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GENIUS and WRITINGS
Of JANUARY and MAY, The WIFE of BATH, and TRANSLATIONS of STATIUS and OVID, and the IMITATIONS of fome ENGLISH POETS.
HE firft dawnings of polite literature in Italy, appeared in talewriting and fables. Boccace gave a currency and vogue to this fpecies of compofition. He collected many of the common tales of his country, and delivered them in VOL. II. the
the pureft ftile, enlivened with interesting circumftances. Sacchetti published tales before him, in which are many anecdotes of Dante and his cotemporaries. Boccace was faintly imitated by feveral Italians, Poggio, Bandello, Cinthio, Firenzuola, Malefpini, and others. *Machiavel himfelf did honour to this fpecies of writing, by his Belphegor.
To produce, and carry on with probability and decorum, a series of events, is the most difficult work of invention; and if we were minutely to examine the popular ftories of every nation, we fhould be amazed to find how few circumstances have
* Machiavel, who poffeffed the livelieft wit with the profoundest reflection, wrote alfo two comedies, Mandgragora and Clytia, the former of which was played before Leo X. with much magnificence; the latter is an imitation of the Caffina of Plautus; "Indigna vero homine Chriftiano (fays Balzac) qui fanctiores Mufas colit, et, in ludicris quoque, meminiffe debet feveritatis." Epift. Select. pag. 202. I have been informed that Machiavel towards the latter part of his life grew religious, and that fome pieces of ascetic devotion, compofed by him, are preferved in the libraries of Italy. Lord Bacon fays remarkably of Machiavel, that he teaches what men ufually do, not what they ought to do.
been ever invented. Facts and events have been indeed varied and modified, but totally new facts have not been created. The writers of the old romances, from whom Ariofto and Spencer have borrowed fo largely, are fuppofed to have had copious. imaginations but may they not be indebted, for their invulnerable heroes, their monsters, their enchantments, their gardens of pleasure, their winged steeds, and the like, to the Echidna, to the Circe, to the Medea, to the Achilles, to the Syrens, to the Harpies, to the Phryxus, and the Bellerophon of the ancients? The cave of Polypheme might furnish out the ideas of their giants, and Andromeda might give occafion for ftories of diftreffed damfels on the point of being devoured by dragons, and delivered at fuch a critical feafon by their favourite knights. Some faint traditions of the ancients might have been kept glimmering and alive during the whole barbarous ages, as they are called; and it is not impoffible, but these have been the parents of the Genii in the eastern, and the B 2 Fairies