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BY..

VOL. I.

Nous avons bien plus de poetes, que de juges

et interpretes de poésie.

MONTAIGNE.

LONDON:

1822.

JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE-STREET.

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PREFACE

It is perhaps difficult to find a subject in English on which some one has not already written. Yet a commentator on Dante has this advantage; and may fearlessly tell his reader use my book until you can find a better.' To a man who has reason to be diffident, such is no small encouragement. A long residence in Italy (I have lived in it for several years and am likely to continue ) and many consequent, facilities might render me fitter for my undertaking than my competitors, if I had

any;

and I am entirely unconscious of having any. My undertaking is a detailed comment on the DiVINA COMMEDIA a work that embraces a greater variety of matter, than

any
other

poem that has been ever written. The Iliad and Odyssey and the Aeneid have been commented over and over again in a great many languages; and to whatever extent those comments were perfect, or imperfect, the world has always received them willingly, and looked to them

with some degree of curiosity. It were not strange then , if England were desirous of having (what it has not ) a full comment on a production which affords much more scope for one, and to which one is far more necessary, than

any Greek or Latin poem whatever. My object is not to give a verbal explanation of the text ; for this will be found in any version of it with which my comment may be read in the notes, if it be read with an Italian

copy; and in the notes and the paraphrase of a translation, if read with a translation in French, German, Latin , English, or any language. An historical, philosophical, critical elucidation of my author's sentiments, allusions, and intentions is what I

propose -- an attempt to render not his words, but their purpose and full signification; which opens a wider, and on many occasions a more unexplored field, than may be imagined: for it necessarily takes in a quantity of facts and opinions either much mis-represented, or nearly forgotten

the history, religion, and science of the fairest and then the most civilized portion of Europe, Italy, during one of the most interesting periods of her annals; from the birth of the Florentine republic, up to its highest pitch of prosperity and the beginning of its decline; from the first seeds of the Guelphs and Ghibellines and the Blacks and Whites, up to the utter extinction of the two latter, and to what may be considered the end of the rivality between the former; from the first dawnings of letters, up to the completion of what Italians still consider as the most glorious effort, the polar star of their entire literature; so that the productions of Petrarch and Boccaccio seem but the satellites that shine brightly in its train. Nor should the reader think that all this is a matter which has been developed by others : for the different works, historical or literary, to which he may recur, have too lengthened a way before them to allow of their delaying on the same topics more than more or less cursorily; whereas I attach myself entirely unto the chief of the celebrated Tuscan Triumvirate, and have no other pretension than that of laying fairly open all the matters of which he wrote, or in which he is known to have borne part -- so that my task closes in 1321, or previous to Petrarch and Boccaccio becoming illustrious in the world. Yet is that task, though so circumscribed as to time, sufticiently, and more than sufficiently momentous. To give the substance of the multitudinous Italian comments and treatises on Dante, many of them in print and some in

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