13 AUGUST 1864, Page 17


GIUSTI FOR EARS POLITE.* Mara* readers of the brilliant critique and translations of Giusti by the late Henry Lushington will be well disposed to examine a work promising them a fuller account of the life and literary remains of this satirist, and of the political and historical phenomena with which he has connected his name. They would welcome with satisfaction not only a deep, researchful, or imaginative narrative on these subjects, but even a fairly executed epitome of the valuable materials for one which exist in Italian, comprising not only the author's collected poems, but an excellent and interesting selection of his letters, which has been edited by his friend Frassi, and is accompanied by a good memoir of his private life. If the last-mentioned work is de- ficient, as regards the English reader, in notices of national history and of the biographies of some of Giusti's friends and

• The Tuscan Poet Giuseppe Giusti and his Times. By Susan Homer. Landon: sad Ciusbridge : llscm;lCuu and Co. 183. contemporaries, the most necessary elucidations of this kind may be found in hosts of recent writers, and more particularly iu Le Monnier's memoirs of contemporary authors and statesmen (L'Ilalie cat elle la terre des morts?), Ranallis "Istorie Italians" for the years 1846 to 1853, and

Gualterio's " Ultimi Rivolgimenti" for a preceding period. By honestly abridging and decently translating the prose of Frassi's publication, by inserting abstracts of, if not translations from Giusti's poems, and introducing some plain historical summaries, not so much to indoctrinate a reader with the spirit of the times as to recall to him the particulars of events which he must re- member vividly, though perhaps inexactly, a very delightful and instructive work might have been produced at a small expense of contrivance and ingenuity. It. will be readily seen whether the present performance is something more or less than we have described.

The earlier chapters are principally filled with pleasing and unexceptionable excerpts of private correspondence. The selection has that advantage over " Elegant Extracts," the "Beauties of the Family Shakespeare," and the like, that it has been regarded by the editress as a completely sufficient basis for critical reflections on the character and genius of Giuseppe Giusti, who is thus brought before us, both by description and exemplification, as a regular model of a polite letter-writer and elegant patriotic poet. Moreover, the editress, as we have everywhere the satisfaction of feeling, has thoroughly convinced herself that the Giusti thus cut out by herself is a real and sub- stantial personage, and the original Giusti a mere phantasmal excrescence which must soon vanish, or has already vanished, into night and oblivion, having been replaced in all respects very advantageously. The letters of both the Giustis contain many fine manly utterances, but he of the English letters is always a calm, dignified moralist, while the sentiments of his namesake are tinged with an audacity, unruliness, hauteur, and fitful levity that render them dangerous or perplexing to the well-regulated British mind. Again, his manner is often deficient in propriety, arid he is apt to jumble human and divine things, and handle supernal as well as infernal names with a familiarity that is profane

and shocking. It was a maxim of his (the Italian Giusti's) that it is nothing to make a book unless that book can remake its

readers; and he thought that nice and decorous language was not always the most effective in this poor planet for rousing minds from slothful negligence or converting them from inveterate pre- judices. But the Giusti according to Miss Susan Horner may be safely perused by us all, with no other effect than

to confirm us in the proper complacency with which we usually regard our own status in morality and enlightenment. His doctrine is so elevated and yet so comfortable—so comfort-

able and yet so elevated. And judgment warns us not to receive too deferentially the maxim which we just now cited.

The time soon goes by in which a man's utterances can cause revolutions, or get eagerly circulated by voice and manuscript amongst ardent proselytes. Once having been consigned to a happy immortality on the shelves of amateurs or systematic book-devourers, their position is better secured by a respectable and sober commemoration of approved maxims than by the ori- gival rude zeal through which the author communicated his grand but faulty sentiments. Hence we have no doubt that the gifted spirit of Giuseppe Giusti, if it wore some day induced to chat

with us at a select séance concerning the treatment which his reputation encounters in the present generation, would express itself highly gratified and obliged by the manner in which Miss Horner has purified and elevated the character of its epistolary remains, which she has done by a system of arbitrary selection, assiduous retrenchment, and ingenious mistranslations, that has quite a wonderful effect on the native colour and individuality of the " Epistolario." It would be too long a task to write an ex- haustive description of these fine artistic touches ; but we must endeavour to give some notion of them by the scrutiny of a few representative passages.

