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Old 05-22-2007, 09:21 PM   #1
RWood
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Eliot, Charles W. (editor): Harvard Classics 31: Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini.

The ninth installment, Volume 31 of the Harvard Classics, presents an artist in gold and silver, a political back roomer, and a man with a gifted imagination, Cellini wrote his autobiography with a passion equaled by few. Some have said that the original is wonderful, all that I have spoken to have agreed that the English translation is better.

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Not less characteristic of its splendidly gifted and barbarically untameable author are the autobiographical memoirs which he composed, beginning them in Florence in 1558 — a production of the utmost energy, directness and racy animation, setting forth one of the most singular careers in all the annals of fine art. His amours and hatreds, his passions and delights, his love of the sumptuous and the exquisite in art, his self-applause and self-assertion, running now and again into extravagances which it is impossible to credit, and difficult to set down as strictly conscious falsehoods, make this one of the most singular and fascinating books in existence. Cellini not only writes of the strange and varied adventures of which we have presented a hasty sketch, but of the devout complacency with which Cellini could contemplate a satisfactorily achieved homicide. He writes of his time in Paris:

“ When certain decisions of the court were sent me by those lawyers, and I perceived that my cause had been unjustly lost, I had recourse for my defense to a great dagger I carried; for I have always taken pleasure in keeping fine weapons. The first man I attacked was a plaintiff who had sued me; and one evening I wounded him in the legs and arms so severely, taking care, however, not to kill him, that I deprived him of the use of both his legs. Then I sought out the other fellow who had brought the suit, and used him also such wise that he dropped it.[1] ”

There are parts of his tale that are clearly outright falsehoods, such as the legion of devils which he and a conjurer evoked in the Colosseum, after one of his not innumerous mistresses had been spirited away from him by her mother; of the marvelous halo of light which he found surrounding his head at dawn and twilight after his Roman imprisonment, and his supernatural visions and angelic protection during that adversity; and of his being poisoned on two separate occasions. If he is unmeasured in abusing some people, he is also unlimited in praising others.

The autobiography has been translated into English by Thomas Roscoe, by John Addington Symonds, and by A. Macdonald. It has been considered and published as a classic, and commonly regarded as one of the most colourful autobiographies (certainly the most important autobiography from the Renaissance).[2] Cellini also wrote treatises on the goldsmith's art, on sculpture, and on design (translated by C. R. Ashbee, 1899).

The life of Cellini also inspired the popular French author Alexandre Dumas, père. Dumas, an author of numerous historical novels wrote Ascanio, which was based on Cellini's life. The novel focuses on several years during Cellini's stay in France, working for Francis. The book is also centred around Ascanio, an apprentice of Cellini. The famous scheming, plot twists and intrigue that made Dumas famous feature in the novel, in this case involving, Cellini, the duchesse d'Etampes and other members of the court. Cellini is portrayed as a passionate and troubled man, plagued by the inconsistencies of life under the "patronage" of a false and somewhat cynical court.
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Old 05-22-2007, 09:35 PM   #2
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Old 05-23-2007, 12:24 AM   #3
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