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spiritually, and by reason of the principles they advocated, they were not exact contemporaries. Manzoni was born in 1785, and died in 1873; Rosmini lived from 1797 to 1855; and Stoppani from 1824 to 1891.
Manzoni and Rosmini were bosom friends. They showed each other their manuscripts. Manzoni used to say, “Rosmini is a philosopher of my way of thinking"; and Rosmini, "Manzoni is a poet after my own heart.” But I have not been able, in the material at my disposal, to ascertain that Stoppani ever knew Rosmini personally or actually met Manzoni.
The Italian lake region, then, is the proper district in which to study this sub-Alpine trio. When one has seen the notable beauty spots of Lake Como,- such as Bellaggio and the Tremezzina, the Bay of Lecco is not very impressive, nor the town very pleasing. By contrast with famous show-places, it looks sordid and industrial. The water-front is disorderly without being particularly picturesque, and dirty without the color which redeems so much in Italy. At the same time the toothed mountain at the back (the Resegnone) is really fine; and there is a pretty little village on the opposite shore, called Malgrate. It seems strange, perhaps, that a literary figure like that of Manzoni should have become the presiding genius of so prosaic and commercial a town. He it is who has made Lecco a familiar name throughout Italy, and placed it on the lips of many people who have never heard of the silk and iron industries of the place. In the evening, when the population, Latin-fashion, pours out into the main street, and talks at the top of its several voices, the lamps on the four corners of Manzoni's statue in the square are lighted, and make of the whole a literary shrine for the strollers to admire.
Manzoni is usually depicted as an old gentleman with white whiskers and high forehead; and thus the statue at Lecco represents him. In truth, Italians study his “I Promessi Sposi” almost as diligently as they do their Dante and “Divina Commedia.” The famous book occupies almost the same position in Italian literature that “Don Quixote” holds in Spanish. The first edition is dated 1821 ; but since then there have been no less than one hundred and eighteen editions in Italian, nineteen in French, seventeen in German, and ten in English.
It must be acknowledged that Manzoni's opportunity for fame was unusual. In other countries the romantic renaissance of the early nineteenth century brought many men of genius to the front;
but in Italy Manzoni seems to have had the field very much to himself. Hence his position may be termed unique, which is not saying that he does not deserve the admiration so generously showered upon him. For the sake of those who have never read “I Promessi Sposi," or have forgotten the story, I may be permitted merely to say that the book tells the tale of two young people, Renzo and Lucia, who in the year 1628 and thereafter pass through many tribulations before they can be married and remain happy ever after. Lucia is abducted. Renzo, on his part, goes through thrilling adventures ; but the faithful lovers are finally brought together again in Milan, at the time of the plague, through the instrumentality of a good priest, Christopher.
Manzoni used his historic material cleverly in this simple story, so as to make it appeal at once to the individual and to the nation. In a letter to his friend Fauriel (the French scholar) in 1821, Manzoni thus gave his idea of historical novels as a form of literature: “I may tell you that I conceive of them as a representation of a given state of society by means of facts and characters so nearly resembling reality that one could believe it a true story which one had just discovered."
The Manzoni family were originally rough and violent feudal lords from Sarzio in the Valsassina, near Lecco. The writer's father moved down to a villa called Del Caleotto, on which a marble tablet now records the fact that Manzoni was also the author of the “Inni” and of “ Adelchi.” The first is a collection of sacred lyrics, among which that one inspired by the death of Napoleon, “Il Cinque Maggio,” is said to be the most popular lyric in the language. The " Adelchi" is a tragedy dealing with the conquest of Lombardy by Charlemagne, but containing many veiled allusions to the hated Austrian rule. Even the little house where Manzoni was put to nurse is furnished with an inscription, stating that the future poet there took his first nourishment in 1785.
At school Manzoni was reckoned among the dunces until at the
age of fifteen, he broke forth into poetry with some sonnets of great promise. On the death of his father he went to live in Auteuil with his mother. There he imbibed the fashionable Voltairianism of the day. Report has it that his wife, the daughter of a Genevese banker, weaned him back to Catholicism. At all events, when he first met Rosmini at Milan in 1826, he was a devoted adherent of the Church of Rome. He lived to the
advanced age of eighty-eight. His funeral, in 1873, was the most sumptuous Italy has witnessed in recent times, and has become memorable in the annals of art because Verdi wrote a requiem for it, which has since become famous as one of the greatest examples of that particular musical form. It was given in New York last winter.
Rosmini, like Manzoni, was of patrician birth. When he had occasion to express his opinions in regard to politics, they assumed rather an aristocratic than a democratic tinge. For example, in a memorial which he addressed to Pope Pius IX. he wrote that he considered the sovereignty of the people absurd, unjust, nay, immoral. He thoroughly abhorred the ideas promulgated by the French Revolution.
There seems to be no question that the founder of the Institute of Charity (better known as the order of Rosminians) was very precocious as a child. At five years of age he is said to have had a fair knowledge of the Bible. His favorite game was to pretend being a hermit, in order to meditate upon the lives of the saints. Even his nurse seems to have expected him to astonish the world ; for she carefully treasured up his baby-clothes, and would surrender them to no one until after Rosmini's death. Curiously enough, the boy, when sent to school, like Manzoni, showed a surprising degree of stupidity in his lessons; while all the time at home, in his uncle's library, he read for amusement and inwardly digested the works of Thomas Aquinas and Augustine, thus forming the basis of his future philosophy.
