Skip to main content
GIROLAMO CARDANO, OF MUM,
BY HENBY MOELEY.
. IN TWO VOLUMES.
CHAPMAN AND HALL, 193, PICCADILLY.
JEROME CARDAN, confident of being remembered by
posterity, desired that he should be fully known, and left
scattered about his writings much material for the bio-
grapher. The material so liberally furnished has not yet
been used. Encyclopaedists have for generations told the
student that the life of this philosopher was one of the
most curious on record, full of extremes and contradic-
tions, the most wonderful sense and the wildest nonsense.
They have adopted the near-sighted views of Gabriel
Naud^, have accepted sometimes gross errors of fact from
the Scaligers, and, when they have gone to Cardan him-
self for information, have rarely carried their research
farther than the perusal of a work or two. Commonly
they have been content with a reading of his book on his
own Life, which is no autobiography , but rather a garrulous
disquisition upon himself, written by an old man when his
mind was affected by much recent sorrow.
In that work Cardan reckoned that he had published
one hundred and thirty one books, and that he was leaving
behind him in manuscript one hundred and eleven. It is
only by a steady search among his extant works, and by
collecting into a body statements and personal allusions
which occur in some of them, assigning to each its due
place, and, as far as judgment can be exercised, its due
importance, that a complete narrative can be obtained, or
a right estimate formed of his Life and Character. Of
such collation this work] is the result; and, although it is
inevitable that there should be errors and omissions in it,
since the ground is new, the labour on it has been great,
and I am but a feeble workman, yet, forasmuch as the
book is an honest one, in which nothing vital has been held
back or wrongly told, except through ignorance, and no
pains have been grudged to make the drawback, on ac-
count of ignorance, as small as possible, I am not afraid to
put my trust in the good-nature of the reader who shall
detect some of its omissions and shortcomings.
The following sentences, from the notice of Cardan in
Tiraboschi's History of Italian Literature, fairly represent
the common feeling with regard to him : " Brlicker
regrets with reason that nobody has written his life with
exactitude The wide scope of my own argument
does not permit me to make any minute researches ; I can
only say what will be enough to give some notion of this
most rare man. In the account that he gives of his own
character, he attributes to himself inclinations that it would
seem impossible to have co-existing in a single character,
and at the same time he speaks so much evil of himself,
that by this only one may see how strange a man he was.
.... Whoever would suppose that a man foolishly lost
behind judicial astrology .... a man more credulous
over dreams than any silly girl, observing them scrupu-
lously in himself and others a man who believed that he
had the friendship of a Demon, who by marvellous signs
warned him of perils a man who himself saw and heard
things never heard or seen by any other man a man, in
short, of whom, if we read only certain of his works, we
may say that he was the greatest fool who ever lived
who would suppose, I say, that such a man was at the
same time one of the profoundest and most fertile
geniuses that Italy has produced, and that he made rare
and precious discoveries in mathematics and in medi-
cine? Nevertheless; such was Cardan by the con-
fession even of those who speak of him with most con-
Of that candour of self-revelation to which allusion is
made in the preceding extract, Jerome himself writes:
" What if I confess my vices; why marvel; am I not a
man ? And how much more human is it to acknowledge
than dissemble? What we cloak, we protect; what we
acknowledge, we confess and avoid. Let, therefore, the
most sweet love of truth and the most happy conscious-
ness thereof conquer all dread of infamy, all suspicion of
calumny 1 ." Elsewhere he says on the same subject and
we must remember that he did not live in cleanly times
" What if any one were to address the kings of the earth,
and say to them, c There is not one of you who does not
eat vermin and other worse filth of your servants?' In
what spirit would the speech be taken, though most true?
What is this but an ignoring of our condition, a determi-
nation not to know what we do know, to put a thing out
of our sight by force? So it is with our sins, and all else
that is filthy, vain, confused, and uncertain in us. Rotten
apples fall from the best tree. I tell nothing new ; I do
but tell the naked truth 2 ." Evident enough it is that
1 Geniturarum Exemplar (ed. 1555), p. 523.
2 De Vita Propria, cap. xiii.
Cardan is determined to hide nothing, and it is not less
evident that he has been ill-rewarded for his frankness.
Over and over again all self-accusations have been accepted
and driven home against him, all self-praise has been called
vanity, and statements of his that appeared to be too
marvellous have been pronounced untrue.
But the man of profound genius sometimes wrote, we
are told, as if he were a fool. His folly may instruct us.
It belonged bating some eccentricities not to himself
alone. His age claimed part in it, and bought his books.
He was the most successful scientific author of his time;
the books of his that were most frequently reprinted
being precisely those in which the folly most abounded.
He was not only the popular philosopher, but also the
fashionable physician of the sixteenth century. Pope and
emperor sought him; kings, princes, cardinals, arch-
bishops were among his patients. There were other
physicians in those days wise enough to be less credulous
on many points, but greater wisdom did not win for them
an equal fame. Cardan obtained a splendid reputation
wholly by his own exertions, not only because he was a
man of power and genius, but because he spent much of
his energy upon ideas that, foolish as they now seem,
were conceived in the true spirit of his age. He belonged
completely to his time. Hence it is that, as a philo-
sopher, he almost perished with it ; and for the last hun-
dred years his reputation has existed only as a legend.
I was first attracted to the study of Cardan, from which
this work has arisen, by the individuality with which his
writings are all marked, and the strange story of his life
reflected in them. The book is twice as large as it was
meant to be, and still there was matter that might have
occupied another volume; for as I worked on, I found
that out of the neglected writings of this old physician it
was possible to re-construct the history of his career, with
much minuteness in the kind of detail that would make
it not only pleasant reading, but also, if rightly done, of
some use to the student of the sixteenth century.
Pains have been taken to confine the narrative within
the strictest bounds. There is not in it an incident, how-
ever trivial, which has been created or transformed by the
imagination of the writer. I have kept rigidly to truth,
and, as was necessary from the nature of the work, have,
in treating the main subject, referred in notes to the
authority for every statement. If here and there a little
fact should happen not. to be so authenticated, I beg to
assure the reader that it was not set down lightly. I
have even preserved to a very great extent in my own
writing Cardan's forms of speech. In support of those
parts of the book which discuss accessory matters, I have
thought it enough to indicate in the notes generally from
what sources information has been got, and, in particular
cases, to give the exact authority when for any reason it
has seemed desirable to do so. Citations from the works
of Cardan have been made, as far as possible, from editions
published in his lifetime. Of each work, the edition
used is stated when it is first named; and the paging
quoted afterwards always belongs to the same issue, if
no other is mentioned. Where no early copy was to be
had, reference has been made to the collected works
issued in 1663 at Paris, by Charles Spon, in ten volumes
London, March, 1854.
When the first sheets of this work were printed, I had not
seen Cardan's third horoscope of himself in the " Genitu-
rarum Exemplar." I therefore was obliged to conjecture his
mother's age, and the paternity of three children, whose
deaths are recorded in vol. i. p. 7. It was, at the same time
said in a note, that my opinion was insufficiently supported,
and that it might be wrong. From the horoscope just men-
tioned, it appears that Cardan's mother was not quite so
young as I had inferred, though there was still great dis-
parity between her age and that of Fazio. If her age at
Jerome's birth was, as he says, thirty -seven, the disparity
was of nineteen years. He adds, however, that she died on
the 26th of July, 1537, at the age of seventy ; and if the age
so given be accurate, she must have been thirty-four years
old when he was born, and twenty-two years younger than
Fazio. She was the widow of Antonio Alberio ; and of her
three children that died of plague soon after Jerome's birth,
Alberio was the father. They all died within forty days ; two
of them, within a week after their mother dreamt that they
had gone to heaven. On the same authority, it may be
added that Fazio and Clara had another child, a son, which
diecl at birth.
A remark upon a trivial point is suggested by the word
Clara that has just been used. There are few people men-
tioned in this narrative whose names would not admit of
being written in more ways than one. I have had to make
my choice in nomenclature among Latin forms, Latin Ita-
lianised, old or impure Italian, modern Italian, and Italian
Englished. In speaking of men not Italians there was often
a like difficulty. Yery much wishing to avoid pedantry,
and putting that wish foremost, I have endeavoured to use
in each case a form that would suit the temper of the book
without vexing the reader.
CONTENTS TO VOL. I.
CHAPTER I. PAGE
BORN TO SORROW
IN WHAT WAY THE CHILD EARNED A MOST HOLY AND MOST HAPPY
CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH ARE VANITY 21
ILLS OF THE ELESH THE STIPEND OF THE HUNDRED SCUDI . 33
JEROME CARDAN, GRADUATE IN MEDICINE His LIFE AT SACCO,
AND THE STRANGE ADVENTURE OF HIS MARRIAGE . .55
WORK OF THE BRAIN . . . 87
THE STORY OF ALDOBELLO BANDARINI ILLS OF FORTUNE OF
THE PORTENT THAT AFFLICTED CARDAN AT THE BAPTISM OF
HIS ELDEST SON HUNGER IN GALLARATE POVERTY IN M.TT.AN 104
CHAPTER YIH. PAGE
LIFE AS A LECTURER IN MILAN How JEROME AT LENGTH FOUND
A MAN WILLING TO PRINT ONE OF HIS BOOKS THE ISSUE OF
THAT ENTERPRISE 129
PHYSIC AND PHILOSOPHY .148
ARITHMETIC AND CONSOLATION . 175
THE WOLF AT THE DOOR 199
OF THE GREAT ALGEBRAIC QUARREL THAT AROSE BET WEEN MJESSER
HIERONIMO CARDANO AND MESSER NICOLO TARTAGLIA WHAT
LETTERS PASSED, AND HOW TARTAGLIA FELT THAT IT WAS DUE
TO HIMSELF TO MAKE THE CORRESPONDENCE PUBLIC . . 207
. THE REST OF THE DISPUTE BETWEEN THE TWO MATHEMATICIANS
IN THIS CHAPTER is CONTAINED AN ACCOUNT OF THE LIFE
AND FORTUNES OF LODOVICO FERRARI, CARDAN'S FOREMOST
THE CONQUEST OF AN ADVERSE WORLD . . . 277
BORN TO SORROW.
IN the year 1501 1 , a woman, flying from the plague,
passed under the gate of Milan which leads out upon the
road to Pavia 2 . She was a young widow 3 , the daughter
of a studious man, Giacomo Micheria 4 , and she turned
her back not only on the plague, but also on a grave
1 De Consolatione, Lib. iii. (ed. Yen. 1542) p. 74. In the De Pro-
pria Vita Liber (ed. ex Bibl. Gab. Naudsei, Paris. 1643), cap. ii. p. 7,
he writes the date 1500 by misprint. The misprint has been some-
times followed, though facts stated in the same book (as is shown by
Bayle, who had read no other) correct it, and in every other place in
his works Cardan writes 1501. See especially the date and hour of
his birth given by him in his horoscope (Libelli V. De Supplemento
Almanach. &c. ed. Norimberg. 1547, p. 121), where they are stated to
be the 24th Sept/ 1501, at forty minutes past six in the afternoon.
Except the misprint, this coincides with his other statements on the
subject. See also De Utilitate ex Adversis Capienda (ed, Basil. , 1561),
Lib. iii. p. 427.
2 De Libris Propriis eorumque Usu. Liber ultimus. Opera cura
Spon. Vol. i. p. 96.
3 Compare notes 1, p. 2, and 1, p. 6.
4 De Propr. Vit. Lib. (ed. cit.) cap. i. p. 6.
VOL. I. B
2 JEROME CAKDAN.
jurisconsult and mathematician, who was, at that time,
probably as much an object of aversion to her as the
plague itself his name was Fazio Cardan 1 .
Fazio Cardan was a man of note among the learned in
his neighbourhood, and was then fifty-six years of age 3 .
At the age of fifty-six he had already become toothless,
although strong of limb and ruddy of complexion. He
had good eyes; not in the sense of "Being beautiful, for
they were white, but in the sense of being useful ; for it
was said that he could see with them in the night time.
To his last days to the age of eighty Fazio Cardan
continued to see objects clearly with the aid of less light
than his neighbours needed, and required no spectacles.
As a doctor, both in law and medicine, and member of
the venerable college of men skilled in law, the white-
eyed, toothless, stuttering, and round-shouldered mathe-
matician clothed his healthy body in a purple robe. He
wore a black skull-cap, which he dared only remove for a
few minutes at a time, because his skull had suffered
1 "... natus essem Papise, grassante in urbe nostra peste, turn
etiam quod mater partum ipsum occultari volebat, nee illius affines
resciscerent. Pater enim meus, ut Senex ac Jurisconsultus, viduse
Matris meae pauperis publicas nuptias aversabatur : ipsa vero turpe
ducebat, quod diceretur non ex coDJuge peperisse." De Libris Propriis.
Liber ultimus. Opera cura Spon. Vol. i. p. 96. Cardan never defames
2 He was born at twenty minutes to nine in the morning of the 16th
of July, 1445. See the date in his horoscope, Libelli V. De Suppl.
Almanach. &c. (ed. cit.) p. 106.
PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN. 3
damage in his youth, and it had been found necessary to
remove some pieces of it. The skull may have been
broken in a fray, for Fazio Cardan was always hot of
temper 1 . There was also a quick spirit of humour in him,
but it was not genial; he was careless of money, and a
ready lender, but he made few friends 2 . He dwelt with
Euclid in a world of angles and right-angles, and he him-
self was angular; nevertheless, his heart had rounded
itself to the love of one man, very different in taste,
Galeazzo Rosso 3 . As a student, also, he delighted in the
ingenuity of Gianangelo Salvatico 3 , his pupil and house-
companion. Rosso, who was a smith, equalled the juris-
consult in a decided taste for mathematics, and delighted
him by the ingenuity with which he turned his know-
ledge to good practical account.
The knowledge of Fazio, at the same time, had not re-
mained idle. In the prime of life he had been deliberately
drawn into print by the booksellers of Milan, who desired
to publish something profitable to the learned, and applied
to Fazio Cardan as a man likely to produce for them
1 De Propria Vita (ed. cit.), cap. iii. p. 10, for the preceding details.
2 De Utilitate ex Adv. Capiend. (ed. Basil 1561) Lib. iii. pp. 428
3 De Propr. Vit. cap. iii. p. 11. Galeazzo was by trade a smith. Op.
cit. cap. xv. p. 71. Salvatico a senator. The smith was an ingenious
man, who discovered for himself the screw of Archimedes before the
works of that philosopher had been put into print. He made also re-
markably well-tempered swords and shot-proof breastplates. De
Prop. Vit. p. 11.
4 JEROME CARDAN.
judicious matter 1 . He resolved then to edit a work, at
that time, I think, known only in manuscript, treating of
rays of light, and of the eye, of reflection, and of allied
topics, in the form of propositions proved by the aid of
geometrical diagrams, of which the original author was
John Peckham, Archbishop of Canterbury. This book,
which really deserved promulgation Peckham's Perspec-
tiva Communis* Fazio took upon himself, as he tells us
in the dedication to his own edition, the great labour of
correcting, a work heavy enough for a learned man, most
heavy therefore for him. It was an arduous undertaking,
he said, calling for great knowledge of mathematics pre-
1 " Prospecti va Communi s d. Johannes Archiepiscopi Cantuariensis
.... ad unguem castigata per Facium Cardanum." Milan,
1480; p. 1 in the dedication. It begins thus: "In tanta laborura
cujuscunque generis copia, divino quodam imprimendi artificio com-
parata, appetentes hujus urbis impressores novi quidquam in medium
afierre quod esset studiosis non mediocriter profuturum : persuasique
rnea opera id effici posse : me illud efflagitantes convenerunt."
2 John Peckham, Archbishop of Canterbury, born 1240, became a
minorite friar, and rose through sundry grades of Church preferment
to his crowning dignity. He bought it of the Pope for 4000 marks,
which afterwards he risked excommunication by not paying, or by
paying slowly. He was a man of taste, luxurious, accomplished in
the learning of the age, and liberal to all but Jews. The Jews he
persecuted. He died in 1292, and was buried in Canterbury Cathe-
dral. He left many .works which still exist in MS. Only two
have profited by the discovery of printing, namely, his Collectanea
Bibliorum, and his Perspectiva Communis. The last is interesting as
the first systematic work of the kind, and I find no trace of its having
passed out of MS. into print before it was published, with additions and
corrections, by Fazio Cardan. After that date it was re-issued fre-
quently by other editors at Leipsic in 1504, at Venice in 1505, and
afterwards at Nuremberg, and Paris, and Cologne.
A BOOK. A BABY. 5
paratory to the correction of the original figures and the
amendment of the text. He knew, however, that a work
so difficult would at no time be undertaken ; not for
want of men learned enough Heaven forbid that he
should be so arrogant as to suppose it! but for the
trouble's sake, the work, though useful, would remain
undone. Therefore he, Fazio Cardan, had done it. On
the threshold of his task, however, since he had great
need of a patron's countenance, he committed his book to
one who was as grave as Camillus, as dexterous as Scipio,
and so on 1 . That was the book, and that was the manner
of dedication to the book published by "the excellent
doctor in the arts as well of medicine as law, and most
experienced mathematician, Fazio Cardano, of Milan, re-
siding in the venerable college of the Milanese juriscon-
sults." This offspring of the mind of Fazio was about
twenty years old 2 when Chiara Micheria, flying for re-
fuge from the plague to Pavia 3 , took with, her off-
spring of another kind, to which he also was the father, a
child yet unborn.
Whatever pains Fazio had taken to protect his literary
bantling against any risk of dropping dead into the world,
the care that preceded the birth of his true child was
1 Op. cit. In dedication.
2 Its date of 1480 is assigned on the authority of Burnet. The
copy in the British Museum has no title-page.
3 De Libr. Tropr. Ed. ultima. Opera cura Spon. Vol. i. p. 96.
6 JEROME CARDAN.
bestowed in a precisely opposite direction. Chiara (Clara)
Micheria was still very young 1 , passionate of temper 2 , and
had quitted Milan in the worst of humours. Medicine
refused, however, at her bidding or rather at the bidding
of her bad advisers 3 to fulfil an evil purpose; and at
Pavia, on the 24th of September 4 , in the year 1501, the
living child of Fazio Cardan was brought, after a three
days' labour 5 , through much trouble 6 , silently to light.
Considering that it was very nearly dead, the nurse
promptly immersed the infant in a little bath of wine 5 .
It had already a growth of long dark hair upon its head 5 ,
and it very soon gave evidence of life and strength. That
it would not die very soon there was great reason, the
mother knew, to hope or fear, since it is certain that
longevity becomes often inherited, and she herself a
short, fat, healthy woman, of a lively wit 2 as well as the
geometrician, came of long-lived ancestors 7 .
Let me dwell for a few minutes on this question of the
1 "Matrem meam Claram Micheriam juvenem vidi, cum admodum
puer essem." De Consolatione (ed. Ven. 1542), Lib. ii. p. 41.
2 De Propr. Vit. Lib. p. 11.
3 " Medicamentum abortivum Alieno mandate bibit." De Ut. ex
Adv. Cap. (ed. 1561) Lib. iii. p. 427.
4 See Note 1 on page 1.
5 De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. p. 427.
6 " Per vim extractus ut meo supplicio matrem liberarem a morte,"
De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. p. 427.
7 " Longsevi autem fuere majores nostri." De Propr. Vit. cap. iv.
pp. 5, 6, for the succeeding details.
AN OLD FAMILY. 7
infant's probable longevity. The father of Clara lived
seventy-five years, and his brother, Angiolo, lived eighty-
five. In the Cardans, the habitual tenacity of life was
most remarkable. The grandfather of Fazio, the mathe-
matician, was another Fazio; he had three sons: Gio-
vanni, who lived to the age of ninety-four; Aldo, who
lived eighty-eight years; and Antonio, the father of the
second Fazio, who lived to the age of eighty-six. Gio-
vanni, the first of these, uncle to Fazio the scholar, had
two sons, Antonio and Angiolo, of which the former
lived to the age of eighty-eight, and the latter very nearly
reached a hundred. This Angiolo became known to the
young son of Fazio as a decrepid old man, who, at the
age of eighty, claimed paternity of two decrepid-looking
children, and regained his sight. Even of these children
one lived seventy years. To this enumeration must be
added Gothardo, a brother to the second Fazio Cardan,
and uncle of the child, who died eventually at the age of
eighty-four. Since several of these men were living in
the year 1501, Clara Micheria could take into her calcu-
lation a part only of these facts ; there was enough, how-
ever, in her knowledge to remind her that the unwelcome
son came of a long-lived stock, and that if he was to be
accounted a discredit, he would probably discredit her for
many years to come.
During the first month of the boy's life his nurse was
8 JEROME CARDAN.
seized by the plague, and died under its touch in a few
hours 1 . The infant did not pass unscathed, for there
appeared at the same time five carbuncles on its face; one
on the nose, the other four arranged around it in the
pattern of a cross. Although healing in a short time, it
was observed that three years afterwards these carbuncles
appeared again in the same places 3 . Deprived of his
nurse, and little aided by his mother, the son of Fazio
Cardan was received into the house of Isidore dei Resti 3 ,
a noble gentleman, his father's friend. At that time the
geometer was burying in Milan all his other children
dead of plague. They were two boys and a girl, half-
brothers and half-sister to Clara's child 4 . In the house
of Isidore, the survivor says, speaking of the past out of
his after-life, and tincturing his words with the bitter-
ness of many griefs, " After a few days I fell sick of a
dropsy and flux of the liver, yet nevertheless was pre-
* De Propr. Vit. cap. iv. p. 12.
2 The page last cited and De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. p. 427.
a De Propr. Vit. p. 13. De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. p. 427.
4 De Consolatione (ed. Ven. 1542), p. 74. Their names were
Thomas, Ambrose, and Catilina. De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. p. 427. The
passage in the De Consolatione, "jam trimestris duos fratres et unam
sororem perdidi : crassante in civitate nostra pestilentia . . . tune
audaci et pio facto Is. Kestse nobilis viri et amici paterni, manibus ejus
inter funera exceptus . . ." is my only textual authority for attributing
these children to Fazio. It is indecisive, and I may be wrong. They
may have been children left as consolations to the widow. If so, Clara
must have married very early. Had they belonged equally to Fazio
and Clara, one does not see why in the case of Jerome his mother
served, whether through the wrath or mercy of God I
know not 1 ."
Thus environed by the plague-spots, physical and moral,
which belong to an unwholesome period of human- history,
began the life of which we are about to trace the current.
Out of the peace of our own homes let us look back with
pity on the child whose birth made no man happy, and
whose first gaze into the world was darkened by a mother's
should have endeavoured to keep a knowledge of his birth from her
relations, or why she should, in expectation of a fourth child, desire
abortion, and resent the fact that Fazio was not known to the public as
her husband. (See note 1, p. 2.) Besides, if her relations with Eazio
were thus of some years' standing, how old was her widowhood ? and
could she still be "juvenis" when Jerome was a boy old enough to be
told of her unhappiness, and of her wish (DeConsolatlone, p. 41) that
she had died when he was born ?
1 De Consolatione (ed. Ven. 1542), Lib. iii. p. 74.
10 JEROME CARDAN.
IN WHAT WAY THE CHILD EARNED A MOST HOLY AND MOST HAPPY GOD-
AFTER the death of its first nurse by plague, Clara
Micheria had returned for a short time to her infant 1 , but a
new mother having been hired for it, she again obtained
exemption from her burden. The nurse, who in the
second month of the child's life became the third to whom
it clung as to a mother, did not accept her charge without
due knowledge of the fact that it had been kissed by the
very plague itself, and bore the marks upon its countenance.
To the new nurse, therefore, the baby was delivered by
Isidoro dei Resti, naked and wet, out of a warm bath of
vinegar. With clothes, infection might have gone into
the poor woman's family so men 5 at any rate, believed
the clothes, therefore, were burnt ; vinegar, it was hoped,
would disinfect the child.
By this nurse the "child was taken to Moirago, a place
distant about seven miles from Milan, on the road from
Pavia to Binasco. The infant did not thrive under her
1 De Propr. Vit. Lib. (ed. Naudsei), pp. 12,"13, for the facts stated in
this and the succeeding page.
MOCK MOTHERS. 11
care. It may have carried with it some seeds of disease ;
it most probably found little that was wholesome in the
squalid hut to which it was removed; perhaps, as they
who paid for the child said, the woman herself was not
competent to play the part of mother in a wholesome way 1 .
Certainly, the little body wasted, and acquired the hard
and swollen belly, which at that time in Italy, as it is
now in England, was too well known to the sight and
touch of men, who in vain sought to supply with drugs
the want of healthy homes among the poor. Though the
child was not loved, there existed in the mind of nobody
a criminal desire that it should die; and since, therefore,
it wasted at the breast of its third mother, a fourth was
hired, under whose care its health improved. With this
nurse the boy remained still at Moirago and by her he
was weaned in the third year of his life. In the next
year, Clara Micheria claimed him at last, and took the son,
who had learned to prattle at the knees of strangers, home
to her own sad lodging in Milan. The doubtful charac-
ter of Fazio's relation to her she a girlish widow, he a
toothless old geometer, aged sixty filled her life with
shame and sorrow, and a frequent theme of her discourse
to the child was a desire that she had died when he was
born 2 .
1 " Quod nutrix utero gereret." De Propr. Vit. p. 13.
2 De Consolatione, p. 41.
12 JEROME CARDAN.
Clara Micheria was not at that time resident under the
roof of Fazio Cardan 1 . The laudatory verses sung in
honour of the literary offspring of the grave jurisconsult,
had ended with a distich in his praise, of which the literal
translation is, that " in this man the house of Cardan re-
joices. One man has acquired a knowledge of everything.
Our age has not his equal 3 ." Probably this man, who had
learned everything, was not, in the year 1505, acquainted
with the voice of his own child, that had been four years
in the world and never sat upon his knee. The rejoicing
of the house of Cardan was not great in the person of the
little fellow who, after his removal to. Milan, was perpetu-
ally beaten by his mother and her sister, Margherita, who
dwelt with her: "A woman," he says afterwards, "who
I believe must have been herself without a skin," so little
was her mercy for the skin of Clara's child 3 .
The hands of three persons at Milan were against the
child, for Fazio Cardan, though not residing in one house
with Clara, now came into habitual communication with
1 De Propr. Vit. p. 13. Statements in this and the next page to
which no note is attached are dependent on the same authority.
2 " Magna ratis magno curanda est remige. Deerat
Navita. Nunc Facius talia damna levet.
Hoc Cardana viro gaudet Domus. Omnia novit
Unus. Habent nullum secula nostra parem."
Prospectiva Comm. d. Joh. Archiep. Cant, per
Fac. Cardan. Milan. 1480. Last page.
3 " Mulier cui fel defuisse existimo." De Propr. Vit. p. 13.
UNDER THE ROD. 13
him, and administered a due share of the prickliest paternal
discipline. The ill-treatment of the neglected boy was not,
however, constant though the hands of his father and
mother were against him, their hearts were with him he
was, on the whole, treated less unkindly than before. His
parents had ill-regulated tempers, and the child became
the victim of the passions out of which he was unluckily
begotten 1 . Flagellation from his father and his mother,
and his pitiless aunt, Margherita, impressed upon his
memory three miserable years after his first arrival at
Milan. At the end of those years, when his age was
seven, and he had often been brought even to the point
of death by the results of too incessant punishment, a
respite followed. Father, mother, and Aunt Margaret
perceived that the weak child, who had up to this time
been suffering from a long series of bodily distempers,
could be knocked about no longer without certain danger
to his life; and so it happened, as the boy himself ex-
pressed it afterwards, that when he became old enough to
do things by which he could fairly merit blows, it was
found requisite to leave off beating him.
In that after-life, to which allusion has been made just
now, I ought to say at once, that the son is never to be
1 " Ambobus parentibus commune fuit iracundus esse, parum con-
stanter etiam in amore filii." De Propr. Vit. p. 11.
2 " Turn primum cum merito possem verberibus dignus haberi, a
yerberibus abstinendum decreverunt." De Propr. Vit. p. 13.
4 JEROME CARDAN.
found referring with unfilial bitterness to either of his
parents. He always avoids making any express statement
that would reflect positive dishonour on his mother 1 ; and
both of her and of his father he speaks often with a re-
verent affection 2 . He speaks more frequently, however,
of his father, whom he certainly preferred, although he
does not venture much beyond the remark made in an ir-
resolute way on one occasion, that " my father appeared to
me (if such a thing may be said) better and more loving
than my mother 3 ."
There was a rest then from blows for the sick child
when he had attained his seventh year, but sorrow only
laid aside one shape to reappear and vex him in another 4 .
When the boy had first been brought to Milan, he had
lodged with his aunt and mother in the Via dell' Arena 5 ,
by the Pavian gate, and they had afterwards removed
1 See a curious example in page 2, note 1. He evades there and
everywhere the direct statement that his mother was married, but in
that passage leads up to the inference that she had been married pri-
vately. In the same spirit he says, when he relates his exclusion from
the College of Physicians on the ground of illegitimacy, that he was
rejected * suspicione oborta quod (tarn male a patre tractatus^spurius
essem." De Consolatione, Lib. iii. p. 75. That his tenderness was not
towards himself is shown by the whole tenor of his life. He would,
for himself, rather have taken a perverse pleasure in the proclamation
of a fact that rubbed respectability against the grain.
2 See especially De Util. ex Adv. Cap. Lib. iii. p. 430.
3 De Propr. Vit. p. 12.
4 "Mala sors minime me deseruit, infortunium commutavit non
sustulit." De Propr. Vit. p. 13. .
5 De Propr. Vit. cap. xxiv. p. 92.
SON AND SERVANT. 15
into a street called Del Maino, opposite the citadel, where
they were in the house of Lazzaro Soncino 1 , a physician.
A physician was a very fitting landlord for the boy, at
any rate ; and it may possibly have been to the representa-
tions of Lazzaro Soncino that the child was indebted for
the resolve taken by his friends that he was to be flogged
no longer. Very soon after this resolve was taken, a great
change took place in the arrangements that existed among
the high powers that presided over the boy's worldly
destiny. Clara Micheria, with Margaret, her sister,
removed to a lodging in the Via dei Rovelli, which
they shared with Fazio Cardan 2 . Some semblance of a
home, as childhood is accustomed to interpret home, was
now, for the first time, placed within the knowledge of
the young pupil of sorrow. Father and mother dwelt
under one roof with him ; the home meant little more.
It was no place of laughter, or caresses, or of childish
sport. Fazio needed an attendant who should walk about
with him while he was engaged upon his daily business,
carrying his books and papers, or whatever else the
learned lawyer needed to take with him when he went
abroad. To this work the work of a servant Clara's
child was put without delay 3 . Margaret and Clara being
1 De Propr. Vit. cap. xxiv. p. 92.
2 De Propr. Vit. p. 13, comp. with p. 92.
3 " Inde" (ab octavo) " loco servi patrem ad decimum nonum annum
perpetuo comitabar." De Consolatione (ed. Ven. 1542), Lib. iii. p, 74.
16 JEROME CARDAN.
settled, to their satisfaction doubtless, in the lodging of the
great mathematician and jurisconsult, the fragile boy of
seven years old was ordered daily to attend upon his father
when he.went abroad; so young and weak of body, taken
from a life of close confinement to be put to work that
involved severe and constant bodily exertion 1 . With
weary limbs and throbbing head, the little fellow daily
toiled after his father, revolving in his mind such thoughts
as suffering and sickness teach to children who have been
trained in no school but theirs.
The boy I am compelled to speak of him as boy, or
child, or little fellow, because, though he had now lived
in the world for seven years, it does not appear that he had
yet been christened the boy was contemplative 2 . Minds
that are born rich, that possess a soil originally fertile,
gain very often by the griefs of a tormented childhood ;
these increase for after-seasons the producing power they
are as the torments of the plough. It is not so with the
barren-minded who are born to sorrow and neglect ; ? what
little growth there is in them the plough uproots, and
there is only a dry life year by year until the end. The
Yet how delicately he seeks often to veil the recollection of his father's
harshness ! As, for example, when he refers to it thus : " Ex hoc in
paternam, ut tune rebar, servitutem duram transii." De Ut. ex Adv.
Capiend. Lib. iii. p. 428.
1 De Propr. Vita Liber, p. 13.
2 " Caepi quam primum cogitare an via esset aliqua ut immortales
evaderemus." De Libris Propriis. Liber ultimus. Opera cura Spon.
Vol. i. p. 96.
SORROW AND SICKNESS. 17
child of Fazio Cardan inherited much innate power: from
his father, aptitude for exact learning ; from his mother,
much vivacity of wit. During these years of early hard-
ship, though he sickened and suffered, he was forced into
communion with his own mind by the want of sympathy
abroad, and a development was taking place that was not
indeed healthy, but that had such charms in it as might
have been attractive even to the intellect of Fazio, if the
mathematician could have known how to work out the
problem that was offered to him in the spirit of his child.
He did not work it out ; and so, during the summer
days, under a southern sky, the bey struggled unnoticed
behind his father through the hot streets of Milan.
Intellect at seven years old rarely suggests to any child
that fruit should not be eaten until it is ripe ; and when
the child has a disordered stomach it will fasten upon
green things with the relish of a caterpillar. In the midst
of his fatigue and sickness, when his body was quite
ready for another outbreak of disease, the son, or foot-page,
of the learned Fazio Cardan, then commencing his eighth
year, at a time when an epidemic, if not pestilence, was
raging in the town, ate secretly a great feast of sour
grapes 1 . They supplied the one thing that was needed
to produce an outbreak of the fever that had long been
waiting for some slight exciting cause. Dysentery and
1 De Propr. Vita, p. 14.;
VOL. I. C
18 JEROME CARDAN.
fever seized the child, and between them they were kill-
ing it 1 . The old geometer he was then sixty-four years
old had learned to feel that there was something to be
valued in his boy, therefore both physic and divinity were
summoned to his aid. Two physicians, Barnabo della
Croce and Angelo Gira 1 , and one saint, St. Jerome, were
called into request. The old man was accustomed to
assert that he enjoyed a favour which had been conferred
on Socrates and others in being benefited by the society
and advice of a familiar demon 2 . He did not apply,
however, to the demon for a prescription in his son's case,
but more piously devoted him to the most holy and most
happy St, Jerome, whom he elected to be his godfather
and his tutelary saint, upon condition that St. Jerome, by
his intercession, would procure the boy's return to health 1 .
Why Fazio chose Jerome for his saint it is not possible to
tell; but it happened that he was lodging in the house of
one Ermenulfo 3 , who had Girolamo for his own baptismal
name, and I am inclined to think that Ermenulfo as men
in our day recommend to one another their own tea-
dealers or tailors recommended to the lodgers his
own patron saint. The boy recovered, and the father,
1 De Propr. Vita, p. 14.
2 He said it had attended him for thirty-eight years. De Ut. ex
Adv. Cap. p. 428. De Propr. Vit. p. 14.
3 De Propr. Vit. cap. xxiv. p. 92. There may he something to the
purpose in the fact, that there was a large religious house dedicated to
St. Jerome situated between the Pavian and Vercelline gates.
VOWED TO A SAINT. 19
faithful to his promise, caused him to receive the name of
Girolamo, or Jerome 1 . This took place in the eighth
year of the boy's life. Up to my eighth year, says
Cardan, I had often beaten at the gates of death, but
those within refused to open to me 2 . He was newly risen
from his bed in May of the year 1509. In the same
year, on the 14th of the same month, the French gained
a victory over the Venetians near the Adda. Jerome
Cardan remembered afterwards that he was recovering
from that most serious attack when the French celebrated
their triumph at Milan for the battle of the Adda, and
that he was then permitted to go to the window and look
out upon the spectacle.
Thin, pale, and very thoughtful, little Jerome leaned
against the open window, and from the gloom of his own
chamber looked down on the helmets, swords, and banners
of the military pageant, glittering along the street under
the light of the May sun. While the noise of military
music and the tramping of the horses shook the whole
house in which they lived, how little did it come into
the thoughts of Fazio Cardan, Aunt Margaret, or Clara,
that the glitter and the bustle of the triumph out of
1 DePropr. Vit. p. 14.
2 De TJtiL ex Adversis Capiend. pp. 427, 428. The summary there
given is touching: " Inde lac prsegnantis hausi, per varies matrices lac-
tatus ac jactatus, hydrope, febribus, aliisque morbis conflictatus sum,
donee sub fine octavi anni ex dysenteria ac febre usque ad mortis
limina perveni; pulsavi ostium, sed non aperuerequi intro erant."
20 JEROME CARDAN.
doors were but a parade of folly; that the recovery of
health by their weak boy would interest posterity much
more than anything that had been done or would be
done by the strong army out of doors. For war, that
can be noble, was in those days altogether witless, and the
pen-work even of the worst dunce among philosophers
could scarcely fail to display more sense than the sword-
work of the cleverest among the captains.
HOLY MONITIONS. 21
CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH ARE VANITY.
MARGARET of Austria : daughter of Maximilian ; sister
of the Archduke Philip; aunt of Charles, then Duke of
Luxembourg, afterwards Emperor Charles V; governor,
for her nephew, of the Netherlands ; widow of Jean of
Castille the son of Ferdinand ; widow also of Philibert of
Savoy: acting on behalf of Maximilian and Ferdinand,
had at Cambray concluded a league with the Cardinal
d'Amboise, who acted on behalf of the Pope and of the
King of France. By this league it was agreed to enlarge
the borders of the French king's Milanese territory, by
cutting off and appropriating the borders of the territory
of the too prosperous Venetian republic. In the year
1509 the head of the Church began the enterprise by
issuing monitions which bestowed the coveted lands on
the first neighbour who seized them. Louis XII, King
of France, entered Italy with thirty thousand men, and
was allowed to cross the river Adda by which his Milanese
duchy was parted from Venetian ground. On the other
22 JEROME CARDAN.
side a battle was soon fought near a village called Agna-
dol, the Venetians were routed, and without more contest
driven into Venice. The campaign, therefore, was soon
ended. This was the victory of the Adda celebrated by
a triumphal entry into Milan in the eighth year of Jerome
Louis XII, predecessor of King Francis I. of France,
was a monarch of whom it is just to speak respectfully.
He sought the welfare of his people. When, on the
occasion of this brief Venetian campaign, he found his
warfare so soon ended that he should not need the special
taxes he had levied, he remitted them, and left the money
in the pockets of his subjects. He detested all the arts
which darkened counsel by a multitude of words, and ex-
pressed frequently so great an aversion to the sight of a
lawyer's bag 1 , that had the little Jerome, when he saw the
king pass by under his window, known of the existence
of that strong point in his character, he would have spent
some part of his recovered health in lusty cheering. Who
had so full a right as little Jerome to cheer kings who
hated lawyers' bags ?
The great delicacy of health which followed the child's
illness procured for him exemption from the task of carry-
1 " Kien n'offense plus ma vue que la rencontre d'un procureur charge
de ses sacs." Words of Louis XII, quoted by Anquetil from Claude
Seyssel, Bishop of Marseilles, a subject who was much in the king's
WOUNDED IN ALL WAYS. 23
ing the bag of Fazio, and from all serious labour for a time 1 .
During this period of convalescence, when he was living
in the street Dei Maini, the weak boy fell from a ladder
with a hammer in his hand, and was taken up with a
serious wound, in which the bone was injured at the upper
part of his forehead, on the left side 2 . The scar left by
the wound remained visible throughout the whole of his
after-life 2 . He had recovered from this blow, when one
day, as he was sitting on the threshold of his father's door,
a tile fell from the roof of a high adjoining house, and
wounded him on the top of his head, again on the left
side 3 . When Jerome was in tolerable health, his father
fagged him ; when sickness gave him liberty to idle, these
accidents disturbed his rest. He had no breast at home
that he could lay his head upon in perfect peace ; he saw
passions at work about him, or felt them at work upon him
from the first, chafing his fresh heart, and checking the
free outward current of his thoughts. His wit was of the
quickest, and his nature sensitive ; he felt every slight, and
soon began to brood over the wrongs he suffered, to pre-
serve in stillness his own thoughts of impatience at in-
justice, and acquired that unwholesome self-consciousness
that is too often forced into the minds of clever children,
not only by too much praise, but also by unjust neglect.
1 De Propr. Vit. p. 14.
2 De Util. ex Adr. Capiend. p. 428. De Propr. Vit. pp. 14, 15.
3 De Propr. Vita Liber, p. 15.
24 JEROME CARDAN.
He who was mocked so often, he would beat through the
bands they tied about his heart, he would do some great
thing that should command the homage due to his nature,
not the less because he was a child. At the beginning of
Jerome's tenth year 1 , his father moved to another house in
the same street, which he occupied for three years, and
during those three years Jerome again carried the lawyer's
bag, Fazio insisting upon the use of the child's service
with great pertinacity, the mother and the aunt con-
senting 1 .
The position of young Jerome was, however, about this
time improved ; his father had certainly grown kinder 1 ,
warmed very probably towards him by the signs of intel-
lect that he exhibited, and by ,the readiness with which
he picked up information, even about the geometrician's
darling studies 2 . There came also two nephews of Fazio,
one after the other, who shared Jerome's labour, either
serving in his place, or lightening his work, so that some-
times he was not called upon to go abroad at all, or, if he
went, he would not have so much to do 1 . Then there
were other changes of abode 1 ; first to the Via del
Cusani, and afterwards, until the completion of his six-
teenth year, Jerome lived with his father in the house of
a relation, Alessandro Cardan.
1 DeFropr. Vita Liber, p. 15.
2 De Ut. ex Adv. Capiend. Lib. iii. p. 429.
THROBS OF THE HEART 25
It was at the time when, as Jerome tells us, the first
down was coming on his chin 1 , that the premature death
of a young relative, Nicolo Cardan, gave a fixed object
to the tumult of his thoughts. Nicolo died at the age of
thirty 3 , and his place knew him no more. The young
philosopher began, therefore, to reflect upon the shortness
of life, and to inquire by what means he might be able to
provide something worthy to be remembered by posterity ;
it pained him to think that, after a life spent without
pleasure in the flesh, he should go down into the grave
and be forgotten 2 . When he had recovered from the
terror into which he had been thrown by witnessing the
young man's death, he occupied himself in the writing of
a treatise On the Earning of Immortality 2 .
The sense of power, without which no genius can bear
fruit, was rooted firmly in Cardan. The slights and sor-
rows that had made the outer world in childhood and in
youth seem vanity, had driven him to contemplation of
that inner world from which there was no pleasant voice
to call his thoughts. Self-contemplation, constantly pro-
voked and never checked, acquired a feverish intensity.
After the death of his friend Nicolo, when Jerome, with
warm passions, found himself at home but half a son, and
1 " Cum adhuc ephebus essem." De Sapientia Libri V. &c. &c. (ed.
Norimb. 1543) p. 420.
2 De Libris Propriis (ed. Lugd. 1557), p. 10.
26 JEROME CARDAN.
out of doors regarded as a questionable comrade 1 , a young
man with no lawful parents and no prospects, hearing his
mother reproached coarsely for his birth 3 , holding the posi-
tion of a servant, with no visible means of escape from it,
we feel that there is something touching in the pride of
loneliness on which his heart depended for its solace:
"As much as it was permitted me," he tells us afterwards,
"I lived to myself; and, in some hope of future things,
despised the present 3 ."
Jerome had been instructed by his father 4 in reading,
writing, and arithmetic, in geometry, in some astrology,
and had learnt also in the same company to chatter Latin;
but he was nineteen years old 5 before Fazio consented to
his earnest wish that he might study thoroughly that
language then the only tongue used by ] the learned
and endeavour to make use of his abilities. The taste for
mathematics communicated to him by his father, Cardan
always retained. When in his fresh youth he became
eager to obtain a name that should not die, and must
1 But, he says : " Ubi adeptus literas Latinas, statim etiam in urbe
nostra cognitusTuL" De Vita Propria, cap. xxxii. p. 138.
2 " Apud patrein longam servitutem sustinui, et pro spurio ab illo
jactatus, etiam indecora matri simul audiebam." Dial, de Morte.
Opera, Tom. i. p. 676.
3 "Itaque quam licuit vixi mihi; et in aliqua spe futurorum praesen-
tia sprevi." De Propr. Vit. cap. ix. p. 42.
4 De UtiL ex Adv. Capiend. p. 428. De Propr, Vit. cap. xxxiv.
5 De Libris Propriis (ed. Lugd. 1557), p. 9.
BOY- AUTHOR. 27
needs sit down at once to write a treatise, and so make
the best beginning that he could of the career to which
his aspirations tended, there was no subject that lay
nearer to his mind than the geometry he gathered from
his father's teachings and his father's books. The boy,
therefore, worked diligently at a little book in his own
language, since he could write no Latin, wherein he
taught how and why, the latitude and longitude of two
places or stars being known, their true distance from each
other may be calculated 1 . This little treatise was divided
into chapters, and was chiefly founded on a book of
Geber's 1 . Having achieved this his first work, Jerome
was rather proud to lend it to a friend, Agostino Lavi-
zario, of Como. To the disappointment of posterity, and
the chagrin of the author, Lavizario died of plague, and
Jerome's manuscript could never be recovered 3 .
But the zeal of the young aspirant for immortal honours
had not been content with labour on a single work 3 ;
another book had been commenced about the same time,
more original in its design, and more ambitious, more
peculiarly characteristic. As Cardan grew, his restless-
ness increased. He felt aggrieved when, at the age of
eighteen, full of strong powers and strong passions, he
still found himself compelled into a half-menial position,
1 De Libris Propriis (ed. Lugd. 1557), p. 9.
~ De Libris Propriis (ed. 1557), pp. 9, 10. DeL.P. Liber ult. Opera,
vol. i. p, 96.
3 De SapientiaLibri V. &c. &c. (ed. Norimb. 1543) p. 431.
28 JEROME CARDAN.
and denied the education for which he was thirsting.
His want of proper standing had become more obvious,
and the reason of it, with a galling frequency, was on the
lips of his companions. His health was bad, his home
was uncongenial, out of doors he was in a wrong position.
He had become proud, and so sensitive, that his spirit
suffered pain from any but the gentlest touch. Worldly
advancement seemed impossible, restlessness became reck-
lessness, and the neglected youth turned all the energy that
was not spent in nursing his ambition upon games of
chance. He brought his acquired taste for mathematics
to the gaming-table, and calculated nicely probabilities in
cards and dice 1 . When, afterwards, a sure object in life
presented itself, quitting the company of gamblers, he
pursued it steadily; but in the hopeless, miserable years
of energy that saw no outlet, and of reckless discontent,
there was no game played in his day with dice at which
Jerome Cardan did not become proficient. Meanwhile,
the philosophic bias was not weaker than the passions of
those miserable years. The young gambler's experiences
were all treasured for a philosophic use, while scientific
calculations were submitted to the test of practice; for
this other work, begun in early youth, and finished at the
age of twenty-three, was nothing less than an original
and elaborate treatise on the science that belongs to
1 De Propria Vita, p. 16. The authority remains the same for all
succeeding facts, until its change is indicated by another reference.
DICE. A LOST LEGACY. 29
games of chance. The idea was a shrewd one, and the
execution of it curiously brought into play all the charac-
teristic features of its author's life. It displayed much
of the knowledge he had acquired from the old geome-
trician Fazio, the philosophic powers that had grown
and strengthened in the midst of all misfortune and
neglect, and the love of dice that represented the im-
patient and ill-regulated spirit that so much want of
sympathy had by this time begotten.
We who have seen the growth of this one child from
the knees of its hired mothers, and the hand of its hard
Aunt Margaret, up to a youth of galling servitude, refuse
to be harsh judges now. If we could trace back the stories
of the men who sin against us or before us in the world,
perhaps we should refuse to be harsh judges ever. There
is no truth in scorn, and there is no sadder aspect in the
life of Jerome Cardan than the feeling which impelled
him to say, " I have lived to myself, and in some hope of
future things I have despised the present."
A rare example of the contempt of things present was
offered during Jerome's youth by Fazio, his father. Fazio,
who was, it should be remembered, seventy- four years old
when his son's age was eighteen, had two nephews, sister's
sons, little younger than himself; and of these, one was a
Franciscan friar, and the other a tax-gatherer; one a
Pharisee, the other a publican. The friar, seventy years
30 JEROME CAEDAN.
old, was named Evangelista ; the other nephew, Ottone
Cantone, the tax-gatherer, was very rich, and when on
his death-bed offered to bequeath his wealth to the young
Jerome. It was the one worldly gift that fortune offered
to him in his early life, a bequest by which he would have
been enabled to obtain for himself education, and to carry
out his most ambitious schemes of study. Fazio, however,
acting on his son's behalf, refused the legacy, declaring that
the money was ill-gotten. The despised publican died,
therefore, intestate, and his property passed into the hands
of his surviving brother, the friar, who, being forbidden
to acquire wealth for himself, of course devoted it to pious
The geometer's contempt of wealth did not include a
contempt of the homage he might earn to himself from
younger relations, as a man who would leave one day a
will behind him 1 . Jerome's health being delicate, it
pleased his father to excite the reverence of other young-
men in the family, by telling them that in the event of
his son's death this or that one of them would be his heir.
It was a weak way of boasting, and hazardous withal;
for in those days, although it was not much more likely
than it is now that young men would allow generous
blood to take a jaundice from exposure to such influ^
encing, yet there were thousands of calculating fathers
1 De Util. ex Adr, Capiend. p. 429.
DOMESTIC DISCORD. 31
not indisposed to carve out a fortune for themselves or for
their children with the knife of the assassin, or to find
quiet means of hastening the decease of any sickly youth
by whom their way was cumbered. This manner of
talking, therefore, on the part of the old man, not only
vexed Jerome, but also seriously alarmed his mother, and
was the occasion of much violent altercation between
Fazio and Clara. They even agreed to separate. In one
of these quarrels the passionate woman fell down in a fit,
striking her head violently against a paving-stone, and
lay for three hours insensible, and foaming at the mouth 1 .
