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931).. 5 
Sforza 

Italy and Italians. 
914.5 S52i, 



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TENSION ENVELOPE CORP* 



ITALY AND ITALIANS 



By-Vaunt -Carlo Sforza 

"CONTEMPORARY ITALY: 
ITS INTELLECTUAL AND MORAL ORIGINS 

ITALY AND ITALIANS 



ITALY 
AND ITALIANS 

BY 

COUNT CARLO SFORZA 



TRANSLATED BY 

EDWARD MUTTON 




E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY, INC 

New York, 1949 



Copyright, 1949, by E. P. >utton & Co., Inc. 
All rights reserved. Printed in the TJ. S. A. 

FIRST JEJDIXJOKT 

11 2Vo part of this hook may be reproduced 
in any form without permission in writing 
from the publisher* except by a reviewer 
who wishes to quote brief passages in con 
nection with a review written for inclusion in 
magazine or newspaper or radio broadcast. 



CONTENTS 
PREFACE page vii 

I. HISTORICAL ORIGINS OF THE ITALIANS I 

II. WHY THEIR HISTORY HAS BROUGHT THEM INTER 
NATIONALIST DISCONTENT 6 

III. WHY THIS DISCONTENT BRINGS FORTH OUR 

GREATEST DEFECT *. RHETORICAL EMPHASIS 12 

IV. ITALIANS AND THEIR LITERATURE 1 8 
V. ARCADIA AND MUSIC 28 

VI. ITALIAN ROMANTICISM 36 

VII. UNITY : THOUGHT AND ACTION 42 

VIII. ITALIANS AND THEIR DIALECTS JO 

IX. ITALIANS AND THEIR ROOTS IN THE SOIL 56 

X. ITALIANS AND THE FAMILY 65 

XI. ITALIANS AND RELIGION 69 

XII. ITALIANS AND POLITICS 79 

XIII. HEIGHTS AND DEPRESSIONS OF CULTURED 88 

XIV. NORTH AND SOUTH 93 
XV. ITALY AND FOREIGN WRITERS AND VISITORS IOO 

XVI. WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE FRENCH Io6 

XVII. WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE SWISS 124 

XVIII. WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE GERMANS 127 

XIX. WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE SLAVS 131 

XX. WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE ENGLISH 139 

XXI. ITALIANS IN THE UNITED STATES 144 

xxii. CONCLUSION 155 

INDEX 1 6 1 



JUN 2 3 1949 



PREFACE 

IN the summer of 1942 I received In New York a letter from the 
President of the University of California, to which I must now 
refer because it shows the origin of the present book. The 
consequence perhaps matters little ; but the letter is important, as I 
think it explains, even to one who is still suffering from the poison 
of nationalistic propaganda, what far-sighted nobility of mind reigns 
in America, where no one even thought of praising the decision of 
the President, so natural did it appear. 

I reproduce the letter, only suppressing a couple of phrases too 
courteous to myself. 

" We have in our University a Chair of Italian Culture that was 
founded with the purpose that every year there should come here 
from Italy some scientific or literary person of distinction who would 
give for a half-year a course of lectures on some Italian subject 
chosen by himself. Against our will we are now at war with your 
country and it is therefore impossible for us to apply to Rome ; but 
just because we are at war we want to preserve, so far as possible, 
our intellectual relations with Italy ; for it must not be taken that 
there is war between our two peoples. Would you come and give 
the next course in Italian culture ? If you will, the merit will be 
yours that a tradition we value has not been interrupted." 

I replied at once that as an Italian I was touched and grateful ; 
but I feared they had been mistaken in applying to me and I named 
certain learned Italians who were in America. 

The University insisted ; and I ended by accepting. The title 
of the forty lectures was " Contemporary Italy and its Intellectual 
and Moral Origins ". I carried my hearers from the Counter- 
Reformation to the French Revolution and then on to the Ris- 
orgimento, to United Italy, to the War of 1914-18, and to the high 
hopes then permissible to an Italy that might have been the herald 
of European solidarity, instead of rushing down into Fascism. 

The public was so much interested in these studies that I had to 
prolong them, as is sometimes done there, in sittings and discussions 
at which Professors and students together we evoked, free from the 
ceremony of the University Chair, Italy herself, and for my part I 
tried to show them what Italy is, Italy which it is so difficult to find 

vii 



PREFACE 

in books and so difficult to discover in one's travels ; above all, I 
tried to make sympathy and admiration spring from facts, and never 
from my comments or from my " pathos ". 

But not for nothing was one in America : all I said was taken 
down in shorthand, even when I spoke in what were jestingly called 
the new Orti Oricellari * in the noble Park of Berkeley. And I was 
astonished when friends in Rome wanted me to make a book out 
of these fugitive papers. I protested, saying, " But these are things 
that everyone knows " ; still I felt that Umberto Morra was not 
wrong when he answered : " A book sometimes teaches things that 
are not written in it ; your book would teach how our people ought 
to be considered, without having the air of putting them unduly for 
ward." And so it was that in spite of absorbing political business, 
I have thought it my duty to go through my old notes and to draw 
these pages from them; even the most modest instruments are 
useful when it is a question of wringing the neck of our two most 
deadly enemies : nationalistic vanity and literary over-emphasis. 

The reader now knows, if he desires to know, what to do when 
he meets certain allusions, which may seem to him too obvious ; it 
is true I might have eliminated even more than I have done, but 
if I had I might have written a successful work of criticism, but 
I should not have explained us so well to foreigners ; and then 
a sincere and honest conversation, covering a wide field, would be 
deceptive if there did not come into it a little of what is said to be 
obvious. I should wish my readers not to be astonished at certain 
too evident lacunae : when I had finished the book, on reading it 
over, I noted them myself, but I have not had for a single moment 
the professorial temptation to fill them. They seem to me to be 
part of the absolute sincerity of these pages ; as I spoke at the time, 
so have I written now, my only object has been to express my own 
ideas and impressions, without reducing them into a manual, or 
enlarging them to form an encyclopaedia. Nothing is more vain 
than to write a book out of other books ; whatever my book may 
be, even with its lacunae, it is a testimony : I should have said above 
all with its lacunae ', because it is the lacunae and the lack of proportion 

1 The Orti Oricellari, the gardens made by Bernardo Rucellai and 
now attached to the Ginori Venturi palace at Florence, where the Platonic 
Academy, founded by Cosimo il Vecchio, used to hold its meetings. 
The Academy was transferred there in 1498 after the death of Lorenzo 
il Magnifico, when the Medici were banished from Florence. There 
Machiavelli read his famous discourses on Livy. 



PREFACE IX 

that make the autobiographical element of a book. It is not difficult 
to learn to compose a well-constructed and well-balanced volume ; 
but with it all, it is only something from the literary kitchen. 
Niccolo Machiavelli declared that he only wrote of that " which he 
had learnt through long acquaintance with and constant attention to 
the affairs of the world ". With the Florentine Secretary this was 
just pride ; in my case it is modesty. Modesty it is 5 in spite of 
appearances, that has caused me sometimes to speak in the first 
person. It is the first person that makes one feel when it is not 
too insistent that what one has to say is a personal testimony. 

Now at the moment of bidding goodbye to this small work and 
of thinking no more about it, one ironical doubt assails me : that 
some Italian among the few who, because they abominate our 
native rhetoric, end by fashioning a worse might observe that I 
have lingered longer over the qualities than the defects of our 
people. Well, yes ; it is only with love that a people can be under 
stood ; never with Puritanical thanks to God for being " better ", 
Let those who criticize, travel a little, and they will realize, wherever 
they go, the absolute truth of that very ancient and tolerant Tuscan 
proverb : " Tutto il mondo fe paese "all the world is someone's 
country. 

And if foreign critics should wish to impart to me lessons of 
" objectivity ", I warn them now that I should only excuse myself 
as the vetturino did who was exalting the beauty of Cape Miseno to 
the young Goethe : 

" Che vulite, signorf, chiste e J o paese mio." l 

SFORZA. 

1 " What would you, Signorino, this is my own country," 



I 

HISTORICAL ORIGINS OF THE ITALIANS 

PASSING over the uncertain mysteries of the Stone Age and the 
Age of Bronze, it is no exaggeration to assert that already 
in the Greek civilization of Southern Italy one can divine the 
origin of some of the essential characteristics of the Italian of today. 
Three or four centuries before Christ the way of life and of 
thought of the Siciliots and the Italic peoples, descendants of those 
Greeks who long before them had passed into Sicily and into the 
south of the peninsula, was entirely analogous to that of Hellas 
itself. ^T he Polis 9 the city state, constituted the sole base of every 
political and social organism. One might say the same of Etruria, 
where between the Arno and the Tiber there was, until the Roman 
conquests, just a federation of twelve cities, a federation with 
extremely strict religious ties, but with a wide autonomy for each 



v /When the dominion of Rome was extended over all Italy, things 
changed but little morally and socially ; the cimtas continued to be 
the base and the key to the life of all Italians. ) There is no other 
nation whose traditions, legends and popular epic are compelled so 
constantly to look to the city for their origin. Even in the Middle 
Ages while in France they sang the deeds of Roland, Italian poetry 
sang that Rome came from Alba Longa, Alba Longa from Lavinium 
and Lavinium from Troy through Aeneas. The perennial popular 
glory of Virgil among the Italians has depended upon this fact, that 
he sang the origins of their country in the one and only manner 
that they delighted in, that is, as the genealogy of the city state. 
Even today the names of the Italian regions that we think 
so real, Piedmont, Lombardy, Liguria ... do not belong to the 
natural use of the people. The native of a town, for instance, of 
that Ligurian bow that is bent from the French frontier along the 
sea to Genoa, and from Genoa to the south as far as the Magra, 
will never call his region Liguria, he will call it rather Genoa or 
perhaps Genovesato. It was always thus, contrary to what obtained 
in Gaul, where most often the name of the city is lost and that of 
the region has taken its place. Lutetia, the capital of the Parisii, 



Z ITALY AND ITALIANS 

became Paris, Avaricum of the Biturgi, Bourges, and so it is with 
Amiens, Reims, Rennes, and many other cities of France. 

This voluntary binding of the peasant to the city, that exists 
almost everywhere in Italy, is one of the permanent strands of the 
Italian social fabric. In no other country is patriotism in its normal, 
healthy and fruitful form not in the baseness of racialism and 
nationalism so fundamentally bound to the city, to the town, as in 
Italy. Francesco De Sanctis in a speech to the Neapolitans in 1874 
declared : " Italy is not an abstraction. She is the home (casa\ the 
family, the commune, the province, the region. They who feel 
themselves bound to these, are the best Italians ... I say to you : 
If you want to be good Italians begin by being good Neapolitans. 
Woe to those who only see an Italy of the Academies or Schools." 

Thus, fifty years before the Fascist adventure, De Sanctis 
condemned one of the most widespread, trumped-up and artful 
of Fascist devices : the attack on the ancient tradition of local 
patriotism. That attack ought to have been enough to expose how 
contrary all Fascist action was to the Italian character. 

The secular bonds which bind our Italian generations were 
created by the city and the town. The history of the Italian cities 
is so long and tenacious that it often leads us back not only to 
Rome but to pre-Roman Italy. The small jealousies still alive 
today between Milan and Pavia, between Crema and Cremona, and 
the differences in the dialects, go back to traditions beyond the 
Roman Empire. When Rome succeeded in imposing her dominion 
upon all Italy, almost every munlcipium from the Alps to Sicily had 
to cede a part of its territory to a Latin colony which created around 
itself a circle of influences, imposing its own customs, its own 
manners, its own language, in such a way that the majority of the 
natives learned to speak in Latin, although they preserved their 
native accent. And even today, if you go from Rome to Florence, 
to Placenta and on to Milan, you will find, in dialects very different, 
the notes never obliterated of ancient Gentes differing one from 
another. 

This is not so north of the Alps in the Germanic countries. 
The frequent immigration of tribes without cities, the absence of 
precise frontiers between the regions they occupied, did not allow 
the formation of countrysides with characteristics of their own. 
/ Under Republican Rome, Italy in reality was only an immense 
federation of cities, each free to administer itself in its own way 
within its own territory; something which reminds us of the 



HISTORICAL ORIGINS OF THE ITALIANS 3 

British Empire in its most recent form, when the democratic term 
Commonwealth has been substituted for the haughty term ~Empin. 
/ The beginning of the decadence of the cities appeared in the 
Roman Empire in the time of Hadrian. Until then the munlcipia 
and coloniae had been governed by that wealthy and active citizen 
class out of which came the Fabii. The decemviri elected from 
among the notables (people with very large incomes) carried out 
the administration from the Tribunal the high court of Justice. 
But with Hadrian the officers of the Imperial administration pro 
gressively made themselves masters of all local affairs ; and under 
Diocletian the Totalitarian State (as one might say today) was 
completely established. The ancient courts, freely elected by the 
citizens, became corporations bound by numerous restrictions ; they 
quickly lost all vitality ; even the defensor civitatis became no more 
than a functionary to whom men looked though it was but a 
pretence for a denunciation of the errors of his superiors. And 
soon, whether by encroachment of the military or by reason of the 
distrust of the citizens, there remained only prefectures entrusted to 
comites sent from the Capital. Under the Emperors of the East 
these comiteSy become even more corrupt, were called duces, whence 
came the title Doge which was for centuries the name of the head 
of the aristocratic Republics of Venice and Genoa. 

Thus, already under Diocletian, the Barbarians had invaded 
Italy ; a work of the military anarchy of the third century rather 
than of certain starving tribes descending from Germany ; out of 
which German vanity, and the desire of the Italians to attribute 
their ills to a foreign cause, have later made " the invaders " and 
their uncontrollable onrush. 

The old and empty German boast became an official dogma 
under Nazism, which imposed on the schools of the Reich that to 
the new generation they should insist on the " fundamental part 
which the German emigrations had in diffusing the new civilization 
of the Middle Age, in northern Italy, in France and in England ". 

One might well ask what the few young Germans who seriously 
studied history thought, if they thought at all, when they discovered : 

1. That the Goths did not know how to make their dominion 

in Italy last more than sixty years. 

2. That in Spain they were defeated by those Semites who were 

the Arabs, and lost everything in a single day. 

3. That the Lombards, although invited into Italy by a part of 

the population, never succeeded in occupying the coasts, 



4 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

never dared to measure themselves with the young and 
growing defences of Venice, nor with the ancient walls of 
Rome, and that their dominion ended in confusion and 
contempt. 

Without the decomposition provoked by the Empire when fallen 
on the one hand into a military anarchy and on the other into a 
bureaucratic despotism, the German tribes would never have suc 
ceeded in establishing themselves here at all. The Italian cities 
would have opposed a sufficient resistance if the Empire had not 
broken their vitality. 

Under Constantine, on the eve of the catastrophe, one might 
believe for a moment that the overflowing barbarism could have 
been dammed. The cities appeared about to renew themselves 
with fresh life, since they had acquired under other forms a certain 
autonomy chiefly through the action of the Bishops, elected, as they 
were, by the citizens ; indeed, the nomination of a' Bishop by 
acclamation was generally the result of an authentic popular move 
ment. But it was too late. With their suffocating taxation and 
with foreign military chiefs, the Emperors had taken away every 
possibility of hope from the Italian cities. They had become indeed 
Dead Cities, as the great capitals of the East appeared to our fathers 
of the nineteenth century, those for example of Turkey and of 
Persia ; Istanbul and Teheran were once metropolises not less rich 
and not less fair than Milan and Naples in the Middle Age. There 
was a Turkish art and even more surely a Persian art. But the 
cities were without municipal liberty, without autonomous life and 
therefore servile. If Byzantium before becoming Istanbul suc 
ceeded in conserving a little of its life, it was because under its 
Easikus the municipal tradition was not utterly destroyed, as was 
that of the Italian cities by the Caesars. The demi comparable to 
the " contrade " of Siena remained in Byzantium the focal points of 
municipal life as corporations, such as they are described to us in 
the Ubro del Prefetto of the tenth century, with their relative free 
dom. The demi and the autonomous corporations offer us the keys 
of the real life of Byzantium, of its unexpected resistance and of its 
revolutions. But Byzantium remains an unique case, in the East ; 
all the other metropolises, notwithstanding their occasional splen 
dours, have been, if not inert masses, over disciplined, without an 
atom of the vitality that animated the anarchic Athens of Aristo 
phanes even in its worst moments. 

As for the Germanic dominations in Italy, if they were brief, and 



HISTORICAL ORIGINS OF THE ITALIANS J 

except the Lombard left no impression, it is owing to the fact 
that they ignored the force of the municipal life in Italy ; it was 
a kind of inferiority complex that held the Germans back from the 
Italian cities, where we shall see, on the one hand the splendour 
of the Imperial regime, and on the other the marvellous, and for 
them mysterious, beginnings of the new Italian life. The wretched 
Germans, ignoring the cities, ingenuously applied their tribal and 
rural conceptions to a country where the city was everything, and 
it was because of this that they have left not a trace of themselves 
save in a type of battlements in the castles and walled cities, and a 
few words of military jargon. 

Do the Italian cities then live ? Much more : each is a world. 
The foreign historians who are moved to pity on account of the 
persistent hatreds between Italian cities, have not seen that they are 
concerned with the sort of passions about which they do not marvel 
when they break out between different nations. 

Every Italian city is still a nation : the province that surrounds 
it has constituted itself organically in the course of the centuries 
without any intervention of artificial or rational cuts or divisions 
such as were made in France in 1790. With the exception of the 
various prefectures invented by Fascism (for reasons of policing), 
all the Italian provinces perpetuate a territorial unity, already in 
existence in the Roman epoch ; we might say of them that they 
are a part of the intimate manner of existence of every Italian, 
together with the supreme unwritten law of federation, which 
already made their unity at the time of the original Libtrtas Romana. 
It is interesting to note besides that the limits of the Italian provinces 
(apart from the few made by the Fascist regime to which I have 
already made allusion) correspond still with the limits of the Roman 
civitates. 

/ In truth, of all the great peoples of Europe the Italians are the 
most particularist ; but they know how to be so without risk, 
because time, sorrow and glory have made their unity indestructible. 



II 

WHY THEIR HISTORY HAS BROUGHT 
THEM INTERNATIONALIST DISCONTENT 

PARTICULARISTS without doubt ; a unified people without 
doubt, but above all the Italians are the most universalist 
people of Europe. There lies the secret of the profound 
humanity of the great Italians from Dante and St. Thomas to 
Mazzini ; and there also is the key to a certain looseness in Italian 
political thought. Some among us thought ingenuously but 
honestly in the beginning of Fascism that that regime might heal 
certain of our defects. Instead of that the inevitable happened ; 
the rhetoricians who tried to fire nationalist passions in the hearts 
of Italians in order to kill our universalism, only succeeded in 
obscuring one of the most noble aspects of our character, without 
substituting anything concrete or sound. 

Certainly the universalist character of Italian political thought 
has often been a defect in the field of action. To begin with 
Dante, how can one explain the fact that the author of the Divine 
Comedy lived in the most vigorous and most splendid century of our 
history and that his poem only expresses laments, regret for the 
past and maledictions on the present ? 

Florence then dominated Europe with her bankers, from Flanders 
to Constantinople. Genoa and Venice were the queens of all the 
known seas ; it was then were upreared to Heaven in every 
Italian city cathedrals and bell-towers that still remain the marvel of 
the world ; our religious enthusiasm then gave St. Francis of Assisi 
to Christianity ; Italian poetry at a leap had overwhelmed the 
Provengal; Guido Guinizelli and Guido Cavalcanti had proved" 
it ... But all that counted nothing for Dante. He saw but one 
thing : that the political unity of Christian society was broken ; 
that the Roman Emperor lived beyond the Alps and that Italy . 
had ceased to be "// giardin delPImpero", the garden of the 
Empire. 

And as he thought so did others, less lofty in spirit but equally 
sincere. 



INTERNATIONALIST DISCONTENT J 

Giovanni Vilkni living in the luminous life of Florence only 
knew that one must " greatly fear the judgement of God ". 
Another Villani saw nothing about him but " grave dangers and 
destruction ", and the anonymous chroniclers echo them : the 
Chronica Astensis deplores that " semper luombardia in malo statu 
frit". 

Two centuries later, in full sixteenth century, this discontent, 
which almost recalls that of the prophets of Israel, deepened even 
more, not without reason, since the " italiane tempeste " to use the 
expression of one of the Villani had become more miserable with 
the invasion of the foreigners ; but above all because all the great 
writers of the sixteenth century were children of the Renaissance 
and in consequence felt even more profoundly, if it is possible, 
than the generation of the time of Dante and Petrarch, the distance 
which separated their fallen Italy from the ideal times of the Pax 
Rotxana. 

Not one of the historians who, like Machiavelli, loved Italy so 
ardently, deigned to bring into the light from the pages of the old 
chronicles, the marvellous day in 1170 on which the Italians, all of 
them, except the priests, the blind and the dumb, swore on their 
baptismal fonts this oath : 

" In the name of the Lord, Amen. I swear on the Gospel that 
neither directly nor indirectly will I make peace or treaty or pact 
with the Emperor Frederick or his son or his wife, nor with any 
other person of his family ; in good faith, with all my means, I 
will try to prevent any army, little or great, of Germany or of any 
other land of the Emperor's beyond the Alps, from entering Italy ; 
and if an army should enter, I swear to make war upon the Emperor 
and on all his, until the said army goes forth from Italy ; and I 
will cause my sons to swear the same as soon as they reach the age 
of fourteen years." 

This oath was carried out and became history at the battle of 
Legnano, 1 one of the most shining pages of the struggle for liberty 
among the young peoples of Europe. Battle and victory, but truth 
to tell without definite consequence ; but this too was due to our 
universalist character : all Italians maintained the oath, they fought 
the German King who attempted to violate their liberty and their 
privileges, but their efforts drooped when the German who was 

1 Legnano, 17 miles north-west of Milan. Near by the Lombard 
League defeated Frederick Barbarossa in 1176. A monument erected in 
1876 on the battlefield commemorates the victory. 



g ITALY AND ITALIANS 

also Roman Emperor spoke in his decrees of the splendour of 
Rome of which he called himself the heir. 

Thus is explained the character of the wars waged by the 
Italians ; they were all defensive : never did the Lombard League 
decide to prevent an Emperor from crossing the Alps, or to follow 
him beyond the Brenner after having defeated him. Therefore the 
Germans always chose a favourable moment to cross the Alps, 
" cum omni pace ", and to fall in surprise on the rich plains of the 
Po ; then beaten, they saved themselves retreating beyond the Alps. 
The danger, immense for the Italian cities, was almost non-existent 
for the Germans, who had learnt that the Italians only claimed the 
right to defend themselves. 

Such a history might seem a miserable business, and one might 
indeed think it such since it is the basis of the stupid assertions 
which have placed Italian valour in doubt. In reality, however, 
such a history bears witness to a collective moral superiority, which 
would be enough, if it were generally spread through the world, 
to prepare a Europe less unhealthy and less quarrelsome. 

Some years after Legnano, in 1179, in the same plains which 
were the site of that battle, was begun the work, gigantic for that 
time, of the canal of the Ticino. And the canal of the Muzza too 
the greatest in Europe until the end of the nineteenth century 
was begun after another battle, that of Casorate, with another 
Emperor, Frederick II, in 1239. 

It was then that a hundred cities of Italy inscribed in their 
Statutes the right of free transit even across the property of the 
nobles, for water for irrigation, to bring water to the fields of 
the most humble village ; a right which, outside Italy, landowners, 
staunch in the idea of the absolute rights of property, have fought 
successfully even till yesterday, 

It was about the same time, in 1236, that Bologna, first in 
Europe, gave freedom to all the serfs of her glebe ; the elected 
representatives of the people decreed, " on pain of death ", that no 
longer should any man be kept as a serf; and all the serfs, men 
and women, were redeemed by the Commune and set free, the 
nobles retaining their lands alone. 

No Italian historian has ever thought to bring into the light 
facts of this kind with which the old chronicles are filled, except 
one, Carlo Cattaneo ; but that sovereign independent spirit was a 
republican federalist, between Cavour, monarchist and unificator, 
and Mazzini, unificator and republican. 



INTERNATIONALIST DISCONTENT 9 

The Italian historians of the sixteenth century overlooked even 
military actions which took place under their eyes. What did they 
mean to them since Italy saw 

II sommo Imperw suo caduto al fondo 

as Giovanni Guidiccioni lamented in the sonnet that everyone knew 
by heart? 

The principal artificer of the French victories in Italy was 
Trivulzio * ; it was he who discovered a new passage across the 
Alps, and for the first time brought artillery over them ; while, 
on the other hand, it was Prospero Colonna who, at the head of 
an army, surprised Lautrec asleep at Milan. 

Brescia rose against the French ; nine Knights took oath on 
the altar to fight to the death to give back their city to Venice 
and liberty ; the French overcame the revolt, but the nine Knights 
died in the combats in the streets ; one only, Fenaroli, wounded, 
was hidden in a sepulchre, was discovered, plunged his dagger into 
his throat, and carried to the Castle was offered pardon if he would 
speak ; he tore open his wound with his hands and died. 

And again at Brescia, a little later, the day being lost for the 
Venetians, two brothers, Ludovico and Lorenzo Porcellaga, hurled 
themselves on horseback on the French captains ; Ludovico was 
instantly killed ; Lorenzo continued to fight alone and fell wounded 
on the corpse of his brother ; the chivalrous Gaston de Foix, seized 
with admiration, ordered his people not to finish him, but Lorenzo, 
continuing to resist, was killed like his brother. That evening 
Gaston de Foix accompanied the bodies of the two Porcellaga to 
the Cathedral and invited his Knights surrounding the two coffins 
to keep in remembrance such pure valour. 

Sien^a sustained the longest siege of the sixteenth century ; the 
fire of the artillery of Charles V, famine and pest, made of the 
most exquisite city of Tuscany, the shadow of itself. Monluc 
writes of the Sienese whom Dante had described as light, that they 
defended their liberty with the courage of Knights of the Round 
Table and says that they were as full of valour as the most valorous 

1 Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, called il Magno, famous for the glory he 
won in numerous campaigns. Born Milan 1441. After falling into dis 
grace with Ludovico il Moro, he entered the service of the Aragonesi of 
Naples, and when the kingdom fell before Charles VIII, he went to 
France, and with Louis XII entered Milan in 1499, was named Marshal 
of France and Governor of the Duchy. 



10 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

Knights. After the capitulation, the few Sienese who maintained 
themselves on their feet went forth from the city and withdrew to 
the city of Montalcino, an ancient possession of Siena. Pursued 
even there after a brief respite, they resisted the Imperialists for long 
months and the women fought beside their men. The day the 
city was taken, they burnt the Standard of the Republic and 
destroyed the money punches that had served them to strike the 
coins of free Siena. 

A volume would not be .enough to record deeds of the kind, 
hidden in the chronicles and documents of the time, and that today 
are only known to those learned in the history of their province. 
" To what end ? " the solemn historians might say. It was the 
century of invasion and of our shame. And generations have 
repeated the famous quatrain of Michelangelo : 

Grato m'e '1 sonno, e piu 1'esser di sasso ; 
Mentre die il danno e la vergogna dura, 
Non veder, non sentir m'e gran ventura ; 
Pero non mi destar ; deh ! park basso. 1 

After the Spanish decadence of the seventeenth century, Italy offered 
during all the eighteenth century a movement of political and social 
ideas which are a prelude and long before the outbreak of the 
French Revolution to the nineteenth century. Beccaria 2 at Milan, 
for instance, with his immortal work Dei Delitti e delle Pene ; but 
from Lombardy to Naples we see a series of reforms, half of which 
would have sufficed Turgot to save the French monarchy (sup 
pression of torture, taxes extended to all property, fetid medieval 
prisons transformed into houses of correction . . .). 

But the generation of the Risorgimento, rich though it was and 
generous, imitated at least in this the classics of the sixteenth cen 
tury : it did not deign to celebrate the work of its predecessors of 

1 Sweet is my sleep, but more to be mere stone, 

So long as ruin and dishonour reign ; 

To see naught, to feel naught is my great gain ; 

Then wake me not, speak in an undertone. 

2 Cesare, Marchese Beccaria, born Milan 1735. The reading of 
Montesquieu directed his mind to economics. He began a literary 
journal in imitation of The Spectator, called II Caffe. In 1761 he published 
the justly celebrated work mentioned in the text " On Crimes and Punish- 
ments" 9 which passed through six editions in eighteen months. An 
English translation appeared in 1768. Many reforms in European penal 
codes are traceable to this work. He died in Milan in 1794. 



INTERNATIONALIST DISCONTENT II 

the eighteenth century. The thought of the eighteenth century 
was remarkable but not miraculous ; hence one passed it by, 

The heroic epoch of the Risorgimento was crowned in 1860 by 
the unification of Italy. When one considers the long road that 
free Italy had to tread to bring herself to the cultural and economic 
level that France and England had reached in the previous fifty 
years, during which we were divided and invaded, no one can deny 
that the effort of our country was not only tenacious but fruitful. 
Even so, Italians remained discontented and dissatisfied with them 
selves. As usual, they had hoped too much ; they had expected 
and dreamed too much. 



Ill 

WHY THIS DISCONTENT BRINGS 

FORTH OUR GREATEST DEFECT: 

RHETORICAL EMPHASIS 

SUCH feelings of discontent, noble and disinterested among the 
best of us, have always produced in Italy among the common 
sort a tendency to emphasis, to an empty phraseology about 
the greatness of the Roman Empire. When this tendency becomes 
general one perceives at once what is its significance : it announces 
an epoch of intellectual and political depression. Certain appeals 
are made to recall our ^.omanita y our millennial civilization, even 
the monuments of Rome are cited as though the world were in our 
debt for them, and finally we are moved to the same regret we 
might feel for the splendours of a festival the morning after. As 
for foreigners, they only smile, as one would do in a puppet theatre 
at the sound of a drum which imitates thunder behind the scenes. 

There was certainly a memory of Rome which animated many 
noble spirits in Italy ; but these Dante first among them dreamed 
not of conquests but of that universal idea of the Empire with 
Rome and Italy as the centres of a universal societas with equal 
rights for all. 

Leibniz has written in the Preface to the Codex Diplomatics, that 
in the Middle Age the Emperor and the Pope were the two heads 
of the Christian Republic. The Italians were the first from the 
twelfth to the fourteenth century to feel themselves united in this 
idea. It was their first political idea, national and supra-national 
at the same time. They will never give it up, but ancient Rome 
itself and its cruel glory contributed little to the formation of the 
Italian spirit. 

In the Middle Age, the most living of all the Romans, for the 
Italians, was Virgil; but they transformed the poet half into 
a magician and half into a Christian. The only name of an Emperor 
which remained popular was that of Trajan, but because he was 
" the just ", and with him was Justinian because he gave the world 
universal laws. 

12 



RHETORICAL EMPHASIS 13 

In the epoch, mote formalist than earnest, which in Italy fol 
lowed the Counter-Reformation, all Italian schools were modelled 
to the same form in the hands of the Jesuits, and Rome became 
the inspirer of current literature, but, it must be understood, 
a " mannerist " Rome, like the ruins in the pictures of PanninL 
The fact that the heroes of the literature and schools of the seven 
teenth and eighteenth centuries were looked for among the ancient 
Romans rather than in the Middle Age, proves that those in control 
considered ancient Rome less dangerous ; the exception was Tacitus, 
whose love of liberty was suspect ; and the pompous Roman mist 
en scene that the schools of the seventeenth century inaugurated 
shows their suspicion of the natural ; it was at this time that the 
head of the class in many schools was given a crown and the title 
of Emperor. 

The last and the most eloquent of the Italians to be blinded by 
that Rome of mannerists was Carlo Botta, whose ponderous Sforia 
d*Italia> famous at the beginning of the nineteenth century, is to be 
found even today in all our old country-houses, where it sleeps 
between the Primato of Gioberti and Le Consulat et PEmpire of 
Thiers. 

For Botta, the golden age of Italy and of the world is the Roman 
Empire : the Middle Age seems to him " a desolate age, especially 
in Italy ", an age in which only ignorance, force and barbarism 
dominated. 

Botta was the last of the sincere worshippers of Imperial Rome. 
The Risorgimento began to make itself felt, first in the political 
struggle with an array of notable scholars from all parts of Italy, 
from Piedmont to Sicily ; many among them were excellent his 
torians ; all these had cast off the Roman vanity which belonged 
to the generations of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries ; 
they were too proud to dress up in old costumes of the theatre. 
One of these writers, Micali, went so far as to maintain in his best 
work, U Italia avanti II dominio dei Romani> that Rome had been 
nothing but brute force, suffocating the spontaneous impulses of 
the Italian spirit, which would have come from the happy union 
of the diverse peoples of the peninsula, from the Etruscans to the 
Siciliots. 

The supervening romanticism contributed to turn the mind of 
the time to the Middle Age, as the sacred and dolorous epoch whence 
sprang the authentic life of the Italian people. 

The citizen class and the best among the Italian working classes 



14 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

that the preaching of Mazzini had moved, recognized themselves 
in the Communes of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and in 
their struggles against the German Emperors. 

It is also true that at the same time another current correspond 
ing to the ancient Italian anti-clerical tradition drew its epos from 
the Ghibellines, from the epoch in which the court of Frederick II, 
the heretic, more Sicilian than German, had produced the earliest 
Italian poets. But precisely because it was Ghibelline this tradition 
too was medieval. 

The nineteenth century was, in Italy as in the rest of Europe, 
the age of Liberalism and then of democracy, and it appeared, more 
or less clearly, that the Roman Empire had only been, at least from 
the artistic point of view, a triumph of anonymous and uneducated 
masses. In Imperial Rome one was occupied with the kolossal, as 
in the Germany of Kaiser Wilhelm II. One noted that the immense 
edifices of Rome so heavy when one confronted them with the 
supreme grace of the tiny Acropolis of Athens were the symbol 
and the fruit of the impoverishment and depopulation that was 
already appearing in Italy : impoverishment and depopulation whose 
ruinous effects opened the way later on for the barbarian invasions. 

Eloquent parallel with that stupid satisfaction which appears 
always in Italy in epochs of decadence, with the glories of Imperial 
Rome, the first rumour of which can be traced back to Rome itself, 
for example under Hadrian, whose coins bear the inscription : Italia 
felix or Temporum felicitas, and the like. 

Such complacency only manifests itself when corruption is upon 
one ; thus it befell in Venice, in China, in Persia and in Spain ; 
wherever the corruption becomes gloriosus. 

At bottom, the history of Italy offers to the world this discon 
certing message : that it is during the struggle between rich and 
poor, during the periods troubled by bitter factions that the poets, 
the painters, the sculptors and the architects most filled with genius 
have expressed themselves among us ; and that it is during these 
same periods that the great achievements of our navigators, our 
bankers and our merchants have dominated the world. 

Of all Machiavelli has written, these words remain the truest for 
all time : " The multitude is more constant and more wise than 
any monarch." l And " It appears to me that they who condemn 
the tumults between the nobles and the plebs are condemning just 
those things which were the first cause of Rome winning any 

* Deche, I, 57. 



RHETORICAL EMPHASIS Ij 

freedom ; and that they give more weight to the rumours and 
noise which sprang from such tumults than to the good effects they 
brought to pass ". 1 

The last Italian author who felt our romanita, but did not make 
of it an instrument of rhetoric, was Carducci, the poet of the 
generation of 1870-90. 

Like Machiavelli in his histories, 2 Carducci found his deepest 
lyrical inspiration in love of country ; and he drew the symbols 
of his ideal from Republican Rome. 

Leopardi, too, was not insensible to the same ideal ; but he 
soon dropped his " vedo k mum e gli archi " 3 ; universal poet as 
he was, his love for his country was fused ever more profoundly 
into a sentiment that did not deny but rather amplified his love 
for Italy. 

This explains why Carducci, notwithstanding the force and 
beauty of his poetry, is not better known outside Italy. There is 
a kind of justice in the radius of the fame of poets. 

The fate of Carducci as an old man was cruel : he had been 
the most loyal and honest heart of the Italy of his time ; he had 
thought to serve his country by offering it, above all its divisions, 
the unique ideal of " romanita ". And he did not foresee that his 
art, utilized by men less disinterested, would serve to hide and dis 
guise the sterility and drought of the sources of the country's life, 
and that his very patriotism in him so true, so pure and dis 
interested would become the mask of literary degeneration behind 
which were hidden the sterile faces of rhetoricians capable of nothing 
but the effect of musical words and the tricks of the theatre. Did 
not D'Annunzio dare to call himself " fylio suo " ? And Heaven 
knows that the work of D'Annunzio is the complete antithesis of 
all that the good and loyal Carducci had revered. 

At the beginning of the long years of the Fascist tragi-comedy 
more was due to D'Annunzian inventions than to the contrivances 
of Mussolini and his accomplices. 

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as we have seen, 
there was many a master in the Jesuit Colleges and many a facile 
versifier of those times, who sought an artificial inspiration in the 
history of Rome. 

iJA/rf., I, 4- 

2 I must be allowed to refer to my Machiavelli (New York, Long 
mans, 1940). 

3 " I see the walls and the triumphal arches." 



l6 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

In the moral crisis that struck middle-class Italy after the first 
world war, the displaced and the failures of the schools, of the liberal 
professions and the civil service were victims of a new access of 
that rhetorical emphasis of which D'Annunzio had been the herald. 
The war had already shown, notwithstanding its tragic atmosphere, 
how much harm the rhetoric of D'Annunzio had done to weak 
minds ; then, fortunately it was only a malady that declared itself 
on days offesta ; but ten years later, with the advent of Fascism, 
the disease raged daily. I still have letters of the Italian Generals 
on the Albanian and Macedonian fronts where I happened to be. 
Always short and sober, often caustic, they were mirrors of those 
honest, simple and modest men ; but if they had to draw up an 
order-of-the-day after a battle, they suddenly felt themselves obliged 
to produce an ornate and swelling prose, thinking it was the appro 
priate style for the occasion. They were the unlettered victims of 
D'Annunzio. Let me recall, for our consolation, that this also hap 
pened in France during the Revolution. Almost all the members 
of the Convention and the most ardent Jacobins, having been 
educated by the Jesuits, had been stuffed full of the heroes of Rome. 
They could get rid of a King, but not of the " stil nobile " taught 
them in the schools ; if they wrote to their families, their letters 
were simple and lively like those of my Generals in Macedonia ; 
but as soon as they were writing for the public, Roman reminiscences 
crowded upon them directing their pens, and they became insup 
portable. Indeed, this matter was more serious in France than it 
was in Italy : the pseudo-Roman style became popular there among 
all the " patriots " ; every tavern-keeper became Brutus. At least 
in Italy the common people remained untouched by this pompous 
over-emphasis even under Fascism. In the troubled years between 
the two world wars, between 1918 and 1939-40, the victims of 
a magniloquence that had its roots in something racial in the North 
and in the South was rooted in the Roman Empire, were not the 
common people, but rather the small bourgeois, the proletariats of 
the white collar ; those who from the beginning furnished Fascism 
and Nazism with their blindest and most enthusiastic followers and 
relatively the most sincere. 

For these wretched victims, drunk with the Roman Empire, the 
marvellous beauty of the Italian Middle Age, in which all is variety, 
disorder and life, was simply incomprehensible, and so too was the 
humane generosity of the generations of the Risorgimento. If we 
wish to seek their precursors we must go back to Cola di Rienzo, 



RHETORICAL EMPHASIS IJ 

the wretched orator of the moribund Rome of the fourteenth 
century, whose morbid vanity did it not lead him finally to bathe 
in the great porphyry basin which, so he was informed, the Roman 
Emperors had used ? is the opposite of true pride. 

But, at bottom, it is difficult not to find excuses for the half- 
educated Italian classes who allowed dead histories to go to their 
heads. Foreigners must perhaps leave to the numerous Italians 
whose patriotism has remained clear-sighted and humane, the right 
to smile at those modest brothers of ours, who assumed as an ideal 
of their own force and glory that Roman period which was in fact 
the decadence of a world and a civilization ; and who did not 
perceive that it was the ruin of the Caesars which opened the way 
for an Italy, vital, rich and sure of itself. 

And after all let us picture to ourselves what other European 
peoples would have done, had they been able to boast, like our 
selves, of the legacy of Imperial Rome. Probably their bragging 
would have mounted to the sky in an even more intolerable style 
if \ve may judge from the pretentions that every German draws 
from that Holy Roman Empire which was never Holy, or Roman, 
or an Empire. . . . 



IV 
ITALIANS AND THEIR LITERATURE 

ITALIAN literature presents this singular character, that it reached 
from its beginning complete formal perfection. Hardly had it 
taken its first steps when it produced Dante, its most universal 
genius ; and with him Petrarch and Boccaccio. Shakespeare, 
Racine and Goethe only flourished after many generations of Eng 
lish, French and German poets ; in Italy instead, Guido Guinizelli 
and Guido Cavalcanti had scarce time to astonish the Italians of the 
thirteenth century with can^pni and ballafe which made one forget 
the old froubadours y when they were overtaken by the master, as he 
himself says, 

Che 1'uno e Faltro caccera di nido. 

But Dante is Dante, unique. And unique also after him are 
Petrarch and Boccaccio. Boccaccio with his novelle, his stories, will 
emancipate the Italian spirit of his time and probably of all time. 

But poets like Dante and Petrarch, and after the period of 
learning, of the Renaissance like Ariosto and Tasso, represent only 
themselves, and through themselves, the universal consciousness, 
so Leopardi in the nineteenth century. 