The youth early declared his desire of becoming a priest, to the great sorrow of his family. He was sent to the University of Padua,- like Saint Francis de Sales, more than two centuries before,- in order that contact with the world might cure him of his longing for an ecclesiastical career, and with much the same result. A year had not gone by before young Rosmini had received the tonsure. From Padua he retired to Rovereto in the Trentino, there to continue his reading of the philosophers in retirement. The classic writers, the Church Fathers, the mediaval schoolmen, the modern rationalists and positivists, – ail were passed in review,— some six hundred and twenty authors in all.
Special interest always attaches to the genesis of a great achievement. Rosmini's founding of the Institute of Charity was due in no small part to the influence of a woman. A certain philanthropic old marchioness, Maddalena di Canossa, denominated
by the Roman Church venerabilis serva Dei, wrote Rosmini to ask his help in some projects of charity which she was contemplating. Rosmini outlined a plan for a new order, whose ideals should be works of charity,— corporal, intellectual, or spiritual, as special cases might require. In 1831, after many delays and disappointments, three houses were secured for the new order in Italy. To-day there are branches in England, Ireland, France, and the United States. In London the brethren are attached to the ancient church of St. Etheldreda, Ely Place, Holborn, where the English translations of Rosmini's works are edited and published. A complete catalogue of these works contains ninety-nine numbers. His Sistema Filosophico alone takes up more than forty volumes, being "a veritable encyclopaedia of the human knowable, synthetically conjoined.”
If it is ever fair or profitable to condense any man's philosophy, that of Rosmini may be, and has been, described in the following terms: “The idea of Being enters into all our acquired cognitions. It is objective, true, and, when applied to the human being, produces intellectual perceptions of the external world. This idea of Being must be innate in us, implanted by God in our nature.” Rosmini made himself a champion of Revelation against rationalism. He became known in Italy as the “regenerator of Christian philosophy"; and yet the principal opposition which he encountered came from within the Church itself. The order of the Jesuits seems from the very tirst to have bitterly opposed his work, fearing for its intellectual prestige in the Church, and perhaps for the fat purses which went with the professorships. Its members tried to undermine his influence at the papal court. They wrote under various pseudonyms, vilifying his doctrine, and calling him everything which is most distasteful to a Roman Catholic, - Jansenist, Calvinist, Lutheran, etc. They succeeded in having the constitution of his order subjected to an examination; but this turned out favorably for Rosmini, and called forth an apostolic letter from Gregory XVI. in his praise. Later the Jesuits denounced as heretical three hundred and twenty-seven philosophical propositions contained in his works; but on this occasion, again, when Pius IX. submitted the points at issue to a special congregation of cardinals for inspection, the charges were once more dismissed. Even after Rosmini's death, in 1855, these persecutions did not end. At last they bore fruit in 1888; for, while Leo XIII. was celebrating his jubilee with an exhibition at
the Vatican, he was persuaded to denounce forty propositions of Rosmini. The Rosminians submitted at once, but the breach in the Roman Church is by no means healed; and it illustrates in an unusual manner the conflict ever going on between certain tendencies in the Church of Rome.
There are monuments to Rosmini at Rovereto and Stresa, and this year (being his centenary) a new one was unveiled in Milan itself. He is not going to be forgotten. A good deal could be said about his influence in the unification of Italy. He was sent to Pius IX. by King Carlo Alberto, to secure papal co-operation toward that end. His negotiations were well under way toward success, when all his efforts were nullified by the revolution of 1848 in Rome, which drove the pope to Gaëta. The Austrian court and the Jesuits gained the ear of Pius IX., and Rosmini never after took an active part in politics. He used to say that, under ordinary circumstances, the priests ought not to participate in political agitation, but attend strictly to their priestly functions. He desired, however, that they should be sufficiently well versed in political science to give advice, and to serve the State in emergencies.
I can only add to this meagre sketch of one of Italy's great educators that our American Professor Davidson has made himself an expositor of Rosminianism for the English-speaking peoples (Thomas Davidson, of New York, but formerly resident in Italy). At the same time I am obliged to add that I have not had an opportunity in the short time which I could devote to this paper to consult Professor Davidson's work.
When we come to Stoppani, the third person in this sub-Alpine trio, we find ourselves considering a scholar and teacher who only recently in 1891) passed away. His appearance is remembered by many.
It was much like that of Renan. born in Lecco, and ordained to the priesthood in 1848. He and Rosmini were the ecclesiastics in the trio; but he does not seem to have known Rosmini personally. His intense admiration
his love — for Rosmini are due to a certain Alessandro Pestalozza, Stoppani's teacher of philosophy in the theological seminary of Milan. This Pestalozza, who must not be confounded with the great Swiss teacher Pestalozzi, was a devoted adherent of Rosmini. But Stoppani was first and foremost a geologist. It was not until his later years that he began to write in a religious vein.