The son diverted the attention of his parents from the
dispute, of which he was the centre, by simulating a
religious zeal, betaking himself to the Franciscans 2 , and
making suddenly a bold push to secure for himself proper
instruction. His mother, however, would not suffer that
he should hide himself from her under the monk's cowl 3 .
Having denied to him that easy opportunity of getting
forward in the world which the legacy of Ottone Cantone
would have afforded, it would have been cruel indeed had
Fazio continued to withhold from his son those elements
of education that were necessary to his labour for his own
subsistence. Jerome had learnt no trade or profession,
1 De Util. ex Adv. Capiend. p. 429.
2 Ibid. De Consolatione, p. 74.
3 " Metuentis matris orbitatem precibus exoratus pater," De Con-
solatione, p. 74.
32 JEROME CARDAN.
and both from his nature, and from the imperfect training
he had hitherto received, it was evident that he could
earn his living only as a scholar. The old man also had
not failed to recognise the good abilities his boy possessed,
while it was certain that his quick wit could be turned to
no account, that he might as well not think at all among
philosophers, while he was unable to write his thoughts
in Latin. At length, therefore, when he was nineteen 1
years old, he was, for the first time, released from bondage
in his father's house, and sent to study at a university.
1 De ConsoL p. 74. De Propr. Vit. p, 16.
MIND AND MATTER. 33
ILLS OF THE FLESH THE STIPEND OF THE HUNDRED SCUDI.
THE spirit of the young Cardan, housed within its
temple of the flesh, suffered, in contact with the world
about it, such discouragements. The story of his outer
life up to his nineteenth year is told in the preceding
chapters. We must now put a finger on his pulse. The
day may come when somebody shall teach us how to
estimate the sum of human kindness that proceeds from
good digestion and a pure state of the blood the dis-
putes and jealousies that owe their rise entirely to the
livers of a number of the disputants or how much fret-
fulness, how many outbursts of impatience, how much
quick restlessness of action, is produced by the condition
of the nervous matter. Such calculations, though we
cannot make them in the gross, we make, or ought to
make, instinctively when we become intimate with indi-
viduals. The physical life of a man cannot be dissociated
fairly from his intellectual and moral life, when we at-
tempt to judge him by the story of his actions. In the
VOL. I. D
34 JEROME CARDAN.
case of Jerome Cardan, it is more than commonly essen-
tial that we know a little of the body that he carried to
his work, for its unsoundness influenced his conduct and
caused many a wise man to shrug his shoulders, both
among contemporaries and long afterwards, and even to
this day, over the question, " Had he not madness in his
composition 1 ?"
As there are few, even of the rosiest among us, who
have bodies absolutely free from all trace of disease or
malformation, perfect health of body being a most rare
condition, so it is with perfect health of mind. Every
excess of one class of ideas over the just proportion in-
volves loss of balance. Before reasoning can master the
1 " Verum extremes amentia fuit, imo impiae audaciae," reported
Thuanus, in the History of his own time, Lib. Ixii. Tom. iii. p. 462, ed.
Lond. 1733. Gabriel Naude', a famous bookworm, wrote an elaborate
but shallow criticism on Cardan, which he prefixed to the book de Vita
Propria, first edited by him in 1642. As an analyst of character Nau-
daeus does not shine ; but this criticism, based on a minute knowledge
of his whole works, being bound up with the only one of Cardan's books
usually read, has been taken for just by, I think, every succeeding
writer. He says, speaking of ..." gravissimorum virorum judicia,
qui Cardanum miras de seipso fabulas concitasse, et insanienti proximum
vixisse. Et hercle non video quid aliud existimari possit de homine
qui" . . . qui . . . qui . . . &c. The quotation down to " qui denique "
would be a page too long. Bayle, gathering his information about
Cardan from other writers, and without having read more than a single
book, which forms about a hundredth part of Cardan's works, delivers
judgment thus: "We must not say of him that his great Wit had a
mixture of Madness, but, on the contrary, that his Madness had a mix-
ture of great Wit. His Wit was only an appendix, an accessory to his
Madness." For my own part, I decline to affirm of any man that he is mad
or not mad. Strange things are said and done all over the world daily.
PHYSICAL LIFE. 35
unknown, or wit can dazzle us before there can exist a
Howard or a Milton a mind must have swerved out of
that horizontal line on which all faculties stand written
at an equal altitude. That Cardan's mind was not well
balanced we have already seen while noting its relations
in the days of youth with the surrounding world. Much
of the eccentricity displayed in it was caused, un-
doubtedly , by the condition of the frame in which it had
been set. That part of our history his physical life up
to the year in which he joined a university, we therefore
proceed now to consider.
In infancy, Cardan was fat and red; in boyhood, lean,
with a long, white face, and reddish hair. He grew fast,
so that he had attained at the age of sixteen his full
stature. Of the plague that caressed him at the breast of
his first nurse mention has been already made. His health
was at all times infirm. He was born with a slight ente-
rocele, inherited from Fazio, his father. Throughout life
he was vexed by the occasional outbreak of cutaneous
eruptions and by nervous itchings 1 . Between his fourth
and his seventh year 2 the excitement of his nervous sys-
tem caused a condition perhaps not altogether rare in
children: phantoms haunted him. On account of his
1 De Vita Propr. cap. vi. and li. for the preceding details.
2 De Vita Propr. cap. xxxvii. p. 160. Sprengel attributes to his
early illnesses the vividness of imagination by which Cardan was
36 JEROME CARDAN.
weak health, and specially in consideration of the fact
that during those years, and for some time afterwards, his
legs from the knees downwards never became warm in
bed until the morning 1 , he was not required to rise; in-
deed, he was required not to rise until the end of the
second hour after sunrise 2 . Fazio himself, it should be
observed, was not himself then out of bed 3 . .; .During the
last hour or two of morning rest, lying awake, the boy
commonly saw figures, that were colourless, and seemed
to be built up of rings of mail, rising out of the right
corner of the bed 4 . The figures, following each other in
a long procession, were of many kinds houses, castles,
animals, knights on horseback, plants, trees, musical in-
struments, trumpeters in the attitude of blowing, groves,
woods, flowers, and wild shapes that represented nothing
he had ever seen before these figures rising out of the
right-hand corner, and describing an arch, descended into
the left-hand corner, and were lost. Jerome had pleasure
in this spectacle, and made a secret of it. On one occa-
sion, when his eyes were fixed intently upon the proces-
sion, his Aunt Margaret asked whether he saw anything;
but he believed, he tells us, that if he revealed the mys-
1 De Vita Propr. cap, xxxvii. p. 29 and pp. 161, 162.
2 Ibid. p. 11 and p. 160.
3 ' Somno matutino indulgere permisit, nam et ipse ad tertiam diei
horam decumbebat." De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. p. 428,
4 De Vita Propr. p. 160.
tery, whatever caused the spectacle would be offended,
and that he should see the show no more 1 . Therefore he
did not answer her. Between his seventh and twelfth
year 2 the child, who slept between his mother and Aunt
Margaret, disturbed them almost nightly with his crying,
caused by severe palpitation of the heart, which ceased
when he advanced in years 3 . The coldness of his ex-
tremities sometimes gave place to a profuse sweat. The
nervous irritation endured by the delicate boy, who was
rudely exposed all day long to the harsh exactions and
unruly tempers of his old father, the lawyer, and the
women who had charge of him, marred his unwholesome
sleep with vivid dreams 2 . As often as a hundred times
there came before him in his dreaming, night after night,
at intervals, a cock with red wings, at whose appearance
1 " Quamvis adeo puer, mecum cogitabam, si fatebor indignabitur
quicquid causam praebet hujus pompae, subtrahetque hoc festura." De
Vita Propria, cap. xxxvii. p. 161. This account fits accurately to my
own experience. During the same period of childhood I rarely fell
asleep till I had received the visit of a crowd of visionary shapes that
were not by any means agreeable. I had also, during that period, holi-
day phantoms, in the beauty and the mystery of which I took delight,
and concerning which I had in the strongest degree the same childish
belief that is mentioned in the text, that "si fatebor indignabitur
quicquid causam praebet hujus pompac, subtrahetque hoc festum." I
add this note because there are some autobiographical statements in
the writings of Cardan touching upon what used to be considered
supernatural matters that are liable to question by the sceptical, or
misinterpretation by the credulous. It would be unjust not to employ
the best means that I have of proving in this place the good faith of
2 De Vita Propr. p. 29.
38 JEROME CARDAN.
the child trembled with the fear that it would speak, until
it did speak, in a human voice, threatening words that
took no hold upon his memory 1 .
There were none by to understand the beatings of the
young heart and the ponderings of the excited mind.
Sometimes the child was labouring in the diseased heroic
vein; at seven years old aweary of the world and cogi-
tating suicide. Cardan, when he confesses this in after-
life, adds a suspicion that the same has occurred to other
men, although they do not like to tell it in their books 2 .
There were none by to understand the vague emotions
that were, even in youth, to grow into the form of hunger
for undying fame; the busy brain, that was perpetually
cogitating many and large things, revolving also things
that were impossible 3 .
The aspirations of the fevered mind were mingled
1 De Vita Prop. p. 162,
2 " Laboravi interdum amore Heroico, ut me ipsum trucidare cogi-
tarem; verum talia etiam aliis accidere suspicor; licet hi in libros non
referant." De Vita Propria, p. 31. The preceding sentences make it
probable that Cardan applies this statement to his whole life; the
sentence before which it is placed favours, however, the belief that he
is referring to his childhood only. I adopt the latter view, because I
know that in the early years of childhood this feeling is connected
closely with the physical condition already described. There is
nothing in it but a wild love for the mystery of death. I can call to
mind no instance of suicide committed by a child.
3 "Cerebri calidi, addictus cogitationi perpetuo: multa ac maxima,
et etiam quae esse non possunt revolvens." De Vita Propria, cap. xiii.
always with some fear of early death. His mother never
thought he would live long 1 . In youth, to all the other
ailments Jerome suffered, there was added a dull, red
swelling on the left breast, which occasioned for some
time a dread of cancer 3 . In the year before his departure
for the university, when he was eighteen years old, he
suffered also a dangerous attack of illness. He had been
rambling through an August day among the suburbs and
gardens of Milan, and when he came home falsely ac-
counted for his absence by saying that he had dined with
a friend of his father's, Agostino Lanizario. It is the
same Lanizario who played the part of friendly critic upon
Jerome's early writings. After this walk the youth was
seized with a violent attack of illness 3 . For three days he
was in a fever, having only water for his food, and medi-
cine compounded by his father, who was not only lawyer
but physician also, which medicine he was to take four
times a day. An anthrax formed and broke over the
first false rib on the left side 4 . He thought in his de-
lirium that he was on the bed of Asclepiades, rising and
falling constantly between the floor and ceiling. He be-
came possessed of the belief that he should die. His
malady was closed by a violent sweat that resulted in the
youth's recovery, but his health, as I before said, re-
1 De Vita Propr. p. 29. 2 Ibid. p. 31.
3 Ibid. p. 28. * De Util. ex Adversis Cap. p. 431,
40 JEROME CARDAN.
rnained always infirm ; it was best when he was troubled
with a cough 1 .
Jerome Cardan, whose stature was completed at the
age of sixteen, was, at the age of nineteen, when he went
to Pavia, of the middle height and somewhat narrow-
chested. He had a fair complexion, with a slight tinge of
red on his white, small and oblong face, yellow hair, with a
strong growth of it in beard under the chin, small, intent
eyes, a projecting under lip, large upper front teeth, and a
harsh voice, which, although loud, was not distinct at any
distance. The hind part of his head was narrow 2 . Cardan
tells us that when he became famous, and painters came
from a distance to take his picture, his features proved to
be so commonplace, that it was impossible to express
them in a way that would enable any one to know him
by his portrait. That is a very modest method of putting
the incompetence of artists who omit the animating
spirit when they paint the form, but Jerome was only too
completely free from any pride either in his own form or
in its coverings. In his mind he had pride, which he
took no trouble to conceal. His character was fixed in a
contempt of money, a disregard not only of surrounding
trifles, but even of the more important furnishings of
1 "Turn maxime sanum me existimera, cum tussi rauceclineque
laboro." De Vit. Propr. p. 26.
2 Ibid. pp. 24, 25, for this and the next fact.
life, and his whole energy was bent upon the working ]
out for himself with his mind of glory after death 1 . Boy
as he was, he was at work upon his treatise on the
Earning of Immortality; upon his treatise on the True
Distances of Objects, based upon an old volume of
Geber's, upon Triangles, that he had found among
his father's books ; upon his treatise on Games of Skill
and Chance ; and upon other youthful undertakings 2 .
From the first he was unable to confine his mind to
labour on a single topic. He did not sit down to \vork
out his immortality of fame by writing a great book ; he
began at once with three or four books. He was never
throughout life checked in the commencement of a new
literary labour, by the reflection that he might have four
or five unfinished works already in hand 8 . Book- writing
was pleasure, and he could not easily deny himself any
addition to a pleasure that he loved.
Though miserably trained into impatience, there was
a strain of youthful joyousness in Cardan's mind when
he arrived at manhood. The most prevailing of his
sensual pleasures was a love of music 4 . He was not
1 " Conternptor pecunise, glorias post obitum cultor, mediocria etiam
nedum parva omnia spernere solitus."
2 De Libris Propriis (ed. 1557), p. 10.
3 "Multa et varia scrips!, neque enim mens tandiu intenta uni
negocio esse potest." De Libris Propriis (ed. 1557), p. 12.
4 " Laetus, voluptatibus deditus, Musicae praecipue." De Vita Propr.
42 JEROME CARDAN.
physically bold, but he had from the beginning practised
himself in sword exercise, then an art necessary to all
men who desired long life, and he had exercised his
body well in running and leaping. He could not ride
decently, nor swim, and was afraid of fire-arms. Abso-
lutely a coward he was not, for in his restlessness it was
one of his favourite amusements to face at night the
dangers of the street, wandering about, contrary to law,
armed, having his face concealed by a black woollen
veil 1 .
Firm in the midst of all his restlessness, determined
resolutely to mount upwards, not in worldly circumstance
but in the ranks through which only intellect can rise,
his spirit ever burning with an inextinguishable desire
for an immortal name 2 , Jerome Cardan left Milan to
commence his university career. Agostino Lanizario had
faith in the young author, and besought his aged father
to consult the future prospects of the youth. Clara Mi-
cheria added her prayers to the same effect, stimulated
by her son's declared intention, for the love of study, to
become a monk if he might become a student in no
1 De Vita Propr. cap. viL p. 32, for the preceding details.
2 " Hoc umim sat scio, ab ineunte setate me inextinguibili nominis
immortalis cupiditate flagrasse." De Libris Propriis.
" Cupiditas mea gloriae, inter tot et adversa et impedimenta, stolida
non tantum stulta. Non tainen unquarn concupivi gloriam aut ho-
nores, imo sprevi : cuperem notum esse quod sim, non opto ut sciatur,
qualis sim." De Vita Propria, cap. ix. p. 42.
SENT TO THE UNIVERSITY. 43
other way 1 . Jerome, ill-trained as he had been, with all
his oddities and faults, was a good son. The life of
Fazio was now declining ; Clara was much younger than
the old geometrician, and must turn naturally after the
old man's death to her son Jerome for protection. Let
him, therefore, before it was too late, be enabled
to earn bread. Fazio, though he had acquired some
property, was far from being rich. He had lent money
too carelessly, and been but too indifferent a steward of his
own resources. The main prop of his income as a juris-
consult was a stipend of a hundred scudi, from a lecture-
ship in Milan, which could one day be obtained also by
Jerome, if he were qualified to take his father's place 3 .
Clara had, therefore, good reason for backing with her
prayers Jerome's demand for education. Jerome declared
obstinately that if he were not sent to Pavia for instruc-
tion, he would run away from any situation into which
he might be put ; and thus the old man was at length
entreated and compelled to yield 3 .
1 " Dii boni! florem liunc universum setatis, et sine voluptate, et sine
studiis transegi. Cum vero neque patrem cogere possem, nee fraudare
honestum ducerem,nec praecibus impetrare valerem : religion! tandem,
amore studiorum, tradere me volui. Inde metuentis matris orbitatem
prcccibus exoratus pater, in Gymnasium dimisit." De Consolatione,
Lib. iii. p. 75,
2 De Vita Propr. cap. x. p. 48.
3 " Atque ita precibus matris et amici praedicti, minisque meis, ut
qui omnino abire quoquo destinaveram, discessum in Academiam
sequent! anno impetravi." De Libris Propriis.
44 JEROME CARDAN.
Jerome Cardan, therefore, being as well or as ill-fitted
for the career lie sought as may be supposed of a youth
minded as he was, and troubled as he was with fleshly
ailments, set out at the age of nineteen for Pavia, provided
in an ungrudging way by his father with respectable re-
sources 1 . So far as studies were concerned, the exact
curriculum of his preparatory education may be briefly
told. In addition to reading and writing, Fazio had
taught him rudiments of arithmetic when he was a little
boy, and had instructed him, when he was nine years old,
in some of the world's mysteries, magical lore very pro-
bably, whence obtained Jerome never discovered. Soon
afterwards the geometrician taught his son some principles
of Arabian astrology, a kind of study that must have done
much to confirm the little fellow's dreaminess of nature,
and then finding that his recollection of dry facts was
bad, endeavoured to instil into him a system of artificial
memory, in which endeavours he did not succeed 2 . After
Jerome's twelfth year, he had been taught to say by heart
the first six books of Euclid, not to understand them, and
he had been aided carelessly with a few books and scanty
verbal information and advice in the study of geometry
and dialectics 3 . At the cost of his mother, who had a
1 " Honesto cum viatico." De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. p. 429.
- De Vita Propr. cap, xxxiv. p. 155. De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. p. 428.
3 "Pater jam ante concesserat ut Geometric et Dialectic opera
darem, in quo quanquam praeter paucas admonitiones, librosque, ac
licentiam, nullum alium auxilium praebuerit." De Consol. p. 75.
PREPARATORY TRAINING. 45
woman's appreciation of such matters, Jerome had also
received instruction in music, which, as a social amuse-
ment, consisted in those days chiefly of part singing and
choruses. This Clara had furnished to her son without
his father's knowledge 1 . Fazio himself, who had no lack
of power for facetious conversation, and was great among
his friends as a teller of anecdotes, fables, and marvels of
all kinds, being particularly full of stories about demons 2 ,
and claiming an especial demon of his own, aided the con-
stant growth of superstitious feeling in the apt mind of his
pupil. Other things Jerome had learnt for his own plea-
sure. With his father's help he had become so well versed
in dialectics, that before he went to Pavia he earned some
pocket-money for himself by giving private lessons in that
study 3 . Of Latin he knew no more than he had acquired
in conversation with his father ; but to write Latin, as I
have said before, was the great object of his young desired
At Pavia, Cardan was placed under the care of Giovanni
Ambrosio Targio, in whose house he resided without any
companion. At the close of the academic year he re-
turned to Milan. He- had made good use of time, for in
the succeeding year after his return to Pavia, where he
1 De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. p. 429.
2 " Conversatio sua baud aspernanda, facetus, jucundus, miraculomm
et fabularum recitator, multa de daemonibus recitabat, qure quam vera
essent nescio, certe ea historia et admirabilis et pulchre conficta,
mirum in modum me oblectabat." De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. p. 429.
46 JEROME CARDAN.
again lodged with Targio, he disputed publicly with very
great success, and was a teacher in the Gymnasium of the
first books of Euclid. He even undertook for a few days
to discourse upon dialectics in the place of the appointed
teacher, Brother Romolo Serveta ; and afterwards he took
for a short time a class of elementary philosophy on
behalf of a physician named Pandolfo 1 . He was evi-
dently working hard, learning to read and write Latin,
not by the ordinary way of grammar rules, but by prac-
tice and by native tact, with books and dictionaries 2 .
The years of study now commenced were years of
happiness to the young student. He worked hard,
partly to make up for lost time, partly in fear that he
might be recalled by his father if ill-tidings of him
were sent home 3 . At Pavia he was master of him-
self, and between the sessions, when he went home to
Milan, he assumed the right of managing his own affairs.
His mode of studying was suited to his tastes, though
perhaps not exactly orthodox. The common course of a
day's study was as follows 4 : After a morning's work he
walked in the shade outside the town- walls ; then he
dined ; then he gave up his time to music. The young
philosopher then took his fishing lines and went a-fishing
under shelter of the groves and^ woods not far beyond
1 De Vita Propr. p. 16, for the preceding details.
2 Ibid. cap. xxxiv. 3 De Consol. p. 75.
4 De Vit, Propr. cap. xl.
STUDENT AT PAVIA. 47
the gates of Pavia. A philosopher who means to be
immortal must needs think as well as read and write.
Cardan could either think or read while he was fishing.
He took out with him also into the woods writing
materials, and so studied and worked under the thick
green leaves, among the wild flowers, throughout the
summer afternoon, dreaming ambitious dreams, and fairly
striving to fulfil his best desires. At sunset he returned
into the town, where his behaviour was not always
orderly. Dice and the draught-board had their charms
for him ; a restless night spent wandering about the streets
after a day of music was, in his view, a simple kind of
relaxation. In this way Cardan worked hard, and made
rapid progress. Having embraced medicine as his profes-
sion, he had begun a treatise on the DifFerings of Doctors 1 .
In the year following his second academical course, re-
maining at home in Milan because the presence of war
caused the schools of Pavia to be closed 2 , he wrote fifty
sheets of mathematical Commentaries. These sheets, I may
here add, he lent to Ottaviano Scoto : Ottaviano lost them.
Jerome Cardan had embraced medicine as his profes-
sion. What was to become, then, of the stipend of the
hundred scudi ? He had thrown it aside as dust in the
balance of his thoughts. The choice of a profession was not
1 De Sapientia, &c. &c. p. 420.
2 " Tertio anno Mediol: mansi bello impeditus, quo ne Academia fre-
quentaretur prohibitum est." De Sapientia, &c. p. 421.
48 JEROME CARDAN.
to him a money question. Regarding it, however, even in
that light, when his father and Clara pleaded to him the
importance of this lectureship, and the honours and
emoluments that were to be attained by all good juris-
consults, the youth felt that his father's standing in the
world was but a bad endorsement of their plea. Juris-
prudence, he remarked, had done but little for his father
Fazio 1 , though he had been lauded as the knower of all
things in that book of his on Peckham's Perspective To
that book, and the laudation in it, Jerome refers, noting
how very false the praise was, since his father's knowledge
was confined to few ideas, and none of those his own.
Law studies had contracted his rnind not enlarged it.
Eager, therefore, for the best kind of mental cultivation
as the basis of his future immortality, the young philoso-
pher, after he went to Pavia, was not long in determining
that he would never follow in his father's steps.
Medicine had recommended itself to Cardan as the
pursuit most likely to beget a philosophic mind. As a
physician, he could not only keep over his own feeble
health a reasonable guardianship and he desired long-
life but he should also be more fairly on the path to an
immortal fame. The studies that belong to medicine, he
reasoned 2 , stand upon surer ground than studies that
1 " Parum ilium etiam absque impedimenta profecisse viderem." De
Vit. Propr. cap. x. p. 49.
2 Nothing could be saner than this reasoning: "In eo instituto a
prima aetate mansi, ut vitae consulerem: studia autem medicinse magis
CHOICE OF A PROFESSION. 49
belong to law. Law treats of local custom, medicine of
truths common to the whole world, and to all ages.
Medicine is the nobler as well as the safer ground, he
said, on which to build a lasting fame, since its inquiries
are concerned only with pure reason, with the eternal law
of nature, not with the opinions of men. Swayed by such
arguments the bold student determined to give up every
design of following upon his father's track, and abandoned
expectation of his stipend of a hundred scudi.
Fazio, failing now in health, withdrew his opposition,
and Jerome, having missed one academic course while
the armies concerned in the quarrel between Charles V.
and Francis I. were creating more than common tumult
in the country, went in the next year, he being twenty-
three years old, not again to Pa via, but to Padua.
Absence had softened the feelings of old Fazio towards
his son 1 . Very soon after his first departure, reconcilia-
tion had been effected between Fazio and Clara; and al-
though the old man, during the four last years of his life,
maintained a morose countenance 2 , his last days proved
huic proposito conducebant quam legum: et ut propiora fini, et ut
orbi communia toti, et omnibus saeculis : tamen ut candidiora, ac quae
ration! (seternse naturae legi) non hominum opinionibus inniterentur :
ideo haec ipsa amplexatus sum, non jurisprudentia." De Vit. Propr.
" Desiderium augente absentia mortuus est pater." De Consola-
tione, p. 75.
3 " Supervixit quatuor ferine annis, msestus semper vixit ut declara-
Terit quantum me amaret." De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. p. 430.
VOL. I. E
50 JEROME CARDAN.
that he regarded his boy with a real affection. It was in
the beginning of the year 1524 that Jerome first went to
the University of Padua, and early in August of the same
year he returned with a fellow- townsman, Gianangelo
Corio, to Milan 1 , where the old jurisconsult was languish-
ing in mortal illness. Jerome, since he had become a
Latin scholar, had acquired social respect among his
fellow-townsmen 2 , and his father was then so much in-
terested in the progress of his studies that he would not
suffer him to wait upon the sick bed. Plague was in the
town, and the youth's life was precious 3 . Jerome, he said,
was on the point of taking the degree of bachelor in arts 4 ,
and Fazio, though near death, commanded him to go
back ; declaring, indeed, that he should feel the happier if
he did not detain him from his studies 5 . The youth,
therefore, went back to Padua. He must have gone back
to vacation work, for he had remained a month at Padua
after the close of the academic session on the 30th of
June, and the long vacation did not end until All Saints'-
1 De Vit. Propr. p. 16. 2 Ibid. p. 138.
3 De Consol. p. 75.
4 De Vit, Propr. p. 17. Such a degree was not much favoured in
Italy. It was sought in Cardan's time chiefly by those who could not
afford much expense or trouble, and in the next century was rarely
sought at all in Padua, after the establishment of " the Venetian
College," by which the doctorate was made readily accessible to
all poor scholars. Gymnasium Patayinum J. P. Tomasini, p. 200
and p. 194.
5 De Vit. Propr. p. 17.
DEATH OF FAZIO. 51
day, the 1st of November 1 , when the learned Paduans
opened the academic year with great solemnity and pomp.
Soon after his return, Jerome received news of his
father's death. Fazio died of old age, after eight days of
abstinence from food, upon a Sabbath-day, the 28th of
August 3 . His son, who was warm-hearted, had loved
him ; but there is more of literary vanity than filial love
in the epitaph, of course a Latin one, with which he
marked his grave. Thus the sense of the inscription ran :
To FAZIO CARDAN,
DEATH IT WAS THAT I LIVED, LIFE IT WAS DEATH THAT GAVE,
THERE REMAINS THE MIND ETERNAL, CERTAIN GLORY, REST 3 .
He died in the year 1524, Oct. 28, in the eightieth year of his age.
JEROME CARDAN, PHYSICIAN, TO HIS PARENT
1 See J. P. Tomasini Commentar. de Gymn. Patavin. Lib. i. pp.
150 4, for the complete University Calendar, formerly regulating
work-days and holidays at Padua,
2 De Vit. Propr. p. 17. Dialogus Tetim. Opera, Tom. i. p. 672.
" Tetim. At Pater, quomodo obiit ? Ram. Honeste, et ex senio."
3 These two motto lines are in the original a bad hexameter and a
pentameter; the whole inscription being:
" Facio Cardano,
Mors fuit id, quod vixi, vitam mors dedit ipsa,
Mens seterna manet, gloria tuta, quies.
Obiit anno M.D.XXIV. iv. Kal. Sept. Anno JStatis Ixxx.
Hyeronymus Cardanus, Medicus, Parenti
The inscription is given by Tomasini (Elog. part i. Patav. 1630)
from the church of St. Mark, in Milan. Jerome himself was eventually
buried under it beside his father, as is testified by Tomasini and
52 JEROME CARDAN.
Until there shall be one trumpet sounded over all the
graves, we shall most likely continue to blow trumpets of
our own in this way. A clever man must be more pious
than clever who omits the temptation, when he has the
power, to display his cleverness upon a tomb. By Cardan,
who was more clever than pious, no such omission would
be made. How should his piety prevail? The holiness
of home, all sacredness of motive and true worthiness of
action, had been unknown to the little Jerome when he
was a child. He had grown up contemned and neglected,
seeing much of evil passion, trained as a child in astro-
logy, and strengthened in every tendency to superstition.
The religion of his time was ceremonial and full of super-
stitious practices. Jerome was superstitious. He was
careful to perform religious rites ; he prayed to God and
to the Virgin Mary, but more particularly to St. Martin,
whom he was taught by a dream to regard as a protector
under whom he would enjoy a somewhat quieter and
longer life 1 than he could have obtained under any other
saint. There can be no doubt that this was a direct
slight offered to St. Jerome. Cardan was not behind his
age, but he was not before it, when, as he tells us, he was
accustomed from childhood to look up to heaven with this
prayer: " Lord God, of Thine infinite goodness, give me
long life and wisdom, and health both of mind and body 2 .''
1 De Vita Propr. cap. xxii. p. 87. 2 Ibid. p. 66.
His body was ailing, his mind wanted health; he feared
lest, by a premature close to his life, he might be pre-
vented from leaving to posterity such proofs of wisdom as
might win for him undying praise. He sought praise as
the end of his existence, and exercise of intellect as the
most worthy means to such an end. Ambition to produce
the utmost good, to develop every talent and apply it
carefully to that work in which it would do all that it
could be made to do in aid of the real progress of humanity,
glorified the life of the obscure French potter, Bernard
Palissy 1 , really the best of Cardan's philosophical contem-
poraries. Cardan, who won to himself in his own lifetime
world-wide fame, was conscious of no higher motive to
exertion than anxiety to be remembered as a great phi-
losopher. But that was no mean care.
Because the superstition of Cardan did not at all times
take an orthodox complexion, he has been ranked on
more than one occasion among atheists. Thus, for ex-
ample, he was set down by Theophilus Raynaud, in his
treatise on good and bad books 2 , as the first atheist of the
1 " Je n'ai trouve rien meilleur que de suivre le conseil de Dieu . .
II a command e a ses heri tiers qu'ils eussent a manger le pain au labeur
de letir corps et qu'ils eussent a multiplier les talens qu'il leur avoit
laissez par son Testament. Quoi considere je n'ay voulu cacher en
terre les talens qu'il luy a pleu me distribuer," &c. Palissy to the
2 " Homo nullius religionis ac fidei, et inter clancularios atheos se-
cundi ordinis a3vo suo facile princeps." Father Reynaud De bonis ac
malis Libris, quoted by Bayle in his Dictionary.
54 JEROME CARDAN.
second order. He records, however, emphatically among
the experiences of his life the acquisition, even through
trouble, of a firm trust in the wisdom of the divine dispo-
sition of events. He had observed, he says, the efficacy of
prayer, and recognised the importance of invoking aid
from God out of the Scriptures, and of seeking, he adds
I quote his exact words " that He would teach me to
do His will, because He is my God 1 ." As a religious
sentiment, at least, this thought lay at the bottom even of
those blind superstitions or clear-sighted comments which
the orthodox disdained and set aside as pagan.
1 De Vit. Propr. cap. xxiii. p. 90.
LEGACIES AND LAWSUITS. 55
JEROME CARDAN. GRADUATE IN MEDICINE HIS LIFE AT SACCO, AND
THE STRANGE ADVENTURE OP HIS MARRIAGE.
FAZIO CARDAN left a house and some provision for
his son, although it seems to have been very small, and
liable to much dispute 1 . He had been too ready to allow
to other men the use of his possessions. Part of his little
store, placed in the hands of insolvent people, had been
lost; part, supplied to princes and great men, was to be
re-demanded only at great risk, and hardly to be recovered
after endless labour. When recovered, it was always re-
paid without interest 3 . Litigation, however, was then
common ; and we are carried back fairly into the spirit of
the time when we read that after his father's death Jerome
had first a lawsuit with Alessandro Castillione for some
woods, afterwards with members of his father's family,
and then with the Counts Barbiani. Jerome eventually
gained his point against Castillione, who had one of his
1 " Patrimoniurn quod minimum erat." De Consol. p. 75. De Vita
Propr. cap. xxviii.
2 De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. p. 428.
56 JEROME CARDAN.
own relations for a judge, and compelled him, after a long
struggle, to pay all the money about which a question had
arisen. The dispute with the Barbiani was continued
over many years 1 .
To Clara Micheria there remained also, after the death
of Fazio, so much provision for her maintenance as would
enable her to buy a house 2 . She could also in some way
earn money, for it was by her industry and solicitude
incredible solicitude her son entitles it that Jerome, when
left by the death of his father poor and helpless, was main-
tained at the university 3 . It does not appear that Jerome
and his mother were at all times happy in each other, but
that Clara, notwithstanding all her sins of temper or of
principle, had a woman's power of self-sacrifice, and a
mother's strength of love for Jerome, is what I think does
appear, not indistinctly. Towards his father, Jerome's
heart yearned many years after the old man had passed
away, when the son could look back into his youth, for-
getting for a time its deprivations, remembering only the
gentle words and deeds of the geometrician, who had, he
thought, been kinder to him than his mother. Of him he
could then write, when the feeling rose naturally in his
heart, words of emotion full of a love and gentleness, with
1 Dial, de Morte. Opera, Tom. i. p. 676.
2 De Vit. Propr. p. 92.
3 " Ipse inops, ac auxilio omni destitutus, diligentia et solicitudine
matris incredibili sustentabar." Dial, de Morte. Opera, Tom. i.p. 676.
PARENT AND CHILD. 57
which he seems to have been able to regard his father only.
" My tears arise," he says, " when my mind ponders upon
his good-will towards me. But, father, I will give what
satisfaction I am able to your merits and your piety.
And while these leaves are read, your name and virtue
shall be honoured. For he was incorruptible and truly
holy 1 ." At other times, in softened mood, we find him
speaking of his old relation to his father during childhood,
as " what I at that time thought to be hard servitude."
At other times he writes the simple truth, but not re-
Matthew Curtius, a physician of some note in his day,
v> r as professor of the theory of medicine in Padua, be-
tween the years 1524 and 1530 3 . He encouraged Car-
dan greatly with his kindness, even condescending to hold
public disputation with him. A compliment dear to the
1 De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. pp. 349, 350.
2 Riccoboni de Gymnas. Patavin. Lib. i. p. 21. Cardan de Vit. Propr.
cap. xxxiv. p. 155. Curtius of Pavia taught also at Florence, Bologna,
and Pisa. He wrote on Venesection in Pleurisy, on the quality of
water, and also, among other things, edited Mundinus, the peg-book
upon which anatomists had hung comments for years, until Vesalius
achieved a revolution in their science. Curtius was fifty years old,
and in the height of his reputation, when Cardan studied under him.
His salary at Padua had been twice raised. He died in 1544, aged
seventy. Brief details are given concerning him by Tomasini and
Papadopoli in their records of the University of Padua, and more by
Ghilini, whom I know only as cited in a work invaluable for the infor-
mation it gives about forgotten men who were in any degree famous in
the sixteenth century, " Zedler's Universal Lexicon aller Wissenschaf-
ten und Kiinste."
58 JEKOME CARDAN.
young man at the outset of his medical career, was the
exclamation of the president before whom he argued some
forgotten thesis against a forgotten doctor. The president,
struck by Cardan's acuteness, asked who the youth was,
and being told, exclaimed, " Study, O youth, you will
excel Curtius 1 ."
At the close of the year made memorable by his father's
death, Jerome Cardan obtained from his university the
honour of being appointed Rector of the Gymnasium 2 .
He very truly says, that the seeking of that office by him
was a most desperately foolish deed 3 . The office was, in
fact, the lordship of the university, a post so costly to the
holder, that in those days of wars and taxes, and of social
disorganisation in North Italy, nobody could be found
willing to hold it. It was in abeyance at the time when
Jerome Cardan, a clever, penniless, disreputable young
scholar of twenty-four, maddened by difficulties, and by
a belief that he was impotent for life (his sorest care),
plunged desperately into its responsibilities, willing to
drown one care in another.
The University of Padua, founded in the thirteenth
1 De Libris Propriis : " Stude, o juvenis, Curtium superabis."
Stupebant omnes, adds Cardan.
2 De Libr. Propr. (ed. 1547) p. 11. Lib. Ult. Op. Tom. i. p. 97.
3 " Stulte vero id egi, quod Rector Gymnasii Patavini effectus sum,
turn cum inops essem, et in patria bella maxima vigerent et tributa
intollerabilia. . . . Deus! quid te ad hoc compulit? Ira certe et
insania . . ." De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. p. 430.
STUDENT AT PADUA. 59
century, had been supported by the Princes of Carrara till
their power rotted. Then the Gymnasium was placed,
together with the town, in 1405, under the shield of
Venice, the town keys and seal being presented in that
year to Michael Steno. The liberality of the Venetians
caused the university to prosper greatly, and it owed much
in the first years of its dependence upon Venice to the
liberality of rectors 1 . Until the year 1550, there were
two rectors yearly appointed, who held divided rule, the
university itself being divided between artists (followers
of theology, philosophy, and physic) and jurisconsults.
As the affairs of the two classes were separate, each had
its rector. Jerome, we have seen, joined the artists, not
the jurisconsults, who had then for their own use a distinct
1 The best accounts of the University of Padua in its good old times
are, I believe, the six books of Commentaries on the Paduan Gymna-
sium, by Antonio Riccobone (Patavii, 1598), the Paduan Gymna-
sium, in five books, by the Bishop J. P. Tomasini (Utini, 1654), and
the History of the Paduan Gymnasium, by Nic. Comn. Papadopoli
(Venet. 1726). I have used these as my authorities, Riccobone lived
partly in Cardan's time, but Tomasini's work is more serviceable, in-
asmuch as it is full of those minute details which give life to our
knowledge of the past. It is quite the best work of the three. The
two volumes of Papadopoli, Abbot of St. Zenobius, and Professor at
Padua of Canon Law, are of great service as an elaborate appendix to
the others. He made it his business not only to compile afresh (drily
enough), but to supply from the university records the omissions that
occurred in the lists of rectors, professors, &c., published by the two
first-named writers. He gives also a brief account of every Paduan
who had been famous, including, of course, Cardan. Cardan's name,
however, as of one who had held office in the university, does not occur
in any of the lists given by these chroniclers.
60 JEROME CARDAN.
university building. After the year 1550 an union was
effected, and the university was governed by one rector,
chosen alternately, if possible, from among the artists and
the lawyers 1 . It was not possible always to maintain a
strict rotation ; it was even sometimes necessary to look
abroad for a man "illustrious, provident, eloquent, and
rich," by whose munificence the university could profit.
The rector was, indeed, the chief magistrate of the
university, who decided judicially disputes among the
students and professors on fixed court days, who over-
looked the working of the entire system, and saw that the
teachers did their duty properly; but his administrative
labours were lightened by the aid of a pro-rector, who did
the real work, while of the rector himself no more was
required than to be munificent. Scholars who would be
dukes hereafter were the men thought most proper for the
office. So indeed they were, for often rich men, daunted
by the heavy demand made by it upon their purses, used
the right of refusal granted to them. In the next century
the rectorate was shunned so universally, that the office
ceased almost wholly, the chief dignitary being the pro-
rector, of whom work was required rather than money.
For seven years before the year 1515, wars in the
district had caused the closing of the University of Padua.
1 Papadopoli Hist. Gymn. Pat. Lib. i. cap. v. p. 7, for preceding de-
tails. Tomasini, Lib. i. ch. xix. to xxii. for those next following.
After it was re-opened, the prevalent confusion and dis-
tress made it impossible to find men who would add to all
their other worldly loss the burden of the rector's office.
For about ten years after that date, therefore, says a
chronicler of the university 1 , there were no rectors. In
1526 there is set down the name of one, and there was
one in each of the two succeeding years. In 1529 there
was again a rector for the jurisconsults, and another for
the artists. The year, therefore, of Cardan's rectorate,
1525, is considered blank, and although Jerome, after two
ballots, by a majority of one 2 , obtained leave to assume the
responsibilities which every wise man declined, he took
none of the honours of the office. It entitled him at once 3
to the degree of doctor without trouble or expense,, but
the degree was shortly afterwards refused to him. I do
not think that he was enrolled as a citizen of Padua, and
I am sure that he was not admitted at Venice into the
equestrian order. He seems, in fact, to have received
none of the rector's privileges, and he was accounted
nobody by the university, his year of office being called
1 Papadopoli, vol. i. pp. 95, 96. The list of rectors is there interrupted
thus at the year 1508. "Re Gymnastica intermissu ob Cameracense
bellum, mox restituta anno MDXV, a restitutione per annos circiter
decem Rectoribus caruit Gymnasium." The list is then resumed at the
2 Cardan de Vit. Propr. p. 17.
3 The succeeding particulars concerning the office of Rector of the
Gymnasium at Padua in the sixteenth century, are from Tomasini's
first book, ch. xix. to xxii.
62 JEROME CARDAN.
the last of the ten years in which there was no
We may feel assured, also, that the bishop and the
local magistrates, and his brother the town rector, did not
come in state to visit the new dignitary, and that he did
not go with due solemnity as a true rector ought to go
after his election to the cathedral, escorted by two
hundred spearmen, accompanied by the officials of the
university on horseback, and by fife-players, and whatever
else is noble. I even doubt whether they clothed him as a
rector should be clothed in summer robes of scarlet silk,
and winter robes of purple silk and hung the badge over
his back, covered with gold and precious stones. If all these
forms were properly gone through by the learned Paduans
in honour of the young adventurer who undertook to
preside over them, that journey of the desperate young
Jerome, clothed in purple and gold, and surrounded by
spearmen, to the solemn hearing of high mass, would form
as odd a picture of times out of joint as any man could
That the professors and dignitaries of the university
came solemnly to dinner at Cardan's expense I can believe.
That the students flocked together to the great inaugural
entertainment he was bound to give them, and to any of
his other little official dinners, I am sure. Wild dinners
they must have been, for Jerome looked back upon the
year when he was rector as a year of " Sardanapalan life,"
a blot upon his past for which he had to make atone-
ment 1 . And who found the money to support him in his
false position who paid for the mock-majesty of Rector
Sardanapalus ? The widow at Milan. His mother we
do not know how worked for him, and by her self-
denial and solicitude he was enabled 2 to sustain the charges
that he had so foolishly and recklessly incurred. Perhaps
she was proud of his distinction, unsubstantial as it was,
but proud or not, she was his mother. Except his
mother's help, he had no means of income but the gaming-
table 3 .
Cardan had not at the university a large circle of
friends. Except when he sought wild pleasure in a game
of chance, or men with whom to sing, he was, in his
studies and his recreations, almost a recluse; he thought
that few who might be his companions were virtuous,
none truly learned, and with a false cynicism he regarded
social intercourse as waste of time. Yet he had formed
in his youth a friendship, based upon community of tastes
In chapter xiii. p. 59 of the De Vita Propr. Liber, he speaks of
ance due " ut vita Sardanapalece quam anno quo praefui Gymnasio
tavino egi, flagitia purgaverim."
2 " Matris tamen sollicitudine effectum est, ut pondus impensarum,
quamvis segre, sustinuerim." De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. p. 430.
3 " Studentium Rector creatus, nihil prius cum haberem, totum tamen
illud nihil consumpsi. Nee ullum mihi erat reliquum auxilium, nisi
latrunculorum ludus." De ConsoL p. 75.
64 JEROMD CARDAN.
for dice and music, with one Ambrose Varadeus; after-
wards he had found a friend at Pavia in Prosper Mari-
non. A pallid youth, Ottaviano Scoto, of Venice, who
lost fifty sheets of Cardan's early efforts as an author, was
a friend with whom the young student was upon familiar
terms of lend and borrow as to books anil money 1 . This
was his closest intimacy ; out of it sprang one of the
leading events in his after-life. Another of his close
friends was Gaspardo Gallearato. Love of pleasure coun-
teracted, in a great degree, Jerome's desire to play the
misanthrope. In society he had also the satisfaction of
rasping any tender point in a discussion. As much
through love of argument as malice he perversely advo-
cated the opinions that were most distasteful to his com-
pany 2 , and loved a single combat of the tongue, in which
it appears that he never failed to silence his opponent, for
he could bring into play not only a quick wit and a rare
amount of ready knowledge, but he could assume also a
tone so rude and overbearing that few who had contested
with him once would court a second battle.
Though the natural gifts and acquirements of Cardan
were disfigured by harsh feeling towards others and an
obtrusive consciousness of self, it is curious to observe how
1 De Vit. Propr. cap. xv. p. 68.
2 " Illud inter vitia mea singulare et magnum agnosco, et sequor, ut
liberitius nil dicam quam quod audientibus displiceat, atque in hoc,
sciens ac volens, persevero." De Vit. Prop. cap. xiii. p. 60.
ESCAPE FROM DROWNING. 65
in his mind the vanity of the scholar was combined with,
and perhaps, indeed, formed but a part of, a most rare
candour in self-confession. Desiring and expecting an
immortal fame, Jerome was thoroughly determined to
enable all posterity to know what manner of man he was.
Revelations of himself are to be found scattered through-
out the huge mass of his writings : those revelations are
collected here into a narrative, and we have had reason
already, as we shall have more reason hereafter, to wonder
at the unflinching way in which the Milanese philosopher
must have performed self- dissection, when he laid bare so
much that was corrupt in his own. nature to the public
gaze. To nobody was he so merciless as to himself; he
scorned the men who, being dark within, study to show a
brilliant outside to the world, and going over, as he
always did, into a state of bold antagonism, he hung out
every one of his misdeeds, and all that he found rotten in
himself, for popular inspection.
Readily confessing cowardice, Cardan tells of a storm
on the Lago di Guarda, in which he was nearly drowned.
It was in the year in which he was rector, at a time when
he was forced by want of funds to make an expedition
homeward 1 . He had pushed off into the lake, unwillingly
enough, with a few companions, and they had on board
1 *' Pecuniarum exigendarum causa." De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. p. 430.
To make work for his mother.
VOL. I. F
66 JEROME CARDAN.
the boat some horses. Their sail was torn, they had their
mast broken, lost also their rudder and one of their two
oars, when night came on. At last they came ashore at
Sirmione, when they were all despairing of a rescue,
Cardan most of all. They came ashore in good time, for
very few minutes afterwards, when they were housed
safely in their inn, a fierce burst of the storm arose, which
their disabled boat could by no chance have weathered.
The iron hinges of the windows in the inn were bent by
it. Jerome, who had been out of doors a confessed
coward, tells philosophically how all his valour came to
him when a fine pike was brought to table, and he supped
joyously, though his companions could not eat. The only
youth, except Cardan, who had an appetite, was he whose
rashness led the party into danger, and whose courage
found a safe way out of it 1 .
But the scholar who was bold over his supper, and
cared little for the howling of the wind outside, may
have lost something of his boldness when the lights were
out and the loud wind at night hindered him from sleep-
ing. His philosophy had comprehended studies that
gave strength to superstition. Astrologers had predicted
from his horoscope that he would not live to be older
than forty or forty-five ; and he, believing them, took no
pains in the management of his inheritance to reserve any
1 De Vit. Propr. cap. xxx. p. ill.
provision for old age. Illusions of the senses, to which
he was subject, strengthened his belief in supernatural
appearances, and his own nervous, dreamy nature caused
him to convert at times the memory of common events
into some hazy impression of the wonderful. I have
not thought it Avorth while to collect together all the
stories of this kind related by Cardan ; but two may serve
here as examples. At Pavia, one morning while in bed,
and again while dressing, Jerome heard a distinct rap as
of a hammer on a wall of his room, by which he knew
that he was parted from a chamber in an empty house.
At that time died his and his father's friend, Galeazzo
Rosso 1 . The disciples of certain impostors who in our
own day have revived a belief in spirit-knockings in
New York, may be referred to the works of Cardan for
a few enunciations of distinct faith in such manifestations.
A more curious example will occur hereafter. In the
present instance, Cardan, who is never destitute of philo-
sophic candour, owns that he was unable to prove any
strict correspondence of time between the death of Eosso
and the knockings in his room. It is enough for us
1 De Vit. Propr. cap. xliii. p. 222. I quote the passage for the
benefit of Rappists: " Quod mihi accidit dum studerem Papise, ut mane
quodam, antequam expergiscerer ictum in muro senserim; vacuum
erat habitaculum quod loco illi erat contiguum: et dum expergiscerer,
et postea alium, quasi mallei, et quod eadem hora resperi intellexerim
obiisse Galeazium de Rubeis amicum singularem, et de quo tarn multa,
non id referam in miracula,"
68 JEROME CARDAN.
simply to note how frequently the ear as well as the eye
is deluded, when the nervous system is in a condition
that appears to have been constant with Cardan. The
sounds heard by him at Pavia portended no more than
is meant by the flashes of light which sometimes dart
before our weaned eyes.
We do not find greater difficulty in perceiving with
how much ease Jerome may in lapse of time have fallen
into the belief that a supernatural event marked his first
experience in Latin. " Who was the man," he says,
u who sold me a Latin Apuleius when I was, I think,
about twenty years old, and instantly departed? I bought
it without judgment, for its gilded binding ; but the
next morning found that I could read it. Almost at the
same time I acquired the power of understanding Greek,
Latin, French, and Spanish, that is to say, so that I
could understand books in those languages, though un-
able to speak them and ignorant of their grammar 1 ."
