PERIOD THIRD. THE SECOND REVIVAL OF ITALIAN LITERATURE, AND ITS PRESENT CONDITION (1675-1885).
1. HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE THIRD PERIOD.—At the close of the seventeenth century, a new dawn arose in the history of Italian letters, and the general corruption which had extended to every branch of literature and paralyzed the Italian mind began to be arrested by the appearance of writers of better taste; the affectations of the Marinists and of the so-called Arcadian poets were banished from literature; science was elevated and its dominion extended, the melodrama, comedy, and tragedy recreated, and a new spirit infused into every branch of composition. Amidst the clash of arms and the vicissitudes of long and bloody wars, Italy began to awake from her lethargy to the aspiration for greater and better things, and her intellectual condition soon underwent important changes and improvements. In the eighteenth century, in Naples, Vico transformed history into a new science. Filangeri contended with Montesquieu for the palm of legislative philosophy; and new light was thrown on criminal science by Mario Pagano. In Rome, letters and science flourished under the patronage of Benedict XIV., Clement XIV., and Pius VI., under whose auspices Quirico Visconti undertook his “Pio Clementine Museum” and his “Greek and Roman Iconography,” the two greatest archaeological works of all ages. Padua was immortalized by the works of Cesarotti, Belzoni, and Stratico; Venice by Goldoni; Verona by Maffei, the critic and the antiquarian, as well as the first reformer of Italian tragedy. Tuscany took the lead of the intellectual movement of the country under Leopold and his successor Ferdinand, when Florence, Pisa, and Siena again became seats of learning and of poetry and the arts. Maria Theresa and Joseph II. fostered the intellectual progress of Lombardy; Spallanzani published his researches on natural philosophy; Volta discovered the pile which bears his name; a new era in poetry was created by Parinl; another in criminal jurisprudence by Beccaria; history was reconstructed by Muratori; mathematics promoted by Lagrange, and astronomy by Oriani; and Alfieri restored Italian letters to their primitive splendor.
But at the close of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth, Italy became the theatre of political and military revolutions, whose influence could not fail to arrest the development of the literature of the country. The galleries, museums, and libraries of Rome, Florence, and other cities suffered from the military occupation, and many of their treasures, manuscripts, and masterpieces of art were carried to Paris by command of Napoleon. The entire peninsula was subject to French influence, which, though beneficial to its material progress, could not fail to be detrimental to national literature. All new works were composed in French, and indifferent or bad translations from the French were widely circulated; the French language was substituted for the Italian, and the national literature seemed about to disappear. But Italian genius was not wholly extinguished; a few writers powerfully opposed this new tendency, and preserved in its purity the language of Dante and Petrarch. Gradually the national spirit revived, and literature was again moulded in accordance with the national character. Notwithstanding the political calamities of which, for some time after the treaty of Vienna in 1815, Italy was continually the victim, the literature of the country awakened and fostered a sentiment of nationality, and Italian independence is at this present moment already achieved.
2. THE MELODRAMA.—The first result of the revival of letters at the close of the seventeenth century was the reform of the theatre. The melodrama, or Italian opera, arose out of the pastoral drama, which it superseded. The astonishing progress of musical science succeeded that of poetry and sculpture, which fell into decline with the decay of literature. Music, rising into excellence and importance at a time when poetry was on the decline, acquired such superiority that verse, instead of being its mistress, became its handmaid. The first occasion of this inversion was in the year 1594, when Rinuccini, a Florentine poet, associated himself with three musicians to compose a mythological drama. This and several other pieces by the same author met with a brilliant reception. Poetry, written only in order to be sung, thus assumed a different character; Rinuiccini abandoned the form of the canzone which had hitherto been used in the lyrical part of the drama, and adopted the Pindaric ode. Many poets followed in the same path; more action was given to the dramatic parts, and greater variety to the music, in which the airs were agreeably blended with the recitative duets; other harmonized pieces were also added, and after the lapse of a century Apostolo Zeno (1669-1750) still further improved the melodrama. But it was the spirit of Metastasio that breathed a soul of fire into this ingenious and happy form created by others.
