Classicism and Romanticism in Italian Literature
to the grounds by the emperors o Germany. Since they had become ‘loyal subjects’,their main business was printing sonnets on little pink tafeta handkerchies when-ever a girl belonging to some noble or wealthy amily happened to get married … Which efeminate customs were a ar cry rom the proound emotions aroused by the unoreseen arrival o the French army. Soon new and passionate customs arose.An entire people realized, on 15 May 1796, that everything it had respected hitherto was supremely ridiculous and sometimes odious.
At least this – in 1838, while draing the much-celebrated incipit o
Te Char-terhouse o Parma
– was Stendhal’s opinion, namely the point o view o someone who had both experienced lie under the French revolutionary army and thecomplexity o Italy as a political battleeld during and aer the Napoleonic Wars. At the time when Stendhal was writing these pages, the quarrel pitting ‘Classicists’ against ‘Romantics’ that had monopolized the Italian literary scenein the late 1810s and early 1820s had already begun to die out, and many o its protagonists had been scattered and dispersed. Madame de Staël, who had rstlaunched the dispute through an article published in January 1816 in the jour-nal
, had died in 1817.
Tree years later, at the age o orty,Ludovico di Breme passed away. Silvio Pellico (1789–1854), Federico Cona-lonieri (1785–1846) and Pietro Borsieri (1788–1852), who between 1818 and1819 had animated the literary and scientic journal
, experienceda bitter imprisonment in the Špilberk ortress in Brno, Moravia. Tey were laterorced into exile – to the United States, France or Belgium – like their ormercompanion Giovanni Berchet (1783–1851). Giacomo Leopardi (1798–1837), who had entered the quarrel with its most complex and radical contribution,the
Discourse on Romantic Poetry
(which, however, remained unpublished until1906), had died in Naples one year beore, in 1837. In 1838, while Stendhal was writing
Te Charterhouse o Parma
, the problem o Italian Romanticism hadthereore been pushed into the background. Te Austrian repression had in any case shown well, and since the beginning, how the question, rom the point o view o imperial censorship, was essentially a political one. As late as 1825, thelo-Romantic clergyman and scholar Giuseppe Montani (1789–1833) wrotethat ‘In Italia … si cominciano a stampar libri … ove si asserisce che un romanticonon può essere che un uomo torbido e nemico del buon ordine sociale’ (in Italy books have started to appear in which it is asserted that a Romantic cannot helpbut to be a wrongdoer and an enemy to the proper social order), thus associating ‘l’idea di romantico a quella di malattore’ (the idea o the Romantic and thato the criminal).
And yet Stendhal explicitly pointed out how, aer the battleso Valmy, Austerlitz and Marengo, even the act o writing could no longer bethe same: and that i a diferent kind o literature had been possible in Italy –diferent, namely, rom the occasional sonnets printed on handkerchies – the