There is nothing in this superstitious suggestion incon-
sistent with the record left by Cardan of the time spent
by him in acquiring languages and studying their gram-
mar. In his early college days he bought a Latin
Apuleius. He had been superficially practised in Latin
by conversation with his father, and the language differs
not so greatly from Italian as to make it wonderful that
1 De Vit. Propr. p. 225.
THE MAGIC APULEIUS. 69
any youth of quick and ready wit should find that he
could make out at once the general sense of a Latin
story. Any shrewd man acquainted with Italian can
scramble at first sight through the meaning of a Spa-
nish book, and of French, another allied tongue, young
Jerome must have picked up a great number of hints
from the French armies that overran his native district.
After the purchase of his Apuleius, the student may
have prided himself much on the discovery of the great
deal that he could extract from books in these languages,
before they had become, or when they had not long
become, matters of systematic study. The seller of the
Apuleius could be looked back to at last from a distance
of time as though he had been one of the legendary
beings who come into the market-places to sell magic
books, and then are seen no more. The impression would
accord well with his superstitious fancy ; he himself would
very soon believe it, and could easily let Greek slip in-
sensibly into the list of tongues miraculously placed within
his power. It is no proof of deliberate untruth that
Cardan has put down among the mysteries of life this
vague impression in one place, but does not the less
candidly relate elsewhere the pains with which he toiled
along the usual paths of study.
Those paths led him, at the beginning of the year 1526,
to the attainment of one object of ambition. He was in
70 JEROME CARDAN.
that year laureated Doctor of Medicine. His admission
to the dignity was not, however, easily accorded/ Having
been presented by his teachers, and proved himself before
the bishop orthodox and loyal, it was the duty of Cardan,
as of any other candidate, to defend publicly four theses,
two of them selected by himself. His opponents in dis-
cussion were, as usual, the junior doctors; afterwards he
himself, with those by whom he was presented, having
withdrawn, his admission or exclusion was determined by
a ballot 1 . Jerome had been at first rejected, in spite of
his rectorship perhaps even because of it by a compact
body of forty-seven dissentients. On account of his birth,
disgrace attached to his name; his love of dice, and
various irregularities, must certainly have brought him
into much disfavour, while his obstinate and disputatious
method of asserting his opinions, and his contempt of
custom, must have scandalised many of the magnates of
the university. He was rejected twice; but when he
made his third effort, the adverse voices were reduced to
nine 2 , and he was admitted Doctor of Medicine, and re-
ceived with due solemnity the open and shut book, the
barette, the ring, and the kiss. The open book signified
things known to him that he was authorised to teach ; the
closed book signified the knowledge that it yet remained
1 The details concerning the installation of a doctor here given are
from Tomasmi, Lib. i. cap. xlvii, pp. 159, 160.
2 De Vit. Propr. p. 17.
DOCTOR OF MEDICINE. 71
for him, and was his business, to acquire. The barette
was of an ecclesiastical form, and signified that he was
consecrated as a priest to science, and by its name
(bi-rect), twice right, some thought it also signified that
teachers ought to be correct in practice as in theory. By
the ring he was espoused to his profession. The kiss was
the symbol of the brotherhood to which he was admitted,
and the peace and harmony that should prevail among all
fellow-labourers in art or science. Then in the cathedral
he was ushered by the bedel formally from a seat by his
presenters to a seat by the prior, further symbolising that,
as a man of learning, he was qualified to sit among the
princes of the earth. So Jerome was made a doctor in
the famous University of Padua. He was then twenty-
five years old.
Having obtained this qualification. Cardan, without
loss of time, proceeded to establish himself in practice.
An opening was found for him at Sacco, to which place
he went, by the advice and with the help of a zealous
friend, a physician of Padua, Francisco Buonafede 1 .'j3uona-
fede had been a warm promoter in the university of Car-
dan's claim to a degree. He himself held rank at Padua
between the years 1524 and 1526 as the first of the two
extraordinary professors of the Theory of Medicine, his
i De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. Lib. iii. p. 431. De Libris Propr. (1557)
72 JEROME CARDAN.
colleague being Peter Maynard, of Verona. Buonafede
next became the second extraordinary professor of Prac-
tical Medicine, in which department he became senior
professor in 1539 1 . He was a man of great worth, who
felt towards the young student disinterested friendship, for
Cardan had not attended any of his lectures 2 . Sacco is a
small town, about ten miles from Padua and twenty -five
Battle and murder, plague, pestilence, and famine, de-
terred Cardan from residence at Milan. During the six
or seven years spent by him at Sacco, his own district
was devastated by a succession of those evils that charac-
terised in most parts of Europe the low social condition
of the age. W hile Jerome pursued his studies at the uni-
versity, the slaughter committed by the plague in his own
district had been merciless. In 1522 fifty thousand of
the Milanese died of the plague in four months. In 1524
there had been fierce plague, and by the fortune of war
Milan had twice bowed to a new master. In 1526 and
1527, while Cardan dwelt at Sacco, Milan suffered under
scarcity, that was made more distressing by the added
burden of intolerable taxes. In 1528 disease and pesti-
lence again broke out, and were less fearful in their
ravages only because they had already swept off a large
1 Gyran. Pat. Riccoboni, p. 23. Tomasini, p. 314.
2 De Vit. Propr. p. 18. The same authority covers the facts stated
in the succeeding paragraph.
OPENING FOR PRACTICE. 73
part of the population of the district. In 1529 the
miserable wars abated, and Cardan made an attempt to
fix himself in Milan, for he regarded that town as his
proper home. The attempt failed, as will presently be
shown, and the adventurer having returned to Sacco, con-
tinued to live there during three or four more years.
' At Sacco, in which town he began to reside by way
of omen perhaps on his birthday 1 , that is to say, on the
24th of September (1526), Cardan established himself in a
house of his own, practised his profession, gambled, spent
his money, and had no lack of holiday friends. (The belief,
founded on his horoscope, that he would die in middle
age, and a desponding sense of inability to marry, caused
the young physician to care little for the morrow. The
consciousness of impotence had weighed upon him for
about four years when he went to Sacco, and continued
unabated until he was more than thirty years of age 2 . It
was the greatest trouble of his life during those years
which formed, in other respects, the happiest part of his
existence. To feel, or to confess, that he was absolutely
happy was not in the nature of Cardan. The conditions
necessary to true happiness were absent from his mind.
To the child whose character is forming the accidents of
1 De Libris Propr. (ed. 1557) p. 13. A work entitled " Epidemia "
begins thus: " Anno MDXXVI. die xxiv. Septembris qua mihi nata-
lis fuit, contuli me in Saccense oppidum."
2 De Ut. ex Adv. Capiend. Lib. ii. cap. 9.
74 JEROME CARDAN.
outer life are events of real importance, happy or unhappy
in themselves, but in the man whose character is formed
the outer life is subject to the inner. I have taken pains,
as I thought just, to call attention to those incidents of
Cardan's youth which had a baneful influence upon his
character. The child Jerome it was right to handle ten-
derly, but now that he has grown up, and has come out
into the world to take his part in it as independent worker,
he must run alone, for he is too old to be nursed by a
In his own morbid way Cardan tells us that as there are
short giants and tall pigmies, so when he says that he
spent at Sacco happy days, we must understand them to
have been happily wretched 1 . He enjoyed games of
chance, indulged his love of music, rambled through a
beautiful country, dined and studied indolently. No-
body molested him, he spent his money and he had
his friends, he was respected, visited by gay Venetian
nobles. The magnates of the town associated with him,
he kept open house, and men gathered about him, prompt
enough to own that Jerome Cardan was a great philoso-
pher. This cheerful bit of Cardan's life extended over
five years and a half, commencing in September, 1526,
and ending in the month of February, 1532, not very
1 De Vita Propr. cap. xxxi. p. 129. The authority remains the same
until there occurs a fresh citation.
LIFE AT SACCO. 75
many weeks after his marriage. He had enjoyed fairly
his student life, but to the years spent at Sacco he
looked back often afterwards. They contracted in his
memory into a single happy thought, a thought to which,
at night, his pleasant dreams frequently led him.
lie studied while at Sacco indolently, or at any rate
his study produced small immediate results. During the
six years spent there his mind was at work, but that was
a period rather of growth than produce. Cardan himself
says, discontentedly, " During all the six years that I
practised my art in that town, with great labour I pro-
duced but little profit to myself, much less to others."
(Yet he was by no means wholly without practice 1 .) " I
was impeded by crude thoughts and restless studies, my
wit not working smoothly or to good effect 2 ." His writ-
ten work during that period, except an essay upon Chei-
romancy, an art in which Cardan had more faith than a
modern gipsy, was entirely medical. It consisted of
three hundred sheets, upon the Method of Healing ; a
treatise to the extent of thirty -six sheets, on the epidemic
that prevailed in his neighbourhood during the whole
time of his residence at Sacco ; a treatise on the Plague.
The treatise on the Plague was lost, and there were two
other treatises destroyed also by the misdeed of a cat,
1 De Consolatione, p. 75.
3 De Libris Propriis. Liber ultimus. Opera, Tom. L p. 97.
76 JEROME CARDAN.
one De Re Venerea, the other upon Spittle 1 . The three
hundred sheets upon the Method of Healing, Cardan
proposed to arrange in four books, putting into the fourth
the remedies for the compound diseases. Of the early
works of Cardan, and of the teachings found in them, it
will be my duty to speak more at large in the succeeding
Two persons Jerome names especially as having been his
friends while he lived at Sacco. One of these, Paolo Illirico,
was a druggist, with whom he came very naturally into con-
tact. His other friend was Gian Maria Mauroceno, a Vene-
tian noble 2 . This may or may not be the same senator who
was concerned in the disreputable quarrel next to be re-
lated, but the hero of it was more probably a nobleman
named Thomas Lezun, who is elsewhere mentioned 3 .
I shall best illustrate the bold way in which the philoso-
pher speaks evil of himself, by putting down the worst
part of this tale in his own words. They, however, who
are familiar with the personal records that have been left
to us by men of the world who lived and acted in the
spirit of the sixteenth century, will know that the rude
passion of Cardan was very little out of harmony with the
coarse temper of the times 4 .
' De Sapientia, &c. p. 422. De Libris Propriis (ed. 1557), p. 13,
where he says of the two spoilt treatises, " ambo hi libri corrupt! sunt
urin. felis." The same fact he records again elsewhere.
3 De Propr. Vita Liber, cap. xv. 3 Liber de Ludo Alese.
4 1 may suggest a recollection of the Memoirs of Cellini.
FOUL PLAY. 77
" When I was at Venice," Jerome tells us 1 , "at the
festival of the birth of the Virgin, I lost my money at
cards, and on the next day what remained; but I was in
the house of the man with whom I played. When,
therefore, I noticed that he used foul play, I wounded
him in the face with a poniard, but slightly. There
were present two youths of his household, and two spears
were hanging from the rafters, and the house-door was
fastened with a key. But when I had taken from him
all his money, both his own and mine, having won back
early that morning, and sent home by my boy the clothes
and rings that I had lost to him on the preceding day, I
flung back to him, of my own accord, some of the money,
because I saw that he was wounded." Having achieved
so much, Cardan pointed his sword at the two servants,
and threatened death to them if they did not unlock the
door and let him out. Their master, balancing the cost
in his own mind, and finding, says Jerome, that what
he had now lost was not more than he had previously
taken, bade that his assailant should be suffered to go
unmolested. The fierce passions awakened in the gambler
made such scenes no doubt sufficiently familiar, and the
Venetian either was conscious that he had provoked an
attack, by being guilty of the charge upon which it was
founded, or he was a hospitable, kindly man. He took
1 De Vita Propria, cap. xxx.
78 JEROME CARDAN.
the dagger-thrust in friendly part and bore no malice, for
there is a sequel to the story.
On the same day, while Cardan was wandering about,
with arms under his clothes, endeavouring to avoid the
wrath of the chief magistrate for his assault upon a
senator, after dark his feet slipped and he fell into one of
the canals. By clinging, in his struggle, to the oars of a
passing boat, he obtained rescue at the hands of the
rowers, and was dragged on board. He found on board
his adversary, with a fillet round his face, who covered
him not with reproaches, but with a dry suit of his own
After he had dwelt two years in Sacco, Cardan, never
strong in health, was attacked by tertian fever, ending,
however, on the seventh day. A year afterwards, in 1529,
there being a slight remission of the plague and tumult
in Milan, Jerome, summoned by letters from his mother 1 ,
returned to his own town, and there endeavoured to
obtain his enrolment among the members of the College
of Physicians. But the old stain of illegitimacy clung
still to him in the company of those men who had known
him as a boy. The respectable body of the physicians of
Milan would admit no bastard into their society, and they
rejected him, upon a suspicion of illegitimacy based, as
its victim tells us, upon the ill-treatment he had expe-
1 De Consol. p. 75.
REJECTED AT MILAN. 79
rienced from his father 1 /' When Cardan is relating facts,
the neglect of his son by the geometrician cannot be kept
out of sight; when he expresses feelings, however, a senti-
ment of filial affection, and a tender recollection of the
old man's latest sympathies, prompt nothing but panegyric
of the dead.
His rejection by the physicians of his own town for the
reason assigned, inflicted a fresh hurt upon the sickly
spirit of the young philosopher. He entreated also, while
in Milan, for some satisfactory adjustment of his claims
against the powerful Barbiani family 2 ; but from the Bar-
biani he obtained no settlement. He found his mother
also sullen ; and having experienced in Milan insult and
disappointment, with much bodily and mental toil, he
went back to Sacco in a hectic state, half convalescent
from a desperate complaint. He had been oppressed at
Milan with worldly cares, the sense of which was rapidly
supplanted by the expectation of death 3 . Cough, ulcers,
and foetid expectorations, caused all who were about him
1 De Consol. p. 75. 2 De Vita Propr. p. 18.
3 De Propr. Vit. p. 19. De Consol. p. 76, where he writes "In-
terim vero cogita quae curse qua3 tristitise animum meura vexare de-
buissent. Hinc paupertas maxima, illinc mater flens orbitatem et
suam miseram senectutem, turn memoria contumaciae affinium, inju-
riae ut rebar medicorum, minae potentis " (t. e. of Count Barbiani, who
no doubt had borrowed money of Fazio) " desperatio salutis, nullus
amicus. Quiescens indigebam necessariis, laborare non poteram : men-
dicare turpissimum erat." On the same pages will be found authority
for the succeeding facts .
80 JEROME CARDAN.
for a long time to consider that the life of Cardan was
already near its close. He was thus seriously ill for seven
months, wanting necessaries. Nevertheless, by the inter-
cession, he tells us, of the Blessed Virgin perhaps
through abstinence from medicine, for he took none ; per-
haps, he hints, because he was reserved for better things
Jerome recovered. There were many years to come
through which a busy philosophic mind had work to do
in the unwholesome chamber of his body. The spirit
would have been more healthy had it dwelt in wholesome
flesh. In more than one place we are told by Cardan that
his mind suffered at times pain so intense that he was glad
to relieve it by applying counter-irritation to his body.
He would beat his thighs with a switch, bite his left arm,
pinch tender bits of skin, would fast, and endeavour by
such means to produce a flow of tears, for he was relieved
greatly by weeping, but was frequently unable to obtain
for himself that method of relief 1 .
The appearance of Cardan in his manhood well ac-
corded with the temper of his mind 2 . He had thin arms
and unequal hands, the left hand being elegantly formed
with shapely nails, the right hand clumsy and ill-shapeii.
His forehead was broad, and there was little hair upon the
temples; in later and graver years he wore a skull-cap on
1 De Vita Propr. cap. vi. p. 30; cap. xiv. pp. 65, 66.
2 Ibid. cap. v. p. 24; cap. xxi. pp. 84, 85, for the next statements.
a shaven head. His beard was yellow and forked. His
gait was clumsy, for he paid little or no heed in walking
to the way that lay before him, and his pace and bearing
varied with his thoughts. It was now fast, now slow,
now upright, now with bowed head, as variable as the
gestures of a child. In his speech he was too copious and
too deficient in amenity 1 . He was very fond of fishing 2 .
He had a taste for cats and dogs and little birds, so that
he even names them with history, music, and other things
that adorn this transitory scene, placing them in his list
between liberty and temperance on the one side, and on the
other side the consolation of death, and the equal ebb of
time over the happy and the wretched 3 . Among his
follies he numbers an inability to part with living things
that have been established once under his roof. " I re-
tain," he says, " domestics that are not only useless to me,
but that I am told also are a scandal to my house; I keep
even animals which I have once accepted, goats, lambs,
hares, rabbits, storks, so that they pollute me the whole
house 4 ."
A more natural taste in a philosopher, an extravagant
1 De Vita Propr. p. 59. 2 Ibid. p. 80.
3 He speaks of quicquam boni quo adornes hanc scenam, and gives
for example " musicaB auditus, oculorum lustratio, sermones, fabulae,
historiae, libertas, continentia, aviculae, catuli, feles, consolatio mortis,
communis temporis transitus miseris cequalis ac beatis, casuum et fortunes"
De Propria Vita Lib. cap. xxx.
4 De Propria Vita Lib. cap. xiii. pp. 60, 61.
VOL. I. G
82 JEROME CARDAN.
taste for the purchase of books, can scarcely be named as a
peculiarity 1 . More characteristic, in the same way, of the
philosopher whose ruling passion was an eagerness for
everlasting fame, was a delight in expensive writing mate-
rials, a desire to lavish money on the instruments by use
of which his name was to be made immortal 2 . A per-
sonal peculiarity which lasted for about two years while
he was at Sacco, Jerome regarded as a portent. His
skin exhaled a strong odour of sulphur 3 . As a practi-
tioner of medicine, Cardan, very wisely indeed, consider-
ing the science of the time, trusted more to experiment
and observation than to his own wisdom or the knowledge
of his art. As a philosopher, apart from dice and cards,
he professed and felt tender regard for time, the economy
of which he recommended by some such proverb as that
many mouthfuls make a bellyful 4 . Not only when pro-
fessedly at work, but also when riding, walking, eating,
or awake in bed, there were analyses and distillations
going on within the laboratory of his brain. He con-
sidered it a good and wise thing to court the acquaint-
ance of old men, and to seek knowledge in their society.
He also, in a spirit of the truest philosophy, considered it
1 " Profusus in emendis libris." De Vit. Propr. cap. xxv. p. 94.
2 De Vit. Propr. cap. xviii. p. 80.
3 De Serum Varietate (ed. Basil. 1557), Lib. viii. cap. 43, p. 316.
4 " Multa modica faciunt unum satis." De Vit. Propr, cap. xxiii.
p. 90. All that is stated in this paragraph depends for authority on the
same chapter in the Liber de Vita Propria.
EVIL OMENS. 83
liis duty to observe everything, and suppose nothing to
have been fortuitously made by nature " by which
means," he hints, and we can readily believe, " I have be-
come richer in knowledge than in money."
Recovered from his wasting illness, writing, trifling,
and enjoying again his position in the little town of Sacco,
when he had completed his thirtieth year, towards the
end of the year 153 1 1 , the young physician married. Be-
fore the event, he tells us 2 , looking back to it from a later
date, and colouring his narrative with superstition, before
the event a quiet dog howled with unusual pertinacity ;
ravens sat upon the house-top and croaked more than they
were wont; bundles of sticks broken by a boy emitted
sparks of fire.
At that time Cardan, newly and suddenly 3 relieved
from the sense of incompetence to marry by which he
had for ten years considered himself doomed to remain
single, dreamed of a lovely maiden dressed in white. His
1 De Vit. Propr. p. 19.
2 De Vit. Propr. cap. xli. pp. 209, 210: " Cum anno MDXXXI. canis
modesta ulularet praeter consuetudinem assidue : corvi insiderent
domus vertici crocitantes praeter solitum, puer cum fascicules lignorum
frangeret, erumpebant ignis scintillae, duxi uxorem inexpectato."
3 " Minim dictu," he says (de Lib. Prop. Lib. ult.) " ut flatim e galli
naceo factus sim gallus, et ex 6Xa<ria KTJ\(OV" All this part of Car-
dan's experience is the theme of a distinct chapter of the second book
De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. beginning at p. 280 of the edition before cited.
In it he relates with surprising candour various facts belonging to his
student life, especially to the year of his rectorship.
84 JEROME CARDAN.
sick mind coloured the memory of his dream in later and
more miserable years ; the shadow of his future life is
therefore thrown over the telling of it. Jerome Cardan
dreamed 1 that he was walking in a lovely paradise, fanned
by a soft breeze, through scenes such as not Pulci himself
could represent by words. It seemed to him, that as he
came by the garden porch, he noticed that the gate had
been left open. Then looking through the open gateway
he saw standing beyond the porch a damsel dressed in
white, and he went out to her and put his arms about
her neck and kissed her. But after his first kiss there
came the gardener, who shut the gate, and would for no
persuasion open it again. Then Jerome hung upon the
damsel's neck, outside the locked door of his paradise.
Now it happened that not long after this dream a fire
took place in the house of an inhabitant of Sacco, Aldo-
bello Bandarini 3 , captain of the Venetian levies in the
district of Padua. Cardan, who scarcely knew this man
by sight, felt somewhat annoyed when, after he had been
burnt out of his own home, he established himself next
door to the philosopher, and vexed him with the constant
passing to and fro of a rough set of visitors. Aldobello
was a man who had created friends and fortune for him-
self in a shrewd, genial way. Jerome was learning to en-
1 De Vita Prop. cap. xxvi. pp. 96, 97.WDe Libr. Propr. Liber ultim.
Opera, Tom. L p. 97.
2 De Vit. Prop. p. 97.
Jure his neighbourhood, when after a very few days he
saw from the road a girl standing at the captain's window
dressed in white a girl perfectly resembling her of whom
he recently had dreamed 1 . What was the girl to him ?
he reasoned. How can I marry a girl who is poor, when
I myself am poor ? How can I bear to be crushed under
the weight of her brothers, sisters, and relations, when I
barely know how to support my own existence ? Abduc-
tion or seduction are not to be thought of (they were un-
happily thoughts only too ready to arise in men who ad-
mired women three centuries ago), because her father is a
captain who would bear no wrong, and lives next door to
me, handy for vengeance. O miserable man, what can
It is most probable that Cardan did connect Lucia Ban-
darini, the damsel whom he first saw dressed in white,
with some dream of a white-robed girl that he regarded
as an omen, for he was deeply imbued with all the super-
stitions that had credit in his age. The dream and the
desire for marriage were both most likely begotten of his
newly-acquired sense of power. He became eager to
1 De Vit. Prop. p. 97. " Verum dicebam, quid mihi cum hac puella?
Si uxorem ducere voluero pauper nihil habentem et fratrum ac sororum
multitudine oppressam, perii, cum vix vel sic sumptum sustinere
queam ; si tentem abducere, aut occulte earn opprimere, cum ipse sit
oppidanus, non deerunt exploratores, Tribunus Militum non injuriam
patietur, et in utroque casu quid mihi agendum erit? O miser . . ."
86 JEROME CARDAN.
marry Lucia, and by his eagerness greatly surprised the
captain, who at first believed his offer to be made in jest,
knowing what chances of marriage he had up to that
time steadily refused 1 . The offer was, however, no jest,
and the willing maiden was led to the altar by a willing
man 2 , who afterwards, during the short time that he re-
mained in Sacco, received all the aid and kindness that
her parents could bestow upon him. The dog had
howled, the dream had warned, but Jerome Cardan took
a wife home notwithstanding.
1 De Lib. Prop. Lib. ult. Opera, Tom. i. p. 97.
2 "Duco volentem volens." Ibid. p. 98.
WORK OF THE BRAIN.
MEDICINE, during the last hundred years, has been
developing with energy among the sciences, and marking,
by an ample ring of newly-acquired knowledge, each
year's growth. The study of it may be compared now to
a tree planted on congenial soil, for its roots are imbedded
in a fair amount of ascertained truth concerning the prin-
ciples upon which nature acts. When there was no true
natural philosophy, there could be no true science of
medicine. Medicine was then an art, in which there
was awakened no inherent power of development. Dis-
eases are so various in kind, and those of the same kind
so various in aspect, that the best empiric, with no thread
of principle to follow, is a man lost in a labyrinth. Before
anything like a correct knowledge of the ways of nature
had supplied the clue, it was in the choice of the physician
either to treat his patients in accordance with some theory
deduced from the false data furnished by an unsubstantial
philosophy, or to argue wholly, as well as he could, from
88 JEROME CARDAN.
experience. In the time of Cardan it showed sound dis-
cretion in the doctor when he could say as Cardan said,
"I have been more aided -by experience than by my own
wisdom, or by faith in the power of my art 1 ." At that
time the empiric really was the best physician, and a
quack doctor, who would use his eyes with conscientious
shrewdness, dealt less death not to say more health
about him, than the graduate who put trust in scho-
It was just in those days that the sap began to rise in
the philosophy which had put forth leaves once only, and
but for that single brief show of vitality had remained, to
all appearance, without any change where it was first
established by Hippocrates. The science of medicine,
for the reason before stated, makes more progress in one
month of the present year than it was able to make
among all the generations that succeeded each other in
the world between the time of the birth of Hippocrates
and the publication of the writings of Cardan. During
that great interval of twenty centuries there was born
only one man, Galen, who did much to advance medical
knowledge; and so little had otherwise been gained by
the accumulation of experience, that when Cardan began
to write, Hippocrates and Galen were the undisputed
teachers of all that was held to be sound practice in
i De Vita Prop. cap. xxv.
medicine and surgery./ Nothing was at the fingers' ends
of doctors that was not found in the tomes of those two
ancient worthies, if we except " the dust and cobwebs of
scholastic theories that had collected on their surface in
the lapse of time. There were indeed other writers whom
physicians studied, Oribasius, Aetius, Paulus ^Egineta;
among the Arabs, Avicenna, and Averroes, Rhases, and
others. But these, so far as they were trustworthy, were
little more than cups filled from the pure spring of Hip-
pocrates, or the broad pool of Galen. As for the Romans,
they had no physicians of their own worth following.
Celsus was only useful and in that sense very useful
to physicians of Europe in ' the sixteenth century, as a
repertory of medical Latin, which enabled them to write
their treatises correctly, and apply to diseases and re-
medies of which they read in Greek, the proper Latin
names in their own volumes.
It was in the lifetime of Cardan that the sap began to
find its way into the barren stems of many sciences. The
spirit of inquiry that begot the reformation was apparent
also in the fields and woods, and by the sick beds of the
people. Out of the midst of the inert mass of philo-
sophers that formed the Catholic majority in science,
there came not a small number of independent men who
boldly scrutinised the wisdom of the past, and diligently
sought new indications for the future. Cardan was one
90 JEKOME CARDAN.
of these; perhaps the cleverest, but not the best of them.
Though he worked for the future, he was not before his
time. It was said after his death, probably with truth,
that no other man of his day could have left behind him
works showing an intimate acquaintance with so many
subjects 1 . He was one of the few men who can be at
once versatile and profound. He sounded new depths in
a great many sciences, brought wit into the service of the
dullest themes, dashed wonderful episodes into abstruse
treatises upon arithmetic, and left behind him in his
writings proofs of a wider knowledge and a more brilliant
genius than usually went in those days to the making of a
scholar's reputation. Jerome, however, had not a whole
mind, and the sick part of him mingled its promptings
with the sound in all his writings. To any one now
reading through the great pile of his works, the intellect
of the uneasy philosopher might readily suggest the
image of a magnificent moth half-released from the state
1 A Milanese physician, writing of the Milanese College the same
that had once persecuted Cardan not very long after Cardan's death,
scarcely exaggerated the opinion then held in speaking of him : " Tan-
quam ad omne scientiarum genus natus, inter omnes sui et antiqui
temporis profitentes medicos eminentissimus, verum Medicuiae lumen."
Joan. Bapt. Silvatico, Liber de Coll. Mediol. Med. (1607) cap. xx.
Naudseus is still more emphatic, and considers Cardan to have excelled
Aristotle in variety and depth of knowledge. Cardan himself (living
before Dr. Johnson's time) was not ashamed to boast that he had
written more than he had read, and that he had taught more than he
of chrysalis, its head and feet and front wings working
out towards free space and upper air, but all the rest
bound by some morbid adhesion to its dusky shell.
The publications issued by a scholar form, of course,
so many chapters in his life, but anything like a full
discussion of the writings of Cardan, which, in the col-
lected edition, fill ten densely printed folios with matter
that is almost everywhere curious and interesting, would
occupy more space than could be allowed to it in this
biography. I shall condense, therefore, into the present
chapter what I wish to say about his early works, in-
cluding everything written previous to his marriage.
Up to that time nothing had been printed. In speaking
of these, and afterwards in speaking of maturer, better
works, I shall endeavour to dwell only upon those points
which elucidate his character, or stand out as facts that
belong fairly to the story of his life. Since the great
triumphs of Jerome's genius were not achieved in boy-
hood or in youth, it is not necessary to say very much
about those first fruits of his intellect to which this
chapter is devoted.
They have been named already. The treatises, written
almost in boyhood, on the Earning of Immortality, and
upon the True Distances of Objects, do not remain
to us. Cardan himself tells us " they were juvenile
attempts, and rather signs of disposition than the fruits
92 JEROME CARDAN.
of knowledge or of study 1 ." The early treatise upon
gambling, written in Italian, is represented by a Latin
disquisition, published at a later date, on dice and cards 2 .
This is recast from the early work, and has few traces of
maturity about it. It contains much curious minute
information about the games played in those days, and
the tricks of gamblers, good to be consulted by all writers
on the history of such amusements. The book is, at the
same time, very characteristic of the writer's temper.
Gambler himself, and writing in that avowed character a
treatise on his favourite amusement, Jerome takes no pains
to defend his reputation, or to justify a love of dice.
He lays it down coolly and philosophically, as one of his
first axioms, that dice and cards ought to be played for
money, since if there be no stake to win there is nothing
to mitigate the fact that time is to be lost 3 . To play at
dice and cards for amusement purely, he says, when there
are books, music, conversation, and so many wiser and
better ways of passing time agreeably, is the part only
1 De Libris Propriis. Liber ultimus. Opera, Tom. i. p. 97. "Fuerant
enim conatus juveniles: et indolis potius indicia, quam fructus scientiae
2 De Libris Propriis (1557), p. 11.
3 " Impositus est tamen modus, circa pecuniae quantitatem, alias certe
nunquam ludere licet: quod quam sumunt excusationem de leniendo
taedio temporis, utilius id fiat lectionibus lepidis, aut narrationibus
fabularum vel historiarum, vel artificiis quibusdam pulchris nee labo-
riosis ; inter quae etiam lyra, vel cheli pulsare, aut canere, carminaque
componere, utilius fuerit. . . . Lib. de Ludo Alese, cap. ii.
THE GAMBLER'S MANUAL. 93
of an empty man. Dice and card-playing in a house set
a bad example to children and servants; and people who
are very respectable, says Jerome, ought not to be seen
at the gambling-table. To take part in games of chance
sullies also especially the dignity of a physician 1 .
There is more than ordinary candour in this way of
opening the subject, and in the recommendation that
decent people should gamble in private, and then only
with their equals in position and in wealth 1 . There is a
chapter occupied in the setting forth, as upon a balance-
sheet, of the good and bad sides of the dice-player's ex-
perience 3 . In his favour, it is said : At the gaming-table
he forgets his cares, and can return from it with a prompt
spirit to the work over which his mind may happen to
have flagged. There, also, his friends open their souls
to him unwittingly, their passions and propensities break
out over the changes of the game, and he can see them
and discriminate between them as they are. The gaming-
table also is, for the time, as true a leveller as death;
over it men have hailed princes as companions, acquired
their favour, and obtained promotion in the state. Cardan
himself did in this way become acquainted with a prince 3 .
Then, however, turning to the dark side of the picture,
the philosopher dilates upon the great preponderance of
1 Liber de Ludo Alese, cap. iii. 2 Ibid. cap. iv.
3 " Quo etiam Francisco Sfortiaa Mediolani principi innotui et nobi-
liura amicitiam multorum mihicomparavi." DeVit.Propr.cap.xiii.p. 62.
94 JEROME CARDAN.
evil that he finds, and sums up by saying that he writes
a treatise upon gambling, though it is a bad thing, because
it had become (as, indeed, in those days it almost had
become upon all ground much afflicted by the tread of
armies) universal and, as it were, natural to man. He
writes of it, therefore, as a physician writes of an in-
curable disease, not praising it, but showing how to make
the best of the affliction 1 .
Then arises a discussion of the furniture of dice-playing
namely, the tables, and the bone marked upon four
sides, or the cube marked upon six. Then follows a
chapter upon the casting with one, two, and three dice,
pointing out probabilities. The rest of the treatise in-
cludes a consideration of the morals of dice and the
rules of honour among gamblers, as, says Cardan, there
are laws also among thieves 2 . It contains also an account
of all games played with French, Spanish, German, and
Italian cards, including a description of the cards then
commonly in use. Cheating appears to have been more
common, as it was more easy, with cards than with dice.
Among the tricks that are exposed is one that consisted
1 " Etsi tota Alea mala esset cum tamen ob ludentium multitudinem
quasi naturalis sit ; ob id etiam velut de insanabilibus morbis a Medico
tractandum fuit; namque in omne malo est minimum malum, in omni
dedeco minimum dedecus, in omni flagitio minimum flagitium." Lib.
de Ludo Aleec, cap. v.
2 "Sunt enim in malis rebus suse leges; velut et latromim et pira-
toruncu" Ibid. cap. xxix.
in soaping the back of some important card, so that the
others should slip from it when it was thrown down
among them. Thomas Lezun, a Venetian patrician,
used to cheat Cardan with soaped cards. We may sup-
pose that when a trick of that kind could be practised
the cards used were not particularly clean. Nor should
we connect with them any associations drawn from the
modern whist-table : in most games played in the time of
Cardan, cards were used only as paper-dice. This trea-
tise closes with a little chapter upon the use of dice
among the ancients.
Of the works already named as having been written by
Jerome during the six or seven years of his life in Sacco,
there remain two, both of which underwent at a later
period of their author's life a great deal of revision. One
of them is the little treatise upon Cheiromancy, which,
afterwards was published as a chapter in a philosophic
work of great extent, the labour of maturer years. In his
maturest years, however, Cardan never escaped from the
hold of superstition. Stars and dreams were always por-
tents to him, and he never ceased to believe that there
was a portentous science to be studied on the palm of a
man's hand. The hand, he said, is the instrument of the
body, as the tongue is of the mind 1 . He therefore studied
1 De Kerum Varietate Libri xvii. (Basil. 1557) Lib, xv, cap. Lxxix.
96 JEROME CARDAN.
all that lie found written upon Cheiromancy, and his
treatise on the subject is no more than a dull abstract of
his studies. He gives, for example, a woodcut-picture of
an outspread hand, with the name of eacli part inscribed
on it, according to the Cheiromantic nomenclature. Above
the joint of the hand at the wrist there is the carpus 1 .
The side of the hand against which the thumb rests is
the thenar. The other side, between the little finger and
the wrist, is called the hypothenar. . The ball of the
thumb is entitled stethos. The joints of each finger from
the hand upwards are called procondyle, condyle, and
metacondyle. Then there is assigned to each finger a
planet, Cheiromancy being, in fact, a sister science with
Astrology. The thumb and stethos belong to Mars : on
them we read of violence or strength, of fire or hostile ac-
cidents in life ; there also we read of rough attachments,
similar to that which inclined Mars to Venus. It is a
curious fact to note how intimately a belief in the old
heathen mythology was blended with those pseudo-
sciences, astrology and cheiromancy, and in that form
could be fostered even by grave Christians and dignitaries
of the Church of Rome. The index finger belongs to
Jove: upon it we read of priesthood, honours, magis-
tracy. Middle fingers are all subject to Saturn : Saturn
writes on them dark hints of prisons, fevers, poisons, fear,
1 De Ker, Variet, pp, 558564,
grief, profound meditation, occult studies, toil without re-
ward. The ring finger is the Sun's: on it we read of
high honour, power, and the favour of kings. Venus
holds man by the little finger : upon it she writes of
wives and sons and other pleasant things that suit her
humour. The Moon rules over the hypothenar: upon
that she tells of shipwrecks, suffocations, and submersions.
In the next place, concerning lines, the line within the
hand, bounding the ball of the thumb, is the line of life,
of the heart, and of the sun. The line across the middle
of the hand is the line of the brain and of the moon.
There is a line running sometimes from the carpus to the
middle finger, called the sister to the line of life, and they
who have it lead lives full of labour and pain. It would
be weary work to multiply the details of so dull a science.
Very few more words upon it will suffice.
They who are to die early have the lines upon their
hands indistinct and intersected in a great many places.
They will be happiest whose lines are deep, and coloured,
and straight in their course, or running into such regular
forms as stars, crosses, squares, or parallels. New lines
found tending to the right mean new successes, those
that incline to the left forebode reverses. Fine lines like
hairs denote bad luck. This science also takes great
notice of the nails, drawing conclusions from the number
VOL. I. H
98 JEROME CARDAN.
and the colour of the spots upon them. All these things,
throughout his life, Cardan, a great philosopher, reli-
giously believed 1 .
He was not daunted by this problem : In children on
account of the softness of the skin, and in old age on
account of its dryness, lines are most abundant. How
then can lines denote the course of life when they abound
most in the people who do nothing? To this objection
Jerome was content to give the answer properly appointed
to be given by the teachers of the Cheiromantic creed 2 .
In children the lines signify the future, in old men they
signify the past ; in each they tell of a whole life. In the
mature hand, also, it is convenient to know that there are
1 After speaking of some of the doctrines of Bodinus, who was born
thirty years later than Cardan, Dugaid Stewart says : " Notwithstand-
ing these wise and enlightened maxims, it must be owned, on the other
hand, that Bodin has indulged himself in various speculations, which
would expose a writer of the present times to the imputation of
insanity. ... In contemplating the characters of the eminent persons
who appeared about this era, nothing is more interesting and in-
structive than to remark the astonishing combination in the same
minds of the highest intellectual endowments with the most deplorable
aberrations of the understanding; and even, in numberless instances,
with the most childish superstitions of the multitude." Encyclopaedia
Britannica. Eighth edition. Vol. i. pp. 28, 29. The life and writings of
Cardan are an emphatic illustration of this fact. Speaking very
roughly, we may even say that where Cardan was thought mad by
his neighbours, we should think him wise; and where his neighbours
thought him wise, we think him mad.
2 De Rer. Variet, p. 561.
many lines, commonly ill-defined as if vanishing that
tell of past events.
The work next to be mentioned shows the intellect of
the superstitious philosopher from a better point of view.
It is the treatise on the Differing of Doctors.
Many things in the writings of Cardan make it evident
that he had studied Galen to good purpose, and it is not
unlikely that it pleased him Secretly to feel that he him-
self resembled Galen in a good many particukrs. Hip-
pocrates stood on his own pedestal, and was a great man
by himself. The old father of Medicine, contemporary
with the wisest men of Greece younger than Socrates,
but at the same time an older man than Plato merited
his crown of gold from the Athenians and his dinner in
the Prytaneium, for he was morally and intellectually
great. He wrote simply, tersely, royally as a king issu-
ing wealth from his own mint, not as a rich man pouring
out his hoard of coins, with all manner of kings' heads
and dates upon them. He was a fearless old fellow who
would not move one step for the enemies of Greece. He
was a true-hearted physician, who gathered men about
him in a grand spirit of kindliness. He visited the poor
without reward, loved knowledge for its own sake, bound
his disciples by a vow to mutual courtesy, to a religious
keeping of all secrets trusted by sick people to their
100 JEROME CARDAN.
charge, and enforced with all his might a code of prac-
tice that became a noble calling. To the end of the
world, physicians will appreciate their fine-hearted old
father, and be proud to* think themselves the children of
Hippocrates. But Galen was a man of smaller stature,
living at a time when it was not so easy to be noble.
He was physician to five Roman emperors, and one of
them was Commodus. He commented upon Hippocrates,
and wrote much ; not in the clear, royal style, but with
diffuseness. Like Cardan, Galen had a passionate mother;
like Cardan, he was persecuted, for he could with diffi-
culty keep his ground in Rome 'against the sects in
medicine whose theories he laboured to demolish; and
the parallel holds good, though Galen became great
in his day, and was sought by kings. Like Cardan,
again, Galen was deficient in personal courage, and su-
perstitious, having much belief in dreams and omens.
Galen and Cardan were both boasters, and both men
who really rose above the level of the intellect around
them. Galen fought against the mere scholastic sects
into which the doctors had degenerated and divided, the
dogmatics, the empirics, the methodics, the episynthetics,
the pneumatics, the eclectics, and especially attacked
them in a lost book, of which the title is preserved, De
Empiricorum Contradictis, the Differings of the Em-
pirics. Cardan found the physicians in his day straying
away from the truth, and losing the best sense of the
teaching of Hippocrates, as Galen had restored and ampli-
fied it. The first attempt, therefore, of Cardan, as a medi-
cal author, made in direct imitation of Galen, was a work
entitled Contradicentia Medicorum, on that wide sub-
ject the Differings of Doctors. The titles of some other of
Cardan's works are borrowed from the example of Galen.
The list of resemblances is scarcely made complete, when
I add that the style of Galen, brilliant, pompous, and dif-
fuse, would not pair badly with the style of Cardan, though
Cardan, equally diffuse, wrote with less rhetoric and more
true genius. Galen was also a prominent example of pro-
lific authorship, Cardan himself being no mean proficient
in the art of bookmaking. In that respect, however, he was
utterly eclipsed by the sage of Pergamus, since it is said of
Galen that he wrote seven hundred and fifty books ; five
hundred on medicine, and the rest on geometry, phi-
losophy, logic, and grammar. Galen wrote two treatises
especially upon the books that he had written, and the
order in which they were to be taken. Those treatises
he called " De Libris Propriis." Cardan wrote three works
of precisely the same kind, and gave them the same title.
While noting facts like these, it is to be remembered
that the imitation of old forms was, in Jerome's time, the
highest object of a great deal of the scholarship of Europe,
and that Cardan shared many points of the preceding
102 JEROME CARDAN.
parallel with a large body of the teachers in his day. He
differed from the herd of doctors, however, very greatly,
inasmuch as he poured into the old jars not dregs col-
lected from all quarters, but fresh oil of his own pressing.
His first work, the Contradicentia Medicorum, was very
much expanded afterwards, and published as a massive
treatise, of which it will be requisite to speak in a succeed-
ing chapter. It will be quite sufficient, therefore, now to
state the plan of it, since that was conceived even in its
author's days of pupilage. Hippocrates, said Cardan 1 , had
become obscure through lapse' of time and the conciseness
of his style. Galen " of whom there remains less
than we could wish, but more than we could well be-
lieve it possible for one man to have written" Galen,
in works written at different periods, contradicted himself
much and often. By the Arabians all his errors had been
copied. Aetius was inconsistent, following at once both
Galen and the men whom Galen combated, and never
giving reasons for his dicta. Oribasius was useless. In
fact, there was only Galen, with his errors and his obso-
lete passages, upon whom a hope of useful information
could be built. His design, therefore, was to travel steadily
through the medical doctrines of Hippocrates and Galen,
to note all contradictions of themselves or of each other,
and to consult with the same view the works of all the
1 Contradie. Medicorum. In preface.
DIFFERINGS OF DOCTORS. 103
leading medical authorities. Then he proposed to pre-
sent to the medical world of his own day, in a series of
paragraphs, all the chief points on which conflicting senti-
ments had been expressed ; to cite in each instance the
differing opinions, in order that a judgment might more
easily be formed as to the balance of authority. He him-
self always undertook to hazard a decision, testing the
judgment not only of the Prince of Physicians, but of
others ; in every case following, as his guide, Keason rather
than Authority. He would confirm or dispute past opi-
nions, and not shrink from the addition to them, now and
then, of views more properly his own. The reader was
thus also to be left fully provided with the materials re-
quired for independent judgment. The value of a work
of this kind, really well done, would of course be great,
and many sheets had been written in prosecution of the
plan when Jerome took a wife at Sacco.
104 JEROME CARDAN.
THE STORY OP ALDOBELLO BANDAEINI ILLS OF FORTUNE OF THE
PORTENT THAT AFFLICTED CARDAN AT THE BAPTISM OF HIS ELDEST
SON HUNGER IN GALLARATE POVERTY IN MILAN.
JEROME CARDAN duly reflected before marriage upon
the dead weight of his wife's relations, that might, per-
haps, form not one of the lightest burdens of the married
state. Lucia was the eldest of four sisters, and she had
three brothers, all sons and daughters of Aldobello Ban-
darini and his wife ThaddaeaV At the time of the
marriage, however, it was much more likely that Jerome
would depend now and then for help upon the Bandarini
family, than that the Bandarini should need or, if need-
ing, ever be able to get help from him. Aldobello, the
father-in-law, was a man in the prime of life, genial and
shrewd, a man who knew not only how to win to himself
friends, but also how to use them profitably. A full
sketch of his career is left to us by Cardan, who, speaking
The succeeding sketch of the career of Aldobello follows the very
full narrative given by Cardan in De Ut, ex Adv, Cap. Lib, iii.
STORY OF ALDOBELLO BANDARINI. 105
rather as a philosopher than as a son-in-law, begins his story
very much in the manner of a physician of the present day
who has a case to state, and defines his subject as
" Aldobello dei Bandarini, of the town of Sacco, aged
about thirty-five, hairy over his whole body, short, round
limbed, and of a dusky colour," &c. This man began
life as a soldier, and made a little money in the wars that
is to say, being of an acquisitive disposition, he had laid by
three or four hundred crowns of gold. Retiring then
from military life, he built an inn at Sacco, and dwelt in
it with his wife Thadda3a and his seven children. Mine
host soon made himself known in Sacco as a sociable,
friendly fellow. In his domestic management he was a
strict economist : nothing was in his eyes too small to be
saved. He bought in times of cheapness stores that he
laid by to sell in times of dearth ; he paid cash for his
purchases when he could obtain any advantage by so
doing, and wherever it was gain to him to run a bill up and
allow it to remain unpaid for a time, so he did. He not
only received guests as an innkeeper, but also provided
dinners and suppers for private parties in the town ; at
such entertainments, whatever was to be consumed he sold ;
whatever was to be looked at only, he let out on hire ;
what he himself did not possess, if it was required he
would contrive to borrow and sub-lend. To the great
men of the town he was indispensable : whether they
106 JEROME CAKDAN.
feasted or gambled, there was the friendly, jovial Banda-
rini ready to supply their wants ; and so much did he
ingratiate himself among them, that even clothes and
worthier gifts were often pressed upon him by his noble
friends. Still more complete, however, was the hold
which the bland soldier-host maintained upon the good-
will of the gentle sex. He often busied himself in de-
fending the causes of accused people before the magis-
trates, in obtaining by his influence exemption from some
public burden for one friend or another, and for such
services the gratitude of the women streamed upon him
in a shower of substantial gifts, which he accepted without
difficulty. Kind messages were constantly accompanying
to his door consignments of wine, meal, geese, chickens,
pigeons, barley, pigs, or cheese, so that he could almost
have kept his family upon the goodwill-offerings supplied
by his fair neighbours.
At one time, in the hope of making profit from it,
Aldobello had, among other things, stored up a consi-
derable heap of flax. To this heap, Mark, his eldest boy,
by accident set fire ; the inn was burnt, and with it all the
wealth of its bland master. Bandarini, without showing
any anger, bit his nail ; he did not so much as utter a
curse, but thanked God that his children were all safe.
After the fire was out, he searched for any little things
that might possibly be snatched out of the wreck ; friends
STORY OF ALDOBELLO BANDARINI. 107
also flocked to him with presents in their hands, and hos-
pitable homes provided bed and board for all his chil-
dren. There was no capital wherewith to build another
inn, but there was worldly wit in ample store, and Aldo-
bello set to work at once over the rebuilding of his for-
The Duke of Ferrara was then contemplating the
occupation of a part of the territory of Padua called the
Polesino de Rovigo. To the senators of the Republic of
Venice an offer was made by a good citizen, who undertook
to aid in the protection of the commonwealth by training
gratuitously two hundred men belonging to the town and
neighbourhood of Sacco in the art of war. The citizen
asked only that the senate would, if it accepted his pro-
posal, grant two hundred harquebuses to the two hundred
volunteers. The rumour of war was loud, the enemy
was near at hand, and there were no fortresses to check
his progress if he made hostile advance. The offer was
opportune ; the proposer of it, a certain Aldobello Ban-
darini, had seen service as a soldier, and he had many
friends of mark who offered to be surety for his loyalty,
lauded his character, and urged his suit. He did not ask
pay for his services in drilling the recruits ; the cost of
harquebuses would be inconsiderable. The burnt-out
innkeeper therefore obtained the authority of the senate
to levy in his own neighbourhood two hundred recruits.
108 JEROME CARDAN.
It was easy to find that number of rustics, or even of
friends in better circumstances, glad to go out to drill
with Aldobello, and to earn the legal right of carrying
about the harquebuses sent from Venice. Aldobello set
to work upon his little army. Bearing some ridicule at
first, by diligent devotion of spare hours and holidays to
the forming of lines, squares, and wedges, he had in a
month or two made very obvious progress towards the
formation of a troop reasonably disciplined. The volun-
teers of Sacco bought for themselves drums, and further-
more set up a flag. Doubtless they would also have done
deeds of daring in the presence of the enemy, but most
unluckily for them the murmurs of approaching war
If there was no money to be made out of the Venetian
republic as captain of a band in actual camp service, the
prudent Aldobello saw that he was altogether in a false
position ; he must make a further move towards the resto-
ration of his fortunes. He therefore went to Venice, and
having demonstrated the usefulness of the labour in which
he had- been engaged, petitioned that the senate would
permit him to go out with his two hundred men as mer-
cenaries, hiring their services to foreign princes, but
always bound and ready at a call to return and do what-
ever duty was required for the Venetians. To make this
request, he said, he was compelled by poverty, not urged
STORY OF ALDOBELLO BANDARINI. 109
by avarice. Then there arose again the cloud of friends
who trumpeted his value; and the senate being led justly
to believe that the petitioner was a servant whose depar-
ture would inflict a loss upon the state, Bandarini was re-
quested to remain in Sacco, and to receive payment for
his labours with a monthly stipend. Immunities were
also granted to his soldiers, and the world of the shrewd
soldier-host began to brighten.