Metastasio (1698-1782) gave early indications of genius, and when only ten years of age used to collect an audience in his father's shop, by his talent for improvisation. He thus attracted the notice of Gravina, a celebrated patron of letters, who adopted him as his son, changed his somewhat ignoble name of Trepassi to Metastasio, and had him educated in every branch necessary for a literary career. He still continued to improvise verses on any given subject for the amusement of company. His youth, his harmonious voice, and prepossessing appearance, added greatly to the charm of his talent. It was one generally cultivated in Italy at this time, and men of mature years often presented themselves as rivals of the hoy. This occupation becoming injurious to the youth, Gravina forbade him to compose extempore verses any more, and this rule, imposed on him at sixteen, he never afterwards infringed. When Metastasio was in his twentieth year Gravina died, leaving to him his fortune, most of which he squandered in two years. He afterwards went to Naples, where, under a severe master, he devoted himself to the closest study and for two years resisted every solicitation to compose verses. At length, under promise of secrecy, he wrote a drama. All Naples resounded with its praise, and the author was soon discovered. Metastasio from this time followed the career for which nature seemed to have formed him, and devoted himself to the opera, which he considered to be the natural drama of Italy. An invitation to become the court poet of Vienna made his future life both stable and prosperous. On the death of Charles VI., in 1740, several other European sovereigns made advantageous overtures to the poet, but as Maria Theresa was disposed to retain him, he would not leave her in her adverse circumstances. The remainder of his life he passed in Germany, and his latter years were as monotonous as they were prosperous.
Metastasio seized with a daring hand the true spirit of the melodrama, and scorning to confine himself to unity of place, opened a wide field for the display of theatrical variety, on which the charm of the opera so much depends. The language in which he clothed the favorite passion of his drama exhibits all that is delicate and yet ardent, and he develops the most elevated sentiments of loyalty, patriotism, and filial love. The flow of his verse in the recitative is the most pure and harmonious known in any language, and the strophes at the close of each scene are scarcely surpassed by the first masters in lyric poetry. Metastasio is one of the most pleasing, at the same time one of the least difficult of the Italian poets, and the tyro in the study of Italian classics may begin with his works, and at once enjoy the pleasures of poetic harmony at their highest source.
3. COMEDY.—The revolution, so frequently attempted in Italian comedy by men whose genius was unequal to the task, was reserved for Goldoni (1707- 1772) to accomplish. His life, written by himself, presents a picture of Italian manners in their gayest colors. He was a native of Venice, and from his early youth was constantly surrounded by theatrical people. At eight years of age he composed a comedy, and at fourteen he ran away from school with a company of strolling players. He afterwards prepared for the medical, then for the legal profession, and finally, at the age of twenty- seven, he was installed poet to a company of players. He now attempted to introduce the reforms that he had long meditated; he attained a purer style, and became a censor of the manners and a satirist of the follies of his country. His dialogue is extremely animated, earnest, and full of meaning; with a thorough knowledge of national manners, he possessed the rare faculty of representing them in the most life-like manner on the stage. The language used by the inferior characters of his comedies is the Venetian dialect.
In his latter days Goldoni was rivaled by Carlo Gozzi (1722-1806), who parodied his pieces, and, it is thought, was the cause of his retirement, in the decline of life, to Paris. Gozzi introduced a new style of comedy, by reviving the familiar fictions of childhood; he selected and dramatized the most brilliant fairy tales, such as “Blue Beard,” “The King of the Genii,” etc., and gave them to the public with magnificent decorations and surprising machinery. If his comedies display little resemblance to nature, they at least preserve the kind of probability which is looked for in a fairy tale. Many years elapsed after Goldoni and Gozzi disappeared from the arena before there was any successor to rival their compositions.
Among those who contributed to the perfection of Italian comedy may be mentioned Albergati (fl. 1774), Gherardo de' Rossi (1754-1827), and above all, Nota (d. 1847), who is preeminent among the new race of comic authors; although somewhat cold and didactic, he at least fulfils the important office of holding the mirror up to nature. He exhibits a faithful picture of Italian society, and applies the scourge of satire to its most prevalent faults and follies.
