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Art. III.-1. The Makers of Venice—Doges, Conquerors, Painters,
and Men of Letters. By Mrs. Oliphant, Author of The Makers of Florence.' With illustrations by R. R.
Holmes, F.S.A. London, 1888. 2. Venezia, e le sue Lagune. Venezia, 1847. 3. Monumenti per servire alla storia del Palazzo Ducale di
Venezia : ovvero serie di atti publici dal 1253, al 1797, che variamente lo reguardono, tratti dai Veneti archivii, e coordinati da Giambattista Lorenzi, coadjutore della Biblioteca
Marciana. Venetia, MDCCCLXIII. 4. La Storia di Venezia nella vita privata, dalle origini, alla caduta della republica. Da P. G. Molmenti
. Torino, 1885. 5. Life on the Lagoons. By Horatio F. Brown. London,
1884. 6. Venetian Studies. By Horatio F. Brown. London, 1887. RS. OLIPHANT, in her pleasant and painstaking book,
does not venture far enough out to sea to incur much peril from adverse criticism. We have little criticism to make, except in respect of her title, which the authoress has apparently adopted from no other reason than to follow suit with her previous work, “The Makers of Florence.' In the case of Florence, the title is fairly appropriate, for the Medici were in some sense the makers as they were also the marrers of Florence; but as regards Venice, no greater misnomer than that of · The Makers of Venice' could well have been chosen. If human makers must be assigned to the City of the Sea, we should go back, first, to Alaric, and secondly, to Attila, whose ravages on the mainland drove a host of refugees to found their homes in those Lagoons which eventually became Venice. Besides, to designate certain citizens as chief authors of the State is to suggest that to which the whole character of the people was opposed.
Their boasted liberty is somewhat overclouded by the jealous checks and counterchecks with which it was environed. So determined were the Venetians that no individual should attain preponderance in the government, that for the first seven centuries—the period of her truest greatness-no one citizen, whatever his merits, could be said in a political sense to hold a place above another. To this the position of the Doge presented no exception; and, in truth, as we shall have occasion to explain, it only confirmed the rule ; for most changes, and they were frequent, were in the direction of a diminution of his authority. That Venice had her makers there can be no doubt; and these were neither her soldiers, her sailors, nor even her statesmen, but rather three great overruling causes. Her Freedom, so called, her Com
merce, and her Position : her Freedom founding that Commerce to which her Position gave an ever-widening range.
The three Italian works on our list throw fresh light on these agencies, and are calculated to create some revolution in the ideas generally current on Venetian history.
The first – Venezia, e le sue Lagune '—is a work of great authority compiled by the members of a well-known club, called 'I Dotti”; comprising the most eminent men in the departments of history, literature, and science ; each taking the subject in which he is an adept; and all alike anxious, as regards the history of the Republic, to place it on a foundation of unimpugnable accuracy.
The second, by Signor Lorenzi, formerly •Assistant Librarian' of St. Mark's Library, is beyond all modern challenge ; being, as the title sets forth, a collection of public acts taken from the archives, and bearing on the history of the Ducal Palace for five centuries and a half.
The third work, by Signor Molmenti, is in one sense the most important; being a more consecutive history, illustrated by incidents of the private life of the Venetians, drawn from the inexhaustible riches of Venetian documents. The value of this work has received a twofold certificate; it has been adjudged the prize of 3000 francs bequeathed by Count Giovanni Querini Stampaglia to the Venetian Institute of Science, Letters and Art, and it has gone through several editions.
Viewed under one aspect, the Position of Venice was her most active maker; for, as there were no fields to till and no corn to reap, the new settlers transferred their ploughs to the deep, and reaped the fruits which the winds and waves and their own good oars brought them. How those three overruling causes we have cited further worked together to form the most extraordinary State that the world has known, points, however, to a combination of causes lying deep and in some instances lost in early history. Venice is built, as we all know, upon seventytwo islands; but their aggregate—the great State herself-constitutes a moral island in history. The Venetians used to boast first, that they were born free, i.e. without those early fetters of feudalism which to this day cripple some other European races; and, secondly, that they were born to Christianity, such as it then was. Certainly no State, in the conduct of its own affairs, ever showed greater sagacity, caution, and prudence, more aptitude for what is known in modern terms as 'business, a higher spirit of adventure, with, at the same time, a greater absence of what can only be called Sentiment. The annals of Venice are human History, with all the softer parts ieft out. A
peculiar feature, which may be fairly accepted as partly solving this problem, at once meets us in the total absence of all female influence, whether domestic or political. And though the sex was in like manner without influence in the chief countries of Europe for many centuries, yet there were circumstances in the local position of Venice which especially account for this want of influence. She faced the East, she trafficked mainly with Oriental peoples, she learned their languages, coined their money, and adopted their habits; and her women, though surrounded with the observances of the Church, and living in so-called Christian homes, were almost as much secluded as if they had been inmates of a harem. To this total suppression of the sex may be partly attributed the phenomenon that, in spite of having furnished modern fiction with some of its most romantic features, the Government of Venice was the most matter-of-fact, worldly-wise, and unromantic that ever existed. It is on her imaginary history that poets and novelists have fastened. No Bravo would have been written, nor hardly the immortal words of Childe Harold,' had the real history of Venice been as current as the false one. Even in her palmy days, it may safely be said, the city never inspired that sense of the romantic and the picturesque which she does now. Considered, however, as a field for antiquarian research, it would be strange if Englishmen had not been forward to cultivate it. The late Mr. Rawdon Brown, visiting Venice in his youth, with the intention of remaining a few weeks, found the place so fascinating, and the materials so fertile, that he remained above fifty years, and ended his days there. He is succeeded for the present by a namesake, Mr. Horatio Brown, to whom we are indebted for the interesting and important works we have placed at the head of this article.
