acquisition of Rome the Italian ideal was realized. What was to come next? That literature which for several decades had lived in a sort of patriotic paroxysm, and which, so long as it stirred the public mind and advanced the national cause, troubled itself but little as to the accuracy of its message, found itself suddenly set aside. La Farina, for instance, who, in his “Storie,” had represented the Longobardi as the precursors of Italian unity, and Balbo, who in his “Sommario della Storia d'Italia" had treated the very earliest Italian movements as so many prognostications of the independence of Italy, had both of them written at the dictation of a patriotic instinct rather than of historic truth. But now, when a short time ago there was a question of erecting a memorial to Giambattista Niccolini, the author of so many popular tragedies, the public remained indifferent, and gave no sign of the enthusiasm which half a century ago responded to such patriotic plays as “ Filippo Strozzi," and " Arnaldo da Brescia," and " Giovanni da Procida.” The Italian public of to-day cares no longer for these productions, which, alongside of many undeniable merits, are marked by such defects as historical inaccuracy, conventionality, and an inflated rhetoric,-patriotic enough, no doubt, but mere rhetoric. The same may be said, and for the same reasons, of the historical novels of Guerrassi, and, to some extent at least, even of those of Massimo d'Azeglio.

The patriotic ideal was realized; what other ideal remained to literature ? On the morrow of the occupation of Rome, a general idea was current all through the country that the aim of the national aspirations, hitherto pitched so high, must now come down to the plain realities of the situation, and that the country, having recovered its national integrity, could now have no other task than to develop its commerce, its agriculture, and its manufacturing industries, and in general to call out its hitherto unexplored economic resources. It must be the mission of the new literature to encourage these civic aspirations; and indeed the first indications of this new departure had already appeared in some fine poems of Zanella. But this tendency, strong as it was for the moment—and especially so in the theatrecould not last long. Our poets soon tired of singing the hypothetical glories of our commerce and industry, and the still more hypothetical glories of our daily politics.

We were still in the midst of this uncertainty as to where the new inspiration for our literature was to come from, when in February 1877, a Bolognese advocate, Olindo Guerrini, published, under the title "Postuma," a volume of poetry, which he ascribed to his cousin Lorenzo Stenzetti, who had died some little time before of consumption in one of the small towns of the Romagna. Soon afterwards it became known that Lorenzo Stenzetti was only a borrowed name, and that the author of the volume was Guerrini himself. The book made a great sensation on its first appearance, less on account of the genius displayed in it—though that was remarkable—than of the new artistic tendency it implied, a tendency essentially realistic. Guerrini entered the field as the open adversary of the " Ideal,” which he stigmatized as hypocritical in substance, and false in art. The abstraction “God” was no longer wanted by anybody but the nuns; the abstraction «

was to be left to romancers behind the times; and as


to the abstraction “fatherland,” it was pretty clear that every one was trying to dress up a fatherland of his own, fashioned to suit his own interests; and any poet stupid enough to sing of an ideal country, the model of every virtue and every perfection, would run the risk of being understood by nobody, and left to read his verses to himself. Guerrini therefore made it his business to cast down the Ideal from those high places where it had been set up by a superstitious piety, a somewhat turgid patriotism, and an exaggerated woman-worship; holding it up to derision, and calling it into contrast with the living and palpitating Reality. In the “Epicedio a le Ostriche," for instance, he compares the idealistic poets to oysters which-civilized creatures !-content themselves with a chaste and solitary life, and propagate in seclusion, cold, mute, and motionless. In another poem he apostrophizes the idealists, and jestingly assures them that the new “veristic” art is preparing for them all the fate of Marsyas, and that their skins shall be made into wine-skins, to hold the wine of Chianti! Even Guerrini himself is moved with some enthusiasm at the sight of the lagoons and palaces of Venice; but he concludes his sonnet thus :

Vamo, trofei rapiti al musulmano

Di Candia e di Norea ; v'amo, v'adoro . ...

