Benjamin Franklin and Italy

Benjamin Franklin and Italy

Benjamin Franklin and Italy

Benjamin Franklin and Italy

Excerpt

This volume is a contribution to what should be known about the cultural impact of America upon the rest of the world, a subject quite overlooked until recent years, and even now, despite its obvious timeliness, accorded only a small part of the attention it deserves. That a book could be written about the connections of an American with a country he never visited is not a tour de force: it is simply proof of the fertility and importance of the general theme.

The variety and intricacy of Franklin's Italian fortune create, in fact, some embarrassment for the historian. Franklin's multifaceted activity, and rapidly shifting Italian milieux as the peninsula passed in little more than a century from the lethargy of servitude and custom to the position of a modern sovereign nation, have resulted in a mass of data of such range and complexity as to defy organic presentation. Rather than impose an adventitious unity, I have chosen to present my material as it evolved naturally, namely, as a series of more or less loosely connected essays, relying upon the immanent figure of Franklin to confer essential coherence. The introductory chapter stands somewhat apart as a composite of miscellaneous data organized to give some idea of what Franklin knew and thought about Italy, and what effect her culture may have had upon him. The subsequent chapters, devoted more specifically to the influence of Franklin upon Italy, are disposed in six sections. The first four groups relate to the most conspicuous aspects of Franklin's career--scientist, statesman, printer, and moralist. Then a series of essays treats Franklin's connections with Italian literature, music, and the figurative arts. The concluding study is a survey of what has happened to Franklin since the formation of modern Italy.

No single individual could possibly speak with authority in all the fields involved in a study of Franklin and Italy and I cherish no illusion of having approximated the miracle. Some small comfort comes from the hope that here and there I may have seen something that the specialist would have overlooked. At all events, well or badly, the work is begun. Where I have fallen short of possibilities, others better qualified will continue.

Since this is a book primarily for American readers, I have made every possible linguistic concession in my text, translating all titles and prose citations. Poetry for obvious reasons I leave generally in the original language, but include close prose renditions in the notes. Titles and documents in the critical apparatus of bibliography and appendix are necessarily given in the original form.

I am obliged to individuals and institutions far too numerous to . . .

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