By Arnold Anthony Schmidt (auth.)
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Extra info for Byron and the Rhetoric of Italian Nationalism
If, as Aldo Vallone points out, Il Caffè fails to argue specifically for the creation of an Italian nation (26), it does address topics relevant to making good citizens, and published several articles about nationalism and cultural identity. This journal, which appeared every ten days between 1764 and 1766, outlined progressive agendas on topics from aesthetics and ethics to economics and politics. Verri, the composer of various utilitarian tracts on philosophy and economics, modeled the periodical on Joseph Addison and Richard Steele’s The Spectator, which had appeared in London earlier in the century and remained popular among Italian readers in a French translation entitled Le Spectateur ou le Socrate Moderne (Francioni 1: xvi).
On some level, then, Byron does appreciate the power that language has to change the world. By ron a nd Ita ly 31 At other times, however, despite his familiarity with historical examples, Byron fails to appreciate the ways that authorship could shape current events. Godwin’s writing of Cursory Strictures saved lives during England’s State Trials of 1794, and Byron knew and admired Thomas Erskine, an attorney involved. The poet also witnessed firsthand the restrictions on British press freedom when visiting Leigh Hunt during his two-year imprisonment for comments written about the Regent.
Literary scholars see eighteenth- and nineteenth-century authors like Alfieri, Foscolo, Goldoni, Leopardi, and Manzoni as constituting a second “golden age” of Italian literature, ranked only behind authors like Ariosto, Boccaccio, Dante, Petrarch, and Tasso. Having a national language seemed an essential first step toward fashioning a national identity, so the fact that most people on the Italian peninsula spoke local dialects posed a problem for those who supported nationhood. 59), though the elite also spoke and read French.