Dear Person Who Found His or Her Way Here Using the Search Terms ‘Guicciardini’ and ‘Cheese’

I assume you were looking for a suitable cheese to have with a wine from the Guicciardini-Strozzi estate. If so, might I suggest a table pecorino? (NB: Not the hard, grating version, pecorino romano, which in its packaged supermarket form is disgusting.)

If, however, you were looking for mentions of cheese in the works of Lodovico Guicciardini, as I initially thought, then might I direct you to page 37 of the English translation (1593) of his Descrittione di […] Paese Bassi?


Thence come Cloathes and carsayes [kerseys] of all sorts, and of them great aboundance, both fine and course [sic], Frises, fine wooll, excellent Saffron, but no great quantitie, Tinne, Lead, Sheep skins, Cony skins, and divers sorts of fine furres, lether, Beere, Cheese and other victuals, and Malmesie (malmsey) brought out of Candia into England.

page 61

The butter and cheese made in a year in Holland, amounteth to as much as the spice that is yearely brought into the Low countries out of Portugale, which is above a million of crownes.

Five villages in Holland, namely, Assendelft, Oostsane, Westsasne, Cromeine & Cromenierdiick, yeeld as much butter and cheese yearely, as amounteth to the valew of the Rhenish wine that is yearely brought to Dordrecht, which is a marvelous quantitie, for there is the Staple of the Rhenish wine.

page 65

In this towne there is kept yearlie in May, a marte of butter and Cheese, whereof there is so great quantitie brought unto this faire, that it is almost incredible, for it furnisheth not onlie thes Countreys, but also Spaine and Portugale.

Alcmair is a very rich towne, by reason that the countrey round about it, yeeldeth more plentie of butter and cheese, than any other place in Holland whatsoever.

page 66

Edam standeth neere the Zuiderzee. This towne is famous for the great number of shippes of all burdens that are builte in it, and the innumerable multitude of excellet good cheeses that are made in the countrey round it.

and page 71

To conclude, considering the great wealth that groweth to this Countrie [Holland] by cheese, butter, flesh, fish, foule, chickens, eggs, cattell, linen cloth, wollen cloth, turfe, and shipping, it may be called the Treasure house of all good thinges.

There, never let it be said that I do not go the extra mile to gain a potential reader, even to the extent of driving away everyone else.

Personally I found his account of amber farming along the north coast of far more interest:

Amber is a ioyce not of a tree, but of a stone which groweth like Corall in a Mountaine in the Northe Sea cleane covered with water and shunned by all Mariners at the least three Leagues for feare of wracke. The mountaine is reasonable large, and about 50. English yardes high, and when anie tempest ariseth in the North sea especiallie in September and December this Liquour by ye violence of the Sea is rent from the rocke & caste into divers Havens, & upon diverse Sea coastes both neere & far from this rich rocke where the people gather it, to the great commoditie of divers princes, namely the king of Sweden, the Duke of Pomerania, but especially the Duke of Prussia in whole Countrye the most of it is taken up. The people of the Countrie when the Sea rageth most, all naked leape into the Sea, upon the which first appeareth great store of weed, & after ye Amber, which being taken out of ye water hardeneth like to Corall, neither is this Amber founde else where, but in those Seas onlye.

I say this is all Guicciardini’s doing, but the presence of the translator Thomas Danett lies heavy on the text, concerned as he clearly was with conveying the information that LG had collected rather than any aspects of style, so that the reader is treated to interruptions like the following:

Heere the Author entereth into a discourse of Sea-men and Sea-women beeing fishes, yet proportioned in all parts like man and woman, whereof one being a female, was taken uppe at Haerlem, An.1403. and the other being a male, in Friesland, but within this 50.yeares, both the which lived many yeares, and fell to eate as wee doo, and were brought to civilitie, and taught to doo many workes and services: as for example the woman to spin, but they remained alwaies dumbe. Which strange accidents, though impertinent to our discourse of the Low countreys, yet I thought good briefly to touch, as well because Guicciardini himselfe discourseth thereof, as also because the like is written by divers other approved authors.

Must be true then.

Lodovico was the nephew of Francesco, statesman and historian (contemporary with Machiavelli), whose Maxims I pored through for mentions of cheese, confusing him with his nephew.

Now, the concept ‘machiavellian’ may represent “the first terror-stricken meeting of the England of the Elizabeth with the Italy of the late renaissance” (see Wyndham Lewis’ superb book of Shakespeare criticism The Lion and the Fox), but reading F. Guicciardini certainly does little to exorcise this stagey eyetalian bugaboo:

Never, from a desire to confer pleasure or to conciliate friends, refrain from doing what will gain you reputation.

Charming. I suppose Tony Blair might have done himself a service in reading Maxim 342, however:

I do not say that a ruler is never to imbue his hands in blood, but that he is not to do so without grave cause, and that in most instances he loses more than he gains by it. For not only does he offend those on whom he lays hands, but displeases many besides; and although he thus gets rid of some one enemy or obstacle, he does not thereby destroy the seed; so that others take their place, and often, as with the heads of Hydra, seven for one.

No cheese though.

Francesco Guicciardini

Who ate all the cheese?

2 Responses to Dear Person Who Found His or Her Way Here Using the Search Terms ‘Guicciardini’ and ‘Cheese’

  1. James Bridle says:

    I think someone’s been eating cheese before bedtime.

    That said, I notice that Uncle Francesco “practiced at the bar” in Florence, so I look forward to your round-up of his thoughts on the relative snack merits of Fagioli all’uccelletto vs Fagioli al Fiasco.

  2. fitzroycyclonic says:

    Damn you, I’m starving and now all I can think about is various dishes of fagioli and a soothing draught of wine in a cool and peaceful Italian bar!

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