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ART. IV. - MASSIMO D'AZEGLIO AND THE UNITY OF
Ettore Fieramosca ossía la Disfida di Barletta. Di MASSIMO D'AZE-
D'Azeglio. Parigi: Baudry, Libreria Europea. 2 vols. 1841.-
D' Azeglio. Accompagnée d'une Introduction et de Notes. Par EUGENE RENDU, Inspecteur-Général de l’Instruction Publique, Correspondant de l'Académie Royale des Sciences de Turin, etc. Deuxième Edition. Paris : Libraire Académique, Didier et Cie., Libraires-Editeurs.
“L'unione degli Italiani ! voi mi fate ridere," wrote Macchiavelli to Vettori, three centuries ago; and it was a sneer
worthy of so astute a diplomat. For, though the reckless dis. · cord of the Italian cities, fomented by the intrigues of foreign
courts, and finally made permanent by the armies of northern invaders, might well lead a superficial observer to doubt the possibility of reconciling the warring elements that have so long made a shipwreck of the nationality of Italy, yet a comprehensive study of the tendencies of Italian history will never fail to confirm the sagacious prediction of Napoleon at St. Helena, that the unity of manners and language and literature must, at a future more or less remote, end in bringing the inhabitants of Italy under one government.
Gioberti ascribes the origin of this fatal spirit of division to the Guelf and Ghibelline factions, which arose at the close of the eleventh century, when the famous quarrel between
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the priesthood and the empire began with Henry IV, and Gregory VII. Anxious to preserve the benefits of the two great achievements of their age, – the liberty of the municipalities, and the unity of the Church, - the Guelfs aimed at making Italy a confederacy of free cities, presided over by the Pope; while the Ghibellines, represented in former times by Dante and Macchiavelli and Sarpi, and in later times by Alfieri and Leopardi, with a view to separate the priesthood from the empire, – that is, to sever the connection between Church and State, — were eager to confer the crown of Italy upon a lay prince; and, as a suitable one was not to be found at home, they were ready to lay it at the feet of the German emperor.
The discord, however, thus organized by the Guelfs and the Ghibellines, had really a more remote origin. It sprang from the dream of antiquity, never once relinquished in the Middle Age, and still dominant in Italy, — the dream of a universal monarchy on the one hand, and a universal republic on the other. For nowhere more than in Italy have the ideas of the past entered into the life of the present; nowhere is history more the property of the general mind. The peasant still worships in Nero the presiding genius of his horse; the monks of Assisi still cherish the ambition of Gregory VII.; the memories of the Crusades and of the wars against the Turks have come down, in many hearts in Venice, bright as the Byzantine gold of St. Mark's. For it is the people who have done all in Italy: it was commerce that gave her liberty; it was industrial skill that gave her wealth; it was her artists, plebeian and republican, from Giotto to Michael Angelo, that gave her fame; it was her sailors who revealed a new world to mankind; it was her popes, sons of the people likewise, who, up to the twelfth century, gave unity to the modern civilization and peace to a turbulent world. And thus it is now, that, from one end of the peninsula to the other, every true Italian will rally, if he can, around the tricolor: for all factions alike, absolutist or radical, revere in the red, white, and green the symbol of national regeneration; while all factions alike find their only common inspiration in the war-cry of Garibaldi, “ Fuori i barbari !"
In spite of more than three centuries of foreign oppression, this controlling sentiment of national unity, resting not so much upon purity of race or community of stock, as upon a similarity of intellectual culture, has never failed the Italian heart. Owing, perhaps, to the varying strength of the Teutonic and the Latin element, the Lombard and the Tuscan are as different as people speaking the same language can well be. The difference, indeed, between them may be traced in every branch of literature and art: for Titian and Correggio and Tasso were certainly of a different stamp of genius from Macchiavelli and Michael Angelo and Dante; yet, amidst the crowd that pressed forward to meet him in his hour of triumph, Ariosto beheld Tuscan and Lombard and Roman mingling together.
