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in the seventy-eighth year of his age. Mr. Hobhouse, in his Illustrations to Childe Harold, says of him, that “had he been born in a different age, taken more pains to expand his mind by travel, employed his knowledge of foreign literature more judiciously, and devoted himself to original composition, he might have taken a prominent place among the classical authors of his country.”
Ippolito Pindemonte, who is not to be confounded with his brother Giovanni the dramatist, was born at Verona, in the November of 1753, of a family long distinguished for ability and taste, to which they added 'abundant wealth. He was educated at the college of nobles at Modena, and had the advantage, after the completion of his studies, of making the tour of Italy, the principal islands of the Mediterranean, and the East. The fatigues of his various journies, however, affected his health so materially, that he was obliged, upon his return home, to live in the most retired manner, at a rural villa near his native city ; where his mind was infected with a degree of melancholy, that never afterwards wholly left him. It was bere that he wrote his satires in imitation of Horace, and what Mr. Stebbing descriptively calls his campestral compositions,' containing the out-pourings of his mind when he lived in solitude, and had nature only for the object of his meditations. It is in these,' adds the biographer, that he has left us the best means of judging of him as a poet, or of estimating to what extent he possessed the original inspiration of the muse.
His other works remind us of books, and of the world; these breathe only of the tender, thoughtful spirit of the author, and, for the inost part, they inspire the deep and genuine pleasure of poetic thought.?
His health was sufficiently recovered in 1788, to enable him to set out on a tour to the north of Europe, in the course of which he visited England, and was much delighted with our literature, as well as with the scenery of the country. Upon his return to Verona, though Italy was universally agitated at that period, in consequence of the revolution which had taken place in France, he continued in his retirement to enjoy his taste for literature, which he cultivated with considerable success. His best work is “ Arminio,” a tragedy, which is said by Cesarotti, to be “the finest in the language.” He continues, however, to be known chiefly by his “ Elogi di Letterati Italiani,” a prose composition, in which, though too partial to his countrymen, he has left us a series of excellent criticisms, distinguished by the purity of taste which generally pervades them. Mr. Stebbing's account of the latter days of his life, as well as his remarks upon Pindemonte's character, will be read with interest.
• The health of this excellent and eminent man had long been in a delicate state, and had required the careful attention of kind friends, and the most retired and tranquil mode of life, to preserve it from a sudden and fatal decline. His ample fortune, the happy disposition of his mind, and the many affectionate companions which his amiable manners secured him wherever he went, afforded him all these supports, and his constitution thus remained unbroken, to a period when much stronger frames are found yielding to the attacks of age. Signor Pieri has recorded part of an interesting conversation which took place between him and Pindemonte, and in which the latter, speaking of his own lot, observed, “ I ought to be contented with my state; I have always had, and still have, sufficient for my wants; I passed a brilliant youth (gioventù brilliante): have travelled with great pleasure, and have experienced no great disasters in the affairs of life. Only one affliction has occurred to interrupt the tranquillity of my days, and this keeps me in a state of tribulation. I have seen almost all my friends fall off one after the other, and the greater part of them in the prime of their life.”
"The conversation in which he thus expressed himself took place some years before his death ; but nothing occurred, it is said, to render it inapplicable to his situation at the latest period of his career. With the exception of the uneasiness he occasionally experienced from the disturbed state of bis country, he had but the one afiction above mentioned with which to combat; and to support himself under that, he had all the aid derivable from religion and philosophy, and the consolation of having, though he had lost many friends, still many remaining. Few men, therefore, have passed a happier or more tranquil life than Ippolito Pindemonte, por was his death less tranquil than the tenor of his life. The loss of his strength had for some time warned him of approaching dissolution, when Monti, the last of his early associates, was snatched away. His mind from that time ceased to be occupied with any other thoughts but those of death; and a slight cold having settled upon his lungs, he expired on the 17th of November, 1828. The affection in which he was held by his fellow citizens of Verona, appeared in the sorrow they exhibited at his funeral. The magistrates, the professors and students of the academy, and every class of the town’s-people followed him to the grave, manifesting equal respect for his virtues and his talents,
* There are certain minds which, though inferior to those of which the characteristics are great power and originality, nevertheless enjoy a wide command over the regions of thought. Pindemonte's intellectual character was of this class. He was meditative rather than imaginative. The images of his poetry, even the very sound of his verse, seem to have been the result of reflection ! they rarely startle, but they always please and soothe us; they lead us to think that he was seldom astonished, as men of a higher genius not unfrequently are, by the sudden influx of thoughts, coming they know not whence, by the vision of things invisible to other mortals, or by flashes of supernatural light instantaneously revealing to the mind, without an effort of its own, wonders it had never dreamed of. But though the ideas of Pindemonte have not the new light or bloom upon them which seems to envelope the creations of more original minds, they have all the mild graces of matured beauty; if they may be termed reflections of thought, they are reflections of whatever is holiest and most beautiful in thought; if they afford not the delight which the mind feels in having new scenes or ideas presented to it, they give us all the pleasure to be derived from the contemplation of those, which experience has proved to be most grateful for the mind to dwell on.
