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Women of the Romance Countries By John R. Effinger Characters: 34312

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

The transition from the sixteenth to the seventeenth century in Italy was marked by no sudden changes of any kind. The whole country was thoroughly prostrate and under the control of the empire; a national spirit did not exist, and the people seemed content to slumber on without opposing in any way the tyranny of their foreign masters. The glory of the Italian Renaissance had been sung in all the countries of Europe; in every nook and corner of the continent, Italian painters and sculptors, princes and poets, artists and artisans of all kinds, had stimulated this new birth of the world; but this mission accomplished, Italy seemed to find little more to do, and for lack of an ideal her sons and daughters wasted their time in the pursuit of idle things. It was the natural reaction after an age of unusual force and brilliancy. In the shadow of the great achievements of the sixteenth century in all lines of human activity, the seventeenth, lost in admiration, could imagine no surer way to equal attainment than to imitate what had gone before. Literature became stilted and full of mannerisms and underwent a process of refinement which left it without strength or vigor, and society in general seemed more concerned with form and ceremony than with the deeper things of the spirit.

Countless examples are on record to show the petty jealousies which were agitating the public mind at this time, and the number of quarrels and arguments which had their origin in most trivial causes passes belief. Rank and position were of the utmost consequence, and questions of precedence in public functions were far more eagerly discussed than were questions of national policy. Naples, under the control of Spanish princes, was particularly noted for such exhibitions of undignified behavior. On one occasion, during a solemn church ceremony, the military governor of the city left the cathedral in a great rage because he had noticed that a small footstool had been placed for the archbishop, while nothing of the kind had been provided for his own comfort. At the death of a certain princess, the royal commissioners delayed the funeral because it was claimed that she had used arms and insignia of nobility above her true rank, and was not entitled, therefore, to the brilliant obsequies which were being planned by the members of her family. The body was finally put in a vault and left unburied until the matter had been passed upon by the heraldry experts in Madrid! During the funeral services which were being held in honor of the Queen of Spain, the archbishop desired footstools placed for all the bishops present, but the vicegerent opposed this innovation, and the ceremony was finally suspended because they could come to no agreement. The cities of Cremona and Pavia were in litigation for eighty-two years over the question as to which should have precedence over the other in public functions where representatives of the two places happened to be together; finally, the Milanese Senate, to which the question was submitted, "after careful examination and mature deliberation, decided that it had nothing to decide." Another example of this small-mindedness is shown in the case of the General Giovanni Serbelloni, who, while fighting in the Valteline in 1625, was unwilling to open a despatch which had been sent to him, because he had not been addressed by all his titles. It is a pleasure to add that as a result of this action he was left in ignorance as to the approach of the enemy and the next day suffered a severe defeat.

Rome was the seat of much splendor and display-an inevitable state of affairs when the fact is taken into consideration that the city was filled with legates and embassies, all anxious to wait upon his holiness the pope and gain some special privilege or concession. At this time the cardinals, too, were not mere ecclesiastics, but rather men of great wealth and power; often they became prime ministers in their several countries,-as Richelieu, for example,-and the great and influential houses of Savoy, Este, Gonzaga, Farnese, Barberini, and many others, always possessed one or more of them who vied in magnificence with the pope himself. And all this helped to make the Eternal City the scene of much brilliancy. The papal court was the natural centre of all this animation, and many a stately procession wended its way to the Vatican. On one occasion, the Duke of Parma, wishing to compliment a newly elected pope, sent as his representative the Count of San Secondo, who went to his solemn interview followed by a long procession of one hundred and fifty carriages, and appeared before the pontiff with eighteen distinguished prelates in his train. This mad passion for display led to so many evils of all kinds that Urban VIII. prohibited "indecent garments" for both men and women. In the interests of public morality, it was further decreed that women were not to take music lessons from men, and nuns were allowed no other professors than their own companions. Public singing, distinct from religious ceremonies, was a novelty at this time, and women with the gift of song were paid most liberally for their services. Venice was the city most noted for its festivals and carnivals, and here these women were given most generous treatment.

