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Legends of Florence Collected from the People, First Series   By: (1824-1903)

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Legends of Florence Collected from the People

And Re told by Charles Godfrey Leland ( Hans Breitmann )

First Series


Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO. At the Ballantyne Press


This book consists almost entirely of legends or traditions of a varied character, referring to places and buildings in Florence, such as the Cathedral and Campanile, the Signoria, the Bargello, the different city gates, ancient towers and bridges, palaces, crosses, and fountains, noted corners, odd by ways, and many churches. To all of these there are tales, or at least anecdotes attached, which will be found as entertaining to the general reader as they will be interesting, not to say valuable, to the folklorist and the student of social history; but here I must leave the work to speak for itself.

I originally intended that this should be entirely a collection of relics of ancient mythology, with superstitions and sorceries, witchcraft and incantations, or what may be called occult folk lore, of which my work on “Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition” consists, and of which I have enough additional material to make a large volume. But having resolved to add to it local legends, and give them the preference, I found that the latter so abounded, and were so easily collected by an expert, that I was obliged to cast out my occult folk lore, piece by piece, if I ever hoped to get into the port of publication, according to terms with the underwriters, following the principle laid down by the illustrious Poggio, that in a storm the heaviest things must go overboard first, he illustrating the idea with the story of the Florentine, who, having heard this from the captain when at sea in a tempest, at once threw his wife into the raging billows— perche non haveva cosa più grave di lei —because there was nought on earth which weighed on him so heavily.

There are several very excellent and pleasant works on Old Florence, such as that portion devoted to it in the “Cities of Central Italy,” by A. J. C. Hare; the “Walks about Florence,” by the Sisters Horner; “Florentine Life,” by Scaife; and the more recent and admirable book by Leader Scott, which are all—I say it advisedly—indispensable for those who would really know something about a place which is unusually opulent in ancient, adventurous, or artistic associations. My book is, however, entirely different from these, and all which are exclusively taken from authentic records and books. My tales are, with a few exceptions, derived directly or indirectly from the people themselves—having been recorded in the local dialect—the exceptions being a few anecdotes racy of the soil, taken from antique jest books and such bygone halfpenny literature as belonged to the multitude, and had its origin among them. These I could not, indeed, well omit, as they every one refer to some peculiar place in Florence. To these I must add several which remained obscurely in my memory, but which I did not record at the time of hearing or reading, not having then the intention of publishing such a book.

It has been well observed by Wordsworth that minor local legends sink more deeply into the soul than greater histories, as is proved by the fact that romantic folk lore spreads far and wide over the world, completely distancing in the race the records of mighty men and their deeds. The magic of Washington Irving has cast over the Catskills and the Hudson, by means of such tales, an indescribable fascination, even as Scott made of all Scotland a fairyland; for it is indisputable that a strange story, or one of wild or quaint adventure, or even of humour, goes further to fix a place in our memory than anything else can do... Continue reading book >>

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