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Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571). Autobiography.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.


I NOW stayed at home, and went rarely to the palace, labouring with great diligence to complete my statue. I had to pay the workmen out of my own pocket; for the Duke, after giving Lattanzio Gorini orders to discharge their wages, at the end of about eighteen months, grew tired, and withdrew this subsidy. I asked Lattanzio why he did not pay me as usual. The man replied, gesticulating with those spidery hands of his, in a shrill gnat’s voice: “Why do not you finish your work? One thinks that you will never get it done.” In a rage I up and answered: “May the plague catch you and all who dare to think I shall not finish it!”

So I went home with despair at heart to my unlucky Perseus, not without weeping, when I remembered the prosperity I had abandoned in Paris under the patronage of that marvellous King Francis, where I had abundance of all kinds, and here had everything to want for. Many a time I had it in my soul to cast myself away for lost. One day on one of these occasions, I mounted a nice nag I had, put a hundred crowns in my purse, and went to Fiesole to visit a natural son of mine there, who was at nurse with my gossip, the wife of one of my workpeople. When I reached the house, I found the boy in good health, and kissed him, very sad at heart. On taking leave, he would not let me go, but held me with his little hands and a tempest of cries and tears. Considering that he was only two years old or thereabouts, the child’s grief was something wonderful. Now I had resolved, in the heat of my despair, if I met Bandinello, who went every evening to a farm of his above San Domenico, that I would hurl him to destruction; so I disengaged myself from my baby, and left the boy there sobbing his heart out. Taking the road toward Florence, just when I entered the piazza of San Domenico, Bandinello was arriving from the other side. On the instant I decided upon bloodshed; but when I reached the man and raised my eyes, I saw him unarmed, riding a sorry mule or rather donkey, and he had with him a boy of ten years old. No sooner did he catch sight of me than he turned the colour of a corpse, and trembled from head to foot. Perceiving at once how base the business would be, I exclaimed: “Fear not, vile coward! I do not condescend to smite you.” He looked at me submissively and said nothing. Thereupon I recovered command of my faculties, and thanked God that His goodness had withheld me from so great an act of violence. Then, being delivered from that fiendish fury, my spirits rose, and I said to myself: “If God but grant me to execute my work, I hope by its means to annihilate all my scoundrelly enemies; and thus I shall perform far greater and more glorious revenges that if I had vented my rage upon one single foe.” Having this excellent resolve in heart, I reached my home. At the end of three days news was brought me that my only son had been smothered by his nurse, my gossip, which gave me greater grief than I have ever had in my whole life. However, I knelt upon the ground, and, not without tears, returned thanks to God, as I was wont, exclaiming, “Lord, Thou gavest me the child, and Thou hast taken him; for all Thy dealings I thank Thee with my whole heart.” This great sorrow went nigh to depriving me of reason; yet, according to my habit, I made a virtue of necessity, and adapted myself to circumstances as well as I was able.