But at that stage of his progress enmities arose against
him. Some jealous men detested the activity with
which he pushed his fortunes; many were annoyed at
him for taking labourers from steady tillage of the soil,
marching them about to sound of drum in squares and
wedges, and infecting them with military airs. Again,
there was the sister of an important personage in Sacco
deeply enamoured of the gallant captain, and she, by her
misplaced tenderness, brought down upon his head the
wrath of her relations. A tide of accusations suddenly set
in towards Venice. The accusers, evidently knowing his
weak point, complained to the senate that Aldobello
Bandarini had employed the vantage-ground of his posi-
tion for the extortion of substantial gifts and money from
the people ; that he was designing also to sell the harque-
buses entrusted to him for the use of his troop, and to de-
camp with the money so obtained. Complaints of this
kind were urged so strenuously, that they led to the
110 JEROME CARDAN.
arrest of Aldobello, who was carried off one day in
Again he was enveloped in the cloud of friends, and
his exculpation was by them and by himself made so
complete, that he came back to his own neighbourhood
taller than ever. He was supplied with three hundred
more harquebuses, and authorised to raise three hundred
more recruits from volunteers in and about Sacco. He
thus became a captain of five hundred ; and so well did he
perform his work with these, so earnestly did he enforce
the extended adoption of his plan in other districts, that
in no very long time Aldobello Bandarini was able to
boast that he had been the founder of a complete militia
system spread over the whole territory of Venice, and
adopted from the Venetian pattern in adjacent and even
in some distant states. He himself enjoyed the post of
Tribune of the Militia, and a threefold increase of his
Having attained this point in his career, he was again
burnt out of his abode, by the fire to which reference has
been made in a preceding chapter. The business of the
tribunate required a large house, and one night a boy
asleep in a weaver's shop belonging to the premises
upset a pan of burning charcoal with his foot. A confla-
gration was the consequence, destroying the whole house,
and for a long time threatening to devour also the houses
JEROME'S FATHER-IN-LAW. Ill
in the neighbourhood. At this fire Cardan was present ;
out of it the members of the tribune's family were
rescued with much difficulty, not indeed without some
shock to the modesty of the youngest daughter. Lucia
was the eldest of the daughters, and may then, perhaps,
have been first seen by her future husband. An impres-
sion, otherwise fleeting, then made upon Jerome, may
have been revived subsequently in his vision of the white-
robed maiden who invited him to pass beyond the gates
of paradise. Dream- figures are, however, unsubstantial,
and resemblances between them and the daylight aspects
of real flesh and blood are matters rather for the fancy
than the judgment to lay stress upon.
By the second fire, the tribune of course was not
ruined. His friends again came forward. Houses were
again open for the reception of his children while he
established himself in new premises, next door to the
dwelling of the young physician and philosopher. Re-
presentations made at Venice procured from the senate a
liberal order that Aldobello should be compensated for
his loss by an immediate grant of six months' pay. Very
soon afterwards his new neighbour, the doctor, courted
Lucia, and the tribune, whose career in Sacco just nar-
rated had all been comprised in the short space of seven'
years, consented to the wedding.
Marriage is, in a poor philosopher, a bold act. Jerome,
112 JEROME CARDAN.
when he married the young girl 1 Lucia Bandarini, was
extremely poor, yet because he had made a vow upon
the subject, he refused to take with her the customary
dowry 3 . He was very poor, and there was no hope that
in Sacco he would ever become richer, for Sacco was but
a small town, and could ill support a doctor of medicine,
even though he were dull, bland, and formal enough to
impress everybody with a notion of his talent and re-
spectability. Jerome had friends at Sacco, but he had
spent all his available substance in their company, and
since, in spite of the ravens on his house-top and the
howling dog under his window, he had taken upon him-
self the responsibilities of marriage, it was necessary that
he should obtain an income upon which the expenses
that would certainly ensue could be supported.
In what town should he battle for his bread, if not in
Milan ? There he was at home; there his relations were,
litigious and hostile certainly ; there his friends ought to
be ; there only he was not a stranger. The friendship of
the physician Buonafide had suggested Sacco to the
young Cardan, when the physicians of his own town
would not admit him to participation of their privileges.
From Sacco he had already made one descent upon the
' capital, where he sought in vain, as we have seen, to
1 " Duxi uxorem adolescentulam." De Ut. ex Adv. Capiend. p. 431.
3 De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. p. 431 and p. 452.
DEPARTURE FROM SACCO. 113
overcome the hostility of the college and secure a footing
for himself. He found then also his mother miserable
and morose, lamenting her widowhood, and sulking over
the discomforts she endured. Fatigue and disappoint-
ment brought him on that occasion to the gates of death.
After seven months of deadly sickness, he had returned
with broken health and broken hopes to Sacco. Now,
however, he would try Milan again. The college could
not be for ever obdurate, and he might live down the
objection to his birth. Very soon after their marriage,
therefore, Jerome and his wife, in February, 1532 1 , re-
moved to Milan. Jerome was then infirm in health, but
his mother, Clara, had become, by that time, prosperous
and cheerful 3 .
The tribune, however, had expected nothing less than
the departure of his son-in-law from Sacco. He sub-
mitted to the disappointment he experienced on this ac-
count with outward equanimity, but he was deeply
grieved at heart. His regard for " the daughter of his
good luck" was of a superstitious kind 3 . A few days
before she quitted Sacco with her husband, a stone, put
upon the fire by accident, cracked with a loud noise, and
1 De Libris Propr. (ed. 1557) p. 13. " Valetudinarius, pauperque."
The date is there misprinted 1533, but the correction is obvious enough.
2 "In patriam denuo re versus, sospitem matrem inveni." De Con-
sol, p. 75.
3 De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. p. 452.
VOL. I. I
114 JEROME CAKDAN.
scattered fragments over Aldobello's bedroom. Ever
afterwards his mind recurred with horror to that evil
omen ; but ever after was not a long time, for he died
before the year was ended. He died with another and a
deeper grief upon him, caused by the wicked life of one
of his own sons.
Cardan, when he returned to Milan, felt the want of
his father-in-law's tact in winning good opinions that
could be turned to gold. Still he had no friends, except
the few who had become acquainted with his genius
men who knew how the young physician, so excitable, so
superstitious, and so often seen indulging in a restless
love of dice, spent solitary hours in abstruse study,
cherished great thoughts, wrote books out of the pure
instinct of the scholar, having no reason to believe that
he could ever get them printed, and lived on in the
unwavering conviction that he had within him power to
secure immortal fame. Still the decorous college of the
Milanese physicians shut their gates upon him 1 . He
was notoriously excluded from their body, and denied
the right of practising legitimately, because he had not
been legitimately born. Trouble weighed heavily upon
him: poverty, nervous irritation, and the foul air of a
town then never entirely free from plague, weakened
still more the health of the young husband. His wife,
1 De Libris Propriis (1557), p. 13,
FAILURE IN MILAN. 115
sharing his cares, miscarried at the third or fourth month,
and again a second time miscarried 1 . No bread was to be
earned at Milan. After a vain struggle, the newly-
married pair determined to go out again into the world.
The anxious question of the choice of a new spot to
which they might transfer their struggle with some hope
of a good issue was decided by a series of arguments in
favour of Gallarate 2 . That is a small town twenty-four
miles distant to the north-west from Milan ; it does not at
this day quite contain four thousand inhabitants. Jerome
and Lucia went sick and weary out of the inhospitable
capital, and settled in the country town of Gallarate when
the trees were bursting into leaf 3 . They would gain, they
said, pure air, and that was good for both of them. They
would be able to subsist more cheaply, for the country
prices differed greatly from the charges set upon provi-
sions in the town, and there were even a few eatable
things to be had for nothing. Cardan would be at liberty
to practise there unhindered, for he would be beyond the
jurisdiction of the hostile college, and he would be im-
peded by no rivals. Finally, there was one consideration
above others which had indeed suggested Gallarate as the
1 De Libris Propriis. Lib. ult. Opera, Tom. i. p. 98.
2 These will be found, with other details here cited, in the section
de Paupertate of the book de Utilitate ex Adversis Capienda, pp. 439,
440. The supposed connexion with the Castellione family is there ex-
plained very minutely.
3 " Circa Aprilis finem," De Vita Propr. p. 19.
116 JEROME CARDAN.
proper home for a Cardan. The town was within one
mile of a castle which the Cardans claimed as an ancestral
hall. At Gallarate a Cardan might claim the respect that
he was unable to command in Milan. As for the Milanese,
the College of Jurisconsults had at first been nearly as
hostile to Fazio the father, as the physicians were to
Jerome the son, and in the next generation the same
spirit was displayed 1 . Now the Cardans claimed to be of
the noble blood of the Castellione, who were at home near
Gallarate, and in confirmation of their claim pointed to
inscriptions upon the prothema of a church known to
all the people of that little town. Jerome at first believed
this claim to be a true one, and was not unwilling to be
called Girolamo Castellione Cardano. He is to be found so
named after his death by many writers, but in his lifetime
he formally and conscientiously abjured the second name,
because he convinced himself that he had no right to
bear it 2 . In April, 1533, however, when, towards the end
1 " Nam et pater meus ut ab eo accepi, diu in ingressu coll. jurisc.
laboravit, et ego ut alias testatus sum, bis a medicorum Patavino,
toties filius meus natu major, a Ticiuensi, uterque a Mediolanensi
rejecti sumus." De Lib. Prop. (1557) p. 188.
2 In the dedication to the revised edition of De Malo Medendi Usu.
Since the name that he disclaimed is still commonly ascribed to him,
it will be well to quote a part of his distinct repudiation of it. " Pude-
bat me inter reliqua, nimia pietate, patris siquidem verbis persuasus,
qui hocpalam, nescio quo ductus errore, affirmabatj Castilioneum nomen
addidisse: cum certum habeam, revolutis omnibus publicis tabulis,
majorum meonun, ad annum usque MCCCXL. qui ab hoc, ccvi. est, nihil
mihi cum Castilioneis commune esse,"
REMOVAL TO GALLARATE. 117
of the month, Jerome settled in Gallarate, by the advice
of Giacomo Cardan, his cousin, resident upon the spot, he
believed that he had a right there to be honoured, if not
for his genius and learning, at least (scrofulous man as he
was) for the good composition of his blood.
Pure air improved the health of the philosopher, and
cheapness of provisions may have made it possible, by
dinners of herbs, to live for a short time without too
bitter a sense of want. They watched the gradual de-
parture of the few coins they had mustered when he and
Lucia prepared to set out on their venture 1 . Their poverty
began to border upon destitution : very few fees came in.
Cardan began a treatise upon Fate 1 , in which he showed
that events frequently happen contrary to human wishes,
and that such disappointments must be borne with equa-
nimity. For himself, the knowledge of his strength was
in him, and when he sat down at Gallarate to begin this
treatise upon Fate though there was no outward circum-
stance on which to found a hope that anything proceed-
ing from his pen would ever make its way into a print-
ing-office his heart leapt out into the opening words
concerning " All who hope that, by writing, glory possi-
bly may follow to themselves 2 ." At Gallarate he began
also for Filippo Archinto, a clever young Milanese patri-
1 De Libris Propriis (ed. 1557), p. 14.
2 " Omnes qui scribendo gloriam consequi se posse sperant."
118 JEKOME CARDAN.
cian, a book on astronomical opinions, and a treatise based
upon Agrippa's occult philosophy, in which, care was
taken to avoid the introduction of fictitious marvels 1 .
But Cardan's daily life was tortured by the morbid in-
genuity of superstition into a long course of experience in
magic. Every sight, sound, or smell that was unusual,
was likely to be received as an omen by the credulous
philosopher. He believed that he received secret moni-
tions from a genius or guardian spirit 2 sometimes they
came from the spirit of his father. It was not strange to
him that, when he contemplated marriage, the dog howled,
and ravens shrunk together in his neighbourhood. The
shadow of the warning spirit moved about its doors, and
the brute animals gave token of the dread excited by its
presence 3 . So men's minds are darkened when the shadow
of a cloud floats over them, and they are moved against
their will to joy or to delusive hope by a fresh outburst of
the sun ; so can gems also lose their light, and metals lose
their lustre. Why, asked Cardan, should he enjoy the
favour of especial warnings? Was it because, although
hemmed in by poverty, he loved the immeasurable truth,
and worshipped wisdom, and sought justice, that the
mystic presence taught him to attribute all to the Most
1 De Sapientia, &c. p. 423.
2 De Vita Propria, cap. xlvii. More will be said of this hereafter.
3 Ibid. p. 263.
High? Or did the spirit come for reasons known best to
itself? Again, why were its warnings so obscure why,
for example, did it sometimes become manifest by noises
that he was unable to interpret? He could not answer
these questions, but he believed that the spiritual commu-
nications were made wisely, and lost significance by
passing through the dull wall of the flesh into a mind not
always fitted to receive them 1 .
After his twenty-sixth year, Cardan was often troubled
by a complaint, common to most men of his organisation,
a frequent ringing in the ears. He received this as a
supernatural endowment 2 . By the ear in which the
sound appeared to be, and by the manner of the sounding,
he knew, he said, in what direction and in what way men
were talking of him. He believed also that his presence
acted as a preventive of all wounds, and that no blood
could flow from wounds inflicted in his presence 3 . The
former opinion he may have justified by the fact, that in
those days of violence he had escaped the sight of blood-
shed in the streets; the latter belief he founded on a
single circumstance. Since he himself, professionally,
opened veins, it was his further belief that in such
instances the flow of blood was owing to a special dis-
pensation. Cardan embraced and amplified the whole
1 De Vita Propria, cap. xlvii. pp. 264, 265.
2 Ibid. pp. 178, 179. 3 Ibid. p. 163,
120 JEROME CARDAN.
body of the superstition of his age, yet it may be said of
him, more truly perhaps than of any one of his contem-
poraries, that he embraced and amplified also the whole
body of its learning.
While struggling unsuccessfully in Gallarate, breathing
the fresh country air, and able to satisfy no more than
the wants of nature in the simplest way, Jerome's health
steadily improved, and Lucia, who did not again disap-
point his hopes, gave birth to a son on Thursday, the 14th
of May, in the year T534 1 . The child resembled most
its grandfather, for it had small, white, restless eyes, and
a round back ; it was born also with the third and fourth
toes of the left foot joined together, and proved, as it
grew, to be deaf in the right ear. It being at first un-
certain whether the boy would live, it was baptised on
the succeeding Sunday, between eleven and twelve
o'clock, by the bedside of its mother, all the household
being present, except a famulus. Then, because the day
was warm and sunny, they had drawn aside the curtain
from before the window, and had thrown the window
open to admit the light and air. And at the moment
when the child was lifted from the font or basin, chris-
1 De Libris Propriis (1557), p. 22. "Cumvero parum esset mihi
eo eunti, totum tamen illud parum consumptum erat. Sed valitudo
restituta, yiresque confirmatae, et filio auctus eram." See for date of
the son's birth, and the account of his baptism, De Vita Propria,
cap. xxxvii., and especially the last of the three books De Libris
Propriis. Opera, Tom. i. p. 98.
BIRTH OF A SON. 121
tened by its name of Giovanni Battista, there flew into
the room a mighty wasp.
This was portentous, for the wasp was larger than
wasps should be at that time of year, nor, reasoned
Cardan, do they usually enter houses till July or August.
All watched to see the issue of the omen : the anxious
father, whose sense of mystery was so fine that he had
found something supernatural even in the smell of his
own body, perceived that this was not a common wasp.
Hurting no one, but alarming all, it flew twice in a circle
round the bed, but from its third flight darted back
towards the window. There, however, instead of flying
out into the open air, it dashed into the curtain, and,
becoming entangled, made so loud a noise, " that you
would say," writes Cardan, ( ' a drum was being beaten.
We ran to it, nothing was found." The portent had
vanished ; there was no wasp to be seen ; and yet we are
told that it could not have escaped unnoticed through
the window while they were all watching it attentively.
It was agreed by the whole party that this wasp was a
revelation. All coincided in opinion that the life of
Jerome's first son would be short, that he would be gar-
rulous, and that he would be cut off by a sudden death.
So much Cardan predicted, and the vital part of the
prediction was fulfilled, how terribly no wasp or planet
could have taught the father to suspect* If griefs ever
send heralds out before them, there was a grief advancing
122 JEROME CAKDAN.
by slow marches to possess the spirit of Cardan, great
enough to be worth announcing by a dozen heralds.
So, declared the victim after the event, it was an-
nounced. The dream of the shut gate of the paradise he
quitted to embrace a white-robed maiden foreboded no
bad wife to him, it pointed to his son 1 . A knowledge of
the mighty grief for which the way was opened by his
marriage, caused the shadow of the tutelary genius to
haunt his doors when he slept for the last time alone at
Sacco. So such things were afterwards interpreted. At
Gallarate, Jerome, in spite of all warnings, ignorant of
the future, and by no lore able to divine the way to
larger dinners, wrote much and ate sparingly. He
bravely bore his poverty, and knew that he should work
his way to fame.
In addition to the writings that have been already
mentioned, he was turning into Latin his treatise upon
games, and making slow progress with his analysis of
the contradictory opinions of the doctors. But he
consumed much time in seeking the relief of music
for his cares, and relief to his pocket from the dice-
board 2 , for he was slipping, when his son was born,
every week lower down * into an abyss of hopeless
1 " Somnii interpretatio non in puella desiit sed in filiis vim suam
ostendit." De Vita Propr. cap. xxvi. p. 98.
" Anmis erat trigesimus tertius exactus, cum ludis et musica serum
consumpseram, nee interea quicquamegregiiinveneram aut perfeceram.
Siquidem libros de Fato et librum Ludo latrunculorum, paulo plus
quam inehoaveram." De Libris Prop. Lib. ult. Opera, Tom. i. p. 100'
DEPTHS OF DISTRESS. 123
poverty. After his son's birth, he struggled on against
adversity for five more months in Gallarate, and at the
end of that time gave up his position in the little
town, not upon deliberation but compulsion. He and
Lucia, in all the nineteen months 1 of their abode at Gal-
larate, had earned scarcely forty crowns 2 ; and when they
were at last reduced to absolute destitution, when he had
lost at the gaming-table his wife's jewels, even his bed,
they, having no other hope, determined on returning into
Milan. Not, said Cardan with touching brevity, that
there was anything to seek, but that there was something
from which to fly 3 . He determined to quit Gallarate
and plunge once more into Milan, as a man hemmed in
upon a barren rock resolves to cast himself into the sea.
It was in October, 1534 4 , that Jerome, with his wife
and child, came back to Milan beggared, and applied for
shelter to the public Xenodochium 5 , the workhouse of his
1 " Ubi raansi xix. mensibus." De Vita Propr. p. 19. He vent in
April, 1533, and returned to Milan in October, 1534.
* De Vit. Propr. cap. xxr. p. 94. De Lib. Propr. Lib. ult. Opera,
Tom. i. p. 100.
8 " .... non quod haberem quod sequerer, sed quod fugerem . . . ."
4 " Quasi e scopulo inaccesso me prsecipitaturus in mare, decrevi in
patriam redire anno MD.XXXIV, mense Octobris." De Lib. Prop. (1557)
5 Details and references on the subject of the Xenodochia may be
found in Zedler's Lexicon (Leipzig. 1749), vol. 60, col. 655 7. They
took their name, and some of their spirit, from the Greek institutions
dedicated Jovi Xenio. Much of their spirit was, however, purely
ecclesiastical ; they became sources of income to the clergy.
124 JEROME CARDAN.
age. That was an establishment whose doors were open
to the sick and needy and the houseless stranger, main-
tained from religious motives by various communities, in
direct obedience to the admonition joined in Scripture to
the question of the righteous and unrighteous " Lord,
when saw we thee an hungred and fed thee? or thirsty
and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger and
took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?"
Cardan, however, had an active friend in Milan. The
same Filippo Archinto 1 for whom he had been writing his
book on the Judgments of the Astronomers, had coun-
selled him to come again to Milan, and took pains on his
behalf. Filippo, the son of Christopher and Maddalena
della Torre, differed in age from Cardan by not more
than a year; he was a young man equally agreeable and
learned, who, by love of pleasure, had been doubtless
brought into contact with Cardan over the dice, and by
the instinct of a kindred genius, and by love of learning,
had been drawn into a state of intimacy with the poor,
maligned philosopher. Archinto, full of kindness, wis-
dom, tact, and well born also, already in repute for ora-
tory 2 , had the promise of a bright career before him ; and
he did afterwards attain, as we shall find, by his own
merits, to high distinction. In 1534 his influence sufficed
1 De Consol. p. 76. 2 De Vita Propria, p. 19.
THE PLAT ENDOWMENT. 125
to procure even for the despised Cardan a small appoint-
ment. He could not obtain for him authority to prac-
tise medicine, but he lost no time in endeavouring to
make him independent of the college. Under the will
of a deceased citizen named Thomas Plat, a small sum
had been left to be applied yearly to the payment of a
lecturer on geometry, arithmetic, and astronomy ; the
lectures to be delivered upon holidays. The office of
lecturer under the endowment of Thomas Plat happened
then to be vacant ; and not many days after his return to
Milan, the appointment was by Archinto's influence con-
ferred upon the learned graduate in medicine, Jerome
Cardan 1 . To the same kind friend he was indebted for
the introduction to a few other sources of income, very
trifling indeed; a deduction had been made from his
small salary of seven crowns a year by the prefects of the
Xenodochium 2 , in whose gift the office was. His yearly
receipts from all sources would not exceed fifty crowns,
but he was a philosopher, and he and Lucia were quite
able to subsist on that. /
Not unwilling at the same time to earn, if possible, a
better income, the new lecturer endeavoured to increase
the fees paid for attendance on his courses, by rendering
1 De Libris Propriis (1557), p. 23. De Libris Propriis. Lib. ult.
Opera, Tom. i. p. 100.
Ibid. De Ut. ex Adr. Cap. p. 546.
126 JEROME CARDAN.
them as attractive as he could. With this view he occa-
sionally substituted geography for the less popular details
of geometry, and lectured upon architecture instead of
arithmetic 1 . The mind of Cardan being thus set actively
to work upon five subjects, was soon engaged on books
allied to them in character ; and five works were reckoned
afterwards by the philosopher himself as the direct result
of the appointment now in question.
Jerome then was in this way established with a slender
income. Among the discouragements that pressed upon
him from all sides in Milan, he had not lost faith in his
future. He was thirty-three years old. He had been
practising medicine for eight years, and had found him-
self at the end of that term, without patients and without
character as a physician, utterly poor. He had been
writing books from boyhood. Some of his manuscripts
had been read by a few educated friends, and by one or
two of them appreciated; others had perished through
domestic mischances, others had been lent and carelessly
mislaid, none had been printed. Yet Cardan was curious
in pens, and because he regarded them as the keys that
would enable him one day to open a door for himself into
the temple of Fame, he wrote on with unflagging in-
dustry. He breakfasted on barley-bread and water, and
1 " Ut vero magis audientes allicerem, pro Geometria Geographiam,
pro Arithmetica Architectural!! docebam. Ilinc occasio nata conscri-
bendi quinque volumina."
STRUGGLES IN MILAN. 127
compared with the relish of an epicure the respective
merits of nasturtium leaves, rue, parsley, and other herbs,
as economic means of making bread and water savoury 1 .
At the same time he worked on with a restless energy,
and knew that he should win the prize on which his heart
was set, not wealth for a few years, but renown for cen-
In spite of all his eccentricities and errors, within a rude
exterior the disputatious and excitable young scholar had
shut up a fine spirit and a tender heart. His ethical
writings uttered throughout life the language of a spiritual
nature. The unique candour with which he publishes
his faults often such faults as many men commit and no
man names though he may have been stung to it by a
contempt for the hollow affectation of respectability that
would have hunted him for ever as a bastard, had he not
been strong enough to stand at bay, and though such can-
dour may sometimes be scaroely sane, yet it bespeaks a
sturdy truthfulness, an innate generosity that we must
honour. Jerome was a faithful son, and to the world at
any rate an uncomplaining husband. There remain but
slight and accidental traces of any discord between him
and Lucia; of his wife's father, mother, brothers and
sisters, he speaks with domestic kindliness; and though he
accuses justly his own errors as a father, it will be found
1 De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. Liber de Paupertate.
128 JEROME CARDAN.
hereafter that his tenderness towards a miserable child
forms one of the main features of his life. He claims for
himself, and that also justly, the merit, that if he attracted
to himself few friends, he never broke a friendship, and
that if he found himself forsaken for a time by one of
those few friends, he never used unkindly, whether as
public accusation or as private taunt, knowledge obtained
in confidential intercourse 1 . He had a rugged love of
truth and justice; he remembered benefits, and when af-
fronted could afford deliberately to abstain from seizing
any offered opportunity of vengeance. He governed his pen
better than his tongue, and carefully restrained himseli
from carrying into his books the heat he could not check
in oral disputation. He left enemies unnamed, and
though he now and then is found devoting some impa-
tient sentences to writers who had treated his opinions
rudely, yet it seems at first sight absolutely wonderful
that a man so sensitive and so irascible, so beset by harsh
antagonists as the weak-bodied Jerome, should have filled
so many volumes with philosophy and so few pages with
resentment. The wonder ceases when a closer scrutiny
displays the difference in intellectual and moral weight
between Cardan and most of his opponents.
1 De Vita Propr. cap. xiv. pp. 67, 68. And for the next facts.
PRIOR GADDI. 129
LIFE AS A LECTURER IN MILAN HOW JEROME AT LENGTH FOUND A
MAN WILLING TO PRINT ONE OF HIS BOOKS THE ISSUE OF THAT
ARCHINTO, again, was perhaps the friend who ob-
tained for Jerome the appointment of physician to the
body of Augustin Friars; not a lucrative post, since the
receipts from it are included among the other trifles
which, together with the post of lecturer under the Plat
endowment, made up an income of not more than fifty
crowns 1 . Although denied authority to practise by the
local college of physicians, Cardan was not the less
Doctor of Medicine by right of his degree, and did not
scruple to exercise his profession whenever he found any
patient willing to consult him. The prior of the Augus-
tines, Francisco Gaddi 2 , a shrewd, severe man, whose
influence over the members of his order made him an
1 De Libris Propriis. Lib. ult. Opera, Tom. i. p. 100.
2 De Libr. Prop, (ed, 1557) p. 123. De Vit. Propr. cap. xl. p. 193.
VOL. I. K
130 JEKOME CARDAN.
object of consideration among rival princes, had for two
years lived in a bilious, melancholic state, afflicted with a
skin-disease, and unrelieved by the advice of the most dis-
tinguished Milanese physicians. Jerome, when first ad-
mitted to attend upon the monks, found the prior cherish-
ing despondent, though unfortunately distant, hopes of
a release by death from all his fleshly troubles. By the
good advice, however, of the young physician, or perhaps
only by good fortune, Gaddi recovered. In six months
he was well, and he was the first man of any note upon
whom Jerome had been allowed to exercise his art.
Prior Francisco Gaddi belonged to a famous family in
Florence, founded by three generations of painters
Gaddo Gaddi, who worked in the thirteenth century;
Taddeo, his son; and his grandsons, Agnolo and Gio-
vanni, in the fourteenth. The continuous labours of
those men procured for their house wealth and fame, so
that they left to their heirs a palace richly stocked with
works of art, and a distinguished place among the noble
families of Florence. A Francisco Gaddi was, in 1493,
the Secretary of the Florentine Republic. The Prior
Gaddi, settled at Milan, did not cease to be grateful to his
health-bringing physician, though it was in his power to
give him very little worldly help. Nor was it in Cardan's
power to administer more potent aid to the scheming and
ambitious monk in his last illness than a consolatory
letter 1 . Gaddi, who, as we have seen, fell among princes,
ten years afterwards died in a dungeon, wretchedly.
Ludovico Madio was another friend to whom Cardan
was introduced by the warm-hearted Archinto. Of
Madio we know only that he was kind, and that the
young struggler obtained from him ready help in times of
need. Girolamo Guerrini, a jeweller, was at the same
time an associate from whom Jerome obtained much
curious information, and from whose experience he was
able to enrich some of his books 2 .
The works upon which Jerome was occupied in the
months immediately following his return to Milan, were 3
a volume suggested by Sacrobustus upon Spheres, of
which he wrote nine or ten books; a little work on
Circles ; three dissertations founded on the first and
seventh books of Ptolemy's Geography ; and one on the
elements of Euclid, which grew in after-years till it con-
tained three books, then was enlarged to seven, then to
nine, then to fifteen, when it contained more than forty
Very soon after his appointment as a lecturer Jerome
had taken a house, and received his mother as a portion
of his family. Since Clara had been hitherto depending
1 The letter is included in his published works. Cardan relates the
fate of his friend in the last of the three books De Libris Propriis.
Opera, Tom. i. p. 107.
- De Vit. Prop. p. 69.
3 De Sapientia, &c. p. 424.
132 JEROME CARDAN.
on her own means of subsistence, it is probable that she
was able to contribute a small fund towards the house-ex-
penses. If she paid nothing, Jerome had indeed very
great need to increase his income, or to make the most of
fennel and nasturtium in his diet, for the household that de-
pended on him for support consisted of himself, his wife,
and infant son, his mother, a female friend, a nurse, a pupil
(Ambrose Bizozoro, an ingenious, bold fellow, who became
afterwards a sea captain), a maid-servant, and a she mule 1 .
Upon the mule he rode abroad, and it is probable that in
so doing he consulted less the received prejudice in favour
of a doctor who can leave a horse or carriage waiting at the
door, than the necessities of a body at all times infirm.
For the next five years Jerome was distressed, not only
with bodily infirmities, but with poverty at home and un-
relenting rivalry abroad. The very patients who had
profited by his attentions often joined the cry against the
poor physician-lecturer, whose eccentricities were more
apparent to the vulgar than 'his genius. After Cardan
had healed Bartholomaea Cribella, a noble matron, and
her brother, the perverse brother was loud in ridicule
against him 2 . But the physician-lecturer solaced himself
at home with music and with dice, indulged as he could
his taste for expensive writing materials and for rare
books, read Aristotle and Plotinus for his pleasure, or his
1 De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. p. 431.
2 De Lib. Propr. Lib. ult.
favourite Italian poets, Petrarch and Pulci 1 . Above all,
he continued to cover many sheets of paper with the
written workings of his mind, and obtained consolation
from his dreams of immortality.
Dreams really, not wild waking thoughts, became at
that time guides and helpers to him. Being interpreted
with admirable ingenuity into such meanings as accorded
with his nature, they became prophetic. About four
months after his return to Milan from the unsuccessful
struggle in Gallarate, Cardan reckoned that he first re-
ceived communications of the future in his sleep 1 . Then,
as he believed, the dream-power commenced in its full
force. Before that time, except in the case of the
dream that heralded his marriage, his sleep had scarcely
been disturbed with visions worth interpreting. As he
got higher up the hill of life such mists increased about
His first dream, of the great series, was of the weary
hill of life itself. It was the following 2 . At the close of
the year 1534, when all was black about him in his
worldly state, and all was looking blacker day by day,
Jerome Cardan dreamed in the early dawn that he was
running towards the foot of a mountain that stood to the
1 De Vita Propr. cap. xviii. p. 80.
2 De Libris Propriis (1557), pp. 21 26. De Libris Propriis. Lib. ult.
Op, Tom. i. pp. 100, 101. For the two succeeding dreams and their
134 JEROME CARDAN.
right of him, and that he ran in company with an
immense multitude, of every rank, and sex, and age;
there were women, men, old men, boys, infants, poor
men, rich men, clothed in many fashions. Then he
asked, " Whither are we all hastening ?" One of the com-
pany replied, " To death." In great terror the dreamer
began then to ascend the mountain slope, drawing himself
up by clinging to the vines through which he went, and
with which that part of the mountain was all covered.
They were dry vines with sere leaves, such as are seen in
autumn when the grapes have all been gathered. He
ascended with much labour, for the mountain at its base
was steep, and as he looked back on his way, he saw that
all the vines among which he had passed, no longer dry,
were green and full of blossom. In a little while the
ascent became easier, the mountain was less steep, and the
dreamer hurried on. When he came near the top, he
found the ground there barren, and across bare rocks and
broken stones he was still pushing forward, as if by a
strong impulse of the will. Suddenly he was on the point
of plunging into the dark maw of an abyss, a chasm so
huge and terrible, that, as a waking thought, it remained
for the next thirty years a thing to shudder at. The
dreamer, however, checked himself in his career, and
turning to the right, wandered across a wintry plain,
covered with heaths, timidly, as one uncertain of his way.
A DREAM OP LIFE. 135
So he came before the porch of a sordid peasant's hut,
thatched over with straw, and reeds, and rushes. There
came out of the porch a boy, as of about twelve or four-
teen years old, with pale features, and wearing an ashen-
coloured cloak ; he, taking him by the right hand, led
him in, and as they passed into the hut the dream
Thousands of men have such dreams, and think no
more of them. " I understood from this dream," says
Cardan, "that I was destined to strive after immortality."
He felt that he had a work to do in the world, that he
was sent to do it by the Deity, whose hand so often had
been visibly stretched out for his protection. All men,
said the dream to him, run to death and to oblivion. The
mountain was the Mount of Virtue, full of life, but with-
out pleasures, as was signified by its being planted thickly
with vines, but without fruit. The ascent of that mount
is at first laborious, but afterwards becomes comparatively
easy. The vines blossoming behind him what could they
signify ? Certainly glory after death. The way over the
wintry heaths might signify an easy close to life. What
the boy might portend, however, Jerome could not then
tell. Years afterwards, he believed that he had found
him in a pupil, by whose face he was reminded of the
Not long after this vision of the mountain, Jerome
136 JEROME CARDAN.
dreamed that he was alone in the moon, naked, and dis-
embodied. There, in his solitude, he heard only the voice
of his father, and it said to him, " I am given to you by
God as a guardian. All here is full of souls, but you do
not see them, as you do not see me ; nor do you hear
them, for to the others it is not permitted to address yon.
You will remain in this heaven for seven thousand years,
and as many years in single orbs, until the eighth.
Afterwards you shall come into the kingdom of God."
So worked the restless brain of the young student when
he and Lucia had gone to rest, she thinking of the next
day and its cares, he of the next age and its glories. This
dream of the moon had its own suitable interpretation.
His father, Cardan said, was his tutelary spirit. His
spiritual progress through eight planets, indicated, t as he
said afterwards, with remarkable accuracy, the different
studies upon which he was to occupy his mind. The
Moon meant grammar ; Mercury, geometry and arith-
metic; Venus, music, divination, poetry; the Sun, morals;
Jupiter, nature ; Mars, medicine ; Saturn, agriculture,
knowledge of herbs, &c. There were seven planets indi-
cating studies to which he did really afterwards devote his
mind, and the eighth planet held the scraps of know-
ledge that could be referred to none among the seven.
Gleanings which the student picked up in such fields of
science as he did not himself undertake to cultivate,
A DREAM OF THE MOON. 137
formed the last of the eight masses of study that were re-
presented by his spiritual life in the eight stars.
In the succeeding year (1535) Jerome read through
the works of Cicero, word for word as he tells us 1 . This
task he had probably set himself, with a view to the im-
provement of his Latin style, his scholarship being at
that time far from accurate. He had picked up Greek,
French, and Spanish, without much care for learning
them grammatically, and in Latin he wrote rather by
tact and impulse than by rule. His labours were in
some respects very much hindered by the badness of his
memory 2 , and they were also partly hindered, though on
the whole more helped, by the restlessness of disposition
which made him, in study as in action, prompt always in
decision and impatient of delay. The same impatience
made him sharp in argument; but while, as it has been
already said, men surprised at his acerbity avoided wordy
warfare with him, Jerome took no credit to himself for
his unchallenged honours as a disputant. It was a pro-
perty, as he affirmed, belonging to him which he could
no more change than a stone could change its character.
" Surely," he said, with a happy stroke of humour, " it is
no matter of glory to the cuttle-fish that he can make
the dolphins fly 3 ."
1 De Libris Propriis. Liber ult.
2 De Ut. ex Adv. Cap. Lib. ii. p. 277.
3 De Vit. Propr. cap. xiii.
138 JEROME CARDAN.
Quick-witted, versatile, and candid. Cardan rarely
suffered himself to be deceived into a respectful treat-
ment of his own defects. Of his love of dice the best he
could say in excuse was that " Philosophers may play,
but Wise Men are as kings enjoying higher pleasures 1 ."
By skill in dice he even eked out his subsistence in the
first days of his poverty at Milan, and perhaps earned
more at the gaming-table than at the bedside; for on the
hint of his rivals, it was soon a subject of discourse in
Milan the most frivolous of scandal-tattling cities 3 , as
he found reason to call it that Cardan was too intent on
mathematics to be very conversant with medicine. In
his office of lecturer he had then been interpreting Vitru-
vius 3 , and it was quite certain that his studies in con-
nexion with his duties under Thomas Plat's endowment
were of a kind to be regarded by the jealous public as
incompatible with the thoughts which are supposed to
revolve eternally in the minds of practising physicians.
A physician even in our own day cannot acquire reputa-
tion in any branch of literature or science that does not
bear directly upon tongues and pulses, without forfeiting
a portion of the practice that he might have gained with
ease if he had been a duller man, or if he had but hidden
1 De Paupertate.
2 " In urbe omnium nugacissima, et quae calumniis maxime patet."
De Libr. Propr. (1557) p. 32.
3 De Sapientia, &c. p. 425.
THE FIGHT WITH THE DRAGON SCANDAL. 139
some part of his light under a bushel. Cardan's hope of
fame and profit as a doctor was being undermined by the
reputation he acquired as an ill-paid teacher of geometry,
arithmetic, geography, and architecture. It is easier, he
writes, to prop a falling house than to rebuild it after it'
has fallen. He resolved, therefore, to support his sinking
reputation in the art of medicine by writing a work
strictly professional. Following up the notion with his
usual impetuosity, in fifteen days he wrote two books on
the bad practice of medicine by the physicians of his day
De Malo Recentiorum Medicorum Medendi Usu 1 not a
propitiating subject, certainly. A small tract was written
about the same time on the noxious ingredients in simple
medicaments. These Cardan put aside, or lent to friends
in manuscript, for he was unable to pay a printer, and
knew no one who would bear the risk of publishing what
he had written.
When, in the same year 1535, the academic session
closed, Jerome's young patron was about to leave Milan.
In that year had died Francisco Sforza, Duke of Milan,
and Philip Archinto had obtained so much esteem and
trust in his own town, that he was selected by the magis-
trates as the most fit person to accompany Massimiliano
Stampa, their ambassador to the court of Charles V. upon
1 De Sapientia, &c. p. 425. De Lib. Prop. (ed. 1557), where he says
that he wrote the book, " ut etiam in Medicina aliquid scire viderer."
140 JEROME CAKDAN.
the occasion. Francisco, the last Sforza, he whom Cardan
had encountered among gamblers, died at the age of
thirty-nine. Expelled from home by the French, his
childhood had been spent in Germany. In 1521, the
Emperor and Pope together had resolved upon his re-
establishment. The French resisted their design until the
overthrow at Pa via, but after that decisive battle, Charles
had delayed the execution of his promise. Then Fran-
cisco had joined the Italian league, had been betrayed by
Marquis Pescara, besieged in Milan by the emperor, and
reduced in 1526 to the abandonment of his designs. In
1529 the Emperor and Pope had agreed to receive him
again into favour, and had allowed him to buy of them
his dukedom with a large sum of money. From that
time he had given little trouble to his master, but in 1534
he had beheaded a subject named Meraviglia, who was
supposed to serve the French interest at his court, and
troubles might have followed had the duke not died in
the succeeding year. He was a credulous, weak man.
Leaving no children by his wife Christina, he bequeathed
his dukedom to the emperor. This last fact was the chiei
subject of the embassy to which Archinto was attached.
The young noble who had shown in Milan so much pro-
mise of. a prosperous career, a man of the world in the
true sense of the term, genial, prompt, and learned, found
his opportunity when he was sent into the presence of the
emperor. Charles liked him, and sent Stampa back alone,
retaining Cardan's patron in the character of secretary 1 .
It will be convenient here, in a few words, to tell the
fortune of Archinto. In the next year, 1536, he was
created a Count Palatine; afterwards, when he was sent to
Rome on imperial business with Paul III, the Pope, who
thought him a man worth acquiring for the Church, per-
suaded him to consult his interests by taking holy orders.
He did so, and was promptly appointed Apostolic Proto-
notary and Governor of Rome. In 1539 he was ordained
Bishop of Borgo San Sepolcro; in 1546 he was transferred
to Saluzzo ; and after having served as vicar to four Popes,
came back to his own town as Archbishop of Milan, in
1556. Two years afterwards he died, and being dead, his
life was written by Joannes Petrus Glussianus in two books.
Archinto then, in the year 1535, being about to leave
Milan with Massimiliano Stampa, soon after the close of the
academic session, Jerome employed his vacation very busily
in writing certain treatises, which Archinto promised to
take for him, and commend, as well as he was able, to the
favourable notice of the Pope 2 . Cardan had heard of the
1 Joseph! Ripamontii Canon. Scalens. Chronistae Urbis Mediolani,
Historic Patriae, Libri x. Med. 1641, p. 698. In the succeeding pages
is a full account of the manner in which Archinto passed into the ser-
vice of the Church, and of his subsequent career. His success, says
Ripamontius, was so great, that " ad consilia negotiaque omnia adhi-
bebatur, et gravissimi cujusque consilii author ipse erat." Ibid. p. 704.
2 De Sapientia, &c. p. 425. The same authority will cover the re-
mainder of the paragraph.
142 JEROME CARDAN.
Pope's liking for astronomy, and therefore took pains to
suit the humour of his Holiness with two books, of which
one was a Supplement to the Almanacs, the other was a
sensible technical work, with a title that might be con-
sidered startling " Emendation of the Celestial Move-
ments, by Jerome Cardan." They were both written in
fifteen days, and duly taken by Archinto; but they pro-
duced no supplement to the poor scholar's income, or emen-
dation of his daily fare. He spent the other two months
of his holidays in the preparation of an elaborate work
on Arithmetic, which occupied his mind so thoroughly
that problems and solutions filled his very dreams. Thus
even in his dreams he found hints for his book; and
the subject being thus suggested to him, an inquiry into
the subject of dreams, and a treatise upon them, closed the
Cardan was thirty-five years old, and up to this date,
though an indefatigable author from his youth up, not a
sentence of his writings had been printed. At last, how-
ever, the great day was near when for the first time he
should talk to the whole world in print, and ascertain
whether he could really make it worth men's while to
pay attention to his talking.
Mention was made in a former chapter of a college
friend, Ottaviano Scoto 1 , to whom Jerome had lent some
1 De Libris Propriis (ed. 1557), p. 29. De Lib. Propr. Lib. ult.
Opera, Tom. i. p. 102, for the succeeding narrative.
A PRINTER FOUND. 143
early essays, and who had lost them. He was a pallid
youth, one of the few old companions whose friendship
Cardan afterwards desired, avoiding richer and more
powerful associates. Octavian paid absolute homage in
his friendship to the stronger mind of Jerome, adhered to
him through good and ill report, believed implicitly in
his great talents, and loved him with the utmost warmth
of youthful friendship. By the death of his father in
Venice, this believing friend, Ottaviano Scoto, became
master of a printing-office.
Then Cardan dusted his manuscript about the Bad
Method of Practice among Physicians, and opened his
heart to Scoto. If he could only prove to the Milanese
that he was not the worse physician for his knowledge of
geometry, a better day might shine into his chambers.
If he could only print his book ! The distant hope of
a great good, to attain which the poor philosopher had
sighed so long in vain, seemed but a trifle in accomplish-
ment. " What you propose is a light matter," said the
sanguine printer, who took cheerfully all risk of publica-
tion on himself. "And if," he added, "I knew that I
was to lose all my outlay on it, I would still print the
volume for your sake. I think, however, that it will be
no great venture." The book De Malo Medendi Usu
was therefore printed at Venice, in 1536, Scoto alone
correcting the proofs, because there were no ready or
144 JEROME CAKDAN.
cheap means of communication between Venice and
It was a clever book, denouncing seventy-two errors in
practice. Such errors were the total denial of wine to
the sick 1 , the denial of fish, and the allowance of flesh to
people sick of fever 2 , the belief prevalent in many quar-
ters that there could be found one mode of cure for all
diseases 3 , and the doctrine that no patient should be bled
while suffering under acute pain 4 a woful sentence to
some sentence of death, for example, to the man tor-
mented by the agonies of an acute inflammation of the
peritoneum. He taught that to do nothing with physic
was much better than to do too much, and urged the
great number of things that have to be considered before
a man desiring to act rightly should set his hand to a
prescription 5 . The book was clever, and was of a kind
to meet with rapid sale.
It did sell rapidly, but its appearance plunged the luck-
less author into new distress. It had not been long sub-
ject to criticism before Cardan was made aware of so
many petty faults in matter, style, and grammar, that any
pride he may have himself had in his work when he sent
1 De Malo Medendi Usu (Venet. 1536), cap. vi. p. 13.
2 Ibid. cap. x. p. 18. 3 Ibid. cap. xiv. p. 22.
* Ibid. cap. xl. p. 48.
5 So he defines the spirit of the book in his second work, De Libris
Propriis, p. 29.
AGAINST THE STREAM. 145
it to the press was altogether humbled 1 . Many years after-
wards, when he re-issued the work with the number of
its sections increased to a hundred, having spent twenty-
eight days in correcting what he had written in fifteen,
he refers in this way to its first appearance : " I blush to
acknowledge that there were more than even three hun-
dred blunders of mine in this book, exclusive of mis-
prints. And I long since had it in my mind to blot it
out from the number of my offspring : but to that course
there was the objection of a certain special usefulness con-
nected with it, by which it had been made so saleable that
in its second year the printer would have issued it again
to the public if I had not resisted his desire."
But the sound part of the book which, in many points,
condemned and opposed prevailing practices, of course
received from the doctors of Milan, hostile enough already,
the strongest condemnation and opposition. The cry was
raised against its author that he did not practice his
profession, and it was asked, how then could he presume
to teach it to the men who did 2 . The unlucky title of
his book was quoted constantly against him, and if any-
body thought of seeking medical assistance from Jerome
1 See the dedication to the revised issue of the book, Opera, Tom.
2 " In artis autem operibus negligerer, cur erat ut alios docere
vellem." De Libris Propr. (ed. 1557) p. 29. "Et modum alium me-
dendi observans ex titulo libri nuper edito, jam prope ab omnibus
habebar," p. 32.
VOL. I. L
146 JEKOME CAKDAN.
Cardan, it could be urged against him not only that he
was not recognised by the local College of Physicians,
but that he was an eccentric man who would imperil the
lives of his patients by rash crotchets of his own. He was
a poor man, maddened by poverty, struggling against men
high in repute and rich. He was a young man complain-
ing of his elders 1 . Rivals and enemies looked grave and
shrugged their shoulders, merely pointing out that the
author of a book " On the Bad Practice of Medicine in
Common Use" might have a better practice of his own;
but from the very title of his work it was obvious as
the public generally could but admit that he opposed
singly the experience and learning of the whole profes-
sion. He, too, a young man, who, as they all knew, was
a lecturer upon geography, geometry, arithmetic, and
1 De Libris Propr. (ed. 1557) p. 30. I must quote part of his own
account of the misfortunes that attended this first literary venture:
" Sed et longe aliter commodum, quod expectabamus ex illis libellis, nam
non parvam retardationem attulit ad gloriam in arte consequendam.
Nacti nanque aemuli ex argumento libri occasionem, dicebant, Nunquid
modo dubitatis hunc insanire? aliumque medendi modum aliamque,
quam nos, medicinam profiteri, cum in tot rebus ritum nostrum accuset?
Itaque merito, ut dicebat Galenus, qui tot insanientibus contradicere
niterer, insanire visus sum: cum enim necessarium esset me vel illos
aberrare quis mihi crederet contra tot probatos usu viros, divites, senes
magna ex parte, nee mediocriter eruditos, cultos restibus, ornatos
moribus, facundia vulgari prseditos, amicis atque affinitatibus potentes,
auraque populari in sublime elatos, inde, quod maximum erat, tot
artibus ad cavendum ad fallendumque instructos. Ego vero pannosus,
ita ut mihi non conveniret illud, Vestibus inquam homini surgit bona
fama decusque. Itaque egregio hoc meo invento pene fame perii."
FAILURE OF THE FIRST BOOK. 147
And this was all that had resulted from the book
written and printed with so much hope of a happy issue.
It was to have led the way to sick-beds, by the proof it
would afford that he who wrote it had thought soundly
and deeply as a practical physician. It was to have
brought to him the first honours of public authorship.
"But where I looked for honour," said Cardan, "I
reaped nothing but shame 1 ." The book damaged him in
every respect, but one. It had satisfied the printer, who
derived a profit from its sale. It had been bought to be
abused; the printer rejoiced, while the author grieved.
Ottaviano Scoto, satisfied with his experience, held his
type still at the service of the poor philosopher, and so at
any rate one difficulty had been overcome.
