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FROM THE NOVELS OF LASCA.
TENTH AND LAST TALE OF THE TIIRD SUPPER.
Of the Hoax of Hoares, practised by Lorenzo de Medici upon Master Manente the Physician, and of the many rare and diverting Occurrences which proceeded from it.
The following Tale possesses, on many accounts, very peculiar merit—first, as exhibiting a picture, or rather a series of pictures, of national manners and customs, not exceeded in liveliness and fidelity by those which are presented to us in that invaluable repository of Oriental portraiture, the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, to which it will also strike the reader as bearing no little affinity in the resemblance between its hero, Lorenzo de Medici (commonly called the Magnificent,) and the Caliph Haroun Alraschid, a name so familiare ly interwoven with all our recollections of childhood, by its frequent occurrence in that delightful store-house of fiction. Secondly, It is no less worthy of notice on account of the new light which it casts on the character of that hero, whom his illustrious English biographer has certainly omitted to represent to us in this view of his features. And lastly, it affords a very wide field for reflection, when it leads us to consider to what an extent, even under the forms of a popular and democratic government, the middling and lower classes of society were held as lawful subjects for the jest and diversion of the great, when so popular a chief as Lorenzo made no scruple of playing his favourite physician a trick, which cost him his liberty and his honour, and exposed his Life and reason to the utmost peril, for no cause more just than that he was apt to make too free use of his bottle, especially when he could contrive to do so at a friend's expense. The treatment sustained by the worthy knight of La Mancha, at the hands of the unfeeling grandees of Spain, to whom he had the misfortune of becoming a laughing-stock, bears some analogy, (in that respect at least) to the present story ; but I will not conclude these prefatory remarks without repeating, that it seeins impossible to regard the tale as a mere fiction, or otherwise than as a narrative (perhaps highly coloured) of some real occurrences, the account of which was in general circulation at the time when the author composed it, that is, not more than fifty years after the death of the most distinguished personage whose name is mentioned in it.
The distinction of “ Lorenzo il Vecchio," or The Elder, by which the hero of the jest is identified, led me once to imagine that another Lorenzo (the brother of Cosmo, surnamed Parens Patriæ,) was here intended ; and the epithet “ Il Magnifico” assigned to him, would not alone have disproved the supposition, but have only confirmed the truth of an undeniable assertion, made by Sismondi, and somewhat petulantly called in question by Roscoe, that the appellation itself was no other than an honorary mark of distinction, conferred indiscriminately on persons illustrious by birth or office. However, the mention of the “ Selve d'Amore,” (an undoubted work of the Lorenzo whom we usually distinguish by the name of the Magnificent,) seems to prove that no other than he was the person here meant to be referred to; and the phrase of " Il Vecchio” applied to him, must therefore be taken in contradistinction to a third Lorenzo, (commonly called Lorenzino,) the assassin of the first Duke Alexander.
Giacinto had arrived at the conclusion of his novel, with which he had not a little rejoiced and enlivened his auditory, when Amarantha, to whom alone now remained the task of paying the expected tribute, thus, sweetly smiling, began—"I design, most fair ladies, and gentle sirs, to relate to you an anecdote of mystification, which, albeit not brought to perfection under the guidance of Scheggia, or Zoroastro, or any other of the great masters of the art
already noticed, i humbly opine that you will think no less worthy of admi. · ration, nor less artificially contrived and executed, than any
which you have VOL. XIV.
had already recounted to you. It is one which was practised by the Magnifico, Lorenzo the Elder, upon a certain physician, one of the most arrogant and assuming that the world ever witnessed. In the which so many strange accidents intervened, and such various chances were given birth to, that, if you ever in your lives were moved to surprise or laughter, you will now find matter for both, to your hearts' content.'