Dante is moved by Italian passions ; Petrarch thanks God that 
he was born Italian l ; but they do not represent Italy more than 
Racine represents France or Cervantes Spain, or Whitman the 
United States. For every authentic poet, the fatherland, while it 
remains a vivid element in his intimate life, is melted and fused 
into a more ample world. A poet of whom it can be said that he 
is entirely national is not truly a poet. Manzoni, who was a poet 
and who loved Italy so much, doubtless alludes to himself when, 
singing of Homer of whom 

Argo ed Atene 

e Rodi e Smirne cittadin contende, 
adds : 

E patria ei non conosce altro che il cielo. 2 

1 Eptsf. farn*, I, i. 

2 Whom Argos and Athens, Rhodes and Smyrna disputed as citizen 
but ** he knew no other fatherland than the heavens **. 

18 



ITALIANS AND THEIR LITERATURE 19 

Dante himself, intensely Italian though he was, declared that his 
fatherland was " the world in general ", and to those who would 
have made peace for him, who worked to bring his exile to an 
end, but on humiliating conditions, he replied : " Cannot I then 
perchance contemplate wherever I may be the light of the sun and 
of the stars ? Cannot I meditate anywhere on Supreme Truths ? " x 
Let us then disregard the literary game of finding the soul of 
a people in its poets ; and equally vain is it to speak of a Dantesque 
Italy, of a Racinian France or of a Shakespearian England. Rather 
the very opposite is true. It is for the universal poets to exercise 
an influence on successive generations and to mould their senti 
ments and aspirations. All Italians are brought up in the Dantesque 
religion ; Dante has exercised a greater influence over them than 
Shakespeare over the English and Racine over the French. Even 
the most dense Italian will have been moved at least once in his 
life by some of those hendecasyllables in which the thought and the 
images are more swift and clear than in any other poetry. Certain 
American ladies, nurses in the armies of the United States in 1917, 
have told me that the convalescent soldiers of Italian origin asked 
very often to have Dante to read, so that it was necessary to buy 
many dozen copies of the poet. Neither the English nor the French 
possess anything comparable to this cult of Dante, and as for the 
Germans, too many of them have only sought in Goethe a motive 
of pride " vom deutschen Standpunkt " ; faithless to the spirit 
of Goethe who so often recommended them in vain to rise to 
a universal spirit. Dante has become in Italy a national altar at which 
all are communicants or pretend to be. The fact is that Dante 
has been utilized in every age as a measure of national feeling ; in 
the Divine Comedy we find described those " natural frontiers " that 
France has sought in her geography and history, but never found 
in her poets. When in the Parliament of 1920 I fought for a policy 
of friendly understanding with our Slav neighbours, finally liberated 
from the Austro-Hungarian chains, but at the same time maintained 
that Trieste and Istria were Italy, the argument purely literary and 
Dantesque which I found it natural to use, had a definite weight 
and not only with the masses ; for has not Dante written that it is 
the Quarnero (the gulf to the east of Istria) 

Ch'Italia chiude e i suoi termini bagna ? 2 

In the most unhappy moments of her history, in the seventeenth 
1 De vulgari "Eloquently I, 6. 2 Inferno* IX. 



20 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

and eighteenth centuries, Italy abandoned Dante. There were 
more editions published of the Divine Comedy from 1818 to 1860, 
in the era of the Risorgimento, than during the two previous 
centuries. 

All know that the unequalled perfection of Dante at the very 
origins of our literature, and with it, the art of Petrarch whose 
lyrics are still so near to our hearts, are at the roots of the exclusively 
literary formation of the greater number of Italian poets, perhaps 
less free to take their own way by reason of those formidable 
exemplars. It was simpler and more natural for a Villon to find his 
inspiration in his own anarchical spirit, and for an English poet to 
seek it in nature ; for the Italian knew by heart all the canti of the 
Inferno and almost all the can^onl of Petrarch. Was this an obstacle ? 
For us Italians our classics have meant for long something more 
than simple masterpieces of literature. They were the ideal father 
land, the only fatherland free from foreign domination ; they were 
a promise of glory and of future independence. 

Only for the Chinese have their classics constituted such an 
essential base of national consciousness ; but while with the Chinese 
there has never been more than a passive resistance (the ball of 
rubber which receives and accepts all impressions and immediately 
after obliterates them), for our fathers the Italian classics were at 
the same time national consciousness and resistance. In China, 
behind the lettered whose pen reproduces most ably thousands of 
exquisite literary images in appearance renewed but in reality three 
thousand years old there was almost never a heart that thrilled 
and suffered. The veneration for a poetic past of august antiquity 
made all the sons of Han believe that literary style was a sort of 
privilege reserved from generation to generation to a caste ; all 
became formula ; even today the generals, whether they be loyal 
communists or anti-communists, launch their proclamations to the 
people in almost the same forms as of old, and reproduce the hemi 
stiches of some poet of the Sung dynasty. . . . 

Guido Vitale, Chinese Secretary of the Italian Legation in China, 
published, when I was Minister there, a collection of delightful 
popular Chinese poems. The literati of Pekin asked one another 
if he was mad ; and the noble and powerful prince Pu-Lung who 
honoured me with his friendship, put me on guard against the 
mental state of my secretary. Prince Pu-Lung must have seen in 
him incarnate and alive the spirit of those Italian humanists of the 
fifteenth century who deplored that Dante, " so great a genius ", 



ITALIANS AND THEIR LITERATURE 21 

had lowered himself to write in the vulgar tongue, while he might 
have written masterpieces in Latin. 

In Italy the main stream of our literature is composed of two 
currents which combine without mixing, without being con 
founded : the writer who, like Dante, composes " when love inspires 
him" this is the current that flows down to Leopard! and Manzoni; 
and, on the other hand, those writers whose ability only produces 
formal or exterior results, prodigious sometimes, it is true, like 
those of Vincenzo Monti, but too often deprived of that real 
inspiration which the young Manzoni promised himself * never to 
betray " 

It is in the epochs when liberty is lost, when an artificial order 
reigns in the street and in books, that all originality disappears 
from Italian literature ; it cedes its place to clever and able writers 
whose arsenal is composed either of arches of Constantine and 
Roman eagles, or of women who please for a moment but do not 
remain in our hearts : the Dori, the Filli, the Ebi of the long 
Spanish epoch ; gracious shades, but neither Italian nor universal, 
excepting those of Metastasio. 

It is at the beginning of the heroic epoch of the Risorgimento, 
with Manzoni and Leopardi, that the spark of our national poetry 
glowed again. The unrestrained passion and the excess of sorrow 
in Leopardi repeat, for the first time, what we find in Dante. The 
same Leopardi writes and it is in harmony with his genius that 
from the sixteenth certfury to his own time Italy had known only 
" verses without poetry ". 

Manzoni and Leopardi left behind them not merely Manzonians 
and Leopardians ; they left Italians converted to simplicity and 
sincerity ; that is to say, to true poetry. 

I have said that our classical literature reached at its birth 
a formal perfection, because it was born of the perfection of the Latin 
tongue and in the shadow of the genius of Dante. It was this 
very perfection, perhaps, that soon detached it from the people, 
exception being made, I repeat, for the Divine Comedy., and later, 
during many generations, for Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata. 

The true life of Italy from Dante to our own time is much 
nearer to the turbulence of Greece than to the official discipline 
of Rome. Our municipal life is clamorous and agitated, we are 
full of the daring of the navigators and merchants who find or redis 
cover the roads of the world (a daring which is renewed today in 
a more anonymous manner by our emigrants), the spirit of party, 



21 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

the originality of individual temperaments, all this reminds us rather 
of the turbulent Ionic cities than of the solemn scenes of collective 
life described by Livy. 

Yet of this so agitated Italian life the classics of the sixteenth 
century only speak to deplore' it ; almost as though they were 
ashamed of it. Only the novel/ierithc story-tellersdelight in it 
with tranquil serenity. 

When one talks of the novellieri one thinks before all of Boc 
caccio; the Decamerone is even today crowded with Italians of 
every age. In Boccaccio's own fourteenth century the pomp of 
the Church is superb, but faith is very weak ; it might seem to 
have exhausted itself in the pure and sacred flame of St. Francis 
of Assisi in the preceding century ; Dante thunders against the 
" new men and sudden wealth ", but Boccaccio belongs to these 
" new men ", he represents them, and moves among them at his 
ease. Like all Italians, he has learned as a child, the legends and 
visions that followed the year one thousand, but the Tuscan smile 
has not left his lips ; his serene equilibrium gives him a sovereign 
indulgence for all human misery and this indulgence he applies with 
equal impartiality to the market-place and the church, to the cottage 
and the palace. 

Dante sometimes describes with a simple stroke certain types of 
daily life like the old tailor who struggles with the eye of his needle, 1 
but we feel that all his lyrical power really reserves itself for tragic 
lovers such as Paolo and Francesca, or for a stubborn hero like 
Farinata. Boccaccio, instead, is all for the common people. If he 
describes princes, or knights and ladies, his world becomes pale and 
conventional But when he brings on the scene merchants, artists 
or peasants, his prose is always bubbling with life. And then 
especially in Boccaccio notwithstanding the latinized rhythm of 
his style and, with him, in the anonymous stories that preceded 
him like the Novellinc, and in all the succeeding collections of 
stories in Italian and in dialect, we may follow the long and authentic 
thread of Italian sentiment. 

French story-tellers of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries are 
not more inventive and realist than their predecessors, the Trouvires : 
almost always it is the usual deceived husband, the same sly wife 
who makes fools of her husband and her lover. . . . And so on 
down to La Fontaine : but the serene genius of this poet is concerned 
rather with hpnan nature than with such typical French scenes. 
1 " Come vecchio sartor fa nella cruna." Inferno, XV. 



ITALIANS AND THEIR LITERATURE 23 

The art of the Italian novellieri is a counterweight to the tone, 
sometimes too solemn and abstract, of literature of the highest order. 
In the novellieri all is a direct echo of the life of the people ; just 
as it is in popular poetry, whether it is the Tuscan " rispetto ", the 
Neapolitan " arietta ", or the Sicilian " can^una ". 

And like the Sicilian ottava with alternating rhymes spon 
taneous as the life of the people the Italian novella is rarely brilliant ; 
only in Boccaccio these stories often present a final phrase that 
illuminates and wittily illustrates the whole. 

French and German tales have a semi-mythological origin. In 
Italy, stories were very early written with contemporary human 
types as characters ; for instance, in the fifteenth century, Arlotto, 
a parish priest of the neighbourhood of Florence, famous even today, 
or Gonnella, the buffoon of the court of Ferrara. Another differ 
ence between the Italian novella and that of other countries, is re 
vealed in its essentially national character. In French and German 
fables as today in the Norman stories -of Maupassant the humour 
has as its unique end some material advantage or some material 
pleasure. But behind the humour of Arlotto, as behind that of his 
successors, such personal ends are altogether lacking ; it is indeed 
art for art's sake. These authors often injure themselves with their 
devices ; they know it, but cannot resist it ; what they aim at is 
a satisfaction of their self-respect. This is still today one of the most 
vivid traits of the Italian character. 

A sceptical tolerance inspires our novellieri and chroniclers in 
almost all psychological problems. In one instance only are they 
all without exception unjust and even in this ultra-Italian. They 
have a double patriotism : love and pride in Italy, and a profound 
and secret tenderness for their native city. Even Boccaccio, when 
ever he brings a robber on the scene, a hypocrite or forger, never 
presents him as a Florentine, but makes him by birth Milanese or 
Neapolitan. 

Four centuries later, we may note a similar love for Venice on 
the part of Goldoni ; his typical liar comes from Naples, the braggart 
and the miser from other parts of Italy never from Venice. 

It is only in the novellieri that we find faithfully described one of 
the most profound characteristics of the Italian people, one which 
centuries of silent struggles against the powerful and against nature 
have formed in them : a kind of philosophy, good-natured and 
resigned, that might appear to a superficial observer to be an almost 
oriental fatalism, while in fact it is only bitter experience of history, 



24 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

combined with daily practical attempts, silent and untiring, to 
eliminate the effects of evil and misfortune. 

Here is one example among a thousand, drawn from Franco 
Sacchetti. A peasant from Dicomano went to complain to Messer 
Francesco de'Medici that one of his associates wanted to steal his 
vineyard. And he said : " Voi dovete sapere, che siete molto 
vissuto, che questo mondo corre per andazzi, e quando corre un 
andazzo di vaiuolo, quando di pestilenze mortali, quando e andazzo 
che si guastano tutti i vini, quando & andazzo che in poco tempo si 
uccideranno, quando & andazzo d'una cosa e quando d'un' altra . . . 
Quello di che io al presente vi vo'pregare per Tamor di Dio 
questo : che s'egli e andazzo di tor vigne, che il vostro consorto 
s'abbia la mia . . . : ma se non fusse andazzo di tor vigne, io vi 
prego caramente che la vigna mia non mi sia tolta." 1 

Throughout all the course of Italian history one can find not only 
stories but authentic tales with similar cutting and striking char 
acteristics. But the grand style of the great poets on the one hand and 
the bombast of mediocre purists on the other have obscured all this. 

Almost every city has had its chronicle, exquisitely fresh and 
spontaneous : for instance, that of Fra Salimbene at Parma. But 
there is none to be found to praise them ; glory and fame are 
reserved for the Latinists like Varchi and Davanzati ; it was only 
in the nineteenth century that the simple beauty of the Cronaca of 
Dino Compagni was recognized as a national inheritance. 

The life of the first of the great Italian prose writers, Boccaccio, 
is also the earliest example of the eternal misunderstanding. He 
consumed the best years of his youth in composing poems and 
treatises full of mythology and of Roman history ; dismayed and 
attracted at the same time by the great shadow of Dante, he attempted 
to imitate him, as he attempted to imitate Virgil. And he only 
wrote an immortal book, the Decameron, when he had forgotten all 
his learned impedimenta and dreams of glory. 

1 " You must know, you who have lived long, that this world runs 
in waves and in cycles and epidemics ; sometimes there comes an 
epidemic of small-pox, sometimes of some mortal pestilence, sometimes 
one which ruins all the vines, sometimes there is a craze which in a brief 
time kills many people, sometimes one thing, sometimes another. What 
I beg of you now for the love of God is this : that if there is come a 
craze for taking away vineyards, your relation should have mine, but if 
there is no such craze, I earnestly beg that my vineyard may not be taken 
away from me." 



ITALIANS AND THEIR LITERATURE 25 

The fate of the work of art In Italy has too often been that of 
Boccaccio, and it is for this reason that the Italian spirit the sincere 
and simple spirit of daily life is more intensely felt and expressed 
by the novellieri and chroniclers of relatively obscure fame, than in 
the pages of the famous writers. This too is why after the long 
sleep of the seventeenth century there is a fracture between 
literature and the people. The Italian mind, literature being 
separated from life, expressed itself best in the pages of the popular 
novellieri) whether they wrote in Italian or in one of our great dialects 
Milanese or Neapolitan, Romagnuol or Venetian. . . . 

I myself as a child, devoured in country cottages, by the fire 
side, the stories about Bertoldo that the contadini had bought for 
three soldi on a market-day in the neighbouring city. The author, 
Giulio Cesare della Croce, was a locksmith of Bologna, and father 
of fourteen children ; he wrote in the evening to add something to 
his earnings. His hero was a buffoon of the Longobard king Alboin. 
We owe it to Giulio Cesare della Croce that the mischievous deeds 
of Bertoldo have become part of our folk-lore. . . . Here are 
some specimens of these roguish tricks that would certainly still 
be enjoyed by our peasantry if the cinema had not killed all such 
ingenuous pleasures. 

When Bertoldo was banished from the lands of the LongotAids, 
he returned immediately in a cart covered with the soil of another 
State ; when the King forbade him to appear at court, he presented 
himself hidden behind a sieve ; being condemned to death, he 
asked but one grace : to choose himself the tree on which he should 
be hanged ; and he travelled for twenty years at the King's expense 
without being able to find a tree that suited him. . . . 

In Tuscany a land refined beyond any other our great poets 
remained as living as the popular novellieri ; even today, on winter 
evenings, there are hearths where the contadino reads for hours to an 
attentive little audience the cantos of Ariosto and Tasso. 

In the fourteenth century it was thus too with the Divine Comedy : 
all read it without need of glosses or notes, at least for the human 
episodes. One knew in those days by instinct what Francesco 
De Sanctis was bold enough to tell his pupils of the University of 
Naples, between 1871 and 1877 : " Where Dante is not clear, where 
the sense does not jump to the eye and the ear that is not Dante." 

If the poets and prose writers of the " Spanish " epoch in Italy 
fell out of favour with the people, it was their own fault. Pompous 
and frigid, they were only read by the Don Ferrantes of the time. 



l6 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

They only wrote verses in honour of the victories of the Catholic 
powers at war with the Turks, or of the rather feeble fights of the 
Knights of the Order of Santo Stefano against some lateen sail of 
the Moslem pirates ; or again, poems on the Virgin, on Mary 
Magdalen and her tresses ; patriotic songs without zpatria, religious 
verses without any true sentiment of religion ; love songs without 
tenderness or passion ; in fact, an admirable repertoire so far as 
technical achievement went, but absolutely arid with regard to 
love, to Christian faith or to patriotism. 

Let us take, for example, apropos of patriotism, a sonnet of 
Filicaia's, that our ancestors all knew by heart, especially this too 
famous verse : 

Deh, fossi tu men bella o almen piu forte. 1 - 

This was pure convention and looked to an Italy which was as 
much a literary convention as was the " candido seno " of a non 
existent mistress. The more Filicaia reproached Italy for being 
weak, the more he spoke of foreigners as enemies who were long 
since our slaves, so much the more -we feel that it is all a literary 
exercise ; the good Filicaia works himself up with just the same 
emotions when he hymns the glories of the King of Poland and the 
King of Sardinia. 

Even the language, earlier so bare and straightforward, grew 
remote from the people, and did not avoid bombast and fustian even 
in the common things of daily life. 

Until the sixteenth century every letter ended with a simple 
" state sano " (wishing you well), and if one wanted to exaggerate 
a little, one added " tutto vostro ", or as one might say in English, 
" yours ever ". After the coming of the Spaniards and the change 
of customs that followed, the simple tu and voi were transformed 
into a pompous Lei and Ella, referring to a Vostra Signoria (Us ted) 
expressed or implicit. The Signoria, on the other hand^ was soon 
added to, in official style, by Eccelkn^a and Magnificen^a. . . . One 
ended letters by kissing the hands of a lady to whom for centuries 

i " Would that thou [Italy] wert less beautiful or at least more strong." 
Vincenzo Filicaia: lyrical poet, born in Florence in 1642, and died in 
1707. He was of noble birth and his literary eminence and his member 
ship of the Accademia della Crusca brought him into the circle of such 
men of letters as Magalotti, Gori, Redi and Menzini. He was befriended 
in his poverty by Christina of Sweden and later by the Grand Duke 
Cosimo in of Tuscany, and he died as a Senator of Florence. 



ITALIANS AND THEIR LITERATURE 2J 


one had only ended with a simple " state sano ". It is true that in 

Spain one went further still ; there one kissed the feet, whence 
come the initials at the end of letters, used even today in Spain : 
Q.B.S.P. 

But we shall fall into the same state of narrow nationalism as 
Filicaia if we try to make Spain solely responsible for the spagnolismo 
which infested Italy for two centuries. In reality, both Italy and 
Spain were subject to a common fate in a common period of 
decadence, which among us appeared more suddenly and openly, 
only because Spain, being a strong and unified state, was able to 
hide the evil longer. The two corruptions were the same and the 
two nations were victims of a medieval refusal of all those ideas of 
political reform which, active in the north of Europe, secured to 
the Northern peoples a long period, not so much of intellectual 
superiority, as of social and moral leadership. 



V 
ARCADIA AND MUSIC 

THE Italy of the eighteenth century " good society ", music, 
return to nature, after the suffocating pomp of the seventeenth 
an Italy that I myself have glimpsed as a boy in cities of 
Emilia, of the Lunigiana and in Tuscany lives still, more than one 
might think. In Rome, though it may be dead in the modernized 
quarter of the Parioli, at the golf-links of Via Appia and among 
the rich middle-classes devoted to fox-hunting, it still lives or at 
least vegetates, in the smaller, quiet old palaces and houses between 
Piazza Campitelli and Via Giuk'a. And most certainly it vegetates 
still in the castelli of the Piacentino, in the eighteenth-century houses 
of Lecce and in a hundred other places. 

In order to understand a good part of Italy today, it is necessary 
therefore to take into account the Italy of the eighteenth century. 

In the preceding century our social life had lost every old Italian 
characteristic. All had become Spanish : the ceremonies at Court, 
the receptions in the convents, in aristocratic houses, and families 
of the minor nobility which copied them ; it was then that the 
titles of Don and Donna became the rage, that the addresses of letters 
began to swell with a series of adjectives ending in the superlatives 
of issimo and issima* 

In face of the Spanish formalism only the violence and blood 
remained Italian in the seventeenth century ; but even there Spanish 
procedure was adopted. I think I have read in a book of Croce's 
of an incident which befell Modena in that century and that did 
not arouse much surprise at the time. A certain Cavaliere annoyed 
with his servant, began to beat him with his Indian cane and its 
ball of ivory this is often found in Goldoni. But this Cavaliere 
of Modena went further and fired his pistol at the poor devil who, 
suddenly wounded, ceased to be a servant ; and having a pistol 
fired it : both being in agony, a Capuchin friar arrives and confesses 
them ; he gives them absolution and both find that they have 
strength enough left to rise, to embrace and pardon one another 
before falling dead in each other's arms. 

Such a world was quite foreign to Italy ; it could not long 



ARCADIA AND MUSIC 29 

endure. A reaction began at the end of the century and continued 
into the eighteenth century. That reaction was Arcadia. 1 

De Sanctis was unjust to Arcadia in his History of Italian Literature. 

" What was Italy doing ? . . . Italy was creating Arcadia. It 
was the true production of her individual and moral existence. Her 
poets wrote of the Golden Age and in the nullity of the life of the 
time they fabricated abstract themes and insipid loves of shepherd 
and shepherdess." 

No, modest though the art of Arcadia was, it was a great advance 
on the epoch of Marino, 2 on the preciosity and flowery style of the 
seventeenth century ; it was a return to nature. But De Sanctis 
was a typical man of the Risorgimento ; he had fought for Italy, 
he had been in prison and in exile for Italy, and even he, the most 
clear-sighted of our literary critics, was unable to see how unjust 
was the disdain of so many of the valiant men of the Risorgimento 
for the modest and humane voices of the Italy of the past which 
could not be expected to produce an Alfieri or a Parini before the 
great awakening of the French Revolution. 

With all its defects and mawkishness the long-continued manner 
of the pastoral art that Arcadia gave us, represented the most 
complete break with unnatural Spaniardism ; and the happy con 
sequence of that break was that minds were opened to artistic and 
literary influences of French origin, of which nothing had been 
heard in Italy during the seventeenth century. If Italians now 
again became Italian, if a century later the Risorgimento was pos 
sible, it was solely because we had had Arcadia a necessary and 
fortunate moment in our evolution. 

The movement, a unique accident in our literary and artistic 
history, had its origin in Rome and its first successes there. It 
was on a fine morning in the spring of 1692 that Arcadia was born. 

1 From 1680 to 1790 Italian literature is represented by Filicaia, Vico, 
Metastasio, Goldoni, Parini, Gozzi, Monti and Alfieri, but the intel 
lectual life of the nation is found in the innumerable Academies, all of 
which were local except one, the Academy of the Arcadians, whose 
glory resounded from Sicily to Trent. It formed by means of colonies 
in all Italian towns a spider's web in which everyone at all distinguished 
was caught, even women. 

2 Giambattista Marino, poet, born 1569 in Naples, chief of the 
school of the Secentisti. His extravagant pen drove him out of Italy to 
Paris, where he was well received by Marie de Medicis between 1615 
and 1622. He died in Naples in 1625. 



30 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

Like all really vital things, it was born without a pre-established 
pkn. About fifteen literati met, as was their habit at the time, to 
read and admire one another's newest sonnets and verses. Generally 
such meetings took place in the garden or in the saloons of Queen 
Christina of Sweden, the exiled sovereign then in fashion. But that 
day they met in the fields of Castello which, though today one of 
the most dreary quarters of Rome, was then really all fields and 
orchards. The country scene made a great impression on that 
lettered company, and one of them exclaimed : " It would seem 
almost as though Arcadia had come to life again among us." The 
thing must have been in the air, for that day Arcadia was bom. 
But not for nothing was it born in Italy ; it became an Academy of 
which the President took the pastoral name of Shepherd ; and all 
the rest, prelates, knights, jurists, abbes, poets and poetasters, 
assumed the names of Greek shepherds ; and it was under these 
names that henceforth they published their verses. 

The thing lasted a century until the French Revolution, It 
was the epoch of Cardinals' nephews, of the rise to wealth of such 
families as the Altieri, Rospigliosi, Corsini and Borghese, who, 
having built palaces and villas, wished to appear as Maecenases in 
their new saloni. Among all these people Maecenases and clients 
Arcadia created a counterfeit but agreeable atmosphere of demo 
cratic equality ; in Arcadia, all, from princes to abbes, were equal ; 
only talent counted. Certainly, with rare exceptions, it was only 
the talent of makers qf verses, but without Arcadia, Goldoni, 
Gozzi, Verri and Baretti would not have arrived so soon. 

From Rome the fashion imposed itself upon all Italy ; at Milan 
there were the Trasformat^ at Bologna the Gelidi, at Massa Lunease 
the l&nnovati) at Lucca the Qscuri, at Siena the Intronati* elsewhere 
the Fervidi y the JR.0^/, the 'Blemmatici . . . 

If the negative work, of all these was notable in that it broke up 
the anti-Italian seventeenth-century crust, their positive production 
was little more than a number of madrigals, sonnets, odes " per 
monaca " for a nun when entering a convent, "per no^e " on the 
occasion of a wedding, "per eleva^ione alia sacra porpora " in honour 
of a new Cardinal, and "per laurea " to honour some fellow poet. 
When my great-great-grandfather presented his thesis for the 
doctorate at Parma, on certain propositions of Galileo (science was 
then in fashion) he published a collection of sonnets by his Arcadian 
friends, which celebrated the genius of the young doctor who 
never did anything else worth noting all the rest of his life. 



ARCADIA AND MUSIC 31 

Arcadia did not perhaps originate, but it ennobled another 
activity that disappeared with it : the improvisator^ the improvisers, 
without whom no grand reception, no evening entertainment was 
considered complete, or even conceivable. It was better than 
Bridge. One of these improwisatori^ Bernardino Perfetti, appeared 
so marvellous that he was crowned on the Capitol, with the same 
ceremonies that were used in the fourteenth century for Petrarch. 
These improwisatori recited, accompanied softly on a spinet. At 
the end of a recital they were often exhausted, and no one therefore 
was astonished "if the verses sometimes halted. One evening a bad- 
tempered Cardinal observed aloud : " Too many syllables in that 
verse " ; but the improviser, stung to the quick, conquered his 
exhaustion and turning to the Cardinal : 

Chi ferra inchioda ; e chi cammina inciampa ; 
s'improwisa, Eminenza ; non si stampa. 

All laughed behind His Eminence's back and the improwisatore 
found his poetic fire again and kept it to the end. 

It was Arcadia and the craft or gift of the improwisatore that 
gave to Italy one may even say to Europe, which adored him 
the most famous poet of the eighteenth century, Pietro Metastasio, 
the man who better than any other interpreted the "sensibility " 
of his time. 

One warm evening of the Roman summer of 1709, a grave 
citizen wearing the black habit of an abbe or a lawyer, stopped in 
Piazza dei Cesarini to listen to a boy who, standing on a bench, was 
improvising some charming verses in a sweet voice to a group of 
people. The little improwisatore had no sooner become aware of 
his exceptional listener than he immediately devoted some verses 
to him, expressing his respectful excuses for the poor value of his 
verse. The grave citizen was no less a person than Gian Vincenzo 
Gravina, 1 the famous hellenist and jurist, and one of the little com 
pany that sixteen years earlier had founded the Arcadia. Scarcely had 
the small group dispersed when Gravina. asked the boy who he was. 

"I am Pietro Trapassi, son of Felice who keeps the grocer's shop 

1 Giovanni Vincenzo Gravina, born neat Cosenza in Calabria in 1664 
of a distinguished family. He came to Rome in 1689 and there in 1695 
helped to found the Arcadia. His fame as a man of letters and juris 
consult was pre-eminent in his day. He refused ecclesiastical honours, 
being disinclined for the ecclesiastical profession. From 1699 he held 
the Chair of Civil Law in the Sapienza, and in 1703 that of Canon Law. 
He died in Rome in 1718. 



32 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

in Via dei Cappellari, close by. I am eleven years old ; I have 
a brother and a sister . . . Yes, my father sends me to school and 
I know how to read and to write." . . . 
And Gravina : 

(f Come tomorrow to my house in Via Giulia. I am the Abate 
Gravina." 

Everyone in Rome knew who that personage was. And when 
the same evening a parcel of books arrived at the Trapassi house as 
a gift for young Pietro, the joy must have been great and the hopes 
towering. In fact, a little later, Gravina, who led a melancholy life 
alone in his vast palace, offered the Trapassi to take Pietro into his 
house and to have him instructed. The Trapassi accepted the 
proposal and the transformation began with the change of the 
vulgar surname into the equivalent but sonorous Metastasio. 

The life of young Metastasio was that of many young boys of 
the Italian middle-class then and now ; a mixture of ardent imagina 
tion and cold good sense. He studied the classics and law under 
Gravina himself. But before his studies were finished, his pro 
tector died, leaving him a good part of his fortune. Metastasio 
then did the only irregular I mean unconventional thing of his 
whole long life. He wasted this legacy very happily in a Rome that 
admired him. But no sooner was complete ruin in sight than the 
good sense of Pietro Trapassi got the upper hand. He carried 
himself off to Naples with the few scudi which remained and entered 
the office of the famous lawyer Castagnola to complete his legal 
training. Castagnola made but one condition : " No poetry." 
And when he heard that Pietro was writing verses for a little 
innamorata, he turned him out and left him to his own resources. 
It was a piece of luck for Metastasio, for the famous prima donna 
Marianna Bulgarelli, called " la Komanina ", divined the genius of 
the young man at a loss ; she received him in her house, revealed 
him to himself and loved him, as a lover and a son, just as later 
Madame de Warens treated the youthful Rousseau on the other 
side of the Alps. 

The first of the famous dramas of Metastasio, Didone abbandonata, 
was probably written under the guidance, though hidden, of the 
Romanina, a woman of talent rare even among the actors and 
singers of the time, who certainly did not lack talent. 

The singer of the time, whether man or woman, was in the 
Italy of the eighteenth century a much more important personage than 
had been the case earlier or was to be later. The singers were not 



ARCADIA AND MUSIC 33 

merely wheels in the musical system, they were the very pivot and 
axis of it ; when one wrote music, one always thought of the divo 
or diva who would sing it. Fanny Burney who became Madame 
d'Arblay, composed novels that had a great vogue wrote apropos 
of a celebrated singer of the eighteenth century, Gaspare Paccbierotti, 
that if he had not been a tenor, he would have been a poet. Pac- 
chierotti had so much respect for his art that as an old man he said 
to the young singer Rubini : " Our art is so difficult . . . when we 
are young we have the voice but we do not know how to sing ; 
when we are old we begin to learn how to sing, but we no longer 
have the voice/' 

It was in this atmosphere of profound respect for musical art 
that Metastasio lived with the Bulgarelli. 

The Didone abbandonata made him famous in a night, throughout 
Europe ; afterwards came Catone in Utica, Adriano and a hundred 
other tragedies, to call them what the author called them and wished 
them to be ; in reality they are all melodramas verses transformed 
and penetrated with music. Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot, queens 
and princesses (to go lower) used to learn them by heart and for 
many years sang fragments of them. 

When Metastasio, having been crowned Poet Laureate, died 
in Vienna, eighty-six years old, they struck a medal in his memory 
with the inscription Sophocli italo the Italian Sophocles. But 
adulation made no impression on his Roman good sense. Writing 
from Vienna a few years before he died, to an Italian friend, he sent 
him an ironical biographical notice of himself which began : <c In 
the eighteenth century lived a certain Abate Metastasio, a tolerable 
poet among many bad versifiers. . . ." 

One reads him much less today than heretofore, but he divides 
with Dante and Manzoni a glory rare in the Italy of today, so 
indifferent to her literature. Some of his verses have entered into 
the language of several generations. Even today one says : 

Passato e il tempo, Enea, 
die Dido a te pens6 x 

when one wishes to chaff a lover who has been abandoned ; or for 
other amorous troubles : 

Ne* giorni tuoi felici 
ricordati di me, 2 

1 " That time has gone, Aeneas, when Dido thought of you." 

2 ** When you are enjoying happiness, think of me," 



34 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

and there are many other passages of the sort. That is perhaps 
in Italy the best way to remain alive. 

It was with Metastasio, under Metastasio, that Italian opera 
reached its greatest perfection. Opera, indeed, could only have 
been born Italian, under the influences of our literary culture on 
the one hand and popular instinct on the other. Opera was born 
among us, in fact, for the same reasons that Italy always remained 
a sterile soil for tragedy. The Italians wrote and produced innum 
erable tragedies in the course of centuries, from Albertino Mussato 
and his E^elino to Scipione Maffei and his Merope and Alfieri and 
his SauL But these tragedies did not come like a natural force from 
the hearts of their authors save perhaps in the case of Alfieri. 
They were the result of an eternal mania of our men of letters to 
draw their inspiration from the forms of the past. 

The people did not understand or feel these things, but then they 
only rarely understood or felt anything of our literature. 

No theatrical production before Metastasio had a hundredth 
part of the vogue of the Commedia dell'Arte * among the citizens 
or of the Maggi among the peasantry. The Maggi were sung on 
improvised stages in the piazzas before the churches. As a child, 
overcome by emotion, I perhaps assisted at the last Maggi in the 
mountain villages of my archaic Lunigiana, where they used to say- 
of certain village ancients with respect, " He has the book of the 
Maggio " an old manuscript scrap-book where the adventures of 
the saints and the paladins were summarily traced, only the principal 
tirades of the first actor being given in their entirety. 

The Opera was the meeting-point of the nobles and middle 
classes on the one hand, with the popolo on the other, the popolo 
from whom it had originally come by instinct, only in a rudimentary 
form. 

As perfected by Metastasio, the opera was a pre-romantic product 
of the same kind as the dramas of Shakespeare or Calderon, with 
three equally essential elements : music, action and scenery. The 
action was rapid and violent, with the consequence that the heroes 

1 The Commedia delFArte appeared about the middle of the sixteenth 
century and lasted till the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was 
an organization of actors by profession, musicians, singers and even 
acrobats. These actors performed works more or less of a regular sort 
and written tragedies and pastoral plays, but their true speciality was 
comedy, usually unwritten, which they would improvise on a given 
subject. 



ARCADIA AND MUSIC 35 

of tragedies in the French fashion Augustus who harangues like 
Bossuet and Athalie who declaims like Bourdaloue were no longer 
possible, hence the chance so rare in Italy, which gave us Metastasio, 
who wrote in a language that never grows old, because it is living 
and true. 

As a writer of texts of opera I will not say libretti Metastasio 
never had any of the difficulties of other librettists. He, like 
Arrigo Boito alone after him, being a musician, loved to write for 
music. Goldoni, Gaspare Gozzi and Parini often made fun of the 
singers ; the old friend of the Bulgarelli never. Often in his 
dramas he made the hero like the singer for whom he destined 
the part ; and in this he was truer and more realistic than other 
poets of a more impetuous genius. 

Metastasio was neither pseudo-classical like Voltaire nor artificial 
like Alfieri ; his was that spontaneous form which a whole nation 
desired; and his heroes and heroines are neither Greeks and 
Romans of the theatre nor even the powdered cavaliers of his own 
time : they are Italian music incarnate. 

Metastasio died on April i4th, 1782, at Vienna, where he was 
always regretting Naples and Rome, but he felt his responsibility as 
Poet Laureate too keenly to abandon a capital that, as the years 
went by, was ceasing to be Italianate and had begun to remember 
that it was German. 

Seven years later came the French Revolution. This it was that 
gave us Alfieri and his republican tragedies which chased Metas- 
tasio's dramas from the Italian stage. But when we come to study 
the eighteenth century as a phenomenon not very dissimilar though 
infinitely smaller than the period of the Renaissance, we realize 
that not only the modest Arcadia but also the serene Metastasio 
were precious and necessary links in the formation of the Italians 
of today. It is not for nothing that in certain regions our contadini, 
those authentic Italians, still read both Metastasio and Tasso : the 
only two poets, with a little of Ariosto, that they do read. 

And it is for this reason, wishing to describe the Italians of today, 
we must pause for a moment in that serene oasis which was the 
eighteenth century and its poet. 



VI 
ITALIAN ROMANTICISM 

THE poets that Alfieri 3L in part inspired from Foscolo and 
Leopardi to Carducci had in common with him a supreme 
aspiration for Liberty. But fanatical individualist as he was, 
far more than they., he had no respect for phantasms, and he did not 
hesitate to call such the pretended liberties of our last two Republics ; 
Venice and her " obscene and factitious liberty ", and Genoa and 
her " sixty idiotic periwigs ". He conceived the same horror later 
for the ** liberte " of the French Convention ; and libertarian as he 
was, he was not always enthusiastic over the American Revolution : 
he grew disgusted with it when it seemed to him that the Americans 
of the thirteen revolted colonies had mingled certain economic 
considerations with the moral reasons that had inspired Jefferson. 
Alfieri hated kings with a hatred and contempt more bitter than 
those which inspired professional revolutionaries, because, des 
cended as he was from a long line of feudal ancestors, his love 
of liberty was instinctively mixed with scepticism in regard to 
" crowned heads ", which is more often found among aristocrats 
than among the middle classes or the people. There was only one 
exception for Alfieri : Frederick King of Prussia ; he dedicated to 
him a sonnet of which the last line ran : 

Ma di non nascer re forse era degno. 2 

Without the passion of Alfieri, many great ministers of blue blood 
have shared his scepticism about the moral value of their " august 

1 Vittorio, Count Alfieri, born at Asti,in Piedmont, 1749. At Florence 
in 1777 he met the Countess of Albany, daughter of Prince Gustav Adolf 
of Stolberg, who married Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonny Prince 
Charlie), now old and dissipated, to escape whom she entered a nunnery 
in 1780. Alfieri was her lover, both before and after her husband's death, 
chiefly in France, but the Revolution drove them first to England 
and then back to Florence, where Alfieri died in 1 803 . Alfieri published 
21 tragedies, 6 comedies and other works, including lyrical poems, satires 
and an autobiography. 

2 " Perhaps you were worthy not to be born a king." 

36 



ITALIAN ROMANTICISM 37 

masters " ; to realize this, it is enough to mention, if you may read 
between the lines, Bismarck (whose family was much older than 
that of the Hohenzollern), Cavour and Palmerston. . . . 

The tragedies of Alfieri, all drawn from history, made history 
at least for a couple of generations. His Timokone was given at 
Naples for long during the Republic of 1799. 

It is a proof of the potential unity of Europe at the beginning 
of the nineteenth century, that we find an almost perfect analogy of 
sentiment between Alfieri and the Sturm und Drang of Germany ; 
the German romantics and the proto-romantic Italian were especi 
ally in accord in not recognizing either life or imagination in the 
intellectualism of Voltaire or in the optimism of the French 
illumnati. 

The poets who followed Alfieri were all from Pellico to 
Niccolini very different from him ; neither they nor any other of 
our poets had anything of his Dantesque disdain which in literary 
Italy was always the basis of a moral sense. 

One other poet, and one only, Vincenzo Monti, 1 had, like 
Alfieri, certain Dantesque traits. But Alfieri was Dantesque because 
his soul was as proud as that of Alighieri ; Monti had something of 
Dante because he was endowed with prodigious gifts for poetic 
form, reaching a style almost worthy of Dante himself, perfect as 
sound but exterior, decorative. At the beginning of a century 
enriched by the vehemence of Alfieri and the profound truth of 
Manzoni, Monti only reproduced the type of the lettered Italian 
of the sixteenth century, as a century later was the case with 
D'Annunzio. With Monti all was grist for his mill, everything 
could be turned into beautiful verses, an Emperor of Austria, 
a Napoleon, a popular revolution or the election of a Pope. 

Leopardi was a good judge when he wrote of Monti that he 
was " a poet for the ear and the imagination but never for the 
heart ". 

Shall we then censure Vincenzo Monti ? Assuredly not, because 
for him there was only one really important thing in the world, 
the beauty and purity of literary form ; nor did he, like D'Annunzio, 
ever wish to assume the role of a politician. Probably Monti must 
often have wondered why so many Italians who might have devoted 
themselves to formal Beauty, should waste their time in discuss 
ing passing superstitions like liberty, the fatherland and political 
progress. 

1 Vincenzo Monti, 1754-1828, born near Femra. 



38 ITAtY AND ITALIANS 

On the arrival of the Revolutionary French in Rome, an agent 
of the Republic, Basseville, was killed. Monti, a born court poet, 
wrote the Bassvi/tiana, a furious invective against those Frenchmen 
who had come as a menace to the legitimate rulers. But when 
Napoleon and his French armies became masters of Italy, he wrote 
to his friend Salfi to excuse himself, " obliged as I am to sacrifice 
my opinions, I try my utmost to save my reputation as a writer ". 
As Croce has written somewhere, Monti never spoke or wrote 
against his conscience ; the most diverse events and the most 
contrary doctrines stirred impartially in turn his imagination ; but 
he remained always faithful to a single loyalty : that of fine 
literature. 

For the rest, in the Italy of that day many still thought as he 
did. ... 

One of his contemporaries, known only in the Lunigiana and 
in the Duchies, an old Minister of State and uncle of my grand 
father, had been successively in power under an aristocratic Republic, 
under the Jacobins, under Napoleon and under the Bourbons of 
Parma : in his Memoirs, written in his eightieth year, I found 
this final phrase (which I quote from memory, as the Germans 
destroyed or looted everything in my country house situated as it 
was on the " Gothic Line ") : " One must work for the well-being 
of the people and of the State ; it was irksome to pass from one 
regime to another, but what could I do ? Besides, the more I 
saw things change, the more they seemed to me to differ very little 
the one from the other/' 

On two intellectual planes, so different, we have there the 
Italian character before the Risorgimento, and as it was afterwards 
reproduced under Fascism : a character developing through able 
forces of inertia as it defended itself successively against native 
tyrant, Spaniard and German. A whole series of generations 
remained cold, sceptical and distrustful of every exaltation (save 
the poetic in the manner of Monti), resigned to every sort of trans 
action at least to such as were not condemned by Christian morals 
and determined never to risk any sort of martyrdom. The 
political revival of the Italians in the nineteenth century was due to 
one fact : the French Revolution. And never did the hired writers 
of Fascism lie more blunderingly than when they claimed that the 
Risorgimento had its origins, not in the doctrines that had come 
from France, but in our own reformers of the eighteenth century, 
much to be respected and well inspired though they had been. 



ITALIAN ROMANTICISM 39 

On the other hand, our spiritual and internal renaissance was all 
our own work. It coincided with the rise of Romanticism, which 
with us was uniquely Italian, because unlike what happened among 
the French and Germans it was not an iconoclastic adventure 
against all the past ; and for this reason its fruits ripened better 
with us. 

This Italian Romanticism was essentially the work of Alessandro 
Manzoni 1 

Certainly, even before him, there had been some pre-romantics 
and even some romantics. The Romantics wanted to forget the 
ancient classical themes ? But Italy was enamoured of Ossian. 
The Romantics wanted literature to present human beings that were 
simple and sober ? But Goldoni had already created in Ms hundred 
comedies the freshest and most living types of our daily life. The 
Romantics did not wish for forms without content ? But Parini, 
Alfieri and Foscolo were the very thing. 

