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Alberoni. However, he found means to overcome the objection ; and a priest he was ordained.

Being now an ecclesiastic in due form, he went to seek his fortune. He quitted the place of his nativity, and repaired to Ravenna.

Ravenna, once a flourishing city, was at this time in deplorable circumstances of decline. Subject to the Popes, it showed the influence of its ecclesiastical government in the gloom and melancholy which overspread it. A great part of its population consisted of Monks and Friars. A sauntering laziness was the general characteristic of its inhabitants. The cheerful sounds of industry or pleasure were never heard within its walls.

The vice-legate, Monsignor Barni, was in consequence much oppressed with languor and listlessness. He was looking about for relief when Alberoni arrived. No one excelled him in vivacity and buffoonery, and seemed intended by nature for what Monsignor Barni wanted.

He became a constant guest at his table, and was thought the most droll and diverting of

men.

To recoinpense him, Monsignor Barni appointed him a sort of steward or superintendant in his household.

Baroi was soon after made Bishop of Placentia, and was accompanied by Alberoni ; who found, in the gossip of his native city, new means of enter. taining his patron.

He first engaged the notice of a parish-priest, as a forward officious boy.--This priest took him into his service, taught him to read and write, and the rudiments of the Latin tongue.

He next received instruction from some Barnabite Friars, who were pleased with an air of quickness and docility about him.

His attention to ingratiate himself with his protectors had so good an effect, that he was appointed ringer of bells to the cathedral.

Here he came under the observation of the Canons, who, seeing him busy every where, and studious to recommend himself to every one, testified to him some degree of good-will. The wily youth was not without distinguishing eyes.

He discovered those who possessed the ear of the Bishop, and took care to be most assiduous about them.

He determined to become an ecclesiastic, and by the influence of the persons who befriended him, was admitted to the minor orders. He received the tonsure, that is, had the form of a crown shaved upon his head; which denotes a person set apart for ecclesiastical functions.

His next step was to receive the order of priesthood ;-but here he found some difficulty.

Where a life of idleness invites so many to become Priests, Bishops are not willing to ordain those who are likely to become a burthen to the church. This likelihood strongly attached to Alberoni. However, he found means to overcome the objection ; and a priest he was ordained.

Being now an ecclesiastic in due form, he went to seek his fortune. He quitted the place of his nativity, and repaired to Ravenna.

Ravenna, once a flourishing ciły, was at this time in deplorable circumstances of decline. Subject to the Popes, it showed the influence of its ecclesiastical government in the gloom and melancholy which overspread it. A great part of its population consisted of Monks and Friars. A sauntering laziness was the general characteristic of its inhabitants. The cheerful sounds of industry or pleasure were never heard within its walls.

The vice-legate, Monsignor Barni, was in consequence much oppressed with languor and listlessness. He was looking about for relief when Alberoni arrived. No one excelled him in vivacity and buffoonery, and seemed intended by nature for what Monsignor Barni wanted.

He became a constant guest at his table, and was thought the most droll and diverting of men.

To recoinpense him, Monsignor Barni appointed him a sort of steward or superintendant in his household.

Barpi was soon after made Bishop of Placentia, and was accompanied by Alberoni ; who found, in the gossip of his native city, new means of entertaining his patron.

Barni discovering, I suppose, his household affairs not very well managed, relieved himself, by giving his steward the first vacant stall in his cathedral. Having occasion soon after for a preceptor for his nephew l’Abbé Barni, he thought of no one but his steward metamorphosed into a Canon.

Alberoni set out with his pupil for Rome.—If the young gentleman did not make much proficiency. in classical or ecclesiastical knowledge, he was better amused. He found in his preceptor a ready and dexterous go-between with those kind beauties, who at Rome, as well as in other places, are not inexorable to the addresses of the young and rich.*

Alberoni might now consider his circumstances as sufficiently flourishing.

But fortune had not yet disclosed the miracles she had in store for him.

The beginning of the eighteenth century saw the dawn of his greatness. A war had broken out, which involved the greatest part of Europe. The contending potentates made the first trial of their strength on the banks of the Po;—the Duke de Vendome commanded the army of France.

* I originally collected these particulars of the early life of Alberoni from an anonymous history, which I suppose is of little authority ; but I have found them since, for the most part, confirmed by the Spanish author, whom I mention in my preface.

The singularities of this man were the means appointed to raise Alberoni.

Vendome affected, in his manners and deportment, a cynical contempt for the forms and decencies of life. His person exhibited a disgusting filthiness. His equals he treated with brutality. He submitted to little restraint even with his superiors. His birth, his rank, his reputation for a daring and enterprising captain, seemed to authorise this extraordinary conduct, and were allowed to excuse it.

On his arrival in Italy, he had to treat with the petty princes, whose territories were exposed to the inroads of the hostile armies. All would have wished to have been respected as neutral; but in the collision of the powerful, the feeble who are in the neighbourhood of the shock, must expect to suffer.

One of the principal sufferers at this time, was Francis Duke of Parma. After having seen his states plundered without mercy by the Imperialists, and having in vain invoked the thunders of the Vatican, professing himself a vassal of the Popes ;* he had reason to apprehend treatment not more sparing from the progress of the French armies. He resolved therefore to send a deputation to Vendome, the commander-in-chief.

The person chosen for this deputation, was a Count Roncovieri, Bishop of St. Donnino, a small

a

* See hereafter.

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