Giovanni Boccaccio, an Italian novelist, born in Paris in 1313, died at Certaldo, Dec. 21, 1375. His father was originally of Certaldo, but removed to Florence, where he amassed wealth, and filled several public offices. His mother was a French woman with whom his father formed an illicit connection while visiting Paris. Having determined on a commercial career for his son, his father removed him from his tutor, Giovanni da Strada, before his Latin course was completed, and as soon as he had acquired a sufficient knowledge of arithmetic apprenticed him to a merchant in Paris, with whom he remained six years. His master, finding that he profited nothing, finally sent him back to his father, who had sufficient penetration to discover that his son would never make a merchant, but thought that his studious habits might serve him in the legal profession. But the law proved as distasteful as commerce, and led to altercations between the youth and his father. After a while he again returned to commerce and fixed his residence in Naples. The king, Robert of Anjou, a friend and patron of Petrarch, was devoted to literature, and drew to his court the most eminent scholars of Italy. Boccaccio was well acquainted with Giovanni Barili, a man of erudition, and Paolo of Perugia, the king's librarian; and encouraged by them he entirely abandoned trade and gave himself up to the pursuit of learning.

His father having consented to this on the condition that he should study the canon law, he applied himself to it for some time, took his doctor's degree, and after that found himself more at liberty to indulge his passion for poetry. In 1341, while at Naples, where he resided eight years, Boccaccio became acquainted with the princess Mary, the illegitimate daughter of King Robert. She was married, but became the avowed mistress of Boccaccio. At her instance he composed his romance of Il Filocopo and L'Amoroso, Fiam-metta, in the latter of which his lady, under the name of Fiammetta, bewails the loss of Pamfilo, supposed to represent himself. The Filocopo is not skilfully constructed, and is filled with spectres, visions, and the powers of darkyet it contains passages of grace and vi-vacity and touches of human nature in which the whole character is pictured in a single sen-tence. In 1842, while thus employed at Na-ples. he was summoned to Florence by the illof his hither. During his separation from the princess Mary he consoled himself by the composition of the romance of Ameto. On the completion of this work his father's recovery and marriage allowed him to return to Naples. The king died during his two years' stay in Florence, and his granddaughter Joanna ascended the throne amid great political disturbances.

Boccaccio found his position more enviable than it had been before. He was not only happy from his connection with the princess, but possessed the favor of Accia-juoli, who had great power in Naples, and even the regard of Joanna herself. Boccaccio is said to have written many of the most licentious passaged in his Decamerone in conformity with the queen's expressed desire. His father died in 1350, leaving a son by his wife, Bice de' Bosticchi, who was also dead, to the care of Boccaccio. The poet faithfully attended to his trust, and when in his paternal city became acquainted with Petrarch, whose example had a strong influence upon him, and turned his thoughts more from licentious pleasures to purer fame. Being now permanently settled in Florence, Boccaccio by Petrarch's advice began to take interest in affairs of state. He was sent on an embassy to Padua, to invite Petrarch to accept the presidency of the university. Several other missions followed, not very clearly described as to dates, and in April, 1353, he took part in one to Pope Innocent VI. at Avignon. In the same year was published his Decamerone or "Ten Days' Entertainment," a collection of 100 stories supposed to have been told by a party of ladies and gentlemen at a country house near Florence while the plague was raging in that city.

This work is regarded as one of the purest specimens of Italian prose, and as an inexhaustible repository of wit, beauty, and eloquence, although deformed with licentious thoughts and descriptions. Like Petrarch, Boccaccio was a devoted collector of ancient manuscripts, and a diligent student of the classics. Both were travellers, and both employed much of their time and money in rescuing, from destruction the precious memorials of antiquity. In 1359 Boccaccio visited Petrarch at Milan, conversed with him, as he informs us, at great length on the subjects of morality and religion, and determined to devote himself more seriously to holy studies. His resolution was confirmed by a warning sent him from Fra Petroni, who upon his deathbed declared, although he never had mot Boccaccio, that he knew him in spirit, and that he must repent and prepare for death. The converted man accordingly wrote afterward in a strain altogether free from his former licentious vein, while he assumed the ecclesiastical habit and applied himself to theology. He was not wealthy, and a large part of his means had been spent in the collection of Greek manuscripts, his emissaries visiting many parts of Europe to procure them.

Toward the decline of life he found himself poor and deserted by all his friends except Petrarch. That great poet wished his friend to take up his abode with him, but Boccaccio declined the offer, although he visited Petrarch whenever he found an opportunity. In 1362 he was invited to Naples by the grand seneschal Acciajuoli, but was so hurt by his cold reception that he soon left and went to Venice to meet Petrarch. On returning to Florence he took up his abode in a little cottage in Certaldo, in the vale of Elsa, dear to him as the birthplace of his family. From this retreat he was soon summoned by the chief citizens of Florence, to undertake an embassy to Urban V. at Avignon, and repairing to the papal court he experienced the most flattering reception. He was again sent to Urban in 1367, after the pontiff had removed to Rome; and the character of Boccaccio had now so completely changed from his former looseness that he was characterized by the bishop of Florence as one in whose purity of faith he had the utmost confidence. In 1368 he again visited Venice for a short time, and subsequently Naples, where Queen Joanna endeavored to persuade him to fix his abode.

But the life at Naples had no attractions for him now, and he returned to Florence, where he was honored by the magistrates with a professorship founded in memory of Dante, for the better explication of the Litma Commedia. His lectures commenced in October, 1373, and continued till his death, which was doubtless hastened by the demise of Petrarch 17 months before his own. He bequeathed the little property remaining to him to his two nephews, and his library and collections to Fra Martini, an Augustinian monk. - Boccaccio wrote numerous works in Italian and Latin, and both in prose and poetry, few of which are referred to at the present day; his great fame rests upon the Decameron. The author's fondness for involving friars in every imaginable scene of mischief and ludicrous mishap created great scandal to the church, and his famous romance, the tenth novel of the sixth day, in which "Friar Onion promises some country people to show them a feather from the wing of the angel Gabriel, instead of which he finds only some coals, which he tells them are the same that roasted St. Lawrence," drew down the solemn anathema of the council of Trent. The editions of the Decameron are almost innumerable, and translations exist in all the languages of Europe. The earliest editions are extremely rare, and of that of Valdarfer in 1471 only one copy is known.

This was purchased, not many years since, at the sale of the duke of Roxburghe's collection, by the marquis of Blandford, for the enormous sum of £2,260. His works in the Italian language have been carefully collected and published in 17 vols. 8vo (Florence, 1827-'34). Boccaccio's La Te-seide is written in the ottava rima, of which he is usually considered as the inventor, and is the first Italian poem which presents a specimen of the epopee. Chaucer borrowed from this poem his "Knight's Tale," and Shakespeare a part of his "Midsummer Night's Dream." The great English dramatist also availed himself of Boccaccio's Decamerone in "Cymbeline" and "All's Well that Ends Well."