In Florence, as in all the rest of Italy, Spain was taken as "the glass of fashion, the mould of form" for the first part of the century, but the splendor of the court of Louis Quatorze soon caused French fashions to reign supreme. Then, as now, brides were accustomed to dress in white, while married women were given a wide latitude in their choice of colors. At first, widows wore a dress distinctive not only in color but in cut, yet eventually they were to be distinguished by only a small head-dress of black crape. Young women were much given to curling their hair, and at the same time it was the fashion to wear upon the forehead a cluster of blond curls, a petite perruque, which, in the words of an old chronicler, Rinuccini, "is very unbecoming to those whose hair happens to be of another color." From the same authority is derived the following information concerning the women belonging to the under crust of society: "Prostitutes, formerly, all wore an apparent sign which revealed their infamous profession; it was a yellow ribbon fastened to the strings of the hats, which were then in fashion; when hats went out of style, the yellow ribbon was worn in the hair, and if the women were ever found without it they were severely punished. Finally, on payment of a certain tax, they were allowed to go without the ribbon, and then they were to be distinguished by their impudence only." In Florence, women of this class were especially noted for their beauty, and there it was customary to compel them all to live within a certain district.

In the average Florentine household it had been the custom to have three women servants,-a cook, a second girl, and a matrona. This third servant was better educated than the others, and it was her duty, outside of the house, to keep her mistress company, whether she rode in her carriage or went about on foot. At home, she did the sewing and the mending, and generally dressed her mistress and combed her hair. For this work the matrona received a salary of six or seven dollars a month, and it seems to have been usual for her employers to arrange a good marriage for her after several years of service, giving her at that time from one hundred to one hundred and fifty crowns as a dowry. Later in the century, the matrona does not seem to have been so common, and many women went alone in their carriages, while on foot they were accompanied by a manservant in livery. The wealthier ladies of the nobility, however, were accompanied in their conveyances by a donzella, and on the street and in all public places by an elderly and dignified manservant, dressed in black, who was known as the cavaliere. The fashion with regard to this male protector became so widespread that the women of the middle class were in the habit of hiring the services of some such individual for their occasional use on fête days and whenever they went to mass. The further development of this custom and its effect upon public morals in the following century will be discussed on another page.

Busy with all-absorbing questions of dress, etiquette, and domestic management, it does not appear that the women of the seventeenth century in Italy took any great share in public events, although one Italian woman at least, leaving the country of her birth, was placed by fate upon a royal throne. Henry IV. of France, about the year 1600, was hard pressed for the payment of certain debts by Ferdinand I., Grand Duke of Tuscany, as the Medici were still the bankers of Europe, and the French king was owing more than a million louis d'or; but the whole matter was settled in a satisfactory way when Henry gave definite promises to pay within a dozen years. To maintain his credit in the meantime, and to facilitate the payment of the money, the one-time King of Navarre demanded in marriage Marie de' Medici, the niece of the grand duke; it is needless to say that the request was speedily granted, for the pride and ambition of this rich Tuscan family were unlimited, and the memory of that other daughter of the house of Medici, Catherine, who had been Queen of France and mother of three French kings, was still fresh in the minds of all. The wedding ceremony was performed in great splendor, at Florence, Henry sending a proxy to represent him at that time; and then the young bride set out for France, followed by a glittering retinue, and bearing, as her dowry, six hundred thousand crowns of gold. Arriving at Leghorn, they took ship for Marseilles, and then began a triumphal march across the country, cities vying with each other in doing her honor. Cantu tells us that at Avignon, which was still a city under the temporal sway of the pope, Marie was placed in a chariot drawn by two elephants, and given an escort of two thousand cavaliers. There were seven triumphal arches and seven theatres; for it was the proud boast of the residents of Avignon that everything went by sevens in their city, as there were seven palaces, seven parishes, seven old convents, seven monasteries, seven hospitals, seven colleges, and seven gates in the city wall! Several addresses of welcome were delivered in the presence of the young queen, though in this instance the number was hardly seven, poems were read, and she received a number of gold medals bearing her profile upon one side and the city's coat of arms upon the other. Henry had left Paris to come to meet his bride, and it was at Lyons that the royal pair saw each other for the first time. It cannot be said that this first interview was warmly enthusiastic, for the king found her far less beautiful than the portrait which had been sent to him, and he soon came to the sad conclusion that she was too fat, had staring eyes and bad manners, and was very stubborn.