Manzoni alone renewed at once both form and content. When 
one talks of 1 8 1 5 one thinks of the fall of Napoleon and the Congress 
of Vienna ; but for the artistic and moral life of Italy, 1815 should 
be remembered as the year in which a shabby little book of a few 
short poems appeared at Milan the Inni SacrL Few paid attention 
at the time to the verses of the young Manzoni who, thanks to the 
influence of some Jansenist priests, had five years previously, in 
1 8 10, again become a Christian and a Catholic, after a long rational 
istic youth passed in Paris. His Inni Sacri, of which one, La 
Pentecoste, is immortal, attain the highest form which religious lyric 
reached in Italy ; they were lyrics based on the love of the humble. 
His novel, I Promessi Sposi, is the first novel of any importance to 
have just ordinary peasants for its hero and heroine. For us 
Italians it is a masterpiece that has no equal. Why has it not been 
equally appreciated abroad? 

He who writes these lines was for long so much surprised at 
what seemed to him to be an inexplicable injustice that if he wished 
to set up as a litefary critic, he would perhaps 'bring forward and 
comment on all the answers that he received to his prudent questions 
in conversation with many very various men of letters all acute 
critics, such as Andr Gide, Paul Valery, Stefan Zweig, and others, 

1 Alessandro Manzoni, born of a noble family at Milan, 1785. Pub 
lished first poems in 1806, happily married 1810. I Promessi Sposi, 
a Milanese story of the seventeenth century, appeared 1825-7. Died 
at Milan 1873. 



40 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

who all admitted that they had read the book, but also that they 
had not understood it. Recovering from my first astonishment, 
I ended by telling myself that there must be some reason for this. 
An examination of conscience forced me to admit that in reading 
Shakespeare I felt all the joyous intoxication of swimming in 
a sunlit sea so completely did I feel one with nature, without 
restriction or limit, while Manzoni drew me in a manner almost 
invisible but inexorable, towards a final moral truth. With Shake 
speare one is under the limitless sky, with Manzoni in the most 
marvellous of temples but yet a temple with a roof and walls. 

How can one expect foreigners to understand, if Italians them 
selves do not see how often Manzoni himself sacrifices his art to 
his will, as when he says of Renzo in Milan in convulsion, that he 
*' found so little to admire in the ordinary course of events that 
he was inclined to welcome any sort of change " ; and when he 
puts into the mouth of Renzo (who is being pursued) as soon as he 
had crossed the Adda and reached Venetian territory, " Stay there, 
accursed country," so much more true than " Farewell, ye hills, 
rising from the waters ". 

At least we Italians ought to know that this submission that 
Manzoni made of his art, to a supreme moral duty, was not due 
to any lack of ability, but because he heroically willed it. We have 
stupendous pages of his first draught of the Promessi Sposi which he 
had at first entitled GK Sposi Promessi. But those pages seemed to 
him too little disciplined by the moral law which he had imposed 
upon himself, and in 1825 in the act of printing the book he 
suppressed them without hesitation. My father published them 
seventy-five years later in his work " Scrittipostumi di A. Manzoni ". 
Our men of letters of today ought to study that volume and read 
there the suppressed pages on the illicit love of Geltrude, every time 
that they hesitate to cut out some of their own elucubrations, 

Manzoni was the first Italian of the nineteenth century in whom 
was gathered all that had become most indispensable to our country : 
a profound knowledge of foreign thought, and at the same time 
complete independence of his own specific Italian thought. No 
one knew French literature as he did, from Racine to Chateaubriand, 
yet no^one was less French than he. It is only of Manzoni, and in 
a certain sense of Cavour, that this can be said. How many others 
at that time were either too provincial or too evidently drenched in 
foreign influences. 

The most mysterious problem of the long life of Manzoni 



ITALIAN ROMANTICISM 41 

a life without the exterior adventures of a Byron or a Lamartine 
was his conversion to Catholicism. Immediately upon his con 
version, the poet made his whole life bear witness to his religion, 
but he always covered with a veil of silence the steps of his road to 
Damascus. Public explanations such as those of Paul Claudel 
would have seemed incomprehensible to him and even perhaps 
indecent. In his book, Morale Cattolica y there is not a single 
personal note. 

At one time the " zealots " distrusted this conversion ; it 
appeared to them too " Italian ". Perhaps also and surely in 
good faith certain Catholic publicists felt vaguely that the moral 
world of Manzoni, the source of his poetic feeling, was intimately 
connected with the Jansenist origins of his conversion. One knows 
that theological hatreds are among the most tenacious. But these 
doubts disappeared at last, and the centenary of the publication of 
the Promssi Sposi was celebrated during the reign of a Pope 
Pius XI who often cited verses and phrases of Manzoni, with 
almost the same reverence with which he would have cited a 
Father of the Church. 

As a youth I saw every day for many years the son-in-law of 
the poet : Giambattista Giorgini. A very old man, he had retired 
to a property running with ours ; our two families had been related 
for centuries ; and it was of him that Ruggero Bonghi said : " Only 
Giorgini could have described the soul of Manzoni ; but his talent 
is only less than his indolence/* Giambattista Giorgini died in 
1906 in his eighty-seventh year ; contrary to his father-in-law, he 
never truly returned to the faith of his childhood, but as he was 
expiring, he said slowly in Latin : " Domine, commendo Tibi animam 



meam" 



More optimistic than Ruggero Bonghi, I boy as I was, and 
already worried by religious problems questioned Giorgini a hun 
dred times and in a hundred different ways about the conversion 
of Manzoni. I can see him still, looking at me with a smile and 
each time answering in the same way : " Carlino, I can only repeat 
to you the one word that he used : e Grace/ " 



VII 
UNITY: THOUGHT AND ACTION 



Ti 



I HAT the unity of Italy had existed already, in its own way, 
since the fifteenth century, is shown by the unanimous 
reprobation which Lodovico Sforza aroused when he invited 
the French to descend into our peninsula a road they opened only 
too well, for our misfortune, but also for their own. 

Unity and independence remained during four centuries of 
servitude and invasion, the dream of all hearts. The miracle 
only became reality in the nineteenth century because that was the 
century of nationality, but perhaps the fatal law of necessity would 
not have sufficed if from the leaven of the eighteenth century and 
the shock of the French Revolution, there had not come forth two 
men : Mazzini and Cavour. These two men believed they hated 
one another ; in reality they were the closest collaborators, for each 
in his own sphere of action knew how to canalize for the service of 
the Italian cause the two sovereign principles of the century : the 
principle of liberty and the principle of nationality. 

Before them, Metternich had been a statesman, much more 
important than our official books on the Risorgimento have 
accustomed Italians to admit. I bless a fall from a horse that, when 
I was twenty, kept me stretched at full length for two months with 
my left leg in plaster, for in those eight weeks I discovered a new 
Metternich in the ten volumes of his Memoirs, a Metternich who 
was not only an exceptional diplomat (no small thing in itself) but 
a statesman with a profound conception of his duties to Europe, 
and sometimes too with the prescience of a Briand and a Roosevelt 
as to the future of the world. A strong man, but without the 
vulgar brutality of Bismarck, Metternich was the master of the 
Europe that came out of the Treaty of Vienna. What was it then 
that was wanting in this man of the Rhine Provinces, who had 
become an Austrian ? How was it he deceived himself or deluded 
himself in the most essential problem, that of the hegemony of the 
Hapsburg Empire in Italy? Metternich never understood that 
the century of liberty and national independence was also the 
century of the middle classes : and that the Italian middle classes 

42 



UNITY: THOUGHT AND ACTION 43 

had come to feel themselves economically impoverished behind 
the old customs barriers of a divided Italy. 

It is of course undeniable that the movement for Italian unity 
was above all spiritual. A proof of it is a rare thing in history 
the serene cheerfulness with which first Turin and then Florence 
agreed and accepted no longer to be capitals when the capital was 
to be Rome. Metternich, certainly, should have been able to under 
stand that it was not only the dangerous Mazzini who spoke of 
Italy, but that the Economic Congresses that had the habit of 
meeting periodically in different Italian cities before 1848, showed 
very clearly that the economic life of the country felt more and more 
the need of unity. (The histories of Italy that filled the heads of 
two generations of students, my own included, with all their Conti 
Rossi and Conti Verdi l would have done better and would have 
cleared our ideas more if they had also spoken of the Economic 
Congresses and had explained their importance to us.) 

Austria insisted on her own dominion in Italy, first to affirm 
the power of the Empire in the Mediterranean where Napoleon at 
Campoformio had given her Venetia, and secondly because the 
prestige of her shining Italian provinces so saturated with history 
made all- the German, Hungarian and Slav populations deeply 
respectful to the Hapsburg crown. The Emperor of Vienna not 
only possessed Lombardy, Venetia, the Trentino and Istria; 
through minor dynasties which regarded him as their head or patron, 
he also possessed the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Duchy of Lucca, 
the Duchies of Modena and Parma, and held under a hidden but 
solid influence the Papal States, as Pius IX discovered very soon to 
his cost, when, in 1848, he attempted to act as an Italian, and as an 
Italian prince. 

Hence the superhuman courage of a Mazzini and later of 
a Cavour when they undertook the struggle ; their greatest glory 
was that all the conventionally right-minded people in Europe took 
them for madmen. 

It is not possible to begin to study Italians as in fact they are 
without pausing a moment before the man Mazzini ; his political 
and social philosophy counts just because his life was a sublime 
example of absolute devotion to one single idea : the resurrection 

1 Amedeo VI (1334-83) and Atnedeo VII, his son (1360-91), were 
two Princes of the House of Savoy, named respectively " Conte Verde " 
and " Conte Rosso " from their partiality for these colours. 



44 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

of Italy. And to study the man we must, above all, study the exile, 
this tragic and constant figure of Italian political history. In exile, 
many veils fall ; only the man remains, alone with his own con 
science ; and thus we have the exiles who become purified 
I might place Don Sturzo among them and the exiles in whom 
their native mediocrity becomes accentuated. 

We all have some memory of our childhood that later seemed 
like an omen. This happened to Mazzini when he was sixteen 
years old. Born at Genoa in 1805, fragile and delicate, but with 
a dreamy and precocious intelligence, the boy was walking with his 
mother always his most intimate friend down one of the dark 
little alleys of Genoa, when he met a group of men, obviously not 
Genoese, whose expressions were firm yet sad. One of them 
suddenly drew near to the boy's mother, held out a white hand 
kerchief and said with a natural dignity : " I ask you to help the 
proscribed of Italy." Maria Mazzini understood : she silently 
poured all the money she had with her into the handkerchief. 
These gentlemen mendicants were the defeated in the Piedmontese 
insurrection of 1821, men who had trusted in Carlo Alberto di 
Carignano when he had promised to lead them in the rising against 
Austria. They had come to Genoa in the hope of being able to 
embark for Spain that had remained liberal, and so escape from the 
trial at which many of them later were condemned to death. 

" That day ", wrote Mazzini many years later, when he began 
the series of biographical notes that preceded each volume of his 
works in the Daelli edition, <i Vthat day was the first on which 
a confused vision presented itself to my mind I will not say the 
thought of a Fatherland and of Liberty, but the feeling that one 
could and that therefore one must fight for the liberty of one's 
country. 

" The sight of those proscribed men, some of whom later became 
my friends, followed me everywhere for days and even came to 
me in my dreams. I would have given anything to go after them. 
I tried to find out their names and their deeds. I studied as well 
as I could, the story of their generous attempt and the causes of 
their defeat. They had been betrayed and abandoned by those who 
had sworn to devote all their efforts to the attempt ; the new King 
had called in the Austrians ; part of the Piedmontese militia had 
preceded them in Novara ; the heads of the movement had allowed 
themselves to be overcome at the first encounter and had made no 
attempt to resist. All these things, as I learnt them, sufficed to 



UNITY: THOUGHT AND ACTION 45 

make me think : if everyone had done his duty, they could have 
won ; why not try again ? This idea took hold of me more and 
more, and the impossibility of seeing how one might attempt to 
carry it into effect overshadowed my heart. On the benches of the 
University there was then a faculty of Belles 'Lettres that preceded 
the course of Law and Medicine, and to which the younger students 
were admitted in the midst of a noisy tumult of student life, I was 
filled with longing and entirely absorbed by this desire. Childishly 
I dressed myself always in black ; I considered myself in mourning 
for my country. The Orfis * that at that time came into my hands, 
fascinated me ; I learnt it by heart. Indeed, my fanaticism went so 
far that my poor mother feared my suicide." 

Romantic all this certainly was, but it was the style of his 
generation and a sincere style. Mazzini never lied. Such thoughts 
his parents confirmed it later continued to dominate the young 
student. 

Mazzini wrote later, speaking of those days : " At that time 
my mind was occupied with visions of dramas and historical 
romances without end. The tendency of my life was quite other 
than that to which those days and the shame of our abjectness 
constrained me." 

In 1829, choosing action from his formula Pensiero e A%ione 9 
he joined the Carboneria ; he was initiated into its mysteries, with 
the dramatic ritual of the Secret Societies ; he swore to obey, he 
had the will to believe and to work, but his soul was not satisfied. 
Concerning this period, he wrote : " I did not admire the complex 
symbolism, the hieratic mysteries and the faith or rather the kck 
of political faith of the Carboneria, as the deeds and facts of 1820 
and 1821 which I studied as best I could during those years, showed 
it to be. But I was then powerless to attempt anything of my own, 
and I was faced by a company of men who, inferior probably to 
their conceptions, in any case made thought and action one, and 
defying excommunication and death, persisted, when one plot was 
destroyed, to weave another. That was enough to cause me to feel 
it my duty to lend them my name and give them my co-operation. 
Even today when I am grey-headed, I believe that after the gift 
of leadership, the highest is that of knowing how to follow ; to 
follow, I mean, a good leader." 

Naturally the Government had its spies among the Carbonari ; 

1 Jacopo Qrtis> a famous novel by Ugo Foscolo, written in 1802. 



46 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

one of them, a Frenchman, betrayed Mazzini and he was arrested ; 
the police had suspected him for some time. 

" What the devil is your son thinking of ? " asked the Governour 
of Genoa of Professor Mazzini, who, uneasy, had asked him about 
his Pippo, now in prison. " Do you know what this young man 
of genius who likes solitary walks and keeps his thoughts generally 
to himself, is thinking about? The Government does not like 
young men about whose thoughts it knows nothing." 

Mazzini was confined in the fortress of Savona, where he 
consoled himself in reading the Divine Comdy, the Bible, Tacitus, 
Byron, and in taming the sparrows that came into his cell through 
the bars. His case came before the Senate of Turin ; in the eyes of 
that Tribunal he was certainly guilty, but the Public Prosecutor had 
only one witness and the law required two : this was enough to 
cause the Senate to let Mazzini go. I only cite this fact in order to 
note how ignorant and badly counselled were so many anti-Fascists 
when, during the twenty years of Mussolini, they thought to annoy 
the regime by declaring it- worthy of the time of Austria. Would 
to God it had been I At Turin the Savoys, at Naples and Parma 
the Bourbons, at Modena the Hapsburg-Este were certainly intoler 
ably cruel, but cruel in accordance with the law, which they hardly 
ever violated. Certainly both the Savoys and the Bourbons violated 
their institutional oaths ; but this is for Sovereigns a natural right ; 
it is the fault of the people if they believe in such oaths. 

Mazzini being free, the Savoy police committed the grossest 
of their errors ; they allowed the young conspirator to go into exile. 
Perhaps in Turin they considered him a little mad and were content 
and glad to get rid of him ; they thought he might join several 
other politicians da caffi at Lugano or Marseilles. 

The detention in Savona and his exile immediately after allowed 
Mazzini to see clearly ; he was the first to understand that the 
Carbonari would never succeed in doing anything in Italy. The 
Carbonari were honest, they loved Italy, but had no moral root in 
our soil ; in a certain sense they were something foreign, almost 
French in their admiration of Napoleon and Murat ; they trusted 
in princes, in diplomacy, in foreign aid. Lafayette in France, was 
he not an ardent Carbonaro ? What they lacked was a religious 
inspiration. 

It was considerations of this sort which decided Mazzini to sub 
stitute for the Carbonari, " Giovane Italia ", Young Italy, a system 
both moral and religious. 



UNITY: THOUGHT AND ACTION 47 

The moral generosity of Mazzini rarest of gifts among political 
leaders allowed him to discover that the only way to get men to 
risk their lives is to appeal to disinterested motives. One dies 
only for ideas ; and Mazzini offered the Italians " a religion, a faith 
and an apostolate ". And often he was even more definite : " As 
individuals and as a nation you have a mission which has been 
given you by God." 

Did he really believe in " the primacy of Italy ", in the watch 
word of "Italian mission"? I have myself always discerned 
between the lines of his writings that contrary to the bombastic 
and childish Gioberti this " primacy " was for him a necessary 
myth for the encouragement of a nation the victim of a long period 
of servitude ; and at the same time a means of doing away with the 
hopes that existed not only among the Carbonari but also among 
the neo-Guelphs of a French " initiative " in which he, always 
diffident of the philosophy of the other side of the Alps, feared 
a French hegemony. 

Indeed, of French intellectual currents he only used the social 
ideas of Saint-Simon. But Saint-Simon and all the others were 
only writers and remained just writers. 

Instead, Mazzini believed, wrote, acted. And it was this which 
put him above all the rest. And this was why Metternich wrote of 
him and of him alone, while he was still the most powerful statesman 
in Europe : " I have united armies which fought bravely though 
made up of different races ; I have reconciled kings and emperors 
and sultans ; but nothing and no one has created greater difficulties 
for me than a devil of an Italian, thin, pale, poor and as eloquent 
as a hurricane, as able as a thief, as indefatigable as a lover, in short, 
that Mazzini." 

The period of practical activity of Mazzini in Italy was closed 
with the events of 1848-9. After that his fame did not increase ; 
it was not only that Cavour was in power at Turin where he was 
busy creating a new prestige for the House of Savoy ; but Louis 
Napoleon, the man whom Mazzini most despised, had become 
Emperor of the French ; and many in Italy began to hope that the 
old Carbonaro of the revolution in Romagna in 1831 would 
remember one day his Italian oath of that time. 1 

1 In 1823 Louis Napoleon accompanied his mother to Italy, visiting 
his father in Florence and his grandmother Letizia in Rome. In 1830, 
in Italy again, he learned of the July Revolution. He could not return 
to France whence his family was banished 'by the law of 1816, but he 



48 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

Thus it is that we have two Mazzinis ; him who worked for 
Italy, and him who worked for an organized Europe. 

Cavour wrote a little before 1859 : "I am content ; there are 
on this continent three Powers interested in the destruction of the 
status quo : France, Prussia, Russia ; and two that are interested 
in maintaining it : Austria and England. I am sorry that the 
first are not more liberal, but what can I do about it ? I dare not 
depend for support on the other two." 

Mazzini instead counted immediate success as very little, and 
on the first triumphs of Cavour, wrote to Daniel Stern : " It 
matters little to me that Italy, a territory of so many square kilo 
metres, eats its corn or its cabbages cheaply ; Rome matters little 
to me unless a great European initiative should result. What does 
matter to me is that Italy should be great and good, moral and 
virtuous, and that she should fulfil a mission in the world." 

Not only Italy but the whole of Europe for whose union he 
had written and agitated so often, deluded Mazzini : Hungary was 
reconciled with the Hapsburgs and became in its turn an oppressor 
of the Croats, of the Slovaks and of the Serbs ; Germany unified 
by the cruel genius of Bismarck, and the old German Liberals 
becoming his lackeys ; Poles and Czechs oppressed as always ; 
oppressed and divided under various regimes the Jugo-Slavs for 
whom he had written the first and most eloquent defence a defence 
that resounded throughout Europe . . . 

Even his Socialist-moral creed had been held in contempt by 
the masses and by their new leaders. In this position Mazzini 
mistakenly refused to accept advice offered him by Bakunin l : to 
gain over our contadini for a cause at once Italian and moral. Instead 
Mazzini replied to him : " For the moment there is nothing to be 
done in rural Italy." He was wrong, but the later Italian Socialist 
movements were wrong in the same way. 

Towards the end of his long second exile begun in 1849 Mazzini 
came to admire profoundly the manner of life of the English ; he 
felt himself " at home " in London. But as soon as he realized 
that his end was drawing near he wished to return to Italy, Death 
found him on the loth of March 1872 at Pisa, a few weeks after his 

found a field of action during the Italian revolution of 1831, when he 
joined the Carboneria and then risings in Romagna. 

1 Michel Bakunin, the anarchist, was born near Moscow of noble family 
in 1814. In 1865 he was in Italy. In " The International " he was the 
opponent of Karl Marx. He died at Berne in 1876, 



'or, UNITY: THOUGHT AND ACTION 49 

return, as guest of the Rosselli family which in our day has given 
two martyrs under Fascism, Carlo and Nello Rosselli. 

On his iron bedstead, surrounded by a few faithful friends, 
the great spirit breathed its last. It was impossible to understand 
his words, but at the last moment the voice of Mazzini became clear. 
Suddenly he sat up in bed, looked fixedly on his friends and 
exclaimed: "Yes, yes, I believe in God", and falling back he 
expired. 



VIII 
ITALIANS AND THEIR DIALECTS 

MAZZINI was too bookish to care for dialects ; the Genoese 
that risked imprisonment to seek him out at Marseilles or 
in Switzerland were always a little surprised to hear him 
answer them in pure Italian. 

Manzoni, on the other hand, delighted in his own Milanese, 
Giambattista Giorgini has told us (and perhaps confessed to us, so 
well he knew the intimate thoughts of his father-in-law) : " What 
labour it was to wash the Promessi Sposi in the Arno ; and how it 
'would have been more easy reading if he had been able to wash it 
in the Naviglio." 1 . . . Even that master had felt the weight of 
a tongue that had been drenched for centuries by the Latinization 
of the official literature. 

When so many Italians let themselves go in obsolete rhetorical 
phrases on our past, they would serve our future better if they 
asked themselves : how is it that of the masterpieces of our prose 
of the sixteenth century whose pages all have turned but that few 
have read or reflected on the most living, the freshest, that which 
one turns to again and again with enjoyment is the Autobiography 
of Benvenuto Cellini, who was a genius half illiterate ? And how is 
it that the French books whose dramatic interest increases with the 
centuries, such as the M.emoires of Cardinal de Retz, and later the 
Memoires of Saint-Simon, are numbered in dozens on the other side 
of the Alps, whereas the greater part of our literature from the 
sixteenth to the eighteenth century is respected, it is true, but at 
a distance, because, as Bonghi said, it is not " popolare ". 

Such questions and others which I have already implicitly for 
mulated in this book 2 will find an answer when we cease to be 
too much the sons of Rome in our literature. Let us limit our 
selves here to establishing what was this lack of vital fluid in our 
literature, so that our dialects remained instruments of art much 

1 It would have been easier reading (piti fluldo) if he had written it in 
Milanese dialect, than it was when he had put it in Tuscan, i.e. in pure 
Italian. 

* See Chapter IV. 

50 



ITALIANS AND THEIR DIALECTS 5! 

longer with us than in France where the Provengal could flatter 
itself on a glorious past. 

The Italian people avoiding our boring official literature made 
their songs, disputed, made love and laughed in their various 
dialects, just as in a time of political oppression a secret language 
is used by the conspirators. 

So long as Italian preserved its fourteenth-century freshness there 
was no dialect literature except on the outskirts, in Venice and in 
Sicily. When our poetry declined even to Filicaia and Chiabrera, 1 
the dialects flourished as in revenge. In all our cities, with thirty 
different accents there arose as by enchantment a crowd of poets ; 
poetry and the theatre of the people eagerly took over the expression 
of the real life of Italy its customs, its traditions, its hates and its 
loves all that the official men of letters had disdained. 

One of the paradoxes of Italian life is this : in all Europe beside, 
dialect literature is only the earliest attempt of a national literature, 
which overpowered and suppressed it when it realized itself, as in 
France with the splendour of Bossuet and the genius of Racine. 
In Italy alone it happened that her dialects follow a literary epoch of 
great renown, and as though in revenge for its tyranny, scarcely 
had it grown drowsy when the sentiments of our ancient gentes 
burst forth. Pulcinella, who became master of the Neapolitan 
theatre, 2 chasing out the Italian authors who had now become too 
mannered, should probably be identified with the antique Maccus, 
as he appears in so many Roman bas-reliefs. In Pulcinella one 
discerns a people behind which stand the Greeks and the Romans, 
the Byzantines, the Normans and the Spaniards. A mere servant, 
then ? Possibly. But a servant as in the Commedia delFArte, one of 

1 Gabriele Chiabrera, born of noble family in Savons 1552, died 1638; 
in a short autobiography he gives an admirable portrait of himself. 

2 Pulcinella, represented by a masked actor, is a brother of Harlequin 
(Arlecchino), born forty or so years later, the son of the old Zani of the 
Commedia deWArte. The Polichinelle of France was introduced into that 
country by the Neapolitan comic actors and from France came to England 
as Punch. The tremendous vogue of Pulcinella in Naples at the end of 
the seventeenth century is borne witness to by the large number of 
unpublished scenari in the Biblioteca Nazionale of Naples. At that time 
Pulcinella began to be the magnapars of drama and musical plays in Naples 
and one cannot ignore the great part the author-actors Pasquale Altavita 
and Antonio Petilo have had in this extraordinary vogue which lasted 
right up to our own time. 



52 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

whose heroes is Pulcinella, " servant of two masters ", contriving 
very skilfully between the two to find his liberty. 

The learned and Italian men of letters have too often spoken of 
the Commedia delFArte as a vulgar episode in our artistic life. In 
reality, Pulcinella at Naples, Harlequin in Venice, and with them, 
Brighella, Pantaleone, Captain Fracassa, deliver to us the secrets of 
popular life and custom much better than the classicist exercises 
of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in which noble and 
beautiful sentiments appear, but hardly ever come from the heart. 

In the Commedia dell 9 Arts, as in the greater part of dialect poetry, 
one only finds the vulgar aspects of life, those that make one laugh. 
The dreams, the self-respect, the loyalties that are within are never 
told, but make themselves felt at times all the same in the depths 
of the heart. 

Voltaire, whose judgment was often superficial, replied (in 
Italian) to Goldoni, who had sent him from Venice one of his 
comedies (not one of those in dialect) : "Oh! what purity! You 
have rescued your country from the hands of the Harlequins." 
Voltaire was often a flatterer when he had himself been flattered. 
Goldoni knew well what he owed to Harlequin. And indeed he 
continued throughout his life to write both comedies in Italian and 
comedies in dialect with Harlequin, his smiling and intelligent 
assistant. 

If Italy produced her greatest geniuses almost at the birth of 
literature, in dialect, she alone, when dialect poetry was at the end 
of its vogue, produced its two best poets, Carlo Porta at Milan 
and Gioacchino Belli 1 at Rome. 

With that earthquake which was the arrival of the French armies 
of Napoleon in Milan, Porta appeared and made himself master. 
He was a little employ^ unknown : one day, suddenly, Lombardy 
knew his verses by heart ; even today the types invented by him 
are the patrimony of all Italy, almost like certain characters of the 
Divine Comedy or Don Abbondio. When one meets an old Grande 
Dame forgotten by time, who thanks the Bon Dieu for the blue blood 
which flows in her veins, she is described for us all in one word : 
La Marchesa Travasa. And the popular hero of Porta, Giovannin 
Bongee, Italians recognize him as Spaniards recognize the squire of 
Don Quixote. 

1 Carlo Porta, born at Milan 1776 ; died there 1821. Among his best 
works are the Desgra^i and Olter desgra^i de Giovannin 'Bongee. 
Gioacchino Belli, born at Rome 1791, died 1863. 



ITALIANS AND THEIR DIALECTS 5} 

If Porta appeared in Milan with the French Revolution, Belli 
arrived in Rome with the Restoration that lifted up its head after 
Waterloo. 

The Roman dialect is so close to Italian that " lingua toscana 
in bocca romana " is accepted everywhere as indicating a perfect 
pronunciation of our language. 

Belli is a poet, in appearance serene and impassable, whilst Porta 
hid his indignation less olympically in face of the French invaders, 
the nobles, the gallant abbs and the men of the people already 
become bourgeois, like Giovannin Bongee and Marchionn di gamb 
avert. If one must admit that Porta is untranslatable, one must on 
the other hand ask why Belli has never been translated into French, 
German, English or Spanish. 

Like the Europe of today, the Rome of Belli did not even 
suspect the power of his poetry. Only the Italy after 1870 dis 
covered and consecrated Belli. The Rome of his time was in 
different and asked him the same question as the Cardinal Ippolito 
d'Este asked of Ariosto : " But you, Messer Ludovico, where have 
you found such rubbish ? " 

The " rubbish " of Belli, like the " rubbish " of Porta, was the 
very genius of the Italian people, which has so often sought in 
dialect expressions which have enriched the language. For example, 
as to verse : the French language, and even more the English, 
possess thousands of very short words and easy rhymes, almost 
veiled. The Italian language is neater and harder ; admirable for 
its thought, it is less musical, notwithstanding a legend, that Metas- 
tasio explains and excuses, which says the contrary. Our dialects, 
on the other hand, possess the short words of English and French, 
from which comes the greater lightness of their verses. 

If I had intended these pages to be a short history of our dialect 
literature, I should have felt obliged to cite the Piedmontese, the 
Genoese, with their most difficult of all Italian dialects (Dante said 
that if you could take away the X from the Genoese they would 
be dumb), the Sicilians with Meli x whose poetry is as pure as that 
of Theocritus . . . and if I had not felt obliged to cite the too- 
wordy Basile and Cortese 2 who at Naples preceded Porta and Belli 

1 Giovanni Meli, born at Palermo 1740, died there 1815. 

2 Giambattista Basile, born at Naples 1575, died 1632, author of 
the Cunto de li Cttnte, 

Giulio Cesare Cortese, father of Neapolitan dialect literature, inspirer 
of Basile, born at Naples about 1575, died after 1621. 



54 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

by two centuries, I should at least have had to cite some exquisite 
verses of anonymous Neapolitans who showed how Greek the 
Parthenopean soul remained. Here are four verses written at the 
request of a host, about 1750 : 

Magnammo, amice mieie, e po' vevimmo 
Nfino che ce sta IPoglio a la lucerna. 
Chi sa si all'auto munno ce vedimmo, 
Chi sa si alPauto munno c'e taverna . . . 

Would not one suppose that these verses had been written by one 
of those lyrical Athenians of whom Meleager has transmitted us the 
names ? But in a classical tongue, this Hellenic perfume would 
easily become bookish. 

All the Italian dialects possess infinite riches ; in some, a ple 
beian impetuosity, in others a curious ingenuity ; in all a delicacy 
that often alternates with violence and with irony. 

But as I have said in the Preface to this volume, I wish to speak 
here only of what I know directly. Besides, I should not have 
known to what books to turn if I had wanted to complete with 
their help this chapter. Probably, as with so many other aspects of 
our cultural patrimony, the most original observations on our dialect 
literature will be found in the volumes of criticism of Benedetto 
Croce. They who wish to be informed on this subject should go 
to the hundred volumes of Croce. 

Certain foreign writers those who know so many things of 
Italian life but are ignorant of its deeper spirit have made rapid 
generalizations on the vitality of our dialects ; and have formed the 
opinion that our national sentiment is more fictitious than real In 
truth, the history of our dialects, if properly understood, proves 
the contrary. 

Dialects produce poets when the language begins to crystallize 
into artificiality and mannerism ; that with us was the period when 
we lost intellectual and political liberty. And so it was with the 
Risorgimento and the great writers of that time that the dialects 
began to decline. They were no longer necessary ; they grew 
silent. It was only after ten years of liberty and unity that the 
dialects again began to lift up their heads, almost as though they felt 
that in the unity now consecrated there was room for them too. 
Testoni at Bologna, Pascarella yesterday, Trilussa today at Rome, 
Di Giacomo at Naples, have given us now and then perfect verses. 
A new fact in the literary life of Italy was this, that the writers 



ITALIANS AND THEIR DIALECTS 55 

who have recently enjoyed the greatest vogue and who were richest 
in spirit, began to incorporate in their novels, from the end of the 
nineteenth century to the war years of 1914-18, dialogues in dialect ; 
some directly enriched the language itself in spite of their mastery 
of it with words drawn from the dialects. Fogazzaro has made 
some of his characters in Piccolo Mondo Antico speak in Venetian ; 
Verga in the Cavalkria ULusticana which Mascagni has made famous 
throughout the world, makes his contadini speak in Sicilian ; Matilde 
Serao has often made her little employees and her pathetic types alia 
Maupassant, speak in Neapolitan. 

And all the time the Italian language was never so mature, 
never so rich ; the ancient polemic on the nature and laws of the 
language had spent itself; what Manzoni had failed to impose as 
a precept, custom in a free Italy had instinctively adopted. There 
were no more " purists ", neither " classical purists " nor " Tuscan 
purists " ; the Italian language, with or without the " Tuscan use ", 
had conquered the Italians who, without the D'Annunzian pesti 
lence, would all soon have possessed a tongue agile, ductile and 
full of freshness. 

. In this new atmosphere there could be no fear of the dialects ; 
it was as though they had decided to meet one another, to leave 
off playing at hiding, to know one another, and to share their most 
secret riches. 

The dialects, besides, enriched not only literature but the lan 
guage of conversation, the language of every day. It is by reason 
of their strength, and the richness of their blood, that Italians have 
never been the slaves of fixed phrases ; words with them circulate 
freely, with a constant freshness of expression that has already begun 
to become less among the French of medium culture whose voca 
bulary is full of crystallized phrases and cliches. But what foreigner 
even among those who know Italy best, is capable of appreciating 
this pleasant individualism of our daily life, in which the very 
spirit of Italy beats and pulses ? 

Even the dialects in Italy repeat for us the secular law of the 
country : unity in essentials, at Rome ; profound variety of senti 
ment in every province. 



IX 

ITALIANS AND THEIR ROOTS IN 
THE SOIL 

IT has been maintained that one can modify the essential character 
of a people. It is possible ; the English rejoicing in " merry 
England " have disappeared in the complacent stiffness of the 
Victorian era. Even our bodies can be changed : a century of 
infatuation for Swedish exercises has transformed the small Scan 
dinavians aforetime into grenadiers. 

But it seems certain that the characteristics of the land, of a 
province, never change. They do not depend on a grand siecle, 
nor on a series of revolutions, nor on a genius like Bonaparte or 
Bismarck ; more, indeed, than on common glories and misfortunes, 
these characteristics depend on the thousand-year-old customs and 
secrets of life and of habits, which are almost physical memories. 

A King of Hungary asserted once upon a time that every nation 
that spoke a single tongue " imberillis est ". 

If this were true and within certain limits without doubt it is 
true the Italians are more fortunate than any other European 
people. An Italian, by the mere fact of being Italian and Pied- 
montese, Italian and Ligurian, Italian and Sicilian, etc., is even 
richer than an Englishman who is English and Scottish, English 
and Welsh. . . . Our country enriches an Italian with an intimate 
heredity at once more various and more ancient than that poetical 
Welsh sentiment or the mysticism of the realist Scotsman. 

Every Italian is profoundly Italian by the common heredity of 
thought and language ; but in his innermost self he is in even 
greater measure Venetian, Lombard, Apulian, without ceasing at 
the same time to belong to the common fatherland. There is pro 
found reason in the fact that we Italians experience an unpleasant 
embarrassment whenever we meet a fellow-countryman whose 
accent does not reveal his province ; he seems to us an actor or 
a voice on the radio ; we prefer even the accent of the Levantine 
by which at least we can tell that the speaker comes from Pera or 
Galata, from Alexandria or Cairo. 

The small attraction that the theatre exercises over Italians 

56 



THEIR ROOTS IN THE SOIL 57 

except the dialect theatre finds in this one of its principal 
explanations. 

It is the same with books. The books in which traces are 
preserved of the ties maintained by the author with his native 
province have a better chance of survival than those in which we 
find only a nationalized Rome or Milan. Manzoni would not be 
Manzoni if one did not feel the Milanese in him, and if Giusti 
is still so much alive it is because of his Tuscanism. Even a spirit 
so universal as Benedetto Croce reveals, and very happily, his 
Neapolitan character. 

And how much persistence there is in one's native blood, even 
if one has been absent from one's province for many years. I knew 
Verga very well as an old man ; he was my colleague in the Senate. 
He had lived then for thirty years in Milan ; he was cold, reserved, 
like so many Sicilians ; but what a youthful flame burned in the 
countenance of the magnificent old man so soon as he felt that his 
interlocutor was sincerely interested in Sicily. In the same way 
Borgese has passed his life in Milan, and after the rise of Fascism in 
the United States as Professor in the University of Chicago, and 
yet the best pages in his Rube are inspired by visions of his native 
Sicily. 

There is only one Italian poet who is not rooted in the soil 
of his own particular region : it is Leopardi, but he is the poet of 
Sorrow. 

D'Annunzio, too, escapes his native province ; the influence of 
certain great poets from Baudelaire to Claudel, from Whitman to 
Tolstoi, is more profound in him than that of his native Abruzzo ; 
and this was one of the reasons why, notwithstanding his gifts, 
he is neglected in Italy ; the same is true of Chiabrera, Achillini, 
Frugoni, famous poets while they lived, but now no one can any 
longer bear their artificiality and over-emphasis. 

True theorists of Fascism who wished, despising our Provincial 
traditions, to centralize, with the object, so they said, of strengthen 
ing and reinforcing, showed given that they were sincere very 
little faith in the profound unity of Italy. In reality, in every land, 
behind the formulas of unity are hidden almost always reasons of 
police. The words of Bonaparte are always repeating themselves : 
"France is one and indivisible." But what the Corsican meant 
was the creation of a police state and the destruction of the old 
French provinces, spies everywhere to control even sighs and 
groans ; and everywhere the bureaucratic machine with its centre 



58 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

ia Paris to facilitate the harvest of cannon-fodder necessary to the 

sterile wars of the Napoleonic period. 

But nevertheless France was the most perfect hexagonal crystal 
that existed; for centuries her marvellous Romanesque churches 
both in the north and at Moissac and at Carcassonne had united 
the whole country in an identical cult of beauty. In Italy, on the 
other hand, even the monuments bear witness to gradual modi 
fications of conception and taste ; in a century and a half, the 
pointed arch rose to heaven in all north and central Italy and yet 
the Cathedral of Milan is not identically repeated at Piacenza, where 
it becomes more squat and massive ; and from place to place the 
church constantly alters, from Genoa to Sarzana, from Lucca to 
Florence, from Florence to Siena. . . . At Orvieto a different idea 
is realized ; the shadow of neighbouring Rome has there killed the 
pointed arch, 

On the other side of the country along the Adriatic, Ravenna 
preserves the perfection of Byzantine art. At Ravenna every 
foreign writer never fails on his arrival to discover the aesthetic 
origin of Venice. 

The truth is that Venice, like all other Italian lands, expressed 
her art in her own way, from her own soil, if it is permissible to 
speak of soil in Venice. If the architecture of the Venetians is 
unique in the world, it is because they contrived an architecture 
of a city founded in the waters whence every element must rise 
light and fluid. 

Marco Polo, who visited all Europe and all Asia in his time, 
compared Venice alone to the only Chinese city, Fu-Kien, whose 
streets are canals ; nothing in Roman Europe recalled Venice to 
him. Barr&s wrote that the Orient began at the Riva degli Schia- 
voni ; but no, it is rather Trieste that reminds one of the East, 
as the streets of Marseilles about the Vieux Port evoke Galata and 
Pera. 

Every country has its own South. Liege, materially of the 
north, is really more southern than Lyon ; the Provencal Marseilles 
and Toulon are to be found on the same Riviera as Genoa and 
Savona : but they are cities of the south as much as is Athens, 
for the rest the atmosphere in Provence is more Hellenic than Latin. 
There is only one thing in common between Genoa and maritime 
Provence : the smell of their cooking. The Venetians are more 
southerners than the Genoese who, hard and silent, seem to belong 
to the north of Europe. The Genoese are in fact more obstinate 



THEIR ROOTS IN THE SOIL 59 

than the Scots, more able in making money than the Jews. There 
is. an Italian proverb which says that it takes "three Jews to make 
a Genoese ". Stout fellows on the sea, as in their little counting- 
houses in which they do their business for hundreds of millions 
they live in the meqgarnm l of their palaces which make one of the 
proudest streets in the world ; there are no evening receptions in 
the noble salons of these mansions with too many Van Dycks on 
the walls, but among the patricians and the lower orders alike 
a kind of " humour ", plebeian and acid, more vitriolic in fact, 
than in any other part of Italy. 

It is one of the Italian mysteries that it is precisely this people, 
so bitter of speech and so sombre, which has given us universal 
spirits like Mazzini and his mother, the most tender and heroic 
of Italian mothers ; and like the angelic Goffredo Mameli, whom 
a Bonapartist bullet killed under the walls of Rome in 1849, a f ter 
the young poet had written for the generations to come his prophetic 

Fratelli d'ltalia, 
1'Italk s'e desta . . . 2 

which still vibrates in the heart, an eternal trumpet-call to youth. 
Genoese too were the intimate friends of the young Mazzini, the 
brothers Ruffini, of whom one killed himself in prison in order 
not to reveal his accomplices in the struggle for liberty : Genoese 
finally was Christopher Columbus, whose whole existence was 
a romance of restless research. 

What the Channel is to the English, their dialect is to the 
Genoese ; everyone can quickly understand Piedmontese and Vene 
tian, Romagnuol and Sicilian, but what can we make of words like 
bandeta, macrami, mandlllo, mugugno^ 

As for the difference between Genoa and Tuscany, it is so deep 
that their immediate contiguity seems inconceivable, and so indeed 
it is. The official atlases pretend that it is so, but in reality between 
the Genoese territory and Tuscany there is wedged a small region 
with a very distinct physiognomy ; the Lunigiana. 

The people of the Lunigiana the province that touches the sea 
at Spezia and at the mouth of the Magra and whose precipitous 
mountains are starred with little towns are descended from the 

1 The m&txanino is a low floor between the ground floor and the first 
floor, the piano nobile. 

2 "Brothers of Italy, Italy is awakening"- Goffredo Mameli, 1828-49. 



60 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

Apuans whom the Romans after a long struggle reduced to servitude 
and carried off to Samnium. But some must have remained because 
my childhood is full of stories of rebellions against the Austrian 
Archdukes who ruled over the Duchy of Modena and the Lunigiana. 
The dialect of the Lunigiana is mixed Ligurian and Lombard. It 
is the speech of quarrymen who extract marble from the bowels of 
the Apuan Alps. 