1 De Libris Propriis. Lib. ult. Opera, Tom. i. p. 102.
148 JEROME CARDAN.
PHYSIC AND PHILOSOPHY.
A MAGPIE in the court-yard chattered more than
usual on the last day of November, 1536. Cardan knew,
therefore, that something was about tq happen. He ex-
pected news or an arrival, and was not deceived, for on
the evening of that day Lodovico Ferrari was brought to
his house as a famulus 1 . Lodovico, then a boy of fifteen,
was brought by his uncle Vincent from Bologna. The ser-
vant, full of talent, soon became a pupil and a friend. He,
of all Cardan's pupils, was the one who lived to be after-
wards the most distinguished, inasmuch as the natural bent
of his mind easily caused him to share Cardan's own very
decided taste for mathematics, and he had power enough
as he grew older to think onward for himself, and earn
for his name though he died young a permanent place
in the records of that science.
Not very long afterwards, it happened that there came
to Milan a tall, lean man, with a sallow skin and hollow
eyes, awkward in manner, slow in movement, sparing of
1 De Vita Propria, p. 214. Vita L. Ferrarii Bononiensis, a H. Car-
dano Descripta. Op. Tom. ix. p. 568.
LODOVICO FERRARI. 149
his words, a great mathematician. He was a native of
Brescia, and his name was Zuanne da Coi 1 . He brought
word to Milan that there had been discovered two new
algebraic rules, for the solution of problems of a certain
kind that concerned cubes and numbers. " I asked,"
said Cardan, "by whom?" " By Scipio Ferreus of
Bologna," he replied. " Who is possessed of them?" He
said, "Nicolo Tartaglia and Antonio Maria Fior; but
Tartaglia, when he came to Milan, taught them to me,
though unwillingly enough." Then Jerome continues,
" When I had thoroughly looked into those matters with
Lodovico Ferrari, we not only .made out the two new
demonstrations, but discovered in addition a great num-
ber of others, so that I founded upon them a book on the
Great Art." Of his skill in algebra Cardan was justly
proud ; it was the department of knowledge in which he
displayed perhaps the most remarkable evidences of his
intellectual power. One of his processes, upon which we
shall hereafter dwell, is still known by his name in mathe-
matics. The researches prompted by Zuanne da Coi had
some influence, perhaps, upon the character of Jerome's
second venture into print, which was a step towards that
book of the great art about which much will hereafter be
i De Libris Propriis (ed. 1557), p. 36. De Libr. Prop. Lib. ult.
Opera, Tom. i. p. 103.
150 JEROME CARDAN.
His second publication did not, however, follow very
rapidly upon his first abortive effort for success. There
were other enterprises to engage his mind, and author-
ship did not appear to be a happy way of courting
fortune. Towards the end of the year 1536 at about
the same time when Ferrari came to him he was invited
to teach medicine publicly at Pa via, but declined the
offer, because he did not clearly see from what source he
was to derive a stipend 1 . Soon afterwards, still in the
same year, letters from his friend Archinto (to whom, of
course, he had dedicated his first book) summoned him to
Placentia, where it was hoped that he might find oppor-
tunity of pushing his fortunes by acquiring for himself
the active good-will of Pope Paul III. 3 Archinto, how-
ever, had prepared the way for him in vain. An ungainly
and plain-spoken philosopher was not the man to make
way at a papal court.
It is worthy of remark, that those who would have re-
coiled most certainly from a mere clumsy cynic, men who
had not unlearnt the generosities of youth, who had come
newly with fresh hearts and stirring minds into the
market of the world, men like Archinto, were almost the
only people who held out to the unrecognised philosopher
their helping hands. Such a friend Jerome found at
1 De Vita Propria, p. 19. 2 De Sapientia, &c. p. 425.
SEEKING FORTUNE. 151
Placentia in the young and handsome Brissac (Marshal
Cosse), there serving as lieutenant to the King of France,
and already famous for his gallantries 1 . Brissac was four
years younger than Cardan a man delicate and beauti-
ful, but agile and robust; at the siege of Naples he had
singly taken prisoner a knight in armour, though he was
himself on foot without the defence of casque or cuirass,
having no weapon but a sword. Brissac had taste and
scholarship, with a quick sympathy to feel the merits
of Cardan ; he therefore besieged Louis Birague, com-
mander of the French infantry in Italy, with petitions on
behalf of the poor scholar. The -hopes of Jerome were
excited very much, but there was nothing done.
He went home therefore to his family at Milan, re-
sumed his harness as an unsuccessful and, so far as the
Milanese College was concerned, illegal practitioner,
wrote more books, prepared more lectures, and continued
the instruction of his apt young pupil Lodovico.
Among the few patients whom Cardan attended, there
was a certain Count Camillo Borromeo, whom he had
cured of a serious disorder ; but because Jerome declined
to sit up a whole night with him when he was troubled
with some other ailment, the mean-spirited count had
carried his complaints about the town: " Therefore," says
i De Vita Propria, p. 20. " Erat enim Brisaccus Prorex singularis
in studiosos amoris et humanitatis."
152 JEROME CARDAN.
the offended physician, "I had left the man." But
chancing afterwards to pass, he was called in to look at a
sick nurse, whom in two days he cured; soon afterwards
the count's only child, a boy of seven, being ill, Jerome
was urgently invited to attend. Now it so happened that
on the preceding night that dreamy sage had been
troubled with a complex vision of a snake, which, as he
thought, portended danger to himself. When therefore
he went to Borromeo's house and found the child's pulse
pausing after every four beats, he said to himself, though
the disease seems light this boy will die. Having then
written a prescription, which contained one powerful
ingredient, and placed it in the hands of a messenger who
was about to take it to a shop to be made up, his dream
suddenly recurred to him. Its application was made very
obvious by the fact that Borromeo having added a snake
to his arms, possessed a country-house painted over with
vipers. The boy will die, he thought, and as the present
ailment seems to be so light, if it be found that any
active drug has been administered, it will be said after his
death that I have killed him. He therefore called back
the messenger, and substituted for his first prescription
another, containing only the most harmless ingredients 1 .
i " Medicamentum quod vocatur Diarob, cum Turbit, propinare in
morsulis decreveram: et jam conscripseram, et nuncius ad pharmaco-
polam ire caeperat, recorder somnii, 'Quiscio,' mecum dixi, <ne hie
puer moriturus ex signo prsescripto ' revoco nuncium, qui non-
COUNT BOEROMEO'S CHILD. 153
But he predicted to the mother the boy's death. Other
physicians who were summoned spoke more hopefully,
and after the death had really taken place, gratified their
jealous dislike by secretly asserting that the mathema-
tician had not understood the boy's complaint. They
were unable, however, to say that his medicine had been
of a kind to cause or hasten any fatal issue. So he
avoided, through attention to the warning dream, great
danger to himself, because if Count Borromeo had
believed that the loss of his one child was caused by
a prescription, he would certainly have killed the doctor
who had written it. Many indeed 'at that time heard so
much ill spoken of Cardan, that it appeared to them
as though it would be but a just thing to kill him, if
the law were not so undiscriminating as to protect even
lives like his. Borromeo never ceased to alleviate his
grief for his lost child by curses loud, frequent, and
public, upon his physician. As for the general public of
Milan, it had come to the conclusion that the Plat
lecturer was mad, through poverty.
The luckless author, greatly vexed at the large number
of misprints which had disfigured his first publication,
dum quatuor passibus ab ostio aberat, dico deesse quippiam quod addere
vellem, lacero priusfactum, clam, et aliud scribo e margaritis, osse
monocerotis, gemrais. Datur pulvis evomit," &c. De Vita Propria,
p. 148. For some of the details in the text, see also De Libris Propriis
(1537), p. 31, and Synesiorum Somniorum, Lib. IT, cap. 4. Opera,
Tom. v. p. 724.
154 JEROME CARDAN.
issued a new example of his skill as a philosopher, printed
at Milan under his own eye, either in the same year 1536,
or in the year succeeding 1 . It was printed also at his
own expense, and as he was in no condition to sustain a
heavy charge, it was but a work consisting of five leaves,
upon judicial astrology. His neighbours cried him down
at once for an astrologer; his little venture was again
A touch of superstition belongs also to this as to every
period of Jerome's life. It happened in the year 1536,
about the month of July 2 , when he lived by the Porta
1 De Libris Propriis (ed. 1557), p. 40.
2 De Vita Propria, pp. 223, 224. Cardan tells the story at more
length. As I desire the few quotations in these notes not simply to
justify the text, but also to provide for some readers means of obtaining
glimpses of Cardan himself, I quote this little narrative in his own
words. The tone of natural credulity about it is particularly striking.
There is a great deal of agreeable naivete in Jerome's nonsense ; it had
more in it of the sick wit of a child than of the gloom of full-grown
superstition. " Ergo anno MDXXXVI. cum habitarem in P. Tonsa, erat
mensis ni fallor Julii, prodiens & caenaculo in Cortem, sensi maximum
odorem cereorem quasi nuper extinctorum; territus voco puerum in-
terrogans an quicquam sentiret, ille cum de strepitu intelligeret, nega-
bat, Monui non de sono intelligere, sed an odorem perciperet, dixit * O
quam magnum sentio cerse odorem,' dixi ' Sile ' et ancillam rogans, et
uxorem, omnes mirabantur praster meam matrem quse nil sentiebat,
credo gravedine prsepedita : Itaque mortem imminere hoc ostento autu-
mans, cum ad lectum contulissem me, non poteram obdormiscere, et
ecce aliud prodigium priore majus, in via publica grunnientes sues,
cum nulli ibi essent, inde anates similiter obstrepentes : Quid hoc mihi,
et unde tot monstra? Et anates cur ad sues veniunt ? qui tota nocte
grunnientes perseverarunt. Mane tot visis perculsus, nesciebam quid
agerem : vagabar extra urbem a prandio : et rediens domum, video
matrem quae me hortabatur ut properarem, ictum fulmine vicinum lo.
Prsefectum alias pestilentiae : Hunc ferebant cum xii. ante annis ei
A DREADFUL SMELL. 155
Tonsa, that as he went out of his door one evening,
after supper, he perceived a smell as of extinguished
tapers. He called out his household, and the smell was
recognised by all except his mother, whose nose was dis-
abled by a cold, and it was thought by all that such
a smell must certainly be ominous of something. That
night the physician was continually disturbed by a
strange sound as of sows and geese outside. When
morning came, Cardan went out to wander in the fields,
very solicitous about these omens. On his return he was
hurried off to see a neighbour a man of no very good
character, reputed to have been a ' thief in the office he
had once held as prefect of the plague who had been
struck by lightning. He proved to be dead, and so the
meaning of the presages became quite clear to the philo-
sopher. " After my neighbour's death," he says, " my
mind was easy."
Work of the pen in the mean time went on. Seized by
a bold idea, Jerome brought his astrology to bear on the
Nativity of Our Lord, and began a Life of Christ con-
firmatory of his horoscope 1 . He wrote also three medical
muneri vacaret, quod pestilentia saeviret, multa rapuisse: concubinam
habebat, nee exomologesim subibat : forsan et alia pejora admiserat :
erat autem vicinus, ut non intercederet nisi domuncula, vidi et cognovi
esse mortuum prorsus, tune liberatus sum a cura, illius obitm"
1 " Succedente anno" (f. e. 1539) " tres libros de Christi vita super-
auxi. qui jam an tea per triennium erant inchoati." De Sapientia, &e.
ad fin. The first book treated of bis Birth, the second of his Life, the
third of his Laws. ^T,
156 JEROME CARDAN.
tracts, and began a work on the Arcana of Eternity, de-
signing thereby to please the Marquis Avalos, a governor
of Milan, who had shown some friendliness towards the
poor wise man whom so few heeded.
Alphonso d' Avalos 1 , Marchese del Guasto, was another
of the young and clever men who could recognise and
enjoy the vigour of a genius that repelled the prim and
vulgar by its eccentricities. He was a year younger than
Cardan, the son of Inigo d' Avalos, and going early out to
war was, at the age of twenty-one, present at the battle of
Bicoque. From the subsequent contests in the Milanese,
to which reference has been made often in preceding
pages, he had been rarely or never absent. After the
death of Antonio Seva he had been appointed general
1 I have seen it somewhere stated that there is a MS. life of this
D' Avalos in one of the Italian libraries, I think at Florence. In a note
appended to his name in Roscoe's memoirs of Cellini, it is said that he
was " the son of the great Ferdinando d' Avalos, Marquis of Pescara."
In the Biographic Universelle he is called his nephew. Ferdinand was
his cousin. The first of the family it belonged to Navarre who came
to Italy, was Inigo, first of the name. He following Alphonso V. of
Arragon to Naples, married a sister of the Marquis Pescara, who hap-
pened to be heir to his estates. In this way he acquired great wealth and
a new title. Of the three sons of that couple, one died single, and two,
Alphonso and Inigo II., married. " The great Ferdinand" was the son
of Alphonso, and inherited through him the title of Pescara. The
Avalos connected with the life of Cardan was the son of Inigo II., and
inherited from him the Marquisate del Guasto. See Imhof Geneal-
Ital. et Hisp. and the article on the Avalos family in Zedler's Universal
Lexicon oiler Wissenschaften und Kilnste, vol. ii. col. 20938. This
old German Lexicon is a repertory of minute facts and references to
authorities concerning half-forgotten things and people, through which
I have had easy access to much valuable information.
THE PATRON D'AVALOS. 157
and governor in Milan. In the year 1535 he joined the
expedition of the Emperor to Tunis, and obtained mili-
tary promotion. D'Avalos was by no means a man of the
best stamp. He was clever, but unscrupulous ; in words
and ways fond of display. He sought the smiles of ladies
as a dandy, and in that character was probably unequalled
in his time and country. His dress was elaborate, and he
perfumed not only his own person, but even the saddle
upon which he rode. In the year 1536 his patronage of
Jerome was but nominal. Four years afterwards, how-
ever, the marquis was sent by the emperor as chief am-
bassador to Venice; and before that time, on the recom-
mendation of an influential friend, Jerome had come to be
numbered and paid among the members of his suite. He
had worked, however, for the great man's favour had
gone courting to him ; and in one of his works he relates
incidentally his regret that he was troubled with a severe
cold at a time when he was in furtherance of his suit
assiduously paying to the great man evening visits. He
put his feet, however, in hot water, took Cassia Nigra, and
in three days got rid of the ungraceful huskiness 1 .
The name of this patron will recur several times as the
narrative proceeds, and I know no better way of giving a
1 " Opprimebar aliquando Coll. nostri auctoritate. . . . coactus sum
principis Alphonsi amicitiam colere, id faciebam hora vespertina," &c.
De Aqua. Opera, Tom. ii. p. 585.
158 JEROME CARDAN.
preliminary insight into his character than by carrying on
to the end this brief sketch of his life. D' Avalos, while
at Venice, treacherously murdered two French ambassa-
dors, in order to obtain possession of their papers. In
1544 he lost the battle of Cerisoles, in Piedmont, being
the first man to take flight, although he had set out with
the boast that he would bring home the young Duke of
Anjou as a plaything for the dames of Milan. He had
also taken with him on his march four thousand chains,
with which he was to bind Frenchmen to the galleys.
The unexpected reverse preyed upon his mind ; never re-
covering from his chagrin he was taken ill, and died in
the year 1546, ten years after the date from which this
narrative has wandered.
While these facts are told against him, it should also be
said that Alphonso d' Avalos used his great wealth in such
a way as to merit the commendation of all churchmen
and men of letters, for he was a lavish patron, as Cardan
well knew, when he cultivated his good-will. At first he
had been military governor of the Milanese district,
Cardinal Caraccioli being the civil governor of the town.
After the cardinal's death no successor was appointed, and
D' Avalos was supreme. "His mild rule," wrote a
Milanese churchman while his memory was green, " re-
vived the province; and he was so liberal in sacred things
that he in some degree made good the loss occasioned by
the absence of an archbishop 1 .'* "He was a man," says
the same authority, " of the most polished manners,
studious of the fine arts, high minded, prodigal of his own
wealth, and little greedy of the wealth of others 2 ." All
that was said evil of him was ascribed to the malignity of
his enemies, who added to the grief of his last days by
causing the Emperor to demand an oversight of his
accounts. After his death at Vigevano he was brought
to Milan, and buried publicly in the cathedral, with ora-
tions, and all honours that the clergy could bestow upon
It was at the end of the year 1536 then, during the
vacation, that, to please this marquis, Jerome began a
book on the Arcana of Eternity. In the year 1537 he
being then thirty-six years old the world still used him
ill, and prompted him to write two works 3 , one upon
Wisdom, one on Consolation philosophic shields against
the outer miseries of life. In the same year he proved
himself a true philosopher by burning about nine books
that he had written upon various subjects, because they
seemed to him on re-perusal empty and unprofitable.
His manuscripts had accumulated into a great farrago,
chiefly of medical papers, and he destroyed so much that
1 Kipamontius Chronistoe Urb. Med. (ed. cit.) p. 725.
2 Ibid. p. 710,
3 DeLibrig Propriis (1557), p. 39.
160 JEROME CARDAN.
there remained whole little beside his printed work, and
the materials belonging to the treatise on arithmetic,
which he proposed to publish soon, if possible.
The work written for D'Avalos on the Arcana of
Eternity was kept afterwards unpublished by the
Church, but Cardan himself liked it, and quotes the
headings of the chapters 1 . The work would have been a
curiosity had it come down to us ; only a fragment, how-
ever, is preserved. It was divided into seven books.
The first treated of God and the origin of what we
should call the Cosmos the number of worlds and their
magnitude. The second book discussed the constitution
of the divine world which was called intelligible, or im-
material ; the third was on the constitution of the sensible
or material world ; the fourth book was on the order of
human things; the fifth on the succession of things
natural; the sixth on the succession of things human; and
the seventh on the end of the world to which those suc-
cessions lead. The subjects of the chapters in each book
are communicated to us, but it will suffice here to quote,
by way of illustration, half a dozen of the heads under
which Jerome treated of things human. They were of
this kind : On the Likeness between the World and Man
and on the Equal Distribution of Parts; on Sense and
Memory; on Contemplation; on Numbers; on Virtue
1 De Libris Propriis (1557), pp. 4251.
THE ARCANA OF ETERNITY. 161
and Sin; on Happiness; on the question, Are Assemblies
worthier than Individuals? on the Existence of some
Truth in all Falsehood, and of some Falsehood in all
Truth; on the Necessity, Uses, and Harms of Law.
There must have "been no little boldness and originality
of treatment in a book of this kind written by Cardan;
but as it was not to be published, I must say no more of
it, and turn to works with which the world at large be-
When he sought fame in print as a physician, he had
been told that he was only qualified to write on Mathe-
matics. Well, he would publish next a work on Mathe-
matics; upon that subject also he had new ideas to com-
municate. Should he be honoured as a prophet then by his
compatriots? The Milanese physicians still rejected him.
In 1537, Jerome humbled himself again to petition for
admission to their college. He had, indeed, for a short
time consented to what he considered a dishonourable ad-
justment of his quarrel with them. The truce did not
last long, and he was again formally rejected 1 . In the
same year, however, a new patient was obtained, whose
friendship gave him hope of better days. Anxiously
must they have been desired by Lucia, who had by this
time two children to support; the second child a daughter,
Clara, having been born in the preceding year 2 .
1 De Vit. Propr. p. 147.
3 De Vita Propr. p. 20. The date is inferred readily from the state-
VOL. I. M
162 JEROME CARD AN.
In the preceding year his household was increased, his
daughter Clara had been born; and in that year, 1537, of
which we now speak, his household was diminished, for
it was then that his mother Clara died 1 . While she lay
awaiting death, Jerome of course had all his senses open
for the perception of some sign or omen. Once in the
night he heard a mysterious tapping, as of the fall
of water-drops upon a pavement, and he counted nearly
one hundred and twenty distinct raps. He was in doubt,
however, as to their significance, or whether they were
indeed spiritual manifestations, for they appeared to pro-
ceed from a point to the right of him, in contradiction to
all doctrine concerning portents of cakmity. He be-
lieved, therefore, that fe perhaps one of his servants might
be practising on his anxiety." But for the purpose of
assuring his faith in the genuineness of the supernatural
communication that he had received, the raps were re-
peated he supposed that they could have been repeated
only for that purpose on the next day when the sun was
high, and he, being up and awake, could assure himself
that nobody was near him. There were then fifteen
strokes; he counted them. Afterwards he heard in the
night a heavy sound as of the unloading of a waggonful
ment there incidentally made that his daughter was two years younger
than his eldest son.
1 " MDXXXVII, cum mater obiit, . . . ." Paralipomenon. Lib. ii.
cap. xxj. Opera, Tom. x. p. 471.
A MOTHER DEAD A DAUGHTER BORN. 163
of planks. It caused the bed to tremble. After these
events his mother died; but Jerome adds: " Of the signi-
fication of the noises I am ignorant 1 ."
Turning from death to sickness, we revert to the new
patient from whose friendship better days were to be
hoped. There was a druggist named Donato Lanza 2 ,
who had been cured by Cardan of a spitting of blood
with which he had been for many years afflicted, and
who therefore looked up to his benefactor as the most
eminent of all physicians. He having the ear of a distin-
guished senator, deep in the counsels of the emperor,
Francisco Sfondrato, of Cremona, often endeavoured to
persuade 'him that he would do well to obtain Jerome
Cardan's opinion upon the condition of his eldest son.
The boy suffered for many months from puerile con-
vulsions, and was to be counted rather among the dead
1 De Vita Propr. p. 224. The spirit-rappers of the present day are
welcome to the exact text: " Cum mater esset in extremis, experrectus,
et illucescente altius sole, videos et nihil videns XT. ictus (illos enim
numeravi) audivi, quasi aquae guttatim in pavimento cadentis, nocte
autem praecedente, circiter cxx. prope numeravi, sed dubitaveram, quod
hos a dextril sentirem, ne quis domesticorum mini anxio illuderet, ut hi
ictus non viderentur in die contigisse, nisi ut nocturnis fidem facerent.
Paulo post ictum quasi curris tabulis onusti simul se exonerantis,
supra laquearia sensi, tremente cubiculo. Mortua est ut dixi mater,
ictuum significatum ignoro."
2 De Libris Propriis (1557), pp. 123130, for the next story, and for
the two cases afterwards narrated. The account of the introduction to
Sfondrato is amplified from another narrative of the same facts in the
De Vita Prop. pp. 188192.
164 JEROME CARDAN.
than among the living, being distorted, and imbecile both
of mind and body; yet in time he did recover. Then a
younger son of the same senator was attacked in the ninth
or tenth month of his life by fever. Sfondrato's old
friend and family physician, Luca della Croce, was called
in, a very respectable man, procurator of the College of
Physicians, which inscribed also Sfondrato among its
patrons. Luca's brother Annibale had even thrown some
lustre of scholarship about the family name, by writing
Latin poems and translating Statius badly. The same
Annibale we shall presently find furnishing half a dozen
recommendatory verses to Cardan's next publication.
Luca della Croce saw the child, and promised fairly for it,
as became a well-spoken physician ; but sharp convulsions
suddenly set in, and made it fit that there should be fur-
ther advice taken and formal consultation held upon the
case. Luca proposed to summon Ambrose Cavenega, one
of the leading members of the faculty in Milan, holding
rank as imperial first physician, a man whose eminence
Jerome had acknowledged by dedicating to him, with
high compliment (little esteemed), the small tract upon
simple Medicaments added to his book on the Bad
Practice of Doctors. Sfondrato being entitled by usage
to name the third voice in the consultation, remembering
all that had been said to him by Donate Lanza, proposed
that they should meet Jerome Cardan.
A CONSULTATION OF PHYSICIANS. 165
At the second hour of the day it was summer time
the three physicians were assembled at the bedside, the
father of the patient being present. Delia Croce was
the first to express his opinion, then Cardan followed,
Cavenega being the last speaker, as the senior man.
Cardan said: i( This is a case of opisthotonos." The first
physician stared, for he had never heard the word before.
It is a word still commonly used in medicine to express
the excessive action of one class of muscles by which limbs
or body are curved backwards. Delia Croce said: " How
can you ascertain that ?" Cardan showed how the child's
head was forcibly held back, and could not be pulled
forwards into natural position. Delia Croce lauded
courteously his discernment. Said the father then to
Jerome, " You appear to know what the disease is, do
you know also how it can be remedied ?" Cardan
turned to his colleagues, and proceeded glibly to quote
aphorisms of Hippocrates concerning fever and convul-
sions. The colleagues, conscious that there could result
only loss of dignity from any words of quarrel, flattered
the unrecognised physician with some praise, and left to
him the treatment of the case. He ordered a light
milk diet, by denying the nurse meat, prescribed fomen-
tations and external application of linseed oil and lilies,
ordered the infant to be kept in a warm room and gently
rocked to sleep.
166 JEROME CARDAN.
Afterwards, when Jerome was alone beside his patient,
Sfondrato said to him : " I give you this child for a son."
Jerome was astonished. " Consider him your own," said
the senator ; " do with him as you would with your own
child. Do not concern yourself about the other doctors.
Let them be offended if they will." Cardan replied, that it
was his desire to act as their ally, and to receive assistance
from them in the case, of which the issue could be only
doubtful. His course of treatment was, however, followed,
and the child recovered in four days. The father reflected
that under the care of Delia Croce his eldest child had
lain six months uncured, and so came to the abrupt con-
clusion that Donato Lanza had with reason praised Jerome
Cardan to him as the , most skilful of the Milanese
physicians. The senator Sfondrato who became after-
wards a cardinal abided by Cardan from that time for-
ward as a good patient and a faithful patron.
Having made up his mind emphatically on the subject
of Cardan, and distinctly weighed against him Delia Croce
and Cavenega, Sfondrato began to reflect upon his friend's
position in relation to the College of Physicians. Delia
Croce was the procurator ; Cavenega had openly declared
that he could not praise merit in a man who was disowned
by the faculty ; the senator formed, therefore, at once a
strong opinion that the exclusion of Cardan from their
body by the Milanese physicians was the consequence
A NEW PATRON SFONDRATO. 167
not of his illegitimate birth, but of his dreaded superiority
of genius. Sfondrato, feeling warmly the wrong done
to the poor lecturer, narrated his own experience of
Jerome's skill to the whole senate, engaged on his behalf
the interest of the Marquis d'Avalos, and of other minis-
ters and men robed in the purple of authority. Would
the physicians remain obdurate ?
I add here one or two other examples of Cardan's
medical practice which belong to this part of his career.
Branda Scoto, brother to Ottaviano, from whose press the
Bad Practice of Doctors had issued, being, like his
brother, a familiar friend, took Jerome to see Martha
Mott, a woman of thirty, who lived in the Via Sozza.
She had been for thirteen years confined to a chair by an
ulcer in the left leg, which limb was too weak to support
her. She had also flying pains, and a general wasting of
the body. After two years, under Cardan's treatment, she
retained nothing to remind her of her disease but a limp
in walking. Twenty years afterwards she was a healthy
A tradesman, Jerome Tibbold, was induced, by what
he heard of the preceding case, to apply to Cardan for the
cure of his own cough, attended by spitting of blood and
matter. He was wasted by consumption. Under the new
doctor's care he got to all appearance well, and became
fat. The physicians said that he could not have had true
168 JEROME CARDAN.
consumption, or the man would not have recovered.
When Jerome had healed several in this way, he ventured
to write that he had cured people who suffered from con-
sumption and oppression of the breath. But as far as
concerns the consumptives, he tells us, " the physicians
spoke untruly who declared them to be afflicted by dis-
eases of another kind, and I spoke untruly in saying that
they were healed. But what I wrote was written in good
faith, for I was deceived by hope." After five years, for
example, in the case of Tibbold, Cardan explains that the
deceptive show of health broke down. Having returned
from church upon a holiday in rainy weather, he did not
change his wet clothes, but spent the entire night in
gambling. His complaint then returned upon him with a
fatal violence. He had been once apparently cured by
Cardan, once afterwards by another person, but so at last
he died of the disease. Upon close inquiry, Jerome was
informed by the widow that her husband's cough had at
no period been quite removed. Donate Lanza himself,
who had considered himself to have been cured by Cardan
of a consumption, a few weeks after he had introduced
him to Sfondrato, being sought by the authorities for some
offence, jumped out of window and fell into a fish-pond,
where he brought on himself a recurrence of his malady,
and speedy death.
Plainer acknowledgment of error could not be made,
ASSUMED CUKES OF CONSUMPTION. 169
and if Jerome afterwards, handling himself roughly as
usual, declares that an important step in his life was
determined by the lie he told about the healing of con-
sumptive patients, and that he never profited so much by
any single truth as by that falsehood 1 , he certainly shows
no decrease of candour. Yet mendacity in this instance
was one of the great charges made against poor Jerome by
his first posthumous critic of any note, Gabriel Naude 2 ,
who has been followed thoughtlessly by later writers.
Bits of truth are the basis of error. Dreadful accounts of
Cardan have been founded upon isolated passages found
in his works ; but from a scrutiny of all the statements
made by him about himself, arranged and collated with a
fair amount of care, there can result only, as this narrative,
if it be worth anything, will show, a confirmation of his
claim to be regarded as a scorner of untruth. He does
not by any means lay claim to the whole group of car-
dinal virtues, but he can see through respectability and
all its cheats. It may be as much out of the pride of an
ill-used philosopher, as out of the spirit of a Christian,
that he speaks the truth, but it is truth that he does
always speak, and nothing else. " I think," he says, " that
1 De Libris Propriis. Lib. ult. Opera, Tom. i. p. 136.
' 2 " Mendacissimum ilium fuisse deprehendi, et ab hoc vitio reliqua
demum velut e fonte promenasse, quae a nonnullis deliramenta vocan-
tur, non levibus de causis existimo." Naudaeus in the De Cardani Ju-
dicium, prefixed by him to the book De Vita Propria.
170 JEROME CARDAN.
I may call it a virtue never from my youth up to have
uttered falsehood 1 ." " Beyond all mortals," he says in
another work, " I hate a lie 2 ." And though he has him-
self confessed one boyish falsehood, and may have been
guilty of dozens while his unformed mind was grow-
ing up under corrupt influence, it is not the less consistent
with the strongest passion for truth, that Cardan should
exclaim out of the energy of manhood, " I do not remem-
ber that I ever told a lie, and, to defend my life, I would
not do it 3 ." We may accept it, therefore, as a fact, that
Jerome always speaks literal truth, and generally speaks
his mind in plain words, that are only too unguarded. He
does not use even the reservation that is necessary to pre-
serve a semblance of consistency before the crowd of casual
observers. By making known too much about himself, he
only puzzled steady men, with whom it had become a
second nature to put out of sight the variations that arise
within us all as time runs on, of memory, of mood, and of
To these considerations we must, however, add the fact
that Jerome was by no means perfect in his ethics. Every
honest man now holds that words so purposely contrived
as to be true in themselves, but false in the impression
1 De Vit. Prop. cap. xiv.
2 De Varietate Rerum, Lib. xvi. cap. 93, p. 635 (ed. Bas. 1557).
3 "Nos autem non recordamur unquam mendacium dixisse, nee
si pro vita tuenda dicendum esset, diceremus."
PLAIN SPEAKING. 171
they create, are morally identical with lies. I hold them
to be worse. A sudden lie may be sometimes only man-
slaughter upon truth, but by a carefully constructed
equivocation, truth always is with malice aforethought
deliberately murdered. The spirit of the Roman Catholic
religion in the days when Luther lived, led men to hold
a very different opinion on this matter, and Cardan, in
his ethical works, has critical chapters on simulation and
dissimulation, holding the one to be right, the other
wrong. He would disdain to speak untruth, or, indeed,
often to suggest it, but he did not think it wrong to cir-
cumvent 1 . Three centuries ago that was regarded gene-
rally as a lawful and even laudable exercise of ingenuity,
if it had any good purpose in view.
While Francisco Sfondrato was engaged actively on
his behalf in one way, Jerome was himself engaged in
another way, during the year 1538, upon labours that
might lead to an improvement of his fortunes. He was
about to make his next public appearance as an author.
The labours to which he had been stimulated by the lean
and hollow-eyed mathematician, Zuanne da Coi, had
assisted him to the completion of an elaborate, and in
many respects original work on the Practice of Arith-
metic. As it would contain many diagrams, and abound
in notes, numbers, and novelties, Jerome had determined
1 See Cardan's De Prudentia Civili, chapters 52 and 53.
172 JEROME CARDAN.
that it must on no account be printed by his friends at
Venice, the brothers Scoto 1 . It must be executed at
Milan, under his own anxious supervision. The crabbed-
ness of a handwriting loaded with calculations, lines,
and numerals, added to the ignorance or carelessness of
printers whose sheets could not be submitted to the dis-
tant author for correction, would, if he entrusted his work
to the Scoti, result in the publication of a jumble infi-
nitely more distressing to the reader than his first little
work issued from the same press, with its hundreds of
errata. Not a shadow of the original treatise would
remain ; labour, money, and the hope of fame would so at
once be thrown away. Fortunately there was a bookseller
in Milan ready to publish the Plat lecturer's arithmetical
treatise at his own expense nay, more, ready to pay him
something very little, but still something for the copy-
right. Jerome Cardan sold, therefore, to Bernardo Calus-
cho, for ten crowns 2 , his Practica Arithmetice, and it
was imprinted at Milan in the year 1539, by Joannes
Antonius Castellioneus, at the expense of the said Bar-
To this volume a portrait of its neglected author was
prefixed, surrounded by a motto, reminding the unkind
Milanese that a prophet is of no esteem in his own
1 DeLibrisPropriis(1557),p. 41.
2 De Libris Propr. Lib. ult. Opera, Tom. i. pp. 103, 104.
IN THE LONG LANE A TURNING. 173
country. As this portrait was submitted by Cardan
himself to his own townspeople in a book carefully pro-
duced, and upon the success of which he felt that much
depended, we may accept it fairly as a likeness. It is at
any rate quite clear that the artist has not been required
to mend the truth in representing the outside appearance
of the poor philosopher, and I am not disposed to think
that he has marred it 1 .
The publication of this book in 1539 formed, as will
presently be seen, the turning-point in the life of Cardan
as an author. In the same year, also, the dam suddenly
gave way by which his course as a physician had been
checked. The energetic friendship of Sfondrato had
obtained for Cardan the good-will and good offices of
another native of Cremona, Giovanni Baptista Speciario,
a magistrate in Milan. Speciario was in a position to-
commend him to the less distant friendship of a patron
before mentioned, Alphonso D'Avalos, in 1539 governor
of the province. By the influence of all these friends, but
by the protests of Sfondrato himself more especially, and
of another friend, Francisco della Croce, jurisconsult, an
honest man and good mathematician, the physicians of
Milan were compelled to sully their respectability by
welcoming into their company an ill-born scholar. Thus,
* A fac-simile of the old woodcut, reduced in size, has been placed
as a vignette upon the title-page belonging to this volume.
174 JEROME CARDAN.
in the year 1539, after twelve years of resolute exclusion,
Jerome Cardan at last came to be enrolled among the
members of the Milanese College of Physicians, and
acquired the legal right of practising for fees, or taking
office as a teacher in the university
THE BAD PRACTICE OF HEALING. 175
ARITHMETIC AND CONSOLATION.
DESIGNING in this chapter to complete and carry for-
ward the history of the first books published by Cardan,
I must go back for the purpose of adding a few facts to
the account already given of his earliest printed work.
Its full title is " The Tract of Girelamo Castellione Car-
dano, Physician of Milan, on the Bad Practice of Heal-
ing among recent Physicians ; to the Illustrious Master
Filippo Archinto, Jurisconsult, Imperial Councillor and
Governor of the Maternal City of Rome.
" The Tract of the same Author on the Hurt that is in
Simple Medicaments. With an Index of those things
which are contained in the several Chapters 1 ." Ottaviano
Scoto's mark, which follows, surrounded by a Fame, is
contained between the words of the motto : " Famam
extendere factis, virtutis est opus." Then follow the place
and date of publication, Venice, 1536. Only one edition
" Hieronymus Castellioneus Cardanus de Malo recentiorum me-
dicomm Medendi Usu Libellus, ud Illustrem Virum D. Philippum
Archintum juris-consultus consiliarumq ; Caesureumq ; ac Almae Urbis
Romae Gubernatorem. Ejusdem libellus de simplicium medicina-
rum noxa. Cum Indice eorum quae singulis continentur capitibus."
176 JEROME CARDAN.
of this work was printed, Jerome having refused, for
reasons before stated, to sanction a re-issue. It is a little
square book, closely printed, and containing in all a hun-
dred and ten pages. The main work is dedicated to
Archinto ; but this dedication contains also a compliment
to the physician Ambrose Cavenega, who is excepted
from the author's general criticism of the physicians of his
time, " for," he says, " the things which give most autho-
rity to a physician in these times, are habits, attendants,
carriage, character of clothes, cunning, suppleness, a sort
of artificial, namby-pamby way ; nothing seems to depend
on learning or experience." It would be well if this
criticism had quite ceased to be applicable. It did not
lose its force for at least two hundred and fifty years, and
is in our own day only beginning to grow obsolete.
The dedication of his little volume to Archinto, Jerome
thus explains: " When I saw that you were foremost in
wit, memory, variety of studies, genius, and authority, I
judged you to be the best person to whom I could inscribe
my first so salutary labours ; I was also bound to dedicate
them to you by the several employments I have obtained
through you in the state; and at the same time invited
by your virtues."
The little tract on Simples, occupying the last few
pages of the book, is dedicated, as before stated, briefly as
possible, to "Ambrose Cavenega, the most excellent doctor
of arts and medicine, the most worthy ducal physician."
HOW PHYSICIANS THROVE. 177
Passing over the ten pages of Judicial Astrology, pub-
lished by Jerome on his own account, we come to the
Practice of Arithmetic, published in 1539 by Bernardo
Caluscho. The book is entitled 1 " The Practice of Arith-
metic and Simple Mensuration. By Jerome C. Cardan,
Physician of Milan ; in which whatever else is con-
tained will be shown on the next page." There are pre-
fixed to it half a dozen lines of alternate hexameter and
pentameter, supplied by the Latin poet Annibale della
Croce, brother of the Doctor Luca before mentioned.
The lines 3 , literally translated, are to the following effect:
" Many are the uses of numbers, the discriminations of
parts, and you may read about them in a thousand
volumes. In a little, easy, learned, well- digested book,
the sedulous care of Cardan gives them to you here.
Read it presently, and you will say that you owe as much
to that small book as to the thousand volumes." The
book is dedicated by Jerome with the best feeling to his
early Milanese friend and patron, the Father in Christ
Prior Francesco Gaddi, and in the course of the dedi-
1 "Hieronimi C. Cardani Practica Arithmetice, et Mensurandi Sin-
gularis. In qua que prater alias continentur, versa pagina demonstra-
bit." Mediol. 1539.
2 " Multiplices numerorum usus, discrimina parteis.
Queque voluminibus mille legenda tenes.
Exiguo, facili, docto digesta libello.
Hie tibi Cardani sedula cura dabit.
Perlege mox, isti tantum debere libello.
Te dices, quantum mille voluminibus."
VOL. I. N
178 JEROME CARDAN.
cation, looking back to his first luckless venture, the poor
author tells how he had been cherishing a " wish among
many occupations to have so much leisure as to write a
work that could be fairly blamed by none."
Before the index of chapters, there is given in this
volume a list of twenty-five new points laid down in the
course of the treatise; but as we shall find that a second
and maturer work on Arithmetic and Mathematics was
published at a somewhat later date, it will be more con-
venient to postpone for the present what has to be said
concerning the claims of Cardan to respect as a great
mathematician. It will suffice here briefly to indicate the
nature of the book published by Caluscho, and to dwell
only upon a certain page or two of characteristic stuff
appended to it which belongs immediately to the thread of
this narrative, inasmuch as it in fact led to the next
great event in Jerome's literary life, and carries on the
story from the point reached at the close of the preceding
Cardan's Practice of Arithmetic is divided into sixty-
eight chapters. The first states the subjects to be dis-
cussed ; the second treats generally of the seven operations
of arithmetic ; the next four treat of the first of those
operations, numeration, as it concerns integers, fractions,
surds, and denominations (cubes, figures, &c.) respec-
tively. Four chapters follow devoted in the same way,
A TREATISE ON ARITHMETIC. 179
one to the treatment of each of the four subjects of calcu-
lation by the next of the seven operations, aggregation
or addition ; the four next are occupied, of course, by de-
traction or subtraction; the four next by multiplication;
and the next four by division, as applied to integers,
surds, fractions, and denominations. The four next
chapters treat of the extraction of roots; and the next
four of progression. The seven elementary operations of
arithmetic are thus discussed in thirty chapters. The
thirty-first chapter treats of the application of the seven
operations to calculations in which there are combined
both integers and fractions; the succeeding chapters treat
in the same way successively of the seven operations as
applied to combinations of integers and surds, integers
and denominations, fractions^and denominations, fractions
and surds, surds and denominations. The thirty-seventh
chapter treats of the seven operations as applied to pro-
portion, and of the logical difference between multiplica-
tion and division on the one side, and aggregation and
detraction on the other. The thirty-eighth chapter dis-
cusses astronomical operations ; the next, multiplication by
memory; the next is a clever dissertation on the kalends,
nones, ides, cycles, golden numbers, epact, dominical
letter, places of the sun and moon and moveable feasts,
with rules for easy mental calculation of most questions
arising out of details of the almanac. The forty-first
180 JEROME CARDAN.
chapter treats of the value of money; the forty-second
treats of mirific numbers, that is to say, of remarkable
properties of numbers, natural but strange. The next
chapter passes on to the supernatural, and treats of the
mystic properties of numbers. Then follows a chapter on
irrational quantities; and then Jerome comes to the dis-
cussion of the rule of three, which he characterises as the
key of commerce " clavis mercatorum." The next
chapter is upon the rule of six, our double rule of three ;
the chapter following compares the two processes. The
treatise then passes in the forty-eighth chapter to the first
simple rules of algebra, and travels on to higher mathe-
matical discussions, closing with chapters upon house-
rent, letters of credit and exchange, income, interest,
profit and loss, games of chance. It then comes to super-
ficial mensuration, and the measuring of solids ; passes on
to the practical details of weights and measures, and
closes with an exposition of certain errors in the works of
Luca de Borgo, and a Long list of cunningly-devised
questions in arithmetic and geometry, calculated to put to
a severe test the student's practical acquaintance with the
rules and reasons laid down in the book.
While this treatise was at the printer's and nearly a
year seems to have been spent in the printing the
unhappy author was still struggling against contempt and
poverty in Milan. Anxious to work a way out of his
JEROME'S APPEAL TO THE WORLD. 181
obscure position, and to make some approach towards the
N fame for which he longed, for he was thirty- seven years old
and still unrecognised, Cardan proposed to bind up with
liis second venture as a public author a notice, which was
in effect, though not in form, an appeal from his own
countrymen to scholars in all quarters of the world. He
trusted that the merit of his book, unquestionably very
great, would recommend him to men at a distance.
Among them, perhaps, when they saw by the motto
round his portrait that he was in no esteem at home, and
read in the concluding notification how many and divers
books that he had written were still left unprinted in his
study, there might be one or two who would desire to
bring his genius more fully out into the light, and who,
for the love of knowledge, would extend to him a helping
hand. The notification was of a legal kind, and it is to
be found printed in black letter at the end of the first edi"
tion of the Practice of Arithmetic. In many parts it is
curious, as illustrating not only Jerome's anxiety to
escape from the cold and hungry state of a neglected
scholar, but also the law of copyright in those days, the
small money value set by Cardan on his writings, and the
care taken by the Church to provide a censorship which
did in fact render impossible the publication of a good
many philosophical works. It of course prevented the
world at large from being edified or shocked by the
182 JEROME CARDAN.
Life of Christ that was completed in 1539 3 after having
been three years in progress. That book was never pub-
lished; but though not to be read it was abundantly
abused by controversialists, who were much scandalised at
the one fact of which they were informed by its author,
that it set out with an astrological nativity. The notifi-
cation added to the Practice of Arithmetic was to the
" Charles the Fifth, Roman Emperor, Ever August,
&c. Inasmuch as we have considered the petition of
Girolamo Castellione Cardano, Physician of Milan, most
faithful servant of the most unconquered Emperor, saying
that he has prepared the under-mentioned works in divers
faculties to be imprinted in succession according to his
convenience, of which two little works have already seen
the light; and that he might not be compelled to seek
imperial privilege as often as he might have one such
work to publish, therefore for the works named below
existing in his possession, of which some have already
been printed, he desires to obtain an universal privilege :
We acquiesce in his humble supplication, and require by
these letters that fit and needful help shall be afforded
him to prevent any one from printing one of the works
named below, or introducing such a work elsewhere
printed into any part of the Duchy of Milan, or from
committing any fraud against any such work until ten
years after the date of its first publication, under the
accustomed penalties according to the imperial pleasure.
Of which works the list now follows. (Here follows the
list of Jerome's unpublished writings upon divers sub-
jects, thirty-four in number.) In addition to those two
which have already been printed : one on the Bad Prac-
tice of Healing, and one on the Hurtfulness of Simples.
" For the pleasure or profit of professors of those sciences
whereof the above works treat: We concede that they
may cause them to be printed either together or in part ;
except, firstly, that one which treats of the Arcana of
Eternity ; secondly, that on Death, which is said to con-
tain three books ; thirdly, that on Fate ; fourthly, that on
the Life of our Lord Jesus Christ, also contained in three
books : of which we require that they shall first be laid
before our senate, that it may be seen whether they are fit
" Furthermore, we forbid that any man within this our
state of Milan shall within ten years print, or cause to be
printed, the above works, or any of them, or bring them,
or cause them to be brought, from other places into the
said state, or have them for sale, against the consent of
their author. The penalty for contravention of this our
decree shall be ten scudi for each volume of the said
works : of which half shall be paid to the author himself,
but the remaining half shall be divided between our
184 JEROME CARDAN.
exchequer and the informer. This we assure by the
present document, which we have commanded to be au-
thenticated by the impression of our seal. Given at
Milan, June 25, 1538."
The year 1539, in which Jerome broke through the
barrier opposed to his career by the Milanese College of
Physicians, and also published his Practice of Arithmetic,
which made an easy way for him ever thereafter into the
long-sought Paradise of Print, ought to have been foretold
to him as a bright year by the stars, if Jupiter had been
indeed a conjuror, and Venus had had any right to be
regarded as a gipsy. According to his own horoscope,
however, Jerome in that year was not very far from death,
nor was the world likely to lose much at his decease, if
Cheiromancy spoke the truth in calling him a dunce. His
head, however, confuted the testimony of his hand. The
Practice of Arithmetic, finding its way both into France
and Germany, commended its author to the respect of
many strangers, and the notification at the end happily
produced in one quarter the right effect. To the neglected
scholar of Milan there was sent from Nuremberg the offer
of Joannes Petreius to print any work which he might be
disposed to entrust to him for publication. The offer was
transmitted by a learned man of the same town, Andreas
Osiander, who undertook to watch through the press, and
take careful charge, as local editor, of any work written
A FFJEND AMONG SCHOLAKS OSIANDER. 185
by the most learned Cardan, and printed by Petreius.
" That," says Jerome, " was the beginning of my fame ;
of whatever glory I have earned that was the origin 1 ."
Osiander was a Lutheran theologian, not very ortho-
dox of his kind, whose name in the vulgar world was
Hosemann, as one who may have had an ancestor distin-
guished for his early assumption of a garment mentionable
perhaps in Latin quasi vir braccatus. He was a man ten
years older than Cardan ; and having said so much, I may
add, that he did not remain to the end of his life at
Nuremberg, but spent the last three years of it in
Prussia, where he enjoyed court favour as a theologian,
and that he died long before Cardan, at the age of sixty-
two. He had commenced his public career at Nuremberg
as lecturer on Hebrew among the Augustin monks, whose
company he had left to preach the new doctrines of Luther.
His was the first Lutheran sermon preached in that town,
1 Speaking of the Practice of Arithmetic for which Caluscho gave him
the ten crowns, he says : " Nee si non impressus fuisset nostra monu-
menta invenissent Typographum : continue enim, eo opere impresso,
csepenint omnia commutari. Nam adjeceram Catalogum qualemcun-
que librorum nostrorum, quos vel scripseram, vel caeperam scribere: et
liberis distrahi caepit in Galliis atque Germaniis. Itaque cum tune
esset Andreas Osiander Norimbergae, vir Latinae, Graecae, Hebraicaeque
Iingua9 peritus, turn typographus Joan. Petreius, bonis literis, si quis
alius favens, inito consilio totis viribus mecum agere caeperunt, ut
aliquid opus illis traderem ut imprimerent. Atque ita initium gloriac
nostrae, si qua deinceps fuit, hinc ortum habuit." De Libris Propriis-
Lib. ult. Opera, Tom. i. p. 104. The same authority covers the ac-
count of the rest of this transaction.
186 JEROME CAEDAN.
but as he continued to think for himself, he at last gave
not less offence to the orthodoxy of the Lutherans than of
the Catholics, and lived a life much clouded by contro-
versy, in which he appears to have shown no lack of the
usual bitterness and pride. He was well versed in
Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, had an inquiring mind, and
a decided leaning to philosophy. He was a good mathe-
matician, and, in 1543, the literary spirit which induced
his offer to Cardan, caused him to edit, for the first time
in Nuremberg, the Astronomy of Copernicus, Petreius
printing it 1 .