After the birth of a son and heir, who later became Louis XIII., the king neglected his wife to such an extent that she felt little sorrow at the time of his assassination. Then it was, as queen-regent, that Marie for the first time entered actively into political life; but her ability in this sphere of action was only moderate, and she was soon the centre of much quarrel and contention, wherein the unyielding feudal nobility and the Protestants figured largely as disturbing causes. In the midst of these troublous times, the queen had an invaluable assistant in the person of Eleanora Galiga?, her foster-sister, whose husband, Concino Concini, a Florentine, had come to France in the suite of Marie, and had subsequently risen to a position of influence in the court. Eventually, he became the Maréchal d'Ancre, and his wife was spoken of as la Maréchale or la Galiga?, for so great was the extent of Eleanora's control over the queen that she was one of the most conspicuous women in all Europe at that time. Gradually, she was criticised on account of the way in which she used her power, and it was alleged that she was overmuch in the company of divers magicians and astrologers who had been brought from Italy, and that the black art alone was responsible for her success. These accusations finally aroused such public hostility that, after a trial which was a travesty upon justice, Eleanora was soon condemned to death, on the charge of having unduly influenced the queen by means of magic philters. Eleanora went to her death bravely, saying with dignity to her accusers: "The philter which I have used is the influence which every strong mind possesses, naturally, over every weaker one."

Not long after this Florentine queen of France was playing her part in public affairs, all Europe was surprised by another woman, whose actions were without parallel and whose case seems to be the opposite of the one just cited. Marie de' Medici left Italy to become a queen, and now a queen is seen to abdicate that she may go to Rome to live. Christine, Queen of Sweden, a most enlightened woman and the daughter of the great Gustavus Adolphus who had brought about the triumph of the Protestant arms in Germany, relinquished her royal robes in the year 1654, announced her conversion to Catholicism, and finally went to Rome, where she ended her days. She was given a veritable ovation on her arrival there, as may well be imagined, for the Church rarely made so distinguished a convert, and Christine, in acknowledgment of this attention, presented her crown and sceptre as a votive offering to the church of the Santa Casa at Loretto. At Rome she lived in one of the most beautiful palaces in the city, and there divided her time between study and amusements. Through it all she was never able to forget the fact that she had been a queen, and many examples might be given of her haughty demeanor in the presence of those who were unwilling to do her bidding. Before leaving Sweden, Christine had tried to gather a circle of learned men about her at Stockholm, and the great French philosopher Descartes spent some months in her palace. Later, when in Paris, on her way to Italy, a special session of the French Academy had been held in her honor, and all of the literary men of France went out to the palace at Fontainebleau while she was domiciled there, to do her honor. Once in Rome, it was her immediate desire to become the centre of a literary coterie, and to that end she was most generous in her gifts to artists and men of letters. Her intelligence and her liberality soon gave her great influence, and before long she was able to organize an Academy in due form under her own roof. She was for many years a most conspicuous figure in Roman society, and at the time of her death, in 1689, Filica?a, a poet of some local reputation, declared that her kingdom comprised "all those who thought, all those who acted, and all those who were endowed with intelligence."

In this seventeenth century, as in the one before, parents were continually compelling their children and especially their daughters to enter upon a religious career, and many of them were forced to this course in spite of their protestations. Cantu tells of the case of Archangela Tarabotti, who was compelled to enter the convent of Saint Anne at Venice, though all her interests and all her ways were worldly in the extreme. To the convent she went, however, at the age of thirteen, because she was proving a difficult child to control, and there she was left to grind her teeth in impotent rage. In common with many other young girls of her time, she had never been taught to read or write, as the benefit of such accomplishments was not appreciated in any general way-at least so far as women were concerned; but, once within the convent walls, from sheer ennui, Archangela began to study most assiduously, and finally published a number of books which present an interesting description and criticism of existing manners and customs in so far as they had to do with women and their attitude toward conventual institutions. Having entered upon this life under protest, her first books were written in a wild, passionate style, and it was her purpose to make public the violence of which she had been a victim, and to prove, by copious references to authorities both sacred and profane, that women should be allowed entire liberty in their choice of a career. Incidentally, she cursed most thoroughly the fathers who compelled their daughters to take the veil in spite of their expressed unwillingness. Perhaps the most important of these protests, which was given an Elzevir edition in 1654, was entitled Innocence Deceived, or The Tyranny of Parents. This special edition was dedicated to God, and bore the epigraph: "Compulsory devotion is not agreeable to God!" Another of these books was entitled The Hell of Convent Life, and these titles are certainly enough to show that she set about her task of religious-or, rather, social-reform

with a most fervid, though somewhat bitter, zeal. Naturally, these open criticisms caused a great scandal in ecclesiastical circles, and many vigorous attempts were made to reconcile the recalcitrant nun and induce her to modify her views. Finally, moved by the pious exhortations of the patriarch, Federigo Cornaro, she became somewhat resigned to her fate. Then it was said of her that "she abandoned the pomp of fine garments, which had possessed so great a charm for her," and the records show that the last years of her life were spent in an endeavor to atone for the extravagances of her youthful conduct. A number of devout books were produced by her during this time, and among them the following curious titles may be noticed: The Paved Road to Heaven and The Purgatory of Unhappily Married Women.

