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


TO this speech Bologna answered: “O Benvenuto! all men try to push their affairs in every way they can. If this is the King’s will, what have you to say against it? You would only throw away your time, because I have it now, and it is mine. Now tell me what you choose, and I will listen to you.” I replied: “I should like you to know, Messer Francesco, that I could say much which would prove irrefragably, and make you admit, that such ways of acting as you have described and used are not in vogue among rational animals. I will, however, come quickly to the point at issue; give close attention to my meaning, because the affair is serious.” He made as though he would rise form the chair on which he was sitting, since he saw my colour heightened and my features greatly discomposed. I told him that the time had not yet come for moving; he had better sit and listen to me. Then I recommenced: “Messer Francesco, you know that I first received the work, and that the time has long gone by during which my right could be reasonably disputed by any one. Now I tell you that I shall be satisfied if you will make a model, while I make another in addition to the one I have already shown. Then we will take them without any clamour to our great King; and whosoever in this way shall have gained the credit of the best design will justly have deserved the commission. If it falls to you, I will dismiss from my mind the memory of the great injury you have done me, and will bless your hands, as being worthier than mine of so glorious a performance. Let us abide by this agreement, and we shall be friends; otherwise we must be enemies; and God, who always helps the right, and I, who know how to assert it, will show you to what extent you have done wrong.” Messer Francesco answered: “The work is mine, and since it has been given me, I do not choose to put what is my own to hazard.” To this I retorted: “Messer Francesco, if you will not take the right course which is just and reasonable, I will show you another which shall be like your own, that is to say, ugly and disagreeable. I tell you plainly that if I ever hear that you have spoken one single word about this work of mine, I will kill you like a dog. We are neither in Rome, nor in Bologna, nor in Florence; here one lives in quite a different fashion; if then it comes to my ears that you talk about this to the King or anybody else, I vow that I will kill you. Reflect upon the way you mean to take, whether that for good which I formerly described, or this latter bad one I have just now set before you.”

The man did not know what to say or do, and I was inclined to cut the matter short upon the spot rather than to postpone action. Bologna found no other words than these to utter: “If I act like a man of honesty, I shall stand in no fear.” I replied: “You have spoken well, but if you act otherwise, you will have to fear, because the affair is serious.” Upon this I left him, and betook myself to the King. With his Majesty I disputed some time about the fashion of his coinage, a point upon which we were not of the same opinion; his council, who were present, kept persuading him that the monies ought to be struck in the French style, as they had hitherto always been done. I urged in reply that his Majesty had sent for me from Italy in order that I might execute good work; if he now wanted me to do the contrary, I could not bring myself to submit. So the matter was postponed till another occasion, and I set off again at once for Paris.