•The character of Pindemonte appears to be rightly estimated in all its
parts by the literary men of his own country. “ Nature endowed him," şays an Italian Journalist,“ with a mind capable of the sweetest emotions; art taught him to express them in verse: but art makes not great poets. None of those lofty productions emanated from his pen, in which poets display their noblest faculty, that of Creation.” But,” adds the same writer,
our age owes a debt of gratitude to Pindemonte, for many vigils profitably consecrated to the promotion of useful learning, and for the excellent pattern he set, of wisdom united to the purest virtue."
• Those who lived long with him, and saw his amiable manners, his mind free and tranquil, his true piety, and the virtuous conduct and devout conclusion of his life, will transmit with confidence to a future age, the useful example of Pindemonte.'-vol. iii. pp. 406–410.
Vincenzo Monti is said to have communicated to the journal above quoted, (the “ Biblioteca Italiana”) most of the materials from which Mr. Stebbing's sketch of his life is taken. He was born near Fusignano, a small town in Romagna, in February, 1754, His early days were spent in perfect tranquillity and happiness. His father and mother were examples of piety and benevolence. Though his education was not a very liberal one, yet he had a strong attachment to poetry, in which at first he was not successful. It was his father's wish that he should direct his attention to a farm which belonged to the family; with this wish young Vincenzo had great difficulty in complying. But he was an affectionate son; and in order to make good a determination which he came to for abandoning literature, he one day burned all the books he possessed. The father, delighted at this proof of his resolution, made him a present of twelve florins, with which he instantly flew to a neighbouring village, and repurchased, as far as his means went, all his favourite authors. It thus appeared ridiculous to attempt to control his natural disposition to literature any longer, and as he must have a profession, he was entered as a medical student at Ferrara. He had hitherto attempted verse, after the fashion of the times, only in Latin. He now formed his taste upon Dante, and produced a poem, the “Visione d'Ezechiello,” which afforded considerable promise of what he might do in his riper years.
His medical studies were of course at first lected; they were next exchanged for the law. For this he had as little taste as for medicine, and he was accordingly, without much difficulty, allowed to accept an invitation to Rome, which was given him by the Cardinal Borghese, a munificent patron of letters, who had become acquainted with Monti, at Ferrara. Here a new scene opened upon him. In consequence of a small poem which he wrote in honour of Duke Braschi’s marriage, that nobleman appointed him his secretary, and as the office was but a nominal one, he had ample leisure to pursue his favourite occupation. The example of Alfieri turned his mind to the drama, and he produced successively, Aristodemo and Manfredi. These productions at once established his fame. Rome resounded with his
name on the representation of these dramas. The first performance of Aristodemo produced so lively an impression on the audience, that, on leaving the theatre, people ran in crowds to the residence of the author, to shout his praise; and Goethe, who happened to be then in Rome, deeply impressed with a feeling of his genius, immediately sought his friendship! At this period an incident occurred, which shows at once the romantic and precipitate character of Monti.
• It was while revelling in the happy sensations inspired by his rapid success, that be heard of the death of the celebrated Giovanni Pickler, an artist who would have done honour to the best eras of ancient sculpture, and whose decease involved his family in the deepest affliction and trouble; Monti, though personally unacquainted with them, felt the most lively sorrow at learning their distress ; the genius of Pickler had long possessed his veneration, and, with a romantic sympathy for his survivors, he, a few days after his death, proposed himself as the husband of his daughter, Teresa, a young girl whom he had never yet had an opportunity of seeing. The proposal was accepted in the same spirit in which it had been made; Monti was as unknown to Pickler's daughter as she was to him; but his name had already won her regard, and the union, which took place almost immediately, was consummated by a lasting affection.'-vol. iii. p. 425.
