Their subject-matter is very generally personal to the writer, without discursiveness of outlook, or eloquent or picturesque description; yet the spirit is not egotistical or self-assertive. If I am wrong in these opinions, the reader will decide the point for himself.
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My brother was a rapid letter-writer, and on occasion a very prompt one, but not negligent or haphazard. He always wrote to the point, without amplification, or any effort after the major or minor graces of diction or rhetoric. Multitudes of his letters must still presumably be extant in private hands: a representative collection of them might be found to confirm the impression which I should like to ensue from the present series—that as a correspondent he was straight-forward, pleasant, and noticeably free from any calculated self-display.
Some persons may approve, others will disapprove, of the publication of these Family-Letters. I print them because the doing so commends itself to my own mind. At a very page: xii. Recently I have had a painful reason for realizing to myself a very pleasurable fact—that of the high estimation in which my brother, himself no less than his work, is now publicly held, some thirteen years after he passed away.
The death of my beloved sister Christina, on 29 December , called forth a flood of not undeserved but assuredly very fervent praise; and in the eulogies of her were intermixed many warm tributes to my brother—I might say, without a dissentient voice. As regards my Memoir, I, having large knowledge and numerous materials, have not consulted a single person except Christina, who, during the earlier weeks of my undertaking, gave me orally the benefit of many reminiscences relating chiefly to years of childhood, and often kept me right upon details as to which I should have stumbled.
On her bed of pain and rapidly approaching death she preserved a singularly clear recollection of olden facts, and was cheered in going over them with me. One word in conclusion. In case the present book should find favour with the public, I should be disposed to rummage page: xiii. Note: Blank Page. Note: This notation is located flush right, above the page numbers. A similar notation appears at the top of each page of the table of contents.
Be sure that Love ordained for souls more meek His roadside dells of rest. This house is the last or most northerly house, but one, 1 on the right-hand or eastern side of the street, as you turn into it to the left, down Weymouth Street, out of Portland Place.
Charlotte Street, beyond No. From his father he received the name Gabriel; from his godfather the name Charles; and from poetical and literary associations the name Dante.
His godfather was Mr. Charles Lyell, of Kinnordy, Kirriemuir, Forfarshire; a keen votary of Dante and Italian literature, a helpful friend to our father, and himself father of the celebrated geologist, Sir Charles Lyell. Some living members of the Lyell family continue to be well known to the present generation. Transcribed Footnote page 3 : 1 No. Gabriele Rossetti was born on 28 February , in the city of Vasto, named also by a corruption from Longobard nomenclature Vasto Ammone, in the Province of Abruzzo Citeriore, on the Adriatic coast of the then Kingdom of Naples. Vasto is a very ancient place, a municipal town of the Romans, then designated Histonium.
We are not bound—though some enthusiasts feel themselves permitted— to believe that it was founded by the Homeric hero Diomed: its patron saint is the Archangel Michael. Nicola Rossetti was a Blacksmith, of very moderate means; 1 a man of somewhat severe and irascible nature, whose death ensued not long after the French-republican invasion of the Kingdom of Naples in The French put some affront upon him—I believe they gave him a smart beating for failing or neglecting to furnish required provisions; and, being unable to stomach this, or to resent it as he would have liked, his health declined, and soon he was no more.
His wife belonged to a local family of fair credit: but, like other Italian women of that period, she received no scholastic training; she could not write nor even read. Nicola and Maria Francesca Rossetti had a rather large family, four sons and three daughters, and three of the sons earned distinction. Born in , he died comparatively young in There was also Andrea, the eldest brother, who became a Canon of San Giuseppe in Vasto; and thirdly, Gabriele, whom I may be excused for regarding as a more important writer than even the polyglot Domenico.
I might include, as showing that verse-writing ran in the family, the fourth son, Antonio, who exercised the humble calling of a wig-maker and barber: he likewise versified in an off-hand popular manner, and was of some note to his fellow-townsmen. Gabriele Rossetti came into the world well endowed for the arts.
As it turned out, he took to poetry and other forms of literature; but he might equally have excelled in drawing or in vocal music. I have before me as I write three MSS. The drawings are illustrations to poems juvenile enough of his own composition, and are surprisingly precise and dainty in execution. One would have little hesitation in calling them copper-engravings; but they are, in fact, pen-designs done with sepia, which he himself extracted page: 6.
The local magnate was the Marchese del Vasto, of the great historic house of D'Avalos, into which the famous Vittoria Colonna married.
The attention of the Marchese was soon called to the uncommon promise of his growing-up vassal Gabriele Rossetti, and, after some well-conducted schooling in Vasto, the youth was sent in , under the patronage of this nobleman, to study in the University of Naples. His education here was cut short after a year and a month, and consequently had not a very wide range.
In middle life he read Latin with ease, and retained some remnant of geometry and mathematics, but of Greek he had no knowledge. In French he was well versed, speaking the language with great fluency and an amusing assumption of the tone of a Frenchman. English he acquired by practice in Malta and in this country, and could both read and talk it tolerably enough, though he never did so when he had the option of Italian.
