Pico Della Mirandola - NOTES.


A collation of More's text with the original showed that in a few instances he had inaccurately or inadequately rendered it. In such cases, or where for any other reason it seemed desirable, the words of the original are given in the notes, the letters G.F.P. or P. subjoined in brackets indicating that the reference is to the Latin life by Giovanni Francesco Pico or to Pico's works. A few misprints have been silently corrected.


1. This lady may be either Jocosa or Joyce, daughter of Richard Culpeper of Hollingborne, Kent, and wife of Ralph Leigh, undersheriff of London, or her daughter, Jocosa or Joyce Leigh, sister of Sir John Leigh who succeeded to the manor of Stockwell, Surrey, on the death of his uncle, Sir John Leigh, 27 Aug., 1523. Tanswell, "History and Antiquities of Lambeth," pp. 41-2. Manning and Bray, "History of Surrey," iii. 497-8.

2. Pico was the third son and youngest child of Giovanni Francesco Pico, Count of Mirandola and Concordia in the Modenese. He had two brothers, Galeotto, and Antonio Maria, and three sisters, Catterina, Lucrezia and Giulia. Galeotto had to wife Bianca, daughter of Niccolņ d'Este, lord of Ferrara; Antonio Maria married twice, viz., (1) Costanza, daughter of Sante Bentivoglio, lord of Bologna, (2) a Neapolitan lady. Pico's eldest sister, Catterina, married (1) Leonello Pio, lord of Carpi, by whom she had Alberto, mentioned in connection with Pico's death; (2) Rodolfo, lord of Gonzaga. Carpi and Gonzaga are little towns in the Modenese. Lucrezia also married twice, viz. (1) Pino Ordelaffo, lord of Forli; (2) Gherardo Appiani di Piombino, Count of Montagnana. The third sister, Giulia, took the veil.
Pico's pedigree has been carried back as far as Manfredo of Reggio, a contemporary of Charlemagne; but the descent from the nephew of Constantine is mythical.
"Memorie Storiche della Mirandola," Litta, "Celebr. Fam. Ital." Pico, Opera (ed. 1601), Life by G. F. Pico; and "Adversus Astrologos," ii. cap. ix.

3. The Boiardi. Giulia was the daughter of Feltrino Boiardo, first Count of Scandiano, and aunt of the poet, Matteo Maria Boiardo, author of the "Orlando Innamorato." Litta, "Celebr. Fam. Ital." Venturi, "Storia di Scandiano," p. 83.

4. Paulinus was secretary to S. Ambrose, and wrote his life; from which the story in the text is taken.

5. "Flavo et inaffectato capillitio"(G.F.P.). Apparently Pico was somewhat careless about the arrangement of his hair.

6. Apollonius of Tyana, fl. 70 A.D., travelled throughout the ancient world expounding Neo-Pythagoreanism, and working wonders, esteemed miraculous.

7. For an account of these spurious compositions, written at various dates between the first century before and the third century after Christ, but which were universally regarded as genuine in Pico's day, see Zeller, "Philosophie der Griechen."

8. Aquinas.

9. With whom Pico was connected by affinity. See note 2.

10. For this vaunt of Epicurus see Diogenes Lęrtius, "Vitę Philosph.": τουτον Απολλοδωρος εν χρονικοις Λυσιφανους ακουσαι φησι και Πραξιφανους αυτος δε ου φησιν αλλ εαυτου, εν τη προς Ευρυδικον επιστολη.

11. Pico's conduct in this matter was not altogether so generous as it appears in the text. Soon after his father's death his brothers had fallen out about the partition of the family estates, and matters went so far that in 1473 Galeotto surprised Antonio Maria and incarcerated him in the citadel of Mirandola, while he made himself master of the entire inheritance, apparently ignoring Pico's title altogether. Antonio Maria remained a close prisoner in Mirandola for about two years, at the close of which he was released in deference to the intercessions, or perhaps menaces, of his friends, fled to Rome, and appealed to the Pope. He returned in 1483 with a small army furnished by the Duke of Calabria, possessed himself of Concordia, and negotiated a treaty of partition with his brother. The treaty was, however, by no means strictly observed. Pico had taken no part in the quarrel, and was probably the more ready to cede his rights to his nephew that any attempt to vindicate them for himself would certainly have excited the determined hostility of his brothers. The conveyance was executed on 22 April 1491. "Memorie Storiche della Mirandola," i. 108; ii. 43. Calori Cesis, "Giovanni Pico."

