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Politics and Sentiments in Risorgimento Italy: Melodrama and the Nation
 3030697312, 9783030697310

Table of contents :
Acknowledgements
Contents
List of Figures
Chapter 1: Introduction: Emotions, Politics, Entertainment—A Nineteenth-Century Transnational Plot
Emotionality During the Risorgimento
Politics, Spectacle and Entertainment in Early Nineteenth-Century Europe
The Public Sphere During the Risorgimento: New Historical Readings
Structure of the Book
Chapter 2: Emotions for Everyone: New Entertainment Spaces in Europe
Two Beginnings
Paris, Boulevard du Temple
London, the South and the East End
From Market to Politics and Back
Republican Milan and the Idea of the Citizen-Spectator
Chapter 3: A Theatrical Genre for Post-Revolutionary Society
Looking for the Language of Emotions
The Mélodrame as Easily Accessible Entertainment
The Industry of the Melodrama
Between England and Italy: In the Footsteps of a Transnational Product
Chapter 4: Between Mélodrame and Melodramatic Imagination
Who Is Afraid of the Melodrama? The Mélo as “mover of the heart”
Melodramatic Style and Political Conflict in the Early Nineteenth Century
National Narratives
Chapter 5: Melodrama Italian-Style: In Search of an Audience Between Fiction and Politics
New Narratives of the Past Between Rossini and Walter Scott
Foscolo, Mazzini and an Audience for Politics
Towards an “Industrial Literature”?
Melodrama Italian-Style
Chapter 6: The Melodramatic Narration of Oppressed Italy
Truth and Fiction
The Narrative Device
Oppression and Redemption
From the Past to the Present: The Three Years Between 1846–1849
The History of Italy Told to the People
A Few Figures and a Little About Trade
Violence, Deceptions, Sieges: Sentimentalising Politics
The Vocabulary of Emotivity Between Colloquialisms and Archaisms
A mélo About 1848
Chapter 7: Not Just Words: Emotional Bodies in the “Long 1848”
A Theatrical Revolution
Dramatising the Past
The Role of Communicators
The Physiognomy of Patriotism
Clothes, Beards and Feathered Hats
Fashion Italian-Style
Patriots, Knights, Brigands and Robbers
An Interpretation: Between Performativity and Surveillance
Chapter 8: Politics and the Language of Sentiment
After the Emotional Storm
European Indignation
A Melodramatic Risorgimento: From Museums to Early Cinema
To Conclude
A Brief Chronology of the Italian Risorgimento
Bibliography
Periodical Sources
Printed Primary Sources
Secondary Sources
Index

Citation preview

ITALIAN AND ITALIAN AMERICAN STUDIES

Politics and Sentiments in Risorgimento Italy Melodrama and the Nation Carlotta Sorba

Italian and Italian American Studies Series Editor Stanislao G. Pugliese Hofstra University Hempstead, NY, USA

This series brings the latest scholarship in Italian and Italian American ­history, literature, cinema, and cultural studies to a large audience of ­specialists, general readers, and students. Featuring works on modern Italy (Renaissance to the present) and Italian American culture and society by established scholars as well as new voices, it has been a longstanding force in shaping the evolving fields of Italian and Italian American Studies by re-emphasizing their connection to one another. Editorial Board Rebecca West, University of Chicago, USA Josephine Gattuso Hendin, New York University, USA Fred Gardaphé, Queens College, CUNY, USA Phillip V.  Cannistraro†, Queens College and the Graduate School, CUNY, USA Alessandro Portelli, Università di Roma “La Sapienza”, Italy William J. Connell, Seton Hall University, USA More information about this series at http://www.palgrave.com/gp/series/14835

Carlotta Sorba

Politics and Sentiments in Risorgimento Italy Melodrama and the Nation

Carlotta Sorba University of Padua Padua, Italy

Based on a translation from the Italian language edition: Il melodramma della nazione. Politica e sentimenti nell’Italia del Risorgimento, by Laterza, Roma-Bari 2015 Translated by Clelia Boscolo ISSN 2635-2931     ISSN 2635-294X (electronic) Italian and Italian American Studies ISBN 978-3-030-69731-0    ISBN 978-3-030-69732-7 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-69732-7 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the ­publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and ­institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: Mode d’Italia [Italian Fashion] in “Il Corriere delle Dame”, 27 march 1848 This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

To Silvio Lanaro, master and teacher of dangerous circumnavigations

Acknowledgements

The history of this book is long, episodic and fragmented, mostly because it has been caught between many other activities. Only a long-distance commuter, who, like me, relishes getting involved in the most diverse teaching and academic commitments, can understand what I mean. As sometimes happens, it arose from an essay written almost by chance, when my research interests seemed to take me in another, especially chronological direction. But in the end, it has managed to hold together a long trail of reading and interests, not always conventional in terms of contemporary history. The original essay was included in Einaudi’s Annal of the History of Italy devoted to the Risorgimento. I am grateful to the two curators, Alberto Mario Banti and Paul Ginsborg, for encouraging me to continue to investigate the melodramatisation of politics, not at all an easy topic to deal with but undoubtedly fascinating. In recent years, I have presented previews and fragments on several occasions: at the Pisa seminar of cultural history organized by Alberto Mario Banti and Vinzia Fiorino; at the Risorgimento revisited conference organised in New York by Silvana Patriarca and Lucy Riall; at Christophe Charle’s seminar at the École Normale Supérieur in Paris; at the conference Rileggere l’Ottocento: Risorgimento e nazione (Rereading the nineteenth century: Risorgimento and nationhood) organised by Maria Luisa Betri in Milan; at the workshop entitled The Origins of Modern Mass Culture: European Leisure in a Comparative Perspective (1660–1870) coordinated by Peter Borsay and Jan Hein Furnee for the European Science Foundation (Gregynog, Wales); finally at the conference Italy Made! Passions and Project organised by Giulia Sissa in Los Angeles vii

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

(UCLA). I want to thank them all for the suggestions, objections and indications that emerged on those occasions, as well as those who prompted me to publish some excerpts in journals or in collective volumes (Francesco Traniello for Contemporanea, Christophe Charle for Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, Jane Fulcher for The Oxford Handbook of the New Cultural History of Music, Axel Korner for “Journal of Modern Italian Studies”). Special thanks also go to a book and its completely unaware author: Peter Brooks’ Melodramatic Imagination, published by Yale University Press in 1976 and translated into Italian a few years later by Pratiche editrice. This book managed to tie together different parts of my life: my early collaboration with a small but outstanding publisher and my current historical research work, prompting this volume, which I wrote in three different places—Parma, Padua and Paris—feeling lucky to do so. The English edition of a book conceived in another language always requires a complex work of revision and integration of content and form. I would not have been able to do this without the help of many people at Palgrave Macmillan who accompanied me through the various stages of editing and production with great competence and kindness. I would like to thank them all warmly, in simple order of appearance: Megan Laddusaw, Meagan Simpson, Tikoji Rao, Sarulatha Krishnamurthy. Heartfelt thanks also go to Stan Pugliese for his immediate interest in my book. In addition to Silvio Lanaro, whose most pungent comments and criticism I am trying to imagine, it is dedicated to three people: Luciano, Anna and Umberto Sorba, who are unable to read it but whom I continually find within myself and in these pages. For this English edition of the book, final, very warm thanks go to my translator, Clelia Boscolo, for her patience, passion and intelligence. And a final dedication to Maddalena, a beautiful person with whom life might have been more generous.

Contents

1 Introduction: Emotions, Politics, Entertainment—A Nineteenth-Century Transnational Plot  1 Emotionality During the Risorgimento   2 Politics, Spectacle and Entertainment in Early NineteenthCentury Europe   7 The Public Sphere During the Risorgimento: New Historical Readings  11 Structure of the Book  13 2 Emotions for Everyone: New Entertainment Spaces in Europe 15 Two Beginnings  15 Paris, Boulevard du Temple  21 London, the South and the East End  29 From Market to Politics and Back  33 Republican Milan and the Idea of the Citizen-Spectator  39 3 A Theatrical Genre for Post-Revolutionary Society 53 Looking for the Language of Emotions  54 The Mélodrame as Easily Accessible Entertainment  62 The Industry of the Melodrama  68 Between England and Italy: In the Footsteps of a Transnational Product  77

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CONTENTS

4 Between Mélodrame and Melodramatic Imagination 83 Who Is Afraid of the Melodrama? The Mélo as “mover of the heart”  83 Melodramatic Style and Political Conflict in the Early Nineteenth Century  92 National Narratives  98 5 Melodrama Italian-Style: In Search of an Audience Between Fiction and Politics105 New Narratives of the Past Between Rossini and Walter Scott 107 Foscolo, Mazzini and an Audience for Politics 114 Towards an “Industrial Literature”? 120 Melodrama Italian-Style 125 6 The Melodramatic Narration of Oppressed Italy131 Truth and Fiction 131 The Narrative Device 136 Oppression and Redemption 141 From the Past to the Present: The Three Years Between 1846–1849 145 The History of Italy Told to the People 150 A Few Figures and a Little About Trade 154 Violence, Deceptions, Sieges: Sentimentalising Politics 159 The Vocabulary of Emotivity Between Colloquialisms and Archaisms 168 A mélo About 1848 173 7 Not Just Words: Emotional Bodies in the “Long 1848”177 A Theatrical Revolution 179 Dramatising the Past 183 The Role of Communicators 188 The Physiognomy of Patriotism 201 Clothes, Beards and Feathered Hats 206 Fashion Italian-Style 220 Patriots, Knights, Brigands and Robbers 225 An Interpretation: Between Performativity and Surveillance 231

 CONTENTS 

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8 Politics and the Language of Sentiment239 After the Emotional Storm 239 European Indignation 243 A Melodramatic Risorgimento: From Museums to Early Cinema 250 To Conclude 257 A Brief Chronology of the Italian Risorgimento261 Bibliography265 Index291

List of Figures

Fig. 2.1

Fig. 2.2 Fig. 3.1

Fig. 3.2 Fig. 6.1 Fig. 7.1

Fig. 7.2 Fig. 7.3

Louis Léopold Boilly, L’entrée au Théâtre de l’AmbiguComique à une représentation gratis, 1819 [Entrance to a free performance at the Ambigu-­Comique Theatre] oil on canvas, Musée du Louvre Adolphe Martial Potémont, Le Boulevard du Temple, 1862, [The Boulevard du Temple, Paris] oil on canvas, Musée Carnavalet, Paris A tale of mystery. A melo-drame as performed at the Theatre Royal—Covent Garden by Thomas Holcroft, cover of the second edition with engravings from drawings by Henry Tresham, Richard Phillips, London 1802 Louis Léopold Boilly, L’effet du mélodrame, 1830 [The Effect of Melodrama] oil on canvas, Musée Lambinet, Versailles Storie d’Italia raccontate al Popolo: Balilla [Stories of Italy told to the People: Balilla], Baricco e Arnaldi, Turin 1848 (cover) Giuseppe Kier, 8 aprile 1848. Partenza d’una crociata di Veneziani per la Guerra Santa dell’Indipendenza italiana [8 April 1848. Departure of a Crusade of Venetians for the Italian Holy War of Independence], colour litograph, Venice, Museo Correr (detail) Foggia d’abito proposto agli Italiani [Dress style proposed to Italians], January 1848, Florence, Tipografia del Vulcano 1848 Costume italiano [Italian outfit] in “Il Mondo Illustrato”, February 1848

22 28

67 76 152

195 212 215

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LIST OF FIGURES

Fig. 7.4

Fig. 7.5 Fig. 7.6 Fig. 7.7 Fig. 7.8 Fig. 7.9 Fig. 7.10

Carlo Bossoli, L’armeria del nobiluomo Uboldi invasa dagli insorti milanesi il 19 marzo 1848 [Count Uboldi’s armoury broken into by insurgents seeking weapons, 19 March 1848] oil on canvas, Milan, copyright Comune di Milano, Palazzo Moriggia/Museo del Risorgimento Frammento di un ventaglio [Detail of a fan] colour litograph, France c.1849, Civica Raccolta delle Stampe Achille Bertarelli, Castello Sforzesco, Milan Mode d’Italia [Italian Fashion] in “Il Corriere delle Dame”, 27 march 1848 George Husman Thomas, Giuseppe Garibaldi and his Negro servant, in “The London Illustrated News”, 21 July 1849 Ernani Hat of the Vicentine Crusader Volunteers belonging to Count Camillo Franco who died in Monte Berico on 10 June 1848, Vicenza, Museo del Risorgimento Scene figure for Ernani, Parma 1844, Archivio storico del Teatro Regio, Parma Una galleria dei principali costumi milanesi prima, durante e dopo la rivoluzione, 1848 [A series of the main Milanese outfits before, during and after the revolution], colour litograph by G. and C. Vallardi, Milan, copyright Comune di Milano, Palazzo Moriggia/Museo del Risorgimento

218 219 223 225 227 232

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CHAPTER 1

Introduction: Emotions, Politics, Entertainment—A Nineteenth-Century Transnational Plot

On a Rai Radio channel, a radio host is confronted with a visual spectacle that is difficult to put into words: the formidable acrobatics of the Frecce Tricolori, the aerobatic demonstration team of the Italian Air Force, are underway. How is he to convey most effectively the strong emotions of such a show to radio listeners? He has an idea, apparently just occurred to him, which he immediately communicates, excitedly, to his audience: at the next opportunity, he will host the broadcast from one of the planes, in order to capture and convey his emotions to the public at the precise moment in which they are felt, live and without any mediation. It is not the absurdity of the idea that forces me to stop the car, nor the generic reference to the emotionality of the witness and his audience, an obsessive constant of current radio and television communication and its alleged “authenticity”. What strikes me is the precise and extraordinary, as well as rather unsettling, correlation with the eighteenth-century texts I am reading. Whilst studying the theatres of the Risorgimento and the not so obvious and linear links between the stage and the political events of the period, I find myself on a somewhat tortuous path, reading Diderot, Mercier, Rousseau and their writings on theatre, which for the first time focused on the “effects” of theatre on its audience. When Jean-Jacques Rousseau—as is well known not at all convinced of the pedagogic potential of the stage—wrote Pygmalion, which would be considered the first mélodrame and would soon spread throughout Europe thanks to its many © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 C. Sorba, Politics and Sentiments in Risorgimento Italy, Italian and Italian American Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-69732-7_1

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translations, he wanted to do exactly what the unsuspecting radio host is proposing: identify a form of theatrical communication capable of expressing and transmitting emotions precisely when they are felt, in their original and purest form, free from mediation or interference.1 His goal was to overcome the artificial language of theatre to achieve a direct connection from heart to heart, from the actor to the spectator, convinced as he was that the truth can always be found in “feeling”. The words of the radio host show us how a claim such as this—to communicate our emotions exactly as they arise—and the fact that this represents an important approach to the profound essence of reality, has not been dismissed by contemporary common sense. In fact, it has found new and important prompts within the so-called audience democracy we find ourselves in. French political scientist Bernard Manin, who has effectively used this category, has shown how the profound crisis of mass political parties that characterises current political systems has also entailed a gradual replacement of their intermediary role with civil society by forms of direct communication with the citizen-spectator-actor.2 The origins of this idea, as we shall see, actually lie at the dawn of democratic thought, in the folds of a culture of sensibility well represented by the eighteenth-century writings and reflections I am working on. They postulated a new, close connection between the political sphere and that of feelings; this makes me think that, however tortuous, my present circumnavigation of the relationship between politics and melodramatic imagination makes sense and that it is worth pursuing its first traces in post-revolutionary Europe and in one of its most effective developments during the Italian Risorgimento.

Emotionality During the Risorgimento This book was prompted by a new focus on emotions and on the relationship between emotions and politics in a historical perspective; this was due not so much to methodological curiosity, however fascinating in its complexity it may be,3 but to a very obvious observation to anyone f­ amiliar 1  J.-J.  Rousseau, Pygmalion, Pimmalione, partiture del mélodrame e della scena lirica in facsimile, with an introductory essay by E. Sala, Ricordi, Milan 1996. 2  See B. Manin, The Principles of Representative Government, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge-New York 1997. 3  On the difficulty of writing a history of emotions, many reflections have been published in recent years that have focused on the accessibility of the emotional dimension itself and on the possible relationships between emotional discourse and practices. I only point out two

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with the documentary material about the Risorgimento. A very strong and totally unrestrained emotional charge fills many of the public and private writings of the Italian Risorgimento, the span of time between the French invasion in 1796 and national unification in 1861. This is particularly true for what has been called the “Long Italian 1848”, that is to say the period between the appointment of Pius IX as Pope in 1846 and the fall of the democratic republics in 1849. This emotional charge was also clearly visible in men who could be described as moderate and/or pragmatic, by their nature and temperament even more than political persuasion. Wellknown political figures such as Luigi Carlo Farini, Carlo Cattaneo, Marco Minghetti, even Cesare Balbo, who looked with horror at any expression of revolutionary disorder, all displayed, at least around 1848, forms of emotional excitement reflected in their language and narration of events. The political thought that accompanied the Risorgimento movement was also imbued with reflections on virtue, sensitivity and passion, in a resurgence project aiming to be both political and moral.4 The emotional tone of the battles of the Risorgimento, up to that key date, is so intense as to arouse in modern readers a sense of immediate distance and almost unease. Of course, there are many accounts of the Risorgimento and the cultural, ideological and anthropological differences between the protagonists are remarkable; but they all seem to share the opinion that Austrian domination in Italy was nothing but barbarism, ferocity and unprecedented violence against the weak and defenceless. The same excessive passion, expressive emphasis, even crudeness in the stories of the violence suffered reverberated later in post-unification accounts, when, with a strong pedagogical aim, the narration of the epic of the Italian Risorgimento was presented to new Italians, and its myth consolidated through the practice of museum exhibitions. It was, in fact,

Italian essays that take stock of the international debate: S. Ferente, Storici ed emozioni, in “Storica”, XV, 2009, 43–45, pp. 371–392, and R. Petri, Sentimenti, emozioni. Potenzialità e limiti della storia culturale, in “Memoria e ricerca”, 40, 2012, pp. 75–92. See also two reviews of studies: E.  Sullivan, The History of Emotions: Past, Present and Future, in “Cultural History”, 2, 2013, pp.  93–102, and B.  Gammerl, Transitory Feelings: On Challenges and Trends within the History of Emotions, in “Contemporanea”, 2, 2014, pp. 335–344. For a recent overview of this approach, see B.H. Rosenwein and R. Cristiani, What Is the History of Emotions?, Polity Press 2018. 4  As skilfully and persuasively argued by R.  Romani, Sensibilities of the Risorgimento. Reasons and Passions in Political Thought, Brill, Leiden 2018.