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Rossetti was just twenty-three years of age when the Bourbon king, Ferdinand I. Rossetti had long been a noted Improvisatore, as well as a poet in the accustomed way he continued to improvise to some extent for a while, even after coming to London , and this, with his other gifts, made him popular in Maltese society. After a while, however, he was harassed by the spies or other emissaries of the Bourbon Government, which embittered his position so much that he resolved to have done with Malta, and settle in England.
Here he arrived in January or February , and fixed himself in London. He soon made acquaintance with the Polidori family, and a mutual attachment united him in marriage with the second daughter, Frances Mary Lavinia, in April He subsisted by teaching Italian, and held perhaps the foremost place in that vocation. This professorship was not a sinecure; but the students were few, and became fewer from about onwards, when the German language began decidedly to supersede the Italian in public favour. My Transcribed Footnote page 9 : 1 The person who announced it was Mr.
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Gabriele Rossetti was man of energetic and lively temperament, of warm affections, sensitive to slight or rebuff, and well capable of repelling it, devoted to his family and home, full of good-nature and good-humour, a fervent patriot, honourable and aboveboard in all his dealings, and as pleasant and inspiriting company as one could wish to meet.
Though sensitive as above stated, he was not in the least quarrelsome, and never began a conflict about either literary or personal matters: this disposition he transmitted to his son Dante Gabriel. For some years after settling in London he went a good deal into society, and was welcomed in several houses.
This had diminished at the date of my earliest reminiscences, and soon it had wholly ceased. Apart from domestic simplicity or sportiveness, his conversation was always high-minded, implying a solid standard of public and private virtue: nothing about it mean or sly or worldly, or tampering with principle. He was an ardent lover of liberty, in thought and in the constitution of society. In religion he was mainly a free-thinker, strongly anti-papal and anti-sacerdotal, but not inclined, in a Protestant country, to abjure the faith of his fathers.
He never attended any place of worship. Spite of his free-thinking, he had the deepest respect for the moral and spiritual aspects of the Christian religion, and in his later years might almost be termed an unsectarian and undogmatic Christian. As a freethinker, he was naturally exempt from popular superstitions—did not believe in ghosts, second sight, etc. In this respect Dante Gabriel, as soon as his mind got a little formed, differed from his parents; being quite willing to entertain, in any given case, the question whether a ghost or demon had made his appearance or not, and having indeed a decided bias towards suspecting that he had.
One point, however, of popular superstition, or I should rather say of superstitious habit, my father had not discarded. A fancy existed in the Abruzzi I dare say it still exists that, if one steps over a child seated or lying on the ground, the child's growth would be arrested; and I have more than once seen my father divert his path to avoid stepping over any one of us. In politics he belonged more to the party of constitutional monarchy than to that of republicanism, but welcomed page: In estimating Rossetti's work as a national or patriotic poet, and his general attitude of mind in matters of politics, or of government in State and Church, we should remember the conditions already referred to under which his life had been passed.
He was born under the feudal and despotic system of the Neapolitan Bourbons; his youth witnessed the more open-minded but still despotic Napoleonic rule; the Bourbon restoration brought-on a constitution sworn to by the sovereign, who soon after perjured himself in suppressing it; lifelong exile ensured to Rossetti and other constitutionalists. Then he lived through many abortive insurrections against the temporal and ecclesiastical dominators of Italy; through the brilliant promise and the retrogression of Pope Pius IX.
He died five years before , which produced the alliance between France and Piedmont, the expulsion of the Austrians from Lombardy, and the commencement of the unification of Italy. When he died in the outlook seemed extremely dark; yet heart and hope did not abate in him. I do not say the like of three other unpublished volumes, which all seethe with love of country and hatred for tyrants. These page: In person Gabriele Rossetti was rather below the middle height, and full in flesh till his health failed; with a fine brow, a marked prominent nose and large nostrils, dark-speaking eyes, pleasant mouth, engaging smile, and genuine laugh.
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He indulged in gesticulation, not to any great extent, but of course more than an Englishman. His hands were rather small—not a little spoiled by a life-long habit of munching his nails. As to other personal habits, I may mention free snuff-taking without any smoking; and a hearty appetite while health lasted, with more of vegetable diet than Englishmen use. He had liked the English beer, but had to leave it off altogether in , to avoid recurrent attacks of gout.
In fact, he liked most things English—the national and individual liberty, the constitution, the people and their moral tone, though the British leaven of social Toryism was far from being to his taste. He certainly preferred the English nation, on the whole, to the French, and had a kind of prepossession against Frenchwomen, which he pushed to a humorous over-plus in speech—saying for instance that, if a Frenchwoman and himself were to be the sole tenants of an otherwise uninhabited island, the human race on that island would decidedly not be prolonged into a second generation.
Rossetti had produced a tolerable amount of verse in Italy, also the descriptive account which passes under the name of Cavalier Finati of the Naples Museum; but all his more solid and voluminous writing was done after he had settled in London. The principal works are as follows: — Dante, Commedia the Inferno alone was published , with a Commentary aiming to show that the poem is chiefly political and anti-papal in its inner meaning.
A great deal of controversy was excited at the time by this work, and by others which succeeded it.