Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

All those who have distinguishsd themselves during the period of which we speak, have been foreign to the banks of the Arno. Tornielli is a Novarese; Quirico Rossi, a Vicentine; Granelli, a Genovese ; and Turchi is from Parma. If the Tuscans boast of Orsi among the Cardinals, we shall remember us of Bentivoglio; Alberoni, and Gerdil; and that, since the days of Leo X., no Tuscan has added the glory of letters to the splendour of the triple crown, and that such Popes as have since built to themselves a name as literati or politicians, have been either Bolognese, like Benedict XIV. or from Rimini, like Clement XIV., or from Cesena, like Pius the VI.

The further we proceed, the stronger the arguments become in favour of my assertions. Dramatic, tragic, and comic poetry, exhibit in Tuscany a mighty blank. All the reformers. of the Italian theatres-all the greatest writers, the capiscuola, have flourished out of Tuscany. Apostolo Zeno was a Venetian; the alone* Metastasio was a Roman; the author of Merope, Maffei, was a Veronese; the mighty Alfieri was from Asti; the Moliere of Italy, Goldoni, was Venetian, as was also his rival Gozzi; the first of those now living, the advocate Nota, is a Piedmontese; Giraud, his competitor, is a Roman; Albertoni is from Bologna, and Federici from Turin. Indeed, it is much to be lamented that comedy, which might have attained so much of grace from the lips of the Tuscan people, more especially in the embellishment of familiar dialogue, should have been a field fruitful only beyond the Tuscan territory; and where the written language is not to be found, except in the pens of the literati.

Let us pass to the lyric poets of this and the preceding century, and inquire who can be put in competition with Manfredi of Bologna; with Frugoni of Genoa; with Varano of Romagna; with Agostino Paradisi of Reggio; with Bondi of Mantua; and, above all, with Parini of Milan? Will the Tuscans speak of their Pignotti? Their own Abate Cardella, Professor in the seminary of Pisa, would fain class among the best writers Battacchi and Castinames at which modesty blushes, and

which a reverend instructor of youth ought not to remember with praise from the chair of an academy.

But if Pignotti should be brought forward, who remains to compare with Savioli the Bolognese; with Gherardo Rossi and Rolli the Romans; with Salandri of Mantua; with Minzoni of Ferrara; with Bertola of Rimini ; with Cerretti of Modena ; with Lamberti of Reggio; with Mazza of Parma; with Cesarotti of Padua, and a hundred others? And what living Tuscan poet can be opposed to Pindemonte of Verona; to Arici of Brescia; to Foscolo of the Ionian Isles; to Paradisi (I mean Giovanni) of Reggio; to Forti; to Manzoni of Milan; and especially to the illustrious compatriot of Ariosto, Monti?

Among the translators in verse, the Tuscans have Marchetti; but are they ignorant to whom we owe Porpora, the translator of Statius, and all the others, the first of their day? such as Manara, Bondi, Vincenzi, Solari, Gherardini, (Gio.) Leoni, Pindemonte, Foscolo, Strocchi, Venini, Bellotti, Monti? In matters satyrical, they had indeed Menzini. (Settano need not be mentioned, as he wrote in Latin.) But during the period which we are discussing, they have no poet in that department to compare with Parini and Zanoja; and that may be said without any disrespect to D'Elci, though he, among the living, is certainly good.

In didactic poetry, Tuscany can name neither the best, nor the good, nor the middling, and

Quella cetra gentil che sulla riva
Cantò di Mincio Dafne e Melibeo,

[blocks in formation]

* Chalmers.

Spolverini she passed to Betti, who sung the praises of the silk-worm; then to Lorenzi, whose sweet strains made the mountains of Verona echo with precepts for their cultivation; then to Tiraboschi, whose songs so enliven the season of fowling, the great autumnal amusement of the Bergamasques; afterwards to Ghirardelli, the poet of the gardens; and, lastly, to Arici, who sung of the pastoral life and the culture of the olive.