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one instance when the vocabulary of feelings and emotions ran through political communication most widely. Is it possible and appropriate to take this particular stylistic and narrative phenomenon of passionate excess seriously, trying to understand and explain it, searching for its likely origins by addressing the delicate terrain of emotional expression in its historical manifestations?5 I would not have started doing it if a book had not opened up the way for me, taking me back, almost against my will, to the theatres from which I had started. This is the book that, many years ago, Peter Brooks devoted to melodramatic imagination, a narrative and expressive structure which developed in Europe immediately after the revolutionary storm of the late eighteenth century.6 In this seminal volume, the scholar focused in particular on a genre of entertainment which he felt had given rise to the corresponding adjective (melodramatic), used much more frequently than the noun to indicate expressive forms characterised by extreme emotional amplification, a marked moral Manichaeism and the equation between victim and virtue, where suffering becomes the inevitable sign of moral rectitude. These origins are not linked, as any Italian speaker might think, to opera, with which the Italian term melodramma has always been synonymous,7 but to a minor yet precisely codified theatrical genre, openly commercial, which had spread in Paris’ theatres in the years between the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries and from there throughout Europe, representing one of the most consolidated and transnational expressions of nineteenth-century popular theatre. According to Brooks, this particular form of short prose tragedy with musical accompaniment embodied a theatrical device in many ways new and ­ “modern”, but also and above all a real imaginative structure, a way of giving meaning to the reality that in that period had not only crossed 5  It is no coincidence that the idea for this book came about when writing an essay for the Einaudi Annal devoted to the Risorgimento which paid new attention to the mental and emotional universe of the Risorgimento. See the discussion on the book edited by S. Soldani, Le emozioni del Risorgimento, in “Passato e presente”, 75, 2008, pp. 17–32. 6  Unlike in France, where the first edition is from 2010, in Italy, the book was translated in the 1980s, thanks to a careful scholar and a small but excellent publishing house: P. Brooks, L’immaginazione melodrammatica, Pratiche editrice, Parma 1985 (orig. ed. The Melodramatic Imagination. Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama end the Mode of Excess, Yale University Press, New Haven and London 1976). 7  On the confusion caused by the misunderstanding between the two terms, see, for example, E. Sala, In che senso “El Dorado” di Marcel L’Herbier è un “mélodrame”?, in E. Degrada (ed.), Il melodramma, Bulzoni, Rome 2007, pp. 111–144.

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other genres and forms of art and entertainment, from novels to painting, but had largely gone beyond the world of fiction; and which, in a chronological span that can be limited to the first half of the nineteenth century, had fed social behaviour and the political sphere with its devices. Studies on the subject are now very advanced and it is much clearer that the French mélodrame originating in the boulevards at the turn of the century was not the exclusive place where that “modality” of expression and narration could be found. From the end of the eighteenth century, it ran right through fictional literature in its various forms. From the historical point of view, however, there is no doubt that this new form of entertainment, just as Brooks pointed out, represented, in that specific phase, the product most capable of concentrating in itself the melodramatic elements most suited, as we shall see in greater detail, to strike, move and involve a large audience. Literary and film scholars above all welcomed Brooks’ suggestions, developing, from the 1980s onwards, a robust line of investigation into the forms of the melodramatic. Although precisely located in post-­ revolutionary Europe, between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, such “imagination” had in fact also found expression in different ways and forms in later contexts, from silent cinema to late twentieth-century soap operas, lending itself to fruitful analysis in such areas.8 In fact, in those years, these studies represented an important element in the newly developing attention to, and reappraisal of, forms of mass culture and their purely narrative and emotional aspects, so distant from the more canonical avant-garde production. In actual fact, however, the book highlighted an issue that was first of all historical, since the “mode” of the imagination it spoke of was considered the product of a very precise juncture, a proto-­ romantic phase when an attempt to give meaning to reality through fictional narrative had been particularly broad and widespread, as well as characterised by the gradual emergence of a public political sphere understood in modern terms. Brooks’ had therefore been a rare and precious 8  From an almost embarrassing genre, excluded from literary analysis and the object of irony, in the 1980s the mélo became a subject of great interest for analysing the trajectories of mass culture, a sort of paradigm of the circularity between high and low culture and of the continuous and consistent exchanges between the cultured and popular dimensions; for some of the most important output of that season of studies, see I. Ang, Watching Dallas: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination, Routledge, London 1985; J.  Przybos, L’entreprise mélodramatique, José Corti, Paris 1987; J. Bratton, J. Cook, C. Gledhill (eds), Melodrama: Stage, Picture, Screen, British Film Institute Publishing, London 1994.

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attempt to investigate the social history of literary forms, the historical connections between literature and sensitivity, as Franco Moretti and Stefano Rosso wrote at the time, quoting an interview with Brooks himself. His attempt was based, the latter replied, on an “immoderate passion for storytelling and its way of organising our perceptions of the world”.9 In the Anglo-Saxon world, historians certainly did not ignore the book, in the context of a new encounter with literary studies taking place in those years; but they developed its suggestions only in part, especially in their usefulness for stressing, at the peak of the linguistic turn, the central importance of narratives and their morphologies in structuring collective identities.10 Now that the importance of narratives and the strong sense of social agency connected to them, is widely accepted in historical studies, new elements of interest emerge from this book and the themes it had helped to focus on, linked, on the one hand, to reconstructing the origin of the melodramatic in post-revolutionary European society, its various manifestations in different media and local contexts and its connections with the culture of sensibility; and, on the other, to exploring its narrative but also generally expressive implications, as a mode of experience which also influenced the politicisation practices of the early nineteenth century.11 For this reason, today, in the light of the extensive literature that has in the meantime investigated the pathways and repertoires of political mobilisation and democratisation processes as they also developed around the key theme of the nation in a post-revolutionary society, it is worth returning to this topic. The crucial role of the imagination as an agent of action in building nations has been widely recognised and investigated, from Benedict Anderson’s flagship book to the most recent works promoted by 9  The interview with Peter Brooks is transcribed in the appendix of B. Gallo (ed.), Forme del melodrammatico: parole e musica (1700–1800), Guerini e Associati, Milan 1988, pp. 343–356. 10  For an early reaction to Peter Brooks’ book, see L. James, Taking Melodrama Seriously: Theatre and Nineteenth Century Studies, in “History Workshop”, III, 1977, 1, pp. 151–158. For an interesting critical review of the historical use of this category, see R.  McWilliam, Melodrama and Historians, in “Radical History Review”, 78, 2000, pp. 57–84. 11  Such an aesthetic and imaginative category allows us to approach the complex relationships between discursive representations and social practices (which prompted me to work in this area). See the very useful reflections by J. Epstein, In Practice: Studies in the Language and Culture of Popular Politics in Modern Britain, Stanford University Press, Stanford 2003. Brooks himself maintained that he was particularly interested not in melodrama as a narrative device but as a mode of expression, within the framework of an anthropological approach to literature that would recover the sense of the human context.

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the European Science Foundation, which have conducted a comprehensive reflection on the building and functioning of national narratives.12 In this book, we shall discuss a specific form of imagination, to use Brooks’ term, or, better still, a mode of narration and expression that can be defined as melodramatic. It seemed to me an interesting point of view, first of all because it can cause the interaction with each other, showing their connections, of three processes, on which historical studies have worked with growing interest but mostly disjointedly: (1) the establishment, during the second half of the eighteenth century, of a new culture of sensibility which imbued the public communication of the revolution; (2) the parallel development of an entertainment sphere aimed at an increasingly large and diverse audience; (3) the gradual process of transition towards political modernity, with its practices, its languages and its communicative devices.

Politics, Spectacle and Entertainment in Early Nineteenth-Century Europe The mélodrame born in the Paris boulevards at the turn of the nineteenth century must be considered as the most complex and most successful product of what we could call the first “society of spectacle”, if with this term, borrowed from Guy Debord’s cult book,13 we mean, less ideologically than its author, a society in which a spectacular entertainment activity with a decidedly commercial profile and aimed at a wide and not necessarily educated audience began to develop; and where this had wider repercussions on the structuring of the public sphere. This activity took place in large theatres, where a sizeable audience flocked every night, looking for strong sensations, twists, real special 12  On the Esf project entitled Representations of the Past: The Writing of National Histories in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Europe (Nhist), see S. Berger and A. Mycock (eds), Europe and Its National Histories, special issue of “Storia della storiografia”, L, 2006, 4. See also, for its bibliography, S. Berger, L. Eriksonas, A. Mycock (eds), Narrating the Nation: Representations in History, Media and the Arts, Berghan Books, New York–Oxford 2008. 13  In Guy Debord (The society of Spectacle, Detroit, Black § Red 1983, orig. ed. 1967), the term was synonymous with an excessive and boundless consumerist society, ultimately of commodification of the world. For a historical contextualisation of the book and its fortune, see the catalogue of the exhibition recently organised with the material from Debord’s archive: E.  Guy and L.  Le Bras (eds), Guy Debord. Un art de la guerre, Éditions de la Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Gallimard, Paris 2013.

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effects; its news, characters and intrigues filled the pages of newspapers, and not just those expressly devoted to information about “variety” shows; finally, it caused identification phenomena with the characters acting on the stage. And this society, taking up again Debord’s analogies, was increasingly devoted to image. Processes of industrialisation and marketing of visual consumption developed in it rapidly, producing ever newer and inexpensive graphic and editorial objects.14 Historiography has so far dealt relatively little with these phenomena of collective distraction, so that much remains to be investigated around the real societies of spectacle, historically understood, in their complex dimensions, as both social, cultural and, obviously, political.15 In fact, it is increasingly clear that the political sphere had relations and activated more or less close and deliberate connections with the sphere of entertainment in the past, too, and not only in our contemporary times. Bringing these elements back into mainstream historical writing also clearly represents an important step forward towards more complex and sophisticated reconstructions of the imaginative structures and social experiences of the past.16 In addition to an expansion of the research agenda in this direction, a somewhat different periodisation of the phenomenon from the current one is also emerging. In fact, much research shows that the culture of entertainment—in the modern and commercial sense of the term—did not emerge suddenly in the second half of the nineteenth century, but had deep and largely transnational roots that in European cities lay between the Enlightenment and the Romantic ages.17 We should also bear in mind that the beginning of the first entertainment industry lay at the core of a 14  For important contributions on the visual aspects of nineteenth-century media developments, see V. Fiorino, G.L. Fruci, A. Petrizzo (eds), Il lungo Ottocento e le sue immagini. Politica, media, spettacolo, Ets, Pisa 2013. 15  A significant step forward in this direction is C. Charle, Théâtres en capitales. Naissance de la société du spectacle à Paris, Berlin, Londres et Viennes, Albin Michel, Paris 2008; and also Ibid. (ed.), Sociétés du spectacle, monographic issue of “Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales”, 186–187, 2011. 16  On the development of performance studies and on the focus they place on the theme of spectacle and spectacularity, see the introduction to S.  Goldhill and R.  Osborne (eds), Performance Culture and Athenian Democracy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge-­ New York 1999; for a more recent overview of performance and historical studies, see S.  Gunn, Analysing Behaviour as Performance, in S.  Gunn and L.  Faire (eds), Research Methods for History, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh 2012, pp. 184–202. 17  See Leisure cultures in Urban Europe, c 1700–1870 (ed. by P. Borsay and J.H. Furnee), Manchester University Press, Manchester 2016.

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broader process of change in which an epochal transformation of cultural production—at least on the supply level—foreshadowed what can be defined as “mass proto-culture”. In this phase, in France, the development of a new “industrial literature”, which even seemed to undermine the aesthetic dimension by commodifying it, was denounced with total bewilderment.18 This process would obviously only be completed in the late nineteenth century, when the development of literacy and political democratisation also allowed an actual growth in demand and made publishing, theatre and popular entertainment a consolidated reality. We are therefore talking about a preliminary, but no less important phase. This was the time of the enormous European success of Walter Scott’s novels—read avidly by a diverse readership, in terms of gender and culture—followed immediately afterwards by those penned by Charles Dickens, Eugène Sue and Alexandre Dumas the elder; of the publication and spread of the first newspapers and illustrated books; of the development of popular and commercial forms of entertainment made to strike the eyes and hearts of not necessarily cultured spectators (e.g. optical shows, such as panoramas and dioramas; or the scenes à grande spectacle of prose melodramas, vaudevilles and féeries). All this produced, according to contemporary observers, an extraordinary expansion of the possibilities of imagination and narration of reality offered to individuals and communities. For example, the reaction of a refined intellectual such as François-René de Chateaubriand to the very strong impression of reality that seeing the Panoramas of Jerusalem and Athens on the Paris boulevards had made upon him is striking. “The illusion was complete—he wrote. At first glance I recognised the monuments and places I had indicated. Never was a traveller challenged to such an extent. Never could I have expected Jerusalem and Athens to be transported to Paris”.19 Changes of this kind in the conditions in which reality is perceived are a relevant aspect of nineteenth-century “modernity” and were reflected well beyond the specific sphere of leisure.20 How and to what 18  C.A.  Sainte-Beuve, De la littérature industrielle, in “Revue des deux mondes”, September 1839, now in Ibid., Pour la critique, edited by A.  Prassoloff and J.L.  Diaz, Gallimard, Paris 1992, pp. 197–222. 19  F.-R. de Chateubriand, Itinéraire de Paris à Jerusalem et de Jerusalem à Paris, Impr. de Béthune et Plon, Paris 1839, pp. 1–2. 20  Modernity is by definition an unstable and poorly definable concept. In historiography, we continue to think about it, but we tend to distinguish the specificities of nineteenth-­ century modernity (the one we will talk about here) from the twentieth-century one; for an

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extent did these innovations affect the experiences of a public political sphere that in the meantime saw its target audience grow, new communication channels open up and its objectives diversified? But let us return to the Risorgimento. In the first forty years of the nineteenth century, a political movement arose in Italy, internally articulated but aimed at the independence of the peninsula. With its narratives, its heroes and its symbols, it first came to light in the three years between 1846 and 1849. It is therefore legitimate to wonder—and this is what I will try to do—whether there were links between the two phenomena; whether there were exchanges, intersections, influences between a burgeoning consumer culture and rising nationalisms; between the initial foreshadowing of a society of entertainment and a political arena that in countries such as Italy was being built around the objective of nationhood. In other words, was the fact that Alexandre Dumas, one of the undisputed protagonists of those cultural developments, was so fascinated and personally involved in the Italian events of those years a mere coincidence?21 Or the fact that images of Garibaldi in his various guises as leader circulated throughout Europe and invaded the illustrated press, proposing a very similar hero to those who had featured in Walter Scott’s novels?22 A specific research interest in the “media” dimension of the Risorgimento and in the role that the spread of the national-patriotic discourse through new—visual and textual—media had in making the Italian Risorgimento a real global phenomenon has emerged only recently.23 What we shall attempt to probe here is to what extent those media were simple vehicles for the dissemination of discourses elaborated elsewhere, or whether they

example of comparative analysis, see J. Seigel, Modernity and Bourgeois Life: Society, Politics and Culture in England, France and Germany since 1750, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2012. 21  G. Pécout, Una crociera nel Mediterraneo con Garibaldi, in A. Dumas, Viva Garibaldi, Einaudi, Turin 2004, pp. vi–xxi; J.-Y. Mollier, Alexandre Dumas et la littérature industrielle, in Dumas. Une lecture de l’histoire, edited by M. Arrous, Maisonneuve et Larose, Paris 2003, pp. 135–152. 22  An obligatory reference is L. Riall, Garibaldi. Invention of a Hero, Yale University Press, New Haven and London 2007, who has reconstructed the media dimension of the so-called Hero of the Two Worlds. 23  J. Davis and M. Riva (eds), Mediating the Risorgimento, monographic issue of “Journal of Modern Italian Studies”, XVIII, 2013, 2; C.A.  Bayly and E.F.  Biagini (eds), Giuseppe Mazzini and the Globalisation of Democratic Nationalism 1830–1920, British Academy, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2008.

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contributed to shaping them, in a circulation of narrative and expressive devices that crossed different contexts.

The Public Sphere During the Risorgimento: New Historical Readings This book is part of an interpretative review of the Risorgimento phenomenon which in recent years has involved various aspects and themes. First of all, what do we mean when we talk about Risorgimento? French historiography has recently paid particular attention to the origin and development of chrononymes, that is to say, terms used to identify and define a span of time, both in common speech and in historical studies, and often to organise its memory.24 The term Risorgimento is one of the most interesting, both because it was forged by contemporaries, and so arose in the same period it defines, and because it has a powerful narrative and even visual charge, which with obvious religious references recalls the “resurrection” of the country to a new life after centuries of decline and foreign occupation. It is a term that developed as a political slogan in the activism of the first decades of the nineteenth century and immediately took on the character of a mobilising word, almost a war cry to incite the population to strive for independence from the Austrian invaders. It became a real “period name” in the 1880s, when in the new unified state an effort of cultural nationalisation was started, which included a strong enhancement of the epic that had led the country to national unity and independence, that historical process which was definitively named the National Risorgimento and which the ruling class of the time went on to enhance and embellish. It is clear that historiography was immediately directly involved in the construction of this cult of the origins of the homeland. These objectives of civil pedagogy, aimed at promoting a solid national integration after centuries of fragmentation and municipalist struggles, at the beginning of the twentieth century presided over both the establishment of some great documentary works (e.g. the collection of the writings of the fathers of the homeland) and the organisation of research around this crucial period in Italian history. It is therefore easy to imagine how the study of the Italian nineteenth century, especially in its political-cultural aspects, was for a long time 24  D. Kalifa (ed.), Les noms d’époque. De “Restauration” à “années de plomb”, Gallimard, Paris 2020.

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deeply influenced by these origins, which distanced it from the debates of international historiography and in general from the many innovations that in the meantime concerned historiographical practice. Perhaps the obvious anachronism of that line of research has favoured the profound renewal which in the last twenty years has made the so-called new History of the Risorgimento a rather significant collective laboratory of historiographic innovation, capable of producing new research based on questions, points of view and renewed approaches.25 In this “Risorgimento revisited”, as in the titles of a conference and a book from a few years ago, the Italian case emerged from its isolation and was finally included in the Euro-Atlantic framework of the age of revolutions and counter-­revolutions. It also proved to be an interesting case both for the study of the origin, morphology and spread of a national-patriotic discourse, and for the study of political action and mobilisation in the early nineteenth century. The new studies have in fact disproved the exclusively elitist vision of participation in the Risorgimento that had prevailed until then. The Risorgimento, Alberto Mario Banti and Paul Ginsborg argued in their introduction to an important collection of new studies on the subject, was a “mass” movement, to the extent that this term may be used for the period considered. In other words, large sections of the urban popular classes had participated in it, experimenting with new languages and ​​ new practices that had animated the public sphere of the Risorgimento. In such a renewed research agenda, literary culture, theatres and music, emotions, love and family, women and masculinity have found ample space, as have, as we shall see, the national melodramatic style, its words, gestures and material signs. This book does not only aim to reposition the Risorgimento in a transnational context of intellectual and political development of nationalisms, which is now well underway.26 It aims to take a further step forward by 25  For an overview of this research area, see S. Patriarca and L. Riall (eds), Risorgimento Revisited: Nationalism and Culture in Nineteenth Century Italy, Palgrave Macmillan, London 2012; M.  Isabella, Rethinking Italy’s Nation-Building 150 Years Afterwards: The New Risorgimento Historiography, in “Past and present”, 217, 2012, pp.  247–268; A.M.  Banti, A.  Chiavistelli, L.  Mannori and M.  Meriggi (eds), Atlante culturale del Risorgimento. Lessico del linguaggio politico dal Settecento all’Unità, Laterza, Rome-­ Bari 2011. 26  See O.  Janz and L.  Riall (eds), The Italian Risorgimento: Transnational Perspectives, special issue of “Modern Italy”, XIX, 2014, 1; G. Pécout, Pour une lecture méditérranéenne et transnationale du Risorgimento, in C. Brice and G. Pécout (eds), L’Italie du Risorgimento. Relectures, in “Revue d’histoire du XIX siècle”, 44, 2012, pp. 29–47.