12. Girolamo Benivieni, author of the "Canzone dell'Amore Celeste e Divino" on which Pico wrote the commentary referred to in the Introduction. For an account of him see Mazzucchelli, "Scrittori Italiani."

13. St. Jerome, author of the Vulgate version of the Bible. The passage referred to is as follows:--"Scimus plerosque dedisse eleemosynam, sed de proprio corpore nihil dedisse; porrexisse egentibus manum, sed carnis voluptate superatos dealbasse ea quę foris erant, et intus plenos suisse ossibus mortuorum." "Epistola ad Eustochium Virginem," Opera (fol.) i. 65. g.

14. "Potissimum" (G.F.P.), especially. So in "Romaunt of the Rose," l. 1,358-9, the pomegranate is described as "a fruit full well to like, Namely, to folk when they be sick."

15: A reminiscence of the "De Sapientis Constantia."

16. "Passim "(G F.P.), on all hands. In fourteenth and fifteenth century literature "by and by" frequently means severally, or one by one, as in "Romaunt of the Rose," l. 4,582, "These were his words by and by." The "Promptorum Parvulorum" (Camden Soc.) translates it "sigillatim." Thence the transition to the sense of the text is not difficult.

17. See Introduction.

18. "Quam primum"(G.F.P.), as soon as possible.

19. See note 6.

20. A reminiscence of Epode II.

21. After leaving Bologna, Pico spent two years at Padua, the stronghold of scholasticism in Italy. He also studied for a time at Ferrara, under Battista Guarino, the humanist, whom in one of his letters he addresses as preceptor meus. In 1482 he returned to Mirandola, in the vicinity of which he built himself a little villa, which he describes as "pleasant enough, considering the nature of the place and district," and on which he wrote a poem now lost. Here he entertained Aldo Manuzio, who about the same time, doubtless by Pico's recommendation, was appointed tutor to his nephew, Alberto Pio, and a Greek scholar, Emanuel Adramyttenus, a refugee from Crete, where the Moslem was triumphant. He now began to correspond with Politian, and on a visit to Reggio made the acquaintance of Savonarola, who had come thither to attend a chapter of Dominicans. In 1483 he went to Pavia, taking with him Emanuel Adramyttenus, who acted as his Greek master. There Emanuel died, and Pico then joined Aldo Manuzio at Carpi. About this time he began the study of the oriental languages, his master being one Jocana, otherwise unknown. In 1484, if not earlier, he went to Florence, and made himself known to Marsilio Ficino, who had then just completed his translation of Plato. Pico urged him to crown his labours by performing the same office for Plotinus. Ficino, who was so little above the common superstitions of his time that he believed firmly in astrology, saw in Pico's unexpected appearance at this critical juncture an event not to be explained by natural causes, and taking his suggestion as a divine monition, forthwith set about the work: nor, when it was completed, did he omit to recount, in dedicating it to Lorenzo, the incident which led to its initiation. Pico appears to have remained at Florence until the latter part of 1485, when we lose sight of him for a time. We obtain, however, a transient glimpse of him in a somewhat novel light from a letter from his sister-in-law, Costanza, to Fra Girolamo, of Piacenza, dated 16 May, 1486, and printed in "Memorie Storiche della Mirandola," ii. 167. From this it appears that he had then recently left Arezzo with a Florentine married lady, who, Costanza is careful to state, "accompanied him voluntarily," but had been attacked by some boors, who cut to pieces his attendants, wounded him in two places, and carried him back to Arezzo. Whether the outrage is imputable to the jealousy of the lady's husband, Costanza cannot say. How the affair ended does not appear, but in the following October we find Pico at Perugia, and in November at Fratta in the Ferrarese. Then followed the visit to Rome, the affair of the Theses, and the journey to France, where he was presented to Charles VIII. After his recall to Italy he resided either at Fiesole or Florence until the summer of 1491, when he accompanied Politian to Venice. They returned to Florence in time to be present at the deathbed of Lorenzo (8 Ap. 1492). The rest of his life Pico spent partly at Ferrara and partly at Florence.
The foregoing brief record of Pico's wanderings reposes mainly upon the evidence afforded by his letters and those of Aldo Manuzio, Politian, and Ficino. Many of these, however, are undated, and all are singularly poor in personal detail. See also Calori Cesis, "Giovanni Pico della Mirandola," 2nd ed., 1872; Parr Greswell, "Memoirs of Angelus Politianus," &c.; and Villari's "Savonarola," Eng. tr. 1889, ii. 74.

22. "Insidiosissima correptus est febre" (G.F.P.).

