Studying the words of the wise makes us knowledgeable. Holding the great precepts of philosophy to be true and not practising them makes us hypocrites. Tommaso de'Maffei, Platonic philosopher and tutor of the ancient languages, wakes up to this uncomfortable fact as he beats his pupil for not being interested in his lessons. From the moment of his awakening, he is precipitated into making a journey home to Italy, 'to find out', he is told by his mentor, John Colet, 'what you have lost.'
Published by Godstow Press February 2008
ISBN 978-0-9547367-6-7 price £14
In 1505 John Colet, Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in London, announces to his intimate circle of friends that he intends to found a school for children. That circle includes the best scholars of the age: Thomas More, Erasmus, Thomas Linacre and William Grocyn. Each of them is appalled at the idea but eventually they agree to the tasks which Colet assigns them. Erasmus is sent to Italy to get a degree in theology, and Tommaso de' Maffei is sent with him as guide and companion.
Tommaso has written a chronicle for Erasmus (A Tabernacle for the Sun) which he completes on the journey. It covers the 1480s, when Florence is at the height of its renaissance under Lorenzo de' Medici. Tommaso recounts his adventures with the young, reckless philosopher, Pico della Mirandola. One particular stupid escapade of Pico's robs Tommaso of the use of his right hand and ends his dreams of being a fine scribe. He is forced to turn to that new trade which he has abhorred since its invention: printing
Amongst the books and pamphlets he prints are the tracts of the preacher of San Marco, Girolamo Savonarola. Tommaso's friend, Angelo Poliziano, is convinced Savonarola is the antichrist, but Tommaso does not share his certainty. Events in the 1490s lead him closer to Savonarola than he intended to go, and he begins to compromise himself.
When Savonarola is eventually executed by the Florentines, Tommaso flies to Venice where he works for the great printer, Aldus Manutius. His past catches up with him, however, and soon he is on the run to England. Marsilio Ficino once instructed him to take the seed fire of Platonism to an English hearth, and in England he seeks out Colet. Who, a few years later, sends him back home again. . .
'Your story did not end in 1499,' Erasmus tells him and, after he has parted from his friend to return to Venice and Florence alone, Tommaso begins to rediscover the path to divine love.
The Rebirth of Venus is the final volume of a magnificent trilogy of novels which brings the Florentine renaissance vividly to life. It was preceded by A Tabernacle for the Sun and Pallas and the Centaur.
'No other novels I've read about the Renaissance put all the pieces together so well, showing readers the leading personalities of this incredibly creative period in European history as well as delving deeply into the philosophical changes behind it. . .The Botticelli Trilogy is an impressive achievement; the novels are refreshingly different from other historical fiction, in terms of the language used, the depth of the philosophical issues discussed (and they are presented as fresh and enlightening, rather than stuffy and dry), and the time period described. I highly recommend them all.' Sarah Johnson, author of A Guide to Historical Fiction [Sarah Johnson's interview with Linda Proud]
'The whole trilogy is a triumph of the philosophical imagination, from beginning to end. . . The climactic meeting between the head of the hammer and the crown of poor Tommaso's head shot an illuminating bolt of lightning through my own brain cells too, reminding me with startling intensity of the visionary power that fiction can wield in the hands of a humane sensibility that stays open to the mystery of things.' Lindsay Clarke
'. . . the most remarkable work I have ever read, such encylopedic knowledge bubbling up effortlessly to create people, places, situations, dialogue, embellished with sharply observed vignettes of nature like decorated capitals in manuscripts. And so much thought on the meaning of life!' Dr Carol Kidwell, author of Marullus and Pietro Bembo
'Like being there' is a cliché often used but very rarely deserved. Linda Proud's ability to succeed in living up to this phrase is almost spooky. This is a special book.' Jeff Cotton, Fictional Cities. [Full review]
'Tremendously satisfying. There should be more historical fiction like this.' Sarah Vowles, Amazon reviewer.