Lorenzo, the elder de' Medici (as it caused two of his most faithful grooms behoves you to know,) was (if ever to be sent for to his chamber, and gave there was in this world) a man, not them instructions how they were to only endowed with all manner of vir- proceed ; who, accordingly, well hoodtue and excellence, but a lover and re- ed and disguised, sallied forth from warder of virtue in others, and that in the palace, and went (by Lorenzo's the highest degree imaginable. In his commission) to the place of St Mardays there dwelt at Florence a certain tin, where they found the sleeper still physician, by name Master Manente snoring most musically, whom they della Piève, who practised both physic first placed on his legs, then muffled and surgery, but was more of a prace him, and, laying him like a wallet titioner than a man of science ; one, across their shoulders, took him away in truth, of much humour and plea- with them. santry, but so impertinent and assu The poor physician, finding himself ming, that there was no bearing him. thus treated, full surely imagined that Amongst his other qualifications, he he was in the hands of some of his was a great lover of the bottle, a hard own companions, and so quietly sufdrinker, and one who made it his boast fered himself to be ushered, by a back that he was a consummate judge of door of the palace of the Medici, into good wine; and frequently, without the presence of the Magnifico, who being invited, would he go of his own was alone, waiting with incredible imaccord to dine or sup with the Mag- patience the return of his messengers, nifico, who at length conceived such a and who now directed them to carry dislike of him by reason of his perpe- their load into a remote upper aparttual intrusiveness and impertinence, ment, where, having deposited him on that he could not endure his sight, and a feather-bed, they stripped him to deliberated within himself in what his shirt, (he knowing no more of the manner he might play such a trick matter than if he had been a dead upon him as might effectually prevent man,) and, taking away with them him from repeating his usual annoy- all his habiliments, left him securely
It happened that, one after- locked up in his new lodgings. noon among others, the aforesaid Mas Lorenzo's next concern was to send ter Manente, having been drinking at for the buffoon Monaco—a personage the tavern, called Delle Bertucce, remarkably well skilled in counterfeit(which was his favourite haunt,) had ing voices—whom, having first made inade himself so intoxicated, that he him exchange his own clothes for those could scarcely stand ; and mine host, of the physician, and given him the when it came to shutting-up time, necessary directions, he dispatched, caused him to be carried on boys just as the bells were ringing for mashoulders out into the street, and laid tins, to Master Manente's house in along on one of the benches in St the street de' Fossi. It was in the Martin's market-place, where he fell month of September, and the physiso sound asleep that a discharge of cian's family (consisting of a wife, an cannon would not have awakened himn. infant son, and a servant-maid,) were By some chance Lorenzo was made residing at his country-house in the acquainted with this accident, and, Mugello, while he himself remained thinking it a most favourable oppor- at Florence, but was never to be found tunity for the accomplishment of his at home except at night when he reproject, he pretended to pay no atten- turned to sleep, making it his constant tion to the person who was his infor- practice to dine either at a tavern; mant, but feigning a desire to go to with his boon companions, or else at sleep, (it being already far advanced his friends' houses ; insomuch, that towards midnight, and he at all times Monaco, having found the house key a little sleeper, making it his constant in the owner's pocket, easily let himhabit to stay up till about that hour,) selfin, and, in great glee at the thought
of at once hoaxing the doctor, and gra- should be sought for to have charge of tifying the humour of the Magnifico, the sick man, and told Niccolajo where lạid him down on Master Manente's he might find such a person, in the bed, and went to sleep. It was nine hospital of St Maria Nuova. To the o'clock before he woke, and then, ha- hospital Niccolajo accordingly went, ving dressed himself again in Ma- and found the person in question, who nente's clothes, and assuming the had already been instructed as to the master's voice, he called out of the part he had to perform ; and who, hawindow of the court-yard to a female ving undertaken the office, entered the neighbour who dwelt opposite, saying house forth with, (by the aid of a lockthat he felt himself very unwell, with smith,) and shortly afterwards opened a pain in his throat, which he had ac one of the windows, and called out to cordingly wrapped in a woollen hand- inform the by-standers, that Master kerchief.
Manente had, in good sooth, a plagueNow there was at this time great boil on his throat as big as a peach, fear of the plague at Florence, where and was already lying at death's door. some symptoms had already discover- Upon hearing this, Lorenzo gave ored themselves'; so that the good wo ders that the attendant should be supman, dreading what might follow, plied, through the window, with food asked him, in great trepidation, what and all other necessaries, and then dehe might please to want of her? To parted, with great shew of grief and whom he answered, that he begged for affliction ; while the attendant, having a couple of new-laid eggs, and a little received the supply of provisions, clofire ; and then, pretending that he was sed the window again, and, in comtoo ill to support himself, withdrew pany with the pretended dying man, from the window. The good woman made good cheer on the victuals which made haste to provide what he want were sent him, to which they added a ed, and called to him as loudly as she flask or two of the choicest wine which was able, to tell him that she had pla- the doctor had in his cellar. ced the articles at the door of his house, While these things were going on, and that he must come and fetch them the poor abused doctor, having slept --the which he did accordingly-at away a whole day and night, at length the same time exhibiting to the by- awoke, and finding himself in bed, and standers the appearance of a person in the dark, could not imagine what scarcely able to totter along through place he had come to, but, calling to exhaustion, with his mouth and throat mind what had passed before he lost muffled up, and altogether so pitiable his powers of recollection, persuaded an object, that all who beheld him himself that, having been drinking were forced to believe that he was in with his friends at the Bertucce, and the worst stage of the dreaded dis- become intoxicated, they had carried order.