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inserting the experience of the Risorgimento within the framework of a broader transmedia flow activated between different, and only apparently distant, fields of communication.27 The intention is to make the political dimension interact more closely with other experiences of collective living. From this point of view, the viewing lens represented by melodramatic imagination is particularly significant because it crosses various contexts, configuring itself as an expressive mode well anchored to a precise historical moment and at the same time susceptible to many possible variations in space and time. First and foremost, however, I would like to avoid any misunderstanding. The discourse on the interaction between the Risorgimento and media culture that this book will address does not intend to diminish the reality, the value as well as the drama of the Risorgimento battles, reducing them to stories suitable for wide consumption. Quite the opposite. It wants to accord greater importance and ability to act on reality to a cultural production conceived for the market, which generally does not appear in national literary histories or in the reconstructions of political history, but which with its narrative and expressive devices influenced the behaviour, sensitivities and imagination of the early nineteenth century, even in countries such as Italy, where the process of widening of audiences, in publishing and in the theatre as well as in politics, was certainly less advanced compared to what was happening beyond the Alps.

Structure of the Book When following its path around the relationship between melodramatic and political imagination, this book therefore touches on different places and contexts, as indeed it must. It starts outside Italy, between Paris and London, to follow closely the development of new places and new forms of entertainment that at the end of the eighteenth century articulated the idea and experience of the citizen-spectator (Chap. 2—Emotions for everyone: new entertainment spaces in Europe). It continues by reconstructing the origin (both philosophical and commercial) of mélodrame as one of 27  An attempt at investigations in this direction has been started by some historians of French literature such as M.-E.  Thérenty and A.  Vaillant, who have suggested a research agenda on the history of literary communication as part of a more general framework of history of the forms of communication and their interactions; see Histoire littéraire et histoire culturelle, in L. Martin e S. Venayre, L’histoire culturelle du contemporain, Actes du colloque de Cerisy, Nouveau monde éditions, Paris 2005, pp. 271–290.

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the first shows conceived for mass consumption and able to speak to educated and uneducated spectators by tugging at the heartstrings. It also shows the first developments of a production that immediately became intense and almost serial, as well as widespread in theatres all over Europe (Chap. 3—A theatrical genre for post-revolutionary society). Starting from contemporary reflections, it considers the mélo as a “mover of the heart”, an imaginative structure that pervaded the sensitivity of the period and affected the political dimension, its narratives and practices, in particular around the theme of the nation (Chap. 4—Between mélodrame and melodramatic imagination). The Italian case, where in the first decades of the nineteenth century one of the largest and most complex national movements in Europe took shape, is particularly significant in this sense. What connections were there between the first developments of a media culture, at least virtually conceived for wide consumption, and a political sphere struggling to take shape around the battles of the Risorgimento? To grasp the peculiarities of the Italian melodramatic style, Chap. 5 (Melodrama Italian-style: in search of an audience between fiction and politics) focuses on a theme considered crucial by many contemporaries: the search for and identification of an audience—for letters and for politics—to address and on which to gauge one’s messages. Chapter 6 (The melodramatic narration of oppressed Italy) is devoted to the melodramatic construction of the Risorgimento narrative—in a complex interweaving of fiction, political analysis and historiography—and to its dissemination. Here, in particular, the communicative specificities of the Long Italian 1848 are addressed, when the need to speak to many and mobilise their energies favoured the wide and almost literal use by patriotic activism of expressive methods that drew much from melodrama. At this juncture, and within the framework of an unprecedented mobilisation, a form of sentimentalising of politics was put into action: it found in the melodramatic spectacularising of the national past a means not only effective and convincing, but also of strong performative significance (Chap. 7—Not just words: melodramatic bodies in the ‘Long 1848’). For this reason, too, this melodrama of the nation ended up becoming, after the unification and the end of the battles, the expressive mode of the myth of the national Risorgimento, to be proposed in school curricula, in children’s books and in the first films dedicated to the origins of the new Italy (Chap. 8—The language of sentiment and politics).

CHAPTER 2

Emotions for Everyone: New Entertainment Spaces in Europe

Two Beginnings What do a trained monkey in a nightshirt and slippers and Denis Diderot’s writings on theatre have in common? Nothing apparent, obviously. Yet they represent two possible and just as legitimate beginnings in this book’s journey. In actual fact, they are two beginnings that must be kept strictly together, in order to fully grasp their overall meaning. In order to understand how, at the end of the eighteenth century, in France, the mélodrame, a theatrical genre that would have great success and circulation in early-nineteenth-century Europe originated, and how it would influence the imagination and political culture of the time, both contexts—street shows and a new theory on theatrical writing—are equally important and must be borne in mind.1 1  A fine collection of essays that could not be used originally in this volume as it came out a few years after its Italian publication has closely analysed the emergence of early melodrama in a historical-literary and historical-musicological perspective, substantially confirming this reading (The melodramatic moment. Music and theatrical culture, 1790–1820, edited by K. Hambridge and J. Hicks, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 2018, p. 6). In fact, the curators point out in their introduction that in order to understand the nature and first developments of melodrama, it is essential to consider the “contemporaneity, if not the codependency” of the two pathways which ultimately made up the complex aesthetic category of the “melodramatic”: the experimental and philosophical one embodied by Rousseau and by

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 C. Sorba, Politics and Sentiments in Risorgimento Italy, Italian and Italian American Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-69732-7_2

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The first leads us to a trained monkey impersonating a sick actor. It was 1759 and the animal was one of the major attractions in the shows that impresario Jean-Baptiste Nicolet had put on at the St-Germain Fair, in the centre of Paris, attracting a growing audience to see an irreverent impersonation of the actors of the Comédie Française. The monkey was making a scathing parody of the well-known conflict tearing the Parisian theatrical world apart: the struggle to win over the public fought between larger theatres, legitimised by royal licence, and minor ones, banned from staging long texts either in words or in music.2 By virtue of some success and his fast-growing activity, Nicolet was one of the first to see that the field of popular entertainment seemed susceptible to very substantial developments and decided to consolidate his activities by making them permanent, rather than just seasonal, and by transferring them to the Boulevard du Temple, the avenue on the extreme Northern boundary of the city that within a few years would become the main entertainment location in Paris. First, he rented a small theatre there; then, in 1764, he built his own, only to have it demolished in 1808, to make room for a larger, more decorated building. The Théâtre des Grands Danseurs du Roi, named after a representation staged in the presence of the Countess Du Barry and which from 1792 was known as Théâtre de la Gaité, was the first to settle permanently on the Boulevard, following the Prévôt des Marchands’s authorisation in 1759, during a stage of considerable development in public entertainment. This allowed the French capital’s amuseurs to move to a new entertainment location that would rapidly develop over the following decades, filling up with theatre halls, cafés and meeting places of various kinds.3

Bohemian composer George Benda, and the commercial one which developed in the postrevolutionary Parisian boulevards and soon circulated widely throughout Europe. 2  See Les spectacles de la foire. Théâtres, acteurs, sauteurs et danseurs de corde, monstres, géants, nains, animaux curieux et savants, marionnettes, automates, figures de cire et jeux mécaniques des Foires Saint-Germain et Saint-Laurent, des Boulevards et du Palais Royal, dépuis 1595 jusqu’à 1791. Documents inédits recueillis aux Archives Nationales par Émile Campardon, Berger-Levrault éditeurs, Paris 1877, vol. II, pp.  149–164. But the liveliest contemporary description of the situation is by N. Brazier, Chroniques des petits théâtres de Paris dépuis leur création jusqu’à ce jour, Allardin Libraire, Paris 1837, pp. 4–6. 3  M. de Rougemont (La vie théâtrale en France au XVIIIe siècle, Champion, Paris 1988) noted how in Paris, from the 1760s onwards, the public authorities were particularly interested in promoting entertainment activities linked to amusement and to the law, as a possible answer to the growing urbanisation, an increasingly worrying phenomenon at the time.

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In fact, Boulevard du Temple would later be remembered as the Boulevard du Crime for the large number of crime-themed plays staged there every evening. A writer who had lived through the spectacular first decades of the nineteenth century, Augustin Challamel, would write several years later: “The modern age begins at the Gaité, where melodramas à grande spectacle are staged, weaving together songs, dance, fights and pantomime”.4 Can these new performances, later named melodramas, be considered an expression of an advancing “modernity”? That the boulevards were a sort of melting pot of modernity had been pointed out by many of the writers and poets of the period, first of all Honoré de Balzac, who had devoted some incomparable descriptions to them in his novels and elsewhere.5 We shall endeavour to get a better understanding of the reasons behind this assessment. The second starting point of our journey is quite different and, at first sight, only shares its chronology with the previous one. Its protagonists were not small impresarios and puppeteers, but intellectuals and theatre writers such as Denis Diderot and Louis-Sébastien Mercier in France, and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and Friedrich Schiller in Germany. Around their reflections on the need for profound reform in theatre practice, a theoretical debate took place half-way through the eighteenth century on the role of theatre and entertainment. It deeply affected the history of theatrical writing and theatre, but also ended up having important links with reflections on the construction of citizenship and of the space of political action itself.6 In the decades before the French Revolution which so intensely fostered innovation, theatre became, in fact, a sort of laboratory of political 4  See A.  Challamel, L’ancien boulevard du Temple, Librairie de la Société des gens de lettres, Paris 1873, pp. 50–51. On the boulevards as theatres of modernity, especially in its more spectacular features, see in particular the special issue of the journal “Romantisme” devoted to Les Grands Boulevards, edited by J. D. Goffette, 134, 2006. 5  In addition to the many references in his novels, the Lost Illusions in particular, see also H. de Balzac, Histoire et physiologie des boulevards de Paris—de la Madeleine à la Bastille (1845), now in Paris romantique. Panorama des Grands boulevards, Hervas, Paris 1989. On the importance of the theatrical dimension in his production—entitled Comédie humaine by the author himself, see also Le spectacle et la fête au temps de Balzac, Presses artistiques, Paris 1978. 6  On the specific features of the relationship between theatre and the construction of public opinion, see my essay Teatro, politica e compassione. Audience teatrale, sfera pubblica ed emozionalità in Francia e in Italia tra XVIII e XIX secolo, in “Contemporanea”, 3, 2009, pp. 421–446, and its related bibliography.

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analysis, by virtue of its strong social and communicative nature.7 Its collective structure distinguished it from another key practice in the development of public opinion: the reading of both newspapers and novels, increasingly connected to the private space of intimacy. Not surprisingly, the public, the uneducated masses for whom the stage could have a unique and effective civilising function were at the very core of the reflections we want to talk about. At that stage, the idea of ​​theatre as an effective didactic tool was part of a broader reflection on the general “effect” produced on individuals and on the community by art in its various forms, especially as far as the emotional dimension was concerned. For Diderot, Mercier and Lessing, theatre scenes could become a particularly suitable vehicle to achieve a moral education marked by empathy with the suffering of others, and this element should become the linchpin of a true re-construction of theatre practice. From vain amusement, between the frivolous and the academic, the stage could become a means of moral improvement able not only to touch the intimacy of individuals, as was the case with the novel, but also a collective body gathered in the parterre and ready to “feel” together. Whilst for Voltaire, theatre was “almost the only way to bring men together in order to make them sociable”,8 for Diderot, it represented an incomparable opportunity for emotional contamination, provided that contemporary productions succeeded in acquiring the emotional immediacy intrinsic to the novel and to painting, where new theatre writing should look to draw inspiration by “giving more to the eye”.9 Greater development in the “intimate” contact with its audiences, also achieved through the visual effects of painting, would allow this new theatre to respond to new requests for spectacular elements as well as provide a different social and political function from the theatre of the past. In this picture, a relatively simple show, focused on visual elements and gestures such as the pantomime, was likely to produce more interesting developments compared to the purely declamatory theatre, as was the 7  On theatremania as a frenzy of shows in 18th-century French society, see M.  Lever, Théâtre et Lumières. Les spectacles de Paris au XVIIIe siècle, Fayard, Paris 2001, pp. 273 et seq. 8  Voltaire, Oeuvres complètes. Corréspondances 1760–61, Hachette, Paris 1881, p. 113. 9  See the writings collected in D. Diderot, Sulla pittura, Aesthetica, Palermo 2004, where the writer, significantly anticipating further developments, remarked upon the need for dramatization in the visual arts and for greater attention by the theatre to visual aspects. On the relationship between theatre and painting in Diderot, see M. Fried, La place du spectateur. Esthétique et origine de la peinture moderne, Gallimard, Paris 1998.

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classical French one, or the aristocratic involutions of the opera. To achieve this effect, Mercier argued, authors should not fear shaking up the audience, offering crude and even horrible images, capable of touching the souls and shocking them until they reached a “paroxysm of passions”.10 Very similar paths, developed around the convergence between morality and emotionality, were undertaken in Germany, with Schiller and Goethe, accompanied by the hope that the benefits of theatre would reach a much wider audience than in the past. Exactly how wide such an audience should be, of course, was a matter of very different opinion. From this point of view, Mercier was the most radical. Specifically the uneducated masses, he wrote in his essays, had to be able to go to the theatre, because they did not know anything about metaphysics but could be moved and stirred as much as and even more than educated people.11 For this reason, it was necessary to widen and modify the structures of theatres, to increase their numbers in all the city districts and to create a new stage-art where the didactic function was articulated in a markedly visual and emotional form. Diderot was equally radical in his attacks against the system of genres and its prescriptive traditional style, but had an average audience in mind: people from whom “neither too much idiocy nor too much finesse” should be expected.12 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, on the other hand—as is well known—was quite opposed to a civil and political use of the theatre. In his famous 1758 Letter to D’Alembert, he had denounced the artificiality of the emotional appeal to spectators coming from the theatre stages. In his construction of a counter-ideal of sincerity and authenticity to oppose the dying aristocratic society of appearances, theatre in fact represented an institutionalised lie.13 It was celebrations and collective rituals that represented a crucial moment of passion-contamination when people could 10  L.-S. Mercier, Du Théâtre, ou Nouvel essai sur l’art dramatique, chez E. Van Harrevelt, Paris 1773, pp. 9 and 13. 11  To Mercier as the real “father” of melodrama, Saint-Simonian sympathiser Hippolyte Auger devoted a long reflection in the second volume of Physiologie du Théâtre, Librairie Firmin Didot Frères, Paris 1839. On Mercier and nineteenth-century popular entertainment, see also J.  McCormick, Popular Theatres of Nineteenth-Century France, Routledge, London–New York 1993, pp. 2 et seq. 12  D. Diderot, Discours de la poésie dramatique, in Oeuvres de D. Diderot, tome IV, Paris 1818, p. 655. 13  The bibliography on Rousseau’s letter is extensive, starting with J. Starobinski’s classical reading in J.J. Rousseau, la trasparenza e l’ostacolo, Il Mulino, Bologna 1982. See in particular the analyses by M. De Marinis, Visioni della scena. Teatro e scrittura, Laterza, Roma-Bari

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“feel” together; and could ultimately achieve the real objective in Rousseau’s (and later revolutionary) anti-theatricalism: the project of a “transparent society”, where everyone’s hearts and souls communicated perfectly with one another without any pretence.14 What we aim to show here is how both the idea and the practice of “entertainment for all” experienced a decisive increase in the last decades of the eighteenth century and obvious connections with the political sphere, giving rise to important, longer-term developments, though in a discontinued fashion. The Enlightenment plans for an exciting and educational theatre that would be a school for the masses, the commercial strategies of new, small entrepreneurs and the strong pressures from a new demand for entertainment were in fact converging in the construction of both a new public space for it and of forms thought out, at least virtually, for all social and cultural classes. This was the origin of a truly momentous process of marketing entertainment spaces, beginning during the eighteenth century and accompanying the birth of the modern consumer society in the following century. Many studies now agree that the development of a commercial world of entertainment has deep roots in the eighteenth century, in the “age of pleasure” that, especially in England, went hand in hand with a period of intense urban renaissance.15 Despite the fact that the histories of theatre literature tend not to remark upon it at all, since there were no great authors, the theatre season straddling the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was characterised— both in France and in England, where the process was more precocious and marked—by remarkable vitality and creativity.16 From this juncture, whose stages I will attempt to illustrate in broad terms, melodrama arose as a new theatrical genre. In addition to being one of the most widely 2004, and C.  Blum, Rousseau and the Republic of Virtue. The Language of Politics in the French Revolution, Cornell University Press, Ithaca–London 1986. 14  On the aesthetics of feeling in Rousseau and his different positions towards the novel and theatre, see N. D. Paige, Before Fiction. The Ancien Régime of the Novel, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia 2011, pp. 115–138. 15  On cultural and other factors linked to entertainment during the eighteenth-century urban renaissance in England, see P. Clark, Culture and Leisure, in Id. (ed.), The Cambridge Urban History of Britain, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2000, vol. II, pp. 575–614. 16  The gap between the reality of theatre life and its reconstructions in literary histories in the English context has been strongly highlighted by D. Worrall, The Politics of Romantic Theatricality, 1787–1832, Palgrave Macmillan, New York 2007.

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transnational products of the time, it effectively expressed its orientations and proposals.

Paris, Boulevard du Temple The painting by Louis-Léopold Boilly, The Entrance of the Ambigu Comique Theatre for a Free Performance, dated 1819, takes us to the first of these paths with extraordinary immediacy (Fig. 2.1). A crowd of people, differing in gender, age and social origin, are pushing to gain entry: mothers making their way with children in their arms, gentlemen bothered by young beggars, guards in their uniforms and young men in shirtsleeves, wearing typical workers’ caps. We will focus on this audience and its composition later on, but in the meantime, it should be noted that the newspapers’ descriptions of boulevard theatres at the beginning of the century on the days of free performances, remarked on roughly the same images: a real crowd, not very homogeneous in appearance, pressing at the entrances of minor theatres and, in stark contrast to the parterres of traditional theatres, increasingly empty. It is clear that these were exceptional situations, compared to a daily use of theatres that remained above all reserved for the upper classes, but the fundamental novelty of the situation clearly struck contemporaries and– as we can see in the comments of contemporary observers—almost seemed to usher in a new era. The free shows did not represent an absolute novelty. Even in the Old Regime, theatres might open their doors for free, but this happened on rare occasions of royal celebration. During the 1790s, this was imposed as a regular practice, as an important element of their republican teaching. The free evenings did not stop in the Napoleonic period—in fact, they were rather frequent—but were often linked to imperial anniversaries or military victories.17 Maybe one of these occasions was the one painted by Louis-Léopold Boilly, a skilled illustrator, both with his brush and with his engraving tools, of post-revolutionary Parisian life, the same described by Mercier’s words in his Tableau de Paris.18 The 17  See C.  Triolaire, Le théâtre en province pendant le consulat et l’Empire, Presses Universitaires Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand 2012, pp. 417–418. 18  Painter Louis-Léopold Boilly resembled one of Balzac’s characters. When he arrived in Paris from the provinces in 1785, he went through the various stages of a painter’s apprenticeship, achieving some fame initially as a portrait artist. He also painted some amorous and erotic scenes and for this reason encountered some trouble during the revolution, when he was reported to the Committee for Public Health for obscenity. He subsequently painted

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Fig. 2.1  Louis Léopold Boilly, L’entrée au Théâtre de l’Ambigu-Comique à une répresentation  gratis, 1819 [Entrance to a free performance at the Ambigu-­ Comique Theatre] oil on canvas, Musée du Louvre

fact that, for both of them, the centre of the scene often featured the public—passers-by, spectators, café patrons—whose centrality in the description of post-revolutionary Paris seemed to represent the most relevant novelty of the period, does not seem coincidental.19 The image refers to the Ambigu Comique theatre, which would later be called the “temple” of melodrama. It was the theatre that impresario Nicolas-Médard Audinot, a very similar figure to the aforementioned Nicolet, had opened in 1769 on

patriotic scenes and finally Parisian life, becoming the keenest illustrator of Paris at the beginning of the century. See S.  L. Siegfried, The Art of Louis-Léopold Boilly: Modern Life in Napoleonic France, Yale University Press, New Haven 1995. 19  In the many paintings he devoted to public spaces in those years, Boilly showed particular interest in what could be called the spectators’ view, choosing the public as his painter’s eye: the visitors to the Louvre, open-mouthed viewers before a Magic Lantern, or the spectators of a melodrama (see the cover image). But very often the street itself, and boulevards in particular, became the entertainment in his pictures. See K. Bowie (ed.), La modernité avant Haussmann. Formes de l’espace urbain à Paris, 1801–1853, Éditions Recherches, Paris 2001.

