Saturday, February 03, 2018


Machiavelli's Choice

D.S. Blondheim, "A Parallel to Aucassin et Nicolette VI, 26," Modern Language Notes 24.3 (March, 1909) 73-74 (at 73, bracketed material in original):
To the parallels to the interesting passage in Aucassin et Nicolette (VI, 26, ed. Suchier), in which Aucassin declares his preference of hell to heaven, there should be added the following story about Niccolò Machiavelli, quoted by Bayle (Dictionaire [sic] historique et critique, ed. Des Maizeaux, Amsterdam, 1734, vol. IV, p. 14, n. L) from the Jesuit Etienne Binet (Du Salut d'Origène, Paris, 1629, pp. 359-361): "On arriue à ce detestable poinct d'honneur, où arriua Machiauel sur la fin de sa vie: car il eut cette illusion peu deuant que rendre son esprit. Il vit vn tas de pauures gens, comme coquins, deschirez, affamez, contrefaits, fort mal en ordre, & en assez petit nombre, on luy dit que c'estoit ceux de Paradis, desquels il estoit escrit, Beati pauperes, quoniam ipsorum est regnum coelorum. Ceux-cy estans retirez, on fit paroistre vn nombre innombrable de personnages pleins de grauité & de majesté, on les voyoit comme vn Senat, où on traitoit d'affaires d'estat, & fort serieuses, il entrevid Platon, Aristote, Seneque, Plutarque, Tacite, & d'autres de cette qualité. Il demanda qui estoient ces Messieurs là si venerables, on luy dit que c'estoient les damnez, & que c'estoient des ames reprouuées du Ciel, Sapientia huius saeculi, inimica est Dei. Cela estant passé, on luy demanda desquels il vouloit estre. Il respondit, qu'il aymoit beaucoup mieux estre en enfer auec ces grands esprits, pour deuiser auec eux des affaires d'Estat, que d'estre auec cette vermine de ces belistres qu'on luy auoit fait voir. Et a tant il mourut, & alla voir comme vont les affaires d'Estat de l'autre monde."

Another form of the story is mentioned by Bayle as occurring in the Epistolae of François and Jean Hotman. It is as follows: "Wolphius nuper Augustae mortuus, in suis Commentariis in Tuscul. quas anno superiore mihi donavit, Machiavellum scelerum, impietatum et flagitiorum magistrum appellat, ac testatur illum quodam loco scripsisse, sibi multo optabilius esse post mortem ad Inferos et diabolos detrudi, quàm in coelum ascendere. Nam hic nullos reperturum, nisi mendiculos et misellos quosdam Monachos, Heremitas, Apostolos; illic victurum se cum Cardinalibus, cum Papis, Regibus et Principibus" [Letter of François Hotman, December 28, 1580, in Francisci et Joannis Hotomanorum ... Epistolae, Amstelaedami, 1700].
See the English translation of Bayle's Dictionary, Vol. VII (London: John Bettenham, 1738), p. 311 (notes omitted):
They arrive at that detestable point of honour, which Machiavel reached a little before his death: for when he was just a dying he was seized with the following fancy. He saw a small company of poor scoundrels, all in rags, quite starved, ill-favoured, and in short in a very bad plight. He was told that these were the inhabitants of Paradise, of whom it is written, Beati pauperes, quoniam ipsorum est regnum coelorum. After these were retired, an infinite number of grave majestick personages appeared: they seemed sitting in senate, where they were canvassing of very important state affairs; there he saw Plato, Seneca, Plutarch, Tacitus, and others of the like characters. When he demanded who those venerable gentlemen were, he was informed that they were the damned, the souls of the reprobated, Sapientia hujus saeculi inimica est Dei. After this he was asked to which of those companies he would choose to belong. He answered he would much rather choose to be in hell with those great genius's, to converse with them about affairs of state, than be condemned to the company of such lousy scoundrels as they had presented to him before. With that he expired, and went to see how political affairs proceed in the other world." Spizelius gives us the substance of the same story; but it is otherwise related by some. They pretend that Machiavel in some one of his works, says, he would rather be sent to hell after his death, than go to Paradise; for, he adds, I should find nothing in heaven but a parcel of beggars, poor Monks, Hermits, and Apostles; but in hell I shall live with Popes, Cardinals, Kings and Princes. Francis Hotman testifies that this account is to be met with in Wolfius's comment upon Cicero's Tusculan questions...
Related post: The Choice Between Heaven and Hell.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?