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said to be 'insatiable of learned pleasures,' and enough of them were provided to cloy the most robust appetite. Sermons, dissertations, disputations, theatrical performances, succeeded each other, the professors making show without stint of their learning and their Latinity, the Palatine of his powers of endurance.
Among the spectacles not the least significant was that of a spare-bodied, bright-eyed Italian engaged in acrimonious encounter with certain dons, described by him as clad in • long robes of velvet, adorned with gold chains or costly ‘rings, smelling of Greek and beer, and owning the manners
of ploughmen.'* Fifteen several times, according to the same authority, was the . Coryphæus of the academy on that
grave occasion 'reduced, by the conclusive force of fifteen syllogisms, to the embarrassed condition of a 'chicken in a stubble-field,' while the rudeness and brutality of that 'pig' brought out in strong contrast the graceful forbearance of his opponent, 'who in truth showed himself a * Neapolitan, born and bred under more benignant skies.' †
There were doubtless high words on the occasion. Bruno's mode of controversy was of an eminently exasperating kind. His sarcasms were, in the phrase of M. Conti, I stilettothrusts;' his ironical attempts at conciliation scarcely more soothing. The upshot of the display was his disappearance from Oxford. The banks of the Isis knew him no more; nor was his brief stay commemorated by any local record. The Bodleian has been searched in vain for any scrap of evidence bearing on the Nolan episode. Contemporary English writers were similarly silent. Not one of them mentions the name of Giordano Bruno. Yet he figured conspicuously in London society during upwards of two years. He knew Burghley and Walsingham; he was on terms of intimate friendship with Sidney and Fulke Greville ; he had frequent access to Elizabeth. Italian refinement captivated the taste of the virgin queen :' she spoke the language--per ambizione, as the Venetian ambassador reported—and aired the acquirement whenever feasible : Castiglione's code of gentility was her vade mecum; she affected the Italian mode and air, and stimulated her courtiers to imitate the Italian exiles whom misfortune or misconduct
* Cena de le Ceneri, pp. 123, 137 (Wagner's edition).
Storia della Filosofia, p. 266.
had wafted towards the precincts of Whitehall.* Bruno's vivid discourses had thus a particular charm for her, though her shrewd, cold mind can hardly have taken the full measure of him. He most likely passed in the Court circle for an entertaining rhapsodist, for a preacher of chimeras, a proclaimer of vast and vague incredibilities, outraging the sedate sobriety of English common sense. And the estimate had some truth in it. Even his professed admirers do not hold all his utterances as those of a perfectly sane man; the impartial Brucker is driven to admit that he used reason deliriously-cum ratione insanivit; the Bacchic frenzy amid which he delivered his sentiments, if it animated, helped also to discredit them. His extravagant self-eulogies, moreover, savoured of imposture, and his 'art of memory' could hardly, to grave minds, appear otherwise than as an intellectual quack remedy. Hence he was scarcely taken by his contemporaries as seriously as he deserved. His genius did not, to their eyes, fully disengage itself from his charlatanry. His eccentricity was, to a close onlooker, more apparent than the inspiration by which it was illuminated and to some extent redeemed.
In peace, so far as peace was possible to him, the Nolan philosopher dwelt in the French ambassador's house from June 1583 until about September 1585. It was a real home that he had found. “London,' as he gratefully declared, was 'made Nola to him ;' and unaccustomed touches of a tender regard are traceable in his panegyric on Madame Castelnau, and still more in his enthusiasm over the accomplishments of her little daughter, aged six, the godchild and favourite of the Queen of Scots.
Malignant' enemies, indeed, lay as usual in wait for him, but he was for the time secure from their assaults; his daily bread was provided, and leisure was left him to give shape and sequence to the ideas which scorched his brain. Under Castelnau's roof, accordingly, his best works were composed. Those (of a philosophical character) which preceded might be properly described as nugatory. They were mere empty shells of words. But now at last the substance of his metaphysic was unfolded, not, it is true, in a systematic or lucid form, but as coherently as the nature of its author permitted. His native Italian, too, which he was no doubt encouraged to adopt by its general intelligibility to the cultured English of that era, was, compared with the heavy
hoofed Latin serving to convey the mysteries of the Lullian art, as Pegasus to a Suffolk punch. On the wings of its rhetoric he travelled far, and he travelled fast.
Three dialogues, constituting a sort of trilogy, embodied the essence of his teaching regarding man, the universe, and its Maker. The first, known as the Cena de le ceneri,' or Supper of Ashes, relates the preliminaries and upshot of an Ash Wednesday banquet in the house of Sir Fulke Greville, where the Nolan was given an opportunity of formally meeting anti-Copernican objections. It is by far the most entertaining of his works. Written evidently under the lash of severe personal mortification, cosmology is enlivened in it by the keenest satire, and the effect is rather that of a brilliant lampoon upon English manners than of a serious philosophical essay. The narrative form given to it affords, besides, a wide scope for variety of treatment, turned to full account. For, side by side with diatribes upon the filthy condition of London streets, the impenetrable sullenness of Thames boatmen, the leaky condition of their skiffs, the brutality of the English working and serving classes, the nauseous horrors of the loving cup,' the pig-headed and boorish incivility of Oxford professors, we meet passages of true sublimity, of grave and lofty eloquence, upon subjects well worthy to occupy the deepest attention of the human mind.
