Page:Machiavelli, Romanes Lecture, 2 June 1897.djvu/23

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that he often brings together facts that are not of the same order and do not support the same conclusion.18 Nothing, again, is easier than for the critic to find contradictions in Machiavelli. He was a man of the world reflecting over the things that he had seen in public life; more systematic than observers like Retz or Commynes—whom Sainte-Beuve calls the French Machiavelli—but not systematic as Hobbes is. Human things have many sides and many aspects, and an observant man of the world does not confine himself to one way of looking at them, from fear of being thought inconsistent. To put on the blinkers of system was alien to his nature and his object. Contradictions were inevitable, but the general texture of his thought is close enough.19

Machiavelli was not the first of his countrymen to write down thoughts on the problems of the time, though it has been observed that he is the first writer, still celebrated, 'who discussed grave questions in modern language' (Mackintosh). Apart from Dante and Petrarch, various less famous men had theorised about affairs of state. Guicciardini, the contemporary and friend of Machiavelli, like him a man of public business and of the world, composed observations on government, of which Cavour said that they showed a better comprehension of affairs than the author of the Prince and the Discourses.20 But then the latter had the better talent of writing. One most competent Italian critic calls his prose 'divine,'21 and a foreigner has perhaps no right to differ; only what word is then left for the really