Immagini della pagina

of Rosmini, declared in his letter on Romanticism (1823) that “poetry or literature in general should have utility as its objective, truth as its subject and interest as its means "; 1 and though noticing the vagueness of the concept of truth in poetry, he inclined always (as is seen also in his discourse on the historical novel) to its identification with historical and scientific truth.2 Pietro Maroncelli proposed as a substitute for the classic formula of art, “founded on imitation of the real and having pleasure as its object," a formula of art as founded on inspiration, having the beautiful as means and good as end"; this doctrine he baptized “cormentalism," contrasting it with the doctrine of art for art's sake found in the writings of August Wilhelm Schlegel and Victor Hugo.3 Tommaseo defined beauty as “the union of many truths in one concept” effected by the power of feeling. Giuseppe Mazzini, too, always conceived literature as the mediator of the universal idea or intellectual concept.5 Attempting to restore serious content to a literature grown weak and frivolous, the Italian Romantics found themselves forced on the theoretical side, by a natural reaction, into constant and perpetual opposition to every tendency of thought likely to affirm the independence of art.

1 Words suppressed in ed. of 1870.

? Epistolario, ed. Sforza, i. pp. 285, 306, 308; Discorso sul romanzo storico, 1845; Dell' invenzione, dialogue.

3 Addizioni alle Miei Prigioni, 1831 (in Pellico, Prose, Florence, 1858) ; see pp. about the Conciliatore.

4 Del bello e del sublime, 1827; Studi filosofici (Venice, 1840), vol. ii. part v.

5 Cf. De Sanctis, Lett. ital. nel s. XIX, ed. Croce, Naples 1896, PP. 427-431.



F. de Sanctis: On the other hand, the autonomy of art found a strong of his thought. supporter in Italy in the critical work of Francesco de

Sanctis, who held private classes in literature at Naples from 1838 to 1848, taught at Turin and Zürich from 1852 to 1860 and in 1870 became professor in the University of Naples. He expressed his doctrines in critical essays, in monographs on Italian writers and in his classic History of Italian Literature. Receiving his first elements of old Italian culture in Puoti's school, his natural bent towards speculation led him to investigate grammatical and rhetorical doctrines with the view of reducing them to a system ; but he soon began to criticize and to grow out of this phase. He pronounced Fortunio, Alunno, Accarisio and Corso “empirics”;

empirics”; he had a slightly better opinion of Bembo, Varchi, Castelvetro and Salviati, who introduced "method ” into grammar, a process completed subsequently by Buonmattei, Corticelli and Bartoli ; and he proclaimed Francisco Sanchez, author of the Minerva, “the Descartes of grammarians.” From these his admiration spread to the French writers of the eighteenth century and the philosophical grammars of Du Marsais, Beauzée, Condillac and Gérard; following in their wake and pursuing the ideal of Leibniz, he conceived a

logical grammar ”; in this effort, however, he soon began to recognize the impossibility of reducing the differences of languages to fixed logical principles. If he found the French theorists admirable in their ability to reconstitute the simple and primitive forms; from

“ I love ” to “ I am loving,” something disquieted him ;
“Such decomposition of 'I love' into 'I am loving
(said he) “deadens the word by depriving it of the
movement proceeding from active will."1 In the same
way he read and criticized the writers of treatises on
Rhetoric and Poetics from sixteenth-century men such
as Castelvetro and Torquato Tasso (whom he dared to
describe as an “indifferent critic,” to the great scandal
of Neapolitan men of letters) to Muratori and Gravina,

more acute than accurate "; and eighteenth-century Italians, Bettinelli, Algarotti and Cesarotti. Coldly rational rules found no favour with him : he urged the young to confront literary works boldly and freely absorb impressions, the only possible foundation for taste. 2

Philosophical study had not been abandoned and had Influence of not even fallen into entire decadence in Southern Italy ;

Hegelism. in these days of renewed interest in philosophy the theories on Beauty from over the Alps and the new ideas of Gioberti and other Italians 3 aroused enthusiastic discussion. Vico was read again, and Bénard's French translation of Hegel's Æsthetic appeared and was canvassed in Naples volume by volume (the first in 1840, the second in 1843, and the rest between 1848 and 1852). In its desire for new intellectual food Italian youth set itself to learn German: De Sanctis himself had to translate the greater Logic of Hegel and Rosenkranz's History of Literature in the dungeon of the Bourbon prison where he was incarcerated on account of his liberal opinions. The new critical tendency was named “philosophism” to distinguish it from the old grammatical criticism and from the vague, incoherent, exaggerated Romanticism. Philosophism attracted De Sanctis; to show how deeply he was imbued with the Hegelian spirit a tale was told that, having devoured the first volumes of Bénard's

1 Frammenti di scuola, in Nuovi saggi critici, pp. 321-333; La giovinezza di Fr. de S. (autobiography), pp. 62, 101, 163-166 (works cited are those of De S. in stereotyped Naples ed. by Morano, 12 vols.).

