"The world scene, too, which means the European scene, is a fascinating one. While the Popes of Rome, in scarlet hunting costume, are riding to the chase accompanied by their favorite Ganymedes and the Doges are lording it over the world from their rocca sicura, Venice, it is, at the same time, the day of the "Spanish flamingo,"' the Emperor Charles V., of the wavering, reactionary and stingy Francis I. in France, of Henry VIII, his wives, divorces and religious schisms in England, of Luther in Germany, nailing up his theses on the church door at Wittenberg, and of Barbarossa, sailing the seas for Their Imperial Majesties, the Sultan Selim I. and the King of Algiers. What more could be asked in the way of color?"
"And out of all this welter of gorgeous semi-barbarism, there emerges — there must emerge — for the student who seeks a conscientious close-up, the figure of one man—the bastard son of a prostitute, legend has it, though more likely the son of a village shoemaker—who, by the sheer force of personality (since what other explanation is there?), rules the rulers of this turbulent world, flaying them into submission with the power of his pen, accepting, with one hand, their regal bribes, and, with the other, tossing the bulk of what he gets to the poor, living all the while in princely splendor, amid a veritable harem of wives and courtezans, and keeping open house to artists, soldiers, statesmen, priests, the intellectual, social and artistic elite of his day. That man is Pietro Aretino, the last fine poison-flower of the century
that grew the Borgias."