When we leave Sarzana, Massa Lunense, Carrara the little cities 
of the Lunigiana we become aware of a sharp division before we 
come to th^ first Tuscan city, Pietrasanta, and after an hour, to 
Pisa. What force these mysterious Etruscans must have had : the 
Tuscans of today have no ties with other regions, the division 
between Lunigiana, Emilia and Latium on one side and Tuscany 
on the other, is sharper than that between the other regions of 
Italy. The Florentine, if he is stout, seems a reproduction of the 
obesus Etruscus whom we see on the ancient Etruscan vases. Just 
as the Parisian feels himself lost at Avignon or at Orleans, so the 
Tuscan feels a stranger at Milan, at Naples, even in Rome. Other 
Italians admire his exact argument, his subtle irony, his secure 
mastery of our language. Courteous, ready, ironical, rarely enthu 
siastic, refined by a long acquaintance with civilized habits, the 
Tuscan is sometimes overtaken by accesses of the cold cruelty that 
of old Titus Livy observed among the Etruscan and other ancient 
peoples, whose names ended in a. The friends of the " French " 
at the end of the eighteenth century were ferociously massacred only 
in Tuscany ; as it was in Tuscany occurred the few cases of bloody 
violence in 1919 and 1920. 

I have said that the Tuscan is rarely capable of enthusiasm. 
I know how dangerous such generalizations can be, perhaps it is 
a question with me of my memories as a child in the Lunigiana ; 
as when my grandfather told us how having enrolled himself as 
a volunteer, with other young men of the Duchies of Parma and 
Modena, in the army of Carlo Alberto, an adjutant of General 
Bava had employed him, seeing that he had a good horse, to find 
the Tuscans towards Curtatone ; after about an hour he found a 
patrol : " Excuse me, are you Tuscans ? " And they, pointing to 
the brass badge on their belts : " Don't you see ? Lire due (Two 
lire)." It was thus they translated the initial and the Grand-ducal 
number of their regiment Leopoldo II. 

In the past, Florence has been, after Athens, of all countries, 
the most happy in intelligence, and one still feels this today in 



THEIR ROOTS IN THE SOIL 6l 

her streets and piazzas., notwithstanding the lesser fruitfulness of the 
new generations. 

The eighteenth century was the most cosmopolitan of centuries : 
from Catherine of Russia to Tanucci at Naples, all cultivated minds 
thought in the same manner, as all " sensitive " natures wept the 
same tears ; never were the frontiers of Europe less visible. Never 
theless, we have only to let the two great adventurers of the time 
confront one another, Casanova and Cagliostro, to realize the 
enormous differences between them : Casanova, the Venetian, incar 
nates the ardent lover if a rather vulgar lover of life ; in the 
Sicilian Cagliostro one feels the turbulent, though silent violence of 
his Island, where men are at once nordic and oriental, more silent 
than the Scotch, prouder than the English ; while a little further 
north, in Naples, men are or seem to be happy and careless. 

The same Italian tongue would appear alone to be spoken in 
a uniform manner by all cultivated Italians everywhere. Without 
doubt, its essential characteristics are the same from the Alps to 
Sicily ; for example, the absence of certain words, such as the 
terms that correspond to the feudal and aristocratic chateau of the 
French, manor of the English, hof of the Germans, which can be 
explained by the fact that at the time when the language was develop 
ing, our Communes had already compelled the nobles to live within 
the walls of the city, with the other citizens. In another sphere 
one cannot but be fascinated by the delightful freshness that words 
]&& gentile have preserved ; they sound even today as in the immortal 
" latin sangtte gentile ", or the word vago which, contrary to what has 
happened in French, where the word now means little more than 
something that is indeterminable, with us still expresses some 
thing that is beautiful with a disturbing beauty ; or again there are 
the words leggiadro and leggiadria, words untranslatable into another 
tongue, but of which sixty million Italians still feel the same sig 
nificance as when Agnolo Firenzuola defined them in 1548 in his 
treatise Delia Bel/e^a delle donne. 

And what foreigner could understand even if he has lived long 
years in Italy the thousand sfumature that are given to the most 
learned and subtle discourse, as to the most current speech, by the 
monosyllabic exclamations such as "j&!" meaning a careless 
approval, the " ma " doubtful and sceptical, the " cbe vuoi ? " of the 
weary and resigned, and all with a diverse and particular savour 
in Milan, in Naples and in Florence, where, for example, that word 
" which one hears hundreds of times every day, is like the 



62 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

seal of the storied wisdom of a people that carries on its shoulders 
the far-off civilization of the Etruscans. . . . " Pa^en^a /" a little 
word tranquillizing and secret, that one hears repeated everywhere 
in the villages and in the cities, whenever some hope is disappointed, 
as when some contadino has seen his crops destroyed by hail or 
storm, or some fisherman has been prevented from casting his nets 
by the weather, or some workman loses a job. ... A Christian 
moralist might maintain that the constant use of this word, on all 
lips, at all times in ancient Tuscany, is a proof that the principles 
of Christianity have become the flesh and blood of this people. 
But then at the corner of a street the same individual who has just 
exclaimed " payen^a " gives tongue to a blasphemy against the 
Virgin and the saints only no doubt to make things hum which 
would make a German infantryman blush. 

The attachment of the Italian to the land of his birth, and its 
landscape, cannot be explained except as the result of a millennial 
heredity. The Virgilian Georgic, the country accents of the Latin 
poets are to be found with a new vitality in Petrarch, in the Ninfale 
Fiesolano of Boccaccio, in the verses of Poliziano, in the Epistole 
of Ariosto and even in the perhaps too sweet Pasior Fido of Guarini. 
Today too, this sentiment for nature has inspired Carducci with his 
finest verses and has made of Pascoli a poet ; and with Pascoli, 
others whom fate has not allowed to become famous, the Abruzzese 
Antonio Delia Porta and the Lunigianese, Ceccardo Roccatagliata. 

How is it that the German writers from Humboldt on, I think 
have with their accustomed solemnity affirmed that the Latins in 
general and the Italians in particular do not possess a feeling for 
nature ? In truth, this is not a typical case of German arrogance, 
reserving a love of nature to Germany alone ; rather these worthy 
Professors have committed an error, sincerely but ingenuously, by 
identifying the feeling for nature, variable according to diverse 
.cultures, with that particular form that it assumes with the Germans. 
They do not realize that in Italy an Italy from time everlasting 
divided into innumerable squared fields the poetry and the love of 
the country have necessarily developed in ways quite different from 
those that have moved a people accustomed to the infinity of the 
forest. 

The German is even today, in the face of nature, the direct 
heir of those Germans who felt the vertigo of solitude in the 
forests with their mysterious rumours and whisperings ; trees, rocks 
and streams awaken in them a nostalgia and ancestral instincts ; and 



THEIR ROOTS IN THE SOIL 63 

from these memories in the blood, the Sturm und Drang draws the 
most genuine of those elements contained in their romantic expres 
sions, so moving if not used as arguments for the invasion and 
oppression of other nations. 

The Italians, on the other hand, are descended from those 
" Italiae cultons primi aborigines " who had already transformed the 
shores of the lakes and the Po into fields at a time when the Greeks 
were still convinced that the amber which they came to buy at 
the mouth of the great river was an Italian product, so hidden in 
the mists and fog of the unknown remained the Germanic and Baltic 
world. 

The Italy of three thousand years ago venerated, in the cult 
of Saturn, a land already rich in grain, in pastures and the vines of 
its hillsides. 

If the marks and the confines of those far-off epochs have 
disappeared, how many farms and lands still keep the direct memory 
of that age in which great Roman families gave them their form 
and being: Isola-Balba, Balbiano, Corneliano, Villa Pompeiana . . . 

The nostalgic elements that are still alive today in the German 
heart can only appear much attenuated in the Italian spirit : in which 
the feeling for nature is one with rural and territorial existence 
now three millenniums old : but the grave regard, almost emotional, 
which a Piedmontese fixes on his hillsides clothed with those vines 
from which will come his Barolo, and the long look of a Tuscan 
under the shade of his olives are in part those of conquest and 
dominion, of a carnal love for the land whose face man has suc 
ceeded in changing. There is in us a profound feeling for nature, 
but idyllic, the opposite of the Wagnerian restless wandering that 
masters the German at the sight of a nature he has never succeeded 
in completely dominating. The contrast is eternal between the park 
of the Italian (that one came to call French after the gardens of 
Versailles) and the pathless forest marvellous but inhuman of 
Germany. 

But what can those foreigners know of the Italian soul in its 
relation to nature, who after documenting themselves in the 
libraries, dedicate to Lombardy or Tuscany a tour starred by 
Baedecker ? I must myself confess though I passed my whole 
childhood and adolescence in the country-side I did not altogether 
understand the significance of the long silences, the long gaze of 
the Italian contadini, until I compared them with the same silence, the 
same long regard I had seen in China, where the love of the culti- 



64 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

vated land assumes sometimes a tenderness almost religious. It is 
easy certainly to fall into an ecstasy in Japan, at the sight of the 
crowds who go in pilgrimage to the valleys where the cherries are 
in blossom, or when in summer they climb the stony hills of Fuji 
yama, Certainly even the least imaginative are capable of feeling for 
a moment the beauty of such spectacles ; and how easy it is to 
understand the exaltation of the German for all that something in 
nature which is still primitive something not subdued by man. 

But the Chinese finds in his fields a beauty of which he never 
wearies he who places before the ritual Confucian tablets of his 
ancestors bread made with grain ripened in furrows traced before 
him by his father; who prefers the rustic image of some god 
sheltered under a poor arch in ruin near his own fields, to the 
gold-painted statue in the temple of his city, when rarely he feels 
moved to make an earnest prayer to heaven. 

It is very much like what the Italian feels about the limpid oil 
of his olive garden, the wine, red or white, of his little vineyard : 
they are for him trophies of his profound union with an earth 
with which he has consummated a sort of secret marriage. It is 
a solemn and silent love that knows nothing of the romanticism 
of the German ; less individual, such a love is latent in all Italian 
hearts ; it can instil domestic and patriotic tenderness, not certainly 
the desires and agonies of unquiet spirits looking longingly for 
a return to a life merely instinctive. 

The immensity of their forests, the tumultuous course of their 
rivers inspire in the Nordic man a disgust of fixed bounds ; the 
Italian country-side has for thousands of years been wedded to the 
cycle of Italian agriculture, which changes with the moon. Of these 
sentiments, collective rather than individual and as profound then 
as today, Horace was perhaps thinking when he wrote his Invent 
portum. 

May not the reason of the restlessness of the German spirit 
consist in this, that it has not succeeded in finding that portum which 
the Italian has made the serene ideal of his life. 



X 
ITALIANS AND THE FAMILY 

THE only real discovery made by the Fascist and Nazi Dic 
tators, that which powerfully aided them to reach power and 
to maintain themselves there for so long, was the following : 
a lie is a lie if you tell it once or twice, but it becomes an indis 
putable truth if you repeat it a thousand times, in one thousand 
newspapers, for six months on end. 

It was thus that even people hostile to Fascism ended ingenu 
ously by believing in it ; so often was it repeated, that before 
the Fascist Dictatorship Italy was continually disturbed by social 
and political disorders of a most dangerous nature. 

As for Fascism, it was an affair of money. The more the 
regime humiliated and calumniated Italy, the more it justified the 
dictatorship and its violences. 

No one then remembered that a certain unrest and disorder 
were common to all Europe after the war of 1914-18 ; that at the 
same time that the occupation of the factories occurred in Italy, 
there were veritable revolts and strikes in various parts of France 
where those in control succeeded in hushing them up ; and that 
in England in the same period there were more strikes than in 
Italy. 

At the most critical moment of the Italian strikes, the British 
Ambassador, Sir George Buchanan, called on me one day to ask 
what he was to think of our affairs. Buchanan had come to Rome 
from Petersburg ; he had seen the Soviet Revolution and his mind 
constantly returned to it : his colleagues called him " the scalded 
cat ". Personally I liked the old man, who talked to me freely 
of the intolerable life Lloyd George led English Ambassadors, with 
his habit of sending them instructions, in contrast with the practice 
of Lord Curzon. I replied to Buchanan casually and without 
formality : 

" By definition, dear Sir George, foreign Ministers are optimists. 
Therefore I will say nothing. Only let us go out together without 
our automobiles and without our chauffeurs. You will make up 
your own mind. 3 ' 



66 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

It was a Saturday evening. We got into a taxi and went down 
to Via Giulia, the old and long street between Piazza Farnese and 
the Tiber, that was the centre of Rome in the sixteenth century ; 
its palaces have today been turned into working-class dwellings 
and the ground floors have become osterie where a green branch 
over the portal often hides the coat-of-arms of some forgotten 
Cardinal. We went on, free from the annoying guardianship of 
a detective ten paces behind. I explained nothing to Buchanan, but 
the atmosphere of the Saturday evening itself spoke to him. On 
the threshold of every osteria were tables loaded with litres of golden 
and dry Frascati ; but instead of a company shouting over their 
glasses there was almost always a man of proud aspect with an 
urchin on his knee and beside him his wife with two or three 
babies that she kept happy with bianco asciutto. 

" You are right ", said Buchanan, " a nation with the sentiment 
of the family so profoundly established in their blood, is held 
together by bonds much stronger than by any doctrinal political 
rubbish." 

A few months later, at an International Conference, Lloyd 
George, who was by no means hostile to us, told the story of 
Buchanan's little walk, and added that Latin diplomatists with their 
general ideas, would not be capable of such observations, so simple 
and so " illuminating ", as those of the British Ambassador, all 
which I at once admitted. 

To understand the place that the home and the family occupy 
in the hearts of Italians it would be enough to read the long series 
of letters from soldiers who fell in the war, published between 
1930 and 1933 in the " Critica" of Croce, with a sober comment 
by Adolfo Omedeo ; it is a collection admirable for the simplicity 
of its family feeling, for its appeals, the same in thousands of letters, 
to mothers for the sacrifice which duty to the country demanded, 
but also full of hopes that the world might find, after the horrors 
of the years of bloodshed, a true peace ; a sentiment at once digni 
fied and religious, the only one which these sons felt to be worthy 
of their mothers. 

The sentiment of the family, the burning desire that their old 
parents, their wives, their children, should be saved from the 
sufferings of hunger this is another thought common to the 
millions of contadini soldiers that faced the Austro-German armies 
on the Alps from 1915 to 1918. When in 1917 that resistance 
bent, as it bent elsewhere among the French and English who were 



ITALIANS AND THE FAMILY 6j 

wise enough to talk less about their reverses it was the assist 
ance organized for the families of the combatants by the new 
Commander-in-Chief Diaz, that encouraged the rise of a new spirit 
among the troops. Diaz's predecessor Cadorna was a soldier of 
the ancien regime who had worked miracles at the time when soldiers 
were driven to fight with whips ; Cadorna never seemed to under 
stand that the four million Italians in arms were citizens and often 
fathers of families. Diaz on the contrary won their confidence by 
establishing that in case a man fell a sum of money should at once, 
without delay, be sent for the relief of his family ; the Government 
too decreed other measures of assistance, and the combatants who 
knew how much their wives and children were suffering, above all 
in the South, were satisfied. 

In the Italian family the most pathetic figure is the mother. 
In France she is a strong figure, the real administrator of the house, 
of her husband and of her children. In Italy she has no other 
authority but that which is accorded to her by the sentiment and 
love of her children. Her influence is due to her own tenderness 
and sweetness ; she only possesses what she gives, she who is 
always ready to give. 

Love of the home, the birthplace, is mixed up with that of 
the mother. If one loves one's home in Italy it is not for itself, 
but as a symbol of the continuity of the family. Even the cottage 
of the most humble contadino is a little island among hundreds of 
other little islands and only on the occasion of a family festival 
a birth, a marriage are bridges thrown from house to house, to 
be broken down immediately afterwards. This however does not 
imply at all a seclusion of the oriental sort. The Italians, like 
the ancient Greeks, feel themselves children of the market-place. 
They are never bound by that desire for solitude that often awakes 
in the hearts of the English and the Scotch. Thousands of years 
of life in common in the city have taught every Italian the art of 
remaining alone in the midst of the noisy crowd ; alone, naturally, 
in the Italian fashion, with his wife and children. Hence, ia 
parenthesis, that particular Italian art in which the families of three 
or four brothers succeed in living together without quarrelling 
tinder the roof of the same palace or the same farm. 

Among Italians of ancient stock, the affection for the " villa " 
whether it be a half-ruined farm or a marvellous piece of Pal- 
ladian architecture is far greater than for the palace in the city. 
The " villa " has nothing in common with the French chateau^ nor 



68 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

with the English cottage ; less still with the French villa. Even 
when it has the appearance of a towering castle, one only calls it 
a villa. In Italy the castello of Versailles would be the Villa of 
Versailles. The Italian of ancient family does not feel that he is 
lowered if he sells to some bank his palace in Milan, in Piacenza or 
Genoa ; but he thinks he has committed the crime of treason to his 
name if he sells, unless in extreme necessity, his most ancient villa, 
where in the old chests are preserved the costumes of the eighteenth 
century, where the library still possesses the Encyclopedic that an 
ancestor foJairt got from Paris, and the marvellous editions of 
Italian classics printed by Bodoni just a generation later ; the villa 
that an ordinary tourist might mistake for an ancient building 
without grace or merit, though the hidden gardens possess foun 
tains not too unworthy of Bernini, and the saloni are hung with 
Flemish and Italian tapestries of the seventeenth century ; where 
for some ten miles around, the proprietors are not addressed by 
the empty titles of Marchese or Conte, but simply with an affec 
tionate respect that excludes servility Signor Cesare, Signer Carlo, 
Signor Ascanio. . . . 

And then and it is a thing unknown to foreigners who come 
to the luxury hotels there are in Italy entire regions where a title 
is used on an envelope but never in conversation, even by an in 
ferior to a superior. Such is Italian life as history has formed 
it, a true democracy, or at least something that can easily become 
a true democracy. 



XI 
ITALIANS AND RELIGION 

AN opinion widespread outside Italy will have it that OUT 
people have no religious feeling, or at least no mystical 
sense. 

\The truth is that few European peoples have passed through 
such profound religious enthusiasm as we. 

A generation before St. Francis of Assisi, Joachim da Flora 
influenced the mind of half Italy. Dante places him in Paradise : 

II calavrese abate Gioachino 
Di spirito profetico dotato. 

Even today his cult endures in the churches of Calabria, where on 
his feast day they sing an ancient text of which it is impossible to 
say whether it inspired Dante or whether it is an echo of Dante : 
" Beafas Joachim spiritu dotatus prophetico^ decoratus intelligently dixit 
futura et praesentia" 

Like Francis of Assisi later, Joachim was born of rich parents : 
like the "Poverello, he abandoned everything. Joachim went on 
foot to Jerusalem and on his return took refuge as a lay brother 
with the Cistercian monks of Sambucina ; there, unlike Francis, he 
devoted himself for many years to the study of the Bible, composed 
works in which we already feel the spirit of Savonarola ; in his 
writings the condemnation of the temporal power of the Church 
seems implicit ; but Joachim was not puffed up with pride and 
he bowed before the verdict of the Bishops and the Pope : the 
Church first tolerated and then adopted the pure ascetic whose 
doctrines had been condemned by the Lateran Council of 12.12. 

Europe was now torn by heretic sects and their violent hatreds ; 
but Italy was not a propitious country for them ; the message of 
Joachim satisfied us, with its teaching of a Christianity aspiring 
again to the purity of the evangelic era, and all this to be brought 
about without revolts and without heresy. 

If certain heretical movements seemed at times to establish 
themselves among us in the thirteenth century, it was only politics : 



7 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

an affair organized by the Emperor Frederick II in his struggle 
with the Popes. 

Joachim da Flora was scarcely dead when what he had begun 
was taken up in Umbria by Francis of Assisi ; but lightened of its 
Apocalyptic vision. The message of the Poverello was the first 
message of a human being of which one would dare to say that on 
some sides it approached that of Jesus. 

Francis of Assisi may be found in his completeness in his Cantico 
di Frafe Sole whose true title was in the thirteenth century ILaudes 
cnaturarum}- 

Since things which everyone thinks they know are often only 
known vaguely, here is the text of that poem which throbs with the 
sublime inspiration of the Te Deum> but it is softer, sweeter, less 
superhuman : 

Altissimu, onnipotente, bon Signore, 
tue so' le laude, la gloria e 1'onore et onne benediczione. 

Ad te solo, Altissimo, se confano 
et nullu omu &ne dignu te mentovare. 
Laudato sie, mi Signore, cum tucte le tue creature, 
spezialmente messer lo frate sole, 

lo quale jorna, et allumini per lui ; 
et ellu e bellu e radiante cum grande splendore ; 

de te, Altissimo, porta significazione. 
Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora luna e le stelle ; 

in celu i'hai formate clarite et preziose et belle. 
Laudato si, mi Signore, per frate vento 

et per aere et nubilo et sereno et onne tempo, 
per le quale a le tue creature dai sustentamento. 
Laudato si, mi Signore, per sor' acqua, 

la quale & molto utile et omele et preziosa et casta. 
Laudato si, mi Signore, per frate focu, 

per lo quale ennallumini la nocte, 

et ello e bellu, et jucundo, et robustoso et forte. 
Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora nostra matre terra, 

la quale ne sustenta et governa 

et produce diversi fructi, con coloriti flori et erba. 
Laudato si, mi Signore, per quilli che perdonano per lo tuo amore 

et sostengo infirmitate et tribulazione. 

^For Matthew Arnold's translation of this Cantica, see Essays in 
Criticism (Macmillan), pp. 212-13. Arnold contrasts it with an idyll of 
Theocritus and Renan considered it " le plus beau morceau de poesie 
religieuse depuis les fivangiles ". It has been translated many times. 



ITALIANS AND RELIGION Jl 

Beati quilli che sosterrano in pace, 

ca de te, Altissimo, skano incoronati, 
Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora nostra morte corporate, 

da la quale nullu omo vivente po scappare. 
Guai a quilli, che morrano ne le peccata mortali. 
Beati quilli che se trovara ne le tue sanctissime voluntati, 

ca la morte secunda no'l farra male. 
Laudate et benedicete, mi Signore, et rengraziate, 

et serviteli cum grande umiltate. 

For those who remember Dante it is useless to comment on the 
third line from the end : " /a morte secunda " is damnation. 1 

Francesco always worshipped a God of love and mercy. And 
all his disciples continued to think that this world was not merely 
a lacrimamm vallis. They obeyed the Rule that he had written 
for them: "Estote gaudentes in Domino., hilares" But when the 
moment came, in generations that immediately followed him, these 
simple ones, these Mlares, often revealed the heroic souls of martyrs. 

If the heresies of the Middle Age made little impression on the 
Italians it was chiefly because of the atmosphere of moral liberty 
that one breathed more largely in Italy than in any other country 
of Europe. The pataria of the Lombards and the catari, come 
from the Orient, only established themselves among us as tentative 
social revolutionaries ; they were to us what the jacqueries were to 
the French. 

After the Council of Trent new forms of individual religious 
fervour appeared in Italy ; with St. Luigi Gonzaga we have again 
the Ascetics ; and we have the last Saint in whom was to be seen 
again the joyous serenity of Francis in St. Philip Neri ; the last at 
least unless we wish to count the late nineteenth century and 
remember Don Bosco, whose smile the writer will never forget, 
when, as a child, he was presented to him by a mad nurse who 
begged the Saint to exorcise " this little boy who is always running 
off into the woods ". Don Bosco asked the woman nothing ; he 
looked fixedly at the boy, put his hand on his head and whispered 
in his ear : " Do you love your mother ? " " Oh, yes." " Do 
you obey God ? " " Oh, yes;" Then he kissed the child and 
said to the woman : " All is done. Be tranquil." 

From the political point of view, one of the constant traits in 
the Italian spirit has been all along the centuries the search for an 

1 The famous verse " Che la seconda morte ciascun grida " is in the first 
canto of the Inferno ', 115. 



72 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

equilibrium between the two powers : the State, that in the time 
of the Guelphs and GMbellines was the Emperor, and the Church. 
We have there the first and most refined exercise of that most 
Italian thing, the " combine^ om " of which we will talk later on. 

Even the most fanatical Ghibellines never got rid, not only of 
respect for the Church, but even of a kind of secret attachment for 
an organism that they felt to be so Italian, yes, in its universality. 
The Commune of Rome seldom lost the opportunity of threatening 
the temporal lordship of the Popes at least till the fourteenth 
century ; the writers of novelle and the chroniclers of the fourteenth 
century described with pleasure the injuries inflicted on the Popes 
in their political undertakings, but not once do the Italians take the 
side of the anti-Popes ; for the Italians the anti-Popes were only 
marionettes in the hands of the German Emperors ; not only was 
their creation foreign, but even for those who were without the 
Catholic faith, they represented the fracture of the equilibrium 
and the danger that Italy might become German. 

On her side the Church rarely in Italy perhaps never opposed 
sentiments or expressions that possibly would have been forbidden 
by the clergy in Spain. Thus it happened that the Church never 
opposed the circulation of Italian masterpieces in which she was 
sometimes maltreated, as in the Divine Comedy,, for example, or the 
Can^pniere of Petrarch. When she did prohibit a book of Dante's, 
the De Monarchia y it was one that was written in Latin and no one 
read. 

The same tolerance showed itself two centuries later towards 
Ariosto, whose satires and comedies often attacked the clergy and 
the traffic in indulgences, the open sore of the time. 

Nor did this tradition of tolerance cease with the Counter- 
Reformation. In 1617, and again in 1667, the Spanish Inquisition 
included Dante and Petrarch in its index of prohibited books. At 
Madrid they wished Rome to take action, but the Popes did nothing ; 
indeed it is certain they even smiled at those fanatical Spaniards. 
For the Popes were Italian ; they knew these poets by heart ; how 
could they proscribe Dante and Petrarch who were part of their 
spiritual experience? 

Foreigners especially those of Catholic countries have under 
stood with difficulty in the past, how complex and subtle were the 
political relations between the Italian people and the Church. In 
order to understand it one must never forget that Dante, the greatest 
Catholic poet of the world, did not hesitate to fling Popes into the 



ITALIANS AND RELIGION 73 

third bolga of his Inferno that of the Simoniacs. It is there that 
the poet, meeting Pope Nicholas III, turned upon the evil Popes 
in an apostrophe that every Italian has known by heart for five 
hundred years ; in spite of his reverence for " le somme chiavi ", he 
cries : 

Fatto v'avete Dio d'oro e d'argento : 

e che altro e da voi all'idolatre, 

se non ch'elli uno, e voi n' orate cento ? 

Ahi, Costantin, di quanto mal fu matre, 
non la tua conversion, ma quella dote 
che da te prese il primo ricco patre I * 

What appeared at the time of the Risorgimento too often to 
French and Belgian Catholics like Italian anti-clericalism was in 
reality only anti-temporalism, a tradition that went back to the 
most loyal of Catholic poets to Dante himself. As for the scanda 
lous and pretended religiosity of the Fascists, as most acute Catholic 
writers and first perhaps among them the Irishman Binchy 
have explained and confirmed, it was not the Fascists but almost all 
the statesmen of the Risorgimento and of Liberal Italy who were 
practising Catholics, living with their families who were also 
practising. 2 Many old " golittiani " * if any remain among us 
will learn with stupefaction (so secret and private was Giolitti) 
that almost every evening in his bed, he used to read, before sleep 
ing, some pages of the Gospel or the Acts of the Apostles. They 
used to call him the cynical Piedmontese, did certain scribes, who 
thought they were critics. It was thus his custom to cleanse his 
spirit, so his best-loved daughter and confidante, Enrichetta Chiara- 
viglio whom the violences of Fascism forced to take asylum in 

1 " Of gold and silver ye have made your God 
Differing wherein from the idolater, 
But that he worships one, and hundred ye ? 
Ah, Constantine ! To how much ill gave birth 
Not thy conversion, but that plenteous dower 
Which the first wealthy Father gained from thee." 

(Trs. Gary) 

2 Cf. D. A. Binchy, Church and State in Fascist Italy (Oxford University 
Press, 1941). Consult also Carlo Sforza : Ultalia dal 1914 al 1944 quah 
io la vidi, Chap. XIX. 

3 Followers and colleagues of Giolitti, Prime Minister of Italy from 
1892 onwards. 



74 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

the Argentine confided to me as though violating a secret, at 
Buenos Aires in 1942. 

Manzoni himself voted for the suppression of the Temporal 
Power, for that is what the decision taken to transfer the Capital 
from Turin to Florence as a step on the road to Rome meant in 
his time to all Italians. 

To some of his friends who urged the old veteran of eighty not 
to risk his health by a journey to Turin in mid-winter to vote that 
law " which would much displease the Pope ", the poet who 
under a modest courtesy hid, in things essential, a will of iron, 
replied : " But close as I am to death, how should I dare to present 
myself to God if I hesitated to render this service to the Church ? " 

At the moment of Manzonfs departure for Turin to give his 
vote in the Senate, his son-in-law Giambattista Giorgini thus 
described to his wife Vittoria, the state of mind of the poet : 

" They ought to know (those who wanted to induce Manzoni 
not to go to Turin) that he is very clear and very firm in his ideas 
and in his proposals, and that he has few ideas clearer and more 
firm than that he wishes the Government to go to Rome. To him 
it is evident that going now to Florence means an advance on the 
path to Rome, and we shall certainly not be able, neither I nor 
Massimo * nor Donna Costanza 2 nor others, to make him change 
his mind ; he is full of faith that to Rome we shall go with full 
consent of the Catholic conscience. He expects nothing fiom 
Pius IX, but hopes for much from the Papacy, and dreams still 
what he dreamt when he wrote the ( AdelM ', 8 to see on the Chair 
of St. Peter a Pope re delk pred a King of Prayer/' 

In the problem of the rektions between Italy and the Papacy, 
Manzoni never followed any of the currents that agitated Italy 
in the first half of the nineteenth century, neither the Ghibelline 
current nor the Guelph, nor even the neo-Guelph that might seem 
for a moment nearer his ideas. Manzoni ignored all these divisions ; 
his policy was simple ; he wanted the independence and the unity 
of Italy ; he believed profoundly in the necessity of a moral law 
even in politics ; but, ardent Catholic as he was, one cannot quote 
a single word of his in which he is sympathetic to a thesis like that 
of Gioberti, wherein that versatile abbe thought to have found the 
solution of the Italian problem in a federation under the Presidency 
of the Pope. 

1 Massimo d'Azeglio. 2 Costanza Arconati. 

8 A tragedy published in Milan in 1822. 



ITALIANS AND RELIGION 75 

Not a few of the neo-Guelphs, intimate friends of Manzoni, 
hesitated when faced with Giobertf s ideas, almost foreseeing that he 
himself would repudiate them, as in fact he did. The neo-Guelphs 
were noble spirits ; they wished above all to demonstrate that 
fidelity to the Church could and must be reconciled with love for 
the independence of Italy. In books that had a moment of celebrity 
they showed that Dante had been wrong, that the poet's Ghibelline 
ideas were contrary to the reality of Italian history as it developed 
in the Communes, and that they were contrary to die profound and 
internal destiny of the people and of Italian civilization. How can 
one believe them wrong? The Holy Roman Empire, dear to 
Dante, would probably have made of Florence a sterile city, without 
commerce and perhaps without beauty. Who knows if Dante 
himself might not have been nothing more than a rancorous nobil- 
astro ? Carducci even, anti-clerical though he was, divined this when 
two generations after Gioberti he wrote in a sonnet on Dante : 

Odio il tuo santo Impero e la corona 
divelta con la spada avrei di testa 
al tuo buon Federico in val d'Olona. 

The neo-Guelphs of Manzoni's time were in fact only Catholic 
Liberals ; they were of a character essentially different from that 
of analogous groups in France, in Belgium and elsewhere. It is 
enough to cite the names of their leaders : outside Italy there was 
de Maistre though he was half Italian de Bonald, Giinther, 
Gorres, all of them reactionaries who had not an atom of the love 
for liberty, which, though with some timidity, a Balbo, a Gioberti 
and even a Rosmini l felt ; I say " even " because Rosmini's writings 
show him as extremely suspicious of the idea of the progress of the 
humbler classes, a thing one does not find in the others. Not a 
few Italian Catholics had, like Manzoni, felt the influence of Jan 
senism, sometimes without knowing it ; some of them indeed did 
not hesitate to say openly that the Temporal Power was injuring 
the spiritual prestige of the Pope ; even Rosmini came near this in 
his work : Of the Five Wounds of the Holy Church* which cost him 
many an annoyance. 

1 Cesare Balbo (Piedmontese, 1789-1853), Vincenzo Gioberti (Pied- 
montese, 1801-52), Antonio Rosmini (born in Trentino 1797, died 
1855). 

2 Of the Five Wounds of the Holy Church was translated into English 
in 1883, 



j6 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

The group of neo-Guelphs that very nearly became powerful 
on the elevation of Pius IX rendered a great service to the moral 
unity of Italy by being a group of thinkers and moralists rather than 
politicians. To understand their value and their faith it is enough 
to recall the reactionary violence which beat upon Europe after 
1815, and with what imprudence certain bishops and preachers 
identified themselves with it. 

In France the reaction was violent ; it was almost natural ; the 
Revolution had begun there, in 1 789. But the French reaction went 
far beyond Louis XVIII, who, as a man of the eighteenth century, 
prided himself on being a bel esprit^ and one day bored by his 
partisans, called them " Jacobins blancs ". In a country like France, 
which in spite of its revolutions, is essentially well balanced, the 
consequences were inevitable : nothing was more detested than 
what was called " k parti pritre " 9 and even the Catholics who were 
not of the legitimist party, suffered from it. 

In Italy the reaction was in a certain sense even more bitter, 
because inspired by the blind pride of the Austrian Empire and 
the bestial vulgarity of the Neapolitan Bourbons ; but while in 
France the Revolution of 1830 and the fall of Charles X were 
certainly anti-clerical movements, in Italy the battle did not develop 
on that line ; within the Catholic citadels themselves there were 
always forces that supported the struggle for liberty. These forces 
glorified like titles of nobility the memory of the Popes that in the 
far-off Middle Age protected Italy and the Latin world against 
the Longobard invaders, and later protected and blessed the League 
of the Italian cities against the German Emperors. 

These forces and these movements of ideas were of an import 
ance much greater than perhaps appeared in the nineteenth century, 
because it was thanks to them that many millions of Christian 
minds accepted the fact of the liberty and independence of Italy ; 
natural aspirations certainly for every Italian heart, but it must be 
admitted that after more than two centuries while Italy slept, they 
had been brought into the light again by the armies of the sansculottes 
whom pious souls had considered misbelievers and devils. It is 
therefore, let us say again, to the meteor of neo-Guelph literature 
and thought that we owe the miracle that multitudes, sincerely 
Catholic, were able to accept the struggle for the liberty and unity 
of Italy which otherwise would have risked misunderstanding, if for 
no other reason because among its champions there appeared anti- 
Catholic Deists like Hazzini and frenzied anti-clericals like Garibaldi. 



ITALIANS AND RELIGION JJ 

When in 1929 came the Conciliation, even according to law, 1 
between the State and the Church, the enormous majority of Italians 
were satisfied with it ; in such a way the historical tradition of our 
people was carried out. I have explained elsewhere 2 that the Con 
ciliation was ripe among us all, long before Fascism saw in it 
a means of acquiring a little moral prestige. It is important that 
Italians should know in outline the description that Binchy gives 
us in the excellent book which I have akeady quoted, the description 
of the real position of the Church in Italy before Fascism appeared : 

" The relations between Church and State were always improv 
ing ; the old anti-clerical hostility had in great part disappeared ; 
even the Socialists would no longer hear it mentioned ; only the 
Fascists continued to raise the old standard. . . . And what 
counted even more, was that a powerful and increasing group of 
Catholics had risen to overlook the interests of religion both in 
Parliament and out of it. The war had .brought about an awaken 
ing of spiritual values among the masses which was expressed in 
imposing public religious ceremonies ; only the Fascists showed 
themselves hostile to them. A grand procession through the 
streets of Rome, lined by ten thousand Italian soldiers in token of 
respect, marked the close of the sixteenth National Eucharistic 
Congress ; it is strange to hear Catholic writers asserting today 
that all such demonstrations were forbidden until Mussolini arrived 
to f protect * religion. . . ." 

Never were the relations between State and Church so humili 
ating and dangerous for the religious life of Italians as under 
Fascism ; Fascism pretended to give the Church an appearance of 
lustre, while in reality it wished to enslave and compromise her. 
Pius XI, though he had desired the Lateran Treaties, well under 
stood this and in the last months of his life declared it to be so. 
In one of his last audiences, in receiving a group of the faithful, 
he told them : " Late, too late in my life, I have discovered that the 
dangers that threaten religion do not come only from one side ; 
they come from the other side as well ; from now on I consecrate 
what remains to me of life to aid my children to share with me my 
discovery." 

Coming from a Pope, such an act of contrition was a moving 
and noble gesture of Christian humility. The Osservatore Romano 
faithfully printed the words of the Pope, but no foreign Catholic 

1 The Treaty between Church and State in Italy was signed In 1929. 

2 "Ultalia dal 1914 a/ 1944 qwk to la vidi^ Chap. XIX. 



78 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

journal reproduced them. In too many Catholic circles through 
baseness or indolence Fascism was applauded as an instrument of 
social reaction ; and they have not cared to admit the error they 
committed. 

j History will tell one day that the Holy See spoke openly and 
decisively when it was necessary, even against triumphant Fascism ; 
but too many devoted Catholics believing they were serving the 
Church, pretended not to understand certain severe warnings which 
came from the Vatican. It was they who gave arms to many who 
from partisan passion wished to represent the Church as the pro 
tector of Fascism. 



XII 

ITALIANS AND POLITICS 

UNTIL the formation of a Socialist Party in Italy, and much 
later, in 1919, of a Democratic Christian Party, our Parlia 
ment was unique in the world in this respect that it was 
composed -of men of the same intellectual and moral formation 
the Liberal. The old word had preserved at Turin, at Florence and 
then at Rome, the old sense given it by the Spaniards who invented 
it : liberal in contrast to servile ; and the two parties into which the 
Italian deputies were divided, were divided rather by passions and 
temperaments than by doctrines. 

Italian liberalism was not exactly the same thing as in England, 
France and Belgium. It was, of course, something like it, but in 
reality was above all this : a watchword obeyed by all the governing 
classes from Piedmont to Sicily in order to make the cause of the 
liberty and independence of Italy triumphant. 

When the first Italian Parliament met in Turin in 1 86 1 all Europe 
recognized how false it was to say that our unity was the fruit of a 
happy concourse of circumstances, as certain writers had maintained 
through that mania for blackening one's own country, which I have 
already said is the most typical trait of our genus literatomm. 
The deputies, whether Left or Right, showed a profound unity 
of essential ideas, such as certainly had not existed in the old sub- 
alpine Parliament where a Solaro della Marguerita a & good 
Piedmontese and a good administrator had maintained that it 
was folly to compromise the prudent old Sardinian Kingdom in an 
uncertain Italian adventure. 

Why had liberalism rather one should say democracy more 
solid bases in France than in Italy ? Because it had the silent but 
entire support of the French peasant, who saw in it a sure defence 
against the nostalgia of the chateau for domination ; where Monsieur 
le Comte and Monsieur le Marquis cast longing glances at the past, 
and still had means of securing to themselves a certain influence. 

1 Clemente Count Solaro della Marguerita, born at Cuneo 1792, 
died at Turin 1869. 

79 



80 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

Also the vague suspicion that in many regions of France (especi 
ally Provence, Dauphine, Languedoc and Bourgogne) the peasants 
felt for the cure a suspicion deriving from the old habit of the parish 
priests of maintaining relations of too respectful deference for the 
" chdtelaim " of the parish. Behind all this was an instinctive 
memory that had only recently begun to fade, that the fields and 
farms of the peasants had been, generations before, bought at auction 
as " biens du ckrge " when the Revolution was in its vigour. The 
French peasant had his children baptized certainly, and their first 
Communion was a tremendous family feast and festival, but he 
frequented the church very little ; he left that to the women, seeing 
in thek going to Mass a guarantee of their modesty. 

Nothing like this happened among us. The Gospel of the 
Risorgimento was Mazzini's " I Doveri degli Uomini " the Duties 
of Man ; Berchet gave it its poetry ; Silvio Pellico its Christian 
emphasis ; it found the highest dignity of national thought in 
Manzoni's " Adelchi " ; generous good sense and honesty in the 
writings and discourses of D'Azeglio ; the boldest international 
views in the speeches of Cavour ; but all this, noble though it was, 
did not reach beyond the cultivated middle class in whose heart for 
centuries love of country and love of good literature were one. 
The anonymous masses who laboured and suffered in silence in 
fields not their own, were not moved, save rare exceptional tem 
peraments, by appeals which were above their heads and left them 
bending over the soil If they did hear anything they said it was 
not their affair; that they would remain 

" Un volgo disperse, che nome non ha," 

as when the Franks succeeded the Lombards in the valley of the Po. 

Even Pisacane's 1 appeal at Sapri in 1857 remained without 
response though it was addressed both to Italians and to contadini^ 
and Pisacane consecrated it in vain with his own death. 

I have akeady said that the supreme error of Mazzini was, in 
my opinion, to have ignored the contadini. 

In the Italy of the Risorgimento there was too much good 
sense, or what wrongly passes for it : a voice to repeat the message 
of Saint- Just to the French was lacking : -" The era of happiness is 

1 Carlo Pisacane, Duke of S. Giovanni (1818-57), born at Naples. 
It was Pisacane who sailed from Genoa with a few followers in June 1857, 
but after landing in Ponja and at Sapri they found little support from the 
inhabitants and Pisacane was killed. 



ITALIANS AND POLITICS 8l 

come ; it is a new thing in the history of the world." Unfortunately 
the youthful friend of Robespierre made his announcement at the 
height of the Terror, while he was sending thousands of Frenchmen 
to the guillotine, a fact which might seem to have given his good 
news a savour of mad sarcasm. 

But at times I ask myself if the leaders of Italian liberalism were 
any more Christianly human. One might doubt it, when one 
remembers that the French Revolution with all its bloody but 
episodic horrors ended by transforming the peasants of France into 
one of the most healthy social groups in Europe, while under 
Louis XIV La Bruyere had described them as " certains animaux 
far ouches., repandus par la cawpagne, livides et tout brules du soleil, attaches 
a la terre quails fouilkntet quails remuentavec une opiniatrete invincible. . . . 
Us se retirent la nuit dans des tanieres ou Us vivent de pain noir, d*eau etde 
racines. . . ." 

The one moving idea of the Italian political class from 1848 
to 1922 was albeit of divers shades Liberalism. In the first 
decades independence and unity were not to be hoped for except by 
way of Liberalism, and so all became Liberals, even those who were 
philosophically least Liberal, as for example the friends of Rosmini. 
But not one of them ever thought of the necessity of social reforms 
as happened in England. 

