The art of engraving was invented; elegant architecture appeared again as admirable as in the most triumphant ages of Rome; and the Gothic barbarism, which had disfigured Europe in every kind of production, was driven from Italy to make way for good taste.The arts, always transplanted from Greece to Italy, found themselves in a favorable soil, where they instantly produced fruit.For a state to be powerful, the people must either enjoy a liberty founded upon laws, or the royal authority must be fixed beyond all opposition.In France the people were slaves till the reign of Philip Augustus; the noblemen were tyrants till Louis XI., and the kings, always employed in maintaining their authority against their vassals, had neither leisure to think about the happiness of their subjects nor the power of making them happy. did a great deal for the regal power, but nothing for the happiness or the glory of the nation. gave birth to trade, navigation, and all the arts; but he was too unfortunate to make them take root in the nation during his time, so that they all perished with him.France, England, Germany, and Spain aimed in their turn to gather these fruits; but either they could not live in those climates, or else they degenerated very rapidly. encouraged learned men, but such as were merely learned men; he had architects, but he had no Michelangelo, nor Palladio; he endeavored in vain to establish schools for painting; the Italian masters, whom he invited to France, raised no pupils there.Some epigrams and a few loose tales made the whole of our poetry.This happy influence has not been confined to France; it has communicated itself to England, where it has stirred up an emulation, which that ingenious and deeply learned nation stood in need of at that time; it has introduced taste into Germany, and the sciences into Russia; it has even re-animated Italy, which was languishing; and Europe is indebted for its politeness and spirit of society to the court of Louis XIV.Before this time the Italians called all the people on this side of the Alps by the name of Barbarians; it must be owned that the French in some degree deserved this reproachful epithet.
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Our forefathers joined the romantic gallantry of the Moors with the Gothic rudeness: they had hardly any of the agreeable arts among them, which is a proof that the useful arts were likewise neglected; for when once the things of use are carried to perfection, the transition is quickly made to the elegant and agreeable; and it is not at all astonishing that painting, sculpture, poetry, eloquence, and philosophy should be in a manner unknown to a nation who, though possessed of harbors on the Western Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea, were without ships; and who, though fond of luxury to an excess, were hardly provided with the most common manufactures.
The Jews, the Genoese, the Venetians, the Portuguese, the Flemish, the Dutch, and the English carried on in their turn the trade of France, which was ignorant even of the first principles of commerce.
The polite arts had already recovered a new life in that country; the Italians honored them with the title of as the first Greeks had distinguished them by the name of Wisdom.
Everything tended toward perfection; a Michelangelo, a Raphael, a Titian, a Tasso, and an Ariosto flourished.