Sogliole fritte e vin di Conegliano!" The white turtle-doves so often sung by the idealistic poets please him too, but he prefers them roasted. He likes all birds in general, , but always cooked, and with polenta. Would you know his conception of womanhood, and how he understands love? Speaking of the Roman Lucretia, the traditional type of constancy and virtue, he says:

“ Memorie di grandezza e di spavento,
Altro amor che di voi m'arde le vene !
Collatino non c'è, Bruto è contento

E Lucrezia m'aspetta, e mi vuol bene." Naturally, Guerrini will have nothing to do with the abstinences and abnegation of the flesh commended by the teaching of Christ. The nuns may keep their consumptive Jesus, who taught such things, to themselves. For him there is but one divinity, Truth, and she teaches but one lesson, Love (!) In politics, Guerrini is for "going forward,” to the utter destruction of the present order of things, which he regards as a mass of injustices." He tells the rich and powerful that he wishes his verse

" Fosse un ferro rovente,
Per bollarvi tra gli occhi la cotenna,

Canaglia prepotente !" But all this, be it understood, without any really mischievous meaning at all, since it is well known that Guerrini is an excellent fellow, incapable of injuring any one.

I have said that the " Postuma," which were followed at a distance of some few months by another volume, “Nova Polemica," created a great sensation. Not, indeed, that this sort of poetry is anything new, in this or in any other country; but in relation to the times and circumstances in which it sprang up, it was both new and startling, for it offered a new lead, precisely at the moment when a new lead was wanted. Not that Guerrini himself would admit the imputation


[ocr errors]

of a tendency of any sort. He maintains that he has no tendency at all, except to say what he thinks. But be this as it may, there started up around these two volumes of poetry a crowd of enthusiastic admirers and bitter assailants. To judge from the number of imitators, admiration was in the ascendant. The Petrarchists themselves were never so numerous in any given space of time. From 1878 onwards it may be said that hardly a week passed without the publication in some Italian town or other of a volume of the so-called “veristic" poetry-most of it, of course, destined only to live a day. This extraordinary fecundity is diminishing now, but it has not yet ceased. The most noticeable of recent publications of this sort are a volume of verses by the Contessa Lara, and the "Intermezzo di Rime," of Gabriele d'Annunzio. The latter in particular is remarkable for the morbid complacency and subtle art which he brings to the description of sensual gratifications. This book is perhaps the last and utmost of the veristic school.

And yet, notwithstanding all the excesses of this school, no Italian critic of any acuteness can deny that it has had its uses.

It was wanted, to free us from our bondage to classic tradition, from sentimental ditties and idealistic swoons and trances. It was felt on all sides that in order to gain fresh force and vigour our literature must, like Antæus, touch the earth, even at the risk of some bespattering. We were like the Romans after the death of Cleopatra; we were fain to sing with Horace

“Nunc est bibendum, nunc pede libero pulsanda tellus." The veristic school does indeed go too far in holding up the things of sense as exclusively true and real. But this is the disadvantage of all reactions; they always go more or less beyond the mark. I think the successes of veristic exaggeration among us are drawing to a close, and that our literature will not be long before it makes a fresh start in an opposite direction. For the Italian is, to use the expression of our famous critic, Francesco de Sanctis, home-sick for the ideal. We are impelled towards it by our individual nature, and by the very character of our national genius. But one thing is certain. The ideal that is to be will not be like those other ideals which have passed away. It will draw its nourishment from the living reality; but, with its foot firm on the firm earth, it will ever be toiling upward towards the heights. Excelsior !


[ocr errors][merged small]






