Since we will be dealing with broadly European trends, modified in greater or less degree by national peculiarities, we should first make allowance for the relative weakness of Britain's cultural ties with the Continent. When Cellini refers casually to 'those brutes of Englishmen? he is expressing the quite normal reaction of a Renaissance Italian to a nation which was, by his standards, small, poor, remote, and intellectually backward. 3 New developments in art or literature

did not usually take root in Britain until long after they had been adopted in the wealthier and more sophisticated Continental states; the late appearance of autobiography in Britain was in accordance with this rule. We cannot, however, ascribe this delay to the failure of British autobiographers to respond to the inspiration of Continental models; for many of the most significant Continental autobiographies were not published at all until long after their authors' deathsCellini's, for example, did not appear until 1728.4 Moreover, literary history has amply demonstrated that a genre cultivated in one country will not achieve success in another until time and circumstances there are favourable; the Petrarchan sonnet, to take an obvious case, did not become popular in England until some hundred and fifty years after Petrarch's death. In Renaissance Europe, autobiography tended to develop independently in each country, with Italy the leader both in time and in quality. 5 Most British autobiographies written before 1700 show little trace of foreign literary influences; by their extraordinary diversity these works bear witness to the isolated workings of their authors' imaginations.