This book is an intimate biography of Petrarch for the long period of his residence in Milan. His main activities in this period, as indeed throughout his life, were his humanistic studies, his writing, and his incessant endeavor to perfect what he had already written: these activities, within this period, included the bringing of Homer into the realm of humanistic scholarship, the writing of the really great treatise De remediis utriusque fortune and of such lesser things as a guidebook for a voyage down the western Italian coast and eastward to the Holy Land, and revisions of Italian poems made on pages, still extant, that bear autograph notations of so personal a character that one seems to have been standing beside him when he made them. But in addition to carrying on these activities he now engaged, more than at any earlier or later time, in public affairs, serving as a representative of the Visconti in missions to Venice, to Prague, and to Paris; he dealt with all sorts and conditions of men, from the Emperor to a minstrel; he maintained an amazingly extensive correspondence; he entertained Boccaccio and other guests; he busied himself hopefully with planting, preferably the planting of laurel trees; and he knew many joys and many sorrows.
The attempt has been made to utilize all existing evidence as to his outer and inner experiences in this period, and to present them as exactly as possible in the order in which they entered into his life. Tidings of events that meant much to him are recorded, for instance, not as of the times when those events actually occurred but as of the times when he learned of them; and letters addressed to him are treated not as of the dates when they were written but as of the times when they came into his hands. This procedure results in frequent discontinuities in subject: but life itself is discontinuous, and the very frequency of the discontinuities that appear in this book