To the request of his new friends at Nuremberg,
Jerome replied by sending them an enlarged copy of the
tract on Judicial Astrology, which he had published im-
perfectly, and with too much curtailment, in Milan, at his
own expense. Having sent that to be published at
Nuremberg, he forwarded nothing else, for a short time, to
Osiander and Petreius, for it will be remembered that the
Scoti, of Venice, were his friends, and having profited by
his first work, they were quite ready to print for him
again. Having no friend in Venice competent to correct
for him the proofs of any abstruse work, and being greatly
i Christoph. Saxi Onomasticon Literarium, Tom. iii. p. 165. Zedler's
Universal Lexicon aller Wissenschaften und Kiinste. Bd. 25. In
which last work, under the name of Andreas Osiander, the elder, fur-
ther details may be found. One of Osiander's works had a curious
bearing on the character and spirit of his time ; it was entitled, " How
far is a Christian justified in flying from the Plague?"
OSIANDER AND PETREIUS THE SCOTI. 187
annoyed at the mass of printer's errors in his early treatise,
Cardan refused to put his fame in peril by entrusting to
his friends any work that contained technical terms and
figures. There was no reason, however, why they should
not print his Books on Consolation, since there was in
them nothing but plain, every-day Latin. Those books,
forming the next volume issued by Cardan, were there-
fore first printed at Venice, and then published as a re-
print by Petreius of Nuremberg 1 . This volume, however,
was not published until the year 1542 ; and before more
is said of it, the two or three preceding years of its
author's literary life should be accounted for.
It should have been said, that in or before the year
1538, Jerome saw in a dream a book painted in three
colours red, green, and gold ; he admired greatly its
beauty, but he admired still more its contents. From
that dream he obtained the first idea of his work on the
Variety of Things, published years afterwards, and then
commenced 2 . He wrote in that year on Things Above
the rainbow, hail, earthquakes, lightning, &c., and what
he wrote was copied out for him by Lodovico Ferrari 3 ,
then residing with him in his house. In the same year he
began to write a description of a famous astronomical in-
i De Libr. Propr. Lib. ult. Op. Tom. i. p. 103.
- Ibid. p. 102. De Lib. Prop. (ed. 1557) p. 28.
3 De Sapientia, &c. p. 428. The same reference provides authority
for the rest of the facts stated in this paragraph.
188 JEROME CARDAN.
strument showing celestial movements, which having been
bought formerly at a high price from the maker by a duke
of Milan, had then been taken to pieces, and, after great
trouble and discussion, put together again by lanello, of
Cremona. As Cardan could not have the instrument at
home with him, he grew tired of that work. In 1539
Jerome finished his three books on the Life of Christ, and
arranged two or three books of Letters. The whole of
the next year was spent in the revision and emendation
of his former writings, one of which, that on Consolation,
written in 1537, he prepared next for the press. In 1541,
admonished by a dream, he began to work earnestly at
Greek literature, and wrote upon the Immortality of the
" Girolamo Castellione Cardano of Milan his Three
Books on Consolation," published at Venice in 1542 1 by
one of the brothers Scoto (Girolamo), formed a neat little
volume of two hundred and sixty-four pages 2 ; and had as
emblems on the title-page a Peace instead of a Fame
riding the globe, with the motto, Fiat Pax in virtute tua
Let Peace come of your virtue. There is a great deal of
wisdom in the matter, and of wit in the manner of all
1 Hieronymi Cardani Castellionei Mediolanensis De Consolatione
Libri Tres. Venetiis, apud Hieronymum Scotum, 1542.
2 One hundred and thirty-two, as figured ; the two pages of a book
that face each other being accounted one in this as in many other
volumes of the time.
JEROME AS MORALIST. 189
Cardan's ethical writings. Though he did not soar far
above his neighbours in Latinity, he excelled most in the
sterling qualities of mind expressed through the usual
barbarous medium, and by force of genius even his six-
teenth century Latin is not seldom compelled into phrases
terse and inimitable in their way. The Books on Conso-
lation were intended in the writing to console their author
under bitter disappointments during his first struggles
with an adverse world. " The work was called at first,"
he says, " the Book of the Accuser, because it contended
against the vain passions and false persuasions of mankind :
afterwards its name was changed, and it was divided into
three books, inscribed as Consolation, because it appeared
that there was a far greater number of unfortunate men
needing consolation, than of fortunate in need of blame 1 ."
This passage shows the spirit in which Jerome wrote, how
far it was removed from bitterness. He treats in succes-
sion of those events which are regarded commonly as the
great ills of life, offering upon each many such comments
as Epictetus would have heartily commended, fortifying
his case with apt illustrations and a great many classical
examples, adopting sometimes the language of a Christian,
1 " Fuerat autem ab initio ejus nomen Accusatoris, ut qui vanos
hominum affectus, atque falsas argueret persuasiones : at post mutato
nomine, et in tres libellos diviso, de Consolatione eum inscripsimus,
quod longe magis infaelices consolatione, quani fortunati reprehensione,
indigere viderentur." Op. cit. p. 3.
190 JEROME CAKDAN.
and whether writing in the vein of the old Roman Forum,
or the modern Roman Church, always enforcing the
opinion, common equally to philosophic heathens and to
Christians, that happiness and peace lie not in the world
without but in the mind within, and that content is only
possible to virtue. This work Jerome dedicates to no one
person, because no man would wish it to be published
that he is in need of consolation 1 . " It seems," he says
very shrewdly, " to be in the grain of men to think them-
selves more miserable, and to wish to be thought happier
by others than they really are."
The gain made by the Scoti on the publication of the
" Bad Practice of Healing," was neutralised by loss upon
this second undertaking 3 . The title of the book, Cardan
thinks, was not liked, nor, perhaps, was the style attrac-
tive ; and again, the volume was disfigured by the printer
with a great number of the vilest blunders. So far as tem-
porary popularity was concerned, the book was very na-
turally less successful than its predecessor. One touched on
1 Namque illud natura omnibus insitum mortalibus videtur, ut se
miseriores quam sint existiment, faeliciores vero videri cupiant," Op.
cit. p. 2.
2 After its publication, he writes that Ottaviano held his books in
dread: "Neque enim, ut dixi, Octavianus sponte libros meos, neque
libenter imprimebat, jacturam veritus impensse: nam tametsi lucrum
fecisset in librorum de Malo Medendi Usu impressione, id tamen in
libris de Consolatione postea compensavit: non solum quod titulus et
forsan etiam stylus non arrideret, sed quod Typographus ipse innu-
meros atque turpissimos errores imprimendo commisisset." De Lib.
Prop. (1557) p. 40.
" CARDANUS COMFORTE." 191
the material interests of a class, stirred passion, was warmly
talked about, and quickly bought ; the other touched on
the moral interests of mankind generally, was written to
allay passion, was coldly talked about, and bought with
more deliberation. It was reprinted by Petreius at Nu-
remberg 1 , and grew in credit ; it was a capital of fame
put out to interest, of which instalments were paid ever
after punctually year by year. The little volume came
by slow degrees to be accepted as a standard work of its
own time, was translated into sundry languages, and
twice into our own. The first English translation,
entitled Cardanus Comforte 2 , was' made while Cardan
still was living, thirty years after the publication of the
book at Venice. The very brief specimen that can be
here given of Jerome's style as an essayist and moralist,
I think it best to quote from this contemporary version.
It was made by " Thomas Bedingfeld, Esquyer, one of
her Maiesties gentlemen pentioners" her Majesty being
Queen Elizabeth and it was both made at the request
and published at the command of the Earl of Oxford
" Sure I am," said Bedingfeld, " it would have better
In 1544, together with the books subsequently written, De Sa-
pientiu, and the first of the three books De Libris Suis, then first
2 " Cardanus Comforte translated into Englishe. And published by
commaundementof the Right Honourable the Earle of Oxenford. Anno
Domini, 1573. Imprinted at London in Eleete Streate, near to S. Dun-
stone's Churche, by Thomas Marshe." Without pagination.
192 JEROME CARDAN.
beseemed me to have taken this travaile in some discourse
of armes (being your lordship's chiefe profession and mine
also), then in philosopher's skill to have thus busied
myselfe : yet sith your pleasure was such, and your know-
ledge in eyther great, I do (as I will ever) most willingly
obeye you." But in his modesty he begged of the earl
so far to keep his labour secret as " either not to make
any partakers thereof, or at the leastwise those, whoe for
reuerence to your lordship or loue to mee, will willingly
beare with mine errors," &c. &c. To this request the
earl replied in an elaborate epistle. ' ' After I had perused
youre letters good Maister Bedingfeld, finding in them
your request farre differing from the desert of your labour,
I could not chose but greatly doubt, whether it were
better for me to yelde you your desyre,' ; &c. &c. In
fine, he determined to print the book, and bade Bedingfeld
be proud rather than ashamed of it, inasmuch as it dis-
played a kind of gift that " ornifyeth a gentleman." His
lordship also called in " Thomas Churchyarde, gentleman,"
to introduce Cardanus Comforte to the English public
with the proper flourish of commendatory verse. Church-
yarde first scolded in prose the expected readers of the
volume, who, he said, must not go to sleep " and loose
but labour with slobberinge handes or head to blot or
blemish the beauty of this booke." He then put on his
singing robes, and invited them to come for consolation
to Cardan in proper form ; as for example thus :
COURTEOUSLY INTRODUCED. 193
"You troubled mindes with torments tost that sighes and sobs con-
(Who breathes and puflfes from burning breast both sraothring smoke
Come reade this booke that freely bringes, a box of balme full swete
An oyl to noynt the brused partes, of everye heavye spriete,"
I propose to quote from Cardan's work, as Bedingfeld
translated it, only the opening and closing paragraphs.
They will suffice to convey a very fair impression of the
style and temper of the poor philosopher who was so
rude and hasty in his speech, yet at the same time always
so deliberate and gentle in his writings. The opening
sentences remind us of the fact that, not long before the
writing of this work was commenced, Jerome had occu-
pied himself in reading word by word the whole of the
extant works of Cicero. Thus he begins :
" Amonge such and so manye auncient monuments as
perished in y e Barbarian warres : would God that at least
Marcus Tullius bokes of com forte, written at the deathe
of his daughter, had been tyll this day preserued. For
as in all other matters hee declared himselfe more then a
man, so may it be thought that herein he had written
most excellently : the matter being neyther common,
fayned or touchinge others, but procedinge from his
own naturall affection and extreme perturbation of myndc.
And suche is the condicion and qualitie of cornfortinge, as
al be it no persuation or eloquence were there in used, yet
VOL. I. O
194 JEROME CARDAN.
wanteth it not reason and sufficiente proofe to trye it-
selfe 1 : wherein so excellente, wise, and eloquente a man
as Marcus Tullius having travailed : it muste be presumed
he framed a worke not only worthy prayse, but also aboue
"And albeit those auncient warres have among many
other noble workes depriued us of so learned a boke, yet
haue we thought mete to entreate thereof (not " [only]
" because it is so praisable as amisse it cannot be praysed),
but also so necessary " [that] " (as in all thinges whiche of
necessitie must be had) better it is to haue any than none
at al. For example we see, that houses are nedefull, such
as can not possesse y stately pallaces of stone, do per-
suade themselves to dwell in houses of timber and clay,
and wanting theim, are contented to inhabite the simple
cotage ; yea rather than not to be housed at all refuse
not the. pore cabbon, and most beggerly caue. For in
these things better it is to have the worst than none at
all. So necessarie is this gifte of consolacion, as there
liueth no man, but that hathe cause to embrace it 2 . And
wel we see ther is none aliue that in every respect may be
accompted happie, yea though mortall men were free
1 "Et se tamen locupletissimam materiam suggerat." It would
suggest by itself the richest matter.
2 I have not altered Master Bedingfeld's translation, which fits ad-
mirably to the text ; but as he had spoilt this passage so far by the
transposition of three sentences, I have restored them to their proper
from all calamities, yet the torments and feare of death
should stil offend them. But besides them, behold, what,
and how manye euilles there bee, that unlesse the cloude
of error be remoued, impossible it is to see the truth, or
receiue allay of our earthly woes."
After treating in succession of those ills of life most
commonly deplored, enriching his text with much shrewd
wit, with a great deal of anecdote, and with the proper
store of classical quotations and allusions, arguing also
sometimes out of a firm belief in curiously false opinions
current among men of science in those days, Jerome thus
draws his work of consolation to a close. He has through-
out taught that the best safeguard against tribulation is to
have a clean heart and a busy hand. Urging that fact
again emphatically, he passes from the last of human
sorrows, death, and ends by leaving man secure from
further need of consolation, in enjoyment of that peace
which is to be found only beyond the grave. Thus
Jerome wrote about Calamity and thoroughly meant
what he wrote at a time when he himself was bearing
" Wherefore to bear everythinge resolutely, is not only
the parte of a wise man, but also of a man wel aduised,
seinge there is nothing in this life that may iustly be said
to be against us. Therefore Homerus fayned Aten the
Goddes of Calamitye to be barefooted, as one that could
196 JEROME CARDAN.
not toucli anything sharpe or hard, but walked lightly
upon the heades of mortall men.
" Meaninge that Calamitye durst not come nere anye,
but such as were of base minde, simple, and subjecte to
effeminacy. But among such as were valiant and armed
with vertue, shee durst not come. Wherefore lift up thy
mynde to Heaven where an everlastinge and most plea-
saunt life is prepared for thee. Men in this worlde are
lyke trees 1 , some slender, some great, some florishing,
some bearing frute, some witheringe, some growinge,
some bio wen downe, and some frutefull, which in one
harueste time are brought togeathers and laide uppon one
stacke. Neither is there afterwards sene any difference
among them, what they be or haue bene, al at one time
be cut downe neuer more to growe agayne. Even so al
pryde, ambicion, ryches, authoritye, children, frendes,
and glory doe in shorte space grow olde and perishe,
neither dothe it make matter whether thou were Irus
or vile Galba, Antaxerses or noble Hercules. Onelye
honestye and vertue of mynde doth make a man happy,
and onely a cowerdlie and corrupt conscience do cause
1 Cardan's image was taken from the bean-fields; but the translator
thinking it a mean thing to compare men to beans, wrote trees, and
took away the beauty of the image, substituting the odd notion of trees
harvested together, and all laid upon one stack. Tims the passage
runs: " Homines enim in hoc mundo ut fabse sunt, aliao enim pusillae,
aliae magnae, aliee florent, alias fructibus conspicuae, alias aridoe, alias
luxuriantes, aliae exiles, fruticosae alife: omnes tameu unus autumnus
quam brevi in inanes stipulas redigit." De Consol. p. 131.
THE BAREFOOTED GODDESS. 197
thine unhappines. Because the worste that the good man
can feare, is the best that the evyll can wishe for : whiche
is the destruction of the soule in death. But as he ought
not to hope thereof, so should not the other feare it.
For God the eternal father hath sent us into this worlde
as children and heyres of hys kingdome, and secretly
beholdeth how we fighte and defend our selves, against
our sences, the world and the Devyll. And who so in
this battell, valyantly fighteth, shal bee called and placed
among the Prynces of heauenlye kingedome. And who
so slothfully or cowerdly behaueth himself, as a slave in
featres shall for evermore be bounde.
" This worldly stage was purposely prepared, that God
the father might secretlye beholde us. Such foolishe
children then, as in his sighte wantonlye, slouthfully, and
sediciouslye lyve, shoulde they not thinke he doth be-
holde them. When so ever therefore thou haste taken
that last leaue of Life 1 , thy soule like unto a lover
embracinge his death, shall enjoy e that sweteness and
security, whyche we can neither wryte of nor conceive.
For sith these worldlye lovers (amongest whom be many
1 In Cardan's words the succeeding image is expressed more strongly
than by the translator. " Cum itaque stremum agonem anima supe-
raverit, tarn quam amans amanti copulata, ea dulcedine ac securitate
fruitur, quam nee scribere, nee cogitare possumus," &c. p. 132. To the
brief account of Cardan's books on Consolation given in the text, it
will perhaps be well specially to add, that although in some parts
occupying the same ground, they do not resemble, or equal, the five
books of Boethius on the Consolations of Philosophy.
198 JEROME CARDAN.
mislykings without assurance or eternity) can scarcely
expresse their joyes in loue: Happy, yea thrise happy is
this heauenly lover, who forgettinge all others, wythe his
one love is united. For within this kingdom he loveth
and liueth in the sight of him, that can do all thinges, and
therefore lyke a good sonne to his father is ever readye
to do his pleasure."
So wrote the first among the atheists of the second
BAD READING BY STARLIGHT. 199
THE WOLF AT THE BOOK.
JEROME certainly was not living a brilliant life before
the world when his three books of Consolation were first
issued to the public. After the events of the year 1539
he began to breathe; but it was not until four years
afterwards that he experienced any real change of for-
tune. The stars were supposed to have predicted that
his death would take place before he reached the age of
forty, certainly before he should attain to the full age of
forty-five; "but," says Cardan, "it was when I ought to
have died that I began really to live 1 ." The error lay of
course, however, not with the stars, but with the imper-
fect readers of their language.
At that time which should have been the close of his
1 '" Et astrologiae cognitio quam tune liabebam, et ut mini videbatur
et omnes aiebant, me non excessurum xl. vitae annum, certc non ad
xlv. perventurum multum obfuit. Ego interim partim necessitate,
partim ofierentibus se voluptatibus quotidie, cum recte vivere delibe-
rarern, dclinquebam. Negligens ob malam spem res ipsas : in deli-
berando aberrabam, et frequentius in opere peccabam. Donee eo ven-
tum est, ut qui finis vitae futurus credebatur, viveudi initium fecerit,
xliii. scilicet annus." De Vit. Prop. p. 44.
200 JEROME CARDAN.
life, the house he occupied belonged to his mother, who
lived with him; it was a house near the church of St.
Michael. He earned very little indeed as a physician,
but something as an almanac-maker something by the
sale of astrological opinions; a little help he had occasion-
ally from his friend Archinto, and a friend who be-
longed to the household probably paid her way in it as
a lodger 1 . With these resources and the Plat lecture-
ship he kept house as he could. There was the resource
also of the gambling-table.
Though the Milanese College of Physicians so far
honoured the recommendations made in favour of Cardan,
that already in the year 1541 we find him in office as its
rector 2 , it does not appear that Jerome troubled himself
much to acquire a social standing that consisted with his
newly-acquired privileges. In that year, 1541, he was
scarcely practising at all ; his energies were all spent upon
Greek and gambling. Neither in that year, nor in the
year preceding, had he worked much with his pen. In
1540 he had found leisure as an author for no more than
the correction of his previous books. In 1541 he wrote
1 De VitaPropria, cap. xxv. p. 95, for the preceding.
3 He states the fact incidentally in the history of a case attended by
him in that year. De Vit. Prop. cap. xxx. The servant of a Genoese
colonel came from Switzerland, where he had slept between two men
who subsequently died of plague, and had himself taken the infection.
Cardan found him not dead, but apparently so, and the colonel urged
that he should at once be carried to the dead-house. Cardan would
not permit that. The man recovered.
WORK AND WANT. 201
something about the Consolation of Lovers and the Ira-
mortality of the Soul. At Greek he did work. In the
last-named year, being admonished by a dream, he betook
himself to the study of that language with so much
earnestness of purpose, that the smattering which he had
begun to acquire six years before, and beyond which he
had not passed, was in four months enlarged into a con-
siderable acquaintance with the language; he became
able to understand it so well that he might read for hours
without being checked by any difficulty, and spent time
in writing Greek, not, he says, as a sign of scholarship,
but of the energy with which he studied 1 .
During these years, 1540 and 1541, and during the
first part of the year 1542, Jerome allowed all other work
to fall into neglect, because the Fates had sent to him a
golden goose 2 . Antonio Vicomercato, a patrician of
Milan, was inclined to amuse himself daily with the poor
mathematician and physician over the dice-table, very
well content to lose. Cardan of course was alike glad to
play at dice, and glad to win. He went to Antonio's
house daily, and stopped .often the whole day; they
played for from one to three or four reals a game, and as
1 "Non enim veteranus, sed tyro militabat, turn maxime
existens. Express! ibi vim non eruditionem." De Sapientia, &c.
pp. 429, 430. The reference substantiates the account given in the text
of Cardan's literary work in the years 1540 41.
2 All that relates to Vicomercato will be found in the 38th chapter
of the book De Vita Propria.
202 JEKOME CARDAN.
Jerome always rose a winner, he was al>le to take home
about a gold piece daily, sometimes more and sometimes
less. For two years and some months almost all other
sources of income dried away from him, while he culti-
vated this. His credit sank; even pen, ink, and paper
With money so earned, or with money however earned,
in the midst of his poverty he was improvident. He
enjoyed musical evenings, and music, as he said, led to
unprofitable company. The taste of the period was for
part-singing, and it was not easy to collect four or five
men who could sing readily together, and who could
think and feel together also. If he had musical com-
panions to his house they cost him heavily for suppers,
and corrupted the minds of his children. For most
singers, he said and I suspect that he could not easily
libel the good table-companions of the sixteenth century
most singers are drunken, gluttonous, impudent, un-
settled, impatient, stolid, inert, ready for every kind of
lust. The best men of that sort are fools 1 . Upon such
men, despising them but relishing their music, Cardan
squandered a good deal of his money.
One day, at the end of August (1542), Vicomercato
announced a sudden change in his own life, and he was
not to be satisfied unless Cardan would swear as he did
1 De Util. 6x Adv. Cap. Opera, Tom. ii. p. 1 17.
VICOMERCATO, OR THE GOLDEN GOOSE. 203
swear by all the gods never to come to him again for
the purpose of dice-playing. Jerome took wholly to
study, but his golden goose was dead, and his penury was
sudden and extreme. He had neglected all legitimate
resources. We can scarcely doubt the object of the trip
to Florence which immediately followed, since we are told
that he went to join the free-handed Marquis d'Avalos.
D'Avalos, Marquis del Guasto, was always even more
ready to give than Cardan to take; he offered in the
course of his intercourse with the philosopher, by whom
he had been courted, more than Jerome thought it
proper to receive, but he had received from D'Avalos
some help, and that not inconsiderable 1 . On his way
home he visited his patron Sfondrato, who was then Go-
vernor of Sienna. Then he came back to Milan, fortune
frowning 2 .
While matters were in this state with Cardan, fortune
was, as usual, frowning upon Italy, and the distracting
wars of which the traces lie about this narrative, as they
must leave marks on the life of almost every man who
1 " Sua ecccllentia e di prima di Millano di dottrina, ed il Marchese
dal Vasto gli ha dato una gran prorisione per la sua sofficientia," said
Cardan's agent to Tartaglia in 1539. Quesiti et Inventione diverse,
p. 116. This will be discussed in the next chapter. See also De Vita
Propria, cap. iv.
2 De Libris Propriis. Liber ultimus. Opera, Tom. i. p. 106.
204 JEROME CAKDAN.
worked in that most miserable age, compelled a removal to
Milan of the University of Pavia 1 . As the same wars
crippled the university funds, and the professors could
not get their salaries, very few of them thought it worth
their while to come to Milan with their chairs; many
chairs, therefore, were vacant, and among them that of
Medicine, which was again offered by the senate to
Cardan 2 . He had before refused it, because he did not
think the salary secure ; when, however, the office was
brought home to his own door, at which the wolf was sit-
ting all day long, the poor philosopher thought very
wisely, that even to have money owing to him would
beget a financial state much more respectable than hope-
less want; there was also a decided gain of respectability
in point of position. The Plat lectureship only required
his services on holidays, and was no introduction to a re-
gular professor's chair. As for his duties to the University
of Pavia, while its lectures were delivered at Milan they
would not take him far out of his way, or require the
abandonment of any of his home resources. He could
cultivate his practice, indeed, all the more easily for hold-
ing rank in his own town as a Professor of Medicine as
well as Mathematics. Work he must, for at this time a
1 D&Libris Propriis. Liber ultimus. Opera, Tom. L p. 106.
2 De Vita Propria, cap. xxxvii. ; where will be found authority for
all that follows on this subject.
CARDAN TAKES A PROFESSORSHIP AT PAVIA. 205
third child was born to him, a boy, whom he named
He therefore accepted office, and delivered lectures, like
his colleagues, to bare benches until the conclusion of that
academic year 3 . The academy proposed then the tide
of war having retreated to return to its own groves, and
Cardan certainly did not propose to go to Pavia with it,
deterred by the old reason, the broken fortunes of the
place, and the extreme uncertainty connected with the
stipends payable for teaching. Quite prepared to re-
main where he was, Jerome went to bed as usual on
the night before he was to return his answer to the
senate, which required to know whether he would abide
by his professorship and teach in Pavia. He went to
bed in the usual way with his wife, his eldest boy, Gio-
vanni Batista, ten years old, and Aldo, the baby, all
under one cover; but wonderful to relate, on that night
the house tumbled down. Nobody was hurt, but his home
in Milan being thus suddenly and literally broken up, as
he believed of course, by a special and miraculous dispen-
sation, he changed the tenor of his answer to the senate,
and in the year 1544 consented to remove.
The salary to be received by him at Pavia would be two
hundred and forty gold crowns 3 . For the anxiety shown
1 De Vita Propria, p. 20. 2 Ibid. cap. vi.
3 De Lib. Propr. Op. Tom. i. p. 108.
206 JEROME CARDAN.
by the senate to retain his sendees, and for his first ap-
pointment as a teacher in the university, Cardan knew
himself to be indebted to his patron, Cardinal Sfondrato,
who had by good chance returned to Milan, and assisted
his much-trusted physician in the hour of need 1 .
1 De Vita Propria, cap. xv.
OF THE GREAT ALGEBRAIC QUARREL THAT AROSE BETWEEN MES8ER
HIERONIMO CARDANO AND MESSER NICOLO TARTAGLIA WHAT LET-
TERS PASSED, ANL> HOW TARTAGLIA FELT THAT IT WAS DUE TO HIM-
SELF TO MAKE THE CORRESPONDENCE PUBLIC.
BUST and restless, never spending his time wholly
upon one pursuit, Jerome, in his mature years, led a life
of which the annals would be now and then distracting if
they were too strictly told off year by year. The events,
therefore, of the period between the years 1539 and 1545,
with which we are at present occupied, I think it best to
group according to their nature. Of his public literary
life up to the year 1542, and of his domestic life to the end
of the year 1544, sufficient account has now been given.
In the year 1539, however, there commenced a connected
series of studies and endeavours that were concurrent with
a multitude of other labours, and that remained private
until the year 1545. They then resulted in the publica-
tion of a book, which was, in fact, Jerome's greatest work,
and which must at all times form an important topic in
208 JEROME CARDAN.
connexion with the history of Mathematics. The whole
story of this book I shall attempt now to tell in a connected
way. The work in question is Cardan's Book of the Great
Art his Algebra a volume so especially important, and
begotten in so quaint a way, that whether I wished this
narrative to be read chiefly for information or amusement,
it would equally be fit that it should therein be put pro-
That a long chapter upon Algebra should be one of the
most essential parts in the biography of a physician, is a
fact perfectly characteristic of the state of learning in the
sixteenth century. Physic was then allied not only with
chemistry, but had an alliance equally strong with alchemy,
astrology, and mathematics. There is a relic of this old
state of things left to us in the continued imputation of a
well-known astrological almanac to Francis Moore, Phy-
sician. The first book of algebra published in this country,
entitled the Whetstone of Witte, which is the seconde
parte of Arithmetike, by Robert Recorde, describes its
author (he died in the Fleet Prison) as " teacher of mathe-
matics and practitioner in physic at Cambridge 1 ." A more
1 Robert Recorde taught mathematics at Oxford, and was admitted
to practise physic afterwards at Cambridge. I cannot precisely verify
the above reference, which I adopt from Button's Mathematical Dic-
tionary; it may be correct. In the first edition of " The Whetstone of
Witte" the only one I have seen the author, whose name is not on
the title-page, writes himself in the dedication, " Robert Recorde, Phy-
sitian," only. He was a man abounding in inventions, the first ven-
CONNEXION BETWEEN ALGEBRA AND PHYSIC. 209
striking illustration of the intimate connexion that existed
formerly between these sciences, is to be found in that
part of Don Quixote which relates how the bachelor
turer in many arts. Poor fellow! He, if not his teaching, fell among
thorns. Soon after the publication of the Whetstone, he died in gaol
for his poverty. In England, at any rate, they were not in those days
the learned who grew rich. At the close of the preface to this book
he deprecated hasty criticism; for, he said, " by occasion of trouble
upon trouble, I was hindered from accomplishing this worke, as I* did
intende. But yet is here moare, then any manne might well looke for
at my hands, if thei did knowe and consider myne estate." The abrupt
close of the book (it is all written in English dialogue) is very touch-
ing, and may awaken now, three centuries too late, many a warm feel-
ing of sympathy. An abstruse dissertation upon Universal Roots is
suddenly thus interrupted :
" MASTER. You saie truth. But harke, what meaneth that hastie
knockyng at the doore?
SCHOLAR. It is a messenger.
MASTER. What is the message? tel me in mine eare.
Yea, sir, is that the matter? Then is there no remedie, but that I
must neglect all studies and teaching, for to withstande those daungers.
My fortune is not so good, to have quiete tyme to teache.
SCHOLAR. But my fortune and my fellowes is much worse, that your
unquietnes so hindereth our knowledge. I praie God amende it.
MASTER. I am inforced to make an eande of this mater : But yet
will I promise you, that whiche you shall chalenge of me, when you see
me at better laiser : That I will teache you the whole arte of universall
rootes. And the extraction of rootes in all square surdes: with the
demonstration of theim, and all the former woorkes.
If I might have been quietly permitted to reste but a little while
longer, I had determined not to have ceased till I had ended all these
thinges at large. But now, farewell. And applie your studie diligently
in this that you have learned. And if I maie gette any quietnesse
reasonable, I will not forget to performe my promise with an augmen-
SCHOLAR. My harte is so oppressed with pensivenes, by this sodaine
unquietnesse, that I can not expresse my grief. But I will praie, with
all theim that love honeste knowledge, that God of his merciewill sone
ende your troubles" (soon, indeed, in death), " and graunte you suche
VOL. I. P
210 JEBOME CARDAN.
Samson Carrasco, being thrown from his horse by the
knight, and having his ribs broken, sent it is said quite
naturally for an algebrist to heal his bruises 1 . Keeping
in mind this old association of ideas, we find that there
was nothing exceptional in the position of Cardan as
teacher of mathematics and practitioner in physic, nothing
odd in his combination of the callings of an almanac-
maker, an algebrist, and a physician.
Robert Recorde's book, just mentioned, was published
in 1557, and as Cardan's book of the great art was then
already twelve years old, it may T)e justly inferred that
Cardan was one of the first European writers upon
algebra. It is necessary that we should now understand
reste as your travell doth merite. And all that love learnyng say
MASTER. Amen, and amen." They were the last words he printed.
Robert Kecorde's books had quaint titles, fanciful and witty, some-
times half-metrical, prefaces, and had bits of his verse scattered upon
the front of them. The spirit of the title to the work mentioned above
may be briefly expressed in four lines writ on the title of a previous
book, The Pathwaie of Knowledg:
" Geometries Verdicte.
All fressha fine wittes by me are filed ;
All grosse, dull wittes wishe me exiled.
Though no mann's witte reject will I,
Yet as they be, I wyll them trye."
1 " En esto fueron razonando los dos hasta que llegaron a un pueblo
donde fue' ventura hollar un Algebrista con quien se euro el Sanson des-
graciado." D. Quijote. Part. ii. cap. xv. I was directed to this
passage by Hutton's Mathematical Dictionary, article Algebra. The
general information contained in this chapter is chiefly derived from
the same source, and from Montucla's History of Mathematics when
no other authority is cited.
ROBERT RECORDE. 211
somewhat accurately his true place in the history of
that science. Of the antiquities of algebra nothing need
here be said, unless, perhaps, it is worth while to note
that the art probably was born in Hindostan, and that its
present name is that given to it by the Arabs, through
whom it reached Europe. The Arabic name "al-jebr" is
a term which denotes one method of reducing equations,
namely by transposing or adding the negative terms so as
to make them all affirmative. From the Moors algebra
came first into Europe by way of Italy and Spain. The
first person known to have brought the art into Italy
before there existed printed books was Leonard Bonacci,
of Pisa, who composed an arithmetic in the year 1202, and
wrote more on the subject twenty-six years afterwards,
adding some information upon algebra, the knowledge of
which extended then only to the solution of equations of
the first and second degree. Bonacci's language was a
barbarous mixture of Latin with Italian, and there was in
his time no notation by the use of signs. From Pisa the
art spread through Tuscany and Italy, so that there were
authors who obtained much reputation in it before there
was any press from which their works could issue.
The first printed author upon algebra 1 was a cordelier,
1 After the discovery of printing, in mathematics, as in other depart-
ments of learning, the press was at first employed chiefly in the repro-
duction of the writings of the ancients. In 1505, Luca de Borgo trans-
lated Euclid. In 1518, Plato of Tivoli translated the Spherics of Tlieo-
212 JEROME CAIIDAN.
or minorite friar, Luca Paccioli, commonly called Fra
Luca di Borgo, of Borgo San Sepolcro. He is the same
Fra Luca whose errors Cardan pointed out in his " Arith-
metic." Luca di Borgo had been trained at Venice by
Domenico Bragadini, and having increased his knowledge
by long travel in the East, taught his science afterwards
at Naples, Venice, and Milan, in which last place he was
the first who filled a chair of mathematics. It was founded
for him by Lodovico Sforza. He had many disciples/
whom he names in his works. He translated Euclid into
Latin ; or, more properly speaking, he revised the already
existing translation of Campanus, and augmented it with
notes. He also wrote several treatises, that were printed
between the years 1470 and 1494, the last being entitled
(in the second edition) " Summa de Arithmetica, Geo-
metria, Proportioni e Proportionalita, nuovamente im-
pressa in Toscolano su la riva dil Benacense e unico car-
pionista laco: amenissinio sito," &c., the rest of the title-
page is further praise of the place in which the good monk
had resided during the printing of his book; the same
lake of Benacum, or Lago di Guardo, in which Cardan,
dosius. Memmius, a noble Venetian, translated at the same time
Apollonius, Venatorius (Jager?) and Herweg, printers of Basle, pub-
lished in 1544 a Latin translation of Archimedes and his commentator
Eutochius. Tartalea, in 1557, translated the fifteen books of Euclid
into bad Venetian Italian, with a commentary. See Montucla's His-
toire des Mathematiques, vol. i. bk, 3.
LUCA DI BOKGO. 213
during his student days, was nearly drowned. It will be
remembered that Cardan related how, at supper, after
their escape, he was the only one who had a ready appe-
tite for the fine pike that was brought to table. Fra
Luca, with a clerical enjoyment of good living, took so
heartily to the fine carp of the lake, that he could not for-
bear from making honourable mention of them on his title-
page ; indeed, the directing attention to the carp, and the
antiquities of the locality, occupies more space there than
the actual naming of the book 1 .
In the time of Luca di Borgo, the great art extended to
1 The preceding details concerning Luca di Borgo are drawn from
Montucla, Hist, des Mathematiques. Paris (an vii.), vol. i, p, 549. The
first edition of the book referred to in the text being very scarce,
Montucla had not seen it. Copies of both the first and second editions
(the latter with its curious title-page deficient) are in the British
Museum. The first was printed at Venice in 1494, before Brother
Luke had made acquaintance with the carps of the Lago di Guardo.
It is entitled simply, " Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportion!
e Proportionalita," and has the contents printed on the title-page. The
title-page to the second edition is formed in precisely the same way,
with this interpolation, " Nouamente impressa in Toscolano su la
riua dil Benacense et unico carpionista Laco ; Amenissimo Sito: deli
antique ed euidenti ruine di la nobil cita Benaco ditta illustrate : Cum
numerosita de Imperatorij epitaphij di antique e perfette littere scul-
piti dotato : e cum finissimi e mirabil colone marmorei : innumeri
fragment! di alabastro porphidi e serpentini. Cose certo letto mio
diletto oculata fide miratu digne sotterra si ritrouano." The date of
this second edition is 1523, so that Brother Luke's enthusiasm on the
subject of the carp, and of the fine remains of the old city of Benacum
on its shores, was being excited at about the same time when Cardan
and his companions broke their mast upon the lake, and supped upon a
pike at Sermione. Of the imperial inscriptions, the fine marble columns,
214 JEROME CARDAN.
quadratic equations, of which only the positive roots were
used ; there was but one unknown quantity assumed, and
there was no use made of marks or signs, except a few
abbreviations. Algebra was then used only for the solu-
tion of a small class of numeral problems.
In or about the year 1505, the first rule for resolving
one case of a complex cubic equation (x 3 -J- bx = c) was
discovered by Scipio Ferreus, of Bologna. This is the
discovery to which a reference was made at the beginning
of the ninth chapter of the present work; and from
this point the history of Algebra in Italy has an im-
mediate bearing on the story of Cardan. Ferreus taught
his rule to a pupil named Antonio Maria Fior (Latin-
ised, Florido, or, we should say in English, Flower), who,
thirty years afterwards, presuming on his knowledge of it,
challenged and triumphed over his contemporaries. It
was at that time usual for men skilled in any art or science
to send tough questions to each other for solution, and
to provoke each other to stake money or reputation upon
intellectual encounters. The advancement of learning
was unquestionably hastened by such means. Master
Flower's unanswerable problems, and the pains he took to
flout his knowledge of a secret rule in the face of his
brother mathematicians, caused him to be rather trouble-
the innumerable fragments of alabaster, porphyry, and serpentine, to
which Era Luca called attention, no trace, I believe, remains to excite
notice in the present day.
NICOLO TARTAGLIA. 215
some. Antonio Maria Fior, who was a Venetian, at last,
in 1535, provoked into a wager a hard-headed man of
Brescia, Nicolo Tartaglia, then resident in Venice. Each
algebrist was to ask of the other thirty questions ; and he
who had first answered the questions put to him should
win from the other as many entertainments for himself
and friends; it was a bet, in fact, of thirty suppers.
Plenty of time was given for the concoction of the pro-
blems, and a distant day fixed upon which the match was
to come off.
Tartaglia (Latinised, Tartalea) was a hard-headed man.
He was born of a very poor and humble family. His
father, Michele, was known only by his Christian name,
or rather by its diminutive ; for being a very little fellow
(the son, Nicolo, was little too) he was called Micheletto;
Micheletto the Rider, since he was a postman. He
kept a horse, and his business was to carry letters from the
noblemen and gentlemen of Brescia the town in which
he lived to Verona, Bergamo, and other towns. Mi-
cheletto was an honest little being, who contrived to find
rude schooling for his children; Nicolo, therefore, when
four or five years old, had some instruction. But it was
only in his early childhood that he had it, for when he
was but six years old his father died, leaving him with a
brother older than himself, a younger sister, and a widowed
mother in the extremest poverty. When afterwards the
216 JEROME CARDAN.
French, under Gaston de Foix, sacked Brescia 1 , the
poor widow, with Nicolo and her little daughter, fled for
refuge, following a crowd of helpless men, women, and
children into the cathedral. There, however, they were
not entirely safe; and Nicolo, a boy of twelve, received
five sword wounds upon the head that were almost
mortal three upon the skull and two upon the face.
The stroke upon the face cleft both lips, struck through
his upper jaw into the palate, and broke many of his teeth.
Having those wounds he could not speak, or take any but
liquid food. His mother took him home, and, being much
too poor to pay a surgeon or to buy ointments, treated
him herself upon a system which she borrowed from the
dogs. Knowing that the whole system of canine surgery
consisted in incessant licking of all wounds, she supposed
that she might heal her son by frequent washing and most
scrupulous regard to cleanliness. Under such care from
his mother's hands, Nicolo's wounds did really heal in a
few months, leaving scars, he tells us, that would after-
wards have made a monster of him, if they had not been
covered by his beard. The boy, when recovered, was for
a long time so hardly able to pronounce his words, that
he was called by his young companions " Tartaglia," stut-
terer; and as his father had not transmitted to him any
i The sack, it may be remembered, lasted seven days, during which
the French boasted of having slaughtered indiscriminately forty-six
EARLY LIFE OF TARTAGLIA. 217
known family name, he was content to adopt, seriously,
the nickname given to him, as a perpetual memorial of
The mother of Tartaglia was unable to provide for him
any instruction. Therefore, when he was about fourteen
years old, he put himself to school to learn to write, and
in fifteen days learnt to make letters as far as k, but
there his schooling ended. The schoolmaster's first copy-
book reached only to k; when that was finished by a
pupil he received another, upon which were the remain-
ing letters. Nicolo had put himself to school without the
means of paying for instruction, so that the fifteen days re-
presented the extent of his credit; that being exhausted,
since he had no money, he had nothing more to spend,
and very properly retired. He contrived to go away,
however, with the master's second copy-book, out of which
he taught himself, and which he did not afterwards return.
In plain words, he stole instruction in the rudiments of
writing. From that day he declares that he had no other
teaching than what he could get through the help of a
daughter of Poverty, called Industry 1 .
1 The above sketch of the early life of Tartaglia is taken from the
autobiographic details given in his own work, " Quesiti et Invention!
Diverse de Nicolo Tartalea Brisciano," Venice, 1546, where it occurs
in a dialogue between himself and the Prior di Barleta. Lib. vi.
Quesito 8, pp. 75, 76. The end of it, " da quel giorno in qua, ma piu
fui ne andai da alcun precettore, ma solamente in compagnia di una
figlia di poverta, chiamata industria," is at variance with the details
218 JEROME CARDAN.
Tartaglia carried his own tale no further ; others, how-
ever, who were his neighbours, hare done that, for him;
and, if their report be true, he was not so entirely self-in-
structed as he claimed to be. In any case, there can be
no doubt that he may still fairly enough be said to have
become wholly by his own exertions a distinguished
mathematician, as it is also certain that he grew to be like
many other self-taught men, rugged and vain. It is said
of him, that, in the year 1499, by the earnest entreaties of
his mother, who could not support him,, he was taken to
study at Padua by Lodovico Balbisonio a noble youth
of his own town. That he returned to Brescia with his
patron, and there showed himself to be so avaricious, so
morose, and rude, that he was hated by his fellow-citizens.
That being obliged to quit them and to live elsewhere, he
travelled and made money ; thriving especially at Venice.
That, he returned to Brescia to teach. Euclid, but that
again his fellow-townsmen would not tolerate him, and
that thereupon he again went to Venice, prospered, and
died old- He did not acquire any command over Latin ;
and when he wrote, it was in his own bad Venetian dia-
lect. He must, however, have known how to read,
although he did not trust himself to write the learned lan-
which follow, for which lam indebted to Papadopoli, Gymn. Patav,
vol. ii. pp. 210, 211. Papadopoli whose little biographic sketches of
men who hare been, connected with his university, are by no means
always accurate cites Rubeus, one of Tartaglia's contemporaries, a
writer very well acquainted with Venetian affairs and people.
TARTAGLIA DISCOVERS CERTAIN RULES. 219
guages, for he translated Euclid, and was compelled to
study Latin works on mathematics.
Tartaglia then, settled in Venice, set to work with all
his might to prepare himself for his contest with the
before-mentioned Antonio Maria Fior ; and while in bed
one night, eight days in advance of the time of meeting,
he thought out his rival's secret; discovering not only the
rule of Scipio Ferreus for the case x 3 -^- bx = c, but also
a rule for the case x 3 = bx + c. He prepared himself
accordingly. He took care to propose for the perplexing
of his antagonist several problems that could be solved only
according to the latter rule, then first discovered by him-
self. The questions put to him in return he knew would
hinge upon the rule of Ferreus. The event proved that
he was right; and when the day of trial came Tartaglia
answered all the questions on the list presented to him by
his adversary in two hours, before Florido had solved one
of the problems offered to him. The victor waived his right
to thirty entertainments, but achieved a lasting triumph.
These rules were discovered by Tartaglia on the 12th
and 13th of February, 1535. Five years earlier he had
discovered two other rules (for the cases x 3 -J- ax 2 = c
and x 3 = ax 2 -[- c) on the occasion of questions proposed
by a schoolmaster at Brescia, Zuanne da Coi (which would
in English be, John Hill).
Except these discoveries, there was nothing in the
220 JEROME CARDAN.
mathematical knowledge or doctrine of Tartalea which
placed him in advance of other scholars of his time. He
understood thoroughly the mathematical knowledge of
his day, and used it very skilfully. His new rules con-
cerning cubic equations he maintained as his private pro-
perty, cherishing them as magic arms which secured to
him a constant victory in algebraic tilts, and caused him
to be famed and feared. That was a selfish use to make
of scientific acquisitions, with which no scholar of the
present day would sympathise, and which, also, in the
sixteenth century, would have been thought illiberal
by students like the pattern man of letters, Conrad
Gesner, or even our erratic and excitable Cardan.
Cardan, when his work upon arithmetic approached
completion, made an attempt to procure the publication
of Tartalea's rules. Four years had elapsed since the
famous contest of Tartalea with Fior (or Florido), when,
in the beginning of 1539, Cardan applied through a book-
seller to the victor, with compliments, and a submission
of critical problems after the customary fashion. Then
there were sown the seeds of a great quarrel, the growth
of which Tartalea himself has chronicled with jealous
It should be understood that not many months before
the commencement of the correspondence between Nicolas
Tartalea and Jerome Cardan, Tartalea had published a
TARTAGLIA'S RULES. 221
small tract at his own expense on the New Science of
Artillery (its preface is dated December 20, 1537) 1 . He
was indeed one of the first men who perceived that there
was any science to be taught at all to men having the
care of cannon. Another and larger original work was
published, also at his own expense, in the year 1546, at
Venice, where he lectured publicly on mathematics. It
is entitled Divers Questions and Inventions 2 , is dedicated
to our Henry VIII. , and contains nine books, which are,
in fact, the diary and commonplace-book of his life as a
mathematician. In it are set down, year after year as
they came, the questions proposed to him at different
times by friends and rivals on mechanics, statics, hydro-
statics, &c. 9 during twenty years ending in 1541. It con-
1 " Nova Scientia inventa da Nicolo Tartalea B." The title-page is
chiefly occupied by a large plate, which represents the courts of Phi-
losophy, to which Euclid is doorkeeper, Aristotle and Plato being
masters of an inmost court, in which Philosophy sits throned, Plato
declaring by a label that he will let nobody in who does not understand
Geometry. In the great court there is a cannon being fired, all the
sciences looking on in a crowd such as Arithmetic, Geometry, Music,
Astronomy, Cheiromancy, Cosmography, Necromancy, Astrology, Per-
spective, and Prestidigitation! A wonderfully modest-looking gentle-
man, with his hand upon his heart, stands among the number, with a
you-do-me-too-much-honour look upon his countenance; Arithmetic
and Geometry are pointing to him, and under his feet his name is
written NICOLO TABTALEA.
2 " Quesiti et Invention! Diverse de Nicolo Tartalea Brisciano."
" Stampata in Venetia per Venturino Ruffinelli ad instantia et requi-
sitione, et a propria spese de Nicolo Tartalea Brisciano Autore, Nel
mese di Luio L'anno di nostra salute. M.D.XLVI."
222 JEEOME CARDAN.
tains forty-two dialogues, in the last of which one speaker is
Mr. Richard Wentworth, an English gentleman who had
been taught by Tartalea at Venice. Among other matter
in the ninth book of this volume is the record kept by
the jealous Nicolo of all his early dealings with Cardan,
minutes of conversations and copies of correspondence
which he there printed, as he threatened that he would ,
when he considered himself to have been grievously ill-
used by Jerome, as a way of publishing his misdeeds to
the world. The chronicle begins with Jerome's applica-
tion before mentioned, of which Tartalea had made in
his diary an ample memorandum in the manner follow-
ing : (I should explain that two old terms employed in
mathematics, where they occur occasionally, in the course
of this correspondence, I have thought it proper to re-
tain. The quantity represented now by x used to be
called the cosa, or in Latin, res, and x 2 was known as the
" Inquiry made by M. Zuan Antonio, bookseller, in the
name of one Messer Hieronimo Cardano, Physician and
public reader of Mathematics in Milan, dated January
2nd, 1539 1 .
ZUAN ANTONIO. Messer Nicolo, I have been directed to
you by a worthy man, physician of Milan, named Messer
1 Op. cit. Lib. ix. p. 115.
ANTONIO MARIA PIOR.
Hieronimo Cardano, who is a very great mathematician,
and reads Euclid there in Milan publicly, and who is at
present causing to be printed a work of his on the Prac-
tice of Arithmetic and Geometry and Algebra, which
\vill be of some note. And because he has understood
that you have been engaged in disputation with Master
Antonio Maria Fior, and that you agreed each to propose
thirty cases or questions, and did so ; and his excellency has
understood that the said Master Antonio Maria proposed
to you all his thirty which led you in algebra to a case of
the cosa and cube equal to the number. And that you
found a general rule for such case, and by the so great
strength of your invention you had resolved all the said
thirty questions proposed to you at the end of two hours.
Therefore his excellency prays you that you will kindly
make known to him that rule discovered by you, and
if you think fit he will make it public under your name
in his present work, but if you do not think fit that it
should be published he will keep it secret.
NICOLO. Tell his excellency that he must pardon me;
when I propose to publish my invention, I will publish it
in a work [of my own, and not in the work of another
man, so that his excellency must hold me excused.
ZUAN ANTONIO. If you object to make known to
him your discovery, his excellency has bidden me to pray
that you will, however, give him the said thirty questions
224 JEROME CARDAN.
that were proposed to you, with your resolution of them,
and at the same time the thirty questions that were pro-
posed by yourself.
NICOLO. I cannot do that, because as soon as he shall
have one of the said cases with its solution, his excellency
will at once understand the rule discovered by me, with
which many other rules may perhaps be found, based on
the same material.
ZUAN ANTONIO. His excellency has given me eight
questions to give you, praying that you will resolve them
for him. The questions are these :
1. Divide me ten into four parts in continued propor-
tion, of which the first shall be two.