At page 151 we find a reduced letter beginning with the follow- ing sentences, the first of them alluding to an account in Vasari of the labours of a devoted painter, as we are told more particularly iu the foot-note :—

"Dirra Masco,—You are right. The story of Luca dolls Robbia is very touching. Such strong generous characters almost surpass our comprehensions who are born in an ago which has boon paralysed, and is incapable of great crimes as of great virtues. T.hese men hearkened to God ; we hardly listen to the lessons of the priest. Manly ideas of morals and of religion were to them both a restraint and a spur; in these days all thought of retribution is cold within us, and with mane eve* the fear of the deviL" This would appear to mean, if anything, that the "thought of retribution" and the "fear of the devil" were motives naturally involved in " manly ideas of morals and religion," although they seemed to be at the date of this letter almost extinct among the Italians: But in the Italian we read, " Agghiaccia le viscere a tutti ii pensicro del tornaconto, a mold la paura del diavolo," i. e., " the entrails of all are frozen by the thought of retribution—of many by the fear of the devil." The Giusti of the Italian revolution did not think the aforesaid fear manly or productive of strong generous characters; and he hints that it was spiritual fear (not the want of it) which made his contemporaries, as they then appeared to him, incapable of great virtues as of great vices. What a much more prudent and disciplined mind is evinced by the Giusti prepared for English circulating libraries. Tbis same exemplary personage has been commended for his " respect and tenderness towards women," and is made to give an affecting instance of it while he watches the last illness of a dear and esteemed uncle. He writes :- " The women, who certainly are more in the habit of attending sick beds than we men, and who administer those kind offices which are of such service, are, however, cursed with the desire of making up to them- selves for the hardship of temporary silence by relating over and over again every particular of his illness for the benefit of those present as well as of the suffering patient. I sometimes join in the gossip, for we must take the flies with the honey."

What exquisite gallantry and good temper ! He will not on any account find fault with these kind ladies, nor even allow them to suspect from his silence that he is offended with their indiscreet behaviour ; he therefore actually helps them in mak- ing a noise, but only sometimes he will not worry his poor dying uncle too incessantly. What a pity all this delicacy is not to be found in the Italian, or, we must venture to call him, the unconverted Giusti, who says here, Darei ne' lumi," I could dash into the lights, [i. e., I am put in a thorough passion,] " but it is all too true that we cannot have the honey without the flies." Pre- sently comes a variation of which we cannot quite see the drift, " where a man has not attentive and well-trained servants he is ill off unless waited on by his own relations." We should hive expected, " however much a man may have attentive," &c., per (panto s'abbia, &c., which of course refers to invalids. Incondoling

with a friend on some misfortune be begins a paragraph with:- " Io, the non nego la Provvidenza," "I who do not deny a Providence."

Stay, my good fellow ; who would write that way in England, as if all his articles of religion were not satisfactorily demonstrated, and he only adhered to them from sentimental considerations? Leave out these words, and a few others presently that I will tell you of, and your reflections will look quite Evangelical. See

now :

"I believe that God sends the solemn lessons of adversity to those capable of feeling them most, because it is from sorrow, and only from sorrow, that great things are born, and strong characters spring from affliction like flowers on the thorn. In prosperity man is careless, im- provident, barren. The liner qualities of the heart and of the intellect either do not show themselves or do not exist in those who are blessed by fortune ; a calamity sends out sparks as steel does from flint."