In Italy that was presently united in Rome, the division between 
Right and Left owed its origin much more I have already pointed 
it out to traditions and to memories of the heroic epoch than to 
doctrines. On the Right sat those who as young men had believed 
that timid reforms were enough, just as their fathers had trusted 
in understandings with sovereigns ; on the left were all those who, 
having struggled with Mazzini and Garibaldi in secret societies, in 
popular revolts and among the Red Shirts, trusted rather in the 
action of the masses or, at least, were not afraid of such action. 

How did they work, what did they do, those Parliaments of 
people honest enough but not too generous on one side, and more 
generous but without political experience on the other? 

In order to judge the work of our Parliamentary Governments, 
it must not be forgotten what sort of Italy they had inherited in 
1860 : not a single railway connected the peninsula as a whole, 
there was not a single elementary school in the South, no great 
industry was established either in the North or in the South, and 
three-quarters of the population could neither read nor write. . . . 
And yet what progress was made even from the first 1 In 1849 



82 ITALY AND" ITALIANS 

Turin spent 50,000 lire on her schools ; this rose to 700,000 lire 
in 1869 and that was a mere cipher in comparison with what Italy 
was spending on schools after the first world war. Naples, which 
in 1861 spent 50,000 lire on her schools, was spending more than 
one million lire in 1871. After fifteen years of unity all our most 
modest rural Communes possessed their schools. 

What remains a mystery for many, what I will try to explain in 
the chapter that follows, is how it ever came about that Italian 
thought which had expressed itself so powerfully under the Austrian 
and Bourbon despotisms, seemed to be struck with inertia for thirty 
years or more after the Unity. Certainly there were even then 
notable men in science and letters, but it would have been difficult 
to name men of European fame except Secchi in astronomy, De 
Rossi in archaeology, the acid and unequal Cantu in history, the 
young Lombroso for certain of his genial intuitions, and more than 
any other, Francesco De Sanctis who even men as valid as Spaventa 
treated as a dangerous madman solely because as deputy he sat with 
the Left. Such is the power of political prejudice ! 

The successive Chambers reflected the general mediocrity ; few 
deputies seemed to be able to take the place of Sella, Lanza, 
Minghetti or Ricasoli. But on the other hand, the anonymous 
work of unification was always in progress : there was only one 
example of an egoistic group, the ~Permanente, which for a moment 
represented the nostalgic desire for hegemony of some dozen 
Piedmontese deputies. 

But even if mediocrities, all these Italian deputies. were com 
pletely honest, in contrast with the French, among whom finance 
has been as powerful a corrupter under the Third Republic as under 
the Second Empire. Italian political honesty was perhaps en 
couraged by the simplicity of customs and the modesty of life in 
Rome where almost all the deputies had been accustomed for forty 
years to take their meals for two lire from Valiani at the Termini 
station, and only when they wanted to commit a folly entered the 
Fagiano, in Piazza Colonna, or Ranieri's in Via Mario de'Fiori. 
" Power has not yet enriched anyone in Italy," a Minister declared 
one day ; and nothing more true was ever said, until Fascism came 
and the Duce wanted his Ministers to be thieves in order the better 
to dominate them. 

No Parliament in western Europe had suddenly to face such 
complex problems as the Italian. Our representatives had to deal 
with the arrears of four centuries. They did away with those 



ITALIANS AND POLITICS 83 

arrears. A large liberty of speech throughout the country 
guaranteed rather by custom than by law ; a foreign policy, correct, 
loyal and not ungenerous ; public works on a large scale ; 
a bureaucracy honest and scrupulous, even though on account of 
concentrated Piedmontese traditions less practised and autonomous 
than the Austrian, then the best in all Europe : such was the 
outstanding character of the liberal and democratic governments 
until the time of Giolitti. 

The principal fault of our old parliaments and governments 
was, in my opinion, not having taken into account that Italy would 
never become an organism whole in all her parts until the contadini 
came to feel that the free country of which they had been told at 
school, meant for them too a more worthy and happier life. But 
of this, more later. 

Besides the psychology of ministers and representatives, there 
is a psychology of the governed and the mass of men. It must 
not be forgotten that we did not develop as in France, about 
a Court, nor was our civilization more and more centralized, as in 
England, about an elastic but unshakable pyramid of social relations. 
There is only one country in the world where the political and moral 
formation of the people is analogous to ours ; it is China. This 
holds for the antiquity and variety of historical roots existing in 
the two countries, where the splendour of past glories weighs like 
a shadow on the originality of the present, in which the chisel of 
the sculptor and the brushes of the painter are often rather clever 
than profound ; in which the religious tradition and religious 
indifference neutralize one another and scarcely count in daily life ; 
in which the speeches of politicians are often more an empty music 
of words than effectual reality ; in which a thousand years of history 
has made people a little too sceptical. . . . 

But this scepticism did not save China after centuries of 
somnolence from a revolution that he who writes this saw break 
out before his eyes in 1911 ; that he saw again in its bloodshed in 
1928 when he went back to China to write a book, and that still 
goes on, though smouldering beneath the ashes. 

He who has seen a formidable phenomenon of this sort is 
tempted to ask himself if something of the same kind might not 
happen some day in Italy, unless someone is found capable of 
bringing order to the country, with productive reforms, instead of 
allowing discontent to rise until the first chance demagogue appears 
and makes discontent an excuse for a new charlatan's career. 



ITALY AND ITALIANS 

The false conservatives for whom the poor security of their 
time and generation suffices they almost repeat the cynical " apres 
moi le Mluge " of one of the last kings of France count on the old 
deposit of Italian scepticism as an antidote to waves of revolution. 

If an Italian scepticism exists it has two aspects like all that is 
Italian and, perhaps, like all that is human. 

The foreigners who deplore the political indifference of a large 
part of our people forget that politics are a luxury for the un 
fortunates who struggle with the worst difficulties of life ; one 
cannot be surprised if their poor and humble philosophy is the 
non te ne incarlca don't worry yourself about it of Neapolitan 
pessimism. If this phenomenon is really more visible in Italy than 
elsewhere, even in the middle and lower middle classes, it is to 
be explained by causes not very dissimilar from those I have pointed 
out in the earlier pages of this book ; they exaggerate the scepticism, 
the absenteeism, perhaps even the opportunism, just because they 
are ashamed of them. Vanity, pride ? Yes, but also the bitter 
ness of feeling weak, victims of a legacy of pompous words and 
genuine miseries ; as in the dolorous quartrain of a little-known poet 
of the fourteenth century, Bindo Bonichi : 

Un modo c*& a viver fra le genti 
e in ogni altro tu ti perdi i passi. 
Cessa da' magri ed accostati a' grassi, 
odi ed ascolta e di tutto consenti. 

As to the nobler Italian minds and there were a number of 
them in politics even among the less celebrated who, for instance, 
could forget Sacchi, Tedesco, Peppino de Nava ? that accent of 
scepticism frequent as it was on their lips, often seemed to me the 
result of bitter knowledge of history and of life ; a knowledge and 
a bitterness not strange to find even among the greater minds of a 
nation where history is a series of atrocious trials. 

The complete emancipation from all respect for the official 
phraseology, that exists among the best of us, is only the reaction 
from that rhetorical emphasis that flourishes in Italy like a poisonous 
pknt in periods of intellectual and moral abasement ; as happened 
with the fetid pseudo-heroic jargon of Fascism. 

Among all those Italians whom I, as a young man, most esteemed 
and loved, a superficial observer would have noticed a scepticism 
which in reality hid a lofty dignity. And it is this dignity which 
explains why with us memoirs of Italian statesmen are so rare in 



ITALIANS AND POLITICS 85 

comparison with France and England. D'Azeglio only wrote the 
record of his youth ; La Marmora only wrote against the King who 
calumniated him, a defence of his own conduct in 1 866 ; of other 
famous Prime Ministers, neither Rattazzi nor Minghetti, nor Lanza 
nor Sella nor Depretis nor Cairoli nor Crispi nor Rudini nor 
Zanardelli nor Sonnino wrote their memoirs ; I do not mention 
Cavour, struck down in foil maturity and in mid-battle. The only 
exception is Giolitti ; but even he would have written nothing but 
for the constant insistence and precious help of Olindo Malagodi. 
Why didn't they write ? Because they felt the mediocrity of the 
work they had accomplished in face of that which they had dreamed 
of doing. 

The legend of the political scepticism of Italians has made 
popular in the world the attribution to us of this quality or defect : 
the combina^ione arrangement or compromise. I took part in not 
a few international conferences after the first world war ; all my 
colleagues from Lloyd George to Briand were all the time doing 
nothing else but seeking arrangements, combination! as I was. 
They are the necessary substratum of any normal political life 
whatever. The civil greatness of England only appeared when 
she naturalized this Italian art and called it compromise. 

Why then is our combinations so much criticized among us and 
whenever it is attempted, by the French, while " compromise " is 
often pointed out to us as the supreme proof of English political 
wisdom? Because the English talk rarely in politics of moral 
values, contenting themselves with concrete reasons ; therefore 
even their least worthy compromises do not shock us and there 
rarely appears any contradiction between what they say and what 
they do. 

In Italy instead, and even more in France, one immediately 
brings forward general ideas, but life is more exigent than formulas 
and it ends in opponents coming to an understanding ; and it is 
well that it should be so. But meanwhile what a noise has been 
made about the unsurmountable antitheses of the two programmes 
under discussion. . . . 

For thirty years Italy and Europe have pointed to Giolitti as 
the prototype of a political sceptic. 

One day an opponent criticized Giolitti in the Chamber for 
certain legal provisions concerning those provinces where the 
public life was not exemplary. And he, in a low voice, turning to 
me, said : " They are right ; one would justly blame a tailor who 



86 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

had cut a coat only fit for a hunchback." Then, rising, he replied 
in a cold official tone that did not hide his sarcasm. He despised 
any who made a show of wit. 

It was the same Giolitti who at eighty-two years of age, having 
lost his wife at Cavour, left his modest house at two in the morning 
to go and pray in the village church beside the coffin of his life-long 
companion. I saw him a few days later. He only said to me : 
" Do you know what I have found in my wife's prayer-book ? A 
letter that I had written her from Rome thirty years ago, during a 
ministerial crisis, in which I told her of my disgust at being obliged 
to live among the low jealousies of aspirants to office." And then 
he never spoke to me of his wife again. 

Such was the real Giolitti. But if the historians and pretended 
historians wish to give us in their poor books evidence of another, 
I think there is nothing to be done. 

After I had negotiated an essential treaty with our Jugo-Slav 
neighbours, the nationalists asked me at the Commission of Foreign 
Affairs, what had been my chief object. I replied : "I desired that 
the causes of discontent should be equally shared and divided 
between the two nations. It is the only way of making a treaty 
that will endure." The reply was so Italian that for a moment oh ! 
only a moment it pleased even my adversaries. 

It may well be that the mediocrity of the governing classes that 
are passing away, and the hatreds left among the masses by neo- 
Fascism and its brutalities, will one day provoke in the Italian 
people a wave of action that will sweep away the remains of the old 
passivity and scepticism. But the important thing would be for a 
general movement of renovation to spring up, such as appeared in 
France in 1789 when it was a member of the privileged class, the 
Vicomte de Noailles who on the night of August 4th proposed the 
abolition of privileges, " restes odieux de la feodalite ". 

In Italy such a communion is not yet in sight. In, the seventeenth 
century at Naples, it was the humblest who rose with Masaniello 1 
against the Spanish abuses ; in the eighteenth century it was the 
plebeian Balilla 2 and his friends who revolted against the Germans ; 
neither the middle classes nor the nobility moved. In the nineteenth 
century it was the contrary that happened, but the division remained : 

1 Masaniello Tomrnaso Aniello, 1622-47, "an Amalfi fisherman who 
became leader of the revolt against Spanish rule in Naples in 1647. 

2 Traditional name of the boy who struck the spark of rebellion against 
the Austrians at Genoa in 1746. 



ITALIANS AND POLITICS 87 

it was the middle classes and the aristocracy that fought against the 
Germans and the Bourbons ; the common people remained apathetic 
with the rare exceptions whom the words of Mazzini had roused. 

Butlperhaps the sufferings of the Fascist domination and the 
shame of monarchical neo-Fascism that appeared after July zjth, 
i943> were necessary in order to make possible an Italy united in 
action as she was united in sorrow and in anger. When it is 
considered coldly, the reasons for progress are not to be seen; 
nevertheless they exist. 

Even though many still hesitate to confess it openly there is 
no doubt that all have now understood, even though they do not 
wish to admit it, how historically true was Nkcolo Machiavelli 
when he observed that hostility between the nobles and the people 
was in the long run the essential cause of progress. 1 

1 For the text of the quotation cf. Chapter III, pp. 14-15. 



XIII 

HEIGHTS AND DEPRESSIONS OF 
CULTURE 

\ 

THE three generations of the Risorgimento, including the 
Napoleonic, had with their wars and conspiracies lived 
more feverishly than all Italy had done in the three preceding 
centuries. Even intellectual and artistic work had been much more 
intense ; in the nineteenth century it would have been impossible 
for a Vico x to write pages that are immortal and no one recognize 
them. It was this intensity of life that provoked as reaction the 
lower vitality that we have experienced in Parliament when it 
ceased to be Subalpine and became Italian. The country gave the 
impression of a thoroughbred which had won the race, only to fall 
exhausted at the winning-post. There was indeed more than one 
crisis of fatigue ; there was a numb astonishment at having to say 
goodbye to old dreams and illusions rooted in the heart ; some 
thing like what happened much later abroad, among certain old 
anti-Fascists after the fall of Fascism ; men who remained bewildered 
and bitter so much were they immersed in an anti emotion. The 
crisis of uncertainty which struck our governing classes after 1860 
was also in great part provoked by the difficulty of being obliged 
to fuse into a national synthesis the traditional forces of the old 
States and in the necessity of bringing themselves into a more 
intimate contact with the intellectual life o f France, of Germany 
and of England, a contact which many Italians felt it was not 
possible to begin on an equal footing. 

The Italians of the Risorgimento and even of the preceding 
generations were at the same tune in advance of and yet behind the 
two nations, France and England, that the seventeenth and eight 
eenth centuries found in the advance-guard of the European awaken 
ing. Italy was in advance because her Catholicity and Renaissance 
had instilled in her an instinctive Universal sentiment far stronger 
than was to be found anywhere else : so much so that in the Legal 
sciences and in International Law then nascent, she was at the head 
of all other peoples ; no one has ever denied us the Universalism 

1 Giambattista Vico, born at Naples in 1668, died 1744. 

88 



HEIGHTS AND DEPRESSIONS OF CULTURE 89 

which permitted St. Thomas Aquinas to define and foretell 
a Sodetas Nationum six centuries before Wilson. We have seen too, 
alas ! in the first chapters of this book, how much time and talent 
were lost in writing verses that were not true poetry, and in other 
vain diversions of the mind, all exotic flowers that the mighty wind 
of liberty reduced to nothing, leaving a sense of emptiness among 
the mediocre who are the most numerous. 

Other elements, some exterior and some interior and unhealthy, 
helped to create a wave of sterile discontent. For example, all the 
Eastern and African shores of the Mediterranean, all the Red Sea 
and Black Sea had used Italian as a lingua franca for culture and 
commerce until halfway through the ninetebnth century ; and it 
was precisely after our unification that our tongue began to lose 
ground, which surprised and disturbed our people. It was then 
and only then that French took the place in many parts of Italian, 
especially in Turkey, in Greece and in Egypt.- It is true that this 
was due to outside things, for which we were not responsible : the 
construction of the Oriental Railways that brought the Levant 
nearer to France, and estranged it from Brindisi and Naples ; the 
unlooked-for suspicion of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy of the 
language of a new and independent great nation, whereas previously 
Italian had been the official language of the Austro-Hungarian 
bureaucracy throughout the Levant, so much so that even the seals 
of the Imperial and Royal Embassy at Constantinople had been 
engraved in Italian ; and then there was the peaceful invasion of the 
Levant by the French Catholic Congregations who were anxious 
to escape the secularizing atmosphere of the Republic. . . . But 
the fact remained. * 

What increased the discouragement and consequently the 
sterility, was the absurd comparison the Italians made of themselves 
with the gigantic fortunes of Germany, which they thought, but 
it was only true in appearance was unified at the same time as 
themselves. The whole world the Americans had then no part 
in Europe was lost in admiration of Germany ; her army, her 
universities, her scientific discoveries, her industrial efficiency, her 
banking systems and her commerce, her social policy and agri 
cultural progress. 

Those Italians, sons of other Italians who had believed in 
the Giobertian Primato, began to ask themselves, humiliated and 
astounded, " Are we not too old ? Is it not now the fated turn of 
the young and fresh German race ? " And the most knowledge- 



90 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

able sought even in the pages of the French savant , Renan, for new 
proofs of German superiority. 

With a little more serenity, with a little less of that self-denigra 
tion that alternates in us with an outrageous boastfulness, the Italy 
of that time might have discovered a simple truth : that the points 
of departure of the two people were not analogous save in appear 
ance ; that Italy had been made with a powder of states, while 
German unity was nothing other than a progressive enlargement of 
Prussia, already by herself one of the most powerful kingdoms of 
Europe ; and that in an industrial period Germany had found 
herself 'rich from the start, in coal and in iron, both of which we 
lacked. 

But there was something more : what seemed to us Italians 
a sudden impoverishment was in fact an intellectual impoverish 
ment common to all Europe : in England, which had fallen from the 
discoveries of Darwin to the facile generalizations of Spencer ; in 
France, where the chilly streams of the realist novel had succeeded 
the great voice of Hugo ; in Germany herself where all the scientists 
had ended like Faust, by selling their soul to the devil for material 
power. 

The most mediocre among the learned Germans, quite incapable 
of following in the footsteps of a Mommsen or a Gregorovius, had 
invented a gigantic game : a philology, mean and shabby under the 
name of historical method, which became the rage in all Europe and 
especially in Italy where one no longer spoke of the " literature 
of reason " but persecuted as crazy anyone who dared to write of 
letters or of history with a little originality and imagination. 

The worst was reached when in an atmosphere so lifeless the 
dogma of positivism was discovered, which became in Italy one 
of the most humiliating phenomena of the intellectual life of our 
people : there was a time in which Achille Loria was taken seriously 
as an economist and Enrico Ferri as a criminologist. He who like 
myself at eighteen, has assisted at the lectures of the Sapienza at 
Pisa, can boast of having seen one of the most vulgar spectacles of 
the intellectual life of Italy at the end of the nineteenth century. 

Not at the Sapienza, the seat of the Faculty of Law, but at the 
Normal School near the Tower where for Ugolino " piit che il 
dolor pote il digiuno ", pontificated another representative of Italian 
learning of the period, Alessandro D'Ancona, not a mere charlatan 
like Ferri but so imprisoned within the arid circle of his historical 
method, that he laid down the law about our poesia populare for 



HEIGHTS AND DEPRESSIONS OF CULTURE 9! 

forty years without ever making the students feel the essential 
poetry of this lovely thing ; in fact, the Normal School paralysed 
its pupils for life. I can still see two of them who used to come to 
me sometimes at home and whom I saved by obliging them to read 
Candide and alas I in Italian the Julius Caesar of Shakespeare. 
During three years at Normal School they had never heard of 
Voltaire or of Shakespeare. 

Yet in that Italy there existed at the time two ugly volumes in 
yellow covers, published by Morano of Naples. The titles were 
simple : Saggi Crititi, and Nuovi Saggi Crititi : the author was 
Francesco De Sanctis. Even the students of the Normal School 
might have been upset by them but they were prohibited books. 
Recollecting that as a boy I felt the delight of having discovered 
a new world when I read these two volumes, I ask myself whether 
there does not necessarily exist a mysterious solidarity among those 
who feel in this way and perhaps it is so. In the Fascist years when 
the great Universities of the United States offered me an unfor 
gettably generous hospitality, I was always being asked for the title 
of some book that would be a real key to Italian thought : I always 
answered : " De Sanctis, but take care : you will not find there 
a single date ; you must know it all first, but he will illuminate it 
for you." 

A strange book indeed is his Storia della letteratura Italiana, 
according to the method followed by D'Ancona. When did Dante 
die, when was Petrarch born ? You will not find these facts in the 
chapter on the two poets. Further on in the book, De Sanctis 
quotes by chance the year of Boccaccio's birth and only then, 
calculating laboriously on one's fingers, can one manage to find 
out that Petrarch was born nine years before and that eight years 
afterwards Dante died. 

All the world knows the lofty merits of Benedetto Croce for 
the widening and renewing of Italian culture ; but perhaps it is 
not his least merit to have obliged even the most intractable at 
last to understand and appreciate De Sanctis. 

Croce is a philosopher whose influence has been supreme in the 
manner of thought of all Italians and on more than they. Even 
those who do not like Croce, who would be offended if they were 
called Crociani Croce has added this new word to our dictionary 
have been profoundly influenced by his doctrines ; since (I am 
quoting from his own famous book) all are Christians, even those 
who deny that they are Christians, 



92 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

Universal spirit as he is, Croce is profoundly Italian, too, in his 
love for the history of his natal South. Philosophies follow on 
philosophies, but his books on the history of Naples will long 
remain the surest keys to an understanding of the destiny and the 
issues in the history of our South. 

If Croce is not destined to leave behind him a philosophical 
school what an honour to him ! It is because his ideas and his 
way of understanding life and history have become schools in 
themselves ; they have infiltrated into the minds of all those who 
think. 

Then came the long, confused years, the childhood and the 
brigand manhood of Fascism. 

For Italian intelligence and culture it was a zone of silence 
as were the Consulate and the First Empire for the French, and 
Bismarckism and Hitlerism for the Germans. 

Dictatorial regimes only live by myths and myths drive out 
original thought ; as political economists say that bad money drives 
out good. 

It is difficult to say whether the dictatorial and totalitarian myths 
did more harm to Germany or to Italy. Intellectually they did 
more harm to Germany because in great part the Germans were 
stupid and servile enough to take them seriously. Morally they 
did more harm to Italy because too many Italian workers made 
a show of believing what they were told, while making fun of it in 
secret. Bad faith destroys more than does stupidity. And the 
intimate connection between the last years of Fascism and the 
pre-Bourbon regime that the fatal and false 25th of July 1943 
imposed on Italy, had only one name the double game. 

There are things that have to be paid for within ourselves or 
outside ourselves, more than the bestial furies of the Germans. 
For though the German madness degraded a collectivity, the 
Fascist falseness degraded the individual, and that is worse. 

This being so, at the cost of passing for Puritans and Jansenists, 
one must never weary of repeating that of all Italian problems the 
most grave and the most urgent is the moral problem. 



XIV 
NORTH AND SOUTH 

UNTIL the victory of the Left in 1876 the Ministers who 
governed Italy were almost all Northerners, who considered 
the Southerners as lively, witty and eloquent beings but 
politically immature. In truth, the only immaturity was to be 
found in the heads of the " Piedmontese ", as was said at Naples 
after 1860, when they sat themselves down to serve out judgments 
on their brothers of the South. Only Cavour had foreseen the 
importance of an understanding with the South, but he died too 
soon. 

After 1876 many of the most important Ministers were often 
from the South, but they belonged to the Left whose habit and role 
had been to criticize, not to* govern, and that remained for long 
the victim of a reverential respect for high functionaries, who were 
honest but incapable of understanding new problems ; people for 
whom going to the South as prefects or magistrates was worse 
than a punishment, almost a dishonour. The few Ministers of the 
Left who took office, like Nicotera, violated the law ; and this 
increased the diffidence of the Direttori generali in regard to them. 

For the rest, never in our history has there been a constant passing 
to and fro between the North and the South, nor do Northerners 
go to live in the South and vice versa. Only one of our ancient 
classical writers knew and loved the South : Boccaccio. One of 
our delights in reading Dante is to discover at every moment 
a verse which describes with an unforgettable touch the most varied 
aspects and landscapes of our country ; but there is not a single 
one of the South ; for Dante never described what he had not seen. 

Petrarch never went to the South, nor Ariosto, Machiavelli nor 
Manzoni. Leopard! was in Naples, but he was ill ; Mazzini was 
there as a prisoner. 

Why such a separation? The difference between North and 
South is not greater in Italy than in France or in the United States ; 
and it is less than in Germany. But in Italy the actual division is 
perhaps more clear cut ; which would explain how the French of 
Charles VIII could sing : e Nous conquerons les Italies . . ." But if 

93 



94 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

the division is sharper it has nothing to do with pretended differences 
of " race ", that is to say, of Greek influences in the South and 
Germanic or Celtic in the North. The reasons are historical and 
incidental : namely, that the States of the Church dividing the 
peninsula in two, separated the Neapolitan Kingdom from the rest 
of Italy in a more radical way than the division between Piedmont 
and Lombardy or between Liguria and Tuscany. 

The full material reunion of the whole peninsula was the result 
of the railways. One day, in a dream a la Rottsseau, Napoleon 
imagined that Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia were moved towards 
the coasts of Latium and Tuscany, swelling out an Italy too elongated 
for his taste as a collector of cannon-fodder. One of the principal 
merits of the Liberal governments from 1860 to 1890 was the 
creation of a vast net of rapid communications from the Cenis 
to Trapani, and they did this with a series of bridges, galleries and 
other engineering feats more complicated and costly than in any 
other country of Europe. 

It was probably the long period of the isolation of the " King 
dom ** as the country from Velletri southward is called that 
made of our South an island of philosophers and thinkers, from 
Giordano Bruno and Campanella to Vico and Benedetto Croce. 
Among the philosophers of Northern Italy in the first half of the 
nineteenth century, such as Rostnini or Gioberti, foreign influences 
are very visible. It is not so in the South, where Benedetto Croce 
himself has only taken from Hegel a certain amount of material 
for the elaboration of a new way of thought. 

Those who, half astonished and half disgusted, are saddened by 
the haughty attitude that certain Northerners assume towards the 
Southerners, ought to feel rather pity than anger. It is everywhere 
thus ; a stupid industrial of Flanders thinks that he is better than 
the most intelligent Provencal ; a merchant of Barcelona laughs 
at the poetical vein that makes life in Andalusia so charming ; 
a fat Prussian grumbles at the beer-house : " The Bavarians are the 
link between a man and an Austrian. . . ." 

It is for us Italians of the North to remember and to cause to be 
remembered that it is the South which has given to Italy the purest 
champions of the things of the mind to begin with the anatomists 
of the School of Salerno, who first in Europe braved the fury of the 
ignorant by going in the darkness of the night to the cemetery to 
steal the corpses by which they might learn the secrets of life ; 
that it is the South which has given us the earliest and most 



NORTH AND SOUTH 95 

devoted martyrs of our Risorgimento, among them those who were 
hanged under the Republic of 1799 ; that from their ashes arose, as 
avengers, the Spaventa, the Settembrini, 1 the De Sanctis and all 
the rest. For my part, if it were not that my stay between Bari, 
Salerno and Naples in 1943 was made longer by a far too slow 
military tactic for which Italy had to pay with cities destroyed, 
due to the blindness and fixed ideas of certain foreign governments, 
I could bless heaven that I remained for two years in the midst of 
a civilization far more refined than our own. I do not believe that 
there was in 1943-4 in any other spot in Italy a refuge like that of 
my house at San Pasquale a Chiaia, a refuge from which, through 
idleness, I did not descend into the shelters even during the most 
violent bombardment, but in which I had to pass a night in which I 
had the responsibility of the life of Croce, for two days my guest 
at Naples ; we went down, the shelter was full of people doctors, 
professors, lawyers, the typical Neapolitan middle classes and 
Croce began to tell anecdotes of the time of Ferdinand II and then 
to discourse on Belli and Porta, of whom his hearers knew little ; 
and when the alert ceased, all said : " What a pity ! Let us hope 
for tomorrow evening. ..." 

The Italian of the middle class in the South is to the Italian of 
the rest of Italy as the latter is to the European of the North : the 
accentuation of qualities and defects is identical, and there is also 
analogy in the legends and fictions by which we try to explain 
this. Amongst us Italians of the North too the old picture of the 
"inefficient" Southerner sometimes obtains. 

One might say that for a visitor who is content with the Museum, 
Vesuvius, Pompeii and Capri at Naples, the small middle-class 
citizen, well dressed and badly nourished, who idles in the Chiaia 
and the Toledo, gives the impression of a man who will never 
accomplish anything anywhere but will pass his life in idleness : 
one is surprised to learn that he cares less for music than the 
Northerners and is content with the facile Neapolitan melodies 
which one takes and how mistakenly for a supposed Partheno- 
pean light-hearted happiness. Very few " foreigners " have really 
intruded into the nights of Piedigrotta it is always night at Piedi- 
grotta to discover that the gioia is confined to drunken Germans 
and lusty Slavs, while the Neapolitan masses, mournful, hidden in 

1 Silvio Spaventa, born 1822 at Bomba (Chieti), died 1893. JLuigi 
Settembrini, born at Naples 1813, died 1877. 



96 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

the darkness, have discarded the smile assumed for the Toledo and 
the Via Partenope, to bewail the mediocrity of their lives, rendered 
more cruel by the fact that their sufferings too are. mediocre. 

The old stock portrait of the " idle Southerners " is no longer 
in fashion. It is enough to come in contact at Milan or Genoa- 
why not also in New York or Buenos Aires ? with business men 
and industrials from Apulia or the Basilicata: they are silent, 
obstinate, very hardworking, without wit : just, in fact, the reverse 
of the old model. 

The struggle of the Lombards with the marshes of the Po valley 
lasted four or five centuries ; but they ended in triumph and they 
have made of their lands one of the richest regions of Europe. In 
the South the work is more heroic because one has constantly to 
begin again ; save in two or three privileged cases, it is almost 
everywhere something the same as on the slopes of Vesuvius where 
after every eruption new vines have to be planted, in a soil empty 
and virgin again. The struggle of the Southern Italian with his 
land is one of the most splendid and rare examples of human 
resistance, but one hears nothing of it, the newspapers are silent and 
there is no propaganda about it. 

The Normans came to these Neapolitan Provinces ; they were 
one of the most daring and adventurous peoples of their time : 
they proved it in England, where for centuries they imposed the 
French tongue as the current speech. But in South Italy they soon 
disappeared, swallowed up by the Neapolitans. The French and 
the Spaniards met later the same fate. Whoever saw the Naples 
of 1943-5 knows that in a certain sense it was the same and the 
English and Americans, laughing, admitted their defeat. 

If we look to the reality of history, we find that nothing at all 
remains of the theory of an Hellenic South fatally different from 
a Germanic North. And races if in this case one can speak of 
races are like those rivers which disappear in a flash at the bottom 
of a valley and after a long journey underground suddenly appear 
again in the form of lakes or new sources. 

The only real difference between North and South in Italy is 
of the economic order ; the land south of Rome cannot be compared 
for richness to that to the north. Just as the civilization of Magna 
Grecia was probably less brilliant than we are told, so Rome was 
but a cruel step-mother to the little-known South whence came 
disagreeable rumours of agrarian revolts, and from which before - 
the Roman conquest fat Carthage used to recruit her mercenaries. 



NORTH AND SOUTH 97 

The Southern Italians sometimes complain of the egoism of the 
industrial North. They ought, above all, to complain of the poets, 
both their own and others. Seven centuries before Christ, a Greek 
lyrical poet sang of Calabria as " the happiest and fairest country 
in the world ", poor and tragic Calabria which will always be one 
of the most sterile countries of Europe. And it was thus for 
a thousand years from Virgil to Goethe. Literature was the in 
voluntary instrument of the legend of the happy and fortunate 
South, which hardly troubled to move to gather the fruits of its 
fertile soil. 

What is even more strange is that up to three generations ago 
the South itself believed this. It would be comic if it were not 
depressing to re-read today in the addresses that Naples sent to 
Victor Emanuel II in 1860, the description of the treasures that the 
ancient Kingdom of the Two Sicilies would, they said, put at 
the disposition of an Italy free and united. It was the result of the 
economic segregation in which the South had lived under the 
Bourbons, the result also of the extreme moderation of taxation, 
but above all, of the secular literary legend that had glorified various 
beautiful spots from Sorrento to the Conca d'Oro, but had ignored 
the fact that behind the orange groves and olive woods, hunger 
reigned ; because the sun is only a deception for husbandmen 
without water, and in the South, in contrast with the rest of Italy, 
rain only falls in winter, and there is no river like the Po or even 
the meagre Arno, but only beds of torrents dried up in summer 
and deluging the plain in winter with disastrous floods. When one 
speaks of our South, one must never forget that the drought 
destroys three crops out of ten, with astronomical precision. 

An historical fatality must be added to these natural conditions. 
The history of the North and of Central Italy is based essentially on 
the autonomous life of the Commune. The South, on the other 
hand, from the Abruzzi to Calabria, always accepted a single royal 
centre, first Benevento, then Naples. And this centre only managed 
to provide an organization that was feudal, the atmosphere of which 
remained, even when the system began to disappear, first politically 
and then legally. 

It was the same in Sicily, in Sardinia, in Corsica ; and the reason 
was always the same too : lack of industries and commerce, the 
only creators of that " popolo minuto" or "grasso", that from 
Florence to the cities of the Lombard League knew how to organize 
themselves against the " grandi " and against the feudatories of the 



98 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

castles and strongholds, obliging them to live in the cities where 
they were quickly tamed. 

The resurrection of the South is a problem of public works, 
of creating artificial lakes, of reafforestation and of roads. These 
are essential before any agricultural reform can be undertaken with 
success. The misery is due to the drought. It is necessary to place 
at the disposal of the landless, land on which life can be supported, 
even though, for the first ten years, with hardship. 

The problem is a difficult one, but it is the only one that really 
matters in Italy. An Italy, peaceful and serene, depends on 
a South that is happy and content. If I did not fear to seem para 
doxical, I would add that one of my most profound reasons for 
optimism about the future of Italy is that all the great countries of 
Europe are full but not Italy ; we have within our own confines 
an Empire, in a certain sense colonial, but whose development and 
security do not depend on intimidating the natives, but rather on 
its own natives, our co-nationals who are among the most intelligent 
and wide-awake of the peoples of Europe. 

But the transformation cannot be limited to something merely 
economic or social, it must be psychological. The stupid Mus 
solini and his nationalists thought the only rich countries were 
those with coal and mines. If this were true, how is it that sandy 
Denmark and mountainous Switzerland have become rich ? If the 
Italians of the North and of the South so will it, our South can 
multiply by a hundredfold the export of our fruits, and our wines 
such as vermouth and marsala, of our tunny ; it can in fact become 
one of the richest countries of Europe. It will perhaps surprise 
some in the North to know that even the metallurgical Corporations 
of Naples and Castellamare di Stabia are in the first class for technical 
ability and hard work ; in the last months of the German occupation 
it was they who hid the most precious parts of their machinery for 
love and loyalty to their factories. The present writer was witness 
of their sorrow and their disillusion when the Allies often because 
they were unable did not give new life to industrial Naples. 
Thanks to the three years I passed in America, I saw at Chicago, 
at Cleveland, at New Haven and at San Francisco that some of our 
Southerners who had arrived there without a penny had suc 
ceeded in creating serious and solid industries. 

Contrary to Cavour, the statesmen who succeeded him had 
always a horror of excessive expense. But after the follies of the 
Fascist regime one cannot but think that with a hundredth part of 



NORTH AND SOUTH 99 

what was dissipated in sterile wars in Ethiopia and Spain, and 
furtive annexations, the happy solution of the problem of the South 
might have become a reality, redoubling thus the moral and 
economic forces of our people. 



XV 

ITALY AND FOREIGN WRITERS AND 
VISITORS 

I HAVE said in the preceding chapter that the railways powerfully 
contributed to the fusion of North and South, after the historical 
dissolution, so long resisted, of the Pontifical State. But it was 
easy for the Italians to find one another ; the obstacle had been 
there a long time, it is true, but it was artificial. For foreigners, 
however, the result was the very opposite ; the railways and later, 
the rapidity of the automobile made it less easy for them to enter 
into any real relation with Italian life, with the mental and spiritual 
life of ideas not only in the great cities, but in the quiet smaller 
cities of the country-side, and the provinces. After the advent of 
the railways, books appeared by foreigners, often full of beauty, on 
the Greek ruins in Calabria, on Milan or on Venice, on art in Sicily 
or in the Uffizi at Florence ; but we no longer found among us 
a Goethe, a Stendhal, a Browning, a Shelley, wandering about among 
the contadini and humble folk. 

In boyhood I had discovered at home, to my delight, some old 
guide-books of Italy of the eighteenth century, and I have never 
forgotten the emotion that I received from a Guida di Viaggio in 
Italia per un Gentiluomo Polacco, and its appendix, in four columns, 
of Conversazione in italiano y latino ^francese e polacco. There was a little 
of everything, both in the book and in the " Conversazione ", and 
almost everything was dealt with together as in life : archaeology 
and cookery, music and women, high roads and receptions. It is 
a great contrast to those famous Sensations d'ltalie in which Paul 
Bourget goes into ecstasies before Sienese pictures of the second 
ckss, and which seems like a cemetery of ideas that have been 
embalmed. One feels that authors of this kind can never really 
have lived in Italy, that, driven by the contracts with the publishers, 
they are only thinking of the magnificent pages they will build up 
from the notes scribbled in their pocket-books, and for this very 
reason there utterly escapes them that integration of the ancient 
and the actual which alone allows us to understand a living 
nation. 

100 



FOREIGN WRITERS AND VISITORS IOI 

The Italian and above all, the Italian of the people is so 
complex and yet at the same time so simple that one can only smile 
at the foreigners who think they have discovered the key to the 
Italian character after passing a year or two in the peninsula. 

It seems like a paradox, but I believe it is easier to understand 
the complexity of the Italian than his simplicity. How can 
a contadino or an Italian artisan be anything but complex when he 
is such an infallible judge of the moral character of the " foreigner ", 
of the " signore " with whom he has to deal ? Woe to the new 
proprietor of a podere or of a villa> woe to the foreigner who has 
rented a house or apartment for three years, if the people around 
him sum him up as " proud " or " overbearing " ; very soon there 
will be an emptiness about him and he will obtain nothing from 
anyone, even though he is ready to pay double what other foreigners 
are paying " forestitri " and " signori " who are recognized as 
"gentile" and "alia mam". 

To understand a people, a foreign nation : that is a business 
in which intelligence and culture only serve if they are enlivened 
by human sympathy. 

When at times I venture to maintain that I know China, the 
only subjective reason that I can furnish is that, when I saw again 
after twelve years the crooked carved roofs of the Yung-ting-men 
beneath the dusty sky of Chili, my heart beat almost as fast as 
though I had returned to my own country ; and yet China, which 
has everything to offer and has been my mistress in relativity, knows 
nothing of sentimental emotion. 

What makes the traveller is not the distance of the country 
visited but the capacity to see, to immerse himself in the spirit of 
the country to which he has travelled. I have seen the standardised 
traveller in Mongolia, and real travellers on the Lombard plain and 
in the villages of the Var. The capacity to understand is not to be 
acquired by literary experience, it is bought with our very life. 
The French who, wishing to penetrate beyond the museums, come 
to Italy saturated with Stendhal, and the Germans who come down 
with a Goethe in their hands, remind me of certain Oriental converts 
to Catholicism, who read in one of our Cathedrals the same Mass- 
book as the ordinary crowd of the faithful : they read, but their 
emotion is not the same. 

Goethe himself only saw a fragment of Italy ; he put aside the 
Middle Age with disgust, out of contempt for Germany perhaps, and 
Pagan or unconsciously Protestant he exaggerated his antipathy 



102 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

for the contribution of the Church to Italian life from the origin 
of the Communes onward. 

Stendhal without doubt loved all Italy, the Italy of Dante and 
that of the eighteenth century, the Italy of the churches and the 
palaces and that of the by-ways and taverns. But it is not only the 
Italy of Stendhal that is tie true and real Italy, it is Stendhal himself 
who is essentially an Italian character ; and it is necessary, in face 
of the problem of Stendhal, that Italians should see things as they 
really are, and hold to the reality which is in itself fair and noble 
enough and have nothing to do with dithyrambs. Among the 
many moral miseries of the Fascists there was this, that they exacted 
dithyrambs and not for our art : they looked for them anxiously, 
for our industries, magnificent certainly, but which had appeared 
in the world half a century before them, yet which they represented 
in their propaganda as creations of the regime. The same phe 
nomenon of ingenuous vanity appeared four generations earlier 
in Japan ; the Japanese in the earlier years of the Meji epoch hid 
and destroyed their lacquers and porcelains in order to show 
Europeans how " modern " they were. All this is even more 
ridiculous than it is odious ; but if one desires the truth and not 
mere lyricism, one must not forget that the " Italianism " of Stend 
hal, intense though it was, was above all due to reaction from, 
and disgust of, the France of the " enrichisse%-vous " ; what we ought 
to admire most in Stendhal is the fact that he felt that the natural 
dignity of any man of the commonalty or of a contadino was the purest 
gem in the nobility of our people. 

If Stendhal felt the profundity and the contrasts of our character 
it was because he lived in Italy as a man and not as a writer. And 
as a Stendhalian might add he lived in loneliness. Barrfes was 
wrong to make Stendhal a " professor of energy ", in the sense of 
success in life ; he might rather have said this of Bakac, who was 
ever in search of social success. The energy of Stendhal was con 
cerned with the interior passions, not with external action. 

Action never seemed worthy to him except when it did not 
make itself mediocre by looking for a reward. This explains per 
haps the small success Stendhal had with women. He envied a man 
who knew how to love but not one who might have simply 
numerous adventures . He would have held Valmont of the Liaisons 
dangereuses in horror. 

Byron and Chateaubriand, Larnartine and Ruskin, unlike Stend 
hal, never penetrated into the Italy of the mind, the heart and 



FOREIGN WRITERS AND VISITORS 103 

the spirit. Their Italy was simply a pretext for their art. Stendhal 
was saved by the fact that he wrote only for far-away readers ; 
a poor Consul of France at Civita Vecchia, he was fortunate enough 
not to find a publisher; while from the others, the celebrated 
writers, many in London and Paris, demanded Odes, Memoires 
d'Outre Tombe and books on Venice. 

The conclusion, only apparently paradoxical, is : the more 
a people possess a literature rich and powerful, the more its artists 
have fixed its character on canvas and in frescoes famous every 
where, so much the more is this people crystallized for foreigners, 
enfolded in an asphyxiating mist of preconceived ideas whose 
prisoners they are, even when they believe themselves freed from it. 

The terribilita of Dante is probably the origin of a whole series 
of psychological legends, as a whole side of Stendhal is only 
explained by his passionate love almost the love of a collector 
for Italian chronicles of the fifteenth century. I have known certain 
cultured Germans who maintained that the history of England was 
stained with blood, with violence and treason as that of no other 
European nation ; when I showed my astonishment, they referred 
me to the plays of Shakespeare. 