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Boulevard du Temple, giving it a name—Ambigu—which alluded to the ambiguous and changing definition of the genres that were staged. How had the situation portrayed in that image been reached? Over the eighteenth century, the decline and disappearance of traditional suburban shows, which were held at specific times of the year in some established places, had led to two different outcomes: on the one hand, the development and growing legitimacy of a more accessible form of operatic show, the opera buffa, which had its recognised temple at the Opéra Comique theatre20; on the other hand, the transfer of popular-entertainment activities to the tree-lined promenade located at the North-Eastern boundary of the city that Louis XIV had created by filling in the great ditches of the city walls.21 Gradually, during the second half of the eighteenth century, a new layout of the Parisian theatrical landscape had been produced, which would be modified only much later by Georges-­Eugène Haussmann’s renovations22: on one side, the royal theatres, located along the central section of the right riverbank, with a monopoly on the representation of high genres, both in prose and in music (they were the Théâtre Français, the Académie de Musique and the Comédie italienne, later named Opéra Comique); on the other, the commercial theatres, located on the boulevards.23 Here the shacks and travelling theatres offering the usual fairground and circus shows—acrobats, illusionists, tightrope walkers, pantomimes, puppets, mime artists and jugglers—had rapidly multiplied and, just as quickly, had been turned into large, decorated and spacious buildings. By the last two decades of the century, the appearance of the neighbourhood had radically changed, showing the features of an unprecedented urban 20  On the opéra comique as a genre and on its staging, see the ample reconstruction by O.  Bara, Le Théâtre de l’Opéra Comique sous la Restauration, Georg Holmes Verlag, Hildesheil–Zurich–New York 2001. 21  On the progressive development of boulevards as multi-functional, recreational, commercial and residential spaces, see L.  Turcot, L’emergence d’un espace plurifonctionnel: les boulevards parisiens au XVIIIe siècle, in “Histoire urbaine”, I, 2005, 12, pp. 89–115. 22  Hausmann’s reorganisation led in 1862 to the demolition of the theatre on Boulevard du Temple. The new theatrical landscape at the end of the century has been analysed by C. Naugrette-Christophe, Paris sous le Second Empire. Le Théâtre et la ville. Essai de topographie théâtrale, Librairie théâtrale, Paris 1998. 23  For a complete list of Paris’s small and large theatres, see N.  Wild, Dictionnaire des théâtres parisiens au XIXe siècle, Aux amateurs des livres, Paris 1989. We should not forget that in the period immediately preceding the revolution, a third urban area devoted to theatre and amusements emerged near the Palais Royal.

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leisure and entertainment district that began to come alive in the late afternoon and remained so until well past midnight. Towards the end of the day, a varied crowd of people would flock from nearby Marais, the other districts of the capital or the rural villages of the surrounding countryside,24 attracted by the information about the daily shows circulating on billboards, fliers and specialised pamphlets; in short, the full gamut of tools available in those years for the marketing of entertainment. It would be difficult to hazard quantitative data on these population flows. For the beginning of the century, the figure of 10,000 people per evening has been suggested, but these are impressionistic figures, given that there is no exact information even on the daily attendance at individual theatres.25 Henri Lagrave, who collected a wealth of statistical data on theatre attendance in Paris in the first half of the eighteenth century, has argued that a real turning point occurred in the middle of the century, with a substantial increase in spectators. Until that time, theatres had fought for an extremely limited audience that he has calculated very roughly as between 30,000 and 35,000 individuals attending the Paris theatres between 1715 and 1750.26 The increment was due to the significant demographic increase that occurred in the second half of the eighteenth century, when the Paris population rose from half a million in 1750 to 600–650,000 in 1789, in addition to consolidating the city’s role as an international capital of culture; but these are only the most obvious reasons to explain a phenomenon that is very difficult to gauge with any precision. In the last decades of the eighteenth century, some of the owners of the entertainment acts on the boulevards, former puppeteers such as Nicolet and Audinot,27 or former comedy actors from the provinces such as 24  On the new district and its animation, see M.  Albert, Les théâtres de boulevard (1789–1848), Slatkine reprints, Genève 1978 (I ed. 1902); H. Beaulieu, Les théâtres du boulevard du crime, de Nicolet à Dejazet (1752–1862), H.  Daragon, Paris 1905; M.  Root-­ Bernstein, Boulevard Theater and Revolution in Eighteenth Century Paris, Umi Research Press, Ann Harbor 1984; more recently, B. Brunet, Le théâtre de boulevard, Colin, Paris 2005. 25  This is the figure suggested by M.  Proth, Le boulevard du crime, Impr. de Balitout, Paris 1872. 26  H. Lagrave, Le Théâtre et le public à Paris de 1715 à 1750, C. Klincksieck, Paris 1972, pp. 11 et seq. 27  On these two pioneers of the entertainment industry, see F. W. Hemmings, Theatre and State in France 1760–1905, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1994, pp. 27–32. But also H.  Beaulieu, Les Théâtres du Boulevard du crime, cabinets galants, cabarets, théâtres, cirques, bateleurs: de Nicolet à Déjazet (1752–1862), H. Daragon, Paris 1905, pp. 11–19.

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Philippe Plancher de Valcour,28 had begun to experiment with more structured forms of entertainment, evidently prompted by a growing demand for showmanship. Thus, in order to circumvent the regulatory prohibitions mentioned above, pantomimes had become, with elegant acrobatics even at the lexical level, “dialogued” pantomimes and puppets had been replaced by flesh-and-blood children who performed short dialogues. The impossibility of representing prose or musical texts was thus slowly but irresistibly eroded by the theatre managers themselves, who modified and updated their repertoires through progressive adjustments, evidently supported by the thrust of the market. All this had taken place in the context of a normative system dating back to the sixteenth century, based on the strict control and limitation of theatrical activities by the public authorities.29 Everything happened within the framework of the so-called privilege system, which involved the need for administrative authorisation in order to open and run a theatre: a document which specified both the management conditions and the organisation of programming, and which only a few major theatres possessed.30 It was only these theatres that were allowed to offer the public a cultured, spoken or musical repertoire: so tragedy and comedy for the former, opera and comic opera for the latter. Among other things, this had involved the consolidation of a highly codified system of genres and had allowed the public authorities to control and direct repertoires. Minor theatres were only allowed to stage different genres, based on gestures and music rather than on declaimed or sung texts. In other words, specifically pantomimes or “harlequinades”, with scenes that were not spoken and with historical or fictionalised plots. These genres were thought unable to compete in any way with theatres endowed with the privilege of being able to represent drama and high genres.

28  He was another very interesting figure, founder of the Théâtre des Délassements comiques, solicitor and playwright, author of ten volumes of the Annales du crime et de l’innocence, ou Choix de causes célèbres anciennes et modernes, Lerouge, Paris 1813. 29  On institutional aspects of the French theatrical system, see the analysis by Hemmings, Theatre and State in France cit. 30  On legislation at the beginning of the nineteenth century, see M. Vivien and M. E. Blanc, Traité de la legislation des théâtres ou exposé complète et méthodique des lois et de la jurisprudence, Brissot-Thivars éd., Paris 1830; and the reconstruction carried out after the 1864 liberalisation by a theatre director, H. Holstein, La liberté des théâtres, Librairie des auteurs, Paris 1867.

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Frederic W.  J. Hemmings, who reconstructed the long-term institutional framework of the French theatre system, strongly emphasised how public interference with theatre repertoires had been strong right up to the Revolution. This sort of “tyranny” by the major theatres, as was defined, ended up producing an eternally-open and never-resolved dispute with the smaller theatres, which in turn would not desist from applying pressure on the regulatory framework with constant adjustments and alterations in their repertoires, although they were forbidden from even staging the parodies of the texts staged in the major venues, in addition to being banned from using the individual characters. Whilst, from the point of view of entertainment programming, the traditional mute pantomimes had been largely superseded, in terms of built spaces, we should not imagine that in the 1790s, the Boulevard du Temple was a collection of small, temporary theatres with limited expectations. Some large halls for up to 1500–2000 spectators had already been built, often displaying monumental façades and highly detailed decorations, entrusted to known professionals, with often original or extravagant stucco decorations and furnishings, so as to attract the public’s curiosity. Entertainment was becoming big business and required considerable investments, given that no subsidy or concession was available to these theatres, and in fact, a 1784 law even mandated minor theatres to pay part of their incomes to the Opéra theatre. The oldest of them, the Gaité, after its reconstruction in 1808, could accommodate 1845 people and boasted a backdrop painted by famous painters. The nearby Ambigu Comique had been enlarged in 1786 to hold around 1600 spectators. Its subsequent reconstruction, which followed the fire of 1827, made it large enough for 1900 spectators, with sophisticated decorations and stuccos. A feature of these theatres was the size of the stage, designed to allow the scenes à grand spectacle, full of extras, dancers and “special effects” that were the main key to their success. Alexis Donnet, author in 1821 of Architectonographie des théâtres de Paris, argued that what the two theatres had in common was an important façade and particularly elaborate decorations to seduce the public, but also the very features of their audiences, a class of people “greedy for strong emotions”.31 31  A. Donnet, Architectonographie des théâtres de Paris, ou parallèle historique et critique de ces édifices considérés sous le rapport de l’architecture et de la décoration, De l’Imprimerie de P. Didot l’aîné, Paris 1821. Detailed outlines on these theatres are also in in Wild, Dictionnaire des théâtres parisiens, cit., pp. 32–39 and 165–171.

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These two theatres—the Gaité and the Ambigu—were joined by several other entertainment buildings within a few blocks: the Théâtre des Associés, built in 1774 and renamed Patriotique during the Revolution; the Théâtre des Variétés Amusantes, opened in 1779; the Théâtre des Délassements Comique immediately after that. Alongside them, there was no lack of enticing curiosities, such as the Cabinet des figures de cire, inaugurated in 1787, following the new fashion for this type of show that had also spread to London at the end of the century.32 “The theatres sprang up like mushrooms in this corner of Paris,” Challamel would write in his memoirs, and, if we looked at the succession of buildings, we would agree that it really was so.33 Theatres were gradually joined by cabarets, the first cafés with musical entertainment, roller coasters—artificial slopes on which wooden wagons ran on wheels—which were greatly fashionable in the early Restoration period.34 While theatre shows were the heart and soul of the boulevards, they were not the only form of entertainment provided; indeed, they were immersed in an atmosphere of continuous exhibition. As in ancient village fairs, the boulevards offered street shows, sketch-artists who offered to sketch passers-by, soft-drinks or small-toy sellers, as well as cafés, restaurants and dance halls. The circuit that connected the various theatrical venues gave the district the character of a permanent holiday destination (Fig. 2.2). The construction of a neighbourhood of this type, essentially devoted to entertainment, with the theatres at its core, was a noteworthy event in late-eighteenth-century Europe and should be considered as the joint product of different, but intertwined dynamics. Many elements that are difficult to “weigh up” individually contribute to an explanation for the growing centrality acquired by theatre as a place in French public life. For instance, the constant attention that the authorities themselves paid to the theatre and the existence of a well-established system of public financing; the presence of a commercial sector in constant tension for the acquisition of market shares; and the unfolding of a philosophical debate that, to a large extent, had concerned the theatre. Recent studies have revealed an enormous spread of theatrical production in the second half of the 32  On the origins of the Musée Grevin and the first waxwork museums at the end of the eighteenth century, see V.  Schwartz, Spectacular Realities. Early Mass Culture in Fin-de-­ Siècle Paris, University of California Press, Berkeley 1998, pp. 92 et seq. 33  Challamel, L’ancien boulevard du Temple cit., p. 27. 34  See G.-A. Langlois, «Les charmes de l’égalité». Éléments pour une urbanistique des loisirs publics à Paris de Louis XV à Louis-Philippe, in “Histoire urbaine”, I, 2000, 1, pp. 17–18.

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Fig. 2.2  Adolphe Martial Potémont, Le Boulevard du Temple, 1862, [The Boulevard du Temple, Paris] oil on canvas, Musée Carnavalet, Paris

eighteenth century even in the provinces, where large monumental theatres dominating new squares and new streets were built. This happened in Bordeaux, Marseille, Lille and Nantes, where local and central authorities agreed about considering the theatre as a preferable space to maintain order and control compared to other spaces of social gathering such as clubs and cafés.35 Central to the Parisian case was the complex expansion of the metropolitan area through the early development of its urban transport system. The network of horse-drawn trams, created in the seventeenth century, was quickly consolidated, becoming the object of a rather solid entrepreneurial activity which, in the mid-eighteenth century, already provided a relatively inexpensive and comprehensive urban transport service.36

35  Many recent studies have attempted a reconstruction of theatre life in the French provinces between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in addition to the classical, single volume by M. Fuchs, La vie théâtrale en province au XVIIIe siècle, E. Droz, Paris 1933. See the catalogue by P. Frantz and M. Sajous D’Oria (eds), Le siècle des théâtres: salles et scènes en France 1748–1807, Bibliothéque Historique de la Ville de Paris, Paris 1999; and the recent Triolaire, Le théâtre en province pendant le consulat et l’Empire cit. 36  N. Papayanis, Horse-drawn Cabs and Omnibuses in Paris. The Idea of Circulation and the Business of Urban Transit, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge 1996.

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London, the South and the East End In London, the other great European cultural capital of the time,37 the situation of theatres was not very different from the normative and institutional points of view. Even in England, since the second half of the seventeenth century, a public regulatory system had been imposed, based on the granting of royal licences to some large theatres, the only ones allowed to stage prose or musical texts.38 Thus, a strict control upon the system of genres had been established, representing a form of royal patronage in favour of very few theatres. A rather strict censorship control also weighed upon them, whereas poetry and the novel were unaffected by it. This was an indication of the high risk that was attributed to what could appear on the stage.39 However, there was a clear difference from Paris. The large, licensed theatres (i.e. Drury Lane and Covent Garden initially, Haymarket later and only for the summer period) were officially royal theatres, by virtue of their privileges, but received no public subsidies, which made their ability to attract a large and continuous audience particularly important. Both large theatres, however, so as to respond to a growing demand, were radically restructured during the 1790s, enabling them to accommodate up to 3000 people. Alongside the monopoly of these theatres over the higher genres, a separate group of minor theatres had rapidly grown, called “illegitimate”, because they were not endowed with licences and which were characterised by their extraordinary liveliness and by their increasing ability to attract the public.40 As in Paris, at the heart of this ongoing transformation lay on the one hand a new generation of 37  C. Charle (ed.), Le temps des capitales culturelles, XVIIIe-XXe siècle, Champ Vallon, Paris 2009, has highlighted the decline of Rome, already recognisable, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, only as the capital of ancient knowledge. 38  A first exclusive licence for tragedies and comedies given to two court playwrights in 1662, had been followed in 1737 by Stage Licensing Act, granting royal licences to the Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres; see G. Russell, Theatre, in I. McCalman (ed.), An Oxford Companion to the Romantic Age: British Culture 1776–1832, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1999, p. 224. 39  On the weight of censorship in the development of English theatre in the Georgian era, see, in particular, D.  Worrall, Theatric Revolution. Drama, Censorship and Romantic Subcultures 1773–1832, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2006. 40  The events surrounding the so-called illegitimate theatres have been ably reconstructed by J.  Moody, Illegitimate Theatre in London 1770–1840, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2000.

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entertainment entrepreneurs who displayed considerable boldness in the face of the exclusive power granted to the major theatres over the classical genres41; and, on the other hand, a growing demand for entertainment that was also coming from the provinces, where there was a significant increase in permanent theatres, even quite large ones.42 Throughout the century, the two largest theatres displayed great hostility towards the growth of smaller theatres and periodically addressed bitter public complaints against the increasingly lively activity of the smaller theatres, which they considered illegal. In turn, illegitimate theatres resorted to a wide range of expedients aimed at circumventing the regulatory prohibition and showing great creativity in producing and perfecting new forms of entertainment which challenged the large theatres’ monopoly over traditional genres. In addition to pantomimes, harlequinades, dance and acrobatics, at the centre of their popular-­entertainment activities was the burletta, a hybrid form with recitation and music together, generally containing three acts and six songs reminiscent of traditional melodies, harking back to John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera.43 Compared to Paris, however, the London royal theatres showed considerably greater flexibility in their programming, starting to attract their public with lighter final numbers, the so-called afterpieces, single closing acts that challenged the more conventional repertoire.44 It was against this backdrop, that is to say in a spectacular, lively and ever-­changing landscape, tending towards the contamination of genres and languages ​​and towards the simplified remaking of literary or theatrical texts, that the new melodrama found its place, one of the important novelties to emerge from theatres at the beginning of the century in London as well. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, several similarities appeared to unite the two contexts. First of all, a rapidly changing theatrical landscape, despite 41  Moody mentions the case of John and Jane Scott, owners of the Adelphy (ibid, p. 150), and also mentions the presence of real commercial sponsors of the new theatres. In the 1820s, the London Wine Company for example, invested in Sadler’s Well. 42  In 1803, theatre manager James Winston identified 280 theatres distributed throughout the land even in small centres such Abergavenny in Wales or Worksop in Derbyshire: cited in Russell, Theatre cit., p. 225. 43  P.  Bertinetti, La scena inglese del Settecento e dell’Ottocento fra grandi teatranti e rari drammaturghi, in R. Alonge and G. Davico Bonino (eds), Storia del teatro moderno e contemporaneo, vol. II, Einaudi, Torino 2000, pp. 303–332. 44  J.  Brewer, The Pleasures of Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century, Farrar Starus Giroux, New York 1997.

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the shared regulatory limitations. Even in the case of London, this process has been carefully gauged by a series of texts that have collected data and information on smaller theatres, artists and repertoires, clearly showing to what extent the matter was deemed worthy of attention.45 The increase in the number of theatres became especially dramatic at the beginning of the century. In 1827, contemporary observers spoke of twenty-two theatres running in London, plus at least six or seven in private houses.46 These dynamics of growth were compounded by very similar tensions in the relationships between theatres. The years between the end of the eighteenth century and the abolition of the royal-licence system, finally happening in England following the 1843 Theatre Regulation Act,47 were in fact characterised by a real battle for the control of the theatrical world that caused an overall redefinition of the picture of public entertainment. However, the urban layout of this ongoing transformation had different dynamics compared to the French capital. The expansion in entertainment venues took place more irregularly, following private initiatives rather than public planning.48 Minor theatres thus tended to be distributed in various districts, with consequently different audiences, rather than form a specific urban centre as was the case with the Boulevard du Temple. Things seemed to unfold differently in the mid-eighteenth century, when a set of urban dynamics more closely resembling the Paris ones began to emerge, with the concentration of shows and entertainment activities in the area north of the city where the Sadler’s Well complex, the historic London music and entertainment venue dating back to the end of the seventeenth century was located. The building stood at the centre of an area devoted to leisure that included walks, pleasure gardens and cafés, with potential for development quite similar to the Parisian boulevards. Jugglers, acrobats and trained dogs, as well as dancers and singers 45  See W. C. Oulton, A History of the Theatres of London Containing an Annual Register of New Pieces, Revivals, Pantomimes, from the Year 1795 to 1817 Inclusive, C. Chapple, London 1817; E. W. Brayley, Historical and Descriptive Accounts of the Theatres of London, J. Taylor, London 1826; and especially T. Rede, The Road to the Stage; or, the Performer’s Preceptor, J. Smith, London 1827. 46  It was reported by a theatre manager such as T. Dibdin, The Reminiscences of Thomas Dibdin, 1827, cited in Worrall, The Politics of Romantic Theatricality cit., p. 5. 47  The 1843 law forbade the sale of food and drink in theatres and encouraged the proliferation of café-concerts and music halls; see J.  Davis and V.  Emeljanow, Reflecting the Audience. London Theatregoing, 1840–1880, Iowa University Press, Iowa City 2001. 48  See M. Ogborne, Spaces of Modernity: London’s Geographies 1680-1780, Guilford Press, New York–London 1998, pp. 34–35.