23. See Note 2.

24. "Cœli reginam ad se nocte adventasse miro fragrantem odore, membraque omnia febre illa contusa contractaque refovisse" (G.F.P.). "Frushed "appears to be derived from the French froisser, which may mean either to bruise or to rumple; whence also probably "froyse" used locally for a pancake. See "Promptorium Parvulorum" (Camden Soc.) Froyse.

25. See note 2.

26. Charles VIII., to whom Pico had recently been presented. See note 21.

27. Girolamo Savonarola. For what little is known of his relations with Pico see note 21, and his life by Villari, Eng. tr. (1889).

28. "Verum divinis beneficiis male gratus, vel ab sensibus vocatus, detractabat labores (delicatę quippe temperaturę fuerat); vel arbitratus eius opera religionem indigere, differebat ad tempus: hoc tamen non ut verum sed ut a me conjectatum et pręsumptum dixerim" (G.F.P.). But unmindful of God's favours to him, or led away by the senses, he shrank from the labours (he was of a delicate constitution); or thinking that religion had need of his services he yet deferred them for a time: not, however, that I state this as truth, but only as what I conjecture or presume to be so.

29. "A diaboli laqueis" (P.), from the snares of the devil. So in Holinshed, "History of Scotland," Ethodius, 194 H. B., we read of "nets and grens" for snaring hares.

30. "Suggeret tibi cum Spiritus qui interpellat pro nobis, tum ipsa necessitas singulis horis quod petas a Deo tuo: suggeret et sacra lectio, quam ut omissis jam sabulis nugisque poetarum semper habeas in manibus etiam atque etiam rogo" (P.). It shall be taught thee both by the Spirit which intercedes for us and by thine own needs every hour what thou shouldest ask of thy God; and also by the reading of the holy scriptures, which, laying now aside the frivolous fables of the poets, I earnestly entreat thee to have ever in thy hands.

31. The letter is dated from Ferrara, 15 May, 1492, i.e. shortly after the death of Lorenzo.

32. A fragment of the lost Neoptolemus of Ennius:--


"Philosophari est mihi necesse, at paucis, nam omnino haut placet;
Degustandum ex ea, non in eam ingurgitandum censeo."

Ribbeck, "Frag. Lat. Reliq." i. 53; cf. Cic. "Tusc. Dispt." ii. 1.

33. Epist I. i. ad fin:--


"Ad summam: sapiens uno minor est Jove, dives,
Liber, honoratus, pulcher, rex denique regum;
Pręcipue sanus, nisi cum pituita molesta est."

34. "Uti mannus" (P.), like a draught-horse. Doubtless in More's edition the word was spelt manus; hence the curious mistranslation.

35. "Perusię xv. Octo Mcccclxxxvi. anno gratię" (P.). It is not easy to account for the double error into which More has here fallen.

36. "Mentientes propter eum" (P.), lying (i.e. to our disadvantage) because of him.

37. Ps. xxv. 1-5 in the authorized and revised versions. The Vulgate, where it appears as Ps. xxiv., has a slightly different rendering: Ad Te Domine levavi animam meam: Deus meus in Te consido, non erubescam: Neque irrideant me inimici mei: etenim universi,qui sustineant Te, non confundentur. Dirige me in veritate tua, et doce me, quia Tu es Deus Salvator meus, et Te sustinui tota die."

38. Ps. xvi. in the authorized and revised versions, xv. in the Vulgate, which is as follows:--"Conserva me Domine, quoniam speravi in Te. Dixi Domino: Deus meus es Tu, quoniam bonorum meorum non eges. Sanctis qui sunt in terra eius mirificavit omnes voluntates meas in eis. Multiplicatę sunt infirmitates eorum: postea acceleraverunt. Non congregabo conventicula eorum de sanguinibus: nec memor ero nominum eorum per labia mea. Dominus pars hereditatis meę, et calicis mei. Tu es qui restitues hereditatem meam mihi. Funes ceciderunt mihi in pręclaris: etenim hereditas mea pręclara est mihi. Benedicam Dominum, qui tribuit mihi intellectum: insuper et usque ad noctem increpuerunt me renes mei. Providebam Dominum in conspectu meo semper: quoniam a dextris est mihi ne commovear. Propter hoc lętatum est cor meum, et exultavit lingua mea: insuper et caro mea requiescet in spe. Quoniam non derelinques animam meam in inferno: nec dabis sanctum tuum videre corruptionem. Notas mihi fecisti vias vitę, adimplebis me lętitia cum vultu tuo: delectationes in dextera tua usque in finem."