In conclusion : for us Italians it is above all the judgment 
which a foreign writer and visitor pronounces on our peasants and 
contadini whose roots are in the soil, that is the test with us of 
his psychological understanding ; it is not that we look for nothing 
but praise of our artisans and peasants : the English novels of 
Ouida, so mnch in fashion in the time of our grandparents, romances 
in which every piping goatherd was a hero and every gondolier 
a poet, sound to us as false as when in idiotic hatred of Italy some 
English tourist only records of all his journey that some antiquarian 
of the Ponte Vecchio or the Via Costantinopoli offered him a false 
antique and succeeded in sticking him with it. 

It would be better that foreigners should resign themselves to 
admitting that the Italian people, in spite of all their apparent 
cordiality, are a closed book to them; at least until they have 
lived for ten years in some Italian country-side. Perhaps they would 
get nearer the truth if they only knew how to observe, how to 
look at the vintagers on the Roman hillsides, the shepherds among 
the AbniZ2i mountains, the proprietors of half an hectare of land 
in Liguria and in the Lunigiana. One cannot do less than admire 
the perfect equilibrium of their bearing, an equilibrium quite uncon 
scious that is not affected even when they come down into the city 



104 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

or have to wear the ugly cappotto of the conscript. If you look 
at a regiment of infantry passing down the street of some Italian 
city, you will receive an impression of neatness and general refine 
ment such as you will get in no other country. He who like 
myself has lived beside these men in the relative liberty of war 
time, will not have forgotten their marvellous ability to take advan 
tage of even the rarest and most casual expedient, and even before 
orders have been issued, know how to judge and sum up with 
an astonishing exactness the real value of their leaders. Those 
Lombard peasants, gigantic and gay, or the Apulians, stumpy and 
melancholy, with whom I have passed so many days, miserable or 
fortunate, on the Eastern front from 1915 to 1918, seem to me 
the living illustrations of a phrase of Palladio's : " that man ought 
to look to four things, that is, the air, the water, the land and 
their mastery ; for of these three exist by nature, and the fourth 
by the will and the might of man." 

Our regiments in Albania had no contact with our Allies ; but 
the fifty thousand Italians on the Macedonian front fought along 
side the Serbs, the French and the English. All were fighting 
against the same enemy ; whose units were so placed that Germans, 
Austrians, Hungarians and Bulgarians were accurately mixed and 
interlocked by orders from Berlin. 

Writing these pages in a period of tension between Italy and 
Jugo-Slavia, it is my duty to recall and record that the fraternity 
and instinctive sympathy between Italians and Serbs on the old 
Eastern front were the admiration and envy of all there, including 
veteran sceptics like Guillaumat and Franchet d'Esperey, suc 
cessively commanding the Allies at Salonica. After the Armistice 
of November 1918 Franchet d'Esperey came to Constantinople, 
whither I had preceded him, as one of the three High Commissioners 
of the Entente charged with governing Turkey pro tempers. He 
spoke to me again of that Italo-Jugo-Slav understanding established 
on the field of battle that was in such contrast with the mean political 
business of divide et impera which Sonnino was carrying out at the 
time at the Consulta, and to which I put an end in 1920 when 
I succeeded him. 

I replied to the French General : 

" It is a pity, dear General, that you foreign personages do not 
see when you are in Italy what others see. If you could take into 
notice and account the good sense and generosity of the Italian 
of the people, you would be deeply struck and full of admiration. It 



FOREIGN WRITERS AND VISITORS 105 

is on this fundamental quality of our people that I count to disperse 
one of these days the vanity and prejudice which menace our future 
in the East and in the Balkans." 

Just as nationalism is in Italy the worst enemy of patriotism, 
so rhetoric with its eternal repetitions about our " millennary 
civilization" is one of the worst and most direct of the obstacles 
that prevent foreign writers and visitors from recognizing and 
expressing spontaneously the splendid qualities of our people. 



XVI 
WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE FRENCH 

I HAVE insisted many times in these pages on the distance that 
separates Italian popular sentiment from our literature. And 
that is equally true of what is written on the relations between 
the French and ourselves. A new proof of a certain fundamental 
likeness between the two peoples may be found in the fact that 
the same happens more or less in France ; there too one finds 
a kind of literature permeated with rancour against and a scorn 
of Italy ; but it has no correspondence with the feelings of the 
mass of the nation. 

A million Italians live in France. Those who have been able 
to observe them in the regions where they are most numerous, 
Savoy, Dauphine*, Provence, Languedoc, and further north in the 
ancient Ile-de-France Paris and its wide environs know that a real 
fraternity existed, until the Fascist invasion of 1940, between the 
Italians and the French in all the cities and villages. I lived for 
three years in maritime Provence in an old mas 1 that I possessed 
by the sea between Toulon and Hyeres. I know the life of hun 
dreds of towns and villages round about among the mountains or 
in the plain where often the population is half Italian, half French. 
There was never a dispute or a quarrel about national questions ; 
it was the same in Savoy, in Dauphine and elsewhere, and was 
evidence of the lofty civilization of the two peoples. And in 
consequence no one believed there that a Mussolini could make 
war against France. They used to say, stretching an arm towards 
the piazzas, the homes and the market-places there : " Never, mind 
you, it's impossible." 

The same sense of security appeared, generally speaking, among 
the upper classes in Paris, but for reasons in which sentiment went 
for nothing. Even when Mussolini spat insults and reproaches at 
France, what did they matter to France of the front popitlaire, in 
face of an Italy in which a strike was unknown ? The French would 
think and say: Mussolini well knows what services we have 

1 An isolated peasant's house of an old Provencal type. 

1 06 



WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE FRENCH IOJ 

rendered him, from Stresa to Munich, and what further services 
we are ready to render him ; why should he attack us ? 

But the relations between two peoples, each with a long history, 
have roots in a complex past in which benefits and wrongs, reasons 
for sympathy and reasons for rancour tend to reactions, often 
enough unconscious. 

Leaving Catherine de 5 Medici to the rare Italophobes of France, 
and the Sicilian Vespers to the still more antiquated haters of 
France in Italy, it is impossible to deny that the French Revolution, 
although the happy leaven of liberty, was also a cause of dread 
and of rancour such as always happens with a foreign military 
occupation. 

One of the most popular songs in France at that period in 
which the Revolutionary armies invaded us, runs thus in two of 
its verses : 

Enfin de Paris au Japon, 
De FAfricain au Lapon, 
UEgalite se fonde. 

Tyrans, le sort en est jete 
le bonnet de la Liberte 
fera le tour du monde. 

The French people, feeling themselves to be the tf pattern of the 
world ", as Andre Chenier wrote, 1 believed that their conquests 
were " acts of philanthropy " towards peoples still immersed in the 
darkness of " reaction ". 

But many Italians were singing quite other songs. I still know 
by heart so tenacious are the memories of childhood a long 
cantilena that an old domestic servant, who had it from her grand 
mother, used to sing to me of an evening to send me to sleep in 
that isolated Lunigiana where, when Depretis reigned, they still 
sang of an evening recounting the robberies of the Cisalpini and 
the violence of the Russians. Here are a few lines : 

Selle, stoffe, morsi, briglie, 
copertine, sproni, striglie, 
i lenzuoK, i rnateraggi, 
le fettucce pei sellaggi, 
panno blu, panno scarlatto ; 
poverini, ch'hanno fatto ? 

du monde" (Avis aux Franjais, 1790). 



108 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

Le coperte per 1 letti, 

gll stivaii, i fazzoletti, 

le camicie, le calzette, 

i calzoni, le berrette, 

la marmitta, il tondo, il piatto ; 

poverini, ch'hanno fatto ? 

The lament continued, naming dozens of household articles 
carried off to France : with them had also departed, in a long line 
of official wagons, cases containing the most famous pictures and 
statues of Italy. An Italian chronicler of the time, G. A. Sala, 
recorded that " an invasion of Goths and Huns would have done 
less damage than these liberators of the human race ". But perhaps 
the explanations that came from France were more irritating : 

" N'est-ce pas dans le pays ou il y a les meilleures lois et le 
plus de lumieres, chez le peuple le plus puissant et le plus indus- 
trieux, chez la seule nation qui ait une ecole, que seront le mieux 
places et conserves les plus beaux ouvrages de la Grece et de 
Rome ? " 1 Of the three terms of the Republican formula " I^iberte^ 
~Egalite y Fraternite", the Italians had probably known better than 
the French, and for a long time, " fraternity and equality ", and it 
could not have been otherwise since the feudal castle had long 
since been domesticated by our general good nature even before 
the Arcadia made equality the fashion. The diffusion of the love 
of liberty, of political liberty, that is, was, on the other hand, the 
effect of French ideas, and it was so noble a gift that the remem 
brance of old complaints seemed worse than contemptible, almost 
unworthy, even though the complaints were natural enough at the 
time. 

So it will be, in the end, with our criticism, after 1945, of 
certain errors of the Allied governors and generals towards Italy ; 
the day will come when our children will only remember the 
supreme benefit of the liberation of Italy from the Germans, that 
is to say, if this liberation is indeed a reality and not the ephemeral 
fruit of a second armistice, as happened in 1919. 

There was a French general at the end of the eighteenth century 
but before the nineteenth, who, in spite of all his mistakes in 
regard to us, our fathers could not but love : Napoleon. Perhaps 
they felt in him the crowned Italian, the Emperor of the Ghibelline 
tradition. Taine was wrong owing to his hatred of the Revolu- 

1 La Decade, 30 Messidor, An. IV* 



WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE FRENCH 109 

tion when in order to lower Bonaparte he saw In him the Italian 
condottiere of the fifteenth century. No, Napoleon appeared Italian 
to our great-grandfathers because they felt in their blood the fixed 
idea of Dante : the monarchy of the world. 

The idea of the union of all nations under the sceptre of 
a feudal Caesar does not belong to the spirit of the French Revolu 
tion. Napoleon must have got it from his far-off ancestors of the 
Lunigiana. One recalls Dante's ideal of the Emperor : the master 
of a single state that " every day enlarges its frontiers and never 
consents even to consider the ocean as its limit ". That is Napoleon 
on all his battlefields and in intention, also at Boulogne. 

Even though he did not succeed in being Emperor in the 
Italian fashion, Napoleon rendered the most precious service to 
Italy by destroying the Holy Roman Empire, the most dangerous of 
all our musty illusions of the past. 

He destroyed with it every antiquated dream, whether Ghibel- 
line or Guelph. Italy became at last what Machiavelli had wished, 
a nation belonging to itself, not an imperial dream ; the ancient 
shadow of the crown of the Caesars was dispersed for ever ; that 
shadow which had at times struck Italians to silence and respect in 
the very moment when they had defeated the Germans : as when 
in the night of Holy Saturday, 1175, they had encircled the German 
army, Frederick Barbarossa saved himself and his followers ordering 
the imperial heralds : 

Tu intima, o Araldo, passa Pimperator rornano, 
del divo Giulio erede, successor di Traiano. 

and Carducci re-evoking the scene, continues : 

Deh come allegri e rapidi si sparsero gli squilli 
De le trombe teutoniche fra il Tanaro e il Po, 
quando in cospetto all'aquila gli animi e i vessilli 
cTItalia s'inchinarono e Cesare passd. 

When Napoleon swept away the old Italian mists by destroying the 
Caesarian throne, his decision was the origin of dangers and sorrows 
for France. 

It was the end of the Holy Roman Empire that opened the 
way for the rapacious Prussian conquest of all Germany, Austria 
included, if one may so say, under the cover of the Triple Alliance. 
For Napoleon did not feel as a Frenchman would do, even though 
he loved France as the instrument of his own glory. It is strange 



110 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

that anyone should question that ; and even more strange as he 
confessed it himself (without realizing it, that is, without calcula 
tion), when in his Testament of St. Helena he declared his desire 
to be buried " on the banks of the Seine in the midst of the French 
people whom I have loved so much ". One only speaks thus of 
a people which is not one's own. 

The Italians pardoned Napoleon everything : exactions, corrupt 
and presumptuous envoys (except the honest Eugene de Beau- 
harnais), artificially established principalities for the Bourbons of 
Spain and his sister Elisa. He had created a noble symbol, the 
Kingdom of Italy ; and when he had been crowned with the Iron 
Crown, he had exclaimed in Italian : " Guai a chi la tocca ! " 
That was enough for our fathers. 

Italian literature of the nineteenth century whatever was to be 
asserted later during the Fascist period rose to a new life through 
the fortunate influence of France, and to begin with there was 
Giuseppe Parini who sang : 

Forse vero non e, ma un giorno e fama 
che fur gli uomini eguali, e ignoti nomi 
fur plebe e nobilta. 

Parini, who loyally served the Cisalpine Republic and only retired 
into private life when the French tore down the Crucifix from the 
great Hall of the Commune of Milan, thereupon declared : " Where 
the citizen Christ cannot enter, how should I remain ? " 

The few French writers who have wished to discover in our 
literature of the nineteenth century a pretended hatred or rancour 
against France have never been able to find more than two names 
of real men of letters : Alfieri and his Misogallo^ Gioberti and his 
frimato* and a third, sacred to Italy and to the world : Mazzini. 
Authors are representative of their time, even in spite of them 
selves : when Bernardin de Saint-Pierre asked Rousseau whether 
Saint-Preux was he, Jean Jacques replied : " No, Saint-Preux is 
not altogether what I have been, but rather what I should wish 
to have been." Still more profoundly true therefore of their 
personal reality. 

Alfieri wrote the Misogallo, a collection of virulent epigrams 

1 The Misogallo (1793-8) is a collection of verse and prose against the 
French Revolutionists. 

2 Del Primato morale e civile degli Italiani (1843). 



WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE FRENCH III 

against the men of the Revolution rather than against the principles 
of the Revolution, for the poet had sung with enthusiasm the 
Fourteenth of July, 1789, and the fall of the Bastille. 

Alfieri was an ardent republican; but perhaps he was even 
more Count Alfieri than he knew ; he had as mistress the wife of 
the Earl of Albany, the head of the ancient Stuart dynasty. 

These titles meant nothing good to the comit&s of 1793 which 
expelled Alfieri from Paris, where he had established himself in 
order to look after an edition of his Republican tragedies which 
Didot was publishing. Alfieri's anti-French hatred was hatred of 
the injustice done him and even more the result of disillusion. 

Since no one was more Italian than Vittorio Alfieri, one might 
say that for him at least the old foreign saying about " revenge, 
being a dish that the Italians eat cold ", was true. But after writing 
the Misogallo^ Alfieri thought no more about it ; he established 
himself in Florence, and pursued with sarcasms even more bitter 
the ephemeral Austro-Russian success, and confounded in a common 
and equal contempt Napoleon (whom the journalists represented 
as an antique hero) and the Legitimists and their impotent fury. 
France had the luck to be able to wreak a magnificent revenge 
on the author of the Misogallo ; when he died, all his manuscripts 
came to the Public Library of Montpellier, where they are still 
piously preserved. The poor but proud country squire would not 
have appreciated the reason for this exodus of his manuscripts ; 
all the more since the reason was that his royal but ageing mistress, 
whom he had watched over for many years, fell in love with a young 
and good-looking painter of Montpellier who in his turn left to 
his birth-place the manuscripts of his predecessor in the bed of the 
Countess of Albany. 

The French who know the Misogallo most of them have only 
heard of its existence ought also to know that it has fallen into 
complete oblivion in Italy. 

The most just and the most complete anthology of Italian poetry 
is, in my opinion, the Golden Book of Italian Poetry published at 
Oxford by Lauro de Bosis, the young poet who ^was drowned at 
sea in 1931 after a daring flight over Rome where he dropped 
manifestos to recall the King to his duty in vain. In this truly 
golden volume there does not appear a single one of the misogallic 
verses of Alfieri. 

The case of Vincenzo Gioberti is different. 

The restless little Piedmontese abate was suffocating in the police- 



112 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

ridden Turin of Carlo Alberto ; his head was bursting with too 
much reading which prevented him from having any original ideas 
of his own. At last he succeeded in having one during his long 
exile from 1833 to 1845 in France and in the then very French 
city of Brussels. But he felt no gratitude to France ; irascible like 
nearly all philosophers who are full of certainties, he resented that 
France should have been the cradle of Sensismo * ; in his mind 
Condillac appeared as a personal enemy ; he discovered or thought 
he had discovered a new philosophy, and ended by believing that 
this philosophy belonged of right to Italy and that he, Vincenzo 
Gioberti, had the mission of defending Italy's right to it ; whence 
arose the idea of writing that Primato morale e civile degli Italiani 
that was so immensely popular and that brought both good and 
evil to our people; good because it dissipated our feeling of 
inferiority; evil, much evil, because it made many believe that 
instead of advancing proudly but modestly and with tenacity in 
making good three centuries of time lost, it was enough to present 
to the world our genealogical tree. 

The book, which appeared five years before the great revolu 
tionary movement of 1848, met the fate that it could not but have ; 
it incited the Italians to rise from the dead and echoed profoundly 
among all those breathlessly longing for the liberty of our country : 
but all the rest of the book was ignored : both its system of philo 
sophy and the pretentious and vulgar attacks on our neighbours. 
The name of Gioberti remains among those that helped to create 
the atmosphere of '48 and it is right that it should be so. But 
his intellectual work is dead, without leaving a trace on our minds. 
Francesco De Sanctis was probably thinking of the attacks of the 
Turin abate against France and the French when he wrote : " In 
Gioberti there was uppermost just a fiery imagination. When he 
piles up his injurious epithets you take two steps backward fearing 
to encounter a raging madman : do not be afraid : all that heat is 
exterior, not a profound impetus of the imagination. Gioberti at 
home was a man placid and serene, nervous and excitable, it is 
true, and capable of suddenly raising his voice and as suddenly 
lowering it* He was often distraught," even in conversation. A 
serious man having begun a discourse, carries it to its end. Gioberti 
was often turned aside and distracted. It was so even in his 
writings ; he often leaves one idea to follow another. Behind 

1 Sensism ; a doctrine that all the operations of the mind and under 
standing are derived from the senses. 



WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE FRENCH II} 

the splendid imaginative writer, often original in form, according 
to the Italian genius, you do not find a profound thinker nor 
a statesman." 

More strange is it that sometimes it has been thought in France 
to attach the qualification " Francophobe " to such a sovereign 
name as that of Mazzini ; the most serious review in France, the 
Kerne des deux Monde s, that on the death of Mazzini in 1872 spoke 
of him as fifty years later Lenin was spoken of, so long as he 
lived never named him without adding, " dangereux revolutionnaire 
haissait la frame ". 

The contrary is the truth. In 1849 Mazzini saw his dearest 
friends struck down on the bastions of Rome by French bullets ; 
but from the Campidoglio where he sat as Triumvir of the Roman 
Republic, he decreed on March yth : 

" Whereas between the French people and Rome there is not 
nor can be a state of war ; that Rome is defending, as is her right 
and duty, her own individuality ; and deprecating as a crime against 
their common faith any cause of quarrel between the two Republics ; 
and whereas the Roman people do not hold soldiers accountable for 
deeds committed in obeying the orders of a deceived government ; 
The Triumvirate decrees : Art. I The French made prisoners on 
April 30th are free, and will be sent to the French camp/' 

Was this merely a clever piece of politics towards an invader 
a hundred times more numerous and better armed ? It might be 
argued that it was. Mazzini indeed showed during the whole 
duration of the Roman Republic that it was not necessary to be 
a cynic in order to govern with a shrewd prudence. But the decree 
certainly expressed too his most intimate feelings. Here is what 
he had written seventeen years earlier in 1832 in a message to 
German youth : 

" Men of Germany, you are establishing truly and honourably 
your nationality and no one will rise to threaten it. Then only 
will you have the right not to reckon among your obstacles a people 
which has worked with so much energy for the whole of Europe. 
This people dragged on by a despot has invaded you, but 
even so France brought you and has left you very considerable 
blessings." 

These phrases do not, it is true, conform very certainly with 
the tradition of the Treaty of Westphalia, but is it then so certain 
that the policy of Westphalia was in the long run useful and fruitful 
for France? 



114 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

In 1871, after the victories of Prussia, Mazzini gave an explana 
tion of these victories that produced a profound impression both 
in Italy and in England. 

" In France the Empire, by reason of the conditions inherent 
in that system and especially because of the necessity it was under 
to make the army a weapon not of the nation, but of a party in 
peril, has diminished in the soldier, naturally bold, the conscience 
and enthusiasm of a citizen, and has weakened, where that conscience 
remained, the link between the soldier and the leader without which 
victory is impossible. . . . The leaders were chosen not for merit 
or character but for their devotion, true or presumptive, to Bona- 
partism ; the generals expressly chosen for their experience of war 
in Algeria. . . . These men . . . had acquired unrebuked the 
habits and vices of Pretorians . . . ; depredations were committed 
as in the Russian army . , . tradition. . . . 

" The soldier, acute observer as he is and quick to find fault, 
especially in France, guessed all this and lost faith in his officers 
and so lost the spirit of discipline. Founded in corruption, the 
Empire perished of itself. The reports that reached Louis Napoleon 
on the preparations for war and on the state of the army were 
deceptive ; the truth would have revealed the havoc brought about 
by cupidity. The reports that reached him that South Germany 
was ready to rise against Prussia were equally false." 

And further on, in a passage that might have been written fifty 
years later at the time when Poincare believed that a separatist 
movement in the Ruhr and Palatinate could be provoked from 
without : 

" The money poured out among the Catholics of these regions 
to encourage them to work for France, which in view of German 
patriotism would always have been wasted, has swollen the purses 
of the secret agents employed in the work." 

And lastly : 

" The unfaithful copyist of his uncle, Louis Napoleon never 
verified, always trusted ; a deceiver, he was deceived. When after 
he arrived on the field the truth broke upon him, it was late and 
he found himself, after having declared war and chosen the moment 
for his attack, condemned to the defensive, as incapable of march 
ing on Mayence, as of operating from Strasburg against South 
Germany ; incapable too of destroying the neighbouring centres 
where the German railways met. Inert and unable to move, he 
awaited the attack and was exposed to it. The traditional valour of 



WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE FRENCH 115 

the French soldier was not enough, in the unfavourable conditions 
prepared by corruption and the incapacity of the leaders. 5 ' 

These pages of Mazzini's, severe as they are on dictatorship, 
were, in 1870 when they were published, even more eloquent in 
favour of France in neutral countries. At the end of this work, 
turning to Germany and to France, Mazzini added : 

" Guided by a greedy monarchy, Germany in her turn has 
strayed from the right way that respect for her conscience should 
have taught her not to leave, and has substituted for the right to 
defend herself a conception of revenge that will sow the seeds of 
new wars. May God and the people prevent it. And may France 
rise again to the influence we look for from her." 

In all he wrote of France Mazzini was prophetic. The loftiest 
spirits in France spoke with the same frankness, after the ephemeral 
diplomatic triumphs of 1919 and after the lightning defeats of 1940, 
due as were those of September 1943 in Italy to the mental 
insufficiency and moral cowardice of the generals, not to any failure 
of courage on the part of the soldier. 

There is another name, this time that of a mere politician, 
Crispi, which has at times been cited in France as a proof of anti- 
French prejudice in Italy, at least during the period of the Triple 
Alliance. There can be no doubt that contrary to his predecessors 
and successors, Crispi often seemed to wish to give the Triple 
Alliance an aggressive twist against France. In reality, the old 
Sicilian conspirator had only one fault : to be the opposite of 
a statesman, being too emotional and too bound up in negative 
traditions. I can still see the ironical expression of Giolitti when 
he told me that when he was Minister at the Treasury with Crispi, 
the ktter called him one morning at dawn to confide to him 
a terrible secret : it was this, that France had decided on a surprise 
attack on Spezia, but that he by a rapid movement was countering 
the danger. Nothing of the sort had ever been dreamt of; Crispi 
had accepted one of the usual reports of secret agents that are 
almost always quite worthless ; but that did not prevent Crispi 
from congratulating himself to his kst days that a man of his 
temper had been at the head of the Government in such a risky 
moment. 

For Crispi, a Sicilian, the French occupation of Tunisia in 1881 
was an unhealable wound ; and it was then there began in him 
a ktent distrust of French diplomacy. But let us be just : was it 
not a President of the Republic who replied to Bismarck when he 



Il6 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

offered at the Congress of Berlin to help France to seize Tunis : 
" Est-ce que ce bougre-la nut nous brouiller a toutjamais aver les Italiens ? " 
The trouble is that in politics it is so much easier to remember 
the faults of others than our own. . . . 

The period of Crispi apart, the truth is that the Triple Alliance 
was always considered and used in Italy as a simple security for 
peace and as a guarantee of territorial integrity and of the status quo 
in the Mediterranean. 

There is a despatch of Visconti-Venosta, one of the most clear 
sighted precursors of Crispi at the Consulta (it is a secret despatch 
setting out the whole mind of the Italian Minister), in which one 
finds defined with perfect exactness the motive with which Italy 
later entered the TripHce : 

" If war should be provoked by the folly or imprudence of 
France or if it should result from the clerical problem, our position 
would be clear and we should have the same interests directly in 
common with the Germans. But if war should come as the result 
of a German decision to make aggression against France, Italy would 
not be in a position to take part in the war alongside Germany ; 
for we should seem to be not an ally but a paid assassin. Besides, 
the result of a war between France and Germany would in any case 
be dangerous and harmful for Italy. If Germany must again crush 
France, she would end by dismembering her in a way that she 
would think, quite wrongly, definite one of those plans both 
excessive and artificial, and therefore ephemeral, in the manner of 
those adopted by Napoleon to make and break his treaties of peace. 
Now Italy could have neither power nor future in a Europe that 
had lost its balance." 

If I have quoted this document it is because in spite of the 
difference of the times and the situation, the words of the old Italian 
statesman are unfortunately applicable to the mad policy that seventy 
years later Mussolini adopted against France, whose military power 
had already been destroyed by the German armies. Not a few 
Italians were angered when Roosevelt defined the Fascist aggression 
as "a stab in the back"; they see now that a great patriot, 
a disciple of Mazzini and Cavour, defined as "paid assassin" the 
nation which would have consented to do what the Fascist leader 
did. 

Fascism is now dead, as Petainism is dead in France. It is 
the duty of the two peoples to look forward, not back. 

It is the duty of the two peoples to pause for a moment before 



WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE FRENCH 117 

reality and to get rid of the legends and the myths which a miserable 
nationalism has created on this side and on that. 

Where is the Italian or the Englishman who is not ready with 
a whole string of stereotyped phrases about those damned French 
men, so intellectual and consequential? He who would paint 
a France after this fashion forgets that her written constitution 
and her geometrical division date from the Constituent Assembly 
and after from the will of a man who wished to make of France 
a gigantic barracks Bonaparte. The gradual and spontaneous 
evolution of French history before the Revolution shows us through 
the centuries a political organization not less empirical and irrational 
than that of the arch-empirical organization of England. 

Again, one talks too much about French nationalism. Apart 
from those who have made " patriotism " a monopoly or a career 
and in Italy they are not lacking the idea of one's country is 
in France a synonym for a certain sort of life freely accepted by 
all. France considers herself a family of which all its members 
are happy to form a part. If there be any people of whom the 
definition of Kenan's corresponds to the truth, that people is the 
French : " The desire of living together and of maintaining un 
divided the inheritance they have received." Inheritance, inherit 
ance undivided : the French master work is solid because it has 
been slowly built ; the French would be wrong to take umbrage 
if someone were to remind them that not long before 1870 two 
Archdukes of Hapsburg-Lorraine were received in Nancy with the 
cry : " Long live our Dukes/' For it was only after 1870 in the 
misery of defeat that Nancy felt herself entirely French. It is not 
always that the intoxicating nectar of victory is the best chain of 
national unity ; rather it is sorrow and defeat that will sometimes 
create in a people the noblest moral union : so it was with us in 
1917 when we learnt a salutary lesson from the misfortunes which 
had befallen us. 

The exaggerated myth of French militarism is still going about, 
and this is not only a result of the imperialistic tradition, humani 
tarian in character, of the year II, but also of the flashy and 
inconsistent phraseology of certain pseudo-men of letters, such as 
Deroulede and of such pseudo-heroes as Boulanger. But if we 
study the essence of the French people and disregard ephemeral 
appearances, we cannot but discover a passionate love of peace : 
a hundred times under the monarchical regime the States General 
tried to prevent their sovereigns from launching into war, so that 



ITALY AND ITALIANS 

under Louis XIV the people, then powerless, stamped his wars 
with the name of " guerres de magnificence ". Of the first great 
French adventure of invasion, that of Charles VIII in Italy an 
adventure for which an Italian, Lodovico Sforza was largely respon 
sible a contemporary, Commynes, wrote that " every wise and 
reasonable man condemned it". 

If in 1851 and '52 the French people willingly received Louis 
Napoleon, it was out of fear of reckless social movements ; but 
the weak adventurer, to make himself acceptable, had to turn to 
the peasant of France and declare to them : " The Empire is 
Peace." The French people were in fact indifferent to the " shame 
of the Treaties of 181 5 ". They were right, because the Treaties 
too much vilified in France in the Romantic period had had the 
wisdom not to wound the dignity of France, leaving her frontiers 
inviolate : a precedent that the Allies would have done well not 
to forget in regard to Italy, victim as she was of a Fascism that 
they had imprudently caressed. It would in fact be dangerous to 
forget that the only wars which troubled the world for half a cen 
tury after 1815 were the Italian wars of 1848, 1849, 1859 anc ^ l8 66> 
all born from the fact that the obvious necessity for the territorial 
integrity of Italy had been misunderstood in the Treaty of Vienna. 

If in 1871 all the French voted in favour of Thiers it was because 
the little Provencal lawyer represented peace in spite of his too 
numerous volumes on the first Bonaparte. If the greatest states 
man of the Third Republic, Ferry, was so unpopular, the cause 
of his unpopularity was the colonial war which he imposed on the 
country ; he was abandoned by all because he was " le tonkinois ", 
It might almost be said that the great French colonial Empire was 
created by the Republic without the electors knowing anything 
about it ; the French conquest of Central Africa was the idea and 
the work of an Italian, Brazza. 

Again : saving the case of the two Bonapartes, both accepted 
at the start as internal peacemakers the French people that has 
the reputation of being militaristic, never tolerated soldiers or 
militarists at the head of the government. The victorious generals 
after 1918 had no influence, and this corresponds to the rule. 
The popukrity of Charles de Gaulle on his return to France after 
the liberation was certainly not due to his kepi and its oak leaves, 
but rather to his having been, during the years of servitude and 
shame, the true interpreter, from his exile in London, of the hopes 
and the honour of France. 



WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE FRENCH 119 

Face to face with France, we Italians ought not to try to attenu 
ate or to deny the horrible crime committed by Fascism towards 
the French people; but rather we ought to remember, for it is 
the truth, that there were many Italians who warned the Minister 
in Paris of the danger ; and there were very many Frenchmen who 
were willingly blind to it and refused to believe it. 

If I am allowed to cite myself as witness, I can truly say that 
I sounded the alarm from the first day ; ambassador as I was in 
Paris when Mussolini came to power, one hour after I learnt that 
he, under the illusion that he was winning my favour, named me 
with many compliments as plenipotentiary at Lausanne for the peace 
with Turkey, I sent him a categorical telegram of my resignation 
which upset people for the moment, but which they presently wished 
to forget. 

What happened next in France? 

When Mussolini embarked on the half-infantile, half-criminal 
enterprise of Corfu, Poincar was one of the principal saviours of 
the Duce, though that adventure was the first betrayal of the 
League of Nations and in consequence the first open breach in the 
only system that might have guaranteed the independence of 
France. " Why did you not take into account," I asked Poincare 
once, in the last year of his life when he was abandoned by all 
and my rare visits were among the few that broke his solitude, 
" why did you not realize that to aid Mussolini to save himself 
after the crime of Corfu was equivalent to creating a precedent for 
further illegal actions that might have been mortal for France ? " 

And he, free at last from any political calculation, conscious as 
he was of approaching the tomb : 

" You are right/* he replied ; " but it was impossible to do 
anything else : almost all my majority were enthusiastic for Musso 
lini, * the saviour of the west *, as they called him. They would 
have accused me of wishing to repeat the episodes of the Carthage 
and the Manouba I ; and might have brought again the odious 
accusation that I was anti-Italian." 

I have wished to repeat textually the words of a dying man, 
which are of special importance as the key to a long misunder- 

1 When Italy at war with Turkey had begun the "conquest of Libya, 
on January 16 and 19, 1912 two French ships, the Carthage and the 
Manouba, were stopped by Italy, the first because it was carrying a French 
aviator with his 'plane certainly destined for the Turks, the second 
because it had on board 16 Turks destined for the seat of war. 



120 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

standing about which those Italians who, like myself, profoundly 
love their country must not let themselves be deceived, but, just 
for this reason I wish and have always wished for an active and 
profound Franco-Italian entente. Scarcely had Mussolini begun to 
deny, even in his speeches, with phrases a la Edouard Drumont, 
the loftiest and purest traditions of our Risorgimento, when this 
extraordinary thing befell : that those few in France who hated 
in secret and defamed in public a free Italy, all the descendants 
of those who under Mac-Mahon had shouted for the rupture of 
relations with Italy, the grandsons of those who, with the Spanish 
woman Eugenie, had in 1870 preferred the defeat of France to the 
recall of the French troops that in Rome represented the betrayal 
of Italian Unity, all these suddenly became admirers of Italy, all 
rushed to Rome to be received by the Duce, by the " man we want 
ourselves at the Elysee " ; by instinct they knew that Italy was 
no longer Italy. Today we can say to them : " What you loved 
in Fascism was your old spite as reactionaries ; in Mussolini you 
saw a man who might help you to strike down the Republic, and 
it mattered little to you if France herself suffered in the adventure ; 
if you hated the Italians faithful to the thought of Mazzini so much, 
it was because they meant for you a regret or an accusation." 

At the time of the Ethiopian war it was even worse than at 
the time of Corfu ; if Poincare had helped Mussolini to " save his 
face ", Laval now became his official accomplice. The same thing 
happened in the war against Republican Spain. 

On the eve of the second world war, in August 1939, certain 
Italians put the French on their guard against the danger and later 
against Mussolini's lie of non-belligerency, but in Paris they tried 
continually, almost everywhere, to silence these Italians. The lofty 
courage of Maurice Sarraut was necessary to ignore these high- 
placed " appeasers " who wanted to soften down and censure my 
articles in the Depeche de Toulouse. In regard to these articles and 
to those which appeared in Ordre and in (Euvre (not yet fallen into 
the hands of Deat), the Gringoire wrote that they proved that I was 
one of the three worst enemies of France, and named them : 
Churchill, Benes, Sforza : I was flattered by this. 

Mussolini had always, even in the early months of 1940, two 
men devoted to him in the Council of French Ministers. Traitors ? 
Bought? No, worse. 

There will always be traitors, but with negligible exceptions, 
one knows who they are. But these men were bad Frenchmen 



WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE FRENCH 121 

out of cowardice and snobbishness, because to believe in Mussolini 
was the fashion in " good society " until May 1940. One day when 
a clear-sighted minister during a meeting of the Council of Ministers 
deplored that so many exports of war material had been authorized 
for Italy, one of these bad Frenchmen, feeling himself inculpated, 
replied: "I did not know that Count Sforza had the right to 
speak here." During that tragic period in which perhaps the 
situation might still have been saved, at least as regards Italy, many 
Italians, frightened by such voluntary blindness, did not cease to 
warn their French friends : Don Sturzo in London, Guglielmo 
Ferrero at Geneva, Silone in Zurich and all our friends in France, 
and first among them Carlo Rosselli, until Mussolini had him 
assassinated by the Cagoulards> the more directly responsible of 
whom was given the Legion of Honour by that " noble old man " 
of Vichy, Ptain, a clear confession this, that the Cagoulards were 
his creatures. But the most frequent reply that my friends received 
was this : " You are people infected with party passions.*' 

For some of the definite and precise steps which Italians took 
to save France, let me refer to what I have said in another book of 
mine, U Italia dal 1914 al 1944 quak io la vidi. 1 

But I have already said that what matters is to look forward ; 
woe to those who lose themselves in recriminations. 

The French and the Italians will not forget it : these last years 
have provided the touchstone to discover imbeciles. How was one 
to know if someone in France was a traitor, or just wanting, just 
a fool? Bring the conversation round to Italy and you could 
judge him at once if he spoke of Italy like certain horrible convict 
guards of the Italian prisoners in Tunisia and Algeria used to 
speak, gentry who after years of collaboration with the Germans 
were trying to " make good " in this fashion. And the same in 
Italy ; one knows in Italy what to think of a man who in a Europe 
and a world which impose new duties on us if they are to be saved, 
chatters the old anti-French stupidities. 

By good luck at least if we are not bent on suicide sane and 
generous Frenchmen and well-balanced and loyal Italians form the 
immense majority of the two peoples. 

After such ruin not only material the same tremendous task 
is imposed on all; if they wish to get "fuor dal pelago alia riva" 
both Frenchmen and Italians must find the way not only to respect 

1 Chapter XX. 



122 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

but to admire one another. How is this to be done ? It is enough 
not to oppose the laws of the future. 

They oppose the laws of the future who think of the nations 
of Europe as isolated compartments. In the Europe of tomorrow 
one will breathe infinitely more largely than that. Arch-Italian as 
I am, I hope with all my heart that these marvellous flowers of the 
civilization of our world, which are Italy and France, England and 
Russia, Holland and Portugal, Spain and Bohemia, and so on, may 
continue to enrich humanity with their art, their thought, and the 
respective traditions which spring from the mysterious roots in 
their soil. For tomorrow no one will be able to claim that he 
belongs to a single nation. We shall certainly be good Italians, 
good French and good Poles, but we must at the same time feel 
that we are members of a European perhaps of a world-organiza 
tion. The peoples who do not understand this will perhaps not 
perish, but they will vegetate. And tomorrow as indeed always 
even in the past to vegetate will mean to count for nothing in 
the world. History is a cemetery of peoples who were content to 
vegetate : Persia in Asia, Venice in Europe were once two great 
States, but when they thought they could live on their past, very 
soon in one or two centuries they were only two famous 
relics. 

The French and the Italians are too intelligent to go against 
history. They will know how to show to the world a principle of 
union, even rudimental, and the world will admire them as pioneers 
of humanity ; an achievement which many times they accomplished 
in the past. But this time they will be admired even more because 
deeds have this about them which is formidable, that they strike 
more forcibly and inspire respect more quickly than ideas. 

I hate generalizations, and therefore I will offer none here. 
Already in the time of Briand I had observed, with a friendship 
which permitted a criticism, that what seemed to me harmful in 
the project for a European union was the formal label that had 
been stuck on it precisely like a postage stamp : United States of 
Europe. Briand erred because, ardent Frenchman as he was and 
a passionate patriot, he was all the time thinking, above all, about 
the salvation of France ; he had not first and foremost thought 
of Europe ; hence this cold, theoretical plan. 

The French and the Italians of tomorrow must think and feel 
like Mazzini, who said : " I love my country because I love all 
countries/' If far-sighted French and Italian statesmen are capable 



WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE FRENCH 123 

of an accomplished fact whether it be an alliance or an under 
standing open to all and first of all to a democratic Spain whose 
international spirit is extraordinarily mature the world will first 
of all be astonished and then will imitate : and in any case eveiy- 
where it will win respect. 



XVII 
WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE SWISS 

MANY were the underground intrigues of Fascism against 
Switzerland ; and a lot of money was spent to invent 
" unredeemed " Italians of the Ticino valley. Who knows 
but what all that will come out sooner or later and create a halo of 
pity rather than of horror against the inept Mussolini and his 
hierarchy. Nothing, in fact, could have been more harmful to 
Italy than a policy whose object was to upset the Swiss Confeder 
ation ; but one must have been blind to have imagined that Switzer 
land could continue to live, composed only of Swiss speaking 
French and some speaking German, minus the third essential 
element, the Ticinese confederates who are infinitely more useful 
to Italy as the tenacious representatives of our language and our 
culture in the most central and cosmopolitan of European States 
than if they had become one more Italian prefecture. (The same 
might be said for Fiume, which as a Free State, such as I created it 
at Rapallo, completely Italian in speech and culture, would have 
been far more serviceable to Italy than the vaingloriously annexed 
and hence the bloodless state which Fascism made of it.) 

Switzerland has always offered Italy this incomparable 
advantage : she gives us a long line of frontier which is absolutely 
secure ; such a security as one could not find, I think, in any other 
part of the world before 1939, save, perhaps, that between Norway 
and Sweden or, on the other side of the Atlantic, that between 
Canada and the United States. 

Switzerland is the living proof that the miracle of a happy 
national life is more the work of the free will of a people than 
a community of language or of religion. In Switzerland the people 
of Geneva, Lausanne and the neighbouring towns hold tenaciously 
to the French culture as the German Swiss to the German, and those 
of the Ticino to the Italian ; but all of them wish with equal firmness 
the maintenance of the Confederation, their common laws, their 
Federal Parliament at Berne and, above all, the secular atmosphere 
of true everyday liberty. 

What distinguishes the Swiss from their three great neighbours 

124 



WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE SWISS I2J 

is that they not only believe but feel that their bureaucracy and 
the State itself both belong to the citizens. There is not a shadow 
"of the servility of the German before the feeblest and vainest 
Beamte of the Reich ; nor is there a shadow of the sceptical passivity 
of the French to the Administration,, nor of the irritation of the 
Italian for our own centralized bureaucracy. The Swiss citizen 
never thinks for a moment that " our " civil servants can be guilty 
of an abuse, in which he is aided by the smallness of the country 
where everyone is known, where all can be received both in the 
capital of the Canton or in Berne. 

Each Canton is a nation. If you ask a stranger where he is 
from, he will not reply that he is a Swiss but that he Is from Zurich 
or Geneva or the Ticino. And this is a happy state of affairs that 
is not found in France or even in England : in France all the talents 
flow to Paris, impoverishing Dijon and Bordeaux, Marseilles and 
Toulouse, once so fruitful in talent ; in England every fortune 
depends on London and everyone finds himself there at last, above 
all, the Scots. In Switzerland, on the other hand, every city still 
keeps its own strong municipal vitality ; just as it used to be and 
as we must hope it will be again, in Italy. In Italian Switzerland 
the ideas and expressions of Lugano differ from those of Bellinzona ; 
even tiny Locarno is a little world in itself. The same differences 
used to exist between Parma and Modena, between Lucca and Pisa, 
between Lecce and Taranto ; in some ways the Italy of our grand 
fathers still lives in the Ticino, pulsing though it is with modern 
energy and perhaps nowhere else. 