4. TRAGEDY.—The reform of Italian tragedy was early attempted by Martelli (d. 1727) and by Scipione Maffei (1675-1755). But Martelli was only a tame imitator of French models, while Maffei, possessing real talent and feeling, deserved the extended reputation he acquired. His “Merope” is considered as the last and the best specimen of the elder school of Italian tragedy.
The honor of raising tragedy to its highest standard was reserved for Alfieri (1749-1803), whose remarkable personal character exercised a powerful influence over his works. He was possessed of an impetuosity which continually urged him towards some indefinite object, a craving for something more free in politics, more elevated in character, more ardent in love, and more perfect in friendship; of desires for a better state of things, which drove him from one extremity of Europe to another, but without discovering it in the realities of this everyday world. Finally, he turned to the contemplation of a new universe in his own poetical creations, and calmed his agitations by the production of those master- pieces which have secured his immortality. His aim in life, in the pursuit of which he never deviated, was that of founding a new and classic school of tragedy. He proposed to himself the severe simplicity of the Greeks with respect to the plot, while he rejected the pomp of poetry which compensates for interest among the classic writers of antiquity. Energy and conciseness are the distinguishing features of his style; and this, in his earlier dramas, is carried to the extreme. He brings the whole action into one focus; the passion he would exhibit is introduced into the first verse and kept in view to the last. No event, no character, no conversation unconnected with the advancement of the plot is permitted to appear; all confidants and secondary personages are, therefore, excluded, and there seldom appear more than four interlocutors. These tragedies breathe the spirit of patriotism and freedom, and for this, even independently of their intrinsic merit, Alfieri is considered as the reviver of the national character in modern times, as Dante was in the fourteenth century. “Saul” is regarded as his masterpiece; it represents a noble character suffering under those weaknesses which sometimes accompany great virtues, and are governed by the fatality, not of destiny, but of human nature.
Among the earliest and most distinguished of those who followed in the path of Alfieri was Monti (1754-1828). Though endowed with a sublime imagination and exquisite taste, his character was weak and vain, and he, in turn, celebrated every party as it became the successful one. Educated in the school of Dante, he introduced into Italian poetry those bold and severe beauties which adorned its infancy. His “Aristodemus” is one of the most affecting tragedies in Italian literature. The story is founded on the narrative of Pausanias. It is simple in its construction, and its interest is confined almost entirely to the principal personage. In the loftiness of the characters of his tragedies, and the energy of sentiment and simplicity of action which characterize them, we recognize the school of Alfieri, while in harmony and elegance of style and poetical language, Monti is superior.
Another follower of the school of Alfieri is Ugo Foscolo (1778-1827), one of the greatest writers of this age, in whom inspiration was derived from a lofty patriotism. At the time of the French revolution he joined the Italian army, with the object of restoring independence to his country. Disappointed in this hope, he left Italy for England, where he distinguished himself by his writings. The best of his tragedies, “Ricciarda,” is founded on events supposed to have occurred in the Middle Ages. While some of its scenes and situations are forced and unnatural, some of the acts are wrought with consummate skill and effect, and the conception of the characters is tragic and original. Foscolo adopts in his tragedies a concise and pregnant style, and displays great mastery over his native language. Marenco (d. 1846) is distinguished for the noble and moral ideas, lofty images, and affections of his tragedies; but he lacks unity of design and vigor of style. Silvio Pellico (1789-1854) was born in Piedmont. As a writer he is best known as the author of “My Prisons,” a narrative full of simplicity and resignation, in which he relates his sufferings during ten years in the fortress of Spielberg. His tragedies are good specimens of modern art; they abound in fine thoughts and tender affections, but they lack that liveliness of dialogue and rapidity of action which give reality to the situations, and that knowledge of the human heart and unity and grandeur of conception which are the characteristics of true genius.
