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Machiavelli was born in 1469. He was a governmental secretary in Florence and met many of the strangely fine and fiendish characters of that time. He went on four missions to the King of France; was an intimate of Caesar Borgia; was an emissary of the Florentine republic to Pope Julius II, and was with Maximilian to Innsbruck. Those were stormy times, and Machiavelli studied the storms. He belonged to the popular party–and his masterpiece is a manual for tyrants. After 1512, with the return of the Medici, he lost his place, was imprisoned, was put to the torture, was amnestied by Leo X and withdrew to San Casciano, where he lived a life almost idyllic in its manner, to judge by a description from his own pen which Mr. Morley has incorporated in his lecture. It was there he wrote the book “The Prince,” at forty- five, dedicating it to Lorenzo the Magnificent. The dedication was a bit of palaver to the tyrant who had destroyed Florentine freedom. It was several years before he was rewarded by a small employment and then he was commissioned to write the history of Florence which he finished and dedicated to Leo X, in 1527. Here, also, it is supposed, he wrote a comedy, much praised and unremembered. He was a shrewd man, as his writings aver, yet he made a failure of his own life, to a large extent. He was cheerful in his ill-fortune, however, and he “clung to public things,” and, after his comedy, wrote the dialogues of the “Art of War,” to induce his countrymen to substitute for mercenary armies a national militia–to-day one of the organic ideas of the European system. Just as Machiavelli entered public life Savonarola had gone to the stake for an idea. The spirit of Dante touched him not at all. He was a man of his time, but not of the very best of his time. And yet he wrote that he loved his country with his whole soul. Mr. Morley says, “and one view of Machiavelli is that he was always the lion masquerading in the fox’s skin, an impassioned patriot, under all his craft and jest and bitter mockery. Even Mazzini, who explained the ruin of Italy by the fact that Machiavelli prevailed over Dante, admits that he had ‘a profoundly heart.’ ” Machiavelli died in 1527.

He was a man of affairs. He had read the ancients who dealt with politics, and he assimilated what he read, Mr. Morley says that it was as true of Florence in the Sixteenth Century as of Athens, Corinth, Corcyra in the Fifth Century before Christ, as set forth in Thucydides, that it was a prey to intestine faction and the ruinous invocation of foreign aid. “These terrible calamities,” says Thucydides, “always have been and always will be, while human nature remains the same. Words cease to have the same relations to things, and their meanings are changed to suit the ingenuities of enterprise and the atrocities of revenge. Frantic energy is the quality most valued, and the man of violence is always trusted. That simplicity which is a chief ingredient of a noble nature is laughed to scorn. Inferior intellects succeed best. Revenge becomes dearer than self-preservation, and men even have a sweeter pleasure in the revenge that goes with perfidy than if it were open.” If any reader of the ICONOCLAST desires a splendid picture of this Italy, I refer him to Vernon Lee’s “Euphorion,” which pictures the land as an inferno. Mr. Morley, too, gives a vivid picture of the time, saying that Italy of that date “presents some peculiarities that shed over her civilization a curious and deadly irridescence.” How one thinks of Ingalls and his “honesty in politics is an iridescent dream.” To resume our Morley. “Passions moved it in strange orbits. Private depravity and political debasement went with one of the most brilliant intellectual awakenings in the history of the western world. Another dark element is the association of merciless selfishness, violence, craft and corruption with the administration of sacred things. If politics were divorced from morals, so was theology.” Hired crime, stealthy assassination, especially by poison, prevailed. Contempt of human life, the fury of private revenge and the spirit of atrocious perfidy were characteristic of the luxurious Italian renaissance. Genius, according to John Addington Symonds, it was assumed, “released man from the shackles of ordinary mortality.” These Italian tyrants were touched with the Neronian malady. They were mad with power, with luxury, with ennui. Flowers of Evil bloomed profusely. In Italy, fair as it was, with the poets singing everlastingly of Spring, it seemed God has forgotten the world. The demonaic fascination of the land, then, is something the reader finds difficult to shake off. You move among and hold converse with splendid cultured monsters. The church alone kept alive purity, though it did not escape corruption. I think Dante and Michael Angelo proved that the pure religious spirit was not dead in a time when it was proclaimed that “it is best to sleep and be of stone, not to see and not to feel, while such misery and shame endure.” There was a spirit recognizing the “misery and shame,” and that spirit was in the church. Mr. Morley admits that Michael Angelo was such a spirit and Dante wrote in “La Vita Nuova” the first, pure, spiritual love-poem of the world.