The Swiss are numerous in Italy, especially in Milan, Turin 
and Genoa. They meet together for their festivals, but ordinarily 
they mix so well with the Italians that no one thinks of them as 
foreigners. And this was so in Rome, even for the Swiss Minister. 
When as Foreign Minister I used to receive foreign representatives 
I never forgot to what nationality my visitor belonged, even though 
we were conversing in Italian. But with the Swiss Minister I found 
it natural to discuss Italian problems sometimes of a most intimate 
nature as though he were an old Italian friend. As for us Italians, 
there is no other country in the world than Switzerland in regard 
to which we ought with so much reason to repeat an old phrase 
coined in 1870-80 about Austria-Hungary : " If she did not exist 
it would be necessary to invent her." 

The more we speak of European solidarity, the more we aspire 
to an organized Europe, the more we must take Switzerland as our 



iz6 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

ideal, for Switzerland more than any other State has found the 
way to marry federal rights with a lively Cantonal independence. 

Napoleon, the winner of sterile battles, showed also in Switzer 
land his incapacity to understand the soul of a conquered people : 
he imposed on the Swiss a Republic " one and indivisible ", as for 
France, which had become his own. The thing could not have 
lasted, even though Napoleon had lasted. For Swiss centralization 
meant slavery. Certainly the less recent history of the Swiss Can 
tons proves that it was necessary as it will be one day for Europe 
to subject certain local particularisms to a superior law ; that 
happened with the Federal Constitution of 1848 ; but at the same 
time the rights and the independence of the Cantons were 
safeguarded. 

The same political balance was confirmed in 1874, the year in 
which (after the fears of 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War) 
a revision of the constitution strengthened the authority of the 
Federal Council. I have been able to examine a number of the 
Ticino newspapers of the time. The articles published then on 
this difficult subject would have done honour to the greatest 
European journals. And the Ticinese had more merit than other 
Switzers in accepting an increase in the powers of Berne, because, 
less numerous as they were, they risked more ; but they had faith 
in themselves, which is the only way not to be oppressed. 

I wish Italians would go every now and again to learn very 
salutary lessons of political wisdom and Italian dignity from the 
Ticinese, their brothers in language and culture, faithful friends too 
of a united Italy towards whom they only felt a sorrowful astonish 
ment when the amateur regime of Palazzo Venezia attempted to 
make " subjects " of them. 



XVIII 

WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE 
GERMANS 

IN the world of European cultures it is well known that it was 
the tradition of the ancient Italian Universities, as of the more 
famous Atemi of free Italy, after 1860, to offer Professorships 
to learned foreigners, and that even in those subjects in which it 
was generally admitted that Italy was facile princeps. 

It was one of the well-known characteristics of the Italian spirit 
of the Risorgimento that the struggle against the Austrians a 
struggle the moral centre of which was often in the University 
did not in the least diminish the interest of masters and students 
in German culture, and especially in the Hegelian philosophy. 

Students and readers of history, of philology and of philosophy, 
in 1821, '31, '48, '59 and '60, only interrupted their studies of the 
thought of those who were the great professors and masters of 
Germany, to go and fight the Austrian armies then in the field 
against us. It was in the prison of Castel delTOvo, at Naples, 
that De Sanctis translated the works of Hegel into Italian. It 
was at the same time that Alessandro Poerio, killed by an Austrian 
bullet during the war of '48, boasted of " cosmopolitanism of the 
mind " as the ideal of Italian thought of his generation. 

The people did not feel differently. Giambattista Niccolini would 
be a forgotten poet if the Italians had not made their own, as a war 
song, a verse from his tragedy : " ftJpassin VAlpe e torneremfratelti" 

I have already told how during the war of 1914-18 the letters of 
our volunteers in France and later of our soldiers and officers from 
the Grappa to the Piave, showed how profound was their humanity 
in spite of the decision not to lay down their arms until the enemy 
was beaten. The " Critica " of Benedetto Croce rendered a service 
to our moral reputation in the world, when it published, immediately 
after the war, many of these letters. One volunteer whose name 
is sacred to me * wrote me from near Gorizia : " Send me a Giusti 

1 My elder brother, Cesare ; perhaps the only one (there were cer 
tainly but few) who refused a medal for valour because he said volunteers 
ought to win nothing for themselves in war. 

127 



128 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

with his SanfAmbrogio ; I want to read it to my men. I am sure it 
will please them/' 

Giuseppe Giusti 1 wrote the SanfAmbrogio in 1846 when the 
Austrians were absolute masters of Italy. All will remember the 
description of the " cantico tedesco lento lento *, of the " dolce^a amara " 
of the poet who ends by saying : 

. . . quest'odio che mai non awicina 
il popolo lombardo all'alemanno, 
giova a chi regna dividendo e teme 
popoli avversi affratellati insieme. 

The years of the bestial Nazi-Fascist war have produced no 
SanfAmbrogio ; as no one can think of a gesture like that of Ales- 
sandro Manzoni who, when he composed his hymn of March 1821 
for the Italian crusade against the Germans, dedicated it : " To 
the illustrious memory of Theodore Koerner poet and soldier of 
German Independence dead on the field of Leipzig October 
1 8th, 1813 a name dear to all who fight to defend or conquer 
back a fatherland." 

It is not remembered enough in Italy that the legions of Gari 
baldi and the handful of Mazzinian heroes had among them English 
men, Hungarians, Frenchmen (one Frenchman died on the walls 
of Rome where he was killed by the soldiers of Oudinot), Americans 
too and Poles, but not a single German. 

The abyss between Italians and Germans was always profound, 
save during the German intellectual awakening of the first half of 
the nineteenth century. 

Italians were only interested in the German people as such 
during the most serious crisis of German history : the Reformation ; 
a crisis in comparison with which Nazism itself will only appear 
as a bloody carnival. 

Scrupulously respectful of every religious sentiment as I am, I 
should be sorry to offend even the most humble follower of Luther. 
But how can it be denied that the Lutheran revolt threw the German 
people into a dangerous isolation and into a blind servitude to the 
temporal ruler ? And so, Hitler appeared ; and one cannot under 
stand the mad Austrian without remembering that before him there 
was Luther. The racialism of Hitler finds its prototype in Luther, 
not only when he wrote, " We Germans are Germans and wish to 
remain Germans ", a formula which is understandable for a people 

1 Giuseppe Giusti, born in Tuscany 1809, died 1850, 



WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE GERMANS 129 

without definite geographical frontiers, but also when he adds that 
there is such a thing as " German nature " that alone possesses 
" force of character, perseverance in work, moderation in its habits, 
loyalty and generosity ", in fact I am still quoting Luther " the 
best people of all time, the nation par excellence ". As for other 
nations, it appears to readers of Hitler that the Italians, as Luther 
said, " have nothing but grace ", the French possess no other gift 
at all save " eloquence " ; as for the Muscovites, the contempt is 
the same in both prophets : " they are scarcely on a level with the 
Turks ", according to Luther. 

Mein Kampfis close to Luther where the latter claims that power 
in the service of " justice " ought to know no limits ; there already 
set forth is the Hitlerian formula of March 1936, according to which 
the German people has itself the right to decide whether or not it 
has violated a treaty. 

It is easy to understand why a chosen people recognizes in Luther 
its very own nature, ihr poten^irtes Se/bst, as Dollinger says ; and 
that Fichte, Hegel, Treitschke are spiritually among its foremost 
sons. Professors of Treitschke's school are the worst of those 
who are guilty of the poisoning of minds in Germany, of the 
betrayal of Goethe's thought. There would have been nothing 
strange in that if having fought to establish Prussianism in a more 
humane Deutschtum, they were loyally busy after the victories of 
the Hohenzollern in 1866, accepting the Prussian solution of the 
German question ; facts are facts ! But they did not stop there ; 
with Treitschke at their head they worshipped what they had once 
severely criticized. They only now believed in Macht> symbol and 
soul of the Bismarckian and Wilhelmian period and the Hitlerian 
fever that followed. Perhaps if they had remained, I do not say 
hostile, but in dignified silence, they might have been able to render 
some service to the mental balance of their contemporaries. 
Instead, they thought that to become courtiers and liars was politics 
and statesmanship. And they did it with such barefaced stupidity 
that at last their hero, Bismarck, made cruel fun of them and they 
fell to being " experts " of science and philology, just as the true 
and genuine politicians became mere clerks in the government 
routine. 

All forgot the scientists like the politicians that nothing 
sound and enduring can happen to a people suffering from a diseased 
nationalism ; and that those countries alone are great which have 
a human message for the whole world, like the United States with 



130 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

their Declaration of Independence. France with the Droits de V 
Germany herself for a moment with Kant and Goethe, and Italy 
with Mazzini. 

All this the Italian people felt by instinct even during the long 
marriage of convenience and reason that was the Triple Alliance. 

It is sometimes said that we hate the Austrians because they 
were tyrannical invaders of our soil after the Treaty of Vienna 
and that we felt no hostility to the Germans of the North, at least 
until 1915. But the contrary is the truth. Our fathers thought 
indeed that the Imperial Habsburg system was a mortal danger to 
us, and still more so during the period in which Vienna attempted 
to deal softly with us, as in the time of Maximilian, the able younger 
brother of Franz Joseph ; whilst in the periods of brutal repression 
a la Radetski there was no Cantu who yielded or ventured to yield. 
But as a people, especially after 1866, we have felt no real hatred for 
those Austrians who had experienced so much Italian influence 
from the time of Metastasio. 

All the more a certain antiquated seventeenth-century formalism 
displeased us, as being too much in contrast with our freer manners. 
Our invincible antipathy has turned instead against the Germans 
of the Reich. Even though we recognized their notable qualities 
as technicians and researchers, we felt instinctively that they were 
completely wanting in that fraternal humanity without which it is 
impossible to reach Italian hearts. 



XIX 
WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE SLAVS 

Two types of men often appear in Italy In the course of 
our history. The two types seem dissimilar but are not : the 
one is the man of measured and profound thought drawing 
his philosophy from a cold observation of social life : this is 
Machiavelli, who opens among us the era of modern political study, 
and Cavour, the most complete statesman of the nineteenth century, 
and Giolitti, the least Giolittian of men (since rightly or wrongly 
a bad sense has been given to that adjective), Giolitti who fought and 
hated even more than Cavour the stupid corruption of our political 
life and its theatrical over-emphasis. The other type is that of the 
saint and ascetic from St. Francis of Assisi to St. Philip Neri, from 
Mazzini to Mameli, from Garibaldi to Battisti, that hero from the 
Trentino who so much despised a third statesman type fortunately 
less frequent, the demagogue and swindler full of sterile grudges 
and morbid vanity such was Mussolini. 

It is not without significance that the latter of the two diverse types 
have found themselves at one in regard to the problem of our 
relations with the Southern Slavs from the first moment when it 
appeared in the nineteenth century. 

It was at the very dawn of their national awakening that the 
Southern Slavs found in Mazzini the first and most eloquent de 
fender in Europe of their ideals. It was he who in his I^ettere Slam 
brought the Jugo-Slav problem to the attention of Europe. Maz- 
zini wrote in 1857 in one of his Lettere, " If in our resurrection of 
1848 the Southern Slavs had been able to see the rise of a Nation 
that would rend the old map of Europe and call the new peoples 
to rise up and establish themselves according to natural tendencies ; 
if the deceptions to which we patiently submitted had not given to 
Austria the opportunity to say to these ignorant men : ' this Is a 
war of royal rivalries which, if they could, would trample you 
down ', perhaps those first symptoms of brotherhood would have 
ripened into deeds. But who could hope that any European ideas 
would manage to appear when we trembled to send to the field, 



132 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

for fear of displeasing the Tsar, the two hundred Poles that the 
great Michiewicz meant for us. 

" And do not accuse me of unreasonable conjecture. A little 
before 1848 the Slav agitation had assumed in Croatia and else 
where a character openly political and menacing. The educated 
remained as usual uncertain, lost in thought, but the people went 
forward adopting methods of action and rebellion. The German 
language, till then almost generally used in Illyria among the 
women of the middle class, disappeared before the Slav tongue. 
One saw return to honour in public gatherings the national dress. 
The line of separation, so distinct in the Lombardo-Veneto between 
Austrians and Italians, began to appear in the Slav provinces, the 
German officers of the troops stationed in Zagreb did not dare to 
set foot in the Gaffe Nazionale. And in Zagreb the Assembly 
boldly asked the Emperor in '45 for an independent local govern 
ment for Croatia and Slavonia and a similar new administration for 
Dalmatia, Zara and Ragusa. These were frightening indications 
from which Italy under another leader might have certainly been 
able to profit. 

" Today the movement is apparently suspended. The word 
Illyria is forbidden to the Press. A series of immediate repressions 
threatens the organizer of every public manifestation. But who can 
believe that a movement such as I have described is wholly spent ? 

" The difficulties that trouble its development are 'certainly 
sufficiently grave among the Slavs themselves and Austria profits 
by them as much as she can. First there is the religious question, a 
cause of mistrust between the Austrian Slavs and the subjects or 
tributaries of the Turks : since the majority of the first are Catholics 
and most of the second belong to the Greek rite. Then the Slav 
Croatian aristocracy inspires fear in the Serbs and Bulgarians who 
have a more equal social structure. Add to all this the political 
diversity between Serbia nearly independent, free Montenegro and 
the Slav provinces of Austria. Lastly, there is the name of Illyria 
given by Craj and his adherents to the whole of Southern Slavdom, 
which is not accepted by Serbians. The Croats maintain that that 
name represents the aboriginal Slavs ; the Serbs hold it in contempt, 
because of its Roman origin, proud as they are of their medieval 
memories and eager to believe that they are descended from a 
separate tribe that came down from the Carpathians to occupy Illyria. 

" These, however, are difficulties that time, the intellectual 
progress which is being achieved, and above all a common servitude, 



WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE SLAVS 133 

embittered by the disenchantments poured out after 1848 with 
both hands by the Austrians to their subjects, are quickly wearing 
away. And if Italy rose today in the name of all the peoples that 
are panting to make themselves into a nation; if she rose fighting 
and conquering but at the same time offering a pact at every victory 
of equal peace and liberty to those enemies on the other side of the 
Alps who can become her brothers ; if she rose teaching by her 
example broad, just and tolerant views to the Magyars, for their 
movement must follow infallibly the Italians ; if she rose indeed 
with a challenge of war against Austria, * Liberty for those oppressed 
by Austria I * perhaps these difficulties would be dissipated in a 
moment and the break-up of the empire would be the prize of a first 
campaign." 

Fourteen years later, on the eve almost of his death, Mazzini 
added : 

" The true objective of the international life of Italy, the most 
direct road to her future greatness, lies on a higher plane, where 
today the most vital European problem is thrashed out, it lies in the 
union with the vast and powerful element which is destined to 
infuse a new spirit into the brotherhood of Italians, or, if it is 
allowed to lose its direction as a result of short-sighted distrust, 
to disturb the Nations with long wars and grave dangers : it lies 
in the alliance with the Slav family. Today, I say, the most vital 
European problem is on the horizon, namely, whether there is to be 
a brotherhood and communion of the Nations or a future of ruinous 
quarrels, of long wars and grave perils. 

" The Eastern frontiers of Italy were named when Dante wrote 

... a Pola presso del Carnaro 

che Italia chiude e suoi termini bagna 

Inf., IX, 113. 

Istria is ours. But from Fiume, along the eastern shore of the 
Adriatic, as far as the river Boyana where is the Albanian frontier, 
there lies a zone in which among the relics of our colonies the Slav 
element predominates. This Slav zone, that on the Adriatic shore 
beyond Cattaro contains Dalmatia and the Montenegran region, 
extends on two sides beyond the Balkan mountains towards the 
East as far as the Black Sea, towards the north across the Danube 
and the Drave to Hungary, which it enters ; from year to year it is 
rapidly encroaching upon the Magyar element." 
And then in conclusion : 



134 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

ic The Turkish Empire and the Austrian are irrevocably con 
demned to perish. The international life of Italy must tend to 
accelerate their death. And the hilt of the sword that must kill 
them is in the hand of Slavs." 

The opinion of Mazzini was known to Italians. And Fascism 
feared it so much that it had recourse to absurd measures of sup 
pression of the books concerned. 1 

Not so well known is the fact that Cavour, an opposite type to 
Mazzini, wrote even before the latter pages inspired by an equally 
living sympathy for the independence of our neighbours. It was at 
a time when we were at war with the Austria of Radetzki : Croatian 
troops were fighting in the Lombard plain with an absolute loyalty 
to the Austrian Emperor who rewarded them with a dynastic 
ingratitude " that astonished the world " even the world of his 
fellow sovereigns which is saying a good deal, indeed everything. 
Nevertheless Cavour advised the Italians in the columns of his 
newspaper that was so displeasing to the " moderates " at that 
time : " It is futile and vain " I abbreviate " that you should 
continue to hate the Croats ; they are like yourselves victims of an 
egoistical power that drives its people of eleven different tongues 
the one against the other; these Croats must one day become, 
with their brother Slavs of the South, the close friends and allies of a 
free Italy." 

More important still, because more typical of Cavour (that is to 
say of a mind where idealism and realism are always at one) is 
a speech on relations with the Slavs which Cavour made in the 
Chamber of Deputies on October the zoth, 1848. 

" There exists within the territory of the (Austrian) Empire a 
numerous race, energetic and courageous but for many centuries 
oppressed, the Slav race. This race extends through all the Eastern 
parts of the Empire, from the banks of the Danube to the moun 
tains of Bohemia and desires to obtain complete emancipation and 
to reconquer its own nationality and independence. Its cause is 
just, it is a noble cause. It is defended by ckns still rude and 
unpolished, but full of courage and energy ; it is therefore destined 
to triumph in a non-distant future. 

1 Fascism forced the publishing house of Treves of Milan not only 
to withdraw my book on Mazzini in which I pointed out his ideas, but 
obliged the unhappy publishers to destroy the catalogues in which my 
book Was described ; that was certainly not so much in hatred of my 
modest name as for fear of Mazzini's ideas. 



WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE SLAVS 135 

" The Slav movement, repressed by brute force in the North 
of the Empire, spread mote vigorously and menacingly, more 
powerfully too, in the Southern Danubian provinces inhabited by 
Croatian Slavs. 

" I am not going to undertake here an examination of the 
causes or the claims that have aroused the movement of Croatia 
against Hungary. I do not wish to go into the particulars of the 
great struggle between the Magyars and the Slavs. I will only 
remind the Chamber that the Magyars, noble and generous when 
it is a question of defending the rights of their nation against 
imperial arrogance, have nevertheless always shown themselves to 
be proud and tyrannical oppressors of the Slav race spread through 
the provinces of Hungary. 

Valeria : That is not exact. 

Cavour : Yes, gentlemen, no one can deny that In Hungary the 
aristocracy is of Magyar race, the people are Slavs ; nor 
can it be denied that in that kingdom the aristocracy has 
always oppressed the people. 

" However, I do not purpose to defend the Croats or even their 
bold leader the Ban (Governor) Jellachich. I confine myself 
to observing that the standard they have unfurled is the Slav stan 
dard and not yet as others have supposed the standard of reaction 
and despotism. Jellachich has availed himself of the name of the 
Emperor and in that has shown himself a shrewd politician. But 
that does not prove that his principal aim, if not only one, is not the 
restoration of Slav nationality. What, then, is the Imperial power ? 
A vain simulacrum of which the parties that divide the Empire avail 
themselves. Jelkchich, seeing the Emperor in contention with the 
Viennese, has declared for the central power ; but certainly not for 
the reconstitution of the Gothic political edifice overthrown by the 
revolution of March. 

" To demonstrate that the movement of Jellachich is not a 
simple military reaction it is enough to observe that on his approach 
to Vienna the Slav deputies, specially those of Bohemia who 
represent the most enlightened part of the Skvs, left the Assembly 
with the intention of retiring to Prague, or to Brunn, there to set 
up a Slav parliament. 

" I believe, then, that the struggle that is rising in Austria is not 
a political struggle like that of March, but rather the prelude of 
a terrible race war, of a war of Germanism against Slavism." 

The prophecy of Cavour came to pass with the war of 1914 that 



136 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

saw Germanism and Slavism face to face : that war ended with the 
destruction of the Hapsburg monarchy, the great eastern bulwark of 
Germanism. 

But in the fatal 1914-18 we had no Cavour. Croatian refugees 
had a warm welcome in Rome, desirous as they were to put them 
selves from the beginning under our guidance ; they were sent off 
kicked out. The lack of understanding and the suspicions that 
were the inevitable result of the shortsighted Treaty of London did 
the rest. Later, in 1920, the Treaty of Rapallo opened the way to 
reconciliation, but precious time was lost and rancour had poisoned 
many minds, 1 and all this when between 1914 and 1920 we needed 
far more patience, prudence, persuasive force and historical imagin 
ation than was suspected even in the time of Mazzini and Cavour. 
It was in fact after Mazzini, in the last ten years of the Hapsburg 
monarchy, that Jugo-SIav nationalists invaded Venezia Giulia, and 
above all Istria, where they first fomented and then directed the 
struggle of the contadini (almost all Slovene) against the proprietors, 
rapidly transforming the struggle from a social to a national contest, 
Slavs against Italians, Such a contest found there a more congenial 
soil than in any other part of Europe because the Italians felt them 
selves to be citizens, as I have explained in the earlier pages of this 
book, while the Slavs were all countrymen. In no other place has 
the fact more meaning, than our tongue gives a depreciative sense 
to words like villano or rustico, while on the other hand it gives 
a significance of gentility to all words with the same rotes as chitta 
or urbe (civile . . . urbano). And this explains, perhaps, why so 
many Istrians and Dalmatians with surnames ich feel themselves so 
Italian (Italy for them is civilization) while others with surnames 
in / (one remembers the once famous political priest Binkini) are 
all Italophobe : the rich, the cultured and the citizens are those 
with names in ich, the sons of contadini those with names in /*. 

For centuries there has been in the blood of the Italians of 
Venezia Giulia the conviction that the city is the complete expression 
of the surrounding country and they are right, because an Italian 
city is not only a cross-roads for the exchange of goods as in the 
Orient, but a secular centre of influence, both intellectual and moral. 

It was a great misfortune for Italy and for civilization that the 
Treaty of Rapallo was not able to develop its mission of peace and 

1 For all this period, see my U It alia dal 1914 al 1944 quah to la vidi y 
Chapters V, VI, XII, and my I Costruttori e i Distruttori, where I speak 
of Sonnino, Bissolati, Giolitti and Pasich. 



WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE SLAVS 137 

understanding. In the minds of those who made it, it was not an 
end but a beginning ; a beginning of series of political acts of 
which the creation of a Consorzio Italo-Jugo-Slav for the Port of 
Fiume would necessarily have been the second step, to have been 
followed by many others. 

Alas, the advent of Fascism destroyed every possibility of 
immediate understanding between the two nationalities and that in 
a period in which it is more and more inconceivable to obstruct 
the movement of the masses of peasants towards a legitimate social 
betterment and towards a participation in political power. If 
Fascism had not appeared on the scene to destroy the future of 
Italy, if a sane democracy had been established in our country, 
generous reforms in favour of the Slav peasantry might have perhaps 
secured for centuries the supremacy of Italian civilization among the 
masses who were not even united by a common language, some 
speaking Slovene, others Croatian. Instead, Fascist stupidity and 
vainglorious nationalism allied themselves with the object of break 
ing by violence that is the most sterile method possible popula 
tions that we could only bring within our orbit with affection and 
comprehension. And now the road we must follow is much 
longer and more difficult because for too many years the Slavs of 
Venecia Giulia have identified wrongly certainly even for the 
youthfully immature mentality the true Italy, that of Mazzini and 
Battista with the pseudo-Roman Italy of sterile nationalists and 
noisy Fascists. By paradox as it might appear more than as the 
fault of Fascism, the Italian cause collapsed, even in the minds of 
honest and moderate Jugo-Slavs in the unhappy period that fol 
lowed July 25th, 1943. As for Fascism, they could say: "It is 
a dictatorship ; we know perfectly well what King Alexander was 
in Belgrade." But what must they have thought when they saw the 
military and civil agents of the monarchical and Badoglian coup 
d'etat arrest and imprison young Italian patriots at Trieste and Pola, 
youthful patriots who for years had collaborated with the Slavs in 
the fight against Fascism ? What could they think when they saw 
the most perfidious Fascist persecutors of the Jugo-Slavs continued 
and considered and caressed as before? These functionaries, no 
longer Mussolini's creatures but the King's after July 25th, believed 
they could repeat on this flaming soil the formula so dear to Victor 
Emanuel III, "neither Fascism nor anti-Fascism". The Slavs 
translated : " The Italians are trying to embroil us with the Allies/' 

By good luck for the Italian cause the cruel violence of certain 



138 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

Slavs, the monstrous military pretensions and the lack of any sort 
of loyalty towards real Italian anti-Fascists on the part of Tito's 
agents opened the eyes of many even among the Slovenes, though 
they were silent for fear of the dictatorial methods of the too easy 
victor ; without taking into account that the mass of Tito's troops 
was composed of Croat contadini which, partly drunk with patriotic 
joy at the idea of marching to the liberation of the cities of the 
littoral after twenty years of the Italian yoke, discovered with 
stupefaction that at Trieste, Pola and Gorizia, everywhere in fact, 
only Italian was spoken, not only among Italians. 

The result of twenty years of Fascism and a few months of 
Badoglio is a gross sum of materialistic errors on both sides. 

The tragedy is too pitiful to contemplate, or even to allow us 
to indulge in personal recriminations or apologies. But all the 
same, one cannot but remember so significant is it an episode 
which happened in 1925 at Lubiana where a Jugo-Slav Congress had 
met to denounce to the world the injustices and cruelties that the 
Fascists had begun to commit against the Slavs of Venezia Giulia. 
A violent nationalist orator interrupted the series of denunciations 
with this cry : " Welcome these evils ! It was Sforza with his 
political conciliation that was our real enemy ; it is Mussolini who 
prepares our victory." 

Poisoned by the nationalistic spirit as frantic as it is parvenu, 
the Slav who spoke thus could not understand that while I wanted 
the well-being and development of my people I also wished the 
same for the Jugo- Slavs, knowing as I did, and do, that in the 
Europe that is now rising there is no longer a place for stagnant 
isolation, 

I will repeat what I wrote at the time and what remains true 
today in spite of so many political errors of Italians and so many 
savage excesses of fanatical Slavs : " If not for love, then for their 
common interests, the two nations must end by understanding one 
another and by working together/' 



XX 

WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE 
ENGLISH 

THE Italians would remain neighbours of the English even if 
Voltaire's ancient anecdote should cease to be partially true : 
Milord in a gondola who dips a finger into the Grand Canal, 
sucks it and exclaims : " Oh, it is salt ; so we are in England. . . /* 

The two peoples would remain neighbours because they are too 
mixed up, because their intellectual relations have been too intimate, 
and because even in a Europe organized and federated something 
of the old egoistic sympathy of neighbours for neighbours will 
always remain. 

If the English and the Germans have never understood one 
another in the course of their history the desire of Queen Victoria 
and of her Prince Consort having counted for very little the 
principal reason is a precious anti-racial instinct : for if it is true 
that the English are for the most part of Teutonic and Scandinavian 
origin, it is equally true that the majority of the words and also the 
spirit of their literature are of Latin origin and in part even Italian. 
In England the spirit counts for more than the blood. Shakespeare 
whom in an access of exasperated vanity the Germans have claimed 
often enough as a German poet is penetrated by that Italian spirit 
which was in his time in London " the glass of fashion and the 
mould of form ". 

A generation after Shakespeare, Milton wrote verses in Italian, 
even as Gladstone wrote Italian, the loftiest mind among English 
politicians of the nineteenth century. Gladstone, who used to 
read our poets and preferred above them all Giaeomo Leopardi, 
was among the few foreigners who have penetrated the richness 
and naturalness of the Zibaldone from which he quoted passages by 
heart among friends the last time he came, a very old man, to Italy. 

Gladstone was twelve years old when in 1821 Shelley wrote 
his Ode to Naples where the Austrians are called 

. . . earth born forms, 
arrayed against the ever-living Gods. 
139 



140 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

At the same time Byron was conspiring with the Liberals at 
Ravenna and hoping that the Revolution would extend from Naples 
to the Romagna and Bologna. On February i8th, 1821, he wrote 
to a friend knowing well that he was in danger because his house 
had become a store of arms for the Liberals : "... To be sacrificed 
in case of accidents ? It is no great matter, supposing that Italy 
could be liberated, who or what is sacrificed. It is a great object 
the very poetry of politics, only think a free Italy ! " 

Italy could not be liberated in 1821 nor even in 1848 ; but the 
English poets and historians analysed and understood better than 
any other foreigner (apart from the clear-sighted and generous 
Quinet) the beauty, moral and intellectual, of the beginning and 
development of the Risorgimento ; the great flame-up of 1848 so 
rich in noble vitality, even if so poor in political wisdom, found 
perhaps in Vittoria, Meredith's novel, its own poem, that is at the 
same time a living picture of the Italian people at that time. Vittoria 
is a book that ought to be better known by all Italians. 

The events of 1859 found the English more reserved ; the 
eagerness for Italian liberty remained, but Cavour's alliance with 
Napoleon III had aroused a good deal of distrust. It might almost 
be said that in 1859 t ' ie English, even the most clear-sighted among 
them, would have liked to see the victory of the Piedmontese and 
our volunteers, and at the same time the defeat of the French of 
Napoleon III. It was only when the latter for fear of Prussia were 
obliged to interrupt the war with Austria, that British public 
opinion became again unanimously pro-Italian. This was largely 
helped by the presence in power of far-sighted men like Lord John 
Russell, Palmerston and Gladstone who in their Italian policy 
experienced but one obstacle, Queen Victoria, with her unconscious 
pro-Germanism. 

At this time London gave a cordial hospitality not only to 
Mazzini but to other Italian exiles equally worthy if less famous, 
like Saffi, Panizzi, Carlo Poerio, Lacaita. 1 The growing favour of 

1 Count Aurelio Saffi, leader of the Romagnuol Liberals. 

Sir Anthony Panizzi, Professor of Italian in London University, entered 
the Library of the British Museum 1831, appointed Keeper of Printed 
Books 1837, Principal Librarian 1856, K.C.B. 1869. 

Carlo Poerio 1803-67, Neapolitan. He was chained in prison in 
1849. Gladstone obtained his release in 1858. Died in Florence 1869. 

Sir James Lacaita (1813-95), born in Apulia, supplied Gladstone with 
information about Bourbon tyranny in Naples, was imprisoned but 



WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE ENGLISH 141 

the English for the Italian cause was also due to the esteem which the 
exiles had won in the highest political circles. Many misfortunes 
might have been spared England and all Europe if other Italians 
whom Fascism forced into exile and who repaired to London, had 
been listened to by the two Chamberlains while there was still time ; 
for example, a man of the lofty intellectual and moral character of 
Luigi Sturzo made many faithful friends among the learned, like 
Gilbert Murray and among internationalists like Lord Davies ; but 
it does not appear to me that he was ever listened to by the statesmen 
in power or by the diplomatists. They preferred to talk with the 
Fascist Ambassador Dino Grandi, who flattered the British to their 
face, while a Sturzo would perhaps have reproved their undoubtedly 
willing blindness. In every book and article of Sturzo's one feels 
a profound respect for and grateful sympathy with the British 
nation, whilst the Ambassador Grandi railed against the English 
in his secret correspondence with Mussolini, assuring him that they 
were now " a finished people ". Here is one example taken from 
many specimens of his secret letters to the Duce, at the time when 
the English wealthier classes were finding a thousand good qualities 
in Grandi and considered Sturzo a bore and perhaps a man with old 
scores to pay off. Here is the Fascist Ambassador's confidential 
description made to "Mussolini of the England which became the 
heroic Britain of 1940 : 

..." Confusion, in which nothing is stable even for the 
English conscience, a country retrograde and behind the times, that 
prefers the candle to the electric light (there are entire regions in 
England where the electric light is unknown) and houses without 
baths, and that is as much as to say that Democracy is a finished 
and foetid thing. The Tenth Anniversary of Fascism and the 
victory of Hitler have given the coup de grace to their last illusions. 
Even this old English world begins to move. Read, for example, 
the weekly reviews of today that I have summed up in my phono 
gram to ' Stefani > . The reviews in this country are much more 
important than the daily papers. The dailies hardly ever give the 
state of public opinion that c there is need of time ' to understand. 
The reviews almost always. The theme is the" same ; the bell tolls 
for Democracy and the necessity for an intelligent revision of the 
Peace Treaties, How or when, in the course of what political 

released on British pressure and settled in Scotland. Private Secretary 
to Lord Lansdowne and accompanied Gladstone to Ionian Islands. 
K.GM.G. 1859, 



142 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

experiments, even this stupefied island will come at last to its 
Fascist Revolution, I do not know, nor is it possible yet to foresee. 
But everyone agrees that the old world is in ruins, and even England 
in one way or another, will come to a Fascist Revolution. Then for 
one who understands this people much better than it understands 
itself, the doings of the two pilgrims Macdonald-Simon, who are 
now on the way to Geneva the tottering sanctuary of democratic 
paganism appear still more an anachronism than the thing itself." 

This pretentious condemner of the free British people wants to 
make us believe after July 2 5th, 1943, that he never had anything 
but contempt for Mussolini. And yet it was from the Embassy 
in Grosvenor Square that he wrote letters like this to Mussolini, 
which I reproduce with his flood of capitals : 

" On Friday I had the good fortune to be able to remain for 
an hour in Thy presence, in the Sala del Mappamondo and I came 
out revivified and with my spirit illuminated as by a flame. There 
is one thing to which I do not succeed in becoming accustomed, it 
is my greatest sacrifice, and that is to be forced to fight and work 
far from Thee, and without having, even if only for one moment, 
the magical direct influence of Thy glance as Captain of my spirit." 

And a few months later : 

" Always and everywhere, Thy figure, Thy face, Thy spirit, 
Thy name. This Italy, which Thou and only Thou in Thy lone 
liness of a giant hast built, beating it into shape with wind and 
fire as with wind and fire Thy Father caused iron to live, is now 
becoming a flower of iron. I have revisited it, alas ! only for a 
moment after nearly a year of absence. It appears to him who 
comes from afar like an immense army singing on the march. 

" From the Sala del Mappamondo where I have seen Thee at 
Thy post at the prow, with Thy smiling face, so human, yet of pure 
bronze, like the statue of Augustus, I went forth filled with intense 
desire and pride." 

It is clear that the weak head of the actor of Predappio, never 
satisfied with praise, .could not resist adulation of this calibre. 

It remains a mystery, however, how people capable of such 
vulgar tricks and phrases could have been taken seriously in Eng 
land : it is true it was the England of Neville Chamberlain. 

Apart from this period of vague Fascist sympathy mixed with 
not a little contempt, apart from the infamous war declared by 
Fascism on England, there is one fact that is unique in the relations 
between Italy and any neighbouring people : while in France of the 



WE AND OUR NEIGHBOURS THE ENGLISH 145 

nineteenth century only the progressive minds loved Italy, and so 
true is this that Napoleon III decided on the war of 1859 against 
the sentiment of the greatet part of the conservative classes ; in 
England, on the other hand, the whole nation, from the Tories 
to the extreme Radicals, shared an ardent enthusiasm for the cause 
of the liberty and independence of our country : the sole exception 
perhaps being, as I have already pointed out, Queen Victoria who 
was influenced by the Prince Consort, Albert of Coburg, who, after 
all, was of a German dynasty, enlightened and honest, but entirely 
and wholly German. The English workmen of the Brewery who, 
a little after the war of 1848-9, spontaneously stoned Marshal 
Haynau, the " hyena " of heroic Brescia, represented England more 
nobly than " kar Queen Victoria ". 

Italy, the true Italy, will always respond to the feeling of the 
English, and Garibaldi truly interpreted the mind of our people, 
when in 1854, replying to a message from the workmen of New 
castle, he wrote : " England is a great nation in the advance guard 
of human progress, the enemy of despotism, the unique secure 
refuge for our exiles, friend of the oppressed. If ever England 
should find herself in need of an ally, cursed be the Italian who is 
not ready to rush to her defence." 



XXI 
ITALIANS IN THE UNITED STATES 

SOME ten years ago it was a fashion in the United States to talk 
of the Melting Pot, a phrase invented by I no longer remember 
which journalist or politician. The phrase was as unhappy 
as the programme. The souls of men, traditions, aspirations, are 
not absorbed by order especially if they come from very dissimilar 
countries. 

Whatever American optimism may wish to think, the policy 
of the Melting Pot has been a success only in appearance and the 
phrase itself with its mechanical simplicity has done no good to 
the United States in world opinion. 

If this great and wealthy people has not in its extension and 
growth approached the ideals that the Washingtons and Jeffersons 
gave it, the fault is above all due to this hasty conception of the 
Melting Pot. A day will come, I am convinced, when the North 
American people will form an harmonious whole, spiritually and 
intellectually at one ; on that day the actual islands of population 
formed by the Italians in the State of New York, by the Germans in 
Pennsylvania, by the Scandinavians in Minnesota and by the Irish 
almost everywhere, will only be a picturesque record. 

But that will come about by interior evolution, not by force or 
preaching and exterior pressure ; it will have come about because 
almost in all these groups, the new ties have caused the old to be 
forgotten ; because these groups have ended by realizing the moral 
duty of a nationality as it were with a larger breadth, but this will 
not happen till that nationality has taken up the mission of leading 
the world towards a civilization that knows neither hatred nor 
nationalistic egoism. 

On that day too, but not before, another barrier will fall in 
America. From Florida to Maine, a barrier less visible than those 
of nationality, the difficult barrier that not in law but in fact still 
divides the Americans who have become citizens by passing through 
Ellis Island from the descendants of the Puritans of the May- 
flower and the Cavaliers of Virginia. 

The first Americans those of New England and Virginia 

144 



ITALIANS IN THE UNITED STATES 145 

gave the world that noble and serene message of hope for man 
kind, which is the Declaration of Independence ; but the humble 
Italians, Scandinavians, Balkan peoples who become citizens after 
passing through the quarantine of Ellis Island, have not given less 
to America, obliging her as they have to become conscious of her 
new international responsibilities which she formally acknowledged 
in 1943 when she signed the Charter of San Francisco. 

It is not without reason that the Americans of the recent emigra 
tions, who are in fact in spite of their most modest origins 
those who are most conscious of the problems of the Old World, 
have established themselves more especially in the cities (exception 
must be made for the Italians in California). Three-quarters of the 
citizens of New York were born abroad, or are the children of 
foreigners ; in Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, San Francisco and 
Minneapolis, the proportion is over fifty per cent. ; in Philadelphia 
it is just fifty per cent. It is in these places and by names that 
are or will be historical, that American political thought is formed. 
Even in the heroic days of the Revolution, the foreigners were not 
found wanting ; eighteen of the signatories of the Declaration of 
Independence were not of British origin. 

Generally when the immigrants in America say " we ", they 
mean their national group, especially if they be Italians, Slavs, 
Irish or Germans : the exceptions to these last are the descendants 
almost all established in Wisconsin of the German Liberals of 
1848 who preferred expatriation to the domination of the Junker. 
But it is not always certain that when the Italian immigrants say 
" we " he is not really thinking of " us in America ". In that 
America where his sons have been born, where he knows they are 
destined to live even if he dreams of a Sunday with cards at Tresette 
in some osteria in the Abruzzi or the communal band with plumed 
hats playing in thspitpga of some small Sicilian town. Who is more 
American even with his profound Italian instincts than a Fiorello 
La Guardia, the son of a music master of Foggia ? Who more 
sympathetically American than Joe Di Maggio who, the son of 
Italian parents, has seen hundreds of thousands of Yankees acclaim 
him as champion, I forget whether of football or baseball ? 

These Americanized Italians look back into the history of their 
new country and are proud of being able to count more Italian 
names than one would think in the Pantheon of the creators of 
the United States. In 1941 President Roosevelt declared in an 
official message : " It is to Colonel Francesco Vigo that after Clark 



I 4 6 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

the United States owes the liberation of the regions of the North 
west. Buffalo, one of the great cities of America, was founded by 
an Italian, Paolo Bustl Three Italian generals, Palma di Cesnola, 
Ferrero and Spinola, were among the bravest in the war of Secession. 
But the figure that should be dearest to the Italians who have become 
loyal Americans is that of Dr. Mazzei who, born at Poggio a Caiano, 
near Florence, in 1730, a doctor of medicine, annoyed by the 
eighteenth-century calm of his own Tuscany, established himself 
first at Smyrna and then in London. In London a better psycho 
logist than the ministers of George III, Maszei felt the latent force 
then vibrating in the American colonies, and in 1773 went to 
Virginia where he became the friend of Thomas Jefferson. At 
Richmond, the capital of Virginia, he coined in a newspaper article 
a phrase that has become very famous : " All men have been by 
nature created free and independent." Jefferson adopted this 
phrase as he did some others taken from the writings of his Italian 
friend and gave them immortality in the Declaration of Independ 
ence. When after many years of intimate relations with Jefferson 
and other great Americans of the time he had to return to Europe, 
he wrote to Madison in Italian : " I am about to depart, but my 
heart remains behind. When I think what I felt in crossing the 
Potomac I am ashamed of my weakness. I do not know what may 
happen when Sandy Hook disappears from my sight. But I know 
that wherever I go I shall always work for the well-being and 
progress of the country of my adoption." 

In 1932, invited to give a course of lectures in a great American 
University, I met a doctor who, having become rich, had bought 
a farm with some good shooting not far from the city. The man 
was charming and I used often to go shooting with him. We 
passed several evenings together without playing cards, without 
drinking, without music. I felt we had much in common in out 
way of considering life and one day I told him so. He was a little 
embarrassed. "My grandfather came from Tuscany," he said. 
" He was called Mazzei ; but when my father became wealthy and 
came to this city, he changed his name to Matthews." (I have 
slightly modified the English name to avoid the possibility of 
annoying him.) 

This was the moment for me to talk bf Mazzei, the intimate of 
Jefferson. I told Mm too how Mazzei had brought with him not 
only the germs of the Liberal ideal which were beginning to spring 
up in France and Italy, but with them seeds of certain vegetables 



ITALIANS IN THE UNITED STATES 147 

that ate now prized at the American table. My friend was even 
more perturbed than astonished. " You say that I am perhaps 
the descendant of the friend of Jefferson, and you see me, owing 
to the weakness of my father, one of the three hundred Matthews 
that figure in the telephone directory of this boring city." 

The modest mania for transforming Italian surnames so that 
they appear to be Anglo-Saxon has faded out with a normal adoption 
into the language of many Italian names, especially since names 
like La Guardia and Di Maggio have become as American as that 
of the Thomases which was Tommasi, of White which was Bianchi, 
Pope which was Papa, Brown which was Bruni, or Abbot which 
was Abate. 

