American writers in Italy; 1
Right that he will truly be as unique as present American writers in Italy. A series of programs especially produced in Rome for this radio station. Program one. From Irving to Cooper. Literary historians point out that at least 25 American writers in the 18th century and more than twice that number in the 19th century wrote novels with Italy as a background. The writers themselves have testified that their lives both artistically and personally were
deeply affected. And then for each of them it really represented a profound emotional experience. To the American especially if he be of imaginative temper he has a deeper charm. For him who has escaped that there is no longer any tyranny of public opinion and he rejoices in the recovery of his own individuality. He has found an Eden. We need not hide his natural self. This was the evaluation of James Russell Lowell who was one of the
Americans who came to Italy. But this was not and is not a wholly American phenomenon. The tradition of travels through Italy from one time wrote in his May thread is perhaps the only one common to all artistic schools. During those early years of the eighteen hundreds when the first American painters and sculptors like Washington Allston and Horatio Reno were settling in the peninsula and preparing the way for the right as culling is of ideas from other countries were already established or were about to be established. In this newest version of Arcadia. To understand properly the experience of such American writers as Washington Irving James Fenimore Cooper and nothing you'll hold on who had a rich sense of immediate encounter with of then both very new and very old Italy. We must first understand what America was at that time and what it really
was. Italy then was a country. But it was not a nation. The Congress of Vienna left it divided into seven little States ruled by Duke's princes and kings of various extractions and in none of these states was there any significant degree of liberty. The level of development from a civil and political point of view wisest to say the least lamentable. Small groups of intellectuals who stand for the most part from the middle classes dared to dream of liberty
of independence and of unity. So that these very colored little States might be sewn together to make a single garment one Italian poet express their feeling in these lines. More than a fad and make it a Navy ship. What a family big deal you know that and I shit out the El Segundo in Mondo deadly Kino which translates generally to. I would make myself an executioner. A grave digger to tear from this century aholic winds cloak. Despite this reality. Americans then imagined Italy as a sort of sleepy and rustic Cadia. Why this can be understood if it is remembered what America was at that time.
America was then a country which had gained independence and liberty. But a country which was still searching for its own identity it was born of a dream. The American dream. And it was now trying to adapt itself to reality but when reality did not live up to the dream the impulse was not to abandon the dream but to transplant and preserve a part of it elsewhere. To Italy. James Russell Lowell explained why for an American the choice was Italy. She gives him cheaply what GO ON cannot buy for him at home. A pastor once legendary and authentic which he has an equal claim with every other foreigner. You know he gives us antiquity with good roads cheap living and above all a sense of freedom from responsibility. In Italy it was still possible to encounter a kind of sincere and
primitive spontaneity that the organized community life in America was beginning to deny the artist. In Italy every shepherd played a part. Every bandit was striving to right an injustice and the common people all came equipped with noble hearts. Under the circumstances we must not expect the American writers of the period to give a very accurate description of the Italian political scene whether personal or social. At least we must not expect it. Always a lively Venetians of William Dean Howells were certainly true to type but the so called Bravo of
Fenimore Cooper I and we shall meet him was a typical American dressed as an Italian. Similarly Henry James is a prince and there Rico is a real enough figure. But nothing you'll horse on has done a tell all. We shall also meet is simply a fantastic projection of the author's nether consciousness. Today we must recognize that a trip to Italy by American writers has become a constant almost a current of American literature in itself which has as noted by such critics as Van Wyck Brooks and Nathalia Wright can be traced out in its own historical progression in three distinct ed books.
