Monthly Archives: December 2011

Samuel Richardson

Samuel Richardson

samuel-richardson(1689–1761) English novelist and printer. As a novelist, Samuel Richardson was catapulted to celebrity in England when he was already in his fifties. From the publication of Pamela in 1740, until his death 21 years later, his activities are widely known. Considerably less information is available concerning the earlier years of his life. It is known that hewas born in rural Derby, although his family was from London. His father was a joiner, and soon returned with his family to the capital. The young Richardson apparently received little schooling, although he seems to have been a voracious reader as a child.

Although his parents might have preferred to send him into the church, they did not have the resources to tend to his education, and Richardson was apprenticed to a printer in London when he was seventeen. He completed his apprenticeship and was enrolled in the Stationer’s Company, the guild of London printers, in 1715. By 1721, he had begun his own business, having married the daughter of his onetime employer. Like most London printers in the era, he produced a vast array of publications, printing books, journals, handbills, and other kinds of material for those who were willing to pay his fees. He seems soon, however, to have become a prominent member of the capital’ sprinting establishment. In 1723, for instance, he became the printer entrusted with producing the True Briton, a Tory publication. A few years later he became an officer in the Stationer’s Company.

A String of Tragedies

Although these were years of professional advancement, they were marked by great personal tragedies. In the years between his marriage in 1721 and the early 1730s, he lost all six of his children as well as his wife, a fact that he credited later in life with producing a tendency toward nervous disorders. In 1733, Richardson’s tide of bad luck apparently turned, however; he remarried, this time to another printer’s daughter, and the couple had four girls that survived. In the same year as his second marriage, Richardson printed his first book, The Apprentice’s Vade Mecum, a conduct book. In these years his prosperity grew, largely because he won several lucrative government printing contracts. He purchased a country house just outside London, and seems to have had more leisure time. As aresult, he began to write more in the later years of the 1730s. Read the rest of this entry

Pietro Aretino

Pietro Aretino

Pietro AretinoPietro Aretino the Italian author was born the son of a cobbler in Arezzo, a small town in Tuscany that was subject to the city of Florence. His mother grew estranged from Aretino’s father and moved in with a local nobleman, taking her children with her. At eighteen the young Aretino left Arezzo and moved to Perugia to become a servant in the home of the humanist Francesco Bontempi. Here he met the city’s circle of humanists, painters, and authors, and he acquired his taste for writing and painting. In Perugia he published a book of his poetry, in which he described himself as a painter, and he also became acquainted with Agostino Chigi, a prominent Sienese banker who kept a villa in Rome.

Chigi became Aretino’s patron, inviting him to move to the papal capital, where he broadened his circle of friends and acquaintances. At the time Rome was emerging as the capital of the High Renaissance. Long a dusty and dirty city when compared to Florence and the other Northern Italian centers of the time, Rome was in transformation, becoming the center of artistic and intellectual life at the time. In this brilliant atmosphere Aretino became constantly embroiled in scandals.

Political Involvements

In Rome, Aretino soon became known for his skills as a satirist when Giulio de’Medici hired him to write propaganda for him supporting his case for election to the papacy in 1521. Besides writing pamphlets praising the Medici candidate, Aretino also wrote a series of scathing satires that mocked Medici’s rivals, and when one of these candidates won election instead of Giulio, Aretino fled the city. Two years later, though, Giulio de’ Medici finally secured his election as pope and Aretino returned to Rome. However, he irritated his powerful friend when he wrote a seriesof pornographic sonnets that attacked Bishop Giberti, one of Giulio’s close advisers.

These sixteen Lascivious Sonnets recounted Giberti’s bizarre sexual tastes, and resulted in Aretino’s second banishment from the city. He made his way to the French court and tried to secure the patronage of Francis I, although his reconciliation with the pope soon allowed him to return to Rome. His taste for scandal, though, prompted him to write A Comedy about Court Life, a biting satire of thedebauched sexual lives of those in the papal court.Aretino fell out of favor again, and when he tried to seducethe wife of a powerful Roman citizen, an assassination attempt nearly ended his life. Although unsuccessful, the attack damaged Aretino’s hand and henever painted again. He traveled to Mantua in northern Italy where he continued to write satires and plays that attacked the papal court, but a second assassination attempt in 1527 forced him to flee yet again. He traveled to Venice, a more congenial place for his scathing wit, and he remained there for the rest of his life. Read the rest of this entry

Fabrizio Caroso – Dance Master of the 16th century

Fabrizio Caroso – Dance Master of the 16th century

Fabrizio CarosoLittle is known about the circum stances of Caroso’s life, except that he was born in Sermoneta, a small town near Rome, sometime between 1527 and 1535. Long standing legends have alleged that he was a peasant taken into the household of the Caetani family, dukes of Sermoneta and Rome, and provided with an education. In his treatises Caroso dedicates a number of his dances to members of the Caetani and Orsini families, and it is likely that he probably served as the dance instructor in these households for a time. Both families kept large palaces in Rome during the sixteenth century, and besides the Orsini and Caetani, Caroso mentions other powerful Roman nobles of the day, including the Farnese and Aldobrandini Duke and Duchess of Parma and Piacenza, to whom he dedicates his second dance book, The Nobility of Ladies (1600).

Torquato Tasso, the accomplished late Renaissance poet, also wrote a sonnet dedicated to Caroso, which is included in The Nobility. Like most of the prominentd ance masters of the period, though, he probably spent much of his life moving in princely circles in Italy, teaching dance and mounting spectacles and other entertainments for court circles. Little more, though, can bedetermined about his life.


Works of Caroso

Caroso is remembered today for two dance manuals he published late in the sixteenth century: The Dancing Master (1581) and The Nobility of Ladies (1600). Both are informative sources about the kinds of dances that were popular in the later Renaissance and together include information on about 100 different dances. Among these dances, Caroso includes a number of balletto, which were specially choreographed dances that consisted of multiple parts and specially composed music.

While Caroso’s works include a few simple dances that could be easily mastered, most of them were highly complex constructions that even expert amateurs might have had to spend many hours practicing. His books also include music intended to accompany these dances, and thus his work has been of great value to scholars and modern dance enthusiasts anxious to recover Renaissance styles of dance. In his Nobility of Ladies Caroso also included two dialogues between a dance master and his student that outline ballroom etiquette and a series of hard and fastrules for dancers to observe.

His prescriptions on etiquetteare notable for their extreme courtliness. He advises his readers on such subjects as how to wear a cape, how to sit and stand, when and how to remove gloves, and so forth. New editions of Caroso’s book Nobility of Ladies continued to appear in Italy until 1630, demonstrating its continued role in the seventeenth century as an authority on dance techniques and ballroom behavior.