There was a time when there was good reason to anglicize 
Italian names for the sake of the pronunciation. There was no 
intention of falsifying when a family called Caboto established in 
Boston changed its name to Cabot and became one of the most 
famous families of Massachusetts. But on the other hand, how 
many Americans of an origin less distant have had their Italian 
names transformed most artificially ! The expert aeronaut Harry 
Woodhouse, arrived in America as Enrico Casalegno ; Jim Flynn, 
who defeated the boxer Jack Detnpsey, was baptized Andrea Chiarig- 
lione ; the well-known baseball pkyer Ping Bodie, was originally 
Francesco Pizzola ; the actor Don Ameche was Amid ; the singer 
Ponsella was Ponzillo ; the famous football star Lou Little, Luigi 
Piccolo, and one might add thousands of names to the list. 

All those gentlemen, presidents of universities, athletes, and so 
forth, must take a heavy responsibility for anti-Italian discrimin 
ation. Today it is gone, or almost gone, but it saturated with 
bitterness two generations of Italians. Perhaps one day an American 
author of Italian blood will do for the Italians of the " little Italys " 
of former days what no American author of Irish origin has ever 
done for the previous wave of immigration : and that is to give 
us a true description of the humble folk among whom so much 
ability was lost. Some traces of those miserable lives remain in 
Italo-American poetry, half-bitter, half-sweet, of the kst two 
decades of the last century. This poetry was written in a jargon 
that was then the rule in the Italian part of the City of New York 
and in the suburb of Bronx. Here is a sonnet : 

Vennero i bricchelieri a cento a, cento 
tutta una ghenga coi calli alle mani, 



148 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

per far la casa di quaranta piani 

senza contare il ruffb e il basamento. 

Adesso par che sfidi il firmamento, 

a onore e gloria degH americani ; 

ma chi pensa ai grignoni, ai paesani 

morti di colpo renza sacramento ? 

Che val, se per disgrazia o per mistecca 

ti sfracelli la carne in fondo al floro ? 

Poveri ghinni disgraziato dego, 

avanti a mezzo ponte di bistecca, 

il bosso ride e mostra il dente d'oro : 

" Chi e morto, e morto. lo vivo e me ne frego." 

The Americanization of Italian families has been the theme of 
a series of stories and novels that North American literary criticism 
has noted with much interest : this is another proof that the 
pretended anti-Italian discrimination is vanishing. Among these 
writers the most notable seem to me to be Giovanni Fante, son of 
an Abruzzo father and an Italo-American mother. He is the 
author of Ask the Dmk y Bandini y Wait until Springy and Dago Red. 
Guido d'Agostino is another ; born in New York of Sicilian parents, 
he is the author of Olives on the Apple Tree. Then there is Maria 
Tommasi, the daughter of Piedmontese parents established in the 
dour and nordic Vermont ; she has written Deep Grow the Roots ; 
and there are not a few others among whom I must name at least 
Pietro di Donato and Joe Pagano. All of them, although brought 
up in an America where the better classes admired Fascism, abomin 
ated it and ignored it in their writings : only writers that possess 
nothing better than a little facility that gift, the mark of Italian 
mediocrity soiled themselves with Fascist phraseology. 

The day will come in which a son of some Bianchi or some 
Bruni will do honour to America by some discovery or some work 
of art which will be famous all over the world ; on that day the 
Whites and Browns will deplore the want of faith in their grand 
parents who preferred to write their names like the pork butchers 
of the place. Lately the fame of Fermi, who became known in 
1945 as one of the artificers of that atomic bomb, whose powers 
will one day be used for some good purpose, has brought a new 
pride to many Italians in these parts. 

But what in reality was that discrimination, that for a considerable 
period was the object of so many laments with the Italian element 
in the United States and Canada? The answer cannot but be 



ITALIANS IN THE UNITED STATES 149 

complex. First of all, one must note that this discrimination only 
appeared in the cities. Now, a discrimination against newcomers 
is the natural law of the life of cities in all parts of the world ; it 
is one of the chief reasons of Italo-Slovene clashes in Venezia 
Giulia ; in America it appeared against the Irish and the Germans, 
the two big immigrations preceding the Italians ; and there were 
symptoms of it in Milan in 1945 against the terrom^ as the 
Southerners who came up looking for small jobs in Milan were 
called. But no discrimination ever appeared in America in regard 
to the farmers or small Italian proprietors in the country-side. I 
have observed them with affection from Connecticut on the Atlantic 
to California on the Pacific. They are so serenely sure of them 
selves, so rich in the permanent wisdom of the Italian who lives by 
the land, that if at all it is they who feel a little amused pity for 
the too-mechanized American, like their neighbours the Yankees 
who are incapable of sowing more than one thing at a time and 
in the midst of their 50 hectares cultivated with grain or fruit eat 
on Sunday tinned chicken. How often accepting from these 
splendid folk a luncheon under their pergolas have I listened to 
their jokes about the rich neighbour who wanted to sow or to 
prune at the wrong season, convinced that the influence of the 
moon on the crops or the vintage was a superstition of the Italians ! 
I have seen these Italian contadlni most in Connecticut ; it used 
to amuse and interest me to assist on a Saturday at the return to the 
paternal farm of the sons employed in the neighbouring towns ; 
well-dressed, shaved, solid people, they were happy to visit the old 
folks and to drink a glass of that golden moscatello that the Italians 
of New York and Boston have succeeded in producing with 
a flavour equal to the moscatello of Sicily. But outside such 
reunions the Americanized sons prefer a martini or a manhattan. 
The peasants are proud of having children who have " made good " 
and who speak correctly an English punctuated with "O.K." 
and "Yeah". But they are also a little thoughtful not only 
because they know that while they are dreaming of returning as old 
people to their native village which distance has beautified, their 
sons are too American to follow them ; but though they don't 
speak of it they are doubtful of the fate of their children in America. 
An old peasant who had come to the United States thirty years 
before from Calabria and had a vague plan for one day returning to 
Italy and spending his last years there, one day said to me : " My 
sons are happy here. If we return to Italy we shall lose them. 



IjO ITALY AND ITALIANS 

It is a law we must bow to. But in that case will they be happy ? 
This country is fitted for a life of mechanical well-being. Everyone 
works to obtain that. These people are made like that. But my 
sons are Italians. They were born for a calm and happy life. 
If there should come new and longer crises, our sons will find 
themselves worse off than day labourers are in Italy when there is 
scarcity." 

Such questioning and doubts (which an attentive reader will find 
in the books of Pearl Buck) annoy the sons. The young men are 
already Americans ; optimistic at all costs. But life is not a thing 
always to b regarded with optimism. 

A Liberal and democratic Italy had always insisted on an absolute 
loyalty from the Italo- Americans towards the country of their 
adoption while they maintained cultural and spiritual ties with their 
native land. With the latter recommendation free Italy certainly 
contributed to the well-being of the United States, assisting her to 
form good American citizens, for one cannot make a good citizen 
out of a man intellectually and spiritually impoverished, uprooted 
from the only path that has any meaning for him. Disitalianizzato, 
he does not become a good American; he becomes a savage, 
a bastard, a robot 

Fascism adopted the opposite programme. The Ambassador 
in Washington, the consuls in the great cities, the Fascist propagandist 
and pro-Fascist, all were mobilized, a number of most intelligent 
emissaries were even authorized to pretend that they were vaguely 
anti-Fascist and these were the vilest of all, the most perfidious. 
Altogether, they deafened the ears of the Italo- Americans with 
prayers intermingled with threats (against the parents and relations 
in Italy) on the duty of all to remain Italian citizens ; only the rare 
frantic local Fascists were instead encouraged and paid to become 
American citizens : the same thing happened in France. The object 
was the same in the two countries : to have spies -and agents-provoca 
teurs in case of war, safe from an order of expulsion. Such were the 
aggressive Machiavellian ideas of the hierarchy in Rome. 

There exists in the United States, and it may not be there alone, 
a curious and rare type of Italian who holds firmly and profoundly 
the anti-Fascist faith and for it will face without flinching every 
sort of persecution, but who, now that the Fascist regime has 
vanished, feels as though he had been deprived of his country. 
Fine people but distantly related to the Pharisee who thanked God 
for creating him better than other men. They were always upset 



ITALIANS IN THE UNITED STATES 151 

on the few occasions when I addressed a meeting of Italians, whether 
in France up to 1940 or in America up to 1943, when they heard me 
disadvise the use of the word " anti-Fascista ". Fascism is con 
demned to die, therefore you should be something positive, not 
negative, as though one should be anti-plague, or anti-syphilis. 
Most of them were shocked, but not the Puritans, not the Inquisitors 
who even after the disappearance of Mussolini continued to discover 
Fascism 'everywhere. The thing would have been laughable if 
now and then it had not become damaging for Italy, as when, 
during the eager campaign of the Italo-Americans in September 1945 
to force Truman to defend our interests at the London Conference, 
one of the best among the old anti-Fascists went so far as to say in 
an interview that went the round of America that the greater number 
of Italo- Americans " remained Fascist in the bottom of their 
hearts ". I asked him to explain the reasons for this declaration, 
on which he said that the Italo- Americans hated both England and 
America because it was England and America who had prevented 
Hitler and Mussolini from winning the War. And then with some 
what heavy irony he added, " Even if the London Conference 
were to restore to Italy Ethiopia, the Dodecanese, all Venezia Giulia, 
and were to add the North and South Poles and a milliard of dollars 
as a free gift, the greater number of Italians in America would 
remain faithful to the memory of Mussolini and would follow him 
in hatred of England and America/' 

When it occurred to him that his words were damaging Italy, 
this old and respectable anti-Fascist, who loved Italy tenderly 
though he had asked for and obtained American citizenship, was 
distinctly upset ; but it was too late. His error was a result of 
a didactic habit of formulating " clear ideas ". It is so easy, isolated 
among one's books and determined not to assume any direct 
responsibility, to formulate " clear ideas 5> ; but life teaches us that 
pontifical division between the clear and unclear are frequently in 
danger of being pharisaical. 

From 1928 on, I had been invited ten times by great American 
Universities to hold courses of contemporary history in their halls ; 
and at last I went to America for three years in 1940, escaping from 
Petain and his protectors ; I have certainly seen there many Fascists, 
almost all squalid and despicable, but all sent from Italy as propa 
gandists or diplomatists or pretended professors. Have I never 
seen a true Fascist among the Italo-Americans ? I should not dare 
to say, whatever the local old guard of anti-Fascists might insist 



ITALY AND ITALIANS 

about it. Did they not enrich themselves, did not they gain by it ? 
No. So they were not true Fascists. They were ingenuous 
Italians who little by little fell victims to something which in 
fluenced them much more than the paid propagandists of Palazzo 
Chigi. This something was the support, sometimes unconscious, 
that notable Americans who were certainly not paid to do it, gave 
to the Fascist cause. I have said they were not paid, more exactly 
they were paid with decorations and luxurious receptions and 
friendly words that issued from the lips of the pseudo-Roman mask 
of the Duce with a well-studied solemnity. Every time one of 
these wealthy Americans met an Italian his barber or his doctor 
he felt obliged to repeat his tirade : it was a kind of religious 
mania : as he began again for the thousandth time to talk of his 
last tour in Italy. Really it had been his first visit to us : Italian 
art and Italian thought had no attractions for gentry of this sort. 
These people had never wished to go to Italy until a strike-breaker 
had become Prime Minister. It was then they began their pilgrim 
ages like Mussulmans to Mecca. 

" What a great man you people have in Rome. We need a Mus 
solini here. Only a man like him can stop America going to the 
devil. In Italy he was very kind to me, we talked for half an hour. 
He explained everything to me. He gave me a signed photograph. 
I have had it put into a silver frame that cost three hundred dollars. 
It will be a fine remembrance to my children. He has really suc 
ceeded in making the Italians work. . . ." At this point the barber 
or doctor or architect, much flattered at being the fellow-country 
man of such a genius, became somewhat sceptical ; they knew that 
the Italians are and always have been the most tireless workers 
in the world. But the rich American continued to talk of the auto- 
strade^ the towns built in the Pontine Marshes, and the Apulian 
Aqueduct. . . . 

To all this the Italians who heard it did not know what to say. 
For the rest, if certain Italians had succeeded in the old country 
in working miracles that won a good reputation for the whole 
Italian people, including the most recent immigrants who were 
not accustomed to being treated to so much benevolence, wa$ not 
that all to the good ? Why complain about it ? And then, even 
though they had known and said that the Apulian Aqueduct had 
been thought of and created by the democratic governments and 
that Mussolini had only opened it, erecting some lying inscription 
at its source, the excellent American gentlemen would have glanced 



ITALIANS IN THE UNITED STATES 153 

at one another and said : " Of course, this fellow mu st be a Com 
munist." In certain parts of free America, the insinuation was 
not free of a certain danger : the reader can laugh at it, but not 
a workman or small shopkeeper. 

But you may say, however could sensible people like the learned 
and respectable anti-Fascist you spoke of before, not realize that 
the Fascist pretensions were something very different? Because 
the gentry concerned did not wish, were not able, and did not 
know how to get into contact with the Italo- American masses and 
never understood the truth about them, simple as it was. Honest 
men, persecuted by Fascism, certain as they were that it wo^ild 
bring our country to ruin, loved Italy better than the poor fools 
who looked for " the Empire "; but did not know how to show 
these deluded people the truth. There was only one way, to say 
and never to cease saying that you were against Fascism because 
you loved Italy : and to get them to listen ; but one could not 
get them to listen without first breaking the ice. This was what the 
anti-Fascists who now are afraid of having nothing to hate never 
succeeded in doing, and perhaps we slander the Italo-Americans 
for not feeling more remorseful, for having failed in a sacred duty, 
that of enlightening their deceived brethren, enlightening them 
without appearing to think themselves superior. And yet with 
a little simplicity and modesty it would not have been so difficult. 

Here is an example : one of my first visits in the United States 
was in answer to an invitation from the University of Florida : 
there I lectured for three weeks on Italian art and thought and their 
influence in the world, avoiding Fascist boasts and if only for that 
reason succeeding very well ; that year there must have been little 
that was interesting elsewhere, seeing what a great crowd came to 
my lectures ; the newspapers reproduced them, the Senate of Florida 
invited me as an Italian Senator to a sitting in my honour. One 
day I saw two big touring cars stop at my hotel, twelve Italians 
got out of them, all wearing the Fascist badge in the buttonhole. 
They asked to see me. I received them coldly, standing : what 
did they want ? With a disarming smile they explained to me in 
Italo-Anglo-Calabrese that they had organized a grand banquet in 
my honour at Tampa, that the Governor would be present and 
would speak after me, that the affair would be a memorable event 
for their very large Italian colony. Even I smiled, " Bat you are 
Fascists. I instead believe that Fascism will bring Italy to ruin. 
Would you not do better to look for someone else ? " They were 



IJ4 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

astonished. " What does that matter to us ? " they said. " We 
were for Mussolini because everyone here was for Mussolini : now 
they are for you. . . ." 

I did not go. I could not go ; but perhaps I was wrong. Those 
Italians seem to me more moving, more deserving that I should 
stretch out to them a friendly hand than so many others who seem 
politically near to me. Were they not the latest victims of a long 
criminal detachment between " galantuomini " and " cafoni " in 
the South. 

The last long series of lectures that I gave in the United States 
was in 1942-3 in the University of California, In the neighbouring 
San Francisco many Italians were or had been Fascists. I was 
invited to speak to them, I accepted on condition that all alike 
should come. And indeed a great crowd awaited me, in which 
I immediately perceived an internal uncertainty, almost amounting 
to suffering. The local anti-Fascists on the platform thought it 
their duty to form a guard about me. But I began : " Friends ? 
I think I know what you are thinking of me at this moment. You 
are thinking that I despise you because you are Fascists. You are 
not Fascists, and I will prove it to you. They have told me that 
all the time of the Ethiopian war your colony surpassed all the 
others in America in offering its faith and trust to the Italian Father 
land. That shows that you are true anti-Fascists. Because the 
Fascists took gold but never gave it" 

They felt themselves absolved, their faces became serene and 
the appkuse began. 

That was more than anything else an allusion to the rumours 
then current in the Italian colonies in the United States about the 
mysterious disappearance of the money that had been collected, for 
which disappearance everyone accused the Fascist agents come 
from Rome. Proceeding, I explained to them that in Italy too 
there were fine people who had been Fascists like themselves, that 
was to say honest men deceived by the patriotic phrases that were 
the most successful piece of humbug worked by the " hierarchy ". 

This personal honesty of not a few Fascists was indisputable ; 
but I admitted it with joy because there, as in Italy, it was necessary 
never to lose the occasion of making these people forgive one for 
having been right too soon. 



XXII 
CONCLUSION 

THE housewife at times when she has finished her work heaps 
up the household rubbish outside the door of the house ; 
I too will do the like in order to get rid of the question I can 
foresee : " And Fascism ? Was it nothing according to you ? 
How is it you have scarcely spoken of it ? " 

If these pages have shown that the Italian people is among the 
most particularist and individualistic in Europe, Fascism, that 
policed totalitarianism could not but have proved to be a way of 
life more contrary to our character than any other. Nothing is 
more intolerable to the Italian than the Zusammenmarschienn of the 
German. It is our history which has made us so, as it was with the 
Greeks before us, as it has been for the Belgians after us all peoples 
whose dignity and whose love of independence grew up and 
matured in the free city. Never did Fascism know better what it 
was doing than when it suppressed our Communal Councils and 
our Syndics and substituted for them the P odes fa of quasi noble and 
outlandish origin. 

Had I written of Fascism at all I should have been obliged to 
explain how and why it was that the Italians put up with it for so 
long. For this there are more reasons than might be expected ; 
first among them being the bare harlequinesque astuteness of the 
** dictator " who stole one liberty after another, fearful each time 
that he had gone too far ; and then there was the baseness of those 
supporting him, of the Senators, of the Court and even, unfor 
tunately, of many of the Aventine which took away the courage 
of a people that had resisted long and that, if well guided, would 
have moved. In Germany, on the other hand, Hitler dared every 
thing in ten days. 

And then I might cite too the gratuitous pro-Fascist propaganda 
of various authoritative foreigners like the two Chamberlains, like 
almost all the members of the Academie Francaise. . . . But our 
people ought not to seek excuses ; woe to them if this should make 
them forget their own errors. 



156 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

It is enough merely to recall that long-drawn-out disgrace like 
ours has fallen before us on nations which the world supposed 
to be far more politically secure than the Italian. France of the 
Fkst Empire is the most typical modern example of a Fascist 
regime ; and the truth about the Napoleonic regime was clearly 
set forth by Chateaubriand in his almost forgotten work De Bona 
parte et des 'Bourbons : 

" La France entiere devient Fempire du mensonge ; journeaux, 
pamphlets, discours, prose et vers, tout deguise la verite. S'il a fait 
de la pluie on assure qu'il a fait du soleil ; si le tyran s'est promene 
au milieu du peuple muet, il s'est avance, dit-on, au milieu des 
acclamations de la foule. Le but unique, c'est le Prince : la morale 
consiste a se devouer a ses caprices, le devoir a le louer. II faut 
surtout se recrier d'admiration losqu'il a fait une faute ou commis 
un crime . . . Aucun livre ne pouvait paraitre sans etre marque 
de Peloge de Bonaparte, comme du timbre de Fesclavage . . . Les 
crimes de notre revolution republicaine etaient Fouvrage des pas 
sions qui laissent toujours des ressources ; il y avait du desordre et 
non pas de la destruction dans la soci6te ; la morale etait blessee, 
mais elle n'etait pas aneantie . . Mais comment guerir la plaie 
faite par un gouvernement qui posait en principe le despotisme ; 
qui, ne parlant que de morale et de religion, detruisait sans cesse la 
morale et la religion par ses institutions et ses mepris ; . . . qui pre- 
nait la stupeur de Fesclavage pour la paix d'une societe bien organi- 
see ? . . . Les revolutions les plus terribles sont preferables a un 
pareil etat." 

Chateaubriand was a poet and poets often see further than 
politicians ; legitimist as he was, he found " les revolutions les plus 
terribles " preferable to the moral abasement of which we have seen 
a worse example. 

If the French Conservatives had had a little of Chateaubriand's 
daring they would have perhaps been saved two successive Revolu 
tions, that of 1830 and that of 1848. But that is not their business ; 
the business of Conservatives is to prepare the revolutions of the 
future. 

The Corsican having fallen- whose vile tricks we have learnt 
to know better in two later and cheaper editions Mussolini and 
Hitler France rapidly recovered; it is indeed from Waterloo 
begins one of her richest epochs in thought and in life. Provided 
we wish it, the same can happen to us, and all the more because 
over that great neighbouring people we have only one advantage, 



CONCLUSION IJ7 

but that we have, that our long history is sown with wars, invasions, 
pestilence and scarcity ; and that our soil is a hard and hostile soil, 
which has first to be won and then to be bitterly defended ; our 
sterile mountains have to be transformed by millions opodere walls 
and on many a dry and narrow hillside we have thus triplicated our 
soil. One might almost say that we are only at home amid disasters, 
even private disasters. For numerous with us, contrary to other 
countries, are old families of the nobility and the bourgeoisie that 
have known more than one generation of poverty, misery and 
misfortune, and then have recovered. It is a great pity that the 
monumental picture of Pompeo Litta 1 of Le Grandi Famiglie d* Italia 
is only read by specialists in genealogy. Let him who would have 
some little sense of history discover there the obscure periods in 
which younger branches of great families vanish in the struggle for 
daily bread and then rise again here and there to the light ; they 
are like symbols of our people without real classes, and perhaps 
for that reason a people that can never be beaten down. 

So it will be after this most senseless of Italian wars. Bad 
treaties in the long run worse for those who have imposed them, 
bitter and mean as they are than for us ; social disorders, revolts, 
nothing can prevent our resurrection ; nothing except a little likely 
attack of moral weariness, which at times appears among the 
knowing, with a false air of philosophy : " What does it matter? in 
any case the world is going on . . . wbat is the me of worrying? ..." 
A fine discovery ! Naturally the world always goes forward to 
wards new economic forms, as well as to moral and technical ones ; 
and there is nothing to be alarmed about if the future economic 
life should be, for instance, communist or liberalist. The trouble 
would be if we sat down before these prospects in the same defeated 
frame of mind in which our famished " displaced people " of the 
seventeenth century cried, ** Long live France, long live Spain, so 
long as we have enough to eat". 

The important thing is to know not whither the world is 
going, but whither each of us is going. In an Italy less disturbed 
than that of today, Mazzini said to our fathers : " You will not 
create better conditions, if you do not yourselves become better 
men." 

1 Pompeo Litta, born of noble family in Milan 1781, died 1852. 
His great work, the Famiglie Cekbri italiam, began to appear in 1819. He 
had completed the history of 113 families when he died. 



158 ITALY AND ITALIANS 

In none of these pages have I wanted to assume the role of 
mentor or guide ; but this book will not be altogether useless if, 
having allowed facts to speak for themselves, I have shown that 
there exist among us inexhaustible springs of vitality and youth. 
It is to these we must turn, breaking the mediocre limits of an 
Albertine Statute, now outmoded, and of an administrative and 
bureaucratic uniformity which denies our unity just when it makes 
a show of affirming it. 

He who has watched for years our emigrants, winning a liveli 
hood and making their way in the world, has the joy of stating that 
wherever they work seriously, wherever they firmly establish them 
selves, there is no need of talk for them to be appreciated. It is 
only in Italy, in the halls of Universities and political meetings, that 
we hear too often boasts of our " thousand years old civilization " 
without perceiving that by appealing to that alone we belittle it and 
ourselves. 

The more we bleat about our past the more we confess our 
Inferiority before the world. We are a living people, full of vitality, 
sure of our future ; why should we allow rhetoricians to represent 
us as noble decadents ? When shall we decide to stop their 
mouths ? 

I have written these pages at a time when many among us are 
speaking and writing of radical reforms and of new Constitutions ; 
some even write thus with a secret hope that nothing will happen. 
But it has not been sufficiently emphasized that no reform or political 
transformation can be fruitful or enduring unless account is taken 
of the fact that we as a people are indivisible from our neighbours, 
and this is far truer than either they or we will admit. 

Italy has given the world the great light of the Renaissance ; 
the United States first and then France opened with their Revolutions 
the way to reforms even more daring. Having come out of two 
world wars, due to the tribal conspiracies of various nationalisms, 
we Italians might perhaps contribute to the organized peace of 
Europe by offering an example of a courageous and original de 
centralization, that, if imitated elsewhere, would weaken the nation 
alistic rivalries, half savage and half mystic, that are still threatening 
our common European fatherland. It is only by looking ahead 
that we can prove to ourselves that sorrow has given us a new 
force ; and that we are capable of again taking the initiatives, the 
effect of which will be felt beyond our frontiers. 

You will not save Italy except by thinking of Europe ; you will 



CONCLUSION 159 

not create a new Italy except by recognizing that she is part of the 
Continental Unity that must rise one day. It is only by thinking 
of the future shape of things that we can feel ourselves secure 
on the paths of today, disconnected and fragmentary as they are. 



INDEX 



Achillini, Claudio, 57 

Albany, Countess of, 36 

Albany, Earl of, 1 1 1 

Albert, Prince, 143 

Alboin, King, 25 

Alfieri, Count Vittorio, 29, 36; 

Altavita, Pasquale, 51 

Altieri family, 30 

Ameche, Don, 147 

Amedeo VI, 43 

Amedeo VII, 43 

America, United States of, 144 

Aquinas, St. Thomas, 6, 89 

Arcadia, Academy of, 30, 35 

Arconati, Costanza, 74 

Ariosto, Horace, 18, 25, 35, 53, 

Arlotto, Mainardi, pievono, 23 

Arnold, Matthew, 70 

Badoglio, Marshal Peter, 138 
Bakunin, Michel, 48 
Balbo, Cesare,, 75 
Balilla, nickname of Perasso, 

86 

Baretti, C., 30 
Basile, Giambattista, 53 
Basseville, N. J. H., 38 
Battlsti, Cesare, 131 
Bava, General, 60 
Beauharnals, Eugene de, no 
Beccaria, Marchese Cesare, 10 
Belli, Gioacchino, 52, 95 
Benes, Eduard, 120 
Berchet, G., 80 
Bertoldo, , 25 
Binchy, D. A., 73 
Bismarck, Count, 37 
Bissolati, L., 136 
Boccaccio, Giovanni, 18, 93 
Bodie, Ping, 147 
Boito, Arrigo, 35 
Bologna, 8 



Bonald, Vicomte Louis de, 75 

Bonghi, Ruggero, 41 

Bonichi, Bindo, 84 

Borgese, Prof., 57 

Borghese family, 30 
no Bosco, Don, 71 

Bosis, Lauro, in 

Botta, Carlo, 13 

Boulanger, Georges, 117 

Bourbons, the, 97 

Bourbons of Spain, the, no 

Bourget, Paul, 100 

Brazza, see Savorgnan 

Brescia, 9 

Briand, Aristide, 85, 122 
, 72, 93 Bruno, Giordano, 94 

Buchanan, Sir George, 65 

Buck, Pearl, 150 

Bulgarelli, Marianna, 32 

BulgarelH, the, 33, 35 

Burney, Fanny, 33 

Busti, Paolo, 145 
G. B., Byron, Lord, 102, 140 

Cabot, John, 147 

Cadorna, General, 67 

Cagliostro > Count Joseph Balsamo, 

61 

CagoulardS) the, 121 
Cairoli, Benedetto, 85 
Campanella, Thomas, 94 
Cantu, Cesar, 82 
Carboneria, the, 45 
Carducci, Josue, 15, 36, 62, 75 
Carignano, Carlo Alberto de, 44 
Carlo Alberto, 60, 112 
Casalegno, Enrico, 147 
Casanova, Francois, 61 
Casorate, battle of, 8 
Castagnola, , 32 
Catherine of Russia, 61 
Cattaneo, Carlo, 8 
161 



162 



INDEX 



Cavalcanti, Guido, 6, 18 

Cavour, Count Camille Benso, 37, 42, 

98, 131, 134, 140 
Cellini, Benvenuto, 50 
Cesnola, Gen. Palma di, 146 
Charles V, 9 
Charles VIII, 93, 118 
Charles X, 76 
Chateaubriand, Vicomte Francois 

Rene de, 102, 156 
Chiabrera, Gabriele, 51, 57 
Chkraviglio, Enrichetta, 73 
Chiariglione, Andrea, 147 
China, 83, 101 

Christina of Sweden, Queen, 26, 30 
Churchill, Winston S., 120 
Colonna, Prospero, 9 
Columbus, Christopher, 59 
Commynes, Philippe, 118 
Compagni, Dino, 24 
Congress of Berlin, 116 
Congress of Vienna, 39 
Constantine, 4 
Corsica, 97 
Corsini family, 30 
Cortese, Giulio Cesare, 53 
Cosimo III of Tuscany, 26 
Cosimo il Vecchio, viii 
Council of Trent, 71 
Crispi, Francesco, 85, 115 
Croce, Benedetto, 54, 57 66, 91, 94, 

127 

D'Agostino, Guido, 148 
D'Ancona, Alessandro, 90, 91 
D'Annunzio, Gabriele, 15 
Dante, 6, 12, 18, 72, 93 
d'Arblay, Madame, 33 
Davanzati, Bostichi Bernardo, 24 
Davies, Lord, 141 
D'Azeglio, Massimo, 74, 80 
Beat, Marcel, 120 
de Gaulle, Charles, 118 
Delia Croce, Giulio Cesare, 25 
Democratic Christian Party, 79 
De Nava, Peppino, 84 
Depretis, Agostino, 85 
De Rossi, Jean Baptiste, 82 
Deroulede, Paul, 117 



De Sanctis, Francesco, 2, 25, 29, 82, 

91,95, 112, 127 
d'Esperey, Franchet, 104 
Diaz, Armando, Commander-in-Chief, 

67 

Di Donato, Pietro, 148 
Didot (publisher), in 
Di Giacomo, Salvatore, 54 
Di Maggio, Joe, 145 
Diocletian, 3 
Di Rienzo, Cola, 16 
Dollmger, Ignaz, 129 
Drumont, Edouard, 120 

Este, Cardinal Ippolito d*, 53 

Fagiano's, Rome, 82 

Fante, Giovanni, 148 

Fascism, 65, 155 

Fenaroli, Fedele, 9 

Ferdinand II, 95 

Ferrara, 23 

Ferrero, Gen., 146 

Ferrero, Guglielmo, 121 

Ferri, Enrico, 90 

Ferry, Jules, 118 

Fervidi, the, 30 

Filicaio, Vincenzo, 26, 29, 5 1 

"Fkmmatici, the, 30 

Florence, the Orti Oricellari, viii 

Flynn, Jim, 147 

Fogazzaro, Antonio, 55 

Foix, Gaston de, 9 

Foscolo, Ugo, 36, 45 

Francis of Assisi, St., 6, 69, 131 

Frederick Barbarossa, 7, 109 

Frederick II, 8, 14, 70 

Frederick, King of Prussia, 36 

Frugoni, Francesco-Fulvio, 57 

Galileo, 30 

Garibaldi, Giuseppe, 76, 131 

Gelidi, the, 30 

George, D. Lloyd, 65, 85 

Georgini, Giambattista, 74 

Germany, 127 

Ghibellines, the, 72 

Gioberti, Vincenzo, 13, 74, 94, no 



INDEX 



Giolitti, Giovanni, 73, 85, 115, 131, 

136 

Giorgini, Giambattista, 41, 50 

Giusti, Giuseppe, 57, 128 

Gladstone, W. .,139 

Goethe, Wolfgang, 101, 129 

Goldoni, Charles, 23, 29, 30, 39, 52 

Gonnella, 23 

Gonzago, Luigi, 71 

Gori, Antonio Francesco, 26 

Gorfes, J. J. von, 75 

Gozzi, Gaspare, 29, 30 

Grandi, Dino, 141 

Gravina, Giovanni Vincenzo, 3 1 

Guidiccioni, Giovanni, 9 

Guillaumat, , 104 

Guinizelli, Guido, 6, 18 

Giinther, Anton, 75 

Hadrian, 14 

Hapsburg-Lorralne, Dukes of, 117 

Haynau, Marshal, 143 

Hegel, G. W. F., 129 

Hitler, Adolf, 128 

Intronatty the, 30 

Jefferson, Thomas, 146 
Jellachkh, Ban, 135 
Jugo-Slavia, 86, 104 
Justinian, 12 

Joachim da Flora (Giocchino da 
Fiore), 69 

Kant, Emmanuel, 129 
Koerner, Theodore, 128 

La Bruyere, Jean de, 81 

Lacaita, Sir James, 140 

La Guardia, Fiorello, 145 

La Marmora, Alfonso, 85 

Lamartine, Alphonse de, 102 

Lanza, Giovanni, 82, 85 

Lautrec, Odet, 9 

Laval, Pierre, 120 

League of Nations, The, 119 

Legnano, Battle of, 7 

Leibnitz, Gottfried Wilhelm, 12 

Leopardi, Giacomo, 15,21,57, 93,139 



Leopoldo II, 60 
Litta, Pompeo, 157 
Little, Lou, 147 
Livy, Titus, 22, 60 
Lombard League, 8 
Lombroso, Cesare, 82 
Lorenzo il Magnifico, viii 
Loria, Achille, 90 
Louis XIV, 8 1, 118 
Louis XVIII, 76 
Ludovico il Moro, 9 
Lunigiana, 59 
Luther, Martin, 129 

Machiavelli, Niccolo, viii, 7, 93, 131 

Mac-Mahon, Marshal, 120 

Maffei, Scipione, 34 

Magalotti, 26 

Magno, il, 9 

Maistre, Joseph de, 75 

Malagodi, Olindo, 85 

Mameli, GofFredo, 59, 131 

Manzoni, Alessandro, 18, 21, 39, 55, 

;7> 74, 93 

Marino, Giambattista, 29 
Masaniello, Tommaso Aniello, 86 
Mascagni, Pietro, 55 
Mazzei, Dr., 146 
Mazzini, Giuseppe, 6, 14, 42, 59, 76, 

80, 93, no, 122, 131, 157 
Mazzini, Pippo, 46 
Medici, Messer Francesco de", 24 
Medicis, Marie de, 29 
Meli, Giovanni, 53 
Menzini, Benedetto, 26 
Meredith, George, 140 
Metastaslo, Abate, 21, 29, 32, 33 
Metternich, Prince, 42, 47 
Micali, Giuseppe, 13 
Michelangelo, 10 
Michiewicz, Adam, 132 
Milan, 9 

Milton, John, 139 
Minghetti, Marco, 82, 85 
Monluc, 9 
Montalcino, 10 
.Montesquieu, 10 
Monti, Vincenzo, 21, 29, 37 
Murray, Gilbert, 141 



164 

Mussato, Albertino, 34 
Mussolini, Benito, 98, 116 
Muzza canal, 8 

Naples, 82, 95 
Napoleon, 38, 43, 94, 1 08 
Napoleon, Louis, 47, 114 
Napoleon III, 140 
National Eucharistic Congress, 77 
Neri, St. Philip, 71, 131 
Niccolini, Giambattista, 37, 127 
Nicholas III, Pope, 73 
Noailles, Vicomte de, 86 
Normans, the, 96 

Omedeo, Adolf o, 66 
Qscuri, the, 30 
Ossian, 39 

Pacchierotti, Gaspare, 33 
Pagano, Joe, 148 
Palmerston, Lord, 37, 140 
Panizzi, Sir Anthony, 140 
Parini, Giuseppe, 29, no 
Pascarella, Cesare, 54 
Pascoli, G., 62 
Pasich, Nikola, 136 
Pellico, Silvio, 37, 80 
Perasso, G. B., see Balilla 
Perfetti, Bernardino, 31 
Petain, Marshal, 121 
Petilo, Antonio, 51 
Petrarch, 18, 72 
Piccolo, Luigi, 147 
Piedmont, 63 
Pisa, 90 

Pisacane, Carlo, 80 
Pius IX, Pope, 43, 74 
Pius XI, Pope, 41, 77 
Pizzola, Francesco, 147 
Poerio, Alessandro, 127 
Poerio, Carlo, 140 
Poincare, Raymond, 119 
Poliziano, Angelo, 62 
Polo, Marco, 5 8 
Ponsella (singer), 147 
Porcellaga brothers, 9 
Porta, Antonio Delia, 62 



INDEX 



Porta, Carlo, 52, 95 
Pu-Lung, Prince, 20 

Ranieri's, Rome, 82 

Rattazzi, Carlo, 85 

Redi, Francesco, 26 

Renzo, Tramaglino, 40 

Retz, Cardinal de, 50 

Ricasoli, Baron Bettino, 82 

Jtinnwati, the, 30 

Risorgimento, the, 13, 29 

Robespierre, Maximilien, 81 

RoccatagHata, Ceccardo, 62 

Romanina, the, 32 

Romanticism, rise of, 39 

Rome, 12 

Roosevelt, Franklin D., 116, 145 

Rosmini, Antonio, 75, 94 

Rospigliosi family, 30 

Rosselli, Carlo and Nello, 49 

Rosselli, Carlo, 121 

Rousseau, Jean Jacques, no 

RO&J, the, 30 

Rubini, 33 

Rucellai, Bernardo, viii 

Rudini, Antonio Starrabba, Marquis 

of, 85 

Ruffini, the brothers, 59 
Ruskin, John, 102 
Russell, Lord John, 140 

Sacchetti, Franco, 24 

Sacchi, Ettore, 84 

Saffi, Count Aurelio, 140 

Saint- Just, Louis de, 80 

Saint-Pierre, Bernardin de, no 

Saint-Simon, Claude Henri, Comte de, 

5 . 
Sala, Giuseppe Antonio, 108 

Salfi, Francesco Saverio, 38 
Salimbene, Fra, 24 
S. Giovanni, Duke of, 80 
Sardinia, 97 
Sarraut, Maurice, 120 
Savonarola, Jerome, 69 
Savorgnan di Brazza, Pietro, 118 
Secchi, Angelo, 82 
Sella, Quintino, 82, 85 



INDEX 



I6 5 



Sensismo, 112 

Serao, Matilde, 5 5 

Settembrlni, Luigi, 95 

Sforza, Cesare, 127 

Sforza, Lodovico, 42, 118 

Shelly, P. B,, 139 

Sicily, 97 

Siena, 9 

Silone, Ignasio, 121 

Slavs, the, 131 

Socialist Party, 79 

Solaro della Marguerita, Count Cle- 

mente, 79 

Sonnino, Baron, 85, 136 
Spaventa, Silvio, 82, 95 
Spinola, Gen., 146 
Stendhal, 101, 102 
Stern, Daniel, 48 

Stuart, Prince Charles Edward, 36 
Sturzo, Don, 44, 121, 141 
Switzerland, 124 

Tacitus, 13 

Taine, Hippolyte, 108 
Tanucci, Bernardo, 61 
Tasso, Torquato, 18, 25, 35 
Tedesco, , 84 
Testoni, Alfreda, 54 
Thiers, Adolphe, 13, 118 
Ticino canal, 8 
Tommasi, Maria, 148 
Trajan, 12 
Trapassi, Pietro, 31 
Trasformati, the, 30 



Treaty of London, 136 

Treaty of Vienna, 42, 118 

Treaty of Westphalia, 113 

Treitschke, Prof., 129 

Trilussa, pseudonym of Salustin. 

Carlo Alberto, 54 
Trivulzio, Gian Giacomo, 9 
Turin, 79 
Tuscany, 25, 60 

Ugolino, Comte della Gherardescia,9o 
University of California, vii, 154 
University of Naples, 25 

Valiani's, Rome, 82 

Varchi, Benedetto, 24 

Venezia Giulia, 136 

Venice, 58 

Verga, Giovanni, 55, 57 

Verri, Pietro, 30 

Vko, Giambattista, 29, 88, 94 

Victor Emanuel II, 97, 137 

Victoria, Queen, 140, 143 

Vigo, Col. Francesco, 145 

Villani, Giovanni, 7 

Virgil, 12 

Visconti-Venosta, Emilio, 116 

Vkale, Guido, 20 

Voltaire, 52 

Warens, Madame de, 32 
Woodhouse, Harry, 147 

Zanardelli, Giuseppe, 85 






Count Carlo Sforza wa born In Italy In 1873. 
He attended the University of Pisa and ills life 
has been one of service to his country. The first 
Count Sforza received his title from the Duke 

of Milan in 1456 and the family has continued 
its tradition of action., decision and energy. 

"When Mussolini staged his March on Rome in 

October, 1922, Count Sforza held the portfolio 
of Italian Ambassador to France. This post had 
been preceded by a long career in the diplomatic 
service. "When Mussolini came to power he 
sought to recall Sforza from Paris, offering him 
any post in the Cabinet. Sforza's reply was 
typical: '"The one thing you could offer me, 
you cannot give me - my freedom/' Forced to 
leave his homeland, the Count continued his 
struggle against Fascism first from Paris and 
then, with the fall of France, from the United 
States. On the fall of Mussolini he returned to 
Italy as the leading anti-Fascist statesman. 

Count Sforza's part in the reorganization of his 
native land has been a leading one. He was 
Minister Secretary of State in the first JBonomi 
Cabinet from June to December 1944. In June 
1944 he was also High Commissioner for Sanc 
tions against Fascism, which job he resigned in 
January, 1945- He was already President of the 
Consulta IxFazionale and later joined the Italian 
Republican Party and was elected to the Con 
stituent Assembly in June 1946. 

In February 1947 Count Sforza was nominated 
Minister of Foreign Affairs in the third cabinet 
of E>e Gasperi. He was designated by the Con 
stituent Assembly a Senator of the Republic. 
He is still Minister of Foreign Affairs, and as 
such attended the meetings of the United Na 
tions Assembly in Paris in the latter part of 
1948. 

Count Sforza is well known in the United 
States, where he has lectured and received many 
honors. He has published many books in this 
country, the most recent of which was Con- 
temporary Italy. 



[n this brilliant book, one of the most eminent 

living Italians presents a comprehensive view 
of the history, culture, politics and life of 
Italian people from the earliest times to the 
present. 

Today It Is more vital than ever that Amer 
icans should understand the Italians. Statesman 
and philosopher. Count Sforza, at present the 
Foreign Minister of Italy, brings to the subject 
both wide erudition and deep sympathetic In 
sight, sharpened by his experience In Italian 
public life. 

Emphasis Is upon contemporary Italy. "We can 
not know a people, however, without knowing 
their past the heritage of thought and atti 
tudes handed down from older generations. 
Keenly analyzing the essential characteristics of 
the Italians as displayed In every phase of their 
national life and spirit, Count Sforza succeeds 
memorably In explaining the Italian people 
and nation. 

Every student of Italian culture and history^ 
every visitor to Italy, every American who hopes 
to understand these fascinating and complex 
people, should read this Illuminating book. 




23 



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