IL POVERO RICCARDO
NINETEENTH-CENTURY Italy saw Franklin as preeminently a moralist and educator. A glance at the bibliography shows at once that this popularity of the moral Franklin reached a climax of intensity around 1830 and then persisted until well after national unification in the decade 1860-1870. Most impressive is the fortune of the little cento of proverbs known as The Way to Wealth, which, in one form or another, was published with great frequency, becoming probably the best known bit of literature in Italy of the last century. The vogue of The Way to Wealth prepared the path for Franklin's other moral writings, including the autobiography, a work not widely read in its original form, but disseminated the length and breadth of the peninsula in popular reductions.
One suspects immediately a direct connection between the vogue of Franklin's moral writings and the development of the middleclass ethos in Italy. Franklin must have entered somehow into the formation of that complex of mores built about the concept of "credit" as a function of such rugged virtues as love of work, selfreliance, persistence, honesty, foresight, and thrift.1 This first intuitive leap, however, leaves one perplexed before the apparent paradox of an immense vogue of the moral Franklin against the rather meager dimensions of the Italian economic revolution in the nineteenth century. An analysis of the facts proves nevertheless that the paradox is the logical result of factors peculiar to the economic and political development of Italy, and that the fortune of Poor Richard is an excellent reflection of the tortured birth of the modern middle class in that country.
Although Italy had to run the same gamut of change as other western nations before achieving status as a modern capitalistic community, her history does not present the same continuity as as that of France or England. In these countries early unity and independence favored economic and social growth. Italy, on the other hand, provides the odd spectacle of a nation capitalistically more mature in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries than at the beginning of the nineteenth. The intense economic activity underlying the power and brilliance of the Italian city states was accompanied by a precocious development of the capitalistic spirit. Sombart2 saw in Italy, and particularly in Florence, the cradle of