39. "By-and-by" is here evidently forthwith.

40. These rules, of which More's verses are rather a paraphrase than a translation, were written by Pico in prose, and were translated into prose by Sir Thomas Elyot, author of the "Book of the Governour," as follows:



"First if to man or woman the way of virtue doth seem hard or painful, because we must needs fight against the flesh, the devil, and the world, let him or her call to remembrance, that whatsoever life they will chose according to the world, many adversities, incommodities, much heaviness and labour are to be suffered.

"Moreover let them have in remembrance, that in wealth and worldly possessions is much and long contention, laborious also, and therewith unfruitful, wherin travail is the conclusion or end of labour, and finally pain everlasting, if those things be not well ordered and charitably disposed.

"Remember also, that it is very folishness to think to come unto heaven by any other mean than by the said battle, considering that our head and master Christ did not ascend unto heaven but by his passion: And the servant ought not to be in better estate or condition than his master or sovereign.

"Furthermore consider, that this battle ought not to be grudged at, but to be desired and wished for, although thereof no price or reward mought ensue or happen, but only that thereby we mought be conformed or joined to Christ our God and master. Wherefore as often as in resisting any temptation thou dost withstand any of the senses or wits, think unto what part of Christ's passion thou mayst apply thyself or make thyself like: As resisting gluttony, whilst thou dost punish thy taste or appetite: remember that Christ received in his drink eysell[41] mixed with the gall of a beast, a drink most unsavoury and loathsome. When thou withdrawest thy hand from unlawful taking or keeping of any thing, which liketh thine appetite: remember Christ's handes as they were fast nailed unto the tree of the cross. And resisting of pride, think on him, who being very God almighty, for thy sake received the form of a subject, and humbled himself unto the most vile and reproachful death of the cross.

"And when thou art tempted with wrath: remember that He which was God, and of all men the most just or righteous, when He beheld himself mocked, spit on, scourged, and punished with all despites and rebukes, and set on the cross among errant thieves, as if He Himself were a false harlot, He notwithstanding showed never token of indignation or that He were grieved, but suffering al things with wonderful patience, answered al men most gently. In this wise if thou peruse all things one after another, thou mayst find, that there is no passion or trouble, that shall not make thee in some part conformable or like unto Christ.

"Also put not thy trust in man's help, but in the only virtue of Christ Jesu, which said: Trust well, for I have vanquished the world. And in another place He said: The prince of this world is cast out thereof. Wherefore let us trust by his only virtue, to vanquish the world, and to subdue the devil. And therefore ought we to ask his help by the prayers of us and of his saints.

"Remember also, that as soone as thou hast vanquished one temptation, always another is to be looked for: The devil goeth alway about and seeketh for him whom he would devour. Wherefore we ought to serve diligently and be ever in fear, and to say with the prophet: I will stand alway at my defence.

"Take heed moreover, that not only thou be not vanquished of the devil, that tempteth thee, but also that thou vanquish and overcome him. And that is not only when thou dost no sin, but also when of that thing wherein he tempted thee, thou takest occasion for to do good. As if he offereth to thee some good act to be done to the intent that thereby thou mayst fall into vainglory: forthwith thou thinking it not to be thy deed or work, but the benefit or reward of God, humble thou thyself, and judge thee to be unkind unto God in respect of his manifold benefits.

"As often as thou dost fight, fight as in hope to vanquish, & to have at the last perpetual peace. For that peradventure God of his abundant grace shall give unto thee, and the devil being confused of thy victory, shall return no more again. But yet when thou hast vanquished, bear thyself so as if thou shouldst fight again shortly. Thus alway in battle thou must think on victory: and after victory thou must prepare thee to battle immediately.

"Although thou feelest thyself well armed and ready, yet flee notwithstanding all occasions to sin. For as the wise man saith: who loveth peril shall therein perish.

"In all temptations resiste the beginning, and beat the children of Babylon again the Stone, which Stone is Christ, and the children be evil thoughts and imaginations. For in long continuing of sin, seldom worketh medicine or remedy.

"Remember, that although in the said conflict of temptation the battle seemeth to be very dangerous: yet consider how much sweeter it is to vanquish temptation, than to follow sin, whereto she inclineth thee, whereof the end is repentance. And herein many be foul deceived, which compare not the sweetness of victory to the sweetness of sin, but only compareth battle to pleasure. Not withstanding a man or woman, which hath a thousand times known what it is to give place to temptation, should once essay, what it is to vanquish temptation.