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performed there, while Joseph Grimaldi staged his pantomimes for the London beau monde. It is no coincidence that British travellers who were in Paris compared the Boulevard du Temple precisely to Sadler’s, thanks to the predominance of activities described as “more entertaining than a play”.49 But the Sadler’s was essentially a summer experience, with a seasonal character and linked to the presence of spring waters, while, in the meantime, many permanent theatres were being built along the Thames, in the Southern part, also in view of the still-limited mobility of the population. The twenty or so illegitimate theatres mentioned by Thomas Dibdin in 1827 were thus located in different areas of the city and for a long time attracted an essentially local public. Some smaller theatres had been built in the West of the city, near the royal theatres: the Lyceum (1750), the Adelphi (1806) and the Olympic (1820); but most had opened to the South and East of the Thames, for example, the Ashley and the Surrey (both inaugurated in 1804), and the Coburg (1819), the future home of melodrama. In 1832, a parliamentary inquiry, launched to gauge the health of the theatre system and verify the soundness of the licence system, insisted on the locality of the minor theatres and on the presence of a local audience in their halls.50 Only the improvement in the transport system in the course of the 1830s would make theatres more accessible to the entire London population and favour the creation of urban entertainment centres similar to the Parisian one at the beginning of the century. Finally, it must be said that a somewhat similar process of rapid growth in the number of theatres and increasing competition between court and new private theatres was also recorded in Vienna, another theatre capital, just like Paris and London. In 1776, Emperor Joseph II had issued a decree liberalising theatrical buildings outside the city walls. Thus, where the stages of the travelling companies had been located up until then, the Vorstadttheater, non-subsidised commercial theatres attracting a varied, numerous and growing public were built.51 49  Cited in Hemmings, Theatre and State in France cit., p. 27; on Sadler’s as a summer resort to the North of the city, see also Davis and Emeljanow, Reflecting the audience cit. 50  On the 1832 inquiry on theatres, see M. R. Cocco, Arlecchino, Shakespeare e il marinaio. Teatro popolare e melodramma in Inghilterra (1800–1850), Istituto Universitario Orientale, Naples 1990, pp. 32 and 46. 51  See R.  Svandrlik, Il Burgtheater e i teatri viennesi, in F.  Fiorentino and G.  Sampaolo (eds), Atlante della letteratura tedesca, Quodlibet, Macerata 2009, pp. 216–220; W. E. Yates, Theatre in Vienna. A Critical history, 1776–1995, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1996.

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From Market to Politics and Back In the major European cultural capitals, the first structuring of a commercial theatre sector open to large, constant and varied public flows took place in the second half of the eighteenth century, within the tight, but obviously not too restrictive limitations of theatrical systems based on royal control, and in constant tension with it. This process strongly accelerated at the end of the century, when the revolutionary juncture caused an important legislative turn in France and a growing demand for theatre and spectacle in England. The legislative turning point was represented by the Le Chapelier law which, in 1791, sanctioned the liberalisation of the theatre system, the abolition of privileges and the opening of a framework of free competition between the official theatres and the boulevard ones. Some dramatists, both new and old generations (Marie-Joseph Chénier and Philippe Fabre d’Églantine on the one hand, Pierre-Augustin de Beaumarchais, Michel-Jean Sedaine and Louis-Sébastien Mercier on the other), had exerted strong pressure in this direction, even before the Revolution. According to Frederic W.  J. Hemmings, however, the boulevard entrepreneurs had been more sceptical towards liberalisation, fearful that the legislative novelty could lead to the opening of further competition fronts.52 The new law, in fact, gave enormous scope for action to those wishing to invest in entertainment and amusement, authorising “every citizen to build a public theatre and to stage plays of all kinds”. For the first time, the French theatre system was opening up to the free working of the market, thus following a principle already greatly discussed by the philosophes: the greatest possible number of citizens had to be allowed to take advantage of the civil and didactic (much more than entertainment) potentials of the theatre. During the debates of the Enlightenment, in fact, theatre had taken on the role of the most effective school for the masses, a school of truth and public virtue which the public authorities had to undertake to encourage and spread through all social classes. The new regime of freedom immediately caused a proliferation of theatres, both in Paris and in the provinces, an influx of new audiences and a powerful entry of politics onto the scene. Consistent with the premises, theatre was indeed strongly swept by the revolutionary tide and can be

 Hemmings, Theatre and State in France cit., pp. 55 et seq.

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considered one of the key places in the culture of the Revolution.53 Although a great deal has been written on the subject, a close analysis of the outcomes of theatrical freedom, in terms of changes to the urban theatrical landscape and to the operating conditions of entertainment activities, much remains to be done and the data would appear quite controversial.54 There is no doubt that there was an increase in the number of theatres, but their volatility was equally marked, which makes it difficult to assess the overall outcomes of the new law. Among contemporary commentators, the aforementioned Alexis Donnet spoke of thirty new theatres built in the capital immediately after the enactment of the law, and of many more in the provinces, even in small towns. Hippolyte Holstein even spoke of fifty-one new buildings erected in Paris between 1791 and 1795.55 Moreover, the comments relating to this sort of theatrical “frenzy” are generally significant, pointing to a mad rush by everyone to get involved in theatre-making. “If such a frenzy were to continue—a contemporary author wrote—we would soon have a theatre on every street, an author in every house, a musician in every cellar and an actor in every attic”.56 Susan Maslan has spoken of at least a thousand new plays produced and staged in the revolutionary decade alone and of an average of twenty-five different shows every night.57 What is certain is that the revolutionary political situation ended up accelerating a process of commercialisation of entertainment and amusement which was certainly not one of its objectives. It also quickly created two types of problems, intertwined with each other despite being 53  Literature on theatre and revolution is too extensive and varied to be significantly summarised here. On the profound transformation between staging and politics in 1793–97, see the writings by P. Friedland, Political Actors. Representative Bodies and Theatricality in the Age of the French Revolution, Cornell University Press, Ithaca 2002; M. H. Huet, Rehearsing the Revolution. The Staging of Marat’s Death 1793–97, University of California Press, Berkeley 1982; J.  Johnson, Revolutionary Audiences and the Impossible Fraternity, in B. T. Ragan and E. A.Williams (eds), Recreating Authority in Revolutionary France, Rutgers University Press, Chapel Hill 1992, pp. 57–78. 54  For an accurate list of shows produced during the revolution, see the two volumes by A. Tissier, Les spéctacles à Paris pendant la révolution. Répertoire analytique, chronologique et bibliographique, Droz, Paris 1992 and 2002. 55  Donnet, Architectonographie des théâtres de Paris, cit.; Holstein, La liberté des théâtres, cit. 56  Cited in A.  Pougin, Acteurs et actrices d’autrefois. Histoire anecdotique des théâtres de Paris, Juven, Paris 1896, p. 81. 57  S. Maslan, Revolutionary Acts. Theater, Democracy and the French Revolution, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 2005, pp. 14 et seq.

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profoundly different: the need of censorship control over texts, which were not always in line with the dominant revolutionary orientations, and the need to limit the excessive and disordered proliferation of shows. The growth in the number of theatres, the development of increasingly chaotic programming and the lack of revolutionary control over productions described as dangerous and demoralising prompted even the dramatists who had most pressed for the approval of the law to request its revision. As far back as 1797, Marie-Joseph Chénier, one of the authors who had most endeavoured to get the law passed, urged the public authorities to intervene by reducing the number of theatres to a figure proportional to the size of the population.58 The entertainment industry showed a sort of structural reluctance to being controlled, noticeable both in the revolutionary period and in the following decades, when the attempts to curb its activities continued to be wilfully inadequate.59 But how much of the revolution did ultimately reach the boulevards? The rituals of politics apparently used them very little, except for some civilian demonstrations during 1793.60 The great patriotic festivals and civic shows that required spaces to be less commercial and more laden with history did not take place there. The theatres of the Boulevard du Temple, however, staged the “immediate history” plays that were supposed to lead spectators directly to the heart of recent national events. The storming of the Bastille was, for example, the subject of no fewer than fifteen different texts in the years immediately following the event. As Philippe Bourdin has recently pointed out, a decree from 1793 had even encouraged authors to turn everyday life and patriotic rituals, as they were lived in those days, into stage fiction as much as possible.61 This was supposed to facilitate a sort of overlap— detected by many observers—between the street and the stage. The abolition of privileges also meant that the genres that had been completely  Hemmings, Theatre and State, cit., p. 114.  See J. C. Yon, Les théâtres parisiens à l’ère du privilège (1807–1864): l’impossible contrôle, in J. Y. Mollier, P. Régnier, A. Vaillant (eds), La production de l’immatériel. Théories, représentations et pratiques de la culture au XIXe siècle, Publications de l’Université de Saint-­Etienne, Saint-Etienne 2008, pp. 61–73. 60  E. Fureix, Tours de ville frondeurs: les boulevards, la mort et la contestation (1815–1848), in Goffette (ed.), Les Grands Boulevards cit., pp. 7–18; Root-Bernstein, Boulevard Theatre and Revolution cit. 61  P.  Bourdin, La voix et le geste révolutionnaire dans le théâtre patriotique 1789–99, in P. Bourdin, M. Bernard, J.-C. Caron (eds), La voix et le geste. Une approche socio-culturelle de la violence socio-politique, Presses Universitaires Blaise Pascal, Clermont Ferrand 2005, pp. 305–320. 58

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forbidden to them up until then—tragedy, comedy and drama—finally arrived on the boulevards. In addition to pantomimes inspired by the Maid of Orléans or other episodes of national mythology, the Ambigu, the Gaité and the other theatres were filled with patriotic playwriting which developed in many forms.62 Even in London, the last few years of the eighteenth century were marked by a noticeable livening up of the theatre market and, at the same time, by its intense politicisation. The French Revolution provided all theatres, legitimate and otherwise, with a real collection of political narratives, often focused on war tropes, while the war itself seemed to give rise to a specific demand for entertainment.63 In the early 1790s, theatre scripts were thus imbued with political themes, both pro- and anti-Jacobin, sometimes with curious and unexpected shifts between the two fronts.64 At a time when every dimension of life appeared to be affected by the political past, theatre as a public space was particularly prone to becoming an arena for confrontation. So the anti-French propaganda plays proliferated and, at the same time, a decisive attempt was made to bring theatres over to the radical cause. The involvement of theatres in the political battle also emerged from indirect, yet significant clues. A new and particularly inventive form of radical propaganda was based, for example, on the satire of theatre advertising, announcing fake shows with allusive titles and a strong satirical impact, such as The guillotine, or George’s head in the basket.65 However, in the wake of similar parodies, there was also a growing fear of revolutionary contamination and of the role that the theatrical space might play in it, while obsessive attention to the morality of public entertainment began to seep through the public debate. In 1795, a law finally tried to halt this process of politicisation by increasing control over public spaces and entertainment sites.66  Well shown by Maslan, Revolutionary Acts cit.  The explosion of theatres in the provinces in the Napoleonic age was also connected, according to G.  Russell, (Theatres of War. Performances, Politics and Society 1793–1815, Oxford University Press, New York 1995), to the frequent attendance by soldiers and sailors. 64  Anti-Jacobin texts might also be twisted and used in radical campaigns; see the cases outlined in J. Barrell, «An Entire Change of Performances». The Politicisation of Theatre and the Theatricalisation of Politics in the Mid 1790s, in “Lumen”, XVII, 1998, pp. 11–49. See also G. Taylor, The French Revolution and the London Stage 1789–1805, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2000. 65  Further interesting examples are outlined in Barrell, «An entire change of performance» cit., pp. 18 et seq. 66  Ibid., p. 28. 62 63

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An even more decisive curbing of the full freedom of initiative in theatre matters occurred in France during the Napoleonic era, when a series of decrees issued in 1806 and 1807 again limited the free functioning of the system, restoring public control over the theatre market and the genres themselves. The theatres of the capital, as established by the new legislation, could be no more than eight, four of which were major ones, subsidised and devoted to the high genres (the Théâtre Français, the Opéra, the Opéra Comique and the Théâtre de l’Impératrice) and four smaller ones located on the boulevards and devoted to the many genres and sub-genres that in the meantime had become increasingly better-defined. The minor genres that boulevard theatres were to cover were therefore the pantomime, the most ancient and traditional genre, involving mime; the vaudeville, which was initially a one-act sketch, with a song; the féerie, a fantastic and highly spectacular show; and finally the mélodrame—a new, highly spectacular and emotional hybrid genre made of music, gestures and words, with continuous plot twists. It had gradually taken shape over those years, on the one hand obtaining extraordinary success and on the other attracting most criticism against the moral degeneration caused by commercial shows. The programming of the Ambigu and Gaité theatres would be devoted in particular to the melodrama.67 Faced with the new legislation and the drastic reduction in the number of theatres it involved, many Parisian theatres were forced to close; however, the growth in terms of audience, and of the boulevards district itself does not appear to have halted, but rather sizeably increased during the Restoration. Along with new privileges, new levels of tolerance also grew stronger, in some cases representing real exceptions to the norm.68 Even after the strongly limiting 1807 decree, the audience—which all observers agreed was growing and varied—essentially continued to walk along the promenade between the Bastille and Montmartre and find entertainment of all kinds, from military parades to melodramas. The renewed strict limitations on theatrical activity imposed at the turn of the century both in England and in France did not, therefore, seem to halt the ongoing process: between the Napoleonic age and the Restoration, on both sides of the Channel, there was a proliferation of theatres and 67  The reconstructed programmes of these theatres are on http://www.cesar.org.uk/ cesar2/home.php. 68  See J.  C. Yon, Une histoire du théâtre à Paris de la Révolution à la Grande Guerre, Aubier, Paris 2012, pp. 53 et seq.

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shows that tended to challenge prohibitions and apply pressure on the regulatory framework. Did this also mean new audiences? Rebuilding a precise picture of the demand for entertainment and of its transformations remains an aspiration for scholars researching early-nineteenth century theatrical activity. The paucity of the available sources and, above all, testimonies of which it is very difficult to test the reliability, makes any attempt at analysis in that direction very difficult. We can more easily get an idea of ​​the changes taking place in terms of supply by considering, for example, the increase in theatre seats available every evening. In 1789, as calculated by Martine de Rougemont, between 12,500 and 13,000 seats were available in Paris theatres. Despite the fact that, in the Napoleonic age, several of the theatres that had been active in the previous decade were forced to close, the twelve major and minor theatres which were open in 1820 offered greater availability, equal to approximately 18,000 seats.69 By the middle of the century, they amounted to 24,000 and the Boulevard du Temple was still playing an important role. The increase in the number of dramatic productions was greater: according to research based on newspaper announcements, 3018 different shows were staged in Paris over the first fifteen years of the century. In the following fifteen years, between 1816 and 1830, the figure more than doubled, reaching 6099 individual shows, equal to an obviously much greater number of performances.70 While theatrical activity intensified significantly, entry prices remained extremely varied, with significant differences even within the same theatre. Olivier Bara has attempted a sort of snapshot of the year 1822, which includes all the theatres in operation, and shows how the range of prices was very wide in all theatres. The licensed theatres themselves, particularly the Opéra Comique, which was not exclusively aimed at an élite audience, had rather low minimum prices, similar to—and in some cases even lower—than the minimum prices of the boulevard theatres.71 Such internal diversification allowed people with very different spending abilities to access the theatre and favoured a mixed attendance. The picture of theatre attendance in the early nineteenth 69  For the first figure, see de Rougemont, La vie théâtrale en France au XVIIIe siècle cit.; the second has been calculated by Bara, Le Théâtre de l’Opéra Comique, cit., p. 193, on the basis of the Dictionnaire des Théâtres parisiens by N. Wild. 70  C. Beaumont Wicks, The Parisian stage, 2 vol., University of Alabama Press, Alabama 1950. According to McCormick (Popular Theatres of Nineteenth-Century France cit.) at the beginning of the century, there was a real explosion of theatrical activity. 71  Bara, Le Théâtre de l’Opéra Comique cit., p. 194.

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century appears essentially to confirm what the studies on Restoration society tend to emphasise; that is to say, the presence within it of a mélange of mobility and unavailability that is complex and difficult to disentangle. Only from the 1830s did Paris witness a more diversified price-structure, articulating the theatre landscape in distinct and well-separated target groups. During the Restoration, growth of the theatre system also took place in London. Here, however, studies tend to detect a greater degree of differentiation in terms of activities and audiences. The already more recognisable presence of a “plebeian” public sphere, independent of the bourgeois one, was reflected at the entertainment level. In theatres located in the urban areas inhabited by the working classes, the production of melodramas aiming at a very different audience from the that of the large, licensed theatres of the West End found in fact a growing space.72 In this context of particularly effervescent theatrical life, of increased availability of spaces, texts and audiences, but also of a greater role by the theatre as a key place for collective entertainment, the mélodrame, a genre which is in many ways the most significant product of a new entertainment “industry” that was taking its first uncertain steps, was born in France and rapidly spread throughout Europe.

Republican Milan and the Idea of the Citizen-Spectator Most of the mass of Men cannot read, and there are few who can understand what they read, so a wise Legislator has to find other means to creep into the heart of the People, and instruct them. There is no more extensive, easier, more delightful way to succeed than that presented by National Theatres. Theatre is the main school of the masses. (Giuseppe Lattanzi, 1799)73

In February 1797, a sizeable crowd of noisy spectators teemed in front of the Teatro alla  Scala waiting to enter the theatre. “At three in the afternoon, as we said, the Piazza della Scala was so crowded with people that it presented all the dangers of an overflowing and impetuous river, 72  D. Worrall, Artisan Melodrama and the Plebeian Public Sphere: The Political Culture of Drury Lane and Its Environs, 1797–1830, in “Studies in Romanticism”, XXXIX, 2000, 2, pp. 213–227. 73  Sulla necessità di riformare i teatri. Progetto legislativo, Puccinelli, Rome 1799, p. 5.