A poet's account of a poetical reverie, of the first conception of an ingenious and delightful piece like Giusti's eulogism of the snail, is matter so naturally interesting that it would not have been tampered with or cut down for despatch by any editress less con- fident than Miss Homer in her power of improving everything she clips and prunes. But she evidently thinks the man super- subtle and egoistic in his details, and will not allovy him to bestow too much of his tediousness on us. We quote a few sentences, intercalating more full and literal renderings. After describing his native Pescia, his reminiscences there, his weariness .of a town life, &c., he goes on :—

" Unhappy those who have no home. . . . I have met with have a quarrel with] cosmopolitans who, from a foolish desire to make themselves citizens of the world, cannot rest at home in their own country. I like to think that, as plants vegetate better in one soil than another, so we live and flourish better in the place in which we were born.

"While making these and similar reflections during a walk through the country, I happened to stop by the way to watch a snail [I, without -wishing it, had mechanically stopped thus on the road, looking at a enailikin]. By an association of ideas [by association of ideas, a phenomenon which every one finds realized in himself in quite a pecu- liar way of his own], I thought this little animal might become the living image of the thoughts which were crowding into my mind; and reflecting on the vain arrogance of man and his undisciplined passions, on [his] anger and pride, I was ready to exclaim, Viva la chioeciola (Long live the snail!) Everything depends on seizing the suggestion of the moment. I took a fancy to the metre [this exclamation made a quinario sdnoviolo, a metre which pleases me beyond measure. You know that everything depends on the commencement], and gathering together the ideas which had been floating in my mind I strung the lines into a poem, and produced these light verses, the natural conse- quence of a liver refreshed by its native air, &c."

After this comes the " Vivat for the Snail," which is quoted at full length in Italian, and thus treated with more respect than any other poem of as many lines. Indeed, the sympathies of the editress seem thoroughly engaged by this effusion, which embodies aspirations for rural and domestic repose much more charming than Pope's "Happy the man," or Horace's "Beatus ille," and equally characteristic of a great moral censor when invalided, disappointed, and somewhat ironical, as you under- stand, or perhaps it is better you should not understand it so. On the other hand, the epitome of the celebrated " Boot " is illustrated only by one verse of Lushington's translation, notable for the absence of base mechanical terms, not to mention vulgar jests about kicking. In describing the argument, the editress has evidently not lacked assistance, but we do not see bow she makes out " the poet agrees with certain modern nee-Catholic poets that the canon laws forbid priests to wear boots." The notices of the other poems are judiciously briet, but throw over them the charm of an aulic and refined manner, from which Giusti sadly deviated in many places. From the middle of the volume, referring to the accession of Pio Nono, our authoress plunges into a summary for various Italian States of Ranalli's "History of the Revolutions," some of the ante- cedent phenomena having been concisely noticed in her second chapter. Here the private affairs of Giusti begin to. he some- what neglected, even daring his illnesses and imbroglios of literary projects; however, there are a few more satires to give account of, and the letters continue to be quoted in illustration of political situations. This part of the work is done in a more thorough and business-like manner ; but the narrative is positively boiled down to rags, and becomes insipid where it is not sauced by the epistolary comments, the latter continuing to be translated in an astonishing and perplexing manner. What can be made out, e. g., of a facetious sally which describes (p. 218) a Grand Duke "coquetting with the police, who are in reality identified with himself," and having retained a ghost in, his palace, " as a quondam pensioner? " At this period Giusti fared nearly like Beranger in similar convulsions. Having assailed the vices of absolutism in his poems, he was expected to take an active part in establishing liberal institutions, and constrained to accept the position of a deputy. He showed prudence in attaching himself to the more cautious and moderate party, but he felt that the career of a statesman did not belong to him. He even gradually dropped the weapons of stgire, after having once or twice turned them against time-servers and police conspirators; he disdained to persecute the absolutist party when it appeared likely to be the losing one. He wrote between 1847 and 1849 three elaborate letters on the causes of the general failure of the revolutionary movement in Europe, and he only survived the battle of Novara about a year. In treating him as the representative of an epoch, the necessary difficulty occurs that the man is greatest when the time is least, and vice versa, a fact which is keenly impressed upon us by the present volume.