Manzoni (1785-1873) and Nicolini (1782-1861) are the last of the modern representatives of the tragic drama of Italy. The tragedies of Manzoni, and especially his “Conte di Carmagnola,” and “Adelchi,” abound in exquisite beauties. His style is simple and noble, his verse easy and harmonious, and his object elevated. The merits of these tragedies, however, belong rather to parts, and while the reading of them is always interesting, on the stage they fail to awaken the interest of the audience. After Manzoni, Nicolini was the most popular literary man of Italy of his time. Lofty ideas, generous passions, splendor and harmony of poetry, purity of language, variety of characters, and warmth of patriotism, constitute the merit of his tragedies; while his faults consist in a style somewhat too exuberant and lyrical, in ideas sometimes too vague, and characters often too ideal.
5. LYRIC, EPIC, AND DIDACTIC POETRY.—In the latter part of the eighteenth century, a class of poets who called themselves “The Arcadians” attempted to overthrow the artificial and bombastic school of Marini; but their frivolous and insipid productions had little effect on the literature. The first poets who gave a new impulse to letters were Parini and Monti. Parini (1729-1799) was a man of great genius, integrity, and taste; he contributed more than any other writer of his age to the progress of literature and the arts. His lyrical poems abound in noble thoughts, and breathe a pure patriotism and high morality. His style is forcible, chaste, and harmonious. The poems of Monti have much of the fire and elevation of Pindar. Whatever object employs his thoughts, his eyes immediately behold; and, as it stands before him, a flexible and harmonious language is ever at his command to paint it in the brightest colors. His “Basvilliana” is the most celebrated of his lyric poems, and, beyond every other, is remarkable for majesty, nobleness of expression, and richness of coloring.
The poetical writings of Pindemonte (1753-1828) are stamped with the melancholy of his character. Their subjects are taken from contemporary events, and his inspiration is drawn from nature and rural life. His “Sepulchres” breathes the sweetest and most pathetic tenderness, and the brightest hopes of immorality. The poems of Foscolo have the grace and elegance of the Greek poets; but in his “Sepulchres” the gloom of his melancholy imagination throws a funereal light over the nothingness of all things, and the silence of death is unbroken by any voice of hope in a future life. Torti (1774-1852), a pupil of Parini, rivaled his master in the simplicity of style and purity of his images; while Leopardi (1798- 1837) impressed upon his lyric poems the peculiarities of his own character. A sublime poet and a profound scholar, his muse was inspired by a deep sorrow, and his poems pour out a melancholy that is terrible and grand, the most agonizing cry in modern literature uttered with a solemn quietness that elevates and terrifies. The poetry of despair has never had a more powerful voice than his. He is not only the first poet since Dante, but perhaps the most perfect prose writer. Berchet (1790-1851) is considered as the Italian Beranger, and his songs glow with patriotic fire. Those of Silvio Pellico, always sweet and truthful, bear the stamp of a calm resignation, hope, and piety. The list of modern lyric poets closes with Manzoni, whose hymns are models of this style of poetry.
In the epic department the third period does not afford any poems of a high order. But the translation of the Iliad by Monti, that of the Odyssey by Pindemonte, for their purity of language and beauty of style, may be considered as epic additions to Italian literature. “The Longobards of the First Crusade,” written by Grossi (1791-1853), excels in beauty and splendor of poetry all the epic poems of this age, though it lacks unity of design and comprehensiveness of thought.
Among the didactic poems may be mentioned the “Invitation of Lesbia,” by Mascheroni (1750-1800), a distinguished poet as well as a celebrated mathematician. This poem, which describes the beautiful productions of nature in the Museum of Pavia, is considered a masterpiece of didactic poetry. The “Riseide,” or cultivation of rice, by Spolverini (1695-1762), and the “Silkworm,” by Betti (1732-1788), are characterized by poetical beauties. The poem on the “Immortality of the Soul,” by Filorentino (1742- 1815), though defective in style, is distinguished by its elevation of ideas and sentiments. “The Cultivation of Mountains,” by Lorenzi (1732- 1822), is rich in beautiful images and thoughts. “The Cultivation of Olive Trees,” by Arici (1782-1836), his “Corals,” and other poems, especially in their descriptions, are graceful and attractive. “The Seasons” of Barbieri (1774-1852), though bearing marks of imitation from Pope, is written in a pure and elegant style.