2 La giovinezza di Fr. de S. pp. 260-261, 315-316. 3 Saggi critici, p. 534.

translation, he guessed the contents of the remaining volumes and, before they could appear, was expounding them publicly in his classroom.1

His first writings show traces of metaphysical idealism and Hegelism ; and they still linger here and there in the terminology of his later works. In a lecture prior to 1848 he placed the safety of criticism in the philosophic school which, in works of literature, fixed its eyes upon

that absolute part ... that uncertain idea which moves within the mind of great writers, till it appears abroad clothed in fine raiment only less beautiful than itself.” 2 In a preface to Schiller's plays (1850) he wrote, “ The Idea is not thought, nor is poetry reason in song, as a poet of our time is pleased to assert; the idea is at once necessity and freedom, reason and passion, and its perfect form in drama is action.” 3 Elsewhere he calls attention to the death of faith and poetry, absorbed by the development of philosophy: a thesis, he remarked some years later, “ imposed on our generation by Hegel with his omnipotent thought." 4 In 1856 he attempted a definition of humour as “an artistic form having for signification the destruction of limit, with consciousness of such destruction.” 5 Not to dwell too long on other particulars, in the distinction to which De Sanctis always held firm throughout his critical work, that between Fancy and Imagination, the latter considered as the true and only faculty of poetry, arises undoubtedly from suggestions of Schelling and Hegel (Einbildungskraft, Phantasie); from the same philosophers come the phrases

prosaic content,” “prosaic world,” sometimes used by him.

For De Sanctis the Hegelian Æsthetic was but a lever wherewith to lift himself clear of the discussions and views of the old Italian schools. A fresh, clear spirit such as his could not escape the arbitrary shackles of grammarians and rhetoricians only to fall into those of metaphysicians, the torturers of art. He absorbed the vital part of Hegel's teaching and re-expressed the Hegelian theories in correct or somewhat attenuated interpretations; but he only maintained with hesitation, and in the end openly rebelled against, all that was artificial, formalistic and pedantic in Hegel.

1 De Meis, Comm. di Fr. de S. (in vol. In Memoria, Naples, 1884, P. 116).

2 Scritti vari, ed. Croce, vol. ii. pp. 153-154.
3 Saggi critici, p. 18.
4 Op. cit. pp. 226-228; Scritti vari, ii. pp. 185-187; cf. vol. ii. p. 70.
5 Saggi critici, ed. Imbriani, p. 91.

Unconscious criticism of Hegelism.

The following examples of such reductions and attenuations show how substantial and radical was the change he effected. “Faith has vanished and poetry is dead” (he wrote in 1856, echoing Hegel) ; " or it were better to say ” (here is De Sanctis' own correction) “ faith and poetry are immortal : what has disappeared is but one particular mode of their being. To-day faith springs from conviction and poetry is the spark struck from meditation; they are not dead, they are transformed.”i Certainly he distinguished between imagination and fancy; but for him imagination was never the mystic faculty of transcendental apperception, the intellectual intuition of German metaphysicians, but simply the poet's faculty of synthesis and creation, contrasting with fancy as the faculty of collecting particulars and materials in a somewhat mechanical fashion. When students of Vico and Hegel understood and expounded their master's theories as emphasizing the importance of concepts in art, De Sanctis replied, “ The concept does not exist in art, nature or history: the poet works unconsciously and sees no concept but only form, in which he is involved and wellnigh lost. If the philosopher, by means of abstraction, can extract the concept thence and contemplate it in all its purity, he acts in a way entirely contrary to that of art, nature and history.” He warned his hearers not to misunderstand Vico, who, when he extracts concepts and exemplary types from the Homeric poems, is'not writing as an art critic but as a historian of civilization : Achilles

1 Saggi critici, p. 228 ; cf. itti vari, vol. ii. p. 70.

2 Storia della letteratura, i. pp. 66-67; Saggi critici, pp. 98-99 ; Scritti vari, vol. i. pp. 276-278, 384.

« IndietroContinua »