Selected Letters of Alessandra degli Strozzi (1408-1471)

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Here below you will find an outline of the Selected Letters of Alessandra Strozzi, translated with an introduction and notes by Heather Gregory, University of California Press, 1997.
(ISBN: 0520203909)



29              Letter 1 (1447)      The Wedding

This is the first letter that we have from Alessandra written in 1447,
when she is almost forty and living in Florence. It is full of great
details about the impending wedding of her daughter Caterina to Marco

37             Letter 2 (1448)          Matteo

Alessandra writes about her beloved youngest son Matteo. Filippo and
others are urging her to send him to Naples where his older brother
can introduce him to the world of business, but Alessandra cannot
face the idea of life without him in Florence: “I feel very sad
when I think about being left so alone . . .” a heartrending
passage that is so familiar. So many mothers so sad to see all their
children leave the nest.

49              Letter 4 (1449)      Death of Cousin Filippo

Alessandra laments the death of cousin Filippo di Lionardo, “which
has made me very sad and still does, considering the harm it will
do to us first and then to the whole family.”

53               Letter 5 (1450)      A Mother’s Lecture

Here is something we all recognize: Mother’s lecture on making the
most of our opportunities: ” . . .manage everything in a way
that does you credit.”

65               Letter 8 (1453)      Lorenzo in Bruges

Alessandra writes to her other son Lorenzo and delivers another lecture
on life: “you’re old enough to behave in a different sort of
way from how you have been; you’ve got to sort yourself out and concentrate
on living properly.”(p. 69)

75               Letter 10 (1459)      Politics

Here Alessandra writes about Florentine politics.
The Strozzi versus the Medici.

79               Letter 11 (1459)      Death of Matteo

This is the most unforgettable of all the letters. Alessandra has
been informed that her youngest son Matteo has died at age 23 in Naples.
This is the most terrible blow of all. She had adored this precious
last child, she had protected him, and then had resisted pressure
to send him away for education and business experience with his older
brother, and she had worried all the time. Now she had lost him.

97               Letter 14 (1461)      Letters Being Opened

This short letter is interesting about the letters; she tells Lorenzo
that the letters are being opened. They are being watched. This little
detail alerts us to the reality of the Florentine political situation
in the middle of the fifteenth century. Although the Republic was
a democracy with elections, the truth was that the Medici circle was
slowly undermining the democratic truth in favor of a more and more
oligarchical regime. This regime was not controlled by the Medici
alone; there was a cabal of upper class families allied with the Medici
with the head of the Medici family as head of the oligarchy.

103               Letter 16 (1464)      Alessandra’s Moral Code

Letter 16 written in March of 1464 contains a stunningly simple statement
of what Alessandra believed about life here on this earth: “Our
life in this world is so short we have to try to make sure we live
in peace in the next life, which lasts forever. And not doing our
duty by our neighbor is one of the things which damns us, because
the Bible says: ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'”
This statement is so simple. There is no ambiguity about either the
idea or her acquiescence in its direction. She believed this simple
Christian proposition and she lived it.

Also interesting is the detail that Marco Parenti could buy a small
farm in the Mugello for 400 florins (Caterina’s dowry was 1000 florins).(p. 107)

119               Letter 19 (1464)      Death of Cosimo de’ Medici

The death of Cosimo de’ Medici on August 1, 1464 opened up the question
of the future status of the carefully constructed Medicean political
machine. Would Cosimo’s son Piero be able to hold the oligarchy together?
Would the other families remain loyal to this new leader? Was Piero
up to it? He was physically frail and therefore Florentines
were not even sure he would have the energy to control the delicate
machinery of government the way his father had done for thirty years.
As Alessandra notes in her letter: “There’s no doubt that this
death has given many of the citizens some new ideas about how the
land should be governed . . .” And of course, any change in the
nature of the regime immediately opened up the possibility that the
exile of the Strozzi men might also be affected. Notice how careful
and how canny Alessandra is. Everything will move forward with the
greatest care: many quiet consultations with allies behind the scene;
one must find out what everyone thinks. Put it all together slowly
one step at a time. And here we see how valuable Alessandra must have
been to the Strozzi sons operating from the distance of Naples. She
was a consumate politician and could have ruled Florence herself!

129               Letter 21 (1465)      Lorenzo Strozzi’s Visit

In 1465, Alessandra’s son Lorenzo came to the southern border of Florentine
territory with the hope that he would be able to come closer to the
city and meet with friends and family. All this required considerable
political maneuver and Alessandra was in the middle of it. The safe-conduct
was forthcoming and Alessandra met with her middle son just outside
the city. This relaxation of the Strozzi exile conditions pointed
to a larger loosening of the regime’s political control. This new
looseness got out of control and in 1466 there was a near-coup. We
can read all about it in the memoire of Alessandra’s son-in-law Marco

135               Letter 22 (1465)      Post-Visit Depression

Alessandra is sad after the visit of Lorenzo: “I haven’t been
feeling well since Lorenzo left, so I’ve eaten some eggs; I haven’t
had a fever but my head has felt weak and sometimes it feels as if
my brain is turning around.” (p. 137).

139               Letters 23-26 (1465)      Filippo’s Wife

Beginning in Letter 23 and continuing for a number of letters, Alessandra
takes up the important topic of finding a wife for her elder son Filippo,
whom Alessandra considers well past the marrying age. The letters
are wonderful and hilarious and it is clear that Alessandra is way
more dedicated to the task than is the prospective bridegroom. My
favorite passage is her account of her visit to the cathedral of Florence
(called here Santa Liperata) to see the Adimari girl and instead found
herself near the Tanagli whom she follows out of the church to get
a good look. The whole scene is unforgettable and gives you a good
look at the marriage market of fifteenth-century Florence (p. 155).

147     Letter 24 (1465)       Alessandra on God, Family, Life

There is a beautiful passage in letter 24 on page 147 where Alessandra
muses on their life and their blessings: “What you say is very
true, that you (and we too) have been given more grace than we deserve,
but I put my faith in Him . . .”