6. HEROIC-COMIC POETRY, SATIRE, AND FABLE.—The period of heroic-comic poetry closes in the eighteenth century. The “Ricciardetto” of Fortiguerri (1674-1735) is the last of the poems of chivalry, and with it terminated the long series of romances founded on the adventures of Charlemagne and his paladins. The “Cicero” of Passeroni (1713-1803) is a rambling composition in a style similar to Sterne's “Tristram Shandy,” which, it appears, was suggested by this work.
Satiric poetry, which had flourished in the preceding period, was enriched by new productions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. G. Gozzi (1713-1789) attacked in his satires the vices and prejudices of his fellow-citizens, in a forcible and elegant style; and Parini, the great satirist of the eighteenth century, founded a school of satire, which proved most beneficial to the country. His poem, “The Day,” is distinguished by fine irony and by the severity with which he attacks the effeminate habits of his age. He lashes the affectations and vices of the Milanese aristocracy with a sarcasm worthy of Juvenal. The satires of D'Elei, Guadagnali, and others are characterized by wit and beauty of versification. Those of Leopardi are bitter and contemptuous, while Giusti (1809-1850), the political satirist of his age, scourged the petty tyrants of his country with biting severity and pungent wit; the circulation of his satires throughout Italy, in defiance of its despotic governments, greatly contributed to the revolution of 1848.
In the department of fable may be mentioned Roberti (1719-1786), Passeroni, Pignotti (1739-1812), and Clasio (1754-1825), distinguished for invention, purity, and simplicity of style.
7. ROMANCES.—Though the tales of Boccaccio and the story tellers of the sixteenth century paved the way to the romances of the present time, it was only at a late period that the Italians gave their attention to this kind of composition. In the eighteenth century we find only two specimens of romance, “The Congress of Citera,” by Algarotti, of which Voltaire said that it was written with a feather drawn from the wings of love; and the “Roman Nights,” by Alexander Verri (1741-1816). In his romance he introduces the shades of celebrated Romans, particularly of Cicero, and an ingenious comparison of ancient and modern institutions is made. The style is picturesque and poetical, though somewhat florid.
This kind of composition has found more favor in the nineteenth century. First among the writers of this age is Manzoni, whose “Betrothed” is a model of romantic literature. The variety, originality, and truthfulness of the characters, the perfect knowledge of the human heart it displays, the simplicity and vivacity of its style, form the principal merits of this work. The “Marco Visconti” of Grossi is distinguished for its pathos and for the purity and elegance of its style.
The “Ettore Fieramosca” of Massimo d'Azeglio is distinguished from the works already spoken of by its martial and national spirit. His “Nicolo de Lapi,” though full of beauties, partakes in some degree of the faults common to the French school. After these, the “Margherita Pusterla” of Cantil, the “Luisa Strozzi” of Rosini, the “Lamberto Malatesta” of Rovani, the “Angiola Maria” of Carcano, are the best historical romances of Italian literature. Both in an artistic and moral point of view, they far excel those of Guerrazzi, which represent the French school of George Sand in Italy, and whose “Battle of Benevento,” “Isabella Orsini,” “Siege of Florence,” and “Beatrice Cenci,” while they are written in pure language and abound in minor beauties, are exaggerated in their characters, bombastic and declamatory in style, and overloaded in description.
The “Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis,” by Foscolo, belongs to that kind of romance which is called sentimental. Overcome by the calamities of his country, with his soul full of fiery passion and sad disappointment, Foscolo wrote this romance, the protest of his heart against evils which he could not heal.