Soon after this period, he was tossed about on the stormy sea of politics. He displayed the most violent anti-republican sentiments in a poem, much admired at the time, which he wrote upon the death of Ugo Basville, a celebrated French revolutionist, who was said to have retracted his democratical principles, just before he expired from wounds inflicted upon him by the hand of an assassin at Rome. When the Cispadana republic was established, however, he did not hesitate to take office under its government; but though his integrity remains unquestioned, it seems that he had no aptitude for official business, and he quitted public life in disgust. 'So long as the French remained in Italy, he was their uniform panegyrist; as soon as they left it, he also was under the necessity of crossing the Alps. Upon his arrival at Paris, his condition was truly deplorable.
• The account which has been given of his condition in the French capital would scarcely be credible, had it not come, in the first instance, from his own mouth. When he arrived there, his money was almost exhausted, and as he had no inclination to let his condition be known to persons from whom he had little chance of receiving sympathy, he sought an obscure lodging, in which he hid both his fame and his poverty, with a martyr-like resolution, from the world. The trifling sum he had with him when he arrived, was soon no longer sufficient to keep him from the approaches of starvation, and he was at last reduced to the necessity of walking for miles into the country, to gather a meal from the fields or the hedge rows. Day after day he thus existed, collecting his food in long and weary rambles, and indulging himself in the most melancholy reflections, as he lay down to eat his miserable repast in the first nook that pleased his fancy. These rambles, however, and the want of nourishment, soon
exhausted his strength, and he then found it necessary to carry home some part of the fruit he collected one day, to save himself from the fatigue of going out the next. Every hour saw him grow more feeble, and he was at length obliged to betake himself to his bed, with no other idea than that of lying there will he died. But at this juncture, his wife arrived from Italy, where she had remained to save their affairs from the total disorder which threatened them on his departure. She brought with her some money, and the pleasing intelligence that she had succeeded in putting their concerns in tolerable security. Poor Monti lay stretched on his wretched pallet when she entered his apartment, and seemed in the last stage of his existence; but the tidings she brought, and the cheerful assiduity with which she instantly set about restoring his strength, had the effect of speedily dissipating his melancholy, and he was soon so far recovered in health and spirits, as to be able to leave his obscure lodging, and mix in the society to which his name and reputation would at any time have been a sufficient introduction.'- vol. iii. pp. 434, 435.
The battle of Marengo once more restored Monti to his native land, having been nominated by Napoleon to a professorship at Pavia. The conqueror next raised bim to the dignity of his poet laureate, and of historiographer of Italy. But, alas ! for the fame of Monti, as soon as the Austrian troops again approached Milan, again this political Proteus changed sides, and he sung the praises of the Archduke quite as fervently as he had hymned those of the French emperor. 'After this period, as if ashamed of the variety of characters which he had acted on the public stage, he devoted himself, during the remainder of his days, to occupations exclusively of a literary nature. In April, 1826, he received a stroke of paralysis, which greatly enfeebled his constitution, and in May, 1828, he experienced another, which terminated his life. Inconsistent as had been his political career, his death excited in Milan universal grief, and his funeral was attended by immense crowds of people, all exhibiting, it is said, the strongest marks of love and admiration for the departed. It is but fair to add the summary view of his character, with which Mr. Stebbing concludes his biography.
• The fame of Monti places him in literary history on a par with the greatest poets of his country. All he wanted to make him really their equal, was that boldness and comprehension of mind, which enabled them to form and pursue plans that it took a life to execute, but which could not be too noble or too carefully elaborated for works that were to endure through ages. In his numerous productions are to be found every species of thought necessary to the sublimest intellectual structure; but he wrought like a magician, who could heap up treasures at his will, and fashion the gold and the precious stones for his splendid palace, but could not bid it rise bright and entire at his word. In this respect he is far below the great classics of his country, and bears the marks of having lived in an age, when poetry could with difficulty sustain any lofty or lengthened Alight. It must be confessed, also, that soine of his finest passages, while they remind us of Dante, affect us but as the echo of ancient grandeur, as