The very causes, moreover, which divided and made them a prey alternately to French and Spanish and German invasion, helped to keep alive, in the hatred of city to city and of province to province, that ineffaceable individuality of the Italians, in language and manners and arts, which never even yielded to the pressure of foreign elements, but, as with the Greeks in their long struggle with the Turks, preserved the intellectual supremacy of the conquered race. Thus, in the eyes of the Italians,— from the days of Robert Guiscard, with his Norman bands, to those of Charles of Anjou, with his merciless cruelty,– the French were always a barbarous race, alien to the arts of civilization, with no other genius than that of force: for Italy had already entered upon the brilliant triumphs of the renaissance, before the French were fairly born into the world; while, in revenge for the superiority which they could not but feel, the French affected a contempt for the Italians, and they took no pains to conceal it. In their old romances, Virgil figures always as a magician; the bankers, who disputed with Jews the monopoly of usury, were called Lombards. It was from Italy that every species of corruption found its way into the world; its commercial activity was a system of frauds; its political wisdom, nothing but the science of treachery.
Yet, while it rendered this homage to Italy by calumniating
it, France was not slow in yielding to its gracious charm. With the rest of Europe, it felt the breath of the new life. The gilded palaces of Genoa and Milan and Venice, resplendent with the works of Titian and Leonardo da Vinci, did not fail to exert a softening influence upon the haughty cavaliers, accustomed to the sterner architecture of the North, to the more sombre manners of the Hôtel St. Pol and the Rue Barbette. An anecdote, however, that is told of the poet Monti, well illustrates the groundlessness of all such envy then, and the worthlessness of all such comparison now, in this complex development of modern life, in which each nation has manifestly a function of its own, and no one, at peril of its own identity, may venture to absorb another. With the uncontrollable pride of an Italian, excusable perhaps in the face of the tremendous misfortunes of his country, Monti was boasting, in a mixed company, of the pre-eminence of Italian poetry, affirming that the French had only bad tragedies, and no epic at all. “Yet you must confess, monsieur," said a Frenchman who was present, “that, if we have no epic, it is not for the want of heroes; for we have furnished your best poets with several. Ariosto sang of Roland and Charlemagne. Tasso celebrated Godfrey and Renard and Tancred; et vous même, - vous avez chanté Napoléon."
It was in Italy that the modern civilization, receiving there its first impulse, first becoming conscious, as it were, of itself, leaped forward to announce its infinite promise, through those achievements in art which have been for centuries the illumination of Europe. But a long collapse followed that exuberant activity. During several centuries, the intellectual forces of Italy were wasted upon domestic feuds, and slavish pursuits under foreign masters. Yet, as Lamartine said, let us not insult the genius of Italy because it slumbered : for, within the present century, its national spirit has been awak. ened; its old resentment at the presence of an alien foot upon its soil has revived; the undercurrent of the national life has been setting steadily towards union.
of this modern movement, which resulted, in 1859, in the acquisition, by the aid of France, of Milan and a large part of Lombardy, and in 1860, through the magic of Garibaldi's name, of Naples and the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and which has already been crowned by the possession of Venice, - of this movement there have been several leaders; but none of them, perhaps, have so well illustrated as Massimo D' Azeglio that singular Italian genius, so polished and versatile and fervent, which made the glory of Italy in the days when Michael Angelo wrote sonnets to Vittoria Colonna, and devised the fortifications of Florence, and painted the “ Last Judgment" in the Sistine Chapel. We do not mean, of course, that D' Azeglio was the equal of Michael Angelo: he was but a clever artist and a brave soldier; a statesman of ability, commanded by events rather than commanding them; a writer, more correct than original; in all respects a man of talent, not, in the highest sense, a man of genius. But the union of so many diverse characters — artist, statesman, novelist, publicist, soldier - makes him in that respect unique in the modern history of Italy and of Europe; and while his political career, as a leader in the great work of Italian reform, furnishes a good commentary upon the state of parties, his historical novels, which, translated into English, have become familiar to so many readers, may be taken as a fair representation of the character and tendency of modern Italian literature.
Descended from an ancient Piedmontese family, the Tapparelli of Azeglio, in the province of Turea, in which the service of the state, in military or civil life, was almost an hered. itary career, Massimo D'Azeglio, born in 1801, was destined by his father, himself a distinguished officer, for the army. But his love for poetry and art soon withdrew him from a sphere of activity so little congenial; and, at the age of twenty, he entered upon the life of an artist, at Rome, devoting himself with success to what may be called historical landscape,not after the manner of Annibale Caracci or Poussin or Joseph Anton Koch; but, on the one hand, with a tendency to greater naturalism, and, on the other, with a more vivid conception of historical events. The knighthood of the Middle Age, and the condottieri of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, fur