8. HISTORY.—Among the most prominent of the numerous historians of this period, a few only can be named. Muratori (1672-1750), for his vast erudition and profound criticism, has no rivals. He made the most accurate and extensive researches and discoveries relating to the history of Italy from the fifth to the sixteenth century, which he published in twenty- seven folio volumes; the most valuable collection of historical documents which ever appeared in Italy. He wrote, also, a work on “Italian Antiquities,” illustrating the history of the Middle Ages through ancient monuments, and the “Annals of Italy,” a history of the country from the beginning of the Christian era to his own age. Though its style is somewhat defective, the richness and abundance of its erudition, its clearness, and arrangement, impart to this work great value and interest.
Maffei, already spoken of as the first reformer of Italian tragedy, surpassed Muratori in the purity of his style, and was only second to him in the extent and variety of his erudition. He wrote several works on the antiquities and monuments of Italy.
Bianchini (1662-1729), a celebrated architect and scholar, wrote a “Universal History,” which, though not complete, is characterized as a work of great genius. It is founded exclusively on the interpretations of ancient monuments in marble and metal.
Vico (1670-1744), the founder of the philosophy of history, embraced with his comprehensive mind the history of all nations, and from the darkness of centuries he created the science of humanity, which he called “Scienza Nuova.” Vico does not propose to illustrate any special historical epoch, but follows the general movement of mankind in the most remote and obscure times, and establishes the rules which must guide us in interpreting ancient historians. By gathering from different epochs, remote from each other, the songs, symbols, monuments, laws, etymologies, and religious and philosophical doctrines,—in a word, the infinite elements which form the life of mankind,—he establishes the unity of human history. The “Scienza Nuova” is one of the great monuments of human genius, and it has inspired many works on the philosophy of history, especially among the Germans, such as those of Hegel, Niebuhr, and others.
Giannone (1676-1748) is the author of a “Civil History of the Kingdom of Naples,” a work full of juridical science as well as of historical interest. Having attacked with much violence the encroachments of the Church of Rome on the rights of the state, he became the victim of a persecution which ended in his death in the fortress of Turin. Giannone, in his history, gave the first example in modern times of that intrepidity and courage which belong to the true historian.
Botta (1766-1837) is among the first historians of the present age. He was a physician and a scholar, and devoted to the freedom of his country. He filled important political offices in Piedmont, under the administration of the French government. In 1809 he published, in Paris, his “History of the American Revolution,” a work held in high estimation both in this country and in Italy. In the political changes which followed the fall of Napoleon, Botta suffered many pecuniary trials, and was even obliged to sell, by weight, to a druggist, the entire edition of his history, in order to pay for medicines for his sick wife. Meanwhile, he wrote a history of Italy, from 1789 to 1814, which was received with great enthusiasm through Italy, and for which the Academy della Crusca, in 1830, granted to him a pecuniary reward. This was followed by the “History of Italy,” in continuation of Guicciardini, from the fall of the Florentine Republic to 1789, a gigantic work, with which he closed his historical career. The histories of Botta are distinguished by clearness of narrative, vividness and beauty of description, by the prominence he gives to the moral aspect of events and characters, and by purity, richness, and variety of style.
Colletta (1775-1831) was born in Naples; under the government of Murat he rose to the rank of general, and fell with his patron. His “History of the Kingdom of Naples,” from 1734 to 1825, is modeled after the annals of Tacitus. The style is simple, clear, and concise, the subject is treated without digressions or episodes; it is conceived in a partial spirit, and is a eulogium of the administration of Joachim; but no writer can rival Colletta in his descriptions of strategic movements, of sieges and battles.
Balbo (1789-1853) was born in Turin; during the administration of Napoleon he filled many important political offices, and afterwards entered upon a military career. Devoted to the freedom of his country, he strove to promote the progress of Italian independence. In 1847 he published the “Hopes of Italy,” the first political work that had appeared in the peninsula since the restoration of 1814; it was the spark which kindled the movements of 1848. In the events of that and of the succeeding year, he ranked among the most prominent leaders of the national party. His historical works are a “Life of Dante,” considered the best on the subject; “Historical Contemplations,” in which he developed the history of mankind from a philosophical point of view; and “The Compendium of the History of Italy,” which embraces in a synthetic form all the history of the country from the earliest times to 1814. His style is pure, clear, and sometimes eloquent, though often concise and abrupt.