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which cannot find its outlet and which, until a way out is opened up to it, cannot fail to leave some traces and some victims of its surge”.74 In his monumental saga about Milan between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Giuseppe Rovani recalled with these words the day when the great city theatre staged a pantomime that would cause considerable uproar, Il General Colli in Roma by Francesco Salfi, also known as the Ballo del Papa, the Pope’s Ball, a very significant expression in the so-called Jacobin theatre. It apparently was a colourful and multi-faceted crowd, quite different from the one that normally attended the great city theatre, attracted by the opportunity to gain access to an exclusive space, but also to attend an uncommon event to say the least, since it staged a pope who in the finale was brought over to the revolutionary cause and wore the Phrygian cap.75 Over 6000 booklets of the Salfi text had allegedly been circulated in the city to prepare for the event. It was a pantomime à grande spectacle similar to those that could be seen on the Boulevard du Temple: a show with a very short text but strong visual impact, guaranteed by the acclaimed ability of scenographer Paolo Landriani, responsible for the scenes and costumes. On stage stood a very diverse papal court made up of cardinals, theologians, monks, pages and eunuchs, Roman ladies and Swiss guards, all discussing the possible peace with France. After listening to the treacherous and flattering advice of the courtiers and of General Colli, pushing for open war, the pope decided instead to rely on the opinion of the only positive character on the stage, the Dominican Superior General, who was urging him to renounce worldly pomp and wear the liberty cap instead, recognising the French Republic and the inalienable rights of the people.76 In Italy as well, shows like this inaugurated an unprecedented politicisation of the stage that would characterise the short Republican period, marking the strong presence of current affairs in theatres, and are the most striking image of a militant theatre aimed at an audience of citizen-spectators. So how much of the discourse and practices around the theatre as a school of the masses had circulated in eighteenth-century Italy? The world  G. Rovani, Cento anni, Stabilimento Redaelli, Milan 1868, vol. II, p. 20.  P. Bosisio, Tra ribellione e utopia. L’esperienza teatrale nell’Italia delle Repubbliche napoleoniche (1796–1805), Bulzoni, Rome 1990, pp. 389 et seq. 76  Il General Colli in Roma, pantomimo eseguito dal cittadino Le Fèvre in Milano, pubblicato in appendice a V. Monaco, La Repubblica del teatro (momenti italiani 1796–1860), Le Monnier, Florence 1968, pp. 181–190. 74 75

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of Italian culture had actively and significantly participated in the debate on the civil role of theatre which, in the second half of the eighteenth century, had had a markedly European dimension. Musical theatre had initially featured at the heart of the interest of Italian intellectuals, as the Italian genre par excellence, but also the one which seemed most in need of a profound reform. Some very well-known works, widely read in Enlightenment circles throughout Europe, had been written about it, such as Francesco Algarotti’s and Francesco Milizia’s, aimed at making music more an auxiliary element than the successor of poetry.77 But, in the last decades of the eighteenth century, the idea of a​​ new political foundation of dramatic literature above all had found considerable space in Enlightenment circles and in articles of the “Il Caffè”, where the main point of reference remained Vittorio Alfieri’s anti-tyrannical tragedies, especially the texts of Brutus and of Virginia, which in the last years of the century had notable circulation and many imitators. While, in general, theoretical writings were therefore in step with European thought, this, on the whole, could not be said of theatrical life. In those years, Alfieri himself had expressed his profound pessimism about the state of theatrical art in Italy, in a series of writings which include passages like this: one of the many miseries of our country of Italy […] is also having no theatre. It is fatal that, in order for it to be born, a prince is needed. This very cause has at its root a necessary impediment to the true progress of this sublime art. I firmly believe that men must learn in the theatre to be free, strong, generous, transported by true virtue, intolerant of any violence, lovers of their homeland, truly aware of their rights and in all their passions ardent, upright and magnanimous […] a theatre grown in the shadows of any prince can never be like this.78

Beyond the republican and anti-tyrannical rhetoric, what is striking in Alfieri’s reasoning is the awareness of the fact that this situation was attributed to the general inadequacy of all the different elements that made up the theatrical world, none excluded, not least the public. In another piece of writing around this time, he had clarified his thought, 77  On the profoundly anti-musical tradition in Italian culture, see E. Fubini, Musica e cultura nel Settecento europeo, Edt, Turin 1986, pp. 209 et seq. 78  V. Alfieri, Risposta dell’autore alla lettera di Ranieri dè Calzabigi, in Id., Tragedie, edited by P. Cazzani, Mondadori, Milan 1966, pp. 972 et seq.

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arguing that “to give birth to the theatre in Italy”—and he obviously meant theatre in prose—”there would first need to be tragic and comic authors, then actors, then spectators”.79 A true reform of the Italian theatrical system could only take place with a profound reconfiguration of all the social actors involved. In those years, a very similar critical tone on the lack, in Italy, of theatrical civilisation in step with the times, together with a strong attention to what was being done at the European level, was also found in the writings by brothers Pietro and Alessandro Verri, especially on the pages of the periodical “Il Caffè”. Interventions and discussions on the theatrical issues most widely debated at the time were often published there, from the innovations brought to musical opera by Gluck’s reform, to those suggested for comedy by Beaumarchais, who was very critical of the Italian situation. Even theatre and the conditions of its production essentially came to be part of a widespread discourse on the political, cultural and moral decadence of the Italian peninsula to which we shall return in the next chapters. With the arrival of the French in 1796, however, the theatre question emerged from the dimension of intellectual debate to acquire a real centrality in the political debate as well. The reflections of the previous decades began to find evidence both in the repertoires and in theatre policy. In a context of unprecedented acceleration in the construction of new public and political spheres, theatre as a place was, in Italy as in all of Europe, a crucial element.80 While the translations of French texts proliferated on the stage and a playwriting philosophy inspired by Marie-­ Joseph Chénier, the bard of the ideal republic, through dramas supposed to inspire “hatred of fanaticism, despotism and aristocracy”81 prevailed, in fact, in the assemblies of the Italian republics, discussions and projects devoted to a reform of the theatrical system inspired by the idea of ​​the stage as a school of republican civil virtue, where citizens-spectators could find education and entertainment together, became increasingly numerous. Francesco Saverio Salfi, who was becoming established as the most active Italian theorist on Jacobin theatre, had proposed as far back as  Id., Parere sull’arte comica in Italia, ivi, p. 1095.  See about this the item Giacobino, Teatro di R. De Felice, in Enciclopedia dello spettacolo, vol. 5, Le Maschere, Rome 1958, pp. 1203–1207; on the links between this experience and later republicanism, see the analysis by Monaco, La repubblica del teatro, cit. 81  On Chénier’s role, see R. Tessari, Dai lumi della Ragione ai roghi della rivoluzione francese, in Storia del teatro moderno e contemporaneo, vol. II, Einaudi, Turin 2000, pp. 286–290. 79 80

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1796 in the new Milan periodical “Il termometro politico” (The Political Thermometer) an articulated plan of reforms which would later find wide consent in the activities of a Commission on theatres created in December 1797.82 The strength of his work was the conviction—already expressed by many members of the Lombardy Enlightenment—that theatre should be considered as “the best of schools for the people”,83 because it was the only one capable of “making public education a matter of pleasure for the people”.84 On the front of theatrical reform, the Cisalpine Republic played the role of pacemaker in Italy, but within a few years, initiatives spread to many other areas, disseminating new practices and new ideas on the organisation of and attendance at theatrical events which focused both on the management and control of theatres and on widening its audiences.85 These were years when similar programmes to reform theatres, spaces and repertoires were discussed in Rome by Giuseppe Lattanzi, or in Venice by the great poet Ugo Foscolo, who in 1797 wrote a Manifesto per l’istituzione di un Teatro civico (Manifesto for the Establishment of a Civic Theatre).86 Meanwhile, a true reorganisation of theatres inspired by the new proposals—the abolition of luxury in interior decors or the exclusive representation of texts aimed at educating according to the principles of freedom and equality—was implemented in Brescia by the provisional government on the recommendation of Salfi himself.87 The common thread in those projects was the idea of a​​ National theatre that had found its clearest formulations in the German world thanks first

82  On Salfi’s progress, see V. Ferrari, Civilisation, laicité, liberté: Francesco Saverio Salfi fra Illuminismo e Risorgimento, Franco Angeli, Milan 2009. 83  G.  Boccalosi, Dell’educazione democratica da darsi al popolo italiano, Pogliani, Milan 1796, p. 238. 84  C.  Montalcini, A.  Alberti (eds), Le Assemblee della Repubblica Cisalpina, Zanichelli, Bologna 1917, vol. V, p. 848. 85  For an overall picture, see Bosisio, Tra ribellione e utopia, cit.; on the Venetian case, see C. De Michelis, Il Teatro patriottico, Marsilio, Padua 1966; on the Roman case, see L. Mariti, La pubblica utilità del teatro. Dall’idea illuminista alla realtà della Repubblica romana, in Il teatro e la festa. Lo spettacolo a Roma tra papato e rivoluzione, Artemide, Rome 1989, pp. 14–22. 86  On Foscolo and Jacobin theatre, see C.  De Michelis, Letterati e lettori nel Settecento veneziano, Olschki, Florence 1979, pp. 225 et seq. 87  V. Frati et al., Il Teatro Grande di Brescia. Spazio urbano, forme, istituzioni nella storia di un’istituzione culturale, Grafo, Brescia 1985.

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and foremost to Lessing and Schiller,88 that is to say a theatre promoted, managed and controlled by public power and open to as wide an audience as possible. This idea, which had spread throughout much of Europe half-­ way through the century, saw in those years the first attempts to implement it in Italy as well, that is to say in a production system dominated—more than in other national cases—by the free circulation of impresarios and troupes. The Republican projects also included important measures for the liberalisation of theatrical activity: for example, the suppression in Venice of the traditional calendar that allowed the opening of theatres only at specific times of the year; or in Rome, women’s access to the female roles until then given to the castrati. But—unlike what initially happened in France—the most direct polemical objective of these projects was precisely the free market: the proposals were to take the administration of theatres “out of the mercenary hands of impresarios”, as Salfi wrote, suggesting that all ongoing contracts in the major Milanese theatres be terminated. The dominant idea was that only public control over management and repertoires would allow a theatrical life free from the source of “traffics and obscenities” represented by the impresario circuit and devoted to the education of an increasingly large audience. In addition to paying attention to decency, morality, the republican political character of repertoires, costumes and stage designs, a theatre controlled by public power should obviously be reasonably priced and include regular free evenings. All the theorists of the time, from Salfi to Ranza to Lattanzi, strongly argued in their writings that theatres should regularly offer free shows throughout the year, and distribute tickets in several city districts so as to reach a public that was normally completely absent from theatres. In the Cisalpine republic and elsewhere, no precise legal provisions were recorded on this matter, but some initiatives were taken by individual municipalities or clauses inserted in their contracts with private individuals. On the whole, the application of this directive appears to have been extemporaneous and often linked to revolutionary celebrations rather than to actual shows. It is true, however, that Alfieri’s Brutus, one of the favourite texts of the time, was performed for free at La Scala in 1796, recording a huge turnout of people; and again, in 1803, the great theatre put on a free evening with drama and dance. While free-show policies had to face insurmountable economic obstacles, what legislators primarily ended up 88  L.  Zenobi, Nationaltheater, in Fiorentino, Sampaolo (eds), Atlante della letteratura tedesca, cit., pp. 523–532.

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promoting was a control of prices that would allow for broader access by the population. Thus, the project to reform Brescia’s Teatro Grande stated that “the ticket must be the least onerous possible so that every class of citizens is able to attend”.89 The theatrical reform promoted in those years finally had—at least in Lombardy—an important territorial impact, in the sense that it materialised into an unprecedented incentive to establish theatres also outside the larger cities. It was a real novelty, also aimed at widening the potential audience. Paolo Bosisio has noted that even in 1788, the Austrian government had been very critical about the possibility of moving theatres out of the major cities to rural areas. “The proliferation of country theatres in Lombardy”, the ruling from Vienna stated, “does not seem appropriate, because it contributes to bringing the corruption of customs, to encouraging idleness and to making the inhabitants inclined to a kind of entertainment little suited to their circumstances”. A little over ten years later, the Cisalpine Theatre Commission, after promoting an interesting census of theatres in the area, had approved a completely opposite ruling, confirming that “the executive power is charged with ensuring that every Departmental capital city and every other municipality with at least eight thousand inhabitants within its walls, has a state-owned theatre”, even if managed by the local administrations.90 It was the start of a new strategy to distribute theatres throughout the territory, which would continue with determination in the Napoleonic era and then during the Restoration.91 The idea of ​​theatre as a school for the masses also reverberated in amateur practice, which developed strongly in those years, with the establishment of groups or theatres calling themselves “patriotic theatres”. Here the idea of ​​the “citizen actor”, related to Rousseau’s reflections, also emerged. In Saggio d’istruzione pubblica rivoluzionaria (Essay on Revolutionary Public Instruction) published by Matteo Galdi in 1798, a specific paragraph was devoted to amateur groups, which were referred to as key instruments of republican education, together with patriotic secondary schools, constitutional circles, revolutionary catechisms. They  Bosisio, Tra ribellione e utopia, cit., pp. 162 et seq.  Montalcini, Alberti (eds), Le Assemblee della Repubblica Cisalpina, cit., p. 849. 91  On the extraordinary proliferation of theatre spaces during the first half of the century, see C.  Sorba, Teatri. L’Italia del melodramma nell’età del Risorgimento, Il Mulino, Bologna 2001. 89 90

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needed to be set up in every town, large and small, Galdi wrote, and should stage daily shows inspired by revolutionary principles. French comedies and tragedies should be translated, and the wide participation of women promoted.92 Thus, the translations of historical-political tragedies by Chénier and many other French playwrights also arrived with the French, and tragedies inspired by Alfieri, such as Salfi’s Virginia Bresciana or Giovanni Pindemonte’s Orso Ipato, presenting updated versions of classical plots with democracy and tyranny in opposition began to circulate. But the great fashion of gestural or danced pantomime shows and farces also developed in the republican triennium, often with patriotic canovacci not far from those shown on the Boulevard du Temple and aimed at largely uneducated audiences. One of the best-known, especially in view of the sensation it had caused, was Francesco Salfi’s Il General Colli in Roma, mentioned at the beginning of this section. Shows like this inaugurated with undoubted sensation the politicisation of the stage that would characterise the Republican age, proposing to speak to a wider audience than in the past.93 During the French period, particularly in the Lombardy-Veneto region, but more gradually also in other parts of the peninsula, a powerful drive towards renewal was therefore established in the theatrical world. While the experience of patriotic republican theatre was ultimately a flash in the pan, it still left behind a legacy that should not be underestimated, especially when we consider not so much the political aspects, which would soon be marginalised, but the spin-offs it generated in the theatre market. Not unlike what had happened in France and in England, revolutionary theatre was indeed an important opportunity to increase the number of theatres and audiences, providing a decisive impulse to the consolidation of the presence of theatre in the life of urban communities which would become more fully established in the following decades. The politicisation of the stage and the intensification of theatrical life were therefore paired only for a brief moment: then the former abruptly stopped in the Napoleonic age, while the latter continued even during the 92  M.  Galdi, Saggio d’istruzione pubblica rivoluzionaria, nella Stamperia dei Patriotti d’Italia in Strada nuova, Milano anno VI, 1798. 93  On the great fashion of repertoire of farce “all’uso moderno” in the years straddling two centuries, as effective expression of contemporary French theatre, see D.  Bryant (ed.), I vicini di Mozart, II. La farsa musicale veneziana (1750–1810), Olschki, Florence 1989; and also L. Bottoni, Il teatro, il pantomimo e la rivoluzione, Olschki, Florence 1990.

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Restoration, although prompted by different motivations and cultural directions. On the one hand, there was the consistent increase in the construction of new theatres; on the other hand, the appearance in those years of important publishing initiatives devoted to the theatre that testified as to the close attention paid to stage activities as a source of education and entertainment. As regards building projects, a peculiarity at this time was the fact that in various Italian cities some private investors, and not only the municipal authorities, were interested in the construction of new theatres. The liveliness in the urban land market caused by the re-purposing of land confiscated from the religious orders, but also the new demand for amusements and entertainment, which many explicitly referred to, are likely to have prompted them to act as such. Most of those which even later remained the major Italian private theatres (at least until the second period of increased commercial constructions that took place in the post-­ unification years) were built at the beginning of the century. If we take the example of Milan, we are faced with an almost frenetic building activity reminiscent of what was happening in the European capitals mentioned at the beginning of our journey. In 1803, the Teatro Carcano opened, followed in 1811 by the inauguration of the Arena. Also in 1803, on the site of the former monastery of Santa Radegonda, the theatre of the same name opened its doors. In 1805, the monastery of Lentasio was turned into a theatre and in 1813, impresario Carlo Re inaugurated the theatre of the same name in the former church of San Salvatore in Xenodochio. Finally, in 1815, famous architect Luigi Canonica renovated the former Oratory of Bellarmino which became the Teatro Fiando. In Bologna, meanwhile, building activity was almost as intense: between 1805 and 1814, the Teatro del Corso, the Arena del Sole and the Teatro Contavalli were inaugurated. In all these cases, they were considerably sized theatres, designed to suit popular and commercial entertainment forms. In the meantime, building projects on the initiative of private investors started in many cities: in Trieste in 1798, in Piacenza in 1802 and in Livorno in 1803.94 These initiatives did not always have an easy ride within the still-­ limited market conditions. The difficulty in running these businesses is confirmed by building and management solutions where public 94  See C.  Sorba, Espaces urbains et constructions théâtrales dans l’Italie romantique, in H. E. Bodeker, P. Veit and M. Werner (eds), Espaces et lieux de concert en Europe 1700–1920. Architecture, musique, société, Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, Berlin 2008, pp. 101–122.

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management often replaced private, to cope with difficult economic situations. We are certainly not talking about the development of anything comparable to the Boulevard du Temple, the urban area expressly devoted to entertainment unique throughout Europe and linked to the burgeoning identity of Paris as a metropolitan city. However, in the Republican and then Napoleonic ages, even in Italy, entertainment activities experienced a remarkable development, also thanks to the strong influence of a new generation of entertainment impresarios, such as Domenico Barbaja in the field of opera. The second indicator linked to the liveliness of theatrical activity concerns—as already mentioned—the publishing of theatrical works, which increased both in terms of periodical publications and of real collections of works, following the practice of “serial” publishing that began to impose itself with the most forward-looking publishers. Printing for the theatre was already an important activity for Venetian and Neapolitan printing workshops, but at the end of the century it became much larger, both in terms of periodicals and of series devoted to the stage.95 The case of the Teatro moderno applaudito, a series of texts published in Venice between 1796 and 1806 by publisher Antonio Rosa, is significant in our discussion.96 This was the monthly publication in volume form of a large number of Italian and foreign works, featuring more than a hundred texts of many different genres. These included Italian and French tragedies, German and Spanish dramas, comedies and “fictional actions”, as well as a large number of farces and “spectacular stage actions” (as Pixérécourt’s melodramas, given ample space in the series, were also called) by Italian and French authors. Many significant references to the particular liveliness of the theatrical world and to the teeming of companies and actors, especially in important locations such as Milan and Venice, also emerge from the stories of contemporaries, both the most critical towards the moral disorder that 95  See M. Roggero, Le carte piene di sogni. Testi e lettori in età moderna, Il Mulino, Bologna 2006, pp. 227 et seq. 96  An extensive review of this collection is in “Nuovo giornale dei letterati”, tomo IX, Pisa 1804. It was not the first such experience, but certainly the widest and most articulated in terms of foreign texts. It followed from a previous example published in Verona between 1723 and 1725 and also Opere varie trasportate dal Franzese e recitate in Bologna published by a group of authors from Bologna between 1740 and 1750; on the topic, see M. G. Accorsi, Le raccolte teatrali tra scena e lettura, in Gli spazi del libro nell’Europa del XVIII secolo, edited by M. G. Tavoni and F. Waquet, Patron, Bologna 1997, pp. 217–242.

