MACHIAVELLI, VOLUME I***
E-text prepared by Ted Garvin, David King, and the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
HENRY CUST. M.P.
THE ART OF WAR
Published by DAVID NUTT at the Sign of the Phoenix LONG ACRE
Edinburgh: T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty
TO MY FRIEND CHARLES WHIBLEY
[Sidenote: The Life of a Day.]
'I am at my farm; and, since my last misfortunes, have not been in Florence twenty days. I spent September in snaring thrushes; but at the end of the month, even this rather tiresome sport failed me. I rise with the sun, and go into a wood of mine that is being cut, where I remain two hours inspecting the work of the previous day and conversing with the woodcutters, who have always some trouble on hand amongst themselves or with their neighbours. When I leave the wood, I go to a spring, and thence to the place which I use for snaring birds, with a book under my arm--Dante or Petrarch, or one of the minor poets, like Tibullus or Ovid. I read the story of their passions, and let their loves remind me of my own, which is a pleasant pastime for a while. Next I take the road, enter the inn door, talk with the passers-by, inquire the news of the neighbourhood, listen to a variety of matters, and make note of the different tastes and humours of men.
'This brings me to dinner-time, when I join my family and eat the poor produce of my farm. After dinner I go back to the inn, where I generally find the host and a butcher, a miller, and a pair of bakers. With these companions I play the fool all day at cards or backgammon: a thousand squabbles, a thousand insults and abusive dialogues take place, while we haggle over a farthing, and shout loud enough to be heard from San Casciano.
'But when evening falls I go home and enter my writing-room. On the threshold I put off my country habits, filthy with mud and mire, and array myself in royal courtly garments. Thus worthily attired, I make my entrance into the ancient courts of the men of old, where they receive me with love, and where I feed upon that food which only is my own and for which I was born. I feel no shame in conversing with them and asking them the reason of their actions.
'They, moved by their humanity, make answer. For four hours' space I feel no annoyance, forget all care; poverty cannot frighten, nor death appal me. I am carried away to their society. And since Dante says "that there is no science unless we retain what we have learned" I have set down what I have gained from their discourse, and composed a treatise, _De Principalibus_, in which I enter as deeply as I can into the science of the subject, with reasonings on the nature of principality, its several species, and how they are acquired, how maintained, how lost. If you ever liked any of my scribblings, this ought to suit your taste. To a prince, and especially to a new prince, it ought to prove acceptable. Therefore I am dedicating it to the Magnificence of Giuliano.'
[Sidenote: Niccolò Machiavelli.]
Such is the account that Niccolò Machiavelli renders of himself when after imprisonment, torture, and disgrace, at the age of forty-four, he first turned to serious writing. For the first twenty-six or indeed twenty-nine of those years we have not one line from his pen or one word of vaguest information about him. Throughout all his works written for publication, there is little news about himself. Montaigne could properly write, 'Ainsi, lecteur, je suis moy-mesme la matière de mon livre.' But the matter of Machiavelli was far other: 'Io ho espresso quanto io so, e quanto io ho imparato per una lunga pratica e continua lezione delle cose del mondo.'
[Sidenote: The Man.]
Machiavelli was born on the 3rd of May 1469. The period of his life almost exactly coincides with that of Cardinal Wolsey. He came of the old and noble Tuscan stock of Montespertoli, who were men of their hands in the eleventh century. He carried their coat, but the property had been wasted and divided. His forefathers had held office of high distinction, but had fallen away as the new wealth of the bankers and traders increased in Florence. He himself inherited a small property in San Casciano and its neighbourhood, which assured him a sufficient, if somewhat lean, independence. Of his education we know little enough. He was well acquainted with Latin, and knew, perhaps, Greek enough to serve his turn. 'Rather not without letters than lettered,' Varchi describes him. That he was not loaded down with learned reading proved probably a great advantage. The coming of the French, and the expulsion of the Medici, the proclamation of the Republic (1494), and later the burning of Savonarola convulsed Florence and threw open many public offices. It has been suggested, but without much foundation, that some clerical work was found for Machiavelli in 1494 or even earlier. It is certain that on July 14, 1498, he was appointed Chancellor and Secretary to the Dieci di Libertà e Pace, an office which he held till the close of his political life at fall of the Republic in 1512.