The notices which he has left us of Neapolitan society at this epoch are interesting, and, it was now, perhaps, that he met Boccaccio for the first time.
The fascination of pure study was so powerful, the Italians at that epoch were so eager to recover the past, that during the 15th century we have before our eyes the spectacle of this great nation deviating from the course of development begun in poetry by Dante and Petrarch, in prose by Boccaccio ism to and Villani, into the channels of scholarship and anti- - quarian research.
So much had to be premised in order to make it clear in what relation humanism stood to the Renaissance, since the Italian work of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio is sufficient to indicate the re-birth of the spirit after ages of apparent deadness.
To this task Boccaccio addressed himself; and he was followed by numerous Italian enthusiasts, who visited Byzantium before its fall as the sacred city of a new revelation.
A book of quite a different order is the Co.ntos de proveito e exemplo by Fernandes Trancoso, containing a series of twenty-nine tales derived from tradition or imitated from Boccaccio and others, which enjoyed deserved favour for more than a century.
Here his friend Boccaccio introduced to him the Greek teacher Leontius Pilatus.
It was Boccaccio who in the spring of 1351 brought to Petrarch, then resident with the Carrara family at Padua, an invitation from the seigniory of Florence to accept the rectorship of their recently founded university.
Robert was a man of learning, devoted to literature, and a generous patron of literary men: he befriended the poet Petrarch, who admired the king so greatly as to express the wish to see him lord of all Italy; while Boccaccio celebrated the virtues and charms of Robert's natural daughter Maria, under the name of Fiammetta.
All through these declining years his friendship with Boccaccio was maintained and strengthened.
Petrarch and Boccaccio were, as we have seen, the pioneers of the new learning.