But as I have also accused them of great penury of prose writers, let us see whether such accusation be calumnious or true. Salvini, Cocchi, Lami, Giglj, these are their luminaries. But are such the names from which Italian literature derives its chief honour during the period of which we treat? Italy is proud of greater riches; and the Florentine Academy itself must bend its front to the names of Pompei, Algarotti, Bianconi, the two Gozzi, the three Zanotti, Rezzonico, Maffei, Mattei, Bettinelli, Cesarotti, Vanetti, Alessandro Verri, &c. &c., of whose works editions without number are spread through Italy, and in Tuscany itself. If from the dead we should wish to pass to the living, and inquire who, among the prose writers of the present day, are acknowledged by all Italy as the most beautiful, the purest, the most correct, assuredly no one would search for such in Tuscany, butin Verona, Milan, Piacenza, Parma, Rome, Naples, Palermo, and elsewhere. And that which further adds to their poverty, and that of their academy particularly, is, that the Tuscan tongue, their own exclusive patrimony, so to speak, even the very vocabulary of the Crusca, was neither illustrated nor increased by them, but by us; of which the many voluminous labours on this subject, all compiled out of Tuscany, afford ample proof. Such was the great Dizionario criticoEnciclopedico-universale della lingua Italiana, compiled by Alberti, the Piedmontese; such the great vocabulary of Bergantini, of Padua, and all its additions; such the Gran Vocabolario della Crusca, increased by above fifty thousand articles by the Father Cesari of Verona; such the Dizionario di Marina, in three languages, by Count Stratico of Padua ; and such is the Gran Vocabolario, with which a society of literary men is at this time engaged at Cologna. Even the Ri VOL. X.

mario Toscano di voci piane sdrucciole e tronche, a work, says the Pisan Professor Cardella, "tanto utile ai cultori della volgar poesia," and the Rimario Toscano itself were compiled by a Piedmontese, Rosaco; and all the best vocabularies, Italian and Latin, Italian and French, Italian and English, Italian and German, have been formed out of Tuscany, by Facciolati and Forcellini of Padua, by Alberti and Baretti of Piedmont, by Borroni and De Filippi of Lombardy; so much so indeed, that neither their academicians nor literary men knew how to be useful in the unhappy times of their servitude; that is, when a hard decree had transplanted into their official chambers, and affixed to the corners of their beautiful Florence, proclamations, notices, and laws, in the French language, rather than in their native tongue. That appeared to have been the fit moment for their philosophers to penetrate the genius of the two languages; for their academicians to institute comparisons, and to profit by the labours of the French in the arts, trades, and manufactures, and to provide Italy with a vocabulary, which would serve as a guide in the nomenclature of household implements and plenishing, (arnesi) of mechanical utensils, of instruments and their parts; a labour which is still wanting, which the Tuscans owe to the rest of Italy, and which writers, not Tuscan, feel the want of every day.

But who would believe that neither an elementary book of any value on the language, nor any good grammar had seen the light in Tuscany during all this period? The best book on the verbs is by Mastrofini of Rome; the most beautiful work on the philosophy of the language is that of Cesarotti of Padua, and the Grammar of the Tuscan tongue, so much praised, and of which there have been a hundred editions, is by Corticelli of Bologna; "il quali (these are the words of a Tuscan, Cardella of Pisa,) ad istanza degli accademici della crusca chi applaudirono sommamente a questa sua opera, compilò pure il libro contenente Cento discorsi sopra la Toscana eloquenza." By which it would appear, that the Academicians, for these last 120 years, have limited themselves to applauding and ordering, rather than themselves performing any useful labour.

But it is time to put an end to this

2 T

[ocr errors]

disputation, in which it is difficult to avoid offending the self-love of many. To me it suffices to have shewn, that my assertion was not without foundation in truth, and that although restricted in time, and bound over to periodical labour, which is said to be impatient of the file, if it be not given me to aspire to the praises of elegance, I seek at least not to bely those of impartiality and justice. Till such time, then, as the contrary be proved, (not by vain declamation) but by facts, what I have already asserted will remain for ever true. "Che già da qualche tempo i migliori poeti, i migliori prosatori Italiani non sono di Toscana. Che questa veritá, dura ad intendersi pei Toscani, dee aver molto contribuito a far perdere anche al tribunale della crusca quella autorita di cui godeva ai tempi del Magalotti, del Redi e del Salvini, ultimi sostegni

della vostra fama fondata dall' Ali-
ghieri, dal Boccaccio e dal Petrarca.—
Il popolo di Toscano è quello chi in
Italia parla meglio, i letterati quelli
che scrivono peggio." If this last sen-
tence should be the one which affords
least pleasure to the Tuscans, they
must know that it is not wholly mine,
but that it proceeded long ago from
the pen of one of their famous coun-
trymen, even a founder of their Aca-
demy, the celebrated Lasca. It is thus
he expresses himself:

La lingua nostra è ben da forestieri,
Scritta assai più corretta e regolata;
Perchè dagli scrittor puri e sinceri
L'hanno leggendo e studiando imparata.

With all due reverence both to the Academician and the Academy, it would have been difficult to express any thing more just and true, in more wretched rhymes.

TOM BROWN'S TABLE-TALK.

Tom Brown, the Aretine of the last century, is now almost forgotten. The wit of his writings is so essentially allied to indecency, and the gaiety of his humour to profligacy, that, by pandering to the bad taste of a licentious æra, he has completely forfeited his claim to exist beyond his day. Yet certainly he was a writer of no ordinary talents. When we consider that the greatest part, if not all, of his productions, were written to supply his immediate necessities, and written, too, after the intoxication of the debauch, or in the sadness of returning reflection, we must be fastidious indeed to withhold a certain portion of praise. He was a scholar of no mean or inconsiderable standing, and wrote Latin with great elegance and facility. With his brother wit, D'Urfey, he contributed continually to the amusement of the town, not less by his various writings, than by his convivial powers of entertainment. To go to London without dining with Tom Brown or Tom D'Urfey, would then have been a solecism in manners, sufficient to make the visitation incomplete. Of the two, Brown was unquestionably the superior in wit and keenness of observation. He appears to have possessed some points in common with the unfortunate Savage. Like Savage, he was the hack of booksellers; like Savage, he was the enlivener and inspiriter of conversa tion; and, like Savage, from a disre gard of the common maxims of pru

dence, he lost at once respectability of character and permanency of fame.With humour which Rabelais and Cervantes could hardly surpass, he lies neglected on the shelf, from which he is seldom taken except by those whom his impurity allures: an example how genius may be prodigally squandered, or irretrievably lost, in misapplication or subservience to ephemeral purposes.

For the reason abovementioned, his works do not present us many passages which can with propriety be extracted. His Table-Talk is, however, entertaining enough for us to wish it longer. There is an acuteness in some of the remarks, which evinces that Brown was not deficient in practical knowledge of the world, however little he might be inclined to put it to use. We subjoin a few extracts from the collection; and shall probably at some future time give our readers some account of his "Amusements of London and Westminster," one of the most curious records of the manners of his time.

[blocks in formation]

little post, is like a man that grows fat upon matrimony.

It is a jest to think those that have power will not take care to support themselves against all that attack 'em.

How apt are we to flatter ourselves, and overlook our own infirmities? A drunkard thanks God he has no sacrilege to answer for.

The author of The Whole Duty of Man concealed himself; perhaps vanity in that. A woman that tells you she'll cry out, and a man that threatens to cut your throat, will both be worse than their words.

What signifies it, whether one is chosen by his tenants, that dare not refuse him, or come in by bribery?

The society of reformers, I am afraid, has made no mighty progress in the extir pation of vice; they have only beat it out of one part of the town, to make it settle in another.

It was observed, that when the apothecaries were soliciting for their bill that excused them from parish offices, that the weekly bills decreased considerably

To make a man out of love with soldiery, let him see the train'd bands exercise.

Men reward the professions that incommode them, as lawyers, &c., and give no encouragement to those that divert them; the reason of it is fear. Man fears to be damned, therefore bribes the parson; he fears to be sick, therefore keeps fair with the physician; he fears to be rooked out of his estate, therefore bribes the lawyer.

One that has advanced his fortune out of nothing, is sure to be plagued with his relations; for this reason a certain favourite in France used to envy Methuselah, because he outlived them all.

N- was bred to the law, and had nothing to live by but that; yet he who said he was no lawyer displeased him not; but to find fault with his poetry was an eternal affront.

All governments in the world will take care to give the best outside to their affairs; in the late war, our gazettes never men. tioned the loss of the East India ships, but took care to mention the taking a French privateer of two guns.

A man that seldom has money, takes care to shew it in all companies when he has it, and pays his reckoning before it is called for; we care not how deep we go when we are upon tick; when we pay ready money we are more frugal.

If we must have enthusiasm, give it me in perfection; this makes me love the Quakers, and made me see the downfall of the Philadelphians; Mediocritas esse non licet holds good, as well in a new religion, as a new poem.

Every thing, they pretend, has been so exhausted, that it is impossible to find any thing new; but this is a mistake.

Since the late revolution, our ministers invented a new system of politics, purely

devised by themselves, never practised before in any part of the world, and we hope will never be practised again.

Our divines have invented new measures of allegiance, and new salvo's for swearing; our projectors new lotteries; the ladies a new sort of tea; the vintners new names for old stum; the physicians and soldiers new methods of murder.

The Streights of Magellan may afford new discoveries, but religion hardly any; the Old and New Testament have been so unmercifully beaten up by poachers of all countries, that one can no more expect to start any fresh game there, than a tub of good ale at a country bowling-green, after the justices have paid it a visit.

Vice passes safely under the disguise of devotion; as, during the late war, French wine, under another name, escaped the custom-house.

There is more fatigue and trouble in a lazy, than in the most laborious life; who would not rather drive a wheel-barrow with nuts about the streets, or cry brooms, than be Arsennus?

