Crichtou's journeying from university to university to stick up challenges on church doors and college pillars, though it is said to have been in accordance with customs not then obsolete, certainly attractsd some ridicule among the Italians ; for Boccalini, after quoting one of his placards, in which he announces his arrival and his readiness to dispute extemporaneously on all subjects, says that a wit wrote under it, "and whosoever wishes to see him, let him go to the Falcon Inn, where he will be shown," which is the formula used by 'bowmen for the exhibition of a wild beast, or any other monster. (' Ragguagli di Parnaeao.) We next bear of Crichton at Mantua, and as the hero of a combat more tragical than those carried on by the tongue or pen. A certain Italian gentleman; "of a mighty, able, nimble, and vigorous body, but by nature fierce, cruel, warlike, and audacious, and superlatively expert and dexterous in the use of his weapon," was in the habit of going from one city to another to challenge men to fight with cold steel, just as Crichton did to challenge them to scholastic combats. This itinerant gladiator, who had marked his way through Italy with blood, bad just arrived in Mantas, and killed three young men, the best swordsmen of that city. By universal consen tthe Italians were the ablest masters of fence in Europe—a reputation to which they seem still entitled. To encounter a victor among such masters was a stretch of courage, but Crichtoo, who had studied the sword from his youth, and who had probably improved himself in the use of the rapier in Italy, did not hesitate to challenge the redoubtable bravo. They fought ; the young Scotebman was victorious and the Italian left dead on the spot.
Soon after this the sovereign Duke of Mantua engaged Crichton as companiou or preceptor to his son Vincenzo Oonzega, a young man who, according to Muratori, had shown a strong inclination for litera ture, but who was otherwise of a passionate temper and dissolute manners. ('Annall d'Italia.) At the court of Mantua Crichton
added to his reputation by writing Italian comedies, and playing the principal twig in them himself Ills popularity was immense, but of brief duration. He was cut off in his twenty.third year, without leaving soy proofs of his genius except a few Latin verses, printed by Aldus Manutius, and the testimonials of undoubted and extreme admiration of several dlitiognished Italian authors, who were his con temporaries and associates. As he was returning one night from the bons. of his mistress, and playing and singing as he walked (for he was an accomplished musician), he was attacked by several armed men In mutt. Ono of these he disarmed and seized; the rest took to flight. Upon unmasking his captive he discovered the features of the Prince of Mantua. Ho instantly dropped upon one knee, and pre sented his sword to his master, who, inflamed by revenge, and, it Is supposed, by jealousy, took the weapon and ran him through the body. Some contemporary accounts attribute his death to an acci dental midnight brawl, others to a premeditated plan of assassination, but all seem to agree that he fell by the hand of the prince ; and a belief, or a popular superstition, prevailed in Italy, that the calamities which befel the house of Oonzaga shortly after were judgments of the Almighty for that foul murder.
Such appear to be the well.authenticated points of a wonderful story, that has often been doubted, not only in parts, but almost altogether. It has however been cleared up of late years by the industry and research of Mr. Patrick Fraser Tytler, who produces a mass of contemporary or nearly contemporary evidence.
(Life of James Ortehron of Cluny, commonly called the Admirable Crichton ; with an Appendix of Original Papers, 1 vol. 8vo, Edinb., 1819.)