JHOUGH translation is not strictly philosophical work, it cannot

be doubted that the two handsome volumes of Lotze's Logic and Metaphysics,” issued by the Clarendon Press,* are likely to have (and they certainly deserve to have) an important influence on philosophical thought in England. In a certain sense it is true that international barriers tend to disappear in philosophy as they have already disappeared in science; but hardly to the same extent. And though a knowledge of foreign thinkers filters through in this way to the generality of students without much delay, this is not the same as drinking at the fountain-head itself. All philosophical thought has an aroma of personality about it. It derives part of its force and persuasiveness from its author's manner of setting it forth ; and in, an exposition at second-hand we may often inadvertently miss the proper point of view for judging of the whole. Philosophical results, it has been well said, are valueless, if we do not enter into the process by which they are arrived at. This general dictum is more than usually true in Lotze's case. The results of his laborious discussions are apt to strike us as meagre. Sometimes, as in a Platonic dialogue, we may even be left in doubt at the end of all the subtle windings of thought whether any decision has been passed on the main question at all; when it is possible to formulate definite results, they cannot be called altogether new. Of all this the author himself is fully aware, and in the preface to the "Logic,” he goes as far as to apologize for giving to that and the following works the apparently pretentious title of a “System of Philosophy." "It is obvious,” he says, "that I can propose to myself nothing more than to set forth the entirety of my personal convictions in a systematic form.” Or, as he put it even more characteristically in beginning the last book of the" Microcosmus I make no higher claim for the remainder of my treatise than the following, which it may perhaps justify: my object is to offer to the reader the connected results of a long course of reflections-results which have come to be dear to me—and I offer them in the same straightforward fashion in which any one in a serious conversation communicates of his best, in order to elevate moments of leisure to moments of permanent mental concentration. Should I be successful in establishing this living personal relation with the reader's mind and heart, I shall esteem it more highly than even the good fortune of seeing a

"Lotze's System of Philosophy.” Part I. Logic ; Part II. Metaphysic. English Translation edited by Bernard Bosanquet, M.A., Fellow of University College, Oxford. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

[ocr errors]

place accorded in the history of philosophical development to the view of the world whose outlines I am about to bring together. For we probably all have our doubts now about the correctness of the belief which made men confident, not so long ago, that they had discovered in the progress of philosophy the very pith of the world's history, and made them see in every change of speculative system the dawning of a new period in the unconditioned source of the world. It is not in playing at development, but in what one living man achieves for other living men, that the value lies even of those speculations whose aim is to set forth ultimate truth.” Nothing could characterize Lotze's manner and spirit better; and these later books especially bear in a high degree the stamp of thė author's individuality. They are unadorned in style; and the earnest striving of the writer to be honest with himself and with his readers, gives to many of the paragraphs the accent of the living voice. At other times the sense of dialogue yields to that of meditative monologue, as the author revolves his own subtle suggestions of alternative possibilities. Throughout all Lotze's work, indeed, it is impossible not to feel the contagion of his laborious patience in mining for truth, coupled with the lofty ethical and æsthetic convictions which oppose an indomitable resistance to every view that, by limiting us to mechanism or the external relations of things, would eviscerate the whole inward life of the world.

While it is easy, therefore, to point to Lotze's antecedents in Leibniz and Herbart, and to label his doctrine as Monadism, such a historical deduction is very far from invalidating his title to independent attention. He never puts forward for himself any claim to originality. “After such a long philosophical development," he tells us," a development in which all possible standpoints have been more than once discovered and abandoned, no one can pretend any longer to the merit of originality, but only to that of exactitude.” Hence Lotze acknowledged in the fullest manner his obligations to the general conceptions of the Leibnizian theory. But in renewing these for the present age the merit of exactitude comes in. If the results are to a large extent similar, they are worked out in view of the scientific advance since Leibniz's time; in view also of the Kantian criticism, and of the systems of monistic idealism built upon it. Along with this relation to the present, however, no one can fail to notice the scrupulous care which Lotze takes to rid himself of the prejudices of his own generation. This reconsideration of what is usually taken for granted makes his work remarkably stimulating. It needed some courage to give a volume of metaphysics to the world nowadays under the three rubrics, Ontology, Cosmology, and Psychology. But it is refreshing to meet such an investigation with “ the nature of things," after the succession of theories of knowledge on the one hand, and theories of mental evolution or psychogenesis on the other, to which we have become accustomed. Both investigations are, of course, indispensable in their own sphere, and the theory of knowledge may well claim to be the fundamental philosophical discipline. But it is undeniable that they tend to become superstitions of the day, and even the theory of knowledge is not sufficient for a philosophy, unless it is something more. Lotze's mot is tolerably well known, that the constant whetting of the knife becomes tedious, if it is not proposed to cut anything with it.

« ForrigeFortsett »