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Isabella Sforza (1503-1561)

From Alf Dotson, “Isabella Sforza, Biographical Notice”—

ISABELLA SFORZA, attributed author of “The Taming of the Pooch,” was related by marriage—or rather, by annulled marriage—to the in¬famous beauty, Lucrezia Borgia, the illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander VI. […] At age seventeen, Isabella married Cipriano del Nero, baron Porcigliano.  Her marriage, which lasted thirty-five years, was spent chiefly within the walls of the Castle Porciano; during which time, Isabella achieved celebrity as a notable blue-stocking and popular writer, her work being translated into French, Spanish, and English. […]

In the spring of 1555, following the death of her first husband, Lady Porcigliano traveled to Padua, there to visit Dr. Hortensio Lando, an old friend.  Lando was an impecunious scholar, forever in pursuit of a wealthy bride.  At the time of Isabella’s visit, he was on the rebound from a failed lovesuit to Bianca Miniola Ramusio di Baptista.  And Isabella was on the rebound from a dead husband.

Hortensio by Italian standards was not an especially handsome man, though he was certainly a modest one:  “Travel in many lands, yet never shall you see a man more deformed than Hortensio Lando” (writes Lando).
“Every part of his body is imperfect.  With ears longer than a donkey’s, he is hard of hearing.  He is near-sighted, of short stature, has African lips and a flattened nose.  His hands are crooked, his expression satur¬nine, and his complexion ash-gray” (Lando, 18).  The humility of Hortensio Lando, and his big ears, and his age, and his itinerant lifestyle, and his chronic penury, may have been five reasons that his lovesuit to Bianca, 17, was rejected.  But Isabella Sforza, Lady Porcigliano, loved the man; and in 1555, only weeks after del Nero’s death, she married him.  […]

Just six days after the wedding, Hortensio Lando perished, having “died from an excess of joy” (Axon, 191).  The word on the street, in Padua, was that Dr. Lando suffered a fatal heart attack while his beloved bride, without malicious intent, burned him down.

In June 1555, Hortensio Lando was laid to rest in Padua.  His widow evidently consoled herself by writing “The Taming of a Pooch,” quite possibly the greatest romance ever penned.  This steamy novella, in the Italian, was brought to England by Sir Thomas Hoby in the autumn of that year, upon his return from a two-year sojourn in Padua; and it must have been from Hoby that the manuscript passed then to his sister-in-law, Anne Cook Bacon, who translated the story into English.

Isabella Sforza del Nero Lando, the original author of “The Taming of the Pooch,” never remarried; and on 22 January 1561, she died (Fillassier, 655).