"If thou be tempted, think thou not therefore that God hath forsaken thee, or that he setteth but little by thee, or that thou art not in the sight of God good or perfect but remember, that after Saint Paul had seen God, as He was in his divinity, and such secret mysteries as be not lawful for any man to speak or rehearse, he for all that suffered temptation of the flesh, wherewith God suffered him to be tempted, lest he should be assaulted with pride. Wherein a man ought to consider that Saint Paul, which was the pure vessel of election, and rapt into the third heaven, was notwithstanding in peril to be proude of his virtues, as he saith of himself. Wherefore above all temptations man or woman ought to arm them most strongly against the temptation of pride, since pride is the root of all mischief, against the which the only remedy is to think alway that God humbled himself for us unto the cross. And moreover that death hath so humbled us whether we will or no, that our bodies shall be the meat of wormes loathsome and venomous."

41. "Recordare illum felle potatum et aceto" (P.). For "eysell" (i.e. vinegar) cf. Shakespeare, Hamlet, v. i. l. 264, "Woo't drink up eisel?" and Sonnet, cxi. l. 10, "Potions of eisel 'gainst my strong infection."

42. "Wood" in the sense of mad is not uncommon in our older writers. So Demetrius in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," ii. I, 1. 192,


"And here am I, and wood within this wood,
Because I cannot find my Hermia."

43. "Preace" would seem to be a corruption of prest, ready, used substantivally, "put thyself in preace" meaning make thyself ready. See Skeat, "Etymological Dictionary of the English Language," art. Press.

44. Cf. Ps. cxxxvii. 8, 9: "O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones."

45. Here More speaks in propria persona, with perhaps a double entendre in the "We More." There is nothing in Pico corresponding to the verses which follow.

46. For "lynne," cease, cf. Spenser, "Faery Queen," i. canto v. 35.


"And Sisiphus an huge round stone did reel
Against an hill, ne might from labour lin."

47. "Not" is for ne wot, i.e. know not. So Chaucer concludes the description of the Merchant in the Prologue to the "Canterbury Tales," 1. 286:


"But soth to sayn I n'ot how men him call."

48. The stanzas on the "Properties" are original except the last two, which are a paraphrase of the following sentence:-
"Solemus autem ad hoc induci pręcipue ex tribus causis. Prima est quando servitium ipsum per se est appetibile: secunda quando ille cui servimus est in se valde bonus et amabilis: sicut solemus dicere, servimus illi propter suas virtutes. Tertia est quando ille prius quam inciperes multa tibi beneficia contulit. Et hęc tria sunt in Deo: quia pro servitio eius nihil naviter accipitur quod non sit nobis bonum: et quoad animam et quoad corpus: quia servire ei non est aliud quam tendere ad eum: hoc est ad summum bonum. Similiter ipse est optimus et pulcherrimus et sapientissimus: et habet omnes conditiones quę solent nos movere ad amandum aliquem et serviendum ei gratis: et in nos contulit summa beneficia cum nos et ex nihilo creaverit et per sanguinem Filii ab inferno redemerit." (P.) There are, moreover, three principal considerations by which we are accustomd to be impelled to this service. The first is that the service itself is desirable for its own sake. The second arises when he whom we serve is in himself very good and amiable, and we serve him, as we are in the habit of saying, on account of his virtues. The third, when before the commencement of your service he whom you serve has conferred on you many favours. And these three considerations coexist in the case of God, for nothing whatever is accepted by way of His service which is not for our good both of soul and of body: for to serve Him is nothing else but to seek after Him: i.e. after the chief good. Likewise He Himself is of all beings the best, and most lovely and wisest: and has in Himself all the properties which are wont to move us to love and serve any one without reward: and has conferred on us the greatest favours, since He has both created us from nothing, and redeemed us from hell by the blood of His Son."

49. Cf. "Promptorium Parvulorum" (Camd. Soc.). "Prolling, or seeking. Perscrutatio, investigatio, scrutinum:" and Chaucer, "Canterbury Tales," l. 16880. "Though ye prolle aye, ye shall it never find."

50. Cf. note 47.

51. "Nyrche" has been substituted by way of conjectural emendation for "wyrche," which is unintelligible, "Nyrche" as = nourish gives the sort of sense required by the context; and the eccentric spelling may be merely due to the roughness with which the r was pronounced in More's time.

52. "Peace," cup: from the low Latin, pecia. See "Promptorium Parvulorum "(Camden Soc.) Pece; and Du Cange, Pecia.