scholar writing to his friends to give or solicit information on various literary
questions. One closes them, however, with a sigh of regret that the scholar should
predominate so much over the man.
How thankful we should have been for a few easy gossiping letters in the
Perhaps, however, he knew none such, and there was nothing to reveal that he has not
revealed. Sense of humour he seems certainly to have lacked; I have not found in him
the least suggestion that he had any faculty of hearty laughing in him at all. If he ever
had it, severe study must have crushed it out of him. Probably the basis of his nature
was a deep religious melancholy, not at all lightened by the fact that learning had
impaired his hold on the faith.
As his short life drew towards its close Pico's preoccupation with religion
"Interpretation" of Psalm XVI, translated by More, he wrote an Exposition of the
Lord's Prayer, and projected, but did not live to execute a Commentary on the New
Testament, for which he prepared himself by diligent collation of such MSS. as he
could come by; also a defence of the Vulgate and of the Septuagint version of the
Psalms against the criticisms of the Jewish scholars, and an elaborate apology for
Christianity against seven classes of opponents; to wit (1) atheists, (2) idolaters, (3)
Jews, (4) Mahometans, (5) Christians who reject a portion of the faith, (6) Christians
who adulterate the faith with profane superstitions, (7) orthodox Christians who live
unholy lives. Some idea of the scale of this vast undertaking may be gathered from the
fact that the treatise "Adversus Astrologos," which occupies 240 closely printed folio
pages formed only a small fragment of it.
But while thus zealous for the defence of the faith, Pico seems never to have
Savonarola but by other of his friends, who thought he might reasonably aspire to the
dignity of cardinal. Their solicitude for his advancement he rebuked with a haughty
"Non sunt cogitationes meæ cogitationes vestræ." Probably he considered that he
could render religion truer service in the character of lay advocate than if he were
trammelled by clerical offices.
Short as his life was, he survived his three most intimate friends, Lorenzo de'
Probably the grief caused by this succession of misfortunes had much to do with
inducing or aggravating the fever of which he died hardly two months after Politian,
on 17th Nov. 1494. The corpse, invested by Savonarola's own hands with the habit of
the order of the Frati Predicanti, in which he had ardently desired to enrol Pico during
his life, was buried in the church of S. Marco. The tomb was inscribed with the
"Joannes jacet hic Mirandola: cætera norunt
Ficino, who had been to him "in years as a father, in intimacy as a brother, in
upon the tomb: "Antistites secretiora mysteria raro admodum concedunt oculis,
Mirandolam trigesimo (sic) anno maturum."
The generous enthusiasm which prompted Politian to confer upon his friend
justified by events. Once sunk in his ashes the Phoenix never rose again.
The pious care of Giovanni Francesco Pico, who published his uncle's life and
upon him. This edition, however, was imperfect, the Theses and the Commentary on
Benivieni's poem, with some minor matters being omitted. These were added in the
Basel edition of 1601. The "Golden Letters" have passed through many editions, the
last that of Cellario in 1682. The Commentary on Celestial and Divine Love was
reprinted as late as 1731.
Pico figures in a dim and ever dimmer way in the older histories of philosophy
Hegel, who dismisses him and his works in a few lines. More recently, however, one
of Hegel's laborious fellow-countrymen, Georg Dreydorff, discovered a system in
Pico and expounded it.*
*[Note: "Das System des Johann Pico Grafen von Mirandola and Concordiat"
But most Englishmen probably owe such interest as he excites in them to Mr.
[see above] or the slighter notices in Mr. J. A. Symonds' "Renaissance in Italy," or
Mr. Seebohm's "Oxford Reformers."
The chronicles of Mirandola, edited for the municipality in 1872, under the
authority of capital importance for the history of the Pico family and its connexions.
The notes to Riccardo Bartoli's "Elogio al Principe Pico" (1791) also contain some
valuable original matter. The critical judgment of the last century on Pico's services to
the cause of the revival of learning is given by Christoph Meiners in
Wissenschaften." Some of Pico's letters translated, into the ponderous English of the
found in W. Parr Greswell's "Memoirs of Angelus Politianus," etc. 1805. The best
modern Italian biography is that by F. Calori Cesis, entitled "Giovanni Pico della
Mirandola detto La Fenice degli Ingegni" (2nd edn. 1872).