The beautiful Isabella de Luna, of Spanish extraction, who was reckoned amusing company, seems to have been an odd compound of a kind heart with a shockingly foul tongue, which latter sometimes brought her into trouble. At Milan, Bandello knew the majestic Caterina di San Celso, who played and sang and recited superbly.
To convince ourselves of it, we are not obliged to take as our standard the idealized society which Castiglione depicts as discussing the loftiest sentiments and aims of human life at the court of Guidobaldo of Urbino, and Pietro Bembo at the castle of Asolo The society described by Bandello, with all the frivolities which may be laid to its charge, enables us to form the best notion of the easy and polished dignity, of the urbane kindliness, of the intellectual freedom, of the wit and the graceful dilettantism, which distinguished these circles.
Bandello, in the same century, was a novelist from whom Shakespeare and other English dramatists have borrowed much material. One thing which is peculiar to Italy, and which has found its way into nearly the whole civilized world, is Italian Opera or melodrama. It was an outcome of the Pastoral drama, and first took shape in 1594 under Rinuccini, a Florentine.
I owe a good deal also, with regard to this same essay "The Outdoor Poetry," to Roskoff's famous "Geschichte des Teufels," and to Signor Novati's recently published "Carmina Medii Ævi." The Italian novellieri, Bandello, Cinthio, and their set, I have used in the Florentine editions of 1820 or 1825; Masuccio edited by De Sanctis.
In regard to this matter it may be mentioned that, as stated by Bandello, it was the custom for a Venetian prostitute to have six or seven gentlemen at a time as her lovers. Each was entitled to come to sup and sleep with her on one night of the week, leaving her days free.
Both were produced in the metre of the original the octave stanza, which, however, did not at that period take root in England. At the same period the works of many of the Italian novelists, especially Bandello and Cinthio and Boccaccio, were translated into English; Painter's 'Palace of Pleasure' being a treasure-house of Italian works of fiction.
Her husband told Bandello that he knew her temper better than to let her visit with the freedom of the Milanese ladies. Upon his death, while she was little more than twenty, she retired to Casale and led a gay life among many lovers. One of these, the Count of Cellant in the Val d'Aosta, became her second husband, conquered by her extraordinary loveliness. They could not, however, agree together.
That the spirits of bad men appear in a dreadful shape, is a matter of course, but along with this we find the notion that the ghosts of the departed are universally malicious. The dead, says the priest in a novel of Bandello, kill the little children.
It could only be compared to the singular apathy with which they endured, and often admired the gross novels which Chaucer, Dunbar, Boccacio, Bandello, and others, composed upon the bad morals of the clergy.
Often during the summer heats, Matteo Bandello, then a young novice of the Order, saw the Florentine master at noonday, "when the sun was in the sign of the Lion," leave the Corte Vecchia, where he was finishing his great horse, and, hurrying through the streets to the Grazie, mount the scaffold, brush in hand, and put a few touches to some of the figures in the Cenacolo, after which he would hurry away as quickly as he came.