Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 2.djvu/393

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CANTO IV.]
351
CHILDE HAROLD’S PILGRIMAGE.

XXXI.

They keep his dust in Arqua,[1] where he died—N9

The mountain-village where his latter days

    Tytler (Lord Woodhouselee)], in an Historical and Critical Essay on the Life and Character of Petrarch (1810), had reestablished "the ancient prejudice" in favour of Laura's virginity. Hobhouse appears, but his note is somewhat ambiguous, to adopt the view of "the ingenious Scotchman." To pass to contemporary criticism, Dr. Garnett, in his History of Italian Literature, 1898 (pp. 66-71), without attempting to settle "the everlasting controversy," regards the abbé's documentary evidence as for the most part worthless, and, relying on the internal evidence of the sonnets and the dialogue, and on the facts of Petrarch's life as established by his correspondence (a complete series of Petrarch's letters was published by Giuseppe Fracassetti, in 1859), inclines to the belief that it was the poet's status as a cleric, and not a husband and family, which proved a bar to his union with Laura. With regard, however, to "one piece of documentary evidence," namely, Laura de Sade's will, Dr. Garnett admits that, if this were producible, and, on being produced, proved genuine, the coincidence of the date of the will, April 3, 1348, with a note in Petrarch's handwriting, dated April 6, 1348, which records the death of Laura, would almost establish the truth of the abbé's theory "in the teeth of all objections."]

  1. ["He who would seek, as I have done, the last memorials of the life and death of Petrarch in that sequestered Euganean village [Arquà is about twelve miles south-west of Padua], will still find them there. A modest house, apparently of great antiquity, passes for his last habitation. A chair in which he is said to have died is shown there. And if these details are uncertain, there is no doubt that the sarcophagus of red marble, supported on pillars, in the churchyard of Arquà, contains, or once contained, his mortal remains. Lord Byron and Mr. Hobhouse visited the spot more than sixty years ago in a sceptical frame of mind; for doubts had at that time been thrown on the very existence of Laura; and the varied details of the poet's life, which are preserved with so much fidelity in his correspondence, were almost forgotten."—Petrarch, by H. Reeve, 1879, p. 14. On a letter to Hoppner, September 12, 1817, Byron says that he was moved "to turn aside in a second visit to Arquà." Two years later, October, 1819, he in vain persuaded Moore "to spare a