Letter from Galileo to Diodati  (excerpt)

July 24, 1634

 ... I hope that when you hear of my past and present misfortunes, and my anxiety about those perhaps still to come, it will serve as an excuse to you and my other friends and patrons there (at Paris), for my long delay in answering our letter, and to them for my entire silence, as they can learn form you the unhappy turn which my affairs have taken.  According to the sentence pronounced on me by the Holy Office, I was condemned to imprisonment during the pleasure of his Holiness, who was pleased, however, to assign the palace and gardens of the Grand Duke near the Trinita dei Monti, as my place of imprisonment.  As this was in June of last year, and I had been given to understand that if I asked for a full pardon after the lapse of that the following month, I should receive it, I asked meanwhile, to avoid having to spend the whole summer and perhaps part of the autumn there, to be allowed on account of the season, to go Siena, where the Archbishop’s house was assigned to me as a residence.  I staid there five months, when this durance was exchanged for banishment to this little villa, a miglio from Florence, with a strict injunction not to go to the city, and neither to receive the visits keeping perfectly quiet, and paying frequent visits to a neighbouring convent, where two daughters of mine were living as nuns; I was very fond of them, especially of the eldest, who possessed high mental gifts, combined with rate goodness of heart, and she was very much attached to me.  During my absence, which she considered very perilous for me, she fell into a profound melancholy, which undermined her health, and she was at last attacked by a violent dysentery, of which she died after six days illness, just thirty-three years of age, leaving me in the deepest grief, which was increased by another calamity.  On returning home from the convent, in company with the doctor who visited my sick daughter shortly before her death, and who had just told me that her situation was desperate, and that she would scarcely survive till the next day, as indeed it proved, I found the Inquisitor’s Vicar here, who informed me of a mandate form the Holy Office at Rome, which had just been communicated to the Inquisitor in a letter form Cardinal Barberini, that I must in future abstained form asking permission to return to Florence, or they would take me back there (to Rome), and put me in the actual prison of the Holy Office.  This was the answer to the petition, which the Tuscan ambassador had presented to that tribunal after I had been nine months in exile!  From this answer it seems to that, in all probability, my present prison will only be exchanged for that narrow and long-ending one which awaits us all.

From this and other circumstances from which it would take too long to repeat here it will be seen that the fury of my powerful persecutors continually increases.  The have at length chosen to reveal themselves to me; for about two months ago, when a dear friends of mine at Rome was speaking of my affairs to Father Christopher Griemberger, mathematician at the college there, this Jesuit uttered the following precise words;—‘If Galileo had only known how to retain the favor of the fathers of this college, he would have stood in renown before the world, he would have been spared all his misfortunes, and could have written what he pleased about everything, even about the motion of the earth.’  From this you will see, honoured Sir, that it is not this opinion or that which has brought, and still brings about my calamities, but m y being in disgrace with the Jesuits.

I have also other proofs of the watchfulness of my persecutors.  One is that a letter from some foreigner, I do not know from whom, addressed to me at Rome, where he supposed me still to be, was intercepted, and delivered to Cardinal Barberini.  it was fortunate for me, as was afterwards written to me from Rome, that is did not purport to be an answer to one from me, but a communication containing the warmest praises of my “Dialogues.”  It was seen by many persons, and, as I hear, copies of it were circulated at Rome.  I have also been told that I might see it.  To add to all this, there are other mental disquietudes and many bodily sufferings oppressing me at the age of over seventy years, so that the least exertion is a torment and a burden to me.  In consideration of all this, my friends must be indulgent to me for omissions which look like neglect, but really arise from inability....

Source: Karl Von Gebler, Galileo Galilei, pp. 276-277 (1879).          

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