Mar 5: Now that's fabrication

On seeing that it could not be helped, I told him before all his servants: “Lock me well up, and keep good watch on me; for I shall certainly contrive to escape.” So they took and confined me with the utmost care.

See, that's how you do it. If you're going to embroider your memoir, put a little swash and buckle into it. Yes, our old favorite Benvenuto Cellini is back again -- after a couple of days of devout Protestants, we get a cheery Renaissance Italian Catholic contrast (imprisoned, he refuses to eat the Pope's food, but a sympathetic Cardinal feeds him.)

Often one of the difficulties of reading excerpts is that you don't know all of the underlying circumstances. In this case it's a strength -- you just focus on the incredible story, which is in five short chapters and runs as follows:

• Cellini is imprisoned by a man who thinks he's a bat.
• He escapes by taking the door off the hinges (a process that takes a long time), and lowering himself down with bedsheets -- perhaps one of the first uses of that escape trope.
• Breaking his leg in the fall, he crawls to town, where, after he's bit by dogs, a servant carries him on his back to the cathedral.
• He's put up by the Cardinal, but the Pope gets wind of it; however, the exploit is so marvelous that a bargain is struck.

That's the end of the excerpt -- a happy ending. But I read ahead and know that Benvenuto gets himself in more trouble, which is foreshadowed by a passage in the excerpt:
I should have been quite safe from recapture by the Pope if I could have stayed there; but my exploits up to this point had been too marvellous for a human being, and God was unwilling to encourage my vainglory; accordingly, for my own good, He chastised me a second time worse even than the first.
William Penn never had it half so good.

No comments: