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Benedetto Varchi
(1503 - 1565) Italy

Benedetto Varchi

Writer and historian

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Born in Florence, the son of a notary, Varchi spent his life in the study and teaching of literature. He took a degree in law at Pisa. In 1424, on his father's death, Varchi began practicing as a notary, a profession he soon abandoned for literature. In order to earn a living, he worked as a secretary and a tutor for various illustrious patrons.

He allied with the opponents of the Medicis and in 1537 he joined anti-Medici exiles in Padua, where he gained the protection of the Strozzi family. Having lost their favour, partly because of a homosexual scandal, Varchi moved to Bologna. Precarious finances forced him to reconcile with Duke Cosimo and to return in Florence.

Varchi's work is notheworthy for an uncompromising defence of homosexual love. He wrote sonnets to the youth Giulio della Stufa, but the youth's father expressly forbade him to frequent Varchi, because of the latter's homosexual tastes.

His first documented love (around 1525) was for an adolescent called Giovanni de' Pazzi, whose father had Varchi attacked and stbbed when he found out that the youth was slipping out of the family house in the dead of night to meet his lover.

The following year, Varchi fell in love with one Giuliano Gondi. When Gondi met his death in a street fight, his place in varchi's affection vas taken in 1527 by Lorenzo Lenzi. Varchi vrote many love sonnets for Lenzi, and they remained friends for the rest of Varchi's life, and he bequeated his library to Lenzi.

Varchi's fourth love affair was with Giulio Strozzi and took place in Padua. In his poetry Varchi increasingli openly proclaimed his love for Giulio (whom he called "Carino" in his verses), and turned desperate after the youth's death.

Upon returning to Florence, Varchi found a fifth love: a lad about whom nothing is known except that Varchi celebrated him in his poems with the pastoral name of Iola. He later fell in love with a nobleman, Cesare Ercolani, and then with a lad, perhaps an orphan, named Palla de' Ruccellai. This and his other loves are recorded in Varchi's biographies.

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Source: excerpts from: Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History, from Antiquity to WWII, Routledge, London, 2001

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