him back to his own house, as had not The rumour soon spread through unfrequently before happened to him. the city; and a brother of Master He therefore got out of bed under this Manente’s wife, (a goldsmith by trade impression, and groped his way to -by name Niccolajo,) came running where he expected to have found the forth with to know how the matter window, where finding none, he was really stood. He knocked, and knock- in utter ainazement; and, after some ed again, without receiving an answer, vain efforts to enlighten himself, not but was assured by all the neighbours, having been able to ascertain the place that the poor doctor's was, without 'of either door or window in the apartdoubt, a lost case. Just at this mo- ment, he finished by returning to bed ment Lorenzo rode by the spot on again, where he lay in stupid wonder, horseback, (as if by accident,) attend- and, although halt famished, afraid to ed by a numerous troop of gentlemen, call out, not knowing what mischief and, observing the crowd collected might follow. round the door, asked what it meant. Lorenzo, in the meantime, proceed
The goldsmith replied, that he was ing with the management of the drafearful his brother-in-law, Master Ma ma, ordered the two grooms, who had nente, was attacked by the plague; and before been employed by him in this related all he had heard on the
subject. service, to disguise themselves as white Upon this, the Magnifico gave imme- friars, with long hoods on their heads, diate directions that some fit attendant and grinning Carnival masks on their
faces; and, thus accoutred, he caused come what will, if I am doomed to die, one of them to arm himself with a na- I shall at least have the satisfaction of ked sword in the one hand, and a dying with my belly full.” So saying, lighted torch in the other, while the he fell to with marvellous appetite, second carried two flasks of excellent and, having consumed the best part wine, two loaves of bread in a napkin, of the provision which was laid before two cold capons, with a piece of roasta him, and carefully wrapped up in the ed veal, and the proper fruits of the napkin, and stowed away, the remainseason, with which they proceeder in der, to serve for a future emergency, silence to the doctor's apartinent. The finding nothing better to be done, and door being locked on the outside, they flattering himself, (in the beatitude of opened it with a loud noise, and forth a well-filled stomach) with the belief, with entered the man with the sword that it was a meratrick of some of his and torch keeping guard before the companions, who would soon return to door, to prevent the escape of the prin release him, he went into bed again, soner, while the other, advancing to where he lay for some time, thinking the middle of the room, slowly spread upon the grinning masks which bad his napkin upon a little table which saluted him, till the very thought of stood there, and placed the provisions them made him laugh inwardly, and in order.
at last fell asleep as soundly as before. As soon as Master Manente heard Early the next morning, the attenthe door open, he started up in his dant from the hospital threw open the bed, intending to run out immediate doctor's window, and, in a loud voice, ly--but no sooner did he behold the proclaimed to the neighbours, that his strange figures of those who entered, patient had passed a good night; that than fear overcame him, and not a the boil had come to a head with the word was he able tn utter. Seeing the help of poultices; and that he entersword and torch, he expected little tained good hopes of his recovery. So short of instant death ; but a glimpse passed the day without further inquiry, of the victuals somewhat revived him, and, towards evening, the Magnifico and he sat patiently for a minute while made known to his coadjutors, that an the table was spread ; but, when that excellent opportunity had presented itwas accomplished, and the dumb friar, self for carrying on the jest, by the acby signs, invited him to partake, hun- cidental death of a certain young galger at once became more strong than lant, named Franciosino, who had fallany other feeling, and, leaping out of en from his horse and broken his neck, bed, he rushed voraciously to the in the square of St Maria Novella, and spot, without anything on him but had been laid out for interment, and his shirt, till the attendant pointing buried that same evening, by the friars to a dressing-gown and slippers which of the monastery, in one of the vaults were placed on a chair beside him, he without-side the principal entrance to accepted the invitation to clothe him- their church. As soon as this occurrence self in them; then, taking his seat at was made known to them, together with the table, fell to work with as keen an what was Lorenzo's pleasure as to the appetite, as if he had totally forgotten prosecution of the adventure, they bethe surprising nature of the circum- gan to give effect to it by the hospital stances in which he was placed. The servant, in the first place, going again attendants, seeing him thus occupied, to the window, and declaring, in doloquitted the apartment with the like rous accents, that the disease had taspeed and silence as they had entered ken a new turn, and the plague-boil it, and, leaving him without light as so much