2. Divide me ten into four parts in continued propor-
tion, of which the second shall be two.
6. Find me four quantities in continued proportion,
of which the second shall be two, and the first and fourth
added shall make ten.
7. Make me often three parts in continued proportion,
of which the first multiplied by the second will make
8. Find me a number which multiplied by its root plus
three will make twenty-one.
NICOLO. Those are questions put by Messer Zuanne
da Coi, and by no one else. I know them by the two
ZUANNE DA COI. 225
last, because a similar one to that sixth" [seventh ?] " he
sent to me two years ago, and I made him confess that he
did not understand the same, and a similar one to that
last (which induces an operation of the square and cube
equal to the number) I gave him out of courtesy solved,
not a year ago, and for that solution I found a rule
specially bearing upon such problems.
ZUAN ANTONIO. I know well that these questions
were given to me by his said excellency, Messer Hiero-
nimo Cardano, and no other.
NICOLO. Then the said Messer Zuanne da Coi must
have been to Milan and proposed them to his excellency,
and he, being unable to resolve them, has sent them to be
worked out by me, and this I hold for certain, because
the said Messer Zuanne promised me a year ago that he
would come here to Venice, but for all that he has never
been, and I think he has repented of his purpose and
given its turn to Milan.
ZUAN ANTONIO. Do not think that his excellency
would have sent you these problems if he had not under-
stood them and known how to solve them, or that they
proceed from another person, for his excellency is one of
the most learned men in Milan, and the Marquis dal
Vasto has given him a great provision for his compe-
NICOLO. I do not deny that his excellency is most
VOL. I. Q
226 JEKOME CABDAN.
learned and most competent. But I affirm that he would
not know how to solve these seven problems which he
sent for me to work out by the general rule. Because if
his excellency does not know how to solve that of the cosa
and cube equal to the number (which you have besought
of me with so much entreaty), how could he know how to
solve the greater part of these, which conduct to opera-
tions of a much stranger kind than that of the cosa and
cube equal to the number; so that if he knew how to
solve all these problems, much more easily would he know
how to solve that of the cosa and cube equal to the
number, and if he knew it I am sure that he would not
go begging and seeking for it.
ZUAN ANTONIO. I know not how to answer you,
because I do not understand these things, but whenever
you speak with him I believe that he himself will know
what to reply. However, let all those matters pass, and
that I may not have lost my pains in coming, give me at
any rate the simple copy of the thirty cases that were
proposed to you by the said Master Antonio Maria Fior,
and if you can also give me a copy of the thirty questions
that were asked by you of him you will do me the
NICOLO. Of his (though I can ill spare time) I will
make you a copy, but mine I cannot let you have, be-
cause I have no copy at hand, and I cannot exactly re-
TARTAGLIA HOARDS II1S KNOWLEDGE. 227
member what they all were, because they were all dis-
similar; but if you go to the notary, he will no doubt be
able to give you a copy.
ZUAN ANTONIO. Be pleased, then, to give .me his.
NiCOLO. They are these precisely as he wrote them :
1 Glory to God, 1534, the 22nd day of February, in
* These are the thirty arguments proposed by me, An-
tonio Maria Fior, to you, Master Nicolo Tartaglia.' "
It is not requisite to quote them here. From this
account given, by Tartalea himself, it appears that Jerome's
application was of a reasonable kind. Tartalea had been
during four years in possession of his knowledge, and had
published nothing but his small work on Artillery, that
too, though he was a poor man, at his own expense.
There was no reason to believe that Tartalea designed to
publish what he knew in any independent work on ma-
thematics. Moreover, there seems to have been no pub-
lisher willing to print at his own cost the writings of a
man who could not address the learned in the language
properly appointed for their use, or could not write even
Italian otherwise than in the very dialect to which he had
been born. It was therefore just and natural that Car-
dan should propose the embodiment in his own treatise of
Tartalea's additions to the science about which he wrote,
with a due publication of his claims as a discoverer. If,
228 JEROME CARDAN.
however, Nicolo desired to keep his knowledge to him-
self, then it was necessary for the advance of his favourite
science that Cardan should acquire it in some other way.
Something he had already discovered, and he hoped from
any calculations that he might persuade Tartalea to fur-
nish that he could obtain hints by which he would be
assisted in discovering the whole of the secret kept with
too much jealousy from the science to which it be-
longed. Tartalea repelled every advance of this kind,
so unceremoniously, that Jerome, who was hot in dis-
putation, fell into a rage, and wrote a very angry
letter, which Tartalea has printed, and which I ap-
pend in full. It was of course not written for print,
and is an example of the kind of impatient violence
which Cardan used in private arguments, but always
abstained from carrying into his books. Had not Tar-
talea published the whole quarrel, very little trace would
have been left of it, for Jerome put no wrath or malice
into works deliberately written for posterity. I desire
also, for a reason that will afterwards appear, to call
attention to the manner in which mention is made of the
Marquis del Guasto in the dialogue just quoted, and in
the succeeding letter.
LETTER TO TARTAGLIA. 229
Letter from Cardan to Nicolo Tartalea, dated the 12th of
February, 1539 1 .
" I wonder much, dear Messer Nicolo, at the unhand-
1 Tartalea. Quesiti et Invcntiori Diverse. Lib. ix. p, 1 17. In trans-
lating these letters I provide them with more stops than I find in the
original. Tartalea wrote his book in the Venetian dialect, to which
he was accustomed a kind of Italian most familiar to English readers,
as it is to be seen moderately caricatured in some of Goldoni's plays,
as, for example, in the Poeta Fanatico. Moreover, Tartalea corrected
the press badly, and allowed sentences to be printed one into another
in a very reckless way. I quote in illustration the first sentence of
this letter by Cardan, as printed by Nicolo Tartalea: "Mi marauiglio
molto Messer Nicolo caro de si disconueneuole risposta haueti data a
uno Zuan Antonio da Bassano libraro el quale da mia parte ui ha pre-
gato li uolesti dare la risposta di sette, ouer otto question! le quale ui
mandai, e la coppia delle proposte fatte tra uoi e Maestro Antonio
Maria Fior con le sue solution! alle quale non ui e bastato di non man-
darmene niuna saluo che quelle de Maestro Antonio Maria le quale
sono 30 proposte ma re uera quasi una sola sostantia, cioe cubbo e cosa
equal a numero, pero mi doglio tra Paltre disgratie di questa arte che
quello li danno opera sono tanto discortesi e tanto presumeno di se
stesso, che non senza cagion sono indicati dal uulgo apresso che pazzi
a cio ui caui fora de questa fantasia della quale cauai nouamente messer
Zuanne da Coi, cioe d'essere il primo homo del mondo donde se partito
da Millano per disperato, ne uoglio scrivere amoreuolmente e trarui
fori di fantasia che uoi ui crediati essere si grande ui faro conoscere
con amoreuole admonitioni per le uostre parole medesime che seti piu
apresso a la ualle che alia sumita del monte, potria ben essere che in
altra cosa fosti piu esercitato, e ualente che non dimostrati per la
rispesta e prima ui auiso pero che ui ho hauuto in bon conto e subito
ariuo li uostri libri sopra le artegliarie ne comprai doi che solo porto
Zuan Antonio delli quali uno ne dette al Signer Marchese, e 1'altro
tene per mi et oltra cio ui laudai molto al Signer Marchese pensando
fosti piu gentil reconoscitore, e piu humano e piu cortese, e piu suffi-
ciente de Messer Zuanne qual uoi allegati, ma mi pare poca differentia
da luna a laltro se altro non mostrati hora peruenire a fatti ne accuso
in quatro cose de momento." That is a tolerable scolding for a man
to utter in a single breath. Tartalea was evidently determined to
allow no point to remain in Cardan's abuse of him.
230 JEROME CARDAN.
some reply you have made to one Zuan Antonio da Bas-
sano, bookseller, who on my part prayed that you would
give him answers to the six or eight questions that I
sent you, and the copy of the propositions exchanged
between you and Master Antonio Maria Fior, with their
solutions, to which it was not enough for you to return
nothing but the questions of Master Antonio Maria,
which are thirty in number but one only in substance,
that is to say, treating of cube and cosa equal to the
number, but it grieves me much that among other dis-
comforts of this science those who engage in it are so
discourteous, and presume so much on their own worth,
that it is not without reasons they are called fools by the
surrounding vulgar. I would pluck you out of this con-
ceit, as I plucked out lately Messer Zuanne da Coi, that
is to say, the conceit of being the first man in the world,
wherefore he left Milan in despair ; I would write to
you lovingly" [he writes in a rage] " and drag you out of
the conceit of thinking that you are so great would
cause you to understand from kindly admonition, out of
your own words, that you are nearer to the valley than the
mountain-top. In other things you may be more skilled
and clever than you have shown yourself to be in your
reply ; and so I must in the first place state that I have
held you in good esteem, and as soon as your book upon
Artillery appeared, I bought two copies, the only ones
that Zuan Antonio brought, of which I gave one to
JEROME IN WKATII. 231
Signer the Marquis, thinking you capable of more cour-
teous recognition, more refined, more gentlemanly, and
more competent than Messer Zuanna as you allege your-
self to be, but I see little difference between one and
the other ; if there be any you have not shown it.
Now to come to facts, I accuse you upon four important
The first is, that you said my questions were not mine,
but belonged to Messer Zuanne Colle; as if you would
have it that there is no man in Milan able to put such
questions. My master, clever men are not discovered by
their questions, as you think, but by their answers ;
therefore you have been guilty of very grave presump-
tion. There are many in Milan who know them ; and I
knew them before Messer Zuanne knew how to count
ten, if he be as young as he would make himself.
The second is, that you told the bookseller that if one
of the questions of Master Antonio Maria could be
solved, all mine would be solved. I ask you, for mercy's
sake, with whom you think that you are speaking ?
With your pupils, or with men ? Where did you ever
find that the discovery of the root pronica media 1 , which
lies at the bottom of the solution of all the thirty ques-
tions of Master Antonio Maria, which is founded on the
1 "Doue trovasti noi mai che la inyentione de la radice pronica
media, la quale e il fondainento de . . . . posse essere la resolutione
d'una questione di cubo c numero equal a censo."
232 JEROME CARDAN.
eighth problem of the sixth book of Euclid, could resolve
a question of cube and number equal to the census, under
which section is to be ranked the proposition which says,
4 Find me four quantities, in continuous proportion, of
which the second shall be two, and the first and fourth
shall make ten.' I speak in the same way of the others,
so that while you wished to show yourself a miracle of
science to a bookseller, you have shown yourself a great
ignoramus to those who understand such matters ; not
that I myself esteem you ignorant, but too presumptuous ;
as was Messer Zuanne da Coi, who thinking to get credit
for knowing what he did not know, lost credit for know-
ing what he did.
The third point is, that you told the said bookseller
that if one of my questions were solved all would be
solved, which is most false, and it is a covert insult to say
that while thinking to send you six questions, I had sent
but one, which would argue in me a great confusion of
understanding ; and certainly, if I were cunning, I would
wager a hundred scudi upon that matter ; that is to say,
that they could not be reduced either into one, or into
two, or into three questions. And, indeed, if you will
bet them, I will not refuse you, and will come at an ap-
pointed time to Venice, and will give bank security
here if you will come here, or will give it to you there
in Venice if I go thither. This is not mere profession,
A STUMBLE ON THE LAW OF GRAVITATION. 233
for you have to do with people who will keep their
The fourth is a too manifest error in your book en-
titled the New Science of Artillery, in which you will
have it, at the fifth proposition of the first book, that no
body of uniform weight can traverse any space of time or
place by natural and violent motion mixed together;
which is most false, and contrary to all reason and natural
experience. The argument with which you prove it is
still more extraordinary than the answer you gave to the
bookseller. Do you not know that it is unsuitable? In
its descent a body moves with increased velocity, and in
forward progress it moves with diminishing speed, as we
see in the throwing of a stone, which, as it descends,
comes faster and faster to the earth, but when it left the
hand went more and more slowly, from which you may
draw other strange arguments in the said book, if you
have it in mind that men of sense are not to be contra-
dicted lightly. I shall be held excused, I hope, for con-
tradicting you, because, in treating of artillery, which
was little in your vocation, you exerted yourself to say
something notable, and you must not, for my rudeness,
think that I am like yourself and Messer Zuan Colle.
I send you two questions with their solutions, but the
solutions shall be separate from the questions, and the
messenger will take them with him ; and if you cannot
solve the questions he will place the solutions in your
234 JEROME CAKDAN.
hand. You shall have them each to each, that you may
not suppose I have sent rather to get than to give them ;
but return first your own, that you may not lead me to
believe that you have solved the questions, when you
In addition to this, be pleased to send me the propo-
sitions offered by you to Master Antonio Maria Fior, and
if you will not send me the solutions, keep them by you,
they are not so very precious. And if it should please
you, in receiving the solutions of my said questions
should you be yourself unable to solve them, after you
have satisfied yourself that my first six questions are dif-
ferent in kind to send me the solution of any one of
them, rather for friendship's sake, and for a test of your
great skill, than for any other purpose, you will do me a
very singular pleasure.
The first question : Make me of ten four quantities in
continued proportion whose squares added shall make
sixty. A like question is put by Brother Luca, but he
does not answer it.
The second: Two persons were in company, and pos-
sessed I know not how many ducats. They gained the
cube of the tenth part of their capital, and if they had
gained three less than they did gain, they would have
gained an amount equal to their capital. How many
ducats had they ?
HIERONIMO CARDANO, Physician."
FIRST STAGE OF THE DISPUTE. 235
To this letter Tartalea replied categorically on the 18th
of February, 1539 1 , at such very great length, that I
must be content to quote only the few passages which bear
immediately on our present subject. It must be quite
obvious that the mention made in the preceding letter of
Alphonso d'Avalos, Marquis del Guasto, was altogether
natural. Cardan knew when the tract on artillery came
out, that Tartalea possessed a bit of mathematical know-
ledge which he himself was desiring greatly to acquire. If
only in the hope of finding some clue to his secret, it was
natural that he should have bought anything mathematical
written by Nicolo, and as the subject was the management
of artillery, it would occur to him most readily to present
a copy to his patron, who, possessing the tastes of a
scholar, was appointed general in the district, and was
concerned very actively in the prevailing wars. That
Jerome had not only bought the tract but read it care-
fully, is evident from the perfectly just criticism of one of
its propositions contained in the preceding letter. The
first point of accusation in that letter consisted, I need
scarcely say, of a prevarication. I have pointed out the
vicious clause in the ethics sanctioned by his Church, and
almost universal in his time, which allowed truth of mind
to be put out of sight for any useful purpose, if the truth
of the lip only was preserved. Cardan was preserved
1 Op. cit. pp. 118 122. The pages are numbered in pairs.
236 JEROME CARDAN.
rather by his ruggedness than by his virtue from any
frequent exercise of this dishonest right of circumvention.
In his reply to Tartalea concerning Zuanne da Coi, and
his questions, he wrote, however, with a manifest inten-
tion to deceive. He said only that he had long known
of such problems, he meant it to be understood, that he
had long known how to solve them. Tartalea, however,
knew his ground, and walked into no pitfall: " Con-
cerning your first accusation," he wrote to the " Most
Excellent Messer Hieronimo," " I answer and say, that it
is time that I said that such questions came from Messer
Zuanne da Coi, because a year and a half ago he proposed
to me one like the last but one (only in other words), of
which I made him himself confess here in Venice that he
did not understand it, and that he did not know the
answer, so that for such reason, and from other indications,
I judged those questions to be his, and that he had him-
self sent them to me under your name. But when that
bookseller assured me that he had them of your excel-
lency, I judged that the said Messer Zuanne da Coi had
been to Milan, and that they were there proposed to you
by him (as I still judge, and believe firmly), and that you,
being unable to solve them, sent them to me to be solved,
for reasons that will presently be mentioned 1 ."
i " Ma quando chel libraro me acerto hauerle hauute da uostra ec-
cellentia giudicai die il detto Messer Zuanne da Coi fusse uenuto a
THE PHILOSOPHERS LAY BETS. 237
Cardan, I think, had worked his way by that time
somewhat further than Tartalea supposed ; the gist of
Tartalea's argument upon the matter was, however, true,
and when writing the above passage he had certainly the
best of the discussion. He answered well and boldly. He
showed equal courage, when, having explained that Car-
dan's challenge was founded on a misunderstanding of his
answer to the bookseller, he picked up the gage that had
been thrown before him. Jerome's complaint was super-
fluous, he said : " But inasmuch as I may consider that
your excellency very much desires to try your skill with
me, which being so, if I were sure to be a loser, I would
not refuse such a challenge, that is to say, to bet upon
this matter the said hundred ducats, and I will come per-
sonally for the purpose to Milan, if you will not come to
Tartalea will be much perplexed to find a hundred
ducats should he lose the wager, and I know that Jerome
sent out his defiance from a home into which ducats did
not come even by scores. Each combatant can afford
only to win, but gamblers are not always wise, and men
could then gamble not less readily in algebra than over
cards or dice.
Tartalea met more boldly than wisely the objection
Millano et die li hauesse proposte a quella (come che anchor giudico
ct tengo per fermo) et che quella per non saperle risoluere me le hab-
bia mandate da risoluere a me per le ragioni che di sotto se dira."
238 JEROME CARDAN.
made by Cardan to the fifth proposition of his science of ar-
tillery, which proposition, in modern language, amounted
to the assertion that a body could not move at once under
the influence of a transmitted force and the force of gravi-
tation. Jerome knowing of course nothing of the theory
of gravitation, saw the facts, and urged them very properly.
Nicolo, like a good disputant, replied: " I answer and say
that the reasons and arguments adduced by you for the
destruction of my said fifth proposition, are so weak and
ill-conditioned, that an infirm woman would be strong
enough to beat them to the ground." He then endea-
voured in a technical way to reduce Cardan's suggestion
to an absurdity, and summed up by addressing to Jerome
the retaliatory comment, that " You thinking to make
yourself appear a miracle to me with your ridiculous oppo-
sitions, have proved yourself, I will not say a great
ignoramus, as you said to me, but a man of little judg-
In reply to the unphilosophical sneer against the study
of artillery, Tartalea spoke very worthily, in the following
passage, which contains also the next reference to the
Marquis d'Avalos, whose precise relation to the matter
in dispute ought to be understood distinctly. Of the
artillery: "As to that particular, I answer and say, that
I take pleasure in new inventions, and in treating and
speaking of things about which other men have not
TARTAGLIA DEFENDS HIS " ARTILLERY." 239
treated or spoken, and I take no pleasure in doing as some
do, who fill their volumes with things robbed from this
or that other author. And although the speaking of
artillery, and of the firing of it, is not a thing very honour-
able in itself, yet, since it is a new matter, and not barren
of speculation, I thought well to say a little on it 1 , and in
connexion with that subject, I am at present bringing out
two sorts of instruments belonging to the art, that is to
say, a square to regulate the discharging of the said
artillery, and also to level and examine every elevation.
Also, another instrument for the investigation of distances
on a plane surface, the description of which instruments
will be published with my said work on artillery. And
because you have written to me that you purchased two
of my said books, one of which you gave to his excel-
lency the lord marquis, and the other you kept for
yourself, I have thought good to send you four copies of
the said instruments, and have given them to the house of
Messer Ottaviano Scoto, who will see that they are sent
to you by some messenger, to be added to those volumes ;
1 Tliis passage, so creditable to Tartalea in its sense and temper,
stands in his own words thus : " Circa a questa particolarita ve rispondo
et dico, che me diletto, de noue inuentioni et di trattare, et parlare de
cose che altri non habbia trattato, ne parlato, et no me diletto di for
come fanno alcuni, chi impiono li suoi uolumi di cose robate da questo
et da quello altro autore. Et quantunque a parlare delle artegliarie,
et lor tiri non sia cosa molto honereuole in se, pur per esser una
materia noua, et di non puoca speculatione me apparso di parlarue
alquanto. . . ." Op. cit. p. 119.
240 JEROME CARDAN.
of which four instruments you will give two to his excel-
lency the lord marquis, and the other two keep as your
It was practically an important gain to Tartalea, if he
could suggest, through any friend who would get for
them proper attention, a knowledge of his inventions to
a military chief able if he chose to bring them into use
and notice. The complaints made by Tartalea have led
to the supposition that Cardan made artful use of the
name and influence of his patron, in a deep design for
the wresting from Nicolo of the small bit of knowledge
he desired to get 1 . The supposition is quite incorrect.
1 In Button's Mathematical Dictionary the spirit of the next letters
between Cardan and Tartalea is expressed in the following manner,
and it is the usual version of the story: "Finding he could not thus
prevail with all his fair promises, Cardan then fell upon another scheme.
There was a certain Marquis dal Vasto, a great patron of Cardan, and,
it was said, of learned men in general. Cardan conceived the idea of
making use of the influence of this nobleman to draw Tartalea to Milan,
hoping that then, by personal entreaties, he should succeed in drawing
the long- concealed rules from him. Accordingly, he wrote a second
letter to Tartalea, much in the same strain with the former, strongly
inviting him to come and spend a few days in his house at Milan, and
representing that, having often commended him in the highest terms
to the marquis, this nobleman desired much to see him ; for which
reason Cardan advised him, as a friend, to come and visit them at
Milan, as it might be greatly to his interest, the marquis being very
liberal and bountiful; and he besides gave Tartalea to understand, that
it might be dangerous to offend such a man by refusing to come, who
might, in that case, take offence, and do him some injury. This
manoeuvre had the desired effect " Button's Philosophical and
Mathematical Dictionary (ed. 1815), vol. i. p. 81. So the tale is gene-
rally told against Cardan. From his entire letter which follows, and
the rest of the story as narrated in the text, the reader may judge how
far this version is a fair one.
JEROME NEGOTIATES FOR PEACE. 241
On Tartalea's own showing, nothing could be more
natural and gradual than the succession of steps by which
the marquis rose into importance during the correspond-
ence between the two mathematicians. I very much
doubt, also, whether we ought not to attribute the tone
of Jerome's next answer to Tartalea, not only to a pru-
dent desire to maintain friendly negotiations, but in an
equal degree to the fact that his anger, always shortlived,
being at an end, he desired to heal the wounds that he
had made, and behave with the courtesy due from one
scholar to another. The reply, dated the 19th of March,
1539, now follows 1 :
"My very dear Messer Nicolo, I have received a very
long letter of yours, and the longer it was the more it
pleased me; I could have wished it doubled, if only you
would not think that my biting words proceeded either
from hate, for which there was no cause, or from ma-
lignity of nature, since I do good, when I can, much
more readily than harm: it is my business to heal: let
me do that; not bitten with envy at the question whether
you are my equal or my inferior; I should have no cause
to be so if you were my master in this art ; I should struggle
to soar with you, not speak you ill. Besides, the envious
malign in absence not in presence ; but I wrote that abuse
1 Quesiti et Invention! (ed. cit.), Lib. ix. p. 122. The letter begins,
" Messer Nicolo mio carissimo."
242 JEROME CARDAN.
to stir you up to write again, judging, with out-of-the-way
craft, what sort of a man you were from the relation of
Messer Zuan Colle, who has been here. I liked him
much, and did my best to give him pleasure, so that
from his account I learned to think well of you, and even
designed to send to you a letter ; but he behaved ungrate-
fully, speaking ill of me privately and publicly, and in-
viting me improperly with placards and writings, which
things not succeeding to his own content (he had to one
question three answers one from Euclid, the other from
Ptolemy, the other from Geber), he became so confounded
that he left in despair, quitting a school of about sixty
pupils, for which I was sorry enough. So that if I wrote
sharply to you I did it willingly, thinking to cause that
to follow which has followed ; that is to say, to have your
answer, together with the friendship of a man so singu-
larly able in his art as I judge you to be by the things
written in your letter. Thus I have committed an offence
of which I am not willing to repent.
Now you must know, that in addition to your letter, I
received a placard of the things which you are now about
to read publicly in San Zuanne Polo, which bill has
given me the highest pleasure; and besides that, you
promised me four instruments, two to give to the lord
marquis and two for me : and Signer Ottaviano writes to
me that he sends four, though I have yet received neither
A PACIFIC DESPATCH. 243
two nor four; but he says that they shall come with cer-
tain books that he is sending. I should have been glad
to have them to give to the lord marquis ; when I have
them I will give them to him.
As for the answers to my four accusations, I need only
reply to two ; one concerns the attack on your fifth pro.
position in the Arte Nova, the other is about coming to a
trial against you, who are the more able man in your own
art. With regard to that second point, I would much
rather live something of a poltroon than die a hero, the
rather, as you concede my position by saying that Zuan
Antonio had misunderstood, which puts an end to the
occasion of our combat. I hope that you will come to
Milan and learn to know me without the deposit of a
hundred ducats, because in truth, I know you to be a very
able man, and knowing one another we might both be
able to deliberate together.
As for the disputation on the subject of your fifth pro-
position, certainly, you do well to use bold words, and de-
fend the opinion you have published. And certainly when
you come (as I hope, please God, you will) to Milan, we
will talk of it more at our ease, and the rather, as I had
your letters only yesterday evening" [which implied that a
month passed before they could be transmitted from Tar-
talea in Venice, to Cardan in Milan], " and to-day I am
obliged to write to you by command of the lord marqui?,
244 JEROME CARDAN.
so that I have not had time to reflect upon your other
I pray you, at any rate, to send or bring me what re-
mains of your thirty deductions which you gave to Master
Antonio Maria. If you will also send me some solutions
of your two rules, or will give them to me when you come,
I shall be in the highest degree obliged ; for you must
know that I take pleasure in all courtesy, and that I have
sent to press a work entirely on the practice of Geometry,
Arithmetic, and Algebra, of which up to this date more
than the half is printed, and if you will give them to me
so that I may publish them in your name, I will publish
them at the end of the work as I have done with all others
who have given to me anything of value, and will there
put you down as the discoverer, and if you wish me to
preserve your secret, I will do as you desire.
I told the lord marquis 1 of the instruments you had
1 "Io avisai la eccellentia del Signer Marchese de gli istromenti
quali gli mandati (anchor che non siano per fina hora gionti) et li dissi
del cartello, e sua eccellentia mi commando lo legesse e tutte queste
uostre cose piacque grandamente a sua eccellentia. Et mi commando di
subito ui scriuesse la presente con grande istantia in nome suo, auisan-
doui che uista la presente douesti uenir a Millano senza fallo che
uoria parlar con uoi. Et cosi ue esorto a douere uenire subito, et
non pensarui su, perche ill detto Signer Marchese e si gentil remune-
ratore delli uirtuosi, si liberate, et si magnanimo che niuna persona
chi serue sua excellentia mentre sia da qualche cosa resta discontenta.
Si che non restati de uenire e uenereti a logiare in casa mia non altro
Christo da mal ui guardi alii. 13. di Marzo, 1539. Hieronimo Cardano,
medico." To which Tartalea subscribes: "Per costui son ridutto a
AN INVITATION FROM I/AVALOS. 245
given him they are not yet come to hand and told him
of the placard, and his excellency commanded me to read
it; and all your things pleased his excellency greatly.
And he commanded me at once to write the present letter
to you with great urgency in his name, to advise you that
on receipt of the same you should come to Milan without
fail, for he desires to speak with you. And so I exhort
you that you should come at once, and not deliberate
about it, because the said marquis is a courteous remu-
nerator of men of genius, so liberal and so magnanimous,
that no person who does a service to his excellency, no
matter in what respect, is left dissatisfied. So do not de-
lay to come, and come to lodge in my house. So no
more. Christ keep you from harm. Written on the 13th
of March, 1539.
HIEKONIMO CARDANO, Physician."
That the desire of the marquis to see Tartalea was
genuine I see no reason to doubt. That Jerome was glad
to have a chance of talking to his jealous correspondent,
and persuading him, if possible, by word of mouth, is, of
course, equally certain. The brief comment appended by
Tartalea to the preceding letter is not good-humoured.
" NICOLO. I am reduced by this fellow to a strange
un stranio passo, perche se non uado a Millano il Signer Marchese il
potria hauer per male, et qualche male me ne potria reusire, et mal
uolontiera ui uado, pur ui uoglio andare." Op. cit. pp. 123, 124.
246 JEKOME CARDAN.
pass, because if I do not go to Milan the lord marquis
may take offence, and such offence might do me mischief,
I go thither unwillingly ; however, I will go." The sug-
gestion that there was any danger in not going sprung
entirely, it should be noticed, from Tartalea himself.
Cardan had only urged, that as D'Avalos was a free-
handed patron a point upon which all chroniclers who
speak of him agree Nicolo should not fear that he would
be a loser by the journey.
Accordingly, Tartalea went to Milan, and happening
to arrive at a time when D'Avalos was absent, stayed for
three days in Cardan's house as his guest. The result of
the visit Nicolo represented to himself in his common-
place-book by the succeeding dialogue 1 :
" Result of personal intercourse with his Excellency the
said Messer Hieronimo Cardano, at his house in
Milan, the 25th of March, 1539.
MESSER HIERONIMO. I am very pleased that you
have come just at this time when his excellency has
ridden to Vigevano, because we shall have leisure to
enjoy ourselves and talk together over our affairs till he
returns. Certainly you were somewhat too discourteous
in resolving not to give me the rule you discovered upon
1 Op. cit. p. 123.
TARTAGLIA'S VISIT TO CARDAN. 247
the subject of the cosa and cube equal to the number,
especially when I had so much entreated for it."
To this the reply of Tartalea was not unreasonable, and
it may be well to say beforehand that it is to be read as
in every main point true. He not only was at that time
translating Euclid, but he was also reserving himself for a
work of his own on arithmetic, geometry, and algebra,
which he in the end did publish at Venice, seventeen
years .afterwards that is to say, just before his death.
It extended even then no further than quadratic equa-
tions, being his Book the First of Algebra, and did not
contain the whole of his knowledge, nor does his know-
ledge of the two contested rules appear to have fructified
at all in his own mind during all that time, as he justly
supposed that it might, and as it began to do the moment
it had found its way into the richer soil of Cardan's
genius. Nicolo replied thus :
" NICOLO. I tell you that I am not so very chary on
account of the simple rule or the calculation made by use
of it, but on account of those things that by knowledge
of it may be discovered, because it is a key that opens the
way to the investigation of an infinity of other rules, and
if I were not at present occupied upon a translation of
Euclid into the vulgar tongue (and by this time I have
translated as far as his thirteenth book), I should have
already found a general rule for many other cases. As
248 JEROME CARDAX.
soon as I shall have finished my labour upon Euclid
already commenced, I am intending to compose a work
on the practice of arithmetic, and together with it a new
algebra, in which I propose not only to publish to every
man all my said discoveries concerning new cases, but
many others, to which I hope to attain, and I hope to
show the rule for investigating an infinity of other
things, which I hope will be a good and useful work.
That is the reason why I deny my rules to everybody,
though I at present make no use of them (being, as I
said, occupied on Euclid), and if I taught them to any
speculative person like your excellency, he could easily
from such evidence find other cases to join to the dis-
covered ones, and publish with them as himself their dis-
coverer, by doing which he would spoil all my design. So
that this is the chief reason why I have been so dis-
courteous towards your excellency, and the rather, as you
are now printing your work on the same subjects, and
have written to me that you propose to publish such my
inventions under my name, and to make me known as
the discoverer. Which, in fact, does not at all please me,
because I wish to publish such my discoveries in my own
works and not in the works of other people.
M. HIERONIMO. And I also wrote to you that if you
were not content that I should publish them, I would
keep them secret.
CONFERENCE BETWEEN CARDAN AND TARTAGLIA. 249
NiCOLO. Enough that on that head I was not willing
to believe you.
M. HIERONIMO. I swear to you by the sacred Gospel,
and on the faith of a gentleman, not only never to publish
your discoveries, if you will tell them to me, but also I
promise and pledge my faith as a true Christian to put
them down in cipher, so that after my death nobody shall
be able to understand them. If you will believe me, do;
if not, let us have done 1 .
NiCOLO. If I could not put faith in so many oaths I
should certainly deserve to be regarded as a man with no
faith in him ; but since I have made up my mind now to
ride to Vigevano to find his excellency the lord mar-
quis, because I have been here already three days, and
am tired of awaiting him so long, when I am returned I
promise to show you the whole.
M. HIERONIMO. Since you have made, up your mind
at any rate to ride at once to Vigevano to the lord mar-
quis, I will give you a letter to take to his excellency, in
order that he may know who you are ; but before you go
" M. HIERO. lo ui giuro, ad sacra del evangelia, e da real gen-
til'huomo, non solamente da non publicar giamai tale uostre inven-
tioni, se me le insignate. Ma anchora ui prometto, et impegno la
fede mia da real Christiano, da notarmele in zifera, accioche dapoi la
mia morte alcuno non le possa intendere, se mel uoleti mo credere
credetilo se non lassatilo stare. NICOLO. Non uolendo io prestar fede
a tanti uostri giuramenti io meritaria certamente da esser giudicato
huomo senza fede, ma perche ho deliberate caualcare per fina a
Vegevene . . . ." &c. Op. cit. p. 124.
250 JEROME CARDAN.
I should wish you to show me the rule for those cases of
yours, as you have promised.
NiCOLO. I am willing; but you should know, that in
order to be able on any sudden occasion to remember my
method of operation, I have reduced it to a rule in rhyme,
because, if I had not used this precaution, it would often
have escaped from my mind ; and although these rhymes
of mine are not very neat, I have not minded that, be-
cause it was enough that they served to bring the rule into
my memory whenever I repeated them. That rule I will
write for you with my own hand, in order that you may
be sure that my discovery is given to you fairly and
The verses then follow which contain the rule for the
three case, a? 3 -J- bx z: c; # 3 bx -f- c and <*? 3 -}" c &#
discovered by Tartalea in 1534. Translated into the
language of modern mathematics, they read thus 1 :
i The mystic rhymes themselves here follow. Tartalea's effusion
was a thing to puzzle Petrarch :
" Quando chel cubo con le cose apresso
Se agualia & qualche numero discrete
Trouan dui altri different! in esso
Dapoi terrai questo per consueto
Ch'el lor produtto sempre sia eguale
Al terzo cubo delle cose neto
El residue poi suo generale
Belli lor lati cubi ben sottratti
Varra la tua cosa principale.
In el secondo de cotesti atti
Quando chel cubo restasse lui solo
TARTACLIA REVEALS HIS SECRET. 251
Find two numbers z and y, so that z y c in the first
case or z -}-?/ c in the second and third cases, and
zy :n (-J-6) 3 : then x ^/ 3 z y/ 3 y in the first case, and
x = y% -f- y^j/ in the other two. The original verses
are given in a note below. Tartalea was not by any
means singular in his practice of converting such a rule
into a versified enigma. In this respect he followed the
example set by the first of the Italian printed algebrists,
Luca di Borgo, who had for each of the three forms of
which an equation of the second degree is susceptible, a
particular rule, instead of one general rule that sufficed for
all. The three rules he expressed in three Latin quatrains,
of which one will be found cited below as a specimen of
the manner 1 . It was not, therefore, any individual con-
Tu osseruarai quest 'altri contratti
Del numer farai due tal part' a uolo
Che luna in 1'altra si produca sclrietto
El terzo cubo delle cose in stolo
Delle qual poi, per commun precetto
Torrai li lati cubi insierae gionti
Et cotal summa sara il tuo concetto
El terzo poi de questi nostri conti
Se solue col secondo se ben guardi
Che per natura son quasi congionti
Questi trouai, et non con passi tardi
Nel mille cinquecent'e quatro e trenta
Con fondamenti ben said' e gagliardi
Nella citta dal mar' intorno centa."
Quesiti et Invention^ p. 123.
I have not ventured to interfere with the allowance originally made by
Tartalea to his poem, of one full stop and two commas.
1 Primi canonis versus.
" Si res et census numero coequantur a rebus
252 JEROME CARDAN.
ceit which caused Tartalea to put his process into
" Which rhyme/' having quoted it, he went on to say,
" speaks so clearly, that, without other example, I think
your excellency will be able to understand the whole.
M. HIERONIMO. I shall no doubt understand it, and
have almost understood it at once ; go however, and when
you have returned, I will let you see whether I have
NICOLO. Now your excellency will remember not to
fail of your promised faith, because if by ill fate you
should fail in it, that is to say, if you were to publish these
cases either in that work which you are now printing, or
in any other, though you published it under my name,
and gave it as my own discovery, I promise and swear
that I will cause a book to be printed immediately after-
wards that you shall not find very agreeable.
M. HIERONIMO. Do not doubt that I shall perform
what I have promised; go, and feel secure upon that
point ; give this letter of mine to the lord marquis on
NICOLO. Now I bid you farewell.
Dimidio surapto censum producere debes
Addere que numero: cujus a radice totiens
Tolle semis rerum census latusque redibit."
Luca di Borgo. Summa de Arithmetica Geometria,
&c. (ed. 1494) Dist. viii. Tract 5, p. 145.
TARTAGLIA RETURNS HOME SUDDENLY. 253
M. HiERONlMO. May the hour be lucky in which you
NlCOLO (aside). By my faith, I shall not go gallanting
to Vigevano. So I shall just travel back to Venice, come
of it what may 1 ."
1 "NicoLO. Hor su me aricomando. M. HIERO. Andati in bon'
NICOLO. Per la fede mia che non uoglio andare altramente a Vige-
vene, anci me uoglio uoltare alia uolta de Venetia, uada la cosa come
si uoglio." Ques. et Inv. p. 124.
254 JEROME CARDAN.
THE BEST OF THE DISPUTE BETWEEN THE TWO MATHEMATICIANS IN
THIS CHAPTER IS CONTAINED AN ACCOUNT OF THE LIFE AND POR-
TUNES OF LODOVICO FERRARI, CARDAN'S FOREMOST PUPIL.
NiCOLO went off by no means easy in his mind. The
secret was no longer his own, and Cardan was a busy-
headed fellow. Jerome at once went to work upon
Tartalea's rules, but being misled by the badness of the
verses, into the reading of (4- b) 3 as -J b 3 , he could not
work with them ; he therefore wrote the following note
to Venice on the 9th of April 1 .
" My very dear Messer Nicolo, I am much surprised
at your having left so suddenly, without speaking to the
lord marquis, who came on Easter Sunday, and could
not have your instruments until the Tuesday afterwards,
1 Ques. et Inv. p. 124. The letter begins, " Messer Nicolo mio
carissimo." All these letters end, it may be observed, with "Non
altro," the " So no more," not yet extinct among our humble letter-
writers. It is followed as regularly by the phrase " God " [or Christ]
" keep you from harm," " Iddio da mal ui guardi." Thus the ending
of this letter, for example, was " Non altro Christo da mal ui guardi.
In Millano alii 9 Aprile 1539. Hieronimo Cardano medico, tutto vostro."
CARDAN EXPOSTULATES. 255
and with great difficulty. However, he had them, and
understood them ; I presented them on the same Tuesday
in the evening. Truly I think you were wrong in not
making yourself known to his excellency, because he is
a most liberal prince, and a g reat lover and abettor of
genius, and he valued your instruments and desired to
have them explained to him, and I showed him succinctly
their value ; now that must suffice ; the time may yet
come when you may be glad to be known by the lord
marquis. When I know for what reason you left, or by
whom you were advised to do so, I will tell him.
As for my work, I think it will be complete next week,
for there are only three more leaves to be filled. As for
the question of your case of the cosa and cube equal to the
number, I thank you much for having given me the
rule, and I will let you see that I shall not be ungrateful.
But, however, I must confess my fault in not having had
ingenuity enough yet to understand it, therefore I beg
you, for the love you bear me, and for the friendship that
is between us, and that will, I hope, last while we live, to
send me solved this question one cube, three cosas equal
to ten; and I hope that you will have as much good-will
in sending as I in receiving it. So no more. Christ keep
you from harm. In Milan, on the 9th of April, 1539.
HTERONIMO CARDAN, Physician.
" All" [we should say ever] " yours."
256 JEROME CARDAN.
Nicolo in reply did not return Jerome's " Mio Caris-
simo," or sign himself all his, but explained to the " Ho-
norando Messer Hieronimo," that nobody must be blamed
for advising him to return to Venice, because he had
promised his friends that he would be with them at
Easter, and as it was he had much trouble in getting
home by Holy Sunday. " Concerning your work," he
said, " I much desire that it shall be out soon, and should
like to see it, because if I do not see it I shall be suspect-
ing that you have broken your word, that is to say, may
have interpolated my rules in some part of it 1 ." Certainly
if Nicolo had had blood-guiltiness upon his conscience,
and had betrayed his secret to a woman, he could not
have been more nervously expectant of the terrors of
exposure. Seeing at once what part of his rhyme had
puzzled Cardan, he gave the required explanation, and
concluded his letter thus: " So no more. God keep you
from harm. In Venice, on the 23rd of April, 1539.
Remember your promise.
NICOLO TARTALEA, of Brescia."
On the 12th of May Jerome set his friend's mind at
ease by sending a copy of his book, with the following
1 " Circa alia vostra opera molto desidero che la se fornisca presto,
et ui uederla, perche per fin che non la uedo sto suspettoso che quella
non mi manchi di fede, cioe che quella non ue interponga, li miei capi-
toli." Tartalea, p. 124.
TARTAGLIA WARNS CARDAN ASSEVERATES. 257
" In answer to your letter of the 23rd of April, received
the other day, very dear Misser Nicolo, I will reply to
you succinctly part by part, and first as to the excuse of
your departure without going to Vigevano. I desire
nothing but what you desire, and regret that you have
been put to so much trouble on my account, without any
advantage for yourself.
" As to my work, just finished, to remove your sus-
picion I send you a copy, but I send it unbound, for I
would not have it beaten while it was so fresh. As for
your rule and my case solved by you, I thank you very
particularly, and praise your ingenuity above all with
which I have met, and am more pleased than if you had
given me a hundred ducats. I hold you as my very
dear friend. I have tried the rule and found it universal.
As to the doubt you have lest I should print such your
inventions, my faith that I have given you with an oath,
ought to suffice 1 , because the hastening of my book was
nothing to the purpose, for whenever I like I can add to
it. But I hold you excused by the importance of the
1 "... la mia fede che ui ho data con giuramento, ui doueua bas-
tare, perche la speditione del mio libro non faceua niente a questo,
perche sempre che mi pare gli posso sempre aggiongere, ma lie ho per
escuso che la dignita della cosa, non ui lassa fondare sopra quello che
ui doueti fondare, cioe sopra la fede d'un gentil'huomo e ui fondati
sopra una cosa che non ual niente, cioe ma el ponto e qua chel
non e mazor tradimento. che a esser mancator di fede, e far dispiacere
a chi 1'ha fatto appiacere." Op. cit. p. 125.
VOL. I. 8
258 JEROME CARDAN.
matter for not resting content with that which ought to
content you, that is to say the word of a gentleman, and
depending on a thing that is of no worth at all, that is to
say the finishing of a book to which a capitulum novum
or capitula nova could at any time be added, and there are
a thousand other ways, but the point is that there is no
greater treachery than to break faith and to displease
those who have given us pleasure, and if you were to try
me you would find whether I shall be your friend or not,
and whether I shall be grateful for your friendship and
the favours you have done me.
" I send word to you also,, and earnestly beg concerning
these my printed works for my love of him who has
printed them, and will send some into your town for
sale, that you will not lend them about more than neces-
sary, for my sake. If they had been printed, at my own
expense I would not say a word, because I care more for
the profit of my friends than for my own. So no more.
God keep you from evil. In Milan, the 12th of May;
" HIERONIMUS CARDANUS medicus, totus vcster"
Nicolo, partly appeased, or glad of something new to
grumble at, replied on this occasion to the " Honoran-
dissimo Messer Nicolo," and signed himself " Nicolo Tar-
talea of Brescia, all yours." He had received the book,
TARTAGLIA HEARS FROM MASTER MAPHIO. 259
but being busy over his Euclid, had only found time to
glance at it and fall at once upon a shocking error, " so
gross/ 1 he says, " that I am amazed at it, for one would
have thought that it might have been seen with only half
an eye 1 ." He is quite " sorry for the honour" of his
friend. Nicolo had verily the temper of a thistle.
On the 10th of July in the same year the restless
mathematician was further excited by a letter from an old
pupil settled at Bergamo, one Master Maphio, asking
help in the untying of some knot of a problem, and
ending with a scrap of gossip, to the effect that a friend
from Milan had written word to him that the physician
Cardan was engaged over a new algebraical work, treat-
ing of certain new discoveries. Could they be Tartalea's?
Certainly they were, Tartalea replied, if the news were
true, and cited the grim proverb: "If you wish your
counsel kept, make confidant of nobody." He begged
Maphio to be on the alert, and send him if he could more
tidings on the matter. The rumour, I need not say, was
false. Jerome made his promise in good faith, and it was
not until five years afterwards that any book of his was
published upon Algebra. Tartalea, however, had left
1 " Vostra eccellentia erra tanto de grosso che me ne stupisco,
perche cadauno che hauesse solamente mezzo un' occhio lo potria ve-
dere cosa rnolto redicolosa cosa molto lontano dalla
verita, della qualcosa molto me ne rincresce per honor uostro. Non
altro Iddio da mal, &c. Nicolo Tartalea Brisciano tutto vostro."
260 JEROME CARDAN.
Milan, sulky, and already considered that he had a right
to quarrel with Cardan. Jerome's next letters were not
answered, nor are they published in Tartalea's book.
On the 4th of August, however, Cardan wrote a letter,
which is printed, complaining courteously of the fact
that he had written many other letters, which were not
honoured with any reply, asking for information upon
various points, and chiefly requesting help in clearing up
the difficulty of the irreducible case <t? 3 = bx -\- c, at
which Jerome had arrived in the course of his own studies.
To this letter Tartalea appends the note that follows:
" I have a good mind to give no answer to this letter, no
more than to the other two. However, I will answer it,
if it be but to let him know what I have been told of
him. And as I perceive that a suspicion has arisen con-
cerning the difficulty or obstacle in the rule for the case"
(# 3 bx -J- c), " I will try whether he can change the data
that he has in hand, so as to remove the said obstacle and
alter the rule into some other form ; though, indeed, I
believe that it cannot be done, nevertheless there can be
110 harm in trying 1 ." He wrote therefore a letter, which
began, omitting altogether Honorando, or Honorandis-
1 Op. cit. p. 126. " Et dapoi che uedo che sta suspettando sopra la
retta via de la regola del capitolo di cose, e numero, equal a cubo,
uoglio tentare se gli potesse cambiare li dati che ha in mane cioe re-
mover lo di tal ilia retta e farlo intrare in qualche altra a ben che
credo non ui sara mezzo, nondimeno il tentar non noce."
A MATHEMATICIAN SULKING. 26 I
simo, to say nothing of Carissimo, thus : " Mcsscr Hie-
ronimo, I have received a letter of yours, in which you
write that you understand the rule for the case a? 3 rr bx + c ;
but that when (^) 3 exceeds (^c) 2 you cannot resolve the
equation by following the rule, and therefore you request
me to give you the solution of this equation X s 9# -f 10 1 .
To which I reply" (it will be understood that to himself
also the case was insoluble) " to which I reply, and say,
that you have not used the good method for resolving
such a case ; also I say that such your proceeding is
entirely false. And as to resolving you the equation you
have sent, I must say that I am very sorry that I have
given you already so much as I have done, for I have
been informed, by a person worthy of faith, that you are
about to publish another algebraical work, and that you
have gone boasting through Milan of having discovered
some new rules in Algebra. But take notice, that if you
break your faith with me, I shall certainly not break
promise with you (for it is not my custom) ; nay, even
undertake to visit you with more than I had promised."
The rest of the letter, which is very long, was chiefly
intended to be disagreeable. To another of Cardan's
1 In the old algebraical language, " haueti inteso il capitolo de cubo,
equale a cose, et nuraero, ma che quando il cubo della terza parte delle
cose eccede il quadrato della mita del nutnero che alPhora non poteti
farli seguir la equatione, et che per tanto me pregati che ue dia resolto
questo capitolo de .1. cubo. equale a .9. cose piu .10."
262 JEROME CARDAN.
questions, Nicolo replied that two of his pupils had
answered it one of them, Richard Went worth, the
English gentleman, whom he praised much ; and he sent
the two solutions by his pupils, written with their hands.
He further talked about his Euclid, and in various ways
heartily abused Cardan's Arithmetic, which he pronounced
to be a confused mess, and supposed must have been not
got out of his own head, but " collected and copied by
the pen from divers books, at divers times, just as they
chanced to come into his hands." Upon another mathe-
matical matter he was further " amazed and astounded"
at Cardan's persistent ignorance, laughed at his having
once said to him in his own house that if a certain kind
of solution had not been considered impossible by Luca
di Borgo, he should have tried to discover it (as if he
could discover anything indeed I), and thought it a pity
that he did not know physic enough for the cure of his
own errors. He ended by saying, " once I held you in
good esteem, but I see now that I deceived myself
grossly 1 ."
Cardan replied briefly to his friend on the 18th of
October, after having perhaps waited until he had cooled
from the anger which Tartalea's rude letter must have at
1 " Et certamente el fu gia che ni haueua in bon conto, ma al pre-
sente uedo che me ingannaua de grosso, non altro Iddio ui conserui in
Venetia alii .7. Agosto. 1539. Mcolo Tartalea Brisciano." Op. cit.
THE WINTER OF TARTAGLIA'S DISCONTENT. 263
first occasioned. He replied to the " most honourable
Messcr NicoloY' that he must have been beside himself to
write as he had written to one " who was his great friend,
and had without envy praised him to the skies." He
added, " for the other matter I reply that you have been
misinformed about my intention to publish on Algebra,
and to make known your rules. I think you must have
been hearing something from Messer Ottaviano Scoto
about the Arcana of Eternity, which you imagine to
be the Algebra I am about to publish. As to your
repentance at having given me your rules, I am not to be
moved by that or by any words of yours to depart from
the faith I pledged you 2 ."
