Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/590

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place where it was formed. In contrast with the professor's large and miscellaneous audience, the members of an Academy were limited in number, and carefully selected; and, while the lecturer was usually constrained to adopt a more or less popular mode of treatment, the work of an Academy was more esoteric.

Among the humanist professors, none were more eminent or successful in their day than Filelfo and Politian. Each is a representative man. Filelfo is a type of the wandering humanist who played so conspicuous a part in the first half of the fifteenth century. Politian, in the latter part of that century, represents the public teaching of the classics in a riper phase: with him, indeed, it reached the highest level to which Italy ever saw it lifted by the union of learning with genius. The zenith of Filelfo's reputation may be placed at the time, in 1429, when, after teaching at Venice and Bologna, he came as professor to Florence. We have already seen that, after studying Greek at Constantinople, he had brought home with him a considerable store of classical manuscripts. He especially prided himself on a comprehensive knowledge of the Greek and Latin literatures, and on his facility in using both languages, alike in prose and in verse. At Florence, for a time at least, he often gave four lectures a day, taking (for instance) Cicero and Homer in the morning, followed by Terence and Thucydides in the afternoon. "My audience," he says, "numbers every day four hundred persons,—perhaps more"; or perhaps less; for his own later recollections reduced the estimate by one half. At any rate the attendance was very large. There were youths (some from France, Germany, Spain, Cyprus), but also middle-aged or elderly men, including the foremost in Florence. This state of things did not, indeed, last long; for Filelfo had a fatal knack of rousing enmities. But it is a good illustration of what was possible for a very eminent humanist at that period. The method of teaching was determined by the peculiar conditions. Among Filelfo's large audience there would be many, possibly a majority, who would regard the lecture mainly as a display of Latin eloquence, and who would not attempt to take notes. But there would also be many serious students, intent on recording what the lecturer said; and of these only a few would possess manuscripts of the author,—Cicero, for example,—whom he was expounding. After an introduction, Filelfo would therefore dictate a portion of Cicero's text, which the students would transcribe. To this he would add a commentary, dealing with grammar, with the usage of words, and with everything in the subject-matter which needed to be explained or illustrated. Thus, at the end of such a course, the lecturer would have dictated a fully annotated edition of the classical book, or portion of a book, which he was treating; and the diligent student would have transcribed it. The migratory habits of the earlier humanists are partly to be explained by the fact that, when a lecturer had exhausted his existing stock of annotated texts,