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Pope Sixtus the Fifth

A SINGULAR revolution of fortune happened to Pope Sixtus the Fifth. He was originally a swine-herd. When he first came to Rome, he was constrained to beg alms. Having collected a little silver, he one day stood deliberating with himself, whether he should employ it in the purchase of a loaf, which the keenness of his appetite reminded him would prove a very agreeable acquisition; or, in a pair of shoes, which his ten toes terribly complained of wanting. In this conflict of irresolution, his face betrayed the anxiety of his mind. A tradesman, who had for some time observed his embarrassment, asked him the occasion of it. He told him frankly the cause; but he did it in so facetious a manner, that the tradesman resolved to finish his perplexity by inviting him to a good dinner. When Sixtus became Pope, he did not forget to return the dinner to the benevolent tradesman.

To give an instance of his abilities as a politician. When he first aspired in his mind to the Popedom, while he was yet a Cardinal, he counterfeited illness and old age for fifteen years. During the conclave, which was assembled to create a Pope, he continually leaned on his crutch; and very frequently interrupted the sage deliberations of the Conclave by a hollow cough, and violent spitting. This scheme took so well, that the Cardinals fell into the trap; and every one thinking that, by electing Sixtus, he might himself stand a chance of being in a short time elected, he was chosen unanimously. Soon after the election was concluded, the new Pope performed a miracle: his legs became vigorous: his body, that had been before curbed, became firm and erect; his cough was dissipated; and he shewed; in a short time, of what he was capable.

What he had obtained by such singular artifice he maintained with as singular haughtiness. Cardinal Este, for a written promise which Sixtus gave him, greatly assisted in making him Pope; but Sixtus did not always grant the Cardinal the many favours he was continually asking. Once, in a passion, he said—Padre santo Io voi fatto Papa.—Holy Father! it was me who made you Pope: to which Sixtus replied—Lasciatemi dunque essere Papa.—Let me, then, be Pope. Such are generally the replies of those politicians, whose superior Machiavelism (if the expression be allowed) has turned to their own account the interested motives of inferior politicians.