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[341] finest literary festival I ever witnessed, and I never saw anybody who I thought would enjoy it more than the Chancellor did.

I was with him a great deal while he was in Boston; he dined with us the day before he left; and I really think he is not only one of the most powerful, but one of the most interesting men I ever saw.

Mr. William H. Prescott, who was at this time interested in the study of Italian literature, addressed to Mr. Ticknor, on a stormy day in December, a letter, inspired by his reading of Petrarch, in which, among other things, he earnestly maintained the real existence of Laura. Mr. Ticknor, kept at home, like his friend, by the weather, replied at once with equal interest in the subject, but in a more sceptical tone, both as to Laura's existence and as to the relations between her and the poet who has immortalized her name.

Mr. Prescott's letter is given in the Life of him by his friend, as well as the answer he made to the following:—

To Wm. H. Prescott, Boston.

17 December, 1823. Wednesday Afternoon.
Your three close-written pages about Petrarch, my dear William, have stirred me about him more than I have been before these six years. And having nothing to do, I passed the whole morning in the way you had set me out. I began with whatever I had marked in his Rime, and then having some mind to a greater acquaintance with himself, I read the greater part of his Treatises De Remediis utriusque Fortunoe, and De Vita Solitaria; and ended with as many of his Letters as brought me to dinner-time. The whole affair has given me great pleasure. It has, I think, once more put me in possession of the character and feelings of Petrarch, in the only way in which it is possible to understand them; and, for aught I know, I have brought myself back—thanks to your very pleasant discussion —much to the same state in which I was when, on a beautiful spring day in Provence, I read the ‘chiare, dolci e fresche acque’ for the last time—till this morning—by the Fountain of Vaucluse.

The first question in my thoughts there, and the only one I thought of as I stood the next day in the garden of the Sceurs de la Charite, at Avignon, is precisely the one you have moved in your letter. Was Laura a real existence, or, rather, was she really a person with whom

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