increased, that poor Manente before, locked the door after them, and was almost choked by it, and very went to relate the success of their mise unable either to eat or speak. Upon sion to the Magnifico. The doctor, this, the goldsmith, Niccolajo, became meanwhile, found that hunger (like very anxious that he should have somelove) can see in the dark; and the body sent to him, to make his last meré touch and smell of those good will and testament; but he was anvictuals, and those delicious wine- swered that the thing was impossible flasks, gave him such spirits, that he for that night, but he might return said to himself, “ It is well, Master the next morning, when measures Manente-things are not near so des- might be taken for accomplishing it; perate as they might have been ; and, and also for consessing the patient,
and administering to him the sacra- did in the most soothing terms ima. ment. With this the goldsmith was ginable, recommending to her to reobliged for the present to rest satisfi- main with her young son in the couned, and when the crowd had disper- try, and leave it to himself to settle sed, the Magnifico's two grooms, who the affairs of the deceased in Florence ; had been sent to disinter the body of which was arranged accordingly. the unfortunate Franciosino, brought Five or six days had now passed it secretly to the doctor's house, where away, during which they never failed Monaco and his attendant as secretly to provide the physician with a plenreceived it; and, having so done, wrap- tiful meal every morning and evening, ped it carefully in a new linen shroud, served up by the same men in hoods bound its throat with bandages, which and masks, as on the first day of his they had previously dipped in plague- imprisonment. At last, one morning, ointment, belaboured the face with four hours before day-break, these thumps and blows, so as to make it same obsequious valets, dressed as belook swollen and livid, and laid it out fore, opened the door of his apartment, on a table in the basement story, with by command of the Magnifico, and a bonnet on its head, which was well made the poor doctor get up, and slip known to be one usually worn by the on an under-garment of red suguardoctor on solemn occasions, and strewn tune, with a pair of long mariners' with orange-flowers, and then went to boots of the same materials, and a hat bed, after again drinking and laughing a la Grecque on his head. They then together heartily.
muffled him in a cloak, so that he was It was no sooner morning, than the not able to see, led him out of his attendant once more opened the case chamber, and conducted him into the ment, and, with abundance of tears, court-yard, trembling all over from proclaimed to the neighbours and pas- fright, as if he had had the quartan sengers, how Master Manente had, just ague. There they lifted him from the at the turn of day-break, departed from ground, placed him in a covered litter this present life ; so that, in an hour's drawn by two mules, and set forward time, the news had spread throughout on their journey by the gate of La Florence, and the brother-in-law hear- Croce, the same two grooms leading ing it, ran to the spot, and was ac way on horseback, in their ordiquainted by the attendant with the
habits. Master Manente, as pretended particulars. Seeing that soon as he felt the motion of the carthere was now no remedy, the next riage, was seized with new wonder step was to take instant measures for and consternation. The voices of the his interment; and, for this purpose, country people, and noise of animals the goldsmith first gave the requisite which they heard, as day advanced information to the board of health, upon them, convinced him that it was by whom the funeral was directed to not a dream. He bethought himself, take place with every proper precau- however, of all things that appeared tion. Those to whom the charge of most favourable in the singular cirremoving the corpse was committed, cumstances of his present condition, could not help remarking the great al and allowed himself to be comforted. teration of feature. This, however, Meanwhile, not a word was uttered by was attributed entirely to the disorder either of his conductors, loud enough of which he died, and not a doubt oc- for him to hear. They stopped in the curred to any of them, or to any of a course of the day to take refreshments, numerous crowd of bystanders, who and at last, about midnight, arrived looked on at a respectful distance, at the Hermitage of Camaldoli, where smelling at sweet herbs and vinegar, they were gladly received and welcomwhile the body was tumbled into the ed by the Father Guardian, and confirst vault which they found open, ducted by him, through his own cell, head foremost. Nor is it to be doubt- to an antichamber adjoining, and ed, that Master Manente's fur bonnet, thence to a sort of study, which again which was well known to everybody opened into a little parlour, the winpresent, greatly helped the illusion. dow of which had been walled up, The funeral being over, the goldsmith, and which was furnished with a small Niccolajo, took upon himself the far- truckle-bed, a desk, and a table. This ther duty of acquainting his sister last mentioned chamber was situate on with the mournful event, which he the brink of a most deep and solitary