Machiavelli & the Renaissance

By Federico Chabod; David Moore | Go to book overview
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III
MACHIAVELLI'S METHOD AND STYLE

DURING the summer and autumn of 1500 Niccoló Machiavelli was at the Court of France, undergoing his first great experience of European politics. Together with Francesco della Casa, he had been sent by the Government of Florence on a mission to Louis XII, 'the master of the shop', in other words the contemporary arbiter of Italian affairs, his object being to try to solve the disastrous problem of Pisa. As a first 'lesson' of this experience Machiavelli was forced to take due account of the miseries of an indequate salary, inferior 'beyond all reason, human or divine', to Della Casa's. At the very outset he had to draw upon his capital to the extent of forty ducats, so that he was left 'without a halfpenny'. As a result he threatened to return home at once, since it was better to lie 'at the mercy of fortune' in Italy than in France.

Henceforth, in fact, he had to think and act amid daily difficulties and privations. Yet he was by nature an open- handed man, incapable of 'doing anything without spending money' -- a sociable man, fated nevertheless 'to lead a life of hardship rather than one of gaiety'. Later on, in the far harsher circumstances of 1513, he would be forced to 'turn his face to fortune', to seek relief from 'the malignity of fate' by gambling at the inn near his house at S. Andrea in Percussina, squabbling over a farthing, brawling and arguing with the landlord, the butcher or the miller, and finding an outlet in letters to friends for his desire to do something, if only to 'roll a stone' because by continuing as at present "I am wearing myself out, and if I go on like

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