Cantu, a living historian, has written a universal history, in which he attempts the philosophical style. Though vivid in his narratives, descriptions, and details, he is often incorrect in Ms statements, and rash in his judgments; his work, though professing liberal views, is essentially conservative in its tendency. The same faults may be discovered in his more recent “History of the Italians.”
Tiraboschi (1731-1794) is the great historian of Italian literature; his work is biographical and critical, and is the most extensive literary history of Italy. His style is simple and elegant, and his criticism profound; but he gives greater prominence to the biographies of writers than to the consideration of their works. This history was continued by Corniani (1742-1813), and afterwards by Ugoni (1784-1855).
9. AESTHETICS, CRITICISM, PHILOLOGY, AND PHILOSOPHY.—Italian literature is comparatively deficient in aesthetics, the science of the beautiful. The treatise of Gioberti on the “Beautiful,” the last work which has appeared on this subject, is distinguished for its profound doctrines and brilliant style. Philology and criticism first began to flourish at the close of the seventeenth century, and are well represented at the present time. The revival of letters was greatly promoted by the criticism of Gravina (1664-1718), one of the most celebrated jurisconsults and scholars of his age, who, through his work, “The Poetical Reason,” greatly contributed to the reform of taste. Zeno, Maffei, and Muratori also distinguished themselves in the art of criticism, and by their works aided in overthrowing the school of Marini. At a later date, Gaspar Gozzi, through his “Observer,” a periodical publication modeled after the “Spectator” of Addison, undertook to correct the literary taste of the country; for its invention, pungent wit, and satire, and the purity and correctness of its style, it is considered one of the best compositions of this kind. Baretti (1716-1789) propagated in England the taste for Italian literature, and at the same time published his “Literary Scourge,” a criticism of the ancient and modern writers of Italy. His style, though always pure, is often caustic. He wrote several books in the English language, one of which is in defense of Shakspeare against Voltaire. Cesarotti (1730-1808), though eminent as a critic, introduced into the Italian language some innovations, which contributed to its corruption; while the nice judgment, good taste, and pure style of Parini place him at the head of this department. In the latter part of this period we find, in the criticisms of Monti, vigorous logic and a splendid and attractive style. Foscolo is distinguished for his acumen and pungent wit. The works of Perticari (1779-1822) are written with extreme polish, erudition, judgment, and dignity. In Leopardi, philosophical acumen equals the elegance of his style. Giordani (d. 1848), as a critic and an epigraphist, deserves notice for his fine judgment and pure taste, as do Tommaseo and Cattaneo, who are both epigrammatic, witty, and pungent.
The golden age of philology dates from the time of Lorenzo de' Medici to the seventeenth century. It then declined until the eighteenth, but revived in the works of Maffei, Muratori, Zeno, and others. In the same century this study was greatly promoted by Foscolo, Monti, and Cesari (1760-1828), who, among other philological works, published a new edition of the Dictionary della Crusca, revised and augmented. Of the modern writers on philology, Gherardini, Tommaseo, and Ascoli are the most prominent.
The revival of philosophy in Italy dates from the age of Galileo, when the authority of the Peripatetics was overthrown, and a new method introduced into scientific researches. From that time to the present, this science has been represented by opposite schools, the one characterized by sensualism and the other by rationalism. The experimental method of Galileo paved the way to the first, which holds that experience is the only source of knowledge, a doctrine which gained ground in the seventeenth century, became universally accepted in the eighteenth, through the influence of Locke and Condillac, and continued to prevail during the first part of the nineteenth. Gioja (1767-1829), and Romagnosi (1761-1835) are the greatest representatives of this system, in the last part of this period. But while the former developed sensualism in philosophy and economy, the latter applied it to political science and jurisprudence. The numerous Works of Gioja are distinguished for their practical value and clearness of style, though they lack eloquence and purity; those of Romagnosi are more abstract, and couched in obscure arid often incorrect language, but they are monuments of vast erudition, acute and profound judgment, and powerful dialectics.
