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M. S. to reconcile their opinions where they jar, and, particulary, correct the modern by the ancient -to clear their literal interpretations, and often interesting remarks and recitals, from the ocean of allegory in which they are so immersed, as to be, for the most part, unapproachable by ordinary readers to say

all they say that is worth knowing, and much that they do not say, by inquiring more closely into the foundation of Dante's ethical and political system and to inweave with all this constant citations from his minor works, so that one shall at length become completely familiar with them, without the necessity of actual perusal; which would perhaps be impossible, from the very old-fashioned, I may add quaint, style in which they are frequently dressed is a subject not deficient certainly in extent or in materials. To even an Italian there is matter in this comment not to be found in any other. I am the first of Dante's commentators who treat of his oriental acquirements. The explanation of Arabic and Hebrew verses (which hitherto passed for nonsense) and of many words from the same sources (whose meanings, as well as roots, were never before ascertained) renders this comment richer than any Italian one; nor is there vanity in my saying so. For

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such knowledge I am indeed indebted to an Italian (the learned Abate Lanci, public Professor of oriental tongues at Rome); but his observations have only appeared in a small pamphlet, so that this English comment will be the first one to do justice to Dante in that respect. It will be the fault of my execution, (and not of the plan) if this work fail to be interesting, >t merely to students of Dante, whether in the original or in a translation, but even to such as never perused, or intend to peruse the DIVINE COMEDY, but love desultory reading. The variety, shortness, and independence of its articles (if they were well executed) would render it as fit to be taken up, and thrown down, and taken up again, as Montaigne's essays themselves, or even those treatises of Plutarch and Seneca of which he says: Il ne fault pas grande entreprise pour m'y mettre, et les quitte où il me plaist; car elles n'ont point de suite et dependance les unes aux aultres (Liv. 2. chap. 10. ). I suppose no one will be so ungenerous, as to suspect me of presuming to compare myself with Montaigne; except merely as to the unconnected nature of the parts of our compositions. There are few historical anecdotes to render a comment on ancient poetry interesting; for all that can ever be

known about the Greeks and Romans, has long become generally known: whereas much may be yet discovered from MSS. and rare, printed chronicles in Italy, which are scarcely known in Italy itself, far less in England. If Mr. Roscoe was able to throw light on so late and so enlightened an age as that of the Medici, it would merit small surprise if another Oltremontano could do so with regard to a period far remoter and less investigated. However curious a theme the Pagan mythology is, it has nothing (speaking merely humanly) to compete with Christianity. The Greek and Latin poets lead to a discussion on the former: but Dante to the latter also; for it can never be doubted but his creed (however some of its tenets be considered) contains the fundamental Christian dogmas; and has been more universally professed, than any other form of Christianity. In the Histoire des Républiques Italiennes some doubts are hazarded as to the political consequence of Dante; but these seem much more suggested by a desire of novelty, than a judicious survey of events. A great authority, a nation's voice has long since decided the contrary; and even the historian himself affords manifest grounds for an opinion very different from his own, by showing that Dante had to

pay the severe mulct of the confiscation of all his property and outlawry for life for the part which he had taken in politics. Yet he was never minister to an Emperor, in whose archives his letters (like those of one of his predecessors, Pietro della Vigna) might have been preserved; nor ever condescended to become an avowed leader of any of the factions of the day, by whom his writings might have been enthu siastically treasured up. Scarcely half a dozen of his letters have come down to us; but these show, that he was in the habits of intimacy with great Potentates on every interesting question. To the Emperor, to the Cardinals, to the Republic of Florence, to the Lords of Verona, and of Ravenna, etc.— these were the persons to whom the few of his letters, or scraps of letters, which are extant were addressed. Neither Guelphs, nor Ghibellines, nor Blacks, nor Whites could look to him as an implicit adherent, but were alike most conscious that he was ready to oppose their sanguinary acts; the MONARCHIA, though written in defence of the temporal superiority of the Emperor, could not have obtained his assent, since it denied him an armed authority and (what was worse) a right to levy taxes on the Italian municipalities; and the Pope, although devotion to his

spiritual supremacy was most striking in Dante, could not forgive his opposition to his temporal pretensions: with all these more or less his foes, the wonder is not that so few traces of his political career remain, but that any of them do; and most extraordinary must his merits have been, who, depending on no faction at that factious period, could acquire universal reputation on his intrinsic worth alone. Nor do I speak of him as a poet. M. Sismondi is incorrect in stating that his political eminence was an exaggeration of after ages. He had barely expired, when that eminence was emphatically avowed in writings that are still in being: and it was, on the contrary, by those of after ages that it was called in question. When Boccaccio and his immediate predecessors and successors wrote, Dante's superiority as a Politician and Theologian was valued higher than as a poet; and for this, the spiritual parts of his works were explained in the churches, and the political in the public schools of Florence, Bologna, Pisa, Lucca all the free republics of Italy. A slight sketch of his life may be a necessary preliminary to some, and no inconvenient one to most readers.

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It was at a period when the Italian republics were in full possession of their boasted, though

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