1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Florio, Giovanni

FLORIO, GIOVANNI (1553?-1625), English writer, was born in London about 1553. He was of Tuscan origin, his parents being Waldenses who had fled from persecution in the Valtelline and taken refuge in England. His father, Michael Angelo Florio, was pastor of an Italian Protestant congregation in London in 1550. He was attached to the household of Sir William Cecil, but dismissed on a charge of immorality. He dedicated a book on the Italian language to Henry Herbert, and may have been a tutor in the family of William Herbert, earl of Pembroke. Anthony à Wood says that the Florios left England on the accession of Queen Mary, but returned after her death. The son resided for a time at Oxford, and was appointed, about 1576 tutor to the son of Richard Barnes, bishop of Durham, then studying at Magdalen College. In 1578 Florio published a work entitled First Fruits, which yield Familiar Speech, Merry Proverbs, Witty Sentences, and Golden Sayings (4to). This was accompanied by A Perfect Induction to the Italian and English Tongues. The work was dedicated to the earl of Leicester. Three years later Florio was admitted a member of Magdalen College, and became a teacher of French and Italian in the university. In 1591 appeared his Second Fruits, to be gathered of Twelve Trees, of divers but delightsome Tastes to the Tongues of Italian and English men; to which was annexed the Garden of Recreation, yielding six thousand Italian Proverbs (4to). These manuals contained an outline of the grammar, a selection of dialogues in parallel columns of Italian and English, and longer extracts from classical Italian writers in prose and verse. Florio had many patrons; he says that he “lived some years” with the earl of Southampton, and the earl of Pembroke also befriended him. His Italian and English dictionary, entitled A World of Words, was published in folio in 1598. After the accession of James I., Florio was named French and Italian tutor to Prince Henry, and afterwards became a gentleman of the privy chamber and clerk of the closet to the queen, whom he also instructed in languages. His magnum opus is the admirable translation of the Essayes on Morall, Politike, and Millitarie Discourses of Lo. Michaell de Montaigne, published in folio in 1603 in three books, each dedicated to two noble ladies. A second edition in 1613 was dedicated to the queen. Special interest attaches to the first edition from the circumstance that of the several copies in the British Museum library one bears the autograph of Shakespeare—long received as genuine but now supposed to be by an 18th-century hand—and another that of Ben Jonson. It was suggested by Warburton that Florio is satirized by Shakespeare under the character of Holofernes, the pompous pedant of Love’s Labour’s Lost, but it is much more likely, especially as he was one of the earl of Southampton’s protégés, that he was among the personal friends of the dramatist, who may well have gained his knowledge of Italian and French from him. He had married the sister of the poet Daniel, and had friendly relations with many writers of his day. Ben Jonson sent him a copy of Volpone with the inscription, “To his loving father and worthy friend Master John Florio, Ben Jonson seals this testimony of his friendship and love.” He is characterized by Wood, in Athenae Oxonienses, as a very useful man in his profession, zealous for his religion, and deeply attached to his adopted country. He died at Fulham, London, in the autumn of 1625.