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The Cenci

Giofre, Count of Squillace, of whom little is known;
And, finally, a youngest son, of whom nothing at all is known.
The most famous of these three brothers was Caesar Borgia. He had made
every arrangement a plotter could make to be King of Italy at the death of his
father the pope, and his measures were so carefully taken as to leave no doubt
in his own mind as to the success of this vast project. Every chance was
provided against, except one; but Satan himself could hardly have foreseen this
particular one. The reader will judge for himself.
The pope had invited Cardinal Adrien to supper in his vineyard on the Belvidere;
Cardinal Adrien was very rich, and the pope wished to inherit his wealth, as he
already had acquired that of the Cardinals of Sant' Angelo, Capua, and Modena.
To effect this, Caesar Borgia sent two bottles of poisoned wine to his father's
cup-bearer, without taking him into his confidence; he only instructed him not to
serve this wine till he himself gave orders to do so; unfortunately, during supper
the cup-bearer left his post for a moment, and in this interval a careless butler
served the poisoned wine to the pope, to Caesar Borgia, and to Cardinal
Alexander VI died some hours afterwards; Caesar Borgia was confined to bed,
and sloughed off his skin; while Cardinal Corneto lost his sight and his senses,
and was brought to death's door.
Pius III succeeded Alexander VI, and reigned twenty-five days; on the twenty-
sixth he was poisoned also.
Caesar Borgia had under his control eighteen Spanish cardinals who owed to
him their places in the Sacred College; these cardinals were entirely his
creatures, and he could command them absolutely. As he was in a moribund
condition and could make no use of them for himself, he sold them to Giuliano
della Rovere, and Giuliano della Rovere was elected pope, under the name of
Julius II. To the Rome of Nero succeeded the Athens of Pericles.
Leo X succeeded Julius II, and under his pontificate Christianity assumed a
pagan character, which, passing from art into manners, gives to this epoch a
strange complexion. Crimes for the moment disappeared, to give place to vices;
but to charming vices, vices in good taste, such as those indulged in by
Alcibiades and sung by Catullus. Leo X died after having assembled under his
reign, which lasted eight years, eight months, and nineteen days, Michael
Angelo, Raffaelle, Leonardo da Vinci, Correggio, Titian, Andrea del Sarto, Fra
Bartolommeo, Giulio Romano, Ariosto, Guicciardini, and Macchiavelli.
Giulio di Medici and Pompeo Colonna had equal claims to succeed him. As both
were skilful politicians, experienced courtiers, and moreover of real and almost
equal merit, neither of them could obtain a majority, and the Conclave was
prolonged almost indefinitely, to the great fatigue of the cardinals. So it happened
one day that a cardinal, more tired than the rest, proposed to elect, instead of
either Medici or Colonna, the son, some say of a weaver, others of a brewer of
Utrecht, of whom no one had ever thought till then, and who was for the moment
acting head of affairs in Spain, in the absence of Charles the Fifth. The jest
prospered in the ears of those who heard it; all the cardinals approved their
colleague's proposal, and Adrien became pope by a mere accident.