Italian Nationalism and English Letters: Figures of the Risorgimento and Victorian Men of Letters

Italian Nationalism and English Letters: Figures of the Risorgimento and Victorian Men of Letters

Italian Nationalism and English Letters: Figures of the Risorgimento and Victorian Men of Letters

Italian Nationalism and English Letters: Figures of the Risorgimento and Victorian Men of Letters

Excerpt

There is in Machiavelli The Prince, written in 1513, a famous description of his fatherland: "enslaved . . . oppressed . . . scattered . . .; without a head, without order, beaten, despoiled, lacerated, and overrun. . . ." Some three centuries later, when the Hundred Days of the first Napoleon were over, Italy was still a dismembered land: here ruled by Austria, and there divided into her spheres of influence; elsewhere dominated by petty tyrants; and everywhere terrorized by a close surveillance over all opinion.

In the early decades of the nineteenth century, the idea of a united Italy was not uppermost in the minds of most Italians. True, desperate and inspired by the dynamic slogans of the French Revolution, a few patriots did revolt. As the century grew older, intermittent outbursts became more frequent and no longer resembled so much the puffs of a mud geyser on uncertain schedule as rather a volcano steadily aflame through a funnel-like pillar of cloud. Ultimately, the unity of Italy was achieved--by a diplomacy unscrupulous and temporizing, by heroism and by opportunism, with the aid of French and Prussian arms.

Patriotic Italians were divided on the method of uniting their country. Mazzini and his party of Young Italy favoured a unitarian republican programme. Cavour gave his adherence to the notion of a centralized state representing a swollen kingdom of Piedmont. This the Mazzinians abhorred as if it were a python, gorged and distended. Of those who inclined to a federal government, some would have given its leadership to the Pope; others, to the sovereign of Piedmont.

From different points of view, Italy was to the British both of the Romantic Period and of the Victorian Age a land of, and under, enchantment. Many, under the powerful spell of . . .

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