Meanwhile, it is hard that the elaborate work by Count Daru—-written and published under the protection of Napoleon, but drawn up literally upon the most impudently false lines, though at once testified and protested against by many a Venetian publication, too obscure and unheeded to serve as its antidoteshould have been the one most studied by the modern European public, and most used in the compilation of school books. all the states in the world, Venice has best insured the veracity of her own history. Both publicly and privately nothing was allowed to transpire within her canals unnoted; nor, when noted, uncopied. No city ever possessed such a host of scribes and transcribers. The copying of the public records constituted part of the education of the young. The plunder by the French and Austrians of State papers-of Marino Sanudo's Diaries, for
example—was neutralized by the ample copies that remained behind. It was one of their forms of precaution to keep notes of occurrences even comparatively private. Every great house had its diary ; some of them, as bearing upon public history, have found their way to the British Museum ; and few marriages of importance took place without the compilation by a competent pen of some incident of public or family interest, which was printed in honour of the pair.
The early history of a part of Europe subsequently so famous is very indistinct. Á Venetia, peopled by a distinct race, existed, there is no doubt, on the mainland long before there was one on the Lagoons; and these Veneti are identified by some with the Veneti on the western coast of Gaul. But the similarity of the name is probably accidental; and there is good reason for believing that the Italian Veneti were not of Celtic origin. After conquering and absorbing the neighbouring Gallic and Etrurian tribes, they were themselves in turn absorbed by the great conquerors of the world, who founded in their territory the powerful colony of Aquileia (B.C. 181). Of their close amalgamation with their Roman conquerors evidence survives in the durable tokens—coins, ornaments, and utensils
-so plentiful wherever Romans lived. These were not left behind by the refugees in their flight, but, on the contrary, strewing the historical foreground of the new colonists, point straight in descent to the amphitheatre and other imperial buildings on the opposite coast. Nor are these outward evidences all, for from whom but from Rome did the new Republic derive that activity and energy, which grasped the sceptre just falling from the paralysed hand on the Tiber, and which for centuries wielded it with new power and purpose ?
For a people, even of such strong fibre, Aying from their homes, a less promising resuge than a region which neither afforded firm land nor deep water could hardly be imagined. It had its fish, its salt, and its tides—what an old chronicler designates as the right and left hand of the early settlers. It might not therefore be difficult to foretell, that the trade arising from the immemorial nets and salt pans, would quickly, under the needs of the new-comers, expand to larger dimensions. Still, it would bave been a bold prophecy to predict that these humble industries would be succeeded by those of silk, of satin, of cloth of gold and silver, and of lace of exquisite texture ; that the neutral contrast offered by the surrounding lagoons would develop the finest colouring that Art has known; and a still bolder one to foresee those masses of proud buildings which to this day cast their reflections on the same quivering waters. Not, however, without bitter conflicts, both among themselves and with the peculiar nature around them, were the foundations laid of an era of power and prosperity unequalled in contemporary history. As soon, it would appear, as the terror of the Barbarians began to subside, those jealousies and dissensions arose which frequently crimsoned the waters of the • Canale Orfano.' The Venetian mud and sand banks had, however, been peopled before; and the different groups of islands had been held under the domination of different cities on the mainland. In the confusion of the escape, burdened with the old, the sick, the women and the children, many a fugitive from Aquileia, for instance, found himself landed on some halfsubmerged shoal belonging nominally to Padua, or vice versa, which gave scant footing even to those who claimed it as their right, but for which they were ready to fight.
The researches of modern times find no trustworthy evidence in support of the tradition, that the island of Rialto was, probably on account of a spring of fresh water that once existed there, the earliest place of refuge. Not till these conflicts were over, and the rising generations had been taught to merge their interests in the common good of the colony—and that, a full century after the flight from the mainland — does it appear that the island of Rialto was formally recognized as the seat of government. So entirely is · Rialto' considered by commentators the seat of government, that Mr. Horatio Brown, in his • Venetian Studies,' applies the name · Venice' to the whole lagoon, and that of Rialto to the city only. With the letter of Cassiodorus we emerge into the light of history. In the sixth century, Cassiodorus, himself a curious link in this historical crisis, between the old and new—for the man of Roman stock was now so-called Minister to Theodoric, King of the Ostro-Goths -addresses a letter to. The Maritime Tribunes' of the Venetians, inviting them with their numerous vessels' to transport stores of food from the shores of Istria to Theodoric's seat at Ravenna. Adding also this significant sentence, whether in a literal or figurative sense, With your hard-earned salt, you coin money.' Thus, in Signor Molmenti's words, "While the plebeians were still living in bondage and degradation in the plains of Lombardy and beneath the feudal castles of Tuscany, and while Romans, high and low, were groaning under the yoke of the Barbarians, the new Venice had started on her course; her vessels were scouring the Adriatic, and pushing their way to the East. A great people, rescued from the ruins trampled by the Huns, were reviving the forms of antique civilization, and applying them to new uses. In other words, Venice rose as