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Edgecumbe Staley Day

January 9, 2012
Ghirlandaio, Birth of St. John the Baptist

Domenico Ghirlandaio, Birth of St. John the Baptist, (1486-90), Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy

Today is Edgecumbe Staley Day at my house.  It is the first day of a new week.  We sent our only child back to college on Saturday evening and I have a week with no appointments at all on my calendar.  Before the week is over I will need to put the finishing touches on syllabi, reading lists, assignments, and Blackboard sites for classes that begin next week, but today I am going to allow myself to read.  And so, today is Edgecumbe Staley Day.

I don’t know a lot about Edgecumbe Staley and the Internet doesn’t offer much information but I do know that this Victorian author, born in 1845 is both informative and entertaining on a cold winter day.   Many of his best known works are on subjects right smack dab in the middle of the Quattrocentrist’s wheelhouse: The Guilds of Florence (1906),  The Tragedies of the Medici (1908),  and Famous Women of Florence (1909).

Staley is a romantic and, like a lot of Victorian writing, his books are  slow-going at times.  Yet how can I resist a writer who begins his preface of Famous Women of Florence with the following comments?

The Archives of Florence are full of pathetic and heroic stories of women!  This is the unanimous testimony of all lovers and students of Florentine history.  [The exclamation point is his, not mine]

Some of these “Stories” are known to readers of romance, but many of them have not yet engaged the pen of the story-teller.  With a few of the latter I propose to interest those who may pick up this book.

I made up my mind some time ago, when I was compiling notes to serve for my work upon the men of the Arti or Guilds–the Makers of Florence–to write the narratives of their sweethearts and wives.

I want to read the narratives of Renaissance sweethearts and wives!  [The exclamation point is mine, not his]

I know my secret delight in anticipating today’s reading will alarm my  first, second, and third-wave feminist friends, but what I am going to do now is curl up next to the fire and get Staley’s take on Lucrezia de’ Tornabuoni.

Here’s how he describes Lorenzo di Medici’s mother:

“the most exalted exponent of the over-ruling power of women for good, the virtual ‘Queen of Florence,’ and the most accomplished Woman of the Renaissance.”

Time to travel back and find out what all the fuss is about.  Lucrezia here I come.

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