A somewhat similar case of petty tyranny, and one which was soon the talk of all Europe, is the pathetic story of Roberto Accia?uoli and Elizabetta Marmora?. These two young people loved each other in spite of the fact that Elizabetta was the wife of Giulio Berardi; when the latter died, everyone supposed that the lovers would marry, and such was their intention, but they found an unexpected obstacle in their path, for Roberto's uncle, the Cardinal Accia?uoli, had other views on the subject. It was his desire that his nephew should contract a marriage with some wealthy Roman family whose influence might aid him to become pope. The young man refused to further this project in any way, and insisted upon marrying the woman of his choice; the cardinal, in despair, had to fall back upon the assistance of his ruling prince, Cosmo II., Grand Duke of Tuscany. Cosmo, unwilling to offend this prelate who might some day become the head of the Church, took action in his behalf and ordered that Elizabetta should be confined in a Florentine convent. Thereupon Roberto fled to Mantua, and, after having married her by letter, publicly proclaimed his act and demanded that his wife be delivered up to him. The best lawyers in Lombardy now declared the marriage a valid one, but in Florence the steps taken were considered merely as the equivalent of a public betrothal. So the matter stood for a time, until the pope died and the ambitious cardinal presented himself as a candidate for the pontiff's chair. Then the outraged nephew sent to each one of the papal electors a detailed account of what had taken place, with the result that his uncle's candidacy was a complete failure. Cosmo, moved somewhat by public opinion, which was all upon the side of the lovers, ordered Elizabetta to be released from her captivity, whereupon she joined her husband in Venice, that she might share his exile. They were not allowed to remain there for a long time in peace, however, as Cosmo, smarting under the lash of popular disapproval, decided to make an effort to get them within his power again, that he might wreak his vengeance upon them. Accordingly, he demanded that the Venetian republic should deliver them up, charging that they had been guilty of gross disrespect toward him, their sovereign. Hearing of this requisition, Roberto and Elizabetta, disguised as monks, fled to Germany, but were recognized at Trent and taken back to Tuscany. Accia?uoli was then deprived of all his property and imprisoned for life in the fortress of Volterra, and his wife was threatened with the same treatment if she persisted in maintaining the validity of the marriage. Worn by all this trouble and persecution, Elizabetta weakened, failed to show the courage which might be expected from the heroine of such a dramatic story, and preferred to live alone for the rest of her days than to spend her life in prison with her devoted husband.

The eighteenth century found Italy still under the control of foreign rulers, and the national spirit was still unborn; public morals seem to have degenerated rather than improved, and then, as always, the women were no better than the men desired them to be. Details of the life of this period are extremely difficult to obtain, as the social aspects of Italian life from the decline of the Renaissance to the Napoleonic era have been quite generally neglected by historians; the information which is obtainable must be derived in large measure from books and letters on Italian travel, written for the most part by foreigners. One of the most interesting volumes of this kind was written by a Mrs. Piozzi, the English wife of an Italian, who had unusual opportunities for a close observation of social conditions; several of the following paragraphs are based upon her experiences.