In the first period until the end of the 19th century one found among American artists a sense of discovery and of a direct confrontation of the two civilizations. America one may say was trying to define its own identity by measuring it against an Italian identity even if it had to twist the latter into all mystical forms. In the second period lasting until 1940 the American experience and Italy assume the form of a refuge from materialism. The Italian Cultural Heritage was called on to integrate and to enrich from new points of view. The American Heritage. In the third and final period beginning at the end of the Second World War the travel as European Italian experience came as a shock to isolationism and incitement to see reflected in one's own destiny
the destiny of everyone. An invitation to abandon narcissism and to open oneself to the human conditions of all this. Washington Irving was the first professional American writer to arrive in Italy in the wake of the painters and sculptors. The author of Rip Van Winkle was barely more than 20 years old when he traveled through the peninsula from October 18 0 4 to May 18 0 5 stopping first at Genoa for two months then for a month in Sicily two weeks in Naples and a month in Rome by chance he came into direct contact with members of the Italian underworld
in Genoa. He saw the famous jewels epee morceau whom he described at length in his diary between Genoa in Sicily the boat on which he was travelling was attacked by a rabble of pirates or bandits of the ocean as they were called. At Tara Cina he saw at the entrance to the city the skull of one of these assassins exposed to public view one in a cage of I and evidently to induce other assassins to reflect on their probable future. This scene is described in the inn at Tara Cina which formed a part of his tales of a traveling published 20 years later. The third part of the Tales Five stories which are supposedly recounted by various travellers seated around a fireplace at the inn on a rainy evening is openly dedicated to the Italian banditti whom Irving refers to as a sort of illegitimate heroes. We must
bear in mind that an encounter with bandits at that time was fatal to any literary man who had already read his fill of poetic novels. The bandits were a necessary ingredient of the Italian landscape and a good deal more daring do came out of the heads of writers than ever came out of the woods on mountains. James Russell Lowell stayed in the same hotel in Terre Chino some years later and he was disillusioned. Nothing like what I expected to see. VM is one of the least cutthroat looking places I ever saw James Fenimore Cooper also spoke out on the subject. The marvels about banditti and assassins are enormously exaggerated. A man of ordinary prudence may go from one extremity of the country to the other with very little risk. Washington Irving on the other hand saw banditti everywhere evidently projecting in them a most important element of American culture in his
time and indeed perhaps in the present time as well. And he wrote about them in great detail. Italian banditti Ranger were great extent of wild country along the chain of APA 9 was bordering on different states. They know all the difficult passes the shortcuts for retreat and the impracticable forests of the mountain some months where no force dare follow. They are secure of the good will of the inhabitants of these regions. The poor and semi barbarous race whom they never disturb and often enrich. Indeed they are considered as a sort of illegitimate heroes among the mountain villages. And in certain towns where they dispose of their plunder. That's countenanced
and sheltered and secure in the fastness of their mountains. The robbers have set the week police of the Italian state to defiance. It is in vain that their names and descriptions are posted on the doors of country churches and rewards offered for them alive or dead. The villages are either too much odd by the terrible instances of vengeance of looked at by the Britons. Or have too good an understanding with them to be there be traitors. It is true that there are now and then hunted and shot down like beasts of prey by the gendarmes. Their heads put in iron cages and stock up on posts by the roadside or their limbs hung up to blacken in the trees near the places where they've committed their atrocities. But these ghastly spectacles only serve to make some dreary pass of the road still more dreary and to dismay the traveller Without did tearing the bandit.
This was the ideology of primitivism the ingenuous conviction that the closer one is to nature and the purer one is the free i want his from guilt and sin. Therefore if these men were bandits it was because they were righting a wrong. More astute critics have noted that through the figure of the brigand Washington Irving and his American readers with him were able to carry a sling to break some of the laws of civilized life. Laws which were necessary but which sometimes weighed so heavily and was so suffocating that it was good to leave them at home in America. Two years after publication of Tales of a traveller.
And almost as though to take up physically the thread of the subject of the Italian bandits and their noble nature has the second great American to become involved with Italy. I arrived in New York James Fenimore Cooper I was accompanied by his wife and five children as well as a nephew. He remained in Italy from October 1828 until May 18 30 travelling from Florence to Naples Sorrento to Rome and to Venice. In Venice Cooper was moved to write the Bravo the most important of his books set in Italy. Cobra was not much more than 20 years old and already famous on both continents. For the first part of his Leather-Stocking tales these two years that Cooper spent in Italy inspired in him a warm love for the country he wrote about it in his letters and spoke of it as well. Italy haunts my dreams and clings to my ribs like another wife. There
is no place where mere living is such a luxury. Cooper's wife tool wrote about his love for the country. Italy is the only country where you can quit looking over his shoulder go buy his daughter Susan spoke of it to her children. Your grandfather fell in love with it really at first sight and it was a love which lasted through his life to go by himself in his gleanings from Europe wrote a definition of Italy Soft be which and refined like an extremely fine woman a beloved and lovely countenance. The landscape was of the witching an almost indescribable softening a blending of all the parts in one harmonious whole. A mellowing of every tent and trait I threw around the picture a seductive ideal that blended with the known reality in a way I have never before witnessed nor can expect to witness again. FOCO by all comparisons work to the disfavor of American
whites in respect to York was only rich in material things. I believe we make money faster than any other nation. Well we spend it with less satisfaction. It may be true that man as a rule is far more removed from the money getting mania in Italy than almost any other portion of the Christian world. But it is also true that only those countries in which public opinion has most influence are always of purest public practice. This one comparison was not unfavorable to America in the sector which had to do with Europe's political organisation. The United States was far ahead of all other European nations and of the tiny Italian States in particular post Renaissance Venice as an example. Cooper described in the Brabo as a state where power rested in the hands of a small to radical and irresponsible oligarchy fostering extreme abuses.
