Monday, April 18, 2011

Borgias Total Immersion, Day 2

Yesterday, inspired by the miniseries The Borgias, I read Jean Plaidy's Madonna of the Seven Hills, a historical novel about Lucrezia Borgia. Today I perused M. G. Scarsbrook's The Life and Legend of Lucrezia Borgia, a compilation of useful texts about the Borgias by 19th-century and turn-of-the-century authors, published as an e-book for 99 cents.

Since I adore 19th-century texts, it's perfect for me. It includes:

  • Lucretia Borgia: According To Original Documents and Correspondence of Her Day by Ferdinand Gregorovius
  • The Borgias by Alexander Dumas (from 'Celebrated Crimes')
  • The Life of Cesare Borgia by Rafael Sabatini
  • Lucrezia Borgia, libretto by Felice Romani for the Opera by Gaetano Donizetti (in Italian)
  •  Encyclopedia Britannica articles (11th edition) on Lucrezia Borgia and Cesare Borgia
  •  Love Letter From Pietro Bembo to Lucrezia Borgia

These texts are (mostly) available free online, but it is convenient to have the collection.

I am fascinated by the 19th-century biography, Lucretia Borgia: According To Original Documents and Correspondence of Her Day, by Ferdinand Gregorovius, a  German historian who specialized in the medieval history of Rome.  Though he may or may not have interpreted texts exactly as modern historians do, he certainly gives rich background on the daily life, the position of women, the history of Roderigo Borgia (later Pope Alexander VI) and Lucrezia's mother and brothers, and Lucrezia's fascinating story.  

What astounds me is how close Jean Plaidy's novel is to Gregorovius's biography. 

Here is a tidbit about Lucrezia's education from Gregorovius:

"She was both a Spaniard and an Italian, and a perfect master of these two languages.  Among her letters to Bembo there are two written in Spanish; the remainder, of which we possess several hundred, are composed in the Italian of that day, and are spontaneous and graceful in style.  The contents of none of them are of importance; they display soul and no depth of mind."

Just the kind of thing I like to read.  

Sarah Bradford, her biographer (Penguin 2004), in the London Times quoted a letter dictated on Lucrezia's deathbed to the Pope, Leo X, dated June 22, 1519:

“Most Holy Father . . . Having suffered greatly for more than two months because of a difficult pregnancy, as it has pleased God on the fourteenth of this month at dawn I had a daughter, and I hoped that having given birth my illness also must be alleviated: but the contrary happened, so that I must yield to nature. Our most clement Creator has given me so many gifts, that I recognise the end of my life and feel that within a few hours I shall be out of it . . .”

Now I may have to read Sarah Bradford's biography, too.  But why?  Do I think I'll have to write a paper?

And I'll have to see if there are any more episodes of The Borgias online.  (I don't have cable.)


Ellen said...

I too love projects and to immerse myself. Right now I'm trying for a panel proposal and paper on historical fiction and Poldark. If the woman running this small conference I go to in the fall accepts it, I'll have a larger absorbing projecct too.

I do find that reading your blog helps me. I feel I am in contact with someone who understands and lives life on the terms I do :) I hope you don't mind my saying that.


Frisbee said...

Ellen, I loved the Poldark books and am fascinated that you taught Ross Poldark. There are so many historical novels out there. I looked at the Harrod-Eagles (or -Somebody?) books, hoping to find another Poldark series, but the writing isn't very good.