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theatricals brought with them, and those more inclined to grasp the opportunities and novelties that come with them. The most typical example of the former was Milanese parish priest Luigi Mantovani, who, in his worried diary from the Jacobin years, portrayed a city where the public theatres that used buildings expropriated from convents proliferated and theatrical troupes arrived from every corner of the land, bringing with them licentiousness and immorality.97 Angelo Dalmistro, editor of “Teatro moderno applaudito”, to whom Venice appeared to be literally invaded by theatre companies of dubious professionalism, expressed a different, but equally critical attitude. The recent liberalisation of theatre programmes had involved, he wrote, a sort of excess of theatre. “In the rapid transition, however, from absolute prohibition to the fullest freedom to stage all sorts of dramatic show in any season […] all of a sudden it was almost impossible to combine good taste with the crowd of comedians, singers and dancers who had arrived in Venice”. The thrust coming from the reformers thus ended up making room for travelling companies, “those foul crowds of hams of all sorts, who, having grown up in abject poverty, ignorance and vice debase the stage with a thousand repulsive trivialities and turpitudes”.98 Rather like what was happening in those years in Paris, theatre people themselves pointed out that the patriotic and enlightened thrust towards a theatre for all involved risks of extreme liberalisation of the market and a crisis of auteur theatre. Giovanni Pindemonte, one of the most popular playwrights of the time, wrote in 1804 that “the miserable price paid to enter is so within everyone’s reach, that fishmongers, cobblers, coachmen and perhaps even beggars can gain access to the comic theatre: and therefore the most uneducated rabble fills the theatres”.99 We can therefore say, as a provisional conclusion, that even in Italy we were faced with dynamics similar to those already observed in France and at least partly in England: the new focus given to theatre as a place and a medium by republican propaganda, even if in a pedagogical perspective, ended up invigorating the theatre market as a whole, and therefore also 97  L. Mantovani, Diario politico ecclesiastico, edited by P. Zanoli, Istituto storico italiano per l’età moderna e contemporanea, Rome 1987, vol. II, p. 188. 98  “Il Teatro moderno applaudito”, in Venezia, il mese di luglio l’anno 1797, tomo XIII, pp. 3 et seq. 99  G.  Pindemonte, Componimenti teatrali di Giovanni Pindemonte. Con un Discorso sul teatro italiano, Giovanni Silvestri, Milan 1827, p. 298.

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the activities not only aimed at republican education but also at public entertainment. The age of the citizen-spectator, when the democratisation of theatres became a government goal, had a very short life, but unexpected long-term effects. After 1799, politics left the theatres, which introduced programmes much less focused on current affairs and in any case marked by censorship control, which resumed vigorously after the Napoleonic decree of 1806 and was confirmed in the States of the Restoration. However, the Republican period seemed to increase and intensify a presence and role of theatrical spaces and entertainment activities, whose origins dated back to the previous century, into the lives of Italians. There were still those, such as Giovanni Pindemonte in his Discorso sul teatro italiano, who gave pessimistic assessments similar to those expressed by Alfieri twenty years earlier, saying that Italy lacked a real theatre, real actors and real shows. But the theatre he spoke about was tragedies in verse, which was experiencing an unstoppable decline throughout Europe, in favour of new prose genres of easier communicability.100 The genres that developed the most in theatrical programming in the meantime, once the republican political momentum had weakened, were, on the one hand, opera music—which in the following decades, thanks to Rossini, would spread throughout Europe—and, on the other hand, choreographed and pantomime shows, farces and “spectacular actions”, shows which could capture a public increasingly interested in the dimension of pure entertainment, introducing the attention to gestures and to the visual element which had characterised revolutionary theatre and would ultimately profoundly influence the more traditional theatrical forms. The idea of theatre ​​ for everyone was thus short-lived, but had longer-­ lasting effects over time, contributing to triggering, or at least accelerating, a growth in the theatre market that in Italy would become very clear in the middle of the century. The proliferation across the country of theatrical spaces, both professional and amateur, reflected both an increase in the potential public and greater confidence with theatrical practices themselves. In terms of opera production, the consolidation of impresarios’ circuits and the growing role of music publishers contributed to creating an early national market, which was also well-connected with the major European theatres. It was against this kind of backdrop that the great 100  See M.  Petrucciani, Giovanni Pindemonte nella crisi della tragedia, Le Monnier, Florence 1966.

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season of Romantic opera began. With its historical and emotional plots, it would profoundly mark the cultural life of Italy in the first half of the nineteenth century. Furthermore, starting from the 1820s, as we shall see, opera would often be configured as “melodramatic melodrama”; that is to say, it took over many of the typical narrative and dramatic devices that, in the years between the two centuries, had developed in the Paris boulevard theatres.101 In other words, with the many and different legacies that the revolutionary and Napoleonic periods left to the Restoration, it is worthwhile including, perhaps by making them the subject of more thorough research, the foreshadowing of the first elements of an hitherto unprecedented entertainment society.

101  As competently argued by E. Sala, L’opera senza canto. Il mélo romantico e l’invenzione della colonna sonora, Marsilio, Venice 1995.

CHAPTER 3

A Theatrical Genre for Post-Revolutionary Society

On the evening of 15th Fructidor, 1800, the show Coelina, ou l’enfant des mystères, by the already well-known Guilbert de Pixérécourt, was staged at the Théâtre de l’Ambigu comique, one of the liveliest venues on Boulevard du Temple. All the works which have reconstructed the history of the mélo, both those written nearer the time and later ones, have identified this performance as the moment when a new genre was created: the mélodrame, which would immediately be well-received by the public and would end up disrupting the Paris entertainment landscape. But why Coelina? We shall investigate it further, but, for the moment, we should point out that the codification of an entertainment genre that would gradually be given the name until then used to identify opera was clearly a long-term process, unfolding over the years between the two centuries and as a consequence of dynamics that were deeply embedded in the cultural production system of the period and in market demands. It is precisely this process that we are interested in: investigating the routes, motivations and different variations of the mélo, in fact, highlights important aspects of the early development of a form of entertainment conceived—at least virtually—for wider consumption.1 It is no coincidence 1  For a discussion of the “proto-history of mass culture”, see the book edited by J.-Y. Mollier, J.-F. Sirinelli and F. Vallotton, Culture de masse et culture médiatique en Europe et dans les Amériques 1860–1940 (Puf, Paris 2006) which, despite dating its beginning from

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 C. Sorba, Politics and Sentiments in Risorgimento Italy, Italian and Italian American Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-69732-7_3

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that, at the beginning of the century, a violent and widespread controversy developed around the melodrama, with similar features, but at least twenty years earlier than the better-known querelle that would later develop around the feuilleton, the new, serialised novel-format that in the 1830s achieved, together with a remarkable success, the derogatory definition of “industrial literature”.2 Contemporary observers immediately seemed to sense new elements questioning the consolidated cultural and social hierarchies in the melodrama as well, to the extent that it emerged as the most significant expression of a “degeneration” of artistic and cultural production which had taken place under the mighty push of commercial pressures. In actual fact, in addition to the reasons behind a rapidly growing market, there were also the various reflections on the relationship between theatre and emotionality that had profoundly affected the philosophical and dramaturgical debate of the eighteenth century.

Looking for the Language of Emotions “You sweet and graceful emotions, which we receive at the theatre and use to perfect the moral and inner sense we all carry within us”. These words were used in 1773 by Louis-Sébastien Mercier, writer and playwright who had both predicted and analysed the Revolution, when he published Du Théâtre, ou Nouvel essai sur l’art dramatique, which would be an important point of reference for early-nineteenth century playwriting.3 According to the French writer, the stage has the power—in many ways unique—to offer audiences the emotions and emotional stimulation which are the unequalled vehicle for the moral growth of individuals. This is how theatre, 1860, identifies its origins in the early nineteenth century. See also D. Kalifa, L’ère de la culture marchandise, in “Revue d’histoire du XIXème siècle”, 19, 1999, pp. 7–14; A. Vaillant and M.-E. Thérenty, 1836: l’an 1 de l’ère médiatique. Étude littéraire et historique du journal La Presse, Nouveau Monde éditions, Paris 2001. 2  On the early nineteenth-century controversies about new popular culture and its impact on cultural production, see L.  Quellebec Dumasy, La querelle du roman-feuilleton. Littérature, presse et politique. Un débat precurseur (1836–1848), Ellug, Grenoble 1999; and also J. Migozzi, Boulevards du populaire, Presses Universitaire de Limoges, Limoges 2005. 3  See Mercier, Du Théâtre cit., p. 15. Mercier is one of the commentators reassessed by the recent historiography on the cultural origins of the French revolution, because of his impact on a wide and varied audience; for his fiery analysis of pre-Revolution Paris, see his Le Tableau de Paris (Neuchatel-Amsterdam 1781–1791, 12 voll.), on utopia, see L’An 2440 (Amsterdam 1770). He was also a prolific author of dramas where he tried to implement his ideas about a renewed poetics of theatre.

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more than any other means, can instil in the audience that feeling of pity, empathy and compassion which is the key element of the human bond. For this reason, theatres should open up to as much attendance as possible and turn all citizens, without exception, into spectators. Historiography has closely analysed the literary aspects of the cultural climate around this renewed “culture of sensibility”, in particular the sentimental fiction that developed initially in England and France, but later achieved great popularity across the pond and is considered the main vehicle for the circulation of a new sentimental imagination which gained ground especially in the years between the two centuries.4 The implications for the theatrical world, however, have been less investigated, despite, as we have seen, the unusual momentum experienced at this time, which was also matched by a substantial increase in its social and cultural impact. Theatrical art, its production dynamics and its repertoires were deeply involved in the “culture of sensibility” that characterised the century of the Enlightenment and contributed heavily to a reassessment of the relationship between the emotional dimension, rationality and morality which considerably affected both the imagination and social order. Recent studies have suggested that in that period, the cult of feelings produced a real change in the psycho-perceptive paradigm, a new way of reading and understanding reality based on the emotional dimension.5 In his seminal study, extremely important to the renewal of historical studies on emotions, William Reddy followed, in its various steps, what he defined as a crucial change in “emotional regime”, characterised by giving enormous importance to emotions as forces of good. He argued this change developed in Europe in the second half of the eighteenth century, in a real puzzle of theoretical and fictional writings, preparing and accompanying the collapse of aristocratic power and then starting to 4  This is one of the most significant cases where the novel as a genre fitted within and contributed to a wider and more articulated discourse; see D. J. Denby, Sentimental Narrative and Social Order in France 1760–1820, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1994; G.  Herder, Publics Sentiments. Structure of Feeling in Ninenteenth Century American Literature, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 2001; P. Stewart, L’invention du sentiment: roman et économie affective au XVIIIe siècle, Voltaire Foundation, Oxford 2010; A.  Alliston and M.  Cohen, Empatia e «sensibility» nell’evoluzione del romanzo, in F. Moretti (ed.), Il romanzo, vol. III, Einaudi, Turin 2002, pp. 233–254. 5  On this paradigm and on its origins, see G. J. Barker-Benfield, The Culture of Sensibility. Sex and Society in Eighteenth Century Britain, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1992; G. Sauder, Sensibilité, in M. Delon (ed.), Dictionnaire Européenne des Lumières, Puf, Paris 2007 (I ed. 1997), pp. 1131–1137.

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decline during the Napoleonic age, a moment of transition to a new phase of emotionality, more contained and tendentially governed by reason.6 The eighteenth-century cult of feelings allegedly brought about a profound alteration in emotional common sense, bringing emotions and, above all, their inseparable link with “virtue” to the fore. The latter could only be achieved through the “exposure” of the naturalness of feelings, of the simplicity, innocence and sincerity naturally present in virtuous souls and a prelude to the definitive overcoming of the artificial falsehood of the aristocratic world. A device of this nature underpinned the narrative structure of the melodrama. If we look at the origin and early developments of these forms of entertainment, the references to the sentimentalist debate were direct and constant. In fact, it can be argued that it carried its legacy well into the nineteenth century and beyond the Napoleonic era mentioned by William Reddy. Furthermore, the melodrama continued to bring to the stage the emotional emphasis that increasingly tended to be controlled in terms of political and social behaviour. But we need to proceed in an orderly fashion. On the connection between emotion and virtue, and its theatrical applications, strong agreements were reached in the intellectual debates of the second half of the eighteenth century, in a constant and rapid circulation of texts, above all between France and Germany.7 Both literary fiction and the theatre had subsequently been deeply involved in the wave of sentimentalism that had marked the second half of the eighteenth century. In the 1780s and 1790s, theatres experienced a true sentimental escalation that involved both musical and prose drama and became intertwined with criticism of the cynical and libertine aristocratic society. For instance, the tragedies by August von Kotzebue, a master of extreme passions and coups de théâtre working between Vienna and St. Petersburg and extremely prolific in terms of theatrical production: almost two hundred and thirty tragedies translated into many languages, from Portuguese to Czech,

6  W. Reddy, The Navigation of Feeling. A Framework for the History of Emotions, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2001. For a critical reading of the book, see D. Andress, Living the Revolutionary Melodrama: Robespierre’s Sensibility and the Construction of Political Commitment in the French Revolution, in “Representations”, 114, 2011, pp. 103–128. 7  See Diderot Writings on the Theatre, Cambridge 1936. For a recent analysis, see B. Didier, Diderot dramaturge du vivant, Puf, Paris 2001. Lessing’s main reflections are collected in Hamburg Dramaturgy. Translated by Zimmern, H. London, Dover 1962.

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interrupted only by his death in 1819 at the hands of a liberal student.8 His works were very regularly staged in European theatres in the first twenty years of the century and featured passionate and tear-wrenching plots where melodramas often found inspiration. The theories developed by Enlightenment culture on the effects of music and theatre on collective sensitivities had also found a significant echo in a series of stage experimentations that in some cases had appeared as real provocations launched against the consolidated system of genres. The first form of theatrical production to be called mélodrame, in fact, corresponded to an attempt to answer these prompts to identify a form of theatrical performance that would give voice to the naturalness of emotions, avoiding any impression of artificiality and managing to stage the reality of passions in a transparent and immediate fashion. This idea is usually traced back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who in a 1766 pamphlet had written that he was convinced the French language was unsuited to being set to music, and that he had therefore imagined a type of drama where words and music did not run concurrently, as they did in operas, but in succession, avoiding the artificiality of song.9 Musical phrases had to alternate with declamation, becoming—we could say—its soundtrack. This produced a hybrid theatrical form, in between classical declamation and musical melodrama, which Rousseau proposed in its first experimental form in Lyon in 1770 with a text entitled Pygmalion. It was a very brief show, set to music by a local amateur composer and called a “lyrical scene” by Rousseau himself. Only two characters shared the scene: Pygmalion and the statue of Galatea. As the sculptor worked, the statue gradually came to life, sighed a few words and fell into the arms of its creator, who pledged eternal love to her while the curtain fell. The rather extraordinary thing is that this short text, to which the philosopher does not seem to have paid much heed, became remarkably popular in most of Europe and

8  On this murder, in itself very theatrical as well as not easily understandable from a distance, see the good reconstruction by G. S. Williamson, What Killed August von Kotzebue? The Temptations of Virtue and the Political Theology of German Nationalism 1789–1819, in “Journal of Modern History”, LXXXI, 2000, 4, pp. 890–943, who sees the event as inscribed within the transformations of the emotional regime which would take place in the Napoleonic era. 9  J.J.  Rousseau, Fragments d’observations sur l’Alceste italien de M.  le chevalier Gluck, in Oeuvres complètes de J.J. Rousseau, avec des notes historiques, vol. 3, chez Furne, Paris 1835, pp. 564 et seq.

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even overseas.10 Many editions were published and many productions took place in France, Italy and Germany in the years immediately following. A large group of imitators are also said to have produced more or less faithful adaptations in other languages. The fact is, as Emilio Sala has pointed out, that what had been intended just as a creative fragment on the artificiality and degradation of operatic language became a sort of refoundational idea of the new relationship between dramatic and musical language, a meeting point between the mute gestures of pantomime and the frenzied syntax of opera recitatives. Beyond the Rhine, among those who had adapted Rousseau’s text, a key role was played by a Bohemian composer, Georg Benda, violinist and author of Singspiel, who, in Rousseau’s wake, staged some experimental texts with music calling them “melodramas” or “duodramas”, by virtue of the fact that only two characters were on stage. His well-known Ariadne in Naxos was translated into many languages throughout Europe. It was precisely the long and detailed introduction to the French version of Benda’s text, published in Paris in 1781, which consecrated a sort of first codification of the new genre.11 The term “melodrama”, made famous by Zeno and Metastasio, Benda’s translator wrote, had found in France, a century later, a new articulation, appropriating plots, characters and sounds from other sources. It was found “anywhere where Musical Accent meets Oratory Accent”.12 In order for this new alchemy to be produced, it was necessary for the text not to be in verse and to show a certain “dryness and simplicity of style” tending to naturalness; for the musical rhythm to always prevail over the poetic one; for action or dialogue never to dominate or distract from the expression of feelings. In the case of Benda’s brief work, Ariadne and her beloved Theseus appeared on the stage, fleeing after their victorious escape from the labyrinth. Theseus was given a brief initial moment, barely enough to declare, with a thousand sighs and exclamations, his intention to immediately abandon Ariadne. It was an act that he himself called unworthy but to 10  In his introductory essay about Rousseau’s Pygmalion, Pimmalione, partiture del mélodrame cit., Emilio Sala has reconstructed the precise stagings. Between the 1770s and the 1780s, the text was also staged in England, Spain and Russia; in New York and Boston in 1790 and 1796. 11  J.B.  Dubois, Du mélodrame en général et de celui d’Ariane en particulier, in Ariane abandonnée, mélodrame imité de l’allemand, musique de M. Georg Benda, Thomas Brunet Libraire, Paris 1781, p. 8. 12  Ibid., p. 9.

