26 JUNE 1880, Page 21


Studies of the Eighteenth Century in Italy. By Vernon Lee. (W. Satchell.)—Mr. Lee has brought to his subject a great amount of curious and recondite learning. We venture to say that the " Arca- dian Academy," which is the subject of his first paper, is a thing wholly unknown to the vast majority of readers, as, indeed, it seems to be to the Italians generally, and even to the inhabitants of the place where it once had a local habitation. Mr. Lee gives a curious picture of its constitution and proceedings, and brings very clearly before our eyes a strange phase of literary life. His fourth and sixth essays, dealing respectively with "Metastasio and the Opera" and "Goldoni and the Realistic Comedy," brings us into more familiar regions, and are, we are bound to say, far more inter- esting. The sketch of Metastasio's life is particularly worthy of remark. He was a protégé of one of the founders of the Arcadian Academy, Vincenzo Gravina, who discovered him, when he was a lad of eleven, improvising in Rome, changed his name from Trapani to the more euphonic and classical Metastasio, educated him, and finally bequeathed to him the bulk of his fortune. He had other patrons and patronesses, to some of whom, to say the least, he was not grateful. He died at Vienna, in extreme old age. Mr. Lee throws plenty of vigour and colour into his portraiture of this life. His style, indeed, is not very easy, and not without an unpleasing mixture here and there of the " Carlylese." But it has a certain robustness ; while his criticism is often just, and even subtle. Goldoni, a personage not wholly unlike Metastasio, and yet in points strangely different from him, furnishes another excellent subject for the writer's pen. The other essays treat of " The Comedy Masks," " The Musical Life," and "Carlo Gozzi and the Venetian Fairy Comedy."