« PreviousContinue »
genius and acquirements are justly eulogized by Varthema, was Guidobaldo, who succeeded to the dukedom on the death of his father in 1482, and died on the 11th of April 1508. As he appears to have been living at the time the Dedication was written, it must have been prepared immediately after the author's return to Italy.1
of Count Antonio di Montefeltro,] was conspicuous among the ladies of high birth, whose acquirements gave illustration to her age. By cotemporary authors, her talents and endowments are spoken of in most flattering terms, whilst her character is celebrated for piety and justice, benignity and tranquillity. Though married to a man of miserable character, she had a daughter, Elisabetta Malatesta, who inherited her misfortunes as well as her genius. Elisabetta's daughter was Costanza Varana, the associate of scholars and philosophers, whose gifts she is said to have rivalled, notwithstanding an early death that deprived her infant Battista of a mother's care." The latter, the mother of Agnesina, displayed remarkable talents while yet a child, and subsequently made rapid acquisition of solid knowledge. She was married to Count Federigo, Duke of Urbino, in 1459. (See Id., pp. 206-7.) According to Litta, the lady Agnesina died in 1522, while returning from a visit to the Sanctuary at Loreto. Her brother Guildobaldo having been deprived of the dukedom by Leo X., her son Ascanio Colonna, Duke of Palliano, was subsequently invested with that dignity by Clement VII.; but the bull of the former pope not having been carried into effect, he never succeeded to Urbino. See LITTA, Famiglie Celebri Italiani, tom. ii. tavola vii.
I am inclined to think, indeed, that the Dedication may have been intentionally antedated, otherwise Varthema must have had an extraordinary quick passage from India ; for as he left Cannanore on the 6th December 1507, stayed fifteen days at Mozambique and two at the Azores, there only remain three months and eighteen days for the homeward voyage, and for the preliminaries connected with the preparation of his book, or at least of the
One would have thought that Ramusio might have picked up some information respecting the early life and subsequent career of our author ; but his “ Discorso Breve" to Varthema's book is briefer than many of the notices prefixed to other far less important Voyages and Travels contained in his valuable Collection. Moreover, it is clear that the first authorized edition of the Itinerary, printed at Rome in 1510, was either unknown to him or beyond his reach ; since he tells us that his revised exemplar was prepared from a Spanish version made from the Latin translation,-a third hand process, which accounts for the many variations existing between his copy and the original Italian edition. The following is all that he says:
“ This Itinerary of Lodovico Barthema, a Bolognese, wherein the things concerning India and the Spice Islands are so fully and so correctly narrated as to transcend all that has been written either by ancient or modern authors, has hitherto been read replete with errors and inaccuracies, and might have been so read in future, had not God caused to be put into our hands the book of Christoforo di Arco, a clerk of Serille, who, being in possession of the Latin exemplar of that Voyage, made from the original itself, and dedicated to the Most Reverend Monsignor Bernardino, Cardinal Carraial of the Santa Croce, translated it with great care into the Spanish language, by the aid of which we have been enabled to correct in many places the present book, which was originally written by the author himself in our own vulgar tongue, and dedicated to the Most Illustrious Madonna
dedicatory epistle, up to the death of Duke Guidobaldo, which, according to Dennistoun, occurred on the 11th of April 1508.
Agnesina, one of the prëeminent and excellent women of Italy at that period. She was the daughter of the Most Illustrious Signor Federico, Duke of Urbino, and sister of the Most Excellent Guidobaldo, wife of the Most Illustrious Signor Fabricio Colonna, and mother of the Most Excellent Signor Ascanio Colonna and of the Lady Vittoria, Marchioness Dal Guasto, the ornament and light of the present age. And the aforesaid Lodovico divided this volume into seven Books, in the First of which he narrates his journey to Egypt, Syria, and Arabia Deserta. In the Second, he treats of Arabia Felix. In the Third, of Persia. In the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth, he comprises all India and the Molucca Islands, where the spices grow. In the Seventh and last, he recounts his return to Portugal, passing along the coast of Ethiopia, the Cape of Good Hope, and sereral islands of the Western Ocean."
In this dearth of all external aids, we are obliged to have recourse to the narrative itself; but even there, the materials for constructing a biographical sketch of its author are scanty in the extreme. He tells us on one occasion (p. 263), that his father was a physician ; but as he was acting a part when that statement was made, little reliance can be placed
On another, he claimed a knowledge of casting artillery (p. 50); and although the circumstances under which the pretension was advanced are calculated to throw a doubt on its truth, it is not improbable that Varthema had been brought up to the profession of arms, or had at some antecedent period served as a soldier, since he incidentally remarks, in a subsequent chapter, (p. 280), that he had been present at several battles in his time. This conjecture is
further supported by the particular attention which he pays to the military organization and peculiar weapons of the different people described in the course of his narrative. The only additional intimation which he lets drop of his private history gives us to understand that he was a married man, and was the father of several children (p. 259).
The motives which led him to undertake this journey are briefly set forth in the dedication of his Itinerary. He had an insatiable desire of becoming acquainted with foreign countries, not unmixed with ambition for the renown which had been awarded to preceding geographers and travellers; but being conscious, withal, of his inaptitude to attain that object by reading, “ knowing himself to be of very slender understanding” and disinclined to study, he " determined, personally, and with his own eyes, to endeavour to ascertain the situations of places, the qualities of peoples, the diversities of animals, the varieties of the fruit-bearing and odoriferous trees of Egypt, Syria, Arabia Deserta and Felix, Persia, India, and Ethiopia, remembering well that the testimony of one eye-witness is worth more than ten thousand hearsays.” His surprising travels in search of this knowledge are recorded in the accompanying narrative with an ingenuousness and honesty, and his personal adventures with a ready wit and humour, which do credit to his head and heart; the remarkable success of his book is attested by the successive editions which were called for in the course of a few years after its first publication, and its translation into several European languages; but what reward was reaped by the enterprising traveller himself, beyond the barren honour of knighthood conferred upon him by Don Francisco de Almeyda after the battle of Ponani, and subsequently confirmed by Don Emanuel of Portugal, we have no means of ascertaining. As far as we know, the copyright of his Itinerary, secured to himself and to his heirs for ten years, officially granted at the special mandate of Pope Julius II., by the Cardinal Chamberlain of the Court of Rome, as appears from the document attached to the first edition of 1510, was the only recompense bestowed upon him by his admiring but parsimonious countrymen.
Turning from the author to the author's book, I do not see how I can better introduce it than by rapidly leading the reader over the route pursued, halting here and there to illustrate the traveller's journeyings by brief sketches of the history of the countries visited, and the different people with whom he came in contact. The antecedent investigations of Dr. Vincent and Dr. Robertson, and the very recent researches of Mr. R. H. Major, who in his able Introduction to India in the Fifteenth Century has done much towards exhausting the subject of the ancient intercourse with India prior to the discovery of the route viâ the Cape of Good Hope, must be my excuse for not venturing to supplement their learned essays in that line,-a task, moreover, for which I am utterly unqualified. With this candid admission, I shall now pass on to the narrative under review.