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Vol. IV. PART I.
Art. I. Vita de Benvenuto Cellini, Orefice e Scultore Fiorentino,
da lui medesimo scritta, nella quale molte curiose particularità, si toccano appartenenti alle Arti, ed all' Istoria del suo tempo, tratto da un ottimo manoscritto e dedicata all
' eccellenza Di my Lord Ricardo Boyle, Conte di Burlington e Corke, 8c. In Colo
nia, per Pietro Martello. The Life of Benvenuto Cellini; a Florentine Artist, containing a
variety of curious and interesting particulars, relative to painting, sculpture, and architecture; and the history of his own time : written by himself, in the Tuscan language ; and translated
from the original, by Thomas Nugent, LL.D. F.S.A. 2 vols. London, 1771.
This is, perhaps, the most perfect piece of autobiography that ever was written, whether considered with reference to the candour and veracity of the author, the spirit of the incidents, or the breathing vitality of the narrative. It has also the recommendation of having been written at a very interesting period of literary history, and of recording some curious particulars relative to the private character of the great men of the time. That a work, which used such freedom with the names of many persons of high rank and connection, should not be published for some time after the author's death, is not surprising; but, being once laid aside, it remained unpublished until 1730, nearly two centuries after it was written. We never, in the whole course of our life, read a book of a more engaging description, and think that a brief abstract of it, with an occasional extract of more peculiar interest, will prove no unacceptable
VOL. IV. PART I.
present to those who have not had the good fortune to meet with it. Indeed, we believe, that, although Dr. Nugent's translation is but of comparatively recent date, it is not to be very easily procured.
In the opinion of Benvenuto Cellini, no man ought to enter upon so arduous an undertaking, as that of writing the history of his own life, until his fortieth year
When all the fiercer passions cease,
The glory and disgrace of youth;
Can listen to the voice of truth.
He did not, however, commence this work until, as an old writer expresses it, the clock of his age had struck fifty-eight, when he was peaceably settled in his native city of Florence, enjoying more content; and better health, than at any former period of his life. The correctness of our author's opinion, as to the time of commencing such a work, may reasonably be doubted, both with respect to the interest of the narrative, and its utility. What an autobiographer thus gains in the maturity of his judgment, he will probably lose in the interest, minuteness, and truth, of the delineation; for age is apt to look back upon the visions of his youth, as those of folly, and pass them by, with a disdain which they do not, in reality, deserve; or, if he thinks them worth recording, he has either forgotten or cannot recal them, in the plenitude and energy of their spring-tide brightness. Autobiography will lose in interest; for the imaginings of new life, though visionary, are golden visions, full of the purest joys, and most glorious virtues, “ images and precious thoughts, which should not die, and cannot be destroyed,” they are the May which blossoms on the black thorns of life, fair, and beautiful, and fragrant, when every thing else is bare and desolate. Its thoughts, or rather dreams, are good, of what may be, or should be, and not of what is. But if the morning of reason no sooner dawns, than it discloses an ideal world—if beings, of no earthly mould, flit across the fancy, and dazzle the mind, man, in the pride of his maturity, is a dreamer too.
If the object be utility, to decompose the human character, to resolve it into its original elements, and shew how they have been combined, neutralized, or directed ; retrospection, from the pinnacle of forty, will not effect it. In order to arrive at any practical results, as to the gradations by which it has been formed, one should minute down, as they occur, the changes of thought, the effect of impressions, and the vicissitudes of feeling, which, in youth, give a bent to the character, and, in age, are forgotten.' Without this process, we cannot trace opinions to