Friday, 19 November 2010

hold the snide

Ever since I read this, I have been meaning to post the following, which is right up there with my all-time favourite things. I first read it when I was writing a dissertation on Machiavelli. Roberto Ridolfi wrote biographies of Machiavelli and then his friend and patron, Francesco Guicciardini, who was a very considerable historian and political thinker in his own right. This is how Ridolfi's biography of Guicciardini ends*:
Since then thirty years have gone by. Before ending this Life, which brings to a close these thirty years of study, and perhaps all my studies, rising one last time from the papers of messer Francesco, I went back to the near-by church of Santa Felicita to see his tomb. I went to take leave of him, but also as one returns to certain pages one has read in order to understand them better.

It was a melancholy parting, even more so than partings generally are at my age in which man begins to die away. And on that that marble at the foot of the high altar in the ancient romanesque church, I at last understood why Guicciardini, rich and without male children, who had lived more as a great nobleman and great master than as a private citizen, proud, greedy for honours and to be distinguished among his fellows, should have wished to disappear like this, and leave his bones and his name unmarked by any stone in this family grave. Always true to himself, the great realist merely consented to the disconsolate reality of death.
As translated by Cecil Grayson. Don't forget him.

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