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vices have been nearly as little questioned. Once before, I saw a lock of that same golden hair, but where is it now ? for the breast on which it was worn is mouldering in an untimely grave. That breast was Byron's; and well do I remember his entering into a warm defence of Lucretia Borgia, protesting against the truth of the charges preferred against her, and exhibiting a gold medallion in which were some twenty fair hairs, resembling fine threads of gold; which he assured us he obtained with great difficulty from the ringlet at the Ambrosian library, and which he valued highly, and always wore.
Nine or ten letters from Lucretia Borgia to the Cardinal Bembo, are placed with the lock of hair which she sent to him; and offer a strange mixture of sentimentality and pedantry, not exempt from levity. The writing is fine and characteristic, though less beautiful than Byron described it to be. These mementos of woman's weakness, preserved in a monastic institution, among so many treasures of erudition, divert the attention from objects perhaps more deserving it, but which excite it less; for the mind is ever prone to turn to all that recals to us the similarity of the human heart in all times, and in all countries, as we sympathise more with the weaknesses of our fellow-creatures than with their strength.
The vices that stained the lives of the father, mother, and brothers of Lucretia Borgia, could not fail to cast a dark shade over hers, and with a candid mind this reflection must operate to prevent a belief of the guilt for which she was arraigned, even though that guilt were less heinous than it is asserted to have been ; for depraved indeed must be the mind that can give credit to such monstrous crimes, and not attribute the existence of such charges to the fearful reputations of that father and those brothers, in whose iniquity her name has been mingled. History offers nothing like evidence, much less proof, that she took part in the death of one of her husbands, the unfortunate Alphonso of Arragon, said to have been assassinated by the desire of her father, and brother Cæsar Borgia, and her affectionate treatment to her son by him, has never been doubted.
Her divorce from John Sforza was willed by Alexander VI. for political motives, and any resistance on her part, had she been disposed to offer it, would have been unavailing with a man who allowed no appeal from his decisions. To her husband, Alphonso of Este, her conduct has been represented as irreproachable ; and must have so been, to have enabled her to escape the general disposition to censure directed to her by past reports, and aspersions.
So fearful is the obloquy heaped on the head or Lucretia Borgia, that, as a woman, I cannot yield credence to her having merited it; and leave to others the disagreeable task of commenting on a history so derogatory to her sex.
A voluminous manuscript of Leonardo da Vinci, filled with sketches, proving that not only as a painter, but as an engineer, he had arrived at great excellence, was shown to us. This book contains various drawings of hydraulic, astronomical, and optical instruments, as well as notes written in Leonardo's own hand. This is the manuscript for which Addison states King James I. offered three thousand Spanish pistoles.
The diversity of Leonardo's knowledge, and the rare excellence he had attained in the different sciences he had studied, rendered Leonardo da Vinci one of the most distinguished men of his day; and on beholding this proof of the versatility of his genius, one feels an increased admiration for those pictures of his, which would have commanded our warmest praise had they alone been his sole productions.
The lament of Victoria Accaromboni, on the murder of her husband, is not the least interesting of the manuscripts in the Ambrosian library. All that history relates of this beautiful and unfortunate woman, leaves a painful impression of her having known, if not consented, to the crime that abridged his life, and consequently, renders this lament of hers a very curious document. Victoria Accaromboni was the wife of Francesco Perretti, nephew to the Cardinal Montalte, afterwards Sextus V. Remarkable for her beauty and fascination of manner, Paolo Jourdano Orsini, Duke of Bracciano, became enamoured of her; and is said to have caused the assassination of Perretti, who was one night murdered in the street at Rome.
As Orsini was suspected to have strangled his wife, the fair and gifted Isabella de Medici, some six years previously to the murder of Perretti, this new accusation was received with more readiness; and when five years after Victoria Accaromboni publicly became his wife, it met with general credence.
The Duke of Bracciano survived this marriage little more than a year, and died at Salo, on the Lake of Garda, bequeathing a large dowry to his widow.
Little more than two months after his death, the Duchess, then residing at Padua, with one of her brothers, Flaminio Accaromboni, was attacked by forty men in masks; who surrounding the house, entered by a window, and murdered the brother and sister, refusing the latter her agonized request for time to offer up a prayer to Heaven.
This crime was instigated by Ludovico Orsini, a near relative of the Duke of Bracciano, who having shut himself up in his dwelling with his retainers and vassals, sustained a siege for some days. After nearly all his partisans had fallen beneath the ruins of the house, which was shattered by the soldiers employed by the civil power, he was taken and sentenced to be strangled in three hours afterwards. The marriage of Virginio, the young Duke of Bracciano, son of Paolo Jourdano Orsini and Isabella de'
Medici, with Flavia Perretti, the niece of the murdered husband of Victoria Accaromboni, and grand niece of the Pope, was a stroke of policy effected by the Cardinal Ferdinand de Medici, who thus healed the wounds still rankling in the heart of the Pope, for the loss of his favourite nephew.
Went again to the Ambrosian library, in the garden of which the Abbé Bentivoglio pointed out to us the copper palm-tree described by Lalande as a real tree, and citing its verdure in winter as a proof of the mildness of the climate at Milan.
Some large volumes of painted flowers, well executed, and a collection of miniatures to illustrate a manuscript of the Iliad, were shown us. These last are of great antiquity, and have considerable merit. We also saw the museum, which has the cartoon of the school of Athens, and some very beautiful pictures by Bernardino Luini.
I know of few modes of passing a morning more agreeable, than that of spending it in a library, or museum, containing rare and interesting objects; with a cicerone to point out what best merits attention, and who has patience enough to permit one to remain as long as is wished.
The erudition, good taste, and agreeable manners, of the Abbé Bentivoglio render a visit to the Ambrosian library peculiarly delightful; and we have to thank him for some very pleasant hours passed in it.
Went over the picture gallery of the Brera to-day,