The most striking thing in the social life of this time is the domestic arrangement whereby every married woman was supposed to have at her beck and call, in addition to her husband, another cavalier, who was known as a cicisbeo and was the natural successor of the Florentine cavaliere before mentioned. Cicisbeism has been much criticised and much discussed as to its bearing upon public morals, and many opposite opinions have been expressed with regard to it. The Countess Martinengo Cesaresco, who is a most careful and able student of Italian life, has the following to say upon the subject: "He [the cicisbeo] was frequently a humble relative-in every family were cadets too poor to marry, as they could not work for their living, or too sincere to become priests, to whom cavalier service secured a dinner, at any rate, if they wanted one. It was the custom to go to the theatre every evening-the box at the opera was an integral part of the household arrangements, a continuation of the salon-only it could not be reached without an escort. The chaperon did not exist, because a woman, no matter how old, was no escort for another woman, nor could she herself dispense with an attendant of the other sex. A dowager of sixty and a bride of sixteen had equally to stay at home if there was not a man to accompany them. The cavalier's service was particularly in request at the theatre, but he was more or less on duty whenever his lady left her house for any purpose, with the doubtful exception of going to church. No husband outside a honeymoon could be expected to perform all these functions: he, therefore, appointed or agreed upon the appointment of somebody else to act as his substitute. This was, in nine cases out of ten, the eminently unromantic cavalier servitude of fact. The high-flown, complimentary language, the profound bowing and hand-kissing of the period, combined to mystify strangers as to its real significance. Sometimes, when there was really a lover in the question, the cavalier servente must have been a serious impediment; he was always Là planté ... à contrecarrer un pauvre tiers, in the words of the witty Président de Brosses, who, though he did not wholly credit the assurances he received as to the invariable innocence of the institution, was yet far from passing on it the sweeping judgment arrived at by most foreigners. There is no doubt that habit and opportunity did, now and then, prove too strong for the two individuals thrown so constantly together. 'Juxtaposition is great,' as Clough says in his Amours de Voyage; but that such lapses represented the rule rather than the exception is not borne out either by reason or record."

Mrs. Piozzi is somewhat dubious in regard to this condition of affairs and is hardly disposed to take the charitable view which has just been given, but the general trend of more enlightened comment seems to agree with the Countess Cesaresco. In Sheridan's School for Scandal occur the following lines, which convey the same idea:

Lady Teazle.-"You know I admit you as a lover no farther than fashion sanctions."

Joseph Surface.-"True-a mere platonic cicisbeo-what every wife is entitled to."

Fragments taken somewhat at random regarding the women of several of the more important cities of Italy may serve to give some idea regarding their general position and condition throughout the country at large. Writing from Milan, Mrs. Piozzi says: "There is a degree of effrontery among the women that amazes me, and of which I had no idea till a friend showed me, one evening, from my own box at the opera, fifty or a hundred low shopkeepers' wives dispersed about the pit at the theatre, dressed in men's clothes (per disempegno, as they call it), that they might be more at liberty, forsooth, to clap and hiss and quarrel and jostle! I felt shocked." Venice was, as it had ever been, a city of pleasure. The women, generally married at fifteen, were old at thirty, and such was the intensity of life in this "water-logged town"-as F. Hopkinson Smith somewhat irreverently called it upon one occasion-that a traveller was led to remark: On ne go?te pas ses plaisirs, on les avale. Here, as in all parts of Italy for that matter, the conditions of domestic life were somewhat unusual at this time, as it was the custom to employ menservants almost exclusively; as these servitors were under the control of the master of the house, it was quite common for the women to intrust to their husbands the entire management of household affairs. Thus freed from family cares, Venetian ladies had little to occupy their time outside of the pleasures of society. Nothing was expected of them on the intellectual side; they had no thought of education, found no resource in study, and were not compelled to read in order to keep up with society small-talk; so long as they found a means to charm their masculine admirers, nothing more was demanded. Apparently, for them to charm and fascinate was not difficult, for, according to Mrs. Piozzi, "a woman in Italy is sure of applause, so she takes little pains to secure it." Accordingly, the women of Venice seem to have been quite unpretentious in their manners and dress. They wore little or no rouge, though they were much addicted to the use of powder, and their dresses were very plain and presented little variety. "The hair was dressed in a simple way, flat on top, all of one length, hanging in long curls about the neck or sides, as it happens." During the summer season it was the custom literally to turn night into daytime, as social functions were rarely begun before midnight, and it was dawn before the revellers were brought home in their gondolas. At one place in Venice were literary topics much discussed, and that was at Quirini's Casino, a semi-public resort where ladies were much in evidence, and this was but the exception which proved the rule.

Genoa has been thus described: "It possesses men without honesty, women without modesty, a sea without fish, and a woods with no birds," and, without going into the merits of each of these statements, it is safe to say that the state of public morals in this city was about the same as that to be found in any other Italian city. Apropos of the poor heating arrangements in Genoese houses, Mrs. Piozzi makes the following remark, which gives a sidelight upon some of the customs of the place and will interest the curious: "To church, however, and to the theatre in winter, they have carried a great green velvet bag, adorned with gold tassels and lined with fur to keep their feet from freezing, as carpets are not in use. Poor women run about the streets with a little earthen pipkin hanging on their arm filled with fire, even if they are sent on an errand."