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which nevertheless honour and destiny called him without delay, although he did not specify why. The scene then focused on Ariadne herself, on the true emotional metamorphosis that she experienced in the space of a few moments and that the text wanted to show as it happened, retracing all the steps. Waking up unaware and full of hope and tenderness, the young woman worried slightly, not seeing her beloved, but still did not sense the storm that was about to hit her. This manifested itself immediately afterwards, when the nymph of the rocks informed her of Theseus’ departure. At that point, she was plunged into the depths of despair, a feeling which, moreover, the audience—aware from the beginning of Theseus’ decision—imagined, sensed and expected to explode. The opportunity to see the “movements of the heart” staged in their construction and destruction was the primary reason for the mélodrame and its aim was “touching the soul of anyone with a shred of sensibility”, regardless of their culture.13 Here, we can very clearly hear the echo of Mercier’s words, who had hoped for entertainment which could ignite all souls and “be heard and understood by all classes of citizens”.14 It could be a unique experience for the audience, Jean-Baptiste Dubois wrote, provided that the musical and textual levels found the “intimate union” which was indispensable to the expression of feelings; and a tone that had to include gestures, sighs, exclamations, a bodily emphasis of emotion that seemed indispensable to show the “metaphysics” of the heart. When this happened, he concluded, the mélodrame, where words represented the outline drawing and music the colours and shadows, could get closer than any other theatrical form to the expressiveness of painting. Theatre thus became the gallery of the mélodrame, where the tableau was displayed before the eyes of the audience.15 The short essay therefore alluded to many of the elements discussed in the debates on theatre and emotionality taking place in those years, clarifying the fact that the first experiments of mélodrame, curiously poised between philosophical and theatrical, were in fact in direct continuity with these reflections and emphasised two elements in particular: first, the use of gestures, considered as the true language of the soul and the most  Ibid., p. 6.  Mercier, Du Théâtre, cit., p. 41. 15  P. Frantz (L’esthétique du tableau dans le théâtre du XVIIIe siècle, Puf, Paris 1998) argued that the so-called tableau dramaturgy that prevailed in the second half of the century is evidence of a profound change in theatre art taking place throughout Europe, granting the visible element an unprecedented privilege over the word. 13 14

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eloquent of all forms of communication;16 and then music, a language that presumably could elicit emotions directly, by profoundly affecting the psyche.17 The well-known treatise on mimicry by Johann Jakob Engel, published in Germany in 1785 and soon after translated into numerous languages, had given gestures the status of fundamental language of communication, both for actors and for humankind in general.18 This text has been said to have significantly contributed to a sort of transition in theatrical art from the description to the expression of feelings, right up to the “hyperbolic expressionism” that would become the main feature of melodrama. The first “lyrical scenes” to be called mélodrames were thus a very conscious attempt to give theatrical form to the cult of sensibility, by identifying a form of scenic expression suitable to immediately express the complex emotional turmoil of the human soul. All the men of letters working at the turn of the century who showed themselves more sensitive to the idea that every man carries within himself a dimension that is both emotional and moral, and is the virtual melting pot of every virtue, would not fail to be receptive to this suggestion in the following years. The memory of those experiments will be extended in the following century, for example within the Coppet circle, an important hub in the development of European romantic theatre.19 In the meantime, however, the term mélodrame was also beginning to be used for very diverse forms of entertainment. At the beginning of the century, August Schlegel had reported this in his well-known Course of Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, mentioning some French mélodrames that had little to do with Rousseau’s and Benda’s intellectual experiments, which he knew well. These were the scenes à grande spectacle 16  D. Diderot, De la poésie dramatique, in Id., Œuvres esthétiques, edited by P. Vernière, Garnier, Paris 1991, pp. 261 et seq. 17  For a philosophical analysis of the issue, see S. Darsel, De la musique aux émotions: une exploration philosophique, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, Rennes 2010. See also the good analysis by L. Bianconi, La forma musicale come scuola dei sentimenti, in G. La Face Bianconi and F.  Frabboni (eds), Educazione musicale e formazione, Franco Angeli, Milan 2008, pp. 85–120. 18  The Italian translation is from 1818: Lettere intorno alla mimica di G.G. Engel, Milano, 2 vol., anastatic reprint by L. Mariti, Editori e Associati, Rome 1993. For an analysis of the text and of its importance, see J.  Veltruski, Engel’s Ideas for a Theory of Acting, in “The Drama Review”, 24, 1980, pp. 71–80. 19  See D.  Johnson Cousin, Les idées dramatiques du Groupe de Coppet, in S.  Balayé and J.D.  Candaux (eds), Le groupe de Coppet, Actes et documents du deuxième colloque de Coppet, 10–13 juillet 1974, Slatkine et Champion, Genève-Paris 1977, pp. 239–262.

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that were being produced on the Boulevard du Temple or in the smaller London theatres, places where melodramatic narrative was becoming the real novelty of the period.20 In the lesson that Schlegel devoted to France, not only did he take note of this disruptive novelty, but he also stressed its connection with the debates of the Enlightenment. The new theories on theatrical practice formulated by Diderot and Mercier—he wrote—had given enormous space to emotional sensibility. In doing so, not only had they struck at—and rightly so—the rigidity and anachronism of the traditional system of genres, but they had also outlined such a radical reform of dramatic forms that it must have been considered almost impossible, and even dangerous to implement. In his view, the excessive emphasis on the gestural aspects of acting and on the extremely emotional expressiveness had undermined the very practice of acting and paved the way for the new melodramas, which he considered an advanced form of degeneration of dramatic practice. In France, “they do not mean by melo-drama, as we do, a drama in which the pauses are filled up by monologue with instrumental music, but where actions in any wise wonderful, adventurous, or even sensuous are exhibited in emphatic prose with suitable decorations and dresses (…). Most of the melo-dramas are unfortunately rude even to insipidity and resemble abortive attempts at the romantic”. Different reasons, Schlegel concluded, had contributed to promoting these developments: Diderot’s and Mercier’s theorising, which seemed to give up on poetry as they attempted to strike at the senses alone; but also the normative order of the French theatre system itself, that had prevented the smaller theatre from staging longer texts: “As the Parisian theatres—he wrote—at the present tied down to certain kinds, and as poetry has here a point of contact with the police, the numerous mixed and new attempts are for the most part banished to the subordinate theatres”.21 It was a very sharp observation. A tight and increasingly anachronistic system of public control over theatrical activity had meant that every dramaturgical and spectacular innovation found space on the fluid and less 20  A. W. Schlegel, Course of Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature (1809), English translation by John Black, Henry Bohn, London 1846, p. 334. In L’opera senza canto (cit., p. 25) Emilio Sala has reconstructed the numerous melodramatic pièces written in the uncertain space between Rousseau and Pixérécourt. They are mostly educated and mundane texts, very far from boulevard theatre, which drew considerably from the various strands of the Opéra Comique. 21  Schlegel, Course of Lectures on Dramatic Art cit., p. 334.

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controlled terrain of commercial theatres, where the new melodramatic shows became a source of real subversion of traditional stage codes. It is a rather convincing reading of the phenomenon. Through somewhat intangible but consistent imaginative paths, the commercial melodramas staged in the boulevards were thus able to portray the fullest and most belated and amplified narrative incarnation of the tension towards the extremely natural and transparent passions that had accompanied the cult of sensibility. Their roots were thus firmly in the century of the Enlightenment, in a political and pedagogical tension towards theatre for everyone.

The Mélodrame as Easily Accessible Entertainment The French critics define as classical the system that adheres to the rules, and romantic the one that recognises none. And since in France a mongrel, tearful, emphatic, far-fetched genre has arisen, that is to say the Melodrama, which recognises neither the rules of the classics nor those of nature, so these critics have claimed that melodrama is romantic. Jean-Charles-Léonard de Sismondi, 181922

In the late eighteenth century, traditional pantomimes in Paris theatres on Boulevard du Temple experienced a considerable evolution. Not only were they now dialogued, but they also included texts articulated over several acts, which at times were adaptations of the most popular English novels of the time, involving the participation of numerous actors, many set changes and marked spectacular effects. The formula that generally appeared on playbills, in newspaper reviews or in printed booklets was that of “drames à grande spectacle”, since they often featured eventful plots with many unexpected twists. They could be adaptations of Ann Radcliffe’s gothic novels, which were published in rapid succession from 1791, or of their French variations, which also proliferated. Some literary studies have identified the main source of melodrama’s narrative plots precisely in Radcliffe’s persecuted heroines. In both The Italian (1791) and The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), the stories, though invariably with happy endings, revolved around the adventures of a young virtuous orphan girl, victim of the machinations of a sinister and cruel character.23 The 22  Vera definizione del Romanticismo di Sismondo de’ Sismondi, ove sono svolti i diversi relativi sistemi delle principali nazioni europee, Paolo Cavalletti, Milan 1819, p. 12. 23  See especially M.  Praz, La carne, la morte e il diavolo nella letteratura romantica, Sansoni, Florence 1966, pp. 63–64.

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a­ daptations of texts by Horace Walpole or Matthew Lewis, the author of the novel The Monk that had caused a huge stir and lively imitations throughout Europe, were equally important.24 One of the texts often referred to as a proto-melodrama is Les victimes cloitrées by Jacques Marie Boutet, performed for the first time at the Théâtre de la nation in March 1791 before a large audience.25 All the key elements of the new genre appeared in the pièce, in a version that could be called gothic-political: it featured the kidnapping of a virtuous heroine and her beloved, respectively, by a convent and a monastery; the vile cruelty of the perpetrators, in this case monks and nuns prompted by an evil aristocrat; and the spectacular appearance in the last act of a Republican mayor wearing a threecoloured sash who exposed the plot and freed the young couple. The ideas coming from the Anglo-Saxon world thus competed, on the boulevards, with a different production, the patriotic shows that in the meantime overlapped and intertwined with revolutionary commemorations and festivities, in the situation of extreme politicisation of the stage discussed in the previous chapter. A significant example of this curious interplay is represented by Jean Cuvelier de Trye’s production. He had begun his theatrical career by composing a patriotic tableau for the Feast of the Supreme Being in June 1794; in the following years, in the changed political situation, he had staged some féeries and shows that ranged from nationalist themes with a strongly anti-English flavour to Gothic plots inspired by English literature.26 In 1798, he staged two shows at the Ambigu Comique that the playbills described as “lyrical and melodramatic scenes with pantomime, fights and dance” but which were actually very different from each other. The first, which only ran for two evenings, was a straight-forward play politely alluding to the ongoing war against the British and staging the conflict between some French peasants and a group of Englishmen who attempted to sabotage a tree of liberty, but were 24  The close proximity between eighteenth-century English gothic novels and melodrama is convincingly stressed in S. Bernard-Griffiths and J. Sgard (eds), Mélodrames et romans noirs (1750–1890), Presses Universitaires de Mirail, Toulouse 2000. See also G. Franci, Il melodrammatico come modalità dell’espressione nel romanzo gotico inglese, in Gallo (ed.), Forme del melodrammatico cit., pp. 207–211. 25  As told by Peter Brooks in his introduction to the recent Anthologie du mélodrame classique, Classiques Garnier, Paris 2011. 26  On the féerie, fantastic and wondrous story, as a theatrical genre and on Cuvelier as an author, see R. Martin, La féerie romantique sur les scènes parisiennes 1791–1864, Champion, Paris 2007.

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scared off by the courage and military superiority of the former.27 The second was a classic gothic plot entitled C’est le Diable, ou la Bohémienne, which was much more successful, judging by the fact that it ran for ninety-­ seven evenings. In both cases, these were plays where the visual aspects had the upper hand over the word, where action scenes and various turns of events followed each other and where different modes of expression (dialogue, music and dance) were intertwined. What was happening was essentially that, within the limited margin of freedom allowed by the Le Chapelier law, on the boulevards, the spoken theatre was developing its own spectacular dimension, favouring the elements that, according to Diderot, most had to strike the senses, in this case with the intent of amazing and amusing, rather than educating and improving the soul. In the same year, Guilbert de Pixérécourt, a young writer from the provinces in search of fortune, having tried in vain to sell several of his texts to various theatres, was finally able to stage before the audience of the Ambigu Comique the first of a long series of shows that would be the start of his melodramatic output.28 The first performance, Victor, ou l’enfant de la forêt, a lyrical drama in three acts, was so appreciated by the audience that it ran for sixty-one evenings in that year alone.29 Adapted from a novel just published by the writer François Guillaume Ducray-Duminil, Radcliffe’s French imitator and the author of numerous, widely-distributed texts,30 it staged the complex adventures of an orphan boy, taken in and raised like a son by an aristocratic family, who discovered that his natural father was a famous and feared bandit. After several twists and turns, he managed to prove his bravery and virtues and married the noble daughter of his stepfather whom he had always loved and by whom he was loved in return. The characters on the scene moved between 27  L’anniversaire, ou La fête de la souverainété, paroles de J. G. A. Cuvelier et de J. Mittié, musique de O. Vanderbroek, Barba, Paris 1798. On the strong impact of the Napoleonic wars on English theatres in terms of repertoire and politicisation of the stages, see Russell, Theatres of War cit. 28   On Pixérécourt, see in particular J.P.  Marcoux, Guilbert de Pixérécourt. French Melodrama in the Early Nineteenth Century, Peter Lang, New York 1992, and B. Hyslop, Pixérécourt and the French Melodrama Debate: Instructing Boulevard Theatre Audiences, in “Themes in Drama”, edited by J. Redmond, 14, 1992, pp. 61–85. 29  All data about the stagings is available from http://cesar.org.uk/cesar2/index.php 30  The long life of his novels is evidenced by a long series of editions: at least twenty for Coelina and thirty-seven for Victor over the nineteenth century; see C. Gaspard, Coelina, de Ducray-Duminil à Pixérécourt: à l’aube de la «littérature industrielle», in Bernard-Griffiths and Sgard (eds), Mélodrames et romans noirs, cit., pp. 127–144.

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gothic-style backdrops—the shadows of ancient castles, the outlines of towers and ruins—and a countryside background; their movements were accompanied by music, which followed their entrances and exits, emphasised the throbs of their hearts and the crescendo of pathos. As in philosophical mélodrames, in these productions, text and music were integrated into a single form of entertainment. Shortly afterwards, this winning solution was consolidated by Pixérécourt with Rosa, ou l’ermitage du torrent at the Théâtre de la Gaité, and then with Coelina, ou l’enfant du mystère at the Ambigu Comique, two shows that, on playbills and in theatrical calendars, would finally be indicated as mélodrames, taking up the term traditionally used for opera and updated by Enlightenment thought. In both cases, they were intensely emotional prose-texts, accompanied by music, and resolutely focused on the feelings and virtue equation. In a way, Cuvelier and Pixérécourt were the unexpected sealant between the philosophical and the commercial paths, in a convergence that was remarked upon on several occasions in the contemporary debate, both by detractors and by supporters of the mélo. The narrative structure of these shows was actually anything but original. They largely resumed the plots and scenes typical of gothic dramas and novels, already very well known to the European stages. The novelty lay in translating those settings and situations into original entertainment solutions, thanks to their brevity (three acts), their extreme simplification and predictability, codification of stock characters and clever use of music, mimicry and a wide variety of stage devices. Much more often than characters, situations were invented: disguises, recognitions, conspiracies, all sorts of vicissitudes that befell the innocent, or last-minute rescues and unexpected positive turns of events. All these elements made them suitable for large and even non-literate audiences. This was also the case with Coelina, ou l’enfant du mystère, the show that is often remembered as the moment when the melodrama began and from which our narrative started. Once again, it was the story of an orphan girl with mysterious origins, persecuted with cruel obstinacy by the usual wicked man, who was, however, destined to be exposed and punished in a final crescendo in the name of good triumphing over evil. To gain control of her wealth, the perfidious Truguelin had first tried to marry her and then spread a complicated lie about her origins, thus forcing her to flee her tutor’s house in the company of a poor, unfortunate man, the mute Humbert, who had been revealed as her father. Reduced to begging, the two were taken in by a compassionate miller in whose house they once

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again met Truguelin, who this time was disguised as a farmer. At this stage, however, they managed to expose his perfidious machinations and bring him to justice. And they found the tutor and his young son, from the beginning in love with Coelina, to whom the mute Humbert revealed, writing on a piece of paper, the true story of the innocent girl, the child born of a passionate secret marriage, destroyed in the past, just like Humbert’s vocal abilities, by the ever-evil Truguelin. What makes Coelina a special moment in the history of the mélo is not so much its extraordinary success with audiences,31 but the speed of its move to the London stages. Thomas Holcroft, a radical playwright who in the 1780s had found himself at the centre of a dense network of cultural exchanges between the two national theatrical environments, adapting some of Beaumarchais’s comedies for English audiences, acted as mediator with the Anglo-Saxon world.32 After his forced departure from the stage in the early 1790s, due to his pro-French political positions, Holcroft had managed to re-launch his career by adapting the melodramas he had seen on Boulevard du Temple for the English market, starting with Coelina, which was staged at Covent Garden in 1802 with the title A Tale of Mystery33 (Fig.  3.1). In Pixérécourt’s shows, where the settings, decors, costumes, music and dance counted as much as the text, he seems to have gleaned the possibility of enacting the very reform of acting based on the emphasis of gestural-emotional language that he had already supported in a series of theoretical writings, and that was also supposed to bring a wider and more varied audience to the theatre. Thus, in the first English version of the melodrama, the dual path that had characterised its origins came together: the political-pedagogical impetus towards a theatre for everybody, on the one hand, and the answer to a pressing demand for entertainment on the other. In the introduction to the second edition of the text, he also emphasised what appeared to be the true novelty of such shows. More than in a narrative plot centred on victims and persecutors, innocence and guilt, to which the London audiences were already well 31  See the press reviews in R.-C.-G. de Pixérécourt, Théâtre choisi de G. de Pixérécourt,  introduced by C. Nodier, 4 vol., Nancy 1841–43, t. I, pp. 3–7. 32  See D. Karr, «Thoughts that Flash like Lightning»: Thomas Holcroft, Radical Theater and the Production of Meaning in 1790s London, in “Journal of British Studies”, XL, 2001, 3, pp. 324–356. 33  On the London translation/adaptation of Pixérécourt’s pièce and its reception, see the essay by D.  Saglia, Continental Trouble. The Nationality of Melodrama and the National Stage in Early Nineteenth Century Britain, in The melodramatic moment, cit. p. 43–58.

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Fig. 3.1  A tale of mystery. A melo-drame as performed at the Theatre Royal— Covent Garden by Thomas Holcroft, cover of the second edition with engravings from drawings by Henry Tresham, Richard Phillips, London 1802

accustomed, the novelty consisted in the crucial weight given to spectacularity and music. For this reason, Holcroft wrote, the merit for the success of these shows had to be shared by many different agents, recognising the role that musicians, set and costume designers played in them.34 In the first few years of the new century, therefore, in both French and English versions, the terms mélodrame and melodrama defined a form of entertainment in words and music with a structure that, in the meantime, was becoming codified: three acts during which, in a tumultuous succession of more or less expected twists and turns, the key theme of a victim’s persecution by an evil character was developed. The plot was resolved in the final moment of rescue when justice was finally attained and wickedness exposed. A key requirement was the wide and accurate deployment of scenic, choreographic and musical devices. This was made possible by the advances made by stagecraft in the boulevard theatres, which allowed frequent and well-balanced scene changes. The contemporaries who 34  T. Holcroft, A Tale of Mystery. A Melo-drame as Performed at the Theatre Royal—Covent Garden, by Thomas Holcroft, second edition with etchings after design by Tresham, Richard Phillips, London 1802.

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complained about the decline of classical theatre based on declamation polemically argued that the more tableaux a show put on, the more it was able to attract the public. It was a real warning call coming, for example, from an extremely reactionary writer such as Louis De Bonald who, when publishing his Mélanges in 1810, saw a grim future in store for the theatre, where “theatrical art will be reduced to Féeries or melodramas […] and there will be no room other than for decorators, machinists, painters and even tailors!”.35

The Industry of the Melodrama In the early years of the century, a veritable “factory of feelings” was set in motion in the boulevard theatres, producing hundreds of texts and thousands of shows with very similar spectacular devices, involving a large number of workers.36 In this sense, melodrama can be considered the first full example of a commercial theatrical production endowed with a serial character and soon widely circulated. Since the beginning of the century, there was an increase in the number of notices and brochures from theatre agencies, providing information on Paris productions to provincial theatre directors and encouraging the circulation of shows beyond the capital. Normative interventions in the Napoleonic age favoured the full codification of the new genre. The 1806 and 1807 decrees, aimed at slowing down the chaotic rise and demise of new theatres, granted the privilege of staging productions to four minor theatres only, in a production framework limited to the two main genres that had emerged from the boulevards, melodrama and vaudeville.37 The distinction between the artistic 35  L. De Bonald, Mélanges littéraires, politiques et philosophiques, in Id., Oeuvres complètes, Slatkine, Paris-Genève 1982, tome II, p. 338; Frantz (L’esthétique du tableau, cit.) points out how the centrality of the visual dimension in early nineteenth