To this letter Tartalea sent no answer ; still Jerome did
not quarrel with him; and another letter from Cardan,
the last in Nicolo's collection, dated the 5th of January,
1540, stated how " that deuce of a Messer Zuanne da
CoiV' by whom Nicolo, Jerome, and all mathematicians
in that part of Italy were bored, had come to Milan, be^
lieving that Cardan was desirous to give up to him his
arithmetical lectures, and professing, apparently with
truth, that he had found out certain rules. Cardan
1 " Ho receputa una uostra, Messer Nicolo osseruandissimo, . . , ."
2 " .... Quanto al pentirue hauermi dato quel uostro capitolo, per
questo non mi mouo, per uostre parole a niuna cosa contra la fede ui
3 " Eglie ritornato qui quel diauolo de Messer Zuanne Colle, . . ."
264 JEROME CARDAN.
having had some contests with their ancient rival, desired
Tartalea to assist in capturing the ground which Zuanne
held as his exclusive property. To this letter Nicolo
added in his diary a number of saturnine and mathema-
tical comments, and summed up by waiting that he
should not choose to send Cardan an answer, because he
said " I have no more affection for him than for Messer
Zuanne, and therefore I shall leave them to themselves 1 .'*
One of the questions put by the pertinacious Messer
Zuanne Tonini da Coi, not soluble at the time by any
one, and thought insoluble by some, was the following:
" Find me three numbers continually proportional, of
which the sum is ten and the product of the second by
the first is six." This led to the following troublesome
equation: z 4 -}- 6# 3 + 36 rr 60#. Cardan worked very
industriously at it, and urged his friend and pupil Lodo-
vico Ferrari to do the same. Tartalea, we have seen, de-
clined contemptuously to take the field. An ingenious
method of solution was eventually discovered by Ferrari,
which consisted in adding to each side of the equation
arranged in a certain way quadratic and simple quan-
tities, of a kind calculated to render the extraction of the
square root of each possible. By this method of resolving
1 " Non li uoglio dar altra risposta, perche fe non ui ho phi afletione
a lui che a Messer Zuanne, e pero li utiglio lassar far tra loro." Tar-
talea, p. 129.
LODOVICO FERRARI. 265
an equation of the fourth degree, by the reduction of the
biquadratic into a cubic, Ferrari secured for himself the
right of being honourably named in every history of
Honourably named and little more, for he died young,
and left no written works behind him. His friend Car-
dan, through whom he rose, has left a brief sketch of his
life and character 1 . I have already related how, after the
introductory omen of a magpie, young Ferrari had been
brought by his uncle to Cardan's house as a servant.
Some minute detail connected with that event may now
be given. A certain Bartholomew Ferrari, a man of
humble fortunes, having been exiled from Milan, settled
in Bologna, where he had two sons, Vincent and
Alexander. Vincent was Lodovico's uncle, Alexander
was his father. Alexander being killed, the boy went to
his uncle's house, and lived there. Vincent Ferrari had
an unmanageable son named Luke, who, flying one day
from his father's anger, went to Milan, and by chance
hired] himself as famulus into the service of Cardan.
After a time he slipped away from his new master, with-
out warning given, and went back to his old home.
Jerome applied there for him, and his father Vincent
took that opportunity of getting Lodovico off his hands.
As a substitute for his son Luke he sent his nephew off to
be the doctor's servant, and so it happened that on a day
1 Opera, Tom. ix. p. 568. I take from it the following details.
266 JEROME CARDAN.
before mentioned, Lodovico Ferrari, then fifteen years
old, went, poor and uninstructed, into Jerome's service.
But he was a boy of very extraordinary natural ability;
Cardan soon put him to use as an amanuensis, and
accepted him next as a pupil and a friend not indeed
because he was a good boy, for he was nothing of the
kind. His temper was so bad that Jerome went near
him with caution, and shrunk often from the task of
speaking to him. He grew up also irreligious, given to
habitual and open scorn of God. The friendship between
him and Cardan grew out of their common love of know-
ledge, out of the problems upon which they had worked
together, out of Lodovico's sense of obligation to the man
by whose hand he was raised, and out of Jerome's pride
at having fairly brought before the world so fine an intel-
lect. Ferrari also was a neat and rosy little fellow,
wicked as he may have been, with a bland voice, a
cheerful face, and an agreeable short nose, attentive in
trifling things, and fond of pleasure. By his manners
and his brilliant genius he made way for himself in the
world with wonderful rapidity. His worldly career pre-
sented, in its early course, a great contrast to that of the
unlucky philosopher who taught him Latin, Greek, and
mathematics, and upon whose shoulders he knew how to
At the age of eighteen Ferrari began to teach, and
excited universal admiration in the town. He was
THE FORTUNES OF A YOUNG MATHEMATICIAN. 267
scarcely twenty years old when he contested publicly
with Zuanne da Coi and Tartalea: Tartalca declares in
his own book that he, Tartalea, was left the victor:
Cardan states that Ferrari overcame them both, and
appeals confidently, in support of his assertion, to the
public records then extant, and the common understand-
ing in the town. Two years afterwards the brilliant
young scholar was held in so much esteem, that the
possession of- his services was contended for by the great
men around him. He was tempted by simultaneous
offers from the gay Brissac, from the emperor himself,
who desired him as a teacher for his son, and from the
Cardinal of Mantua. An offer of court service did not
lure Ferrari, who cared less for nominal honour than for
actual profit. The Cardinal's brother, Ferrando Gonzaga,
then governor at Milan, having given to the flourishing
youth the office of surveyor of the province, with a salary
of four hundred gold crowns; and the cardinal himself
offering largely, Lodovieo went into. the churchman's train,
and was so well rewarded, that in eight years he received
nearly four thousand gold crowns, in addition to free
entertainment for himself, two servants, and a horse. The ,
cardinal's good living after a time aggravated a fistula
with which Ferrari became troubled, and unreasonably
angry with his patron because he was unable to escape the
consequences of his own too free indulgence in the plea-
268 JEBOME CARDAN.
sures of the table, the ill-humoured young mathematician
quitted abruptly his not very dignified position as a re-
tainer. Then retiring into independence, he built for
himself a house, in which he went to live with his sister,
Maddalena, orphan and widow, whom he truly loved. We
shall meet with him hereafter, teaching mathematics at
Bologna ; but it is expedient to complete the sketch of his
career by adding in this place, that he died suddenly and
prematurely, at the age of thirty-eight, in the first year
of his professorship, as it was said by poison. Nearly all
sudden deaths did in those days of ignorance prompt
rumours about poison ; but in this case there was some
colour given to the rumour by the fact that his sister
the one person towards whom his wayward heart had
really turned in love inherited his property, scorned to
lament at his funeral, married fifteen days after his death,
and at once gave all his money, goods, and chattels, to
her husband. That reads like the sequel to a wild story
of Italian passion. But the sequel is not there. The
sequel is, that Maddalena lived to be repudiated by the
man to whom she gave her own soul and her brother's
wealth. When Cardan wrote the brief sketch that he
has left of the career of his old pupil, she was a miserable
old woman, living in the country in a state of abject
poverty, unpitied and unaided by the man whom her
guilt, as it was suspected, had enriched. Ferrari left no
CARDAN'S BREACH OP FAITH. 269
other fruit of his great genius than the formula which
Cardan has referred to him, and in connexion with which
his name therefore has remained to us. He wrote no
books, and engaged himself during his unhappy life in
little other literary labour than the collecting of the dicta
left by former authors. He had indeed written some
comments upon Caesar and Vitruvius, and of those his
sister's husband took possession, with all other property.
He laid them by, as he himself told Cardan, until his son
by a first wife was old enough to receive credit for having
written them, as he intended them to have then pub-
lished in his name. In every way the enemy resolved to
fatten on Ferrari's substance. That is the story of
Ferrari; a story of great powers wasted for the want of
guiding energy and principle. He was born on the 2nd
of February, 1522, and he died on the 5th of October, m
the year 1560.
Cardan, in publishing Ferrari's discovery, attributed it
duly to its author - y and in that respect he was not less
just to Tartalea, though the secret of the latter was made
public by a breach of faith which, says Nonius (Nunez),
a contemporary Spanish mathematician, made Tartalea
so wild, that he was like one who had gone out of his
mind. Jerome's breach of faith I shall not justify. It
will shortly be seen that there was no palliating circum-
stance possible in such a case which he was not able to
urge to himself fairly; the promise he made was ridicu-
270 JEROME CARDAN.
lous, and if the wrong consisted rather in making than in
breaking it, Tartalea had not the less cause to complain.
Sympathy for Tartalea we cannot, indeed feel. The at-
tempt to assert exclusive right to the secret possession of
apiece of information, which was the next step in the
advancement of a liberal science, the refusal to add it,
inscribed with his own name, to the common heap, until
he had hoarded it, in hope of some day, when he was
at leisure, turning it more largely to his own advantage,
could be excused in him only by the fact that he was
rudely bred and self-taught, that he was not likely to
know better. Any member of a liberal profession who
is miserly of knowledge, forfeits the respect of his fra-
ternity. The promise of secrecy which Cardan had no
right to make, Tartalea had no right to demand. In
respect to three- fourths of the case it was indeed pecu-
liarly absurd; because of the four rules discovered by
Tartalea, and communicated to Cardan, he could claim
rights of invention over one only, that with which he
had turned the tables against Antonio Maria Fior, on
the occasion of their contest. The other rule then dis-
covered by him had been known not only to Fior, but
even to Scipio Ferreo, at least forty years before Cardan
published it; and the other two rules discovered by
Tartalea in 1530, had then been for some time known
to Zuanne da Coi.
THE SPIRIT OF THE QUARREL. 271
Of the conversations and correspondence between Car-
dan and. Tartalea on this subject we have only, as
has been seen, the ex parte statement of Tartalea,
who gives his own version of the conversations, and
does not publish all the letters that passed on the
subject. Yet it is evident, even from this hostile
account, that Jerome made a promise in good faith, and
that Tartalea never seemed to consider that it was suffi-
ciently binding. Tartalea himself proves that Cardan
bore gross rudeness very good humouredly, and that
though his good faith was doubted and contemned, he
did not consider himself entitled to take any advantage of
its ungenerous rejection. Tartalea's rule was not put into
the Arithmetic, nor was it communicated to the world by
Cardan until it had grown, in the good soil of his own
mind, out of a seed into a tree. He considered then that
it had become so far fairly his own that he was entitled to
make public distribution of its fruits, if he gave, as he was
quite ready to give, and did give, proper credit to Tar-
talea for his part in their production. If he was still
bound by the letter of his promise, since mathematical
facts could be explained only step by step, he, who
proved himself to be decidedly the best mathematician of
his time, was bound to stand still near the threshold of his
science till Tartalea, by moving forward and himself pub-
lishing his rule, left the path open for him. Tartalea,
however, was in no mood to be hurried, and he actually
272 JEROME CARDAN.
died about thirty years after the acquisition of two of his
rules, and a quarter of a century after the acquisition of
the others, without having either published them or used
them so that it could be known of him that he had done
so as the stepping-stones to higher knowledge. Cardan
committed most undoubtedly a breach of faith, and was
guilty of an abstract though not therefore the less real
wrong; practical wrong he did to nobody, for his book
on Algebra was a great gain to science, and did no actual
injustice to Tartalea, to whom Cardan rendered in it that
which was his due. When to the preceding facts we add
the reflection that this great algebraic quarrel took place
in the most corrupt of European states at one of the cor-
ruptest periods of modern history, when the promise of a
pope himself was good for nothing, we shall be likely to
decide fairly upon the degree in which the details of this
controversy should affect our estimate of Cardan's cha-
The Book of the Great Art, the Algebra 1 , published by
Cardan in the year 1545, which was the tenth book of his
Arithmetic, was published by Petreius, of Nuremberg, and
dedicated to the scholar in that town for whose courtesy
he was indebted for his introduction to its presses, Andrew
1 " De Arte Magna, sive de Kegulis Algebraicis." It was published
in folio, says Naudaeus, who appears not to have seen the first edition.
I believe it is not in any English public library.
CARDAN'S u BOOK OF THE GREAT ART." 273
Osiandcr. To him Jerome dedicated, with a proper sense
of gratitude and literary courtesy, his Algebra, as to a
man " most learned in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and Mathe-
matics, but rather," he says, " because it appeared to me
that this my work could be dedicated to no man more
fitly than to yourself, by whom it may be emended (if my
erring hand has ill obeyed the mandates of the mind) and
read with enjoyment and understanding, from whom also
it can receive authoritative commendation. . . . Accept,
therefore, this lasting testimony of my love towards you,
and of your kind offices towards me, as well as of your
distinguished erudition 1 ."
Very genuine in Cardan is the feeling that prompts all
his dedications. His books are always inscribed in acknow-
ledgment of kindness to the men who had a claim upon
his gratitude, never to men whom he hoped thereby to
make grateful and liberal towards himself. They were the
scholar's courtesies bestowed where they were due; he
never carried them to market.
Cardan stated at the beginning of his Algebra that, as
his work chiefly went into new ground, he should <; deco-
rate with the names" of the discoverer inventions not his
own, and that all matter not ascribed to other men would
be his own. The whole book was original, in fact, with
the exception of those few rules from which he started,
1 Ars Magna. Opera, Tom. iv. p. 221.
VOL. I. T
274 JEROME CARDAN.
and of existing rules the demonstrations were all his with
exception of four, said to have been left attached to his
four elementary rules by Mahomet ben Musa, and two of
which Lodovico Ferrari was the author. Cardan, in his
first chapter, ascribes to every man his own ; does honour
to Pisanus and Era Luca ; then, after coupling the dis-
covery of Scipio Ferreo with a high eulogy of the mathe-
matician and his divine art, Jerome adds: " In emulation
of him, Nicolo Tartalea of Brescia, our friend, when in
contest with the pupil of Ferreus, Antonia Maria Fior,
that he might not be conquered, discovered the same
rule, which he made known to me besought by many
prayers 1 ." He is nowhere chary of acknowledgment. In
the sixth chapter of this book he ascribes to Tartalea
the credit of having taught him in what way to push
forward all his algebraical discoveries, owning freely that
a hint given by Tartalea led to his use of the method by
which all the rules in the work are demonstrated, and all
that is new was first discovered. " When I understood,"
he says, "that the rule taught to me by Nicolo Tartalea
had been discovered by him through a geometrical demon-
stration, I thought to myself that must be the golden way
up to all algebraical discovery 3 ." That golden way, there-
1 Op. Tom, iv. p. 222.
2 Ibid. p. 235. The details that have here been given are further
illustrated by a highly characteristic portrait of himself, prefixed by
Tartalea to his " Quesiti et Inventione." A fac-simile of that por-
trait, reduced in size, will be found upon the title-page of the second
volume of the present work.
CARDAN'S DISCOVERIES IN ALGEBRA. 275
fore, Cardan prosecuted, and the result was a work of
remarkable completeness and originality. In it he laid
down rules for all forms and varieties of cubic equations,
having all their terms or wanting any of them, and having
all possible varieties of signs. Every rule given he demon-
strated geometrically. He treated very fully of almost all
kinds of transformations of equations, in a manner before
wholly unknown. In the same book he for the first time
made frequent use of the literal notation, a, b, c, d. He
therein gave a rule for biquadratics suiting all their cases,
and in the invention of that rule made use of an assumed
indeterminate quantity, and afterwards found its value by
the arbitrary assumption of a relation between the terms.
He therein first applied algebra to the resolution of
The list could be made more minute, but it would in
that case be more technical ; the citation of those main
points is enough to show the very great importance of
Cardan's Book of the Great Art, in which the whole doc-
trine of cubic equations was first published to the world 1 .
In that department of algebra, Tartalea had indeed turned
the first sod, but it was Cardan who ploughed the field
and raised the crop upon it. No algebraical book equal in
1 In Button's Mathematical Dictionary, art. Algebra, there may be
seen a list of the chief improvements introduced into the art by Car-
dan, sixteen in number.
276 JEROME CARDAN.
importance to Cardan's was published in his time. The
Germans, who were not much read in Italy, had advanced
beyond the Italians in mathematics, but Cardan's book
published in Germany placed him easily and indisputably
at the head of all. One of the best of the German mathe-
matical books, the Arithmetica Integra of Michael Stife-
lius (Englished, Michael Boot), had issued from the press,
also of Nuremberg, less than a year before the publication
in that town of Cardan's Ars Magna. Before I close these
details in the life of a primitive algebrist, it may help to
suggest to us how truly primitive he was, if we consider
that in that book by Stifelius the signs -f~> > and ^/,
were for the first time used.
A PROLIFIC AUTHOR. 277
THE CONQUEST OF AN ADVERSE WORLD.
TARTALEA could not get on with algebra for twenty
years because he was translating Euclid; Cardan in five
years had advanced the science by great strides, and was
at the same time engaged upon a dozen other works 1 . In
the year 1543 the separate works written by him amounted
to the number of fifty-three, divided into a hundred and
fifty-eight books, technically so called 2 ; and from that
date the number of them multiplied so rapidly that an
attempt to give even the shortest tolerable account of
them all would make this narrative unreasonably long.
A very few more notes will enable us to complete in
sufficient detail that essential part of Jerome's life which
describes the steps by which he worked his way to fame
and general acceptance as an author. After the publica-
tion of the Book of the Great Art his way was easy, and
1 " Neque enim mens tandiu intenta uni negocio esse potest." De
Libr. Prop. (1557) p. 12.
2 Ibid. The same authority or reference to the subsequent book
De Libris Propriis will justify whatever else is said in this chapter
upon the order of publication of Cardan's writings.
278 JEROME CARDAN.
there were on all sides publishers willing to buy what he
would suffer them to print. He was not idle, and his
love of print, rather than his love of money, caused him
to degenerate often into a hack writer, to drag all manner
of disquisitions into his books for the sole purpose of
filling sheets ; but even such interpolations and digressions
always carefully retouched and digested having on
them his own stamp of eccentricity and genius, very
likely helped to make his works more popular. The pub-
lications issued by Cardan between the years 1542 and
1545 contributed to the foundations of his fame, and
these, which I left out of sight in order to trace uninter-
ruptedly the history of his most valuable treatise, include
the last of his less prominent works that will need special
In the first place there was that astrological book
which he sent in reply to the application made from Nu-
remberg by Osiander and Petreius. Joannes Petreius pub-
lished it in the year 1543, and it was entitled " Two Tracts
by Girolamo Cardano, Physician of Milan. One a Sup-
plement to the Almanac, the other on the Restitution of
the Celestial Times and Motions. Also Forty-seven Na-
tivities, remarkable for the Events they Foretcl, with an
Exposition 1 ." The book was dedicated gratefully to
1 " Libelli duo: unus, de Supplemento Almanach. Alter, de Restitu-
tione temporum et motuurn cselestium," &c. 4to. Norimb. 1543.
Cardan's Milanese friend and patron, Filippo Archinto.
So far as it is a supplement to the almanac, it contains
various useful directions, sucli as how to find the pole, to
recognise planets at sight, and so forth, with some useless
matter, then accounted precious, of an astrological descrip-
tion. The nativities are very curious. Among them are
the horoscopes each with an exposition of Petrarca, of
Luther, of the Emperor Charles V, and of King Francis I,
of Fazio Cardan, of Jerome himself, of his friend Ar-
chinto, and his other patrons; of Venice, from the date of
its establishment, and, in the same way, of Florence and
Bologna. The horoscope of Jerome himself I append
for the benefit of any person who is able to understand
such mysteries, or may have a desire to see in what fashion
these things were drawn.
280 JEROME CARDAN.
Minute explanation of the twelve houses of the twelve
signs, and of what Mars meant by being in one, and
what the Sun and Venus meant by being together in
another, while the Moon was in a third, is rendered the
less necessary by the fact that the sketch of his own future,
drawn by Cardan from this nativity, was emphatically
incorrect. What the stars pronounced strongly against
did happen, and what did happen the stars did not
indicate at all.
Concerning his skill as an astrologer, Cardan said in
his dedication that " the ungrateful condition of the times
was such that no prayers or rewards would induce him
again to exercise his art." A certain bishop at Rome
held, he said, unwittingly, the last example of his skill
Although there was at the time, happily, some ten-
dency to ridicule astrology, still the supporters of that
science were not few, nor had its professors, when gain
only was their object, any reason to complain, for it
was among the wealthy that it found most liberal support;
princes and nobles still amused themselves as amateur
astrologers, and these were ready to pay liberally for the
aid and countenance they had from scientific men.
Cardan's way to the favour of the rich at any rate might
have been much more difficult had there been less to
favour superstition in his character. The practice of
astrology Jerome abjured as vainly as the toper might
WRITING FOR THE FIRE. 281
abjure his tankard. He both practised it again and
wrote of it again ; twice again in successive works he
discussed, among others, his own horoscope. In doing so
for the last time, when the events of his life lay chiefly in
the past, his comment upon it, and upon all nativities
by which it was influenced and modified, became so
elaborate that it assumed by itself almost the proportions
of a book. He returned then thoroughly to his astro-
logy, for how could he forswear it while he believed the
science to be true, and there were yet kings to urge that
he would exercise his skill in it on their behalf?
In the same year, 1543, Jerome had begun the writing
of a life of Galen, which it does not appear that he ever
finished. He also laboured at a book on the art of Meto-
poscopy, illustrated with numerous physiognomical draw-
ings. He wrote other matter, much that he has himself
designated as prodigious folly, on the hint of which he
expressed his opinion, and that no foolish one, that there
is in the mind, as in the body, a necessity for getting rid
of waste, that the active literary man must write things
for the fire as well as for the press. Such a work was
Cardan's " Convivium," or treatise on Example in Love.
In the same year, stirred by the restless spirit that would
never suffer him to be content with one work at a time, he
was engaged in philological research, and wrote a dialogue
in his own tongue upon a comparison between the respec-
282 JEROME CARDAN".
tive qualities of the Greek, Latin, Italian, and Spanish lan-
guages. Spanish armies were so much at home in Italy,
and the Spanish language is. so easily to be acquired by
an Italian, that Jerome's busy mind could not have failed
to fasten on it, and to add it to all other acquisitions.
Still in the same year, 1543, another of Cardan's domestic
occupations was the collection into one manuscript volume
of his epigrams and poems. His fervid temperament had
often, of course, found relief in verse, but Cardan's poems
were not in any set form given to the world. One or
two are included in his works, and are so directly illus-
trative of his life, that in their proper place they will
become a part of this biography.
In the succeeding year Jerome issued his Five
Books on Wisdom 1 , from the press of Petreius at Nu-
remberg, and added in the same volume a revised re-
issue of the three books on Consolation, and one book on
his own written works. In issuing an account of his
own works, he professed only to follow the example set
by Galen of old, and in his own time by Erasmus. This
volume, containing works on three distinct topics, was
supplied with an ample index, and dedicated to that
1 " De Sapientia Libri V. quibus omnis humanae ritoe cursus viven*
digue ratio explicatur : item de Consolatione Libri tres et Ephemerus
sive libellus de Libellis Propriis." Norimb. 1544. This contains the
first book De Libris Propriis to which reference has been made in
preceding notes, under the title of " De Sapientia," &c.
SUCCESSIVE PUBLICATIONS. 283
patron whose strength had chiefly been of service in re-
moving for him the obstructions offered to his progress
by the Milanese College of Physicians. It was dedicated
to Francisco Sfondrato, Senator and (when the book was
published) Governor of Sienna, who in the dedication
was lauded for the splendour and intellectual refinement
of his private life, for his public piety, the innocence and
extreme prudence and moderation of his conduct as a
magistrate, his lenity, and his simplicity of manners.
In the fourth of the five books on Wisdom there
occurs the statement concerning supposed cures of con-
sumption, which was destined to affect the current of
his after-life. " When we ourselves long laboured in
this city against envy, and our income was not so much as
our expenses (so much harder is the condition of a merit
that is seen than of one that is unknown, and a prophet
is of no honour in his own country), we made many
attempts to discover new things in our art, for away from
the art no step could be made. At length I thought out
the cure of phthisis which they call phthoe, despaired of
for ages, and I healed many who now survive." So the
physician wrote, believing what he stated to be true.
In the same year, Petreius published Cardan's treatise
on the Immortality of Souls, which was republished in the
succeeding year at Lyons by Sebastian Gryphius. Out of
the first fruits of his industry as Professor of Medicine at
284 JEROME CARDAN.
Pavia, were furnished the revised sheets of the first book
of the Contradictions of Doctors, published by a Scoto at
Venice 1 . These publications caused a continual increase of
reputation, and close upon them followed, in the year 1545,
as a grand climax, the Book of the Great Art, already dis-
cussed. Jerome became from that time forward one of
the most popular among the learned authors of his day.
A few more publications caused him to be more widely
talked about perhaps than any other scholar of the time
who did not take part in the great religious movement,
or express any of the passions it aroused.
Prosperity had not come to Cardan, but he had brought
it to himself ; in spite of everything that had warred
against him, he had at length achieved as a philosopher
his conquest of the world. Dishonoured by his birth,
discredited by his first training as a child, frowned upon
as a youth by his university, rejected as a man by the
physicians of his own town, with an ill-looking and sickly
body, an erratic mind and a rough manner, a man to be
disliked at first sight, and shrugged at by all that was
dull and respectable ; in spite of all, by the force of in-
tellect and by the force of incessant, unrelaxing work, he
had at last won ample recognition of his merits. He had
1 This was republished, with the addition of another book, at Paris,
by Jacobus Macaeus, in 1546 ; and by Gryphius, at Lyons, two years
later. It was then called " Contradicentium Medicorum Libri duo,
quorum uterque centum et octo contradictiones continet," &c.
FAME ACQUIRED. 285
used no worldly tact. His first published book would
have been the last book issued by a prudent man, for it
put new determination into the antagonism of his oppo-
nents. Nevertheless, he had steadily continued at his
work, using a strong mind not as a toy but as a tool, and
the result ensued which sooner or later must, in such case,
always ensue. Man has but to will and work. The
objects of a high ambition are not instantly secured.
Cardan had not enough tact to create for himself popu-
larity, but he had talent enough to create for himself
fame. To create it for himself, laboriously, by endurance
and exertion, because no man who moves at a lounging
pace is likely to outmarch his neighbours. Jerome had
forced his way up through years of discouragement,
against contempt and poverty, in spite of severe bodily
infirmities, and at the age of forty-four he was at length
a recognised physician, occupying a professor's chair, and
renowned through Europe as a man of letters. It should
be remembered, however, that he had based his reputa-
tion on the writing of more works than there were years
in his life, and that of those works none had been pub-
lished until they had been reconsidered, polished, and
rewritten more than once, commonly twice, but among
his publications there are many passages that had been
written five and even ten times by his pen before they were
committed to the printer's types. The whole writings of
286 JEROME CARDAN.
Cardan, closely printed, constitute as heavy a load as
any one man would desire to carry on his back. Very
familiar with the pen, therefore, his hand must have be-
come, for to the last he printed nothing that had not been
thus written, rewritten, and again, and perhaps yet again
and again, revised 1 . " For," said Cardan, " they who
write without digestion are like men who eat crude things :
for a slight and temporary satisfaction they inflict upon
themselves a grave and lasting harm 2 ." Even now we
have not a right impression of the whole amount of
student's work which Cardan's writings represent, for it
remains to be added that his memory was very bad, and
for the vast store of facts and illustrations in almost every
department of the science of his day which his many
books contain, he had to depend almost exclusively on
written memoranda 3 .
This persevering habit of hard work, then, was the root
of Cardan's fame, for genius is a sap that will not go far to
produce flower and fruit, still less to beget solid timber, if
there be not in its due place, hidden from the world's eye,
a root like that to keep it fresh and stirring. There were,
however, other qualities in Cardan's writings to which
we must look for an explanation of the very wide popu-
i De Libr. Propr. (1557) p. 74.
a De Vita Propria, cap. 1,
3 " Quantum potui minus memoriae reliqui quam scriptis." '
BOOTS OF FAME. 287
larity that they obtained in Ins own day. He was not
too much before his time. His intellect was strong and
bold ; he dared attempt all themes ; and there were few of
the world's mysteries on which he did not reason in his
books ; but while his power and originality of mind com-
manded universal recognition, learned and unlearned
were glad to read the works of a philosopher who shared
their weaknesses. He was perhaps loved by many not
the less for being in certain respects weaker than them-
selves. On all the attractive and delusive pseudo- sciences
of his own day, on ghosts, dreams, portents, palmistry,
signs in the heavens and wonders upon earth, Cardan
reasoned with good faith, and displayed in their discus-
sion a profundity that flattered and encouraged shallower
believers. Then, too, he wrote upon these and all
things not only more profoundly, but more pleasant!}'
than the great body of his neighbours. As a writer he
was at once learned and amusing. His quick natural
wit made him a brisk narrator even when he was most
garrulous : there was pith in what he wrote, and his works
always sparkled more or less with those well-considered
and well-pointed sayings in which learned and unlearned
equally delight. Mysteries of heaven and earth thus
written about in a credulous and marvel-loving spirit,
made the subject of a curious philosophy, would of course
yield matter for attractive books. They were not less
attractive because they were, or appeared to be, practical.
288 JEROME CARDAN.
Cardan had always a purpose in his writing. Astrology
and kindred topics were supposed nearly to concern the
daily interests of life ; Arithmetic and Algebra concerned
them really. " Make a book," said Cardan, in another
of his aphorisms 1 "make a book that will fulfil a pur-
pose, use will give it polish; then, but not till then,
it will be perfect." Probably his popularity was more
advanced by qualities of this kind in his writings than
by the great and absolute merit of his discoveries in
Algebra, whereupon chiefly his fame must rest. The
Book of the Great Art must, however, have assured to
Cardan among the most learned men of his day that
high respect and consideration which could be secured
from the more ignorant by works of less essential value.
There is another element in Cardan's writings by which
they were characterised from the first, and by which they
were made interesting and amusing to their readers,
namely, the tendency to become autobiographical, and to
perform self-dissection. We should now very fairly turn
from a writer who had the bad taste to obtrude himself
in his own writings ; but three hundred years ago, when
modern literature was in its infancy, it had a right to prattle
the right age for talking properly was yet to come. Now
the events of Cardan's life, and more especially those of his
1 The aphorisms cited in this chapter, with one exception, are all
from the fiftieth chapter of the book De Vita Propria.
later years, were of a kind calculated to excite men's
sympathies, so that the fragments of self-revelation had
always a life and charm in them ; they were a pleasant
sauce that heightened very much the relish of the reader
for the entire book.
Another source of Cardan's popularity was a deficiency
of liveliness in other learned writers. There were many
isolated pleasant books, but there was no grave utterer of
tome upon tome of Latin who had much more than his
wisdom to dispose of. The readers of Cardan were sure
to be amused with wit and eccentricity, at the same time
that they were impressed with the conviction of his being
the most learned man of his own time, for there was no
other whose philosophy embraced so wide a range of
subjects. In this respect, and in the charm -of nimbleness
and suppleness as a writer, his chief rival, Scaliger, was
greatly his inferior.
In the year 1545, then, at which date this narrative
now stands, Cardan lectured on medicine in the Univer-
sity of Pavia as he had lectured during the previous year,
almost to empty benches. The confusion caused by war
in the finances of the university did not check very
seriously his career, and the position attained by him was
at length a safe one. As a physician of much more than
common penetration he was widely sought, and as an
author, the series of works ending with his real master-
VOL. I. U
290 JEROME CARDAN.
piece, the Book of the Great Art, had at last won for him
an extensive reputation, Europe being then one republic
of letters, which was addressed by every man who pub-
lished books in Latin. The political boundaries of states
then circumscribed no man's literary credit, and authors
seeking publishers looked about Europe, not about their
own town only. So the works of Cardan and of many
another learned man were first issued, now from a press
in his own country, now by a German publisher, and at
another time perhaps in Basle or Paris. It was, as we all
know, no mere spirit of pedantry that first prompted the
use of Latin as an universal language.
We ought not to turn from these considerations of the
source of the fame earned by Jerome among those of his
own day without one or two comments, that may save
him, and his age also, from too hasty contempt. There are
superstitions current among ourselves. Credulity is now
in some respects as gross, though not as common, as it
was during the sixteenth century. If we have made what
we believe to be astounding strides in knowledge, let it
be borne in mind that the men of that age moved forward
not less rapidly than we are moving now, in spite of the
great mixture of error with their wisdom which appears
so strange to us wherever it is obsolete. The political
movements of rulers, the devastation of lands, the demo-
ralisation and impoverishment of the people, were then
THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY. 291
indeed deplorable, and we excel that period in wisdom
by the sum of all experience that has been since acquired.
Yet we should know that it was then possible to boast not
less loudly or less justly than we now boast in our day of
railways and electric telegraphs, and to believe that intel-
lect had few more triumphs to achieve. " We should
exult 1 ," said Cardan, writing in this vein " we should
exult in a field covered with blossom. For what is more
wonderful than pyrotechny or the thunderbolt aimed by
the hands of mortals, which is more devastating than the
thunder of celestial beings ? Nor will I be silent con-
cerning thee, great magnet, by whom we are led through
the vastest seas in the darkness of night, through fearful
storms, into strange, unknown regions. Add also the in-
vention of typography, achieved by mortal handicraft and
heavenly wit, rival to the divine miracles, and what more
is there to be done unless we occupy the heavens ?"
Again we should remember, if we would do justice
not to his age only, but also to Jerome himself, that the
strange combination in one character of high intellectual
endowment with superstitions of incredible absurdity
the kind of mixture we have noticed in Cardan was
common among the foremost men of all that time. Kepler
himself, like Cardan, cast nativities ; Tycho Brahe kept
an idiot, whose mouthings he received as revelations from
1 De Vita Propriti, cap. xlr.
292 JEROME CARDAN.
on high ; Melancthon was an interpreter of dreams ; and
Luther, who abounded in many superstitions of his day,
had so certain a belief in killcrops, or devil's changelings,
that having seen a boy at Dessau whom he took for a
changeling, he did not scruple to advise his murder. " I
told the Prince of Anhalt, that if I were prince of that
country, I would venture homicidium thereon, and would
throw it into the river Moldau 1 ."
The self-revelations of Cardan may furnish us with a
more vivid picture of such inconsistencies than could be
had from others using the subdued tone common among
men in intercourse with one another. I do not, however,
think that he was in such matters a greater curiosity than
many of the learned men about him. His eccentricity
consisted perhaps more in the extent of his candour than
in his peculiarities of conduct or opinion.
It is not, for example, every writer who is ready, to
amuse his readers with a chapter upon what he likes to
have for breakfast or for supper, and how long he likes
to be in bed. When he was old and garrulous, Cardan
poured out a rich store of such details, which now serve
pleasantly not only in aid of a minute depiction of him-
self, but also in illustration of the manners of his time 2 .
1 For these hints I am indebted to Dugald Stewart's preliminary
article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
2 Authority for all the succeeding details upon food and dress will be
found in chaps, vi. viii. and xx, of the book De Vita Propria.
CARDAN IN HIS BEDROOM. 293
Cardan had a constitution that required to be refreshed
with a full measure of sleep. He avoided night-watching!
as much as possible ; he liked to spend ten hours in bed,
during eight of which he slept if his health happened to
be pretty good, otherwise he had not more than four or
five hours of proper rest. When he was wakeful he was
accustomed to get up and walk round his bed counting
thousands, with the hope of making himself sleepy. He
took but little medicine, being a doctor ; but when his
sleeplessness grew to be troublesome he abstained very
much from food, or put himself upon half diet. The
medicinal remedies most used by him to procure sleep
were bear's grease, or an ointment of poplar, applied
externally in seventeen places. It is an edifying thing
for us to figure to ourselves one of the most eminent
physicians of the sixteenth century rising at night weary
of watching to grope for his little jar of bear's grease,
and then patiently sitting down on the edge of the bed
to anoint the top of his head and the soles of his feet, his
elbows, his heels, his thighs, his temples, his jugulars, the
regions of his heart and liver, and his upper lip, according
to the formula prescribed, then creeping into bed again
to try the value of his remedy.
Two hours after the sun Jerome rose for the day. He
was not much troubled with the putting on of clothes, for
he was careless about the purchasing of new dress ; during
294 JEROME CARDAN.
the days of which the story has been thus far told, care-
less upon compulsion. His private opinion was that four
garments ought to suffice for a man, one heavy and one
heavier, one light and one lighter. With those he could
make fourteen respectable combinations of attire, not
counting one that consisted in the wearing of them all at
once. He did not quite act up to that theory, but he
had not a predilection for new clothes, and was commonly
to be found wearing dress of a past fashion, or when he
became more of a traveller, wearing out in one country
clothes bought in another. Thus, for example, after his
return from the Scotch journey, presently to be related,
he caused remark among his neighbours by continuing
to wear the dress that he had bought in Edinburgh,
Edinburgh fashions being foolish in the eyes of Pa via,
Milan, and Bologna.
Cardan liked a heavy supper and a light breakfast,
supper being his chief meal during the day. The light
breakfast consisted in his mature and later life of bread,
water, and raisins, tea and coffee being in those days
unknown. To his wife and children he was attached
very warmly, though Aldo, his youngest son, proved a
young scapegrace, and began early to trouble him. His
eldest boy, Gian Batista, was good and amiable ; trained
by Cardan to his own profession, he was simple-minded
and of quiet ways ; Clara, the daughter too, was a good
OF CARDAN'S EATING AND DRINKING. 295
girl ; and we may suppose that wife and children were
not shut out of the philosopher's study. There he worked
with his feet naked, dipping his pen into a costly inkstand,
and not unwilling to bend his sickly face sometimes over
one of the pet animals, whether it were cat, dog, goat,
or bird, that was allowed to scratch or hop among his
papers. Then he had patients to see, and his lecture to
deliver. When his dinner came it was a light one. It
was never less, however, than the yolk of an egg, with
two or more ounces of bread, and with or without a
modicum of wine. On Friday or Sunday he had shell-
fish, of which he was very fond. There was no solid
food not counting fish as solids that he liked better
than veal, and the way to cook veal to his utmost satis-
faction was to stew it in a pot without liquor, after it had
been well beaten with the backs of knives. It was then,
he considered, moister and richer than meat roasted on a
spit. After dinner Cardan liked a little music.
Supper tea being of course an unknown meal was
the great gastronomic event of Cardan's day. There was
always a dish of beet, or else rice with a salad ; but he
preferred endive. Fish, he tells us, he liked much better
than meat ; but then it must needs be good and fresh.
Fond too of angling, he was glad when he had fish of his
own catching. Of all fish he preferred fresh- water shell-
fish, and of those above all others river mussels, because,
296 JEROME CARDAN.
we are told, his mother longed for them before he came into
the world ; but he had a. great partiality for oysters too,
and cockles. He is particular to specify his regard for
codfish, halibut, and sturgeon, for turbot, mullet, gudgeon,
soles, flounders, and others ; also for pike and carp ; also
for land tortoises. He liked tunny in all states ; and her-
rings, whether salt or fresh, but best of all when dried.
After all he is not sure whether the best of all eatables is not
a well- selected carp, weighing from three to seven pounds.
From large fishes he lets us know that he removed the head
and belly, but from small fishes only the backbone and tail.
Of flesh meats he preferred veal and pork, roasted or
minced. He was particularly fond of chickens' wings,
and of the livers of capons and pigeons, and of giblets
He had a partiality for sweets; and records his power
of appreciating the delights of honey, of ripe grapes, of
melons, figs, cherries, peaches, and the like; he is at the
same time particular in stating that none of these things
disagreed with him. In oil he delighted beyond measure,
whether mixed with salt or with sweet olives. Onions
always did him good ; and he found rue also of great virtue
in preserving him from poisonous influences of all kinds.
He derived benefit, also, from the use of Roman worm-
wood. He allowed himself at supper about half a pint
A SCHOOLMAN UPON VICTUALS. 297
of sweet wine, to which he put an equal, or rather more
than an equal, quantity of water.
Having in his old age told the world these things,
Jerome amused himself with the manufacture of a little
burlesque sketch of the philosophy of victuals, which
may be taken as a satire upon some of his own graver
generalisations. " There are," he says, " seven summa
genera of things air, sleep, exercise, food, drink, medi-
cine, preservatives. And there are fifteen species air,
sleep, exercise, bread, meat, milk, eggs, fish, oil, salt,
water, figs, rue, grapes, and onions. There are fifteen
preparatives fire, ashes, the bath, water, pot, fryingpan,
spit, gridiron, knife-back and knife-edge, a grater; parsley,
rosemary, and laurel." Here, it maybe observed, the list,
made up at random, wants one article more. " Of exer-
cises, there are the grinding-wheel, walking, riding, the
small pestle and mortar, cart, making of cutlery, riding
(this item is repeated), the saddle, navigation, cleaning
of platters, friction or lotion; fifteen," adds Jerome, sud-
denly counting them up, though they are but a ragged
ten, into conformity with his abstruse system of fifteens.
" These things," he adds, writing no doubt after supper,
with a twinkle in his eye, "I have reduced to a com-
pendium, after the manner of the theologians, not with-
out exercise of profound thought, and a great display
298 JEROME CAEDAN.
of reason. There are five things," he goes on to say,
" that may be taken freely by all except old men ; they
are, bread, fish, cheese, wine, and water. Two may be
used as medicines, mastix and coriander ; sugar is used
in many things. Two things are condiments, saffron
and salt, which also is an element. Four things are to
be taken moderately ; they are, meat, yolk of egg, raisins,
and oil: the last," he adds, " a latent element, answering
in properties, when burnt, to the element of the stars !"
So, considering Cardan as an animal, the day, with its
edifications, passed away, and there returned with night
the period of sleep and dreams. By dreams, as we have
seen already, the philosopher considered himself to be
sometimes lifted out of animal existence, and brought
into communication with things spiritual. His nights
were as eventful as his days. He was beset by portents.
He saw one evening a meteor which approached his
court-yard, and, bright for a minute or two, was extin-
guished suddenly. That, we are told, preceded his ac-
quisition of the favour of the Marquis d'Avalos, a profit-
able honour that was not of long duration. He dreamt one
night 1 a strange dream of Alexander the Great, Hephses-
tion, and a lion, that preceded and portended his admis-
sion into the Milanese College of Physicians. Alexander
1 The dreams here quoted are related in the fourth book Syne-
siorum Somniorum (ed. Bas. 1562), pp. 252, 267.
VISIONS AND GHOSTS. 299
was d'Avalos or the Cardinal Sfondrato, the lion was the
college, and Hephaestion was Luca della Croce. Ghosts
of the dead came to the bedside of the excitable and ner-
vous man. In 1537, a year after her death, his mother
stood at the foot of his bed in the scarlet dress she used to
wear when occupied in household avocations. She came
to call him to her. Did she not know that she was dead?
he asked. She did, and summoned him to come to her
next year. But he had work to do, and did not wish to
leave it. An accident, a narrow escape from serious hurt
or death, in the succeeding year, was the fulfilment of that
warning. There was an old college friend, also, who has
been named on a former page, Prosper Marinon, a friend
who had died in the flower of years, and with whom
Jerome had formerly discoursed of ghostly things, and of
the state of the soul after death. Prosper Marinon had
come to his bedside, also a year after death, and he too being
asked, had said that he knew himself to be dead, and had
stooped down over his old friend, and kissed him on the
lips. A second time, later in Cardan's life, the ghost of
Prosper Marinon visited at night his old companion.
Such visions were a portion of his bodily infirmity. His
flesh was tainted from the first with evil humours, and the
gout, which appeared soon after he removed to Pavia, was
no more than a link in a long chain of maladies produced
at one time by the irritable state of his nervous system,
300 JEROME CARDAN.
and at another time by the impure condition of his blood.
But it is just to balance these considerations of his weak-
ness with a few more suggestions of his strength. By the
help of a few aphorisms taken from his works, this can
be done very briefly. The first two of the following
ideas I quote, not for their truth they wrong humanity
but because they are at once clever and characteristic of
the morbid feelings out of which they sprung; the rest
are wisely thought as well as shrewdly uttered :
" To a man saying, * I pity you,' I replied, * You have
no right to do so.'
I told a youth whom I was warning against evil com-
pany, ' I can show you many an apple that has become
rotten through lying with others in a heap, but I can
show you no heap that has made a rotten apple sound
I said to a servant from whom I parted, ' You please
me, but I don't please you; therefore I am obliged to leave
Better omit a hundred things that should be said, than
say one thing that ought to be omitted.
If you were without money, children, friends, and had
the other gifts of life, you could be happy. Wanting
those, and these also, there would remain to you few
days for sorrow.
The vulgar admire knowledge that comes of expcri-
APHORISMS JEROME'S WIFE. 301
ence ; the knowledge valued by the learned is that
which is obtained by reasoning from the effect up to the
When you mean to wash, first see that you have a
Jerome tells us that the occupations in his study served
to moderate the great sense of his love for wife and chil-
dren. We have now traced his career to the conclusion
of that long period of struggle with adversity which Lucia
had shared with him. She was not to take part in his
prosperity. The white-robed maiden who had tempted
him to marriage had been a true wife to him for sixteen
years. She had left a home in which there was no want,
to starve with him in Milan, to struggle with him in Gal-
larate, to bear with him the scoffs of neighbours, to sus-
tain his spirit in a thousand hours of sorrow. She must
have shed her woman's tears over the loss of those jewels
and those bits of bridal finery that had paid gambling
debts, or been converted into bread. But she had not
been weak. She was brave, says her husband, and of
indomitable spirit ; gentle, affectionate, and rather good-
looking 1 . While Jerome laboured with his pen, she had
spent anxious days in meditations upon dinner, and in the
rearing of her children, when adversity hung as a heavy
cloud over the house. But with the cloud she also was
1 Geniturarum Exemplar (ed. Lugd. 1555), p. 113.
302 JEROME CARDAN.
to fade away; she did not live to see her husband's
utmost hope of fame accomplished. She lived out the
long struggle, and (perhaps worn down by the succession
of anxieties), just when the years of triumph were at hand,
the young wife died. Married in girlhood, she could
have been scarcely more than thirty-three years old when
Cardan lost her tender ministrations.
Jerome had gone to Pavia with his wife, where, in spite
of deserted lecture-rooms, and the great loss of income suf-
fered in war times by the university, he did on the whole
maintain his position; but to Lucia the change seemed
no success. In the second year of office money was de-
ficient, and in the year 1546, there being no funds at
all in the hands of the senate, public salaries could
only be regarded as bad debts. The house which had
belonged to his mother, and which had fallen down,
having in the mean time been rebuilt, Jerome returned
with his family to Milan. In the next year the difficulty
was removed ; that year, however, the failing Lucia did
not live to see.
The return to Milan caused a year of forced leisure
and care. Cardan had to rely mainly on his pen, and
spent six months in writing without intermission. It
was then that he amused his anxious mind by writing
his Encomium on Gout, to whom he was just pledged as
a subject; thereto incited, perhaps, by the authority of
LUCIA DEAD. 303
Lucian, among whose works there is a dramatic tribute
to the might of the same despot, and throughout Cardan's
works it is evident that he read Lucian and liked him.
At the same time Jerome wrote also an Encomium of
Nero ; these works being exercises less of satire than of
ingenuity. It" was an old scholastic manner of amusement
to heap up in an uncompromising way all possible argu-
ments in favour of some obvious paradox. So earnestly
did Jerome set to work, that we might be misled by his
writing into the belief that he did really take Nero for
a great and good man, if we did not know that not a
doubt had then been cast on the good faith of those
by whom he was originally painted as a monster. In
the sixteenth century it would have been almost heretical
to separate from Nero seriously the ideas of cruelty and
wickedness. That Cardan chose Nero for his white-
washing because he was the blackest man of whom he
knew, is evident upon referring to another of his works
that contained the set of horoscopes recently mentioned.
Among them is the horoscope of Nero, properly adapted
to a character of superhuman wickedness.
So Jerome was occupied, he being then forty-five
years old, when, towards the close of the year 1546, his
young wife died 1 . He was left in charge of his three
motherless children, of whom the eldest, Gianbatista,
1 De Morte. Opera, Tom. i. p. 676.
304 JEROME CARDAN.
was thirteen years old ; the girl Clara was eleven ; and
Aldo, the younger boy, was four. Delicate charge for a
busy and eccentric student ! Cardan's own mother was
dead ; but there remained to the children still their
grandmother Bandarini, the Thaddsea before mentioned,
who, when her daughter died, had survived by fifteen
years her husband Aldobello. She, while she lived,
occupied imperfectly the mother's place in Jerome's
household 1 .
Had Lucia lived on, how different the future might
have been ! The terrible calamity that cannot be
averted now, might then never have crushed her hus-
band's heart. They might have taken delight together
in the great fame of the philosopher, with which during
his own lifetime all Europe was to ring, and while
the note of triumph was resounding out of doors, there
might have been other voices murmuring about the walls
of home than the dull echoes of the mourning of a very
desolate old man.
1 De VitaPropria, cap. xxvii. p. 99.
END OF VOL. I.
C. WHITING, BEAUFORT HOUSE, STRAND.
RE RETURN TO DESK FROMWHICH BORROWED
Th; This book is due on the last date stampecf below, or
on the date to which renewed.
Renewed books are subject to immediate recall.
KLG. Gift. M i
fc HEC, ClfcAUG 23 77
BEC.CIR. MAY ? 1980
, n '
l *!-eNIV. OF CALIF., BERK.
LD 21-327^-3, '74 General Library
(R7057slO)476 A-32 University of California
LD 21-1007n-2,'55 General Library
(Bl39s22)476 University of California
^ / / 1 ,--
THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY