The history of this amazing Pope Alexander is yet to be written. No attempt has been made to exhaust it here. Yet of necessity he bulks large in these pages; for the history of his dazzling, meteoric son is so closely interwoven with his own that it is impossible to present the one without dealing at considerable length with the other.

The sources from which the history of the House of Borgia has been culled are not to be examined in a preface. They are too numerous, and they require too minute and individual a consideration that their precise value and degree of credibility may be ascertained. Abundantly shall such examination be made in the course of this history, and in a measure as the need arises to cite evidence for one side or for the other shall that evidence be sifted.

Never, perhaps, has anything more true been written of the Borgias and their history than the matter contained in the following lines of Rawdon Brown in his Ragguagli sulla Vita e suite Opere di Marino Sanuto : " It seems to me that history has made use of the House of Borgia as of a canvas upon which to depict the turpitudes of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries."

Materials for the work were very ready to the hand ; and although they do not signally differ from the materials out of which the histories of half a dozen Popes of the same epoch might be compiled, they are far more abundant in the case of the Borgia Pope, for the excellent reason that the Borgia Pope detaches from the background of the Renaissance far more than any of his compeers by virtue of his importance as a political force.

In this was reason to spare for his being libelled and lampooned even beyond the usual extravagant wont. Slanders concerning him and his son Cesare were readily circulated, and they will generally be found to spring from those States which had most cause for jealousy and resentment of the Borgia might Venice, Florence, and Milan, amongst others.

No rancour is so bitter as political rancour save, perhaps, religious rancour, which we shall also trace ; no warfare more unscrupulous or more prone to use the insidious weapons of slander than political warfare. Of this such striking instances abound in our own time that there can scarce be the need to labour the point. And from the form taken by such slanders as are circulated in our own sedate and moderate epoch may be conceived what might be said by political opponents in a fierce age that knew no pudency and no restraint. All. this in its proper place shall be more closely examined.

For many of the charges brought against the House of Borgia some testimony exists ; for many others and these are the more lurid, sensational, and appalling covering as they do rape and murder, adultery, incest, and the sin of the Cities of the Plain no single grain of real evidence is forthcoming. Indeed, at this time of day evidence is no longer called for where the sins of the Borgias are concerned. Oft reiterated assertion has usurped the place of evidence for a lie sufficiently repeated comes to be credited by its very utterer. And meanwhile the calumny has sped from tongue to tongue, from pen to pen, gathering matter as it goes. The world absorbs the stories; it devours them greedily so they be sensational, and writers well aware of this have been pandering to that morbid appetite for some centuries now with this subject of the Borgias. A salted, piquant tale of vice, a ghastly story of moral turpitude and physical corruption, a hair raising narrative of horrors and abominations these are the stock in trade of the sensation monger. With the authenticity of the matters he retails such a one has no concern. " Se non e vero e ben trovato" is his motto, and in his heart the sensation monger of whatsoever age rather hopes the thing be true. He will certainly make his public so believe it; for to discredit it would be to lose nine tenths of its sensational value. So he trims and adjusts his wares, adds a touch or two of colour and what else he accounts necessary to heighten their air of authenticity, to dissemble any peeping spuriousness.

A form of hypnosis accompanies your study of the subject a suggestion that what is so positively and repeatedly stated must of necessity be true, must of necessity have been proved by irrefutable evidence at some time or other. So much you take for granted for matters which began their existence perhaps as tentative hypotheses have imperceptibly developed into established facts.

Occasionally it happens that we find some such sentence as the following summing up this deed or that one in the Borgia histories : " A deal of mystery remains to be cleared up, but the Verdict of History assigns the guilt to Cesare Borgia."

Behold how easy it is to dispense with evidence. So that your tale be well salted and well spiced, a fico for evidence ! If it hangs not over well together in places, if there be contradictions, lacunae, or openings for doubt, fling the Verdict of History into the gap, and so strike any questioner into silence.

So far have matters gone in this connection that who undertakes to set down to day the history of Cesare Borgia, with intent to do just and honest work, must find it impossible to tell a plain and straightforward tale to present him not as a villain of melodrama, not as a monster, ludicrous, grotesque, impossible, but as a human being, a cold, relentless egotist, it is true, using men for his own ends, terrible and even treacherous in his reprisals, swift as a panther and as cruel where his anger was aroused, yet with certain elements of greatness: a splendid soldier, an unrivalled administrator, a man pre eminently just, if merciless in that same justice.

To present Cesare Borgia thus in a plain straightforward tale at this time of day, would be to provoke the scorn and derision of those who have made his acquaintance in the pages of that eminent German scholar, Ferdinand Gregorovius, and of some other writers not quite so eminent yet eminent enough to deserve serious consideration. Hence has it been necessary to examine at close quarters the findings of these great ones, and to present certain criticisms of those same findings. The author is overwhelmingly conscious of the invidious quality of that task ; but he is no less conscious of its inevitability if this tale is to be told at all.