In Florence, the art of making improviso verses-which has ever been popular in southern countries-seems to have reached its highest state of perfection during this eighteenth century, and a woman, the celebrated Corilla, was acknowledged to be the most expert in this accomplishment. At Rome, when at the climax of her wonderful career, she was publicly crowned with the laurel in the presence of thousands of applauding spectators; and in her later years, at Florence, her drawing room was ever filled with curious and admiring crowds. Without pretensions to immaculate character, deep erudition, or high birth, which an Italian esteems above all earthly things, Corilla so made her way in the world that members of the nobility were wont to throng to her house, and many sovereigns, en passage at Florence, took pains to seek her society. Corilla's successor was the beautiful Fantastici, a young woman of pleasing personality and remarkable powers of improvisation, who soon became a popular favorite.

Both at home and abroad, Italian women were coming to the fore in musical circles, and no opera in any one of the continental capitals was complete without its prima donna. Among the distinguished singers of this epoch the two most celebrated were Faustina Bordoni and Catarina Gabrielli. Faustina, born in the year 1700, was the daughter of a noble Venetian family, and at an early age began to study music under the direction of Gasparoni; when she was but sixteen, she made her début with such success that she was immediately given place as one of the greatest artists on the lyric stage. In Venice, Naples, Florence, and Vienna, she displayed such dramatic skill and such a wonderful voice that she was soon acknowledged as the most brilliant singer in Europe. Later, she was brought to London, under the management of the great composer H?ndel, and there she finally displaced in the public favor her old-time rival, Cuzzoni. The singer known as Catarina Gabrielli was the daughter of the cook of the celebrated Cardinal Gabrielli; in spite of her low origin, she was possessed of a great though insolent beauty, in addition to her wonderful vocal powers, and her brilliant career in Europe was most exceptional in every way. In Italy, later in Vienna, and even in far-away St. Petersburg, she not only achieved wonderful success as a singer, but by her coquettish ways she contrived to attract a crowd of most jealous and ardent admirers, who pursued her and more than once fought for her favors. During her stay in Vienna, the French ambassador, who had fallen a victim to her charms, became so madly jealous of the Portuguese minister, that he drew his sword on Catarina upon one occasion, and had it not been for her whalebone bodice she would have lost her life. As it was, she received a slight scratch, which calmed the enraged diplomat and brought him to his knees. She would pardon him only on condition that he would present her with his sword, on which were to be inscribed the following words: "Sword of M..., who dared strike La Gabrielli." Through the intervention of friends, however, this heavy penalty was never imposed, and the Frenchman was spared the ridicule which would have surely followed. Catarina, after a long and somewhat reckless career, passed her last years in Bologna, where she died, in 1796, at the age of sixty-six, after having won general esteem and admiration by her charities and by her steadiness of character, which was in notable contrast to the extravagance of her earlier life.

Perhaps the three most distinguished Italian women in all the century were Clelia Borromeo, Laura Bassi, and Gaetana Agnesi. The Countess Clelia was a veritable grande dame, who exerted a wide influence for good in all the north of Italy; Laura Bassi was a most learned and distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of Bologna; and the last member of this illustrious triad, Gaetana Agnesi, became so famous in the scholarly world that her achievements must be recounted with some attention to detail. At the time of her birth, in 1718, her father was professor of mathematics at Bologna, and it appears that she was so precocious that at the age of nine she had such command of the Latin language that she was able to publish a long and carefully prepared address written in that classic tongue, contending that there was no reason why women should not devote themselves to the pursuit of liberal studies. By the time she was thirteen she knew-in addition to Latin-Greek, Hebrew, French, Spanish, German, and several other languages, and was so renowned for her linguistic attainments that she was called, familiarly, the "walking polyglot." When she was fifteen, her father began to invite the most learned men of Bologna to assemble at his house and listen to her essays and discussions upon the most difficult philosophical problems; in spite of the fact that this display of her learning was known to be distasteful to the young girl, it was not until she reached her twentieth year that she was allowed to withdraw from society. In welcome seclusion, she devoted herself to the study of mathematics, and published several mathematical works whose value is still recognized. In 1752 her father fell ill, and, by Pope Benedict XIV., Gaetana was appointed to occupy his professorial chair, which she did with distinction. At her father's death, two years later, she withdrew from this active career; and after a most careful study of theology, she satisfied a long-cherished wish and entered a convent, joining the Order of Blue Nuns, at Milan. She was most actively interested in hospital work and charities of all kinds, and, as her death did not occur until 1799, lived a long life of usefulness.

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