Cino de Pistoia, one of the law professors, but at the same time a lyrical poet of no mean order. To this day he is
regarded by his countrymen as the most tender and harmonious of all the lyrical poets who had written in Italian before Petrarch. Cino de Pistoia performed his duty faithfully as a professor of law by doing all in his power to induce his new pupil to carry out the wishes of his father, and the object of his being sent to the university. Finding this in rain, he enabled Petrarch to avail himself to the fullest extent of his literary culture, which proved to be of a high order. He, too, had the perception to see that Petrarch was destined to become illustrious. It is easy to understand how much delighted the young poet was with the society of one capable of sympathizing with him in his taste for classical literature as well as for poetry. But while Petrarch is congratulating himself on his good fortune in forming the acquaintance and gaining the good-will and esteem of one in every respect so congenial, he receives the sad intelligence of the death of his mother. The reader is already aware that there could have been no kinder or better mother than Eletta. Petrarch fully appreciated her worth, and was now profoundly grieved. Several of his biographers are of opinion that the monody he wrote on her death was among his earliest lyrical efforts. There is a copy of it in his own handwriting still extant in the University of Bologna. It extends to thirty-four verses--one for each year of her life; her early death being an additional source of grief, not only to her son and her whole family, but to all who enjoyed the pleasure of her acquaintance.
We have already alluded to the influence exercised on Petrarch by this exemplary lady, and of its obvious tendency to give him an impression of the female character in the highest degree favorable. At once beautiful, modest, affectionate, self-denying, and possessed of liberal culture and a good understanding, it was not strange that a son to whom she was always so devoted and indulgent should easily believe that one whom he regarded as resembling her in some of her best characteristics was worthy of the highest admiration and of the strongest and most lasting affection of which the human mind is capable. Those who regard the passion of Petrarch for Laura as too deep and grand in its portraiture and too remarkable in its history to be genuine, should bear in mind the character of the gentle and good Eletta, to whom the poet owed so much. Then the grief of Petrarch for the loss of such a mother was but little assuaged when the news was brought him that his father also was dead, his death having undoubtedly been hastened by that of the faithful and tender companion of his wanderings, and the patient, cheerful participator in his privations and sorrows. Altogether apart from the loss of his mother, the poet could not now remember without bitter pangs how fondly anxious the old man had always been, while wandering, often in poverty, from place to place, to secure for him the highest order of education attainable in his time. Poor as Petracco was he always managed to secure his son his place at the university. Now, when he was no more, Petrarch found it necessary to leave Bologna He returned to Avignon, accompanied by his brother Gherardo. All the property left them by their father was but trifling, but such as it was they had but a small part of it to get, the executors having betrayed their trust. What Petrarch was most anxious about was a MS. of Cicero, which his father had always highly prized. Referring, in one of his letters, to this condition of affairs, Petrarch says: “The guardians, eager to appropriate what they esteemed the more valuable effects, had fortunately left this MS. as a thing of no value.”
The two brothers, finding themselves thus almost penniless, and seeing no prospect of securing an honorable maintenance otherwise, decide on entering the church, and are readily accepted. Petrarch was now in his twenty-second year. If it be true that the combined influences of culture and adversity soften the heart, it may well be believed that that of the poet was now in a tender, impressible state. And so the fact proved. He was not quite twenty-three when the event occurred which was the most important in his life in its effect on his genius. While attending early mass on the 6th of April, 1327, at the church of St. Clara, at Avignon, he was struck with the beauty of a young lady who happened to be near him. Petrarch relates that the lady who thus made an impression on him, which, sudden as it was, could never be