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Niccolò Machiavelli on Reading


Ruthless as he was in The Prince, Machiavelli had a softer side. In this December 1513 letter to Francesco Vettori, a friend of Machiavelli’s and the then Florentine ambassador in Rome, Machiavelli introduces us to his enthusiasm for reading.

When evening has come, I return to my house and go into my study. At the door I take off my clothes of the day, covered with mud and mire, and I put on my regal and courtly garments; and decently reclothed, I enter the ancient courts of ancient men, where, received by them lovingly, I feed on the food that alone is mine and that I was born for. There I am not ashamed to speak with them and to ask them the reason for their actions; and they in their humanity reply to me. And for the space of four hours I feel no boredom, I forget every pain, I do not fear poverty, death does not frighten me. I deliver myself entirely to them.