Much of his activity is far from Christian. Benvenuto vies with Pietro Aretino for notoriety as an exponent of that Paganism which was a consequence, on one hand, of the indiscriminate acceptance of all that was ancient, even the license of decadent Rome, and, on the other, of the inevitable degeneration of self-development into self-gratification. The loose morals of the Renaissance have been much exaggerated by such writers as John Addington Symonds, who base their assertions too confidently upon the prejudiced Protestant accounts of the north and upon the short stories or novelle of the period, which magnify current abuses for humorous purposes. The ethical condition of Italy had still remained fairly sound in the fifteenth century, and it was not until now in the sixteenth that a debased humanism and individualism were developed to the bitter end with an effect that was baneful, but not so entirely fatal as is very commonly supposed. Almost every page of the “Autobiography,” however, betrays the absence of any adequate moral standard. Cellini fathers an illegitimate child or cuts down an enemy as lightly as he sallies forth on a hunting expedition. There is little or no realization of sin; religion he has, but a religion which, however fervent, is divorced from morality and consists chiefly in an emotional mysticism and an observance of lovely and impressive ceremonies. He has shaken off the Christian curb upon the passions, and emulating the Paganism, not of the great days of antiquity, but of the Greek and Roman decline, he gives free rein to self.

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