Galluppi (1773-1846), though unable to extricate himself entirely from the sensualistic school, attempted the reform of philosophy, which resulted in a movement in Italy similar to that produced by Reid and Dugald Stewart in Scotland.
While sensualism was gaining ground in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, rationalism, having its roots in the Platonic system which had prevailed in the fifteenth and sixteenth, was remodeled under the influence of Descartes, Leibnitz, and Wolf, and opposed to the invading tendencies of its antagonist. From causes to be found in the spirit of the age and the political condition of the country, this system was unable to take the place to which it was entitled, though it succeeded in purifying sensualism from its more dangerous consequences, and infusing into it some of its own elements. But the overthrow of that system was completed only by the works of Rosmini and Gioberti. Rosmini (1795-1855) gave a new impulse to metaphysical researches, and created a new era in the history of Italian philosophy. His numerous works embrace all philosophical knowledge in its unity and universality, founded on a new basis, and developed with deep, broad, and original views. His philosophy, both inductive and deductive, rests on experimental method, reaches the highest problems of ideology and ontology, and infuses new life into all departments of science. This philosophical progress was greatly aided by Gioberti (1801-1851), whose life, however, was more particularly devoted to political pursuits. His work on “The Regeneration of Italy” contains his latest and soundest views on Italian nationality. Another distinguished philosophical and political writer is Mamiani, whose work on “The Rights of Nations” deserves the attention of all students of history and political science. As a statesman, he belongs to the National party, of which Count Cavour (1810-1861), himself an eminent writer on political economy, was the great representative, and to whose commanding influence is to be attributed the rapid progress which the Italian nation was making towards unity and independence at the time of his death.
FROM 1860 TO 1885.
During the last twenty-five years the rapid progress of political events in Italy seems to have absorbed the energies of the people, who have made little advance in literature. For the first time since the fall of the Roman empire the country has become a united kingdom, and in the national adjustment to the new conditions, and in the material and industrial development which has followed, the new literature has not yet, to any great extent, found voice. Yet this period of national formation and consolidation, however, has not been without its poets, among whom a few may be here named. Aleardo Aleardi (d. 1882) is one of the finest poetical geniuses that Italy has produced within the last century, but his writings show the ill effects of a poet sacrificing his art to a political cause, and when the patriot has ceased to declaim the poet ceases to sing. Prati (1815-1884), on the other hand, in his writings exemplifies the evil of a poet refusing to take part in the grand movement of his nation. He severs himself from all present interests and finds his subjects in sources which have no interest for his contemporaries. He has great metrical facility and his lyrics are highly praised. Carducci, like Aleardi, is a poet who has written on political subjects; he belongs to the class of closet democrats. His poems display a remarkable talent for the picturesque, forcible, and epigrammatic. The poems of Zanella are nearly all on scientific subjects connected with human feeling, and entitle him to a distinguished place among the refined poets of his country. A poet of greater promise than those already spoken of is Arnaboldi, who has the endowment requisite to become the first Italian poet of a new school, but who endangers his position by devoting his verse to utilitarian purposes.
The tendency of the younger poets is to realism and to representing its most materialistic features as beautiful. Against this current of the new poetry Alessandro Rizzi, Guerzoni, and others have uttered a strong protest in poetry and prose.
Among historians, Capponi is the author of a history of Florence; Zini has continued Farina's history of Italy; Bartoli, Settembrini, and De Sanctis have written histories of Italian literature; Villari is the author of able works on the life of Machiavelli and of Savonarola, and Berti has written the life of Giordano Bruno. In criticism philosophic, historical, and literary, Fiorentino, De Sanctis, Massarani, and Trezza are distinguished. Barili, Farina, Bersezio, and Giovagnoli are writers of fiction, and Cossa, Ferrari, and Giacosa are the authors of many dramatic works. The charming books of travel by De Amicis are extensively translated and very popular.