Montaigne, in his book of expence, pu down, Item, For my idleness, a thousand pounds.

Though we have so many cart-loads of polemic writers, yet the world has not been much improved in knowledge by them; when the learned Isaac Casaubon was shown the Sorbonne, says the person who introdu ced him, There have been disputations kept here these four hundred years; but, replies Casaubon, What have they decided all this while?

A broken shop-keeper ends in an exciseman; a decayed gentleman in a justice of the peace.

A Pindaric muse, is a muse without her stays on.

He that puts on a clean shirt but once a quarter, opens his breast when it is so. A wise man will answer an objection be fore it is made. Trebatius, whenever he met a creditor, never gave him leave to dun him first, but was sure to anticipate him. Well, faith, honest friend, (says he,) I am to blame, but thou shalt have thy money next week.

There is not such a vast difference be tween peoples parts as the world imagines. A man is never ruined by dullness.

Men are affected with any loss, according to their different genius and temper; when a country fellow the other day was told that the Dutch had laid a great part of their country under water, he was only concerned at the loss of so much hay.

A certain man admired the wise institution of the Sabbath; the very breaking of it keeps half the villages about London.

I am sure you are a man of merit, says Philautus to Alcibiades, because you have been so often put by preferment. By my faith, 'tis my own case.

ON THE PRESENT STATE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS AT HOME.

MR EDITOR,-Although no politician, I am yet one of those who take a strong interest in the general progress of public affairs, and, being deeply impressed with the conviction that a country of such limited natural resources and small geographical extent as Great Britain, to have acquired such dominion and mastery among nations, and to have from the exercise of individual talent and industry, conferred so many boons on mankind, must, for a long ⚫ course of ages, have been governed according to the spirit and genius of the people, I consider myself, what is called, a true government man.-I do not mean that I am in all circumstances, and at all times, a partizan of any existing administration, but only an adherent to that system which has become habitual in British policy, but from which, statesmen, both in and out of place, are apt occasionally to deviate. I think it necessary, sir, to be thus explicit in addressing you, because, I have observed, that although in the main we are of the same cast of political sentiment, still you now and then have an ultra excess of loyalty. I do not, observe, find fault with you for this; you are as justly entitled to the free exercise of your opinions, as I consider myself to be to that of mine; but I think it makes you liable to injure our common cause, and therefore take the liberty of remonstrating with you on the subject; I do this with the more emphasis, in consequence of reading the eloquent article entitled, THE LATE QUEEN," in your last Number. But, perhaps, I may have perused it under the disadvantage and influence of prejudice, for I am one of those government men who condemned from first to last the whole course of proceedings directed against that spirited, but foolish and unfortunate woman. Mark, however, it is only of the proceedings I speak : her guilt or innocence is another question upon which I consider it quite unnecessary now to offer any opinion; and I have only alluded to the affair in order to notice the erroneous view which I con

66

public opinion; it displays, certainly, great bravery of assertion, and a lofty demeanour of loyalty, but it is far more vehement than the public are disposed to sympathize with. It is fine and beautiful, as an exhibition of art and genius; but it can produce no just impression beyond that of admiration at the rhetorician's skill; and is only calculated to keep up the apprehension that a few weak, well-meaning minds still entertain of the power and ascendency of the radical and revolutionary spirit. It appears to me, that you have mistaken a temporary ebullition of popular feeling for the symptoms of an organized sys tem of defiance and enmity to the existing and constitutional order of things, and that the whole in. paper, stead of being applicable to the present state of public opinion, is but a sounding reverberation of those old alarms, which the first crash and explosion of the French Revolution naturally and justly occasioned to every one who reflected on what was then obviously the tendency of the popular enthusiasm and passion of that era. You seem to think, that the same causes which overthrew the ancient government of France, are actively at work in this country, and struggling onward to the same issue. It may be so; indeed, to a certain extent, it must be granted that it is so; for in all times, and in all circumstances, the seeds of discontent exist in every community, and only require the influence of special causes to excite them to growth.

[merged small][ocr errors]

But, sir, notwithstanding the manifestations of radical impudence, with all the exaggerations and importance which alarmists attached to the absurd and shapeless schemes of that disorderly and unorganized faction, there was a course of public policy regularly and gradually developing itself, which in its effects could not fail to weaken the germinative principles of popular disaffection. It now, indeed, appears, that both the government and the legislature were deceived in the estimate which they were led to form of the strength and designs of the radicals, and certainly the important moral and political fact wholly escaped them, and seems still to be unheeded by you, that the results of the French Revo

« AnteriorContinuar »