The astronomical debate finally arrived at was conducted with the usual amenities of a scientific discussion. Bruno was politely told that he was sailing to Anticyra'-in other words, that Bedlam was the fittest place for him. He retorted furiously that his antagonist, a certain Doctor Torquato, was worth, stripped of his official insignia, no more than the garments he wore, which themselves needed to be well dusted with cudgels. General confusion ensued, and the party shortly after broke up, the Nolan remaining, we can gather, not in the best odour, whether social or scientific. His arguments were, indeed, in many respects unworthy of the great truths they were employed to defend ; and in his show of mathematical reasonings he displayed ignorance which he would have been the first to stigmatise as 'asinine,' had he detected it in an adversary.
He condescended, in “De la Causa, Principio, et Uno,' to sing something of a palinode to the anti-English dithyrambs of the ‘Cena.' The apology probably did little to still the outcry raised by the offence. Only Castelnau's protection enabled him to hold his ground. In the ‘Proemial Epistle'
addressed to him, he flings over the rock of his injured innocence a cascade of phrases descriptive of the various kinds of vile motives conspiring to produce the 'unjust 'outrages' levelled at him, the beloved of the wise, the admired of the learned, the esteemed of potentates, the favourite of the gods, but whom 'blockheads hated, the worthless contemned, the ignoble blamed, villains vituperated, the whole bestial crew persecuted.'
An abrupt change of key then introduces the fine sonnet, beginning
• Causa, Principio, et Uno sempiterno, and concluding with the following vigorous lines, which may
a slight specimen of our philosopher's poetical style:
" Cieco error, tempo avaro, ria fortuna,
Non basteranno a farmi l' aria bruna,
Non faran mai, ch' il mio bel sol non mire.' The theme of the ensuing discourse is the majestic doctrine of the unity of the world in God, by which Giordano Bruno professed to establish the edifice of all natural and • divine cognition.' In this solemn unity contraries are identified; the finite and the infinite, the real and the ideal, matter and form, act and potency, meet and harmonise. From the immanence of the Divinity it was inferred that all things are in everything, consequently that all is One.' This was Bruno's pet paradox. Although of highly orthodox parentage, since it originated with Cardinal Cusa, it is easy to see that, in the crude shape here given to it, it meant pantheism or nothing.
The concluding dialogue of the set, De l'Infinito Un so e Mondi,' displays the multiplicity comprehended by the fundamental unity. Happy audacities, plentifully mixed
, with fanciful extravagances, mark every page. Much lumber of antiquated erudition was swept scornfully aside. Astronomers who kept their brains imprisoned within the narrow compass of the nine traditional spheres, reminded him, by their saltatory and gyratory performances, of parrots hopping in a cage. He, at least, would no longer be a slave to the
vile phantasy' of a sky built, as it were, in compartments. * The lucid interspace of world and world’ should, once for all, be thrown freely wide to motion and thought.
Down, then, with the barriers of heaven; down with the flaming walls of the world ; ' away with
The cumbrous elements, earth, flood, air, fire,
And this ethereal quintessence of heaven.' All Nature is one; it is infinite, it is divine, it is a living organism animated by a living soul. Each of the innumerable worlds it embraces
The isles of life or light that gem
The sapphire floods of interstellar air is a glorious being, consciously striving towards its own perfection, intelligently regulating its course and movements according to its felt needs; contemplating with rapt intuitive knowledge the principles of being, the order of the cosmos, the stupendous unity of which it forms part. With much more eloquent pseudo-scientific declamation to a similar effect, the nebulous bulk of which is, however, here and there strangely furrowed by the vivid gleam of an anticipated verity.
The Nolan's liberating' message to an unresponsive world was now, in its main purport, delivered; but he did not therefore keep silence. His brain still effervesced; the smart of his wounded self-love was still sharp and sore. He had no sooner, then, reached the sat prata biberunt of
De l'Infinito,' than he set his rapid pen to work on the Spaccio de la Bestia Trionfante.'
This curious little book owed much of its reputation to its rarity, much more to its impiety, and a small residue to its wit. No more than twenty copies are said to have been originally printed, and they were hunted out by bibliophiles as eagerly as the luck-bringing 'four-leaved shamrock' by an Irish peasant. Fifty pounds was paid for one in Addison's time, and that in the Mazarin Library cost 1,132 francs. Toland boasted his copy (said to have belonged to Queen Elizabeth) as unique, and extolled the efficacy of its antichristian sneers. Their impotence, on the other hand, was exposed by Budgell in the Spectator,' and is now obvious to the least discerning. Since the book has become accessible it has ceased to look formidable. Immorality and irreligion are, indeed, distributed broadcast through its pages, but in such visible association with wild and wicked unreason as to be impotent for evil.
The inner meaning of the piece is not easy to disengage from its artful enfoldings. We are, at the outset, confronted with all the intricacies of an allegory thrown into dialogue