The Bravo on its primary level is a political book which sets out to analyze certain of the institutions it deals with. But on a more profound and articulate level the novel is surprisingly of a different sort with the Bravo In fact James Fenimore Cooper took up a theme of primary importance in 19th century narrative as is indicated in the popular saying which forms the epigraph of the book justice in the courts and bread in the streets narrow streets and obscure byways which serve as the background of the novel suggests that we are in the presence of the important anguish which infuriates and frustrates ren so trauma you know in man's own is the promise he's posy one of the most popular characters and Italian literature. It is now generally recognised that Cooper was one of the American writers who most clearly delineated American myths. In Him we find certain
characters such as Natty Bumppo who could best symbolize the American destiny. For this reason it is particularly interesting to see what Cooper's own Italian protagonist will do in the face of injustice. Will he resign himself as Renzo Trammell you know did his protagonist accurately represented the American in Europe during those years constrained to expose his gift of innocence to the rough hand of history of history which is violent ineluctable and unforeseen. But who is the true protagonist of the book. He is a person of evil reputation who is widely feared the powers in Venice use him to carry out their secrets with justice. His name is. Yeah couple from TV. The Bible just as Harvey birch in the spy and Leather-Stocking from the same series of
tales. So yeah couple from teeny carries on his own head the entire weight of his actions and their criminal consequences. The Bravo moves about the streets of Venice protected by his reputation and hiding behind a mask. All of Venice is masked often wearing costumes so that when characters meet the scenes are sometimes reminiscent of the Tales of Hoffmann as in this passage from the book. Jewel situated to the very heart of the city. And returning by the opposite side. He found his way through the throng of the portico looking into every coffeehouse examinee each figure that floated by. JULIE. Again issued into the PR sector without
success. A slight jerk at the elbow of his jacket arrested his steps. And he turned to look at the person you were detained. A female attired like a kind of Dean and I dressed him in a faint voice coming to our. Window so fast. And what has been lost in this merry crowd. If a heart to be wise to use diligence. For many here may be willing to wear the June quarter the GOC. Any who find such a bubble of mind underfoot are welcome to their luck. Has not seen a domino of a size like that of any other man. With a gate that might pass for the step of a senator. Padre a Jew. And a mask that looks as much like a thousand of these in the square. As one side of the company is like the other. That picture is so well drawn that one cannot fail to know the original. He stands beside me. Juno wheeled suddenly and saw that a grinning Harlequin was playing his antics in the place where he had
expected to find the stranger. And. Everyone wears a mask in Venice because it gives the only concrete assurance of liberty. But it is any loser at liberty because they don't Literates people's identity. It is a precarious liberty also because of the despotic powers of Venice may look behind the mask when matters grow serious and things must be looked to. The Council of Three sends out its hired assassin. Yeah couple from TV. But when the crowd becomes infuriated for good reason. Crying for justice in the courts and bread in the streets as it did after the popular and much loved Antonio was killed. Then the mob must be thrown a bone. A man must be appointed on which the crowd can vent its anger. Such a person serves the function of a sacrificial lamb and this lamb
is the Brattle Jacobo Frontino who has at last put on trial and executed. Jacobo front Teenie is not the only scapegoat in Cooper's writings and he is not the only one in American literature. A great many others have been invoked from time to time to act as mediators between innocence and history offering up themselves for the benefit of all the community. When I arrived at similar solutions and his other novels but for us it is interesting to see how such a solution works when applied to the theme as it evolves in Europe in Italy and in touching upon this theme. James Fenimore Cooper has also touched on the most delicate aspect of America's emotional and cultural life. The aspect of how to preserve and to protect the American dream as it were without at the
same time entering into the vortex of history. This has concluded the first in our series of programs on American authors and their relationship to Italy. Programs especially produced in Rome for this radio station. This first program was titled from Irving to Cooper. The music in this program included excerpts from the works of Bill Deni. Rossini. Beneath. His yellow and blue. Theme music is from the copy to you Kelly and Michael.
- American writers in Italy
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Identifier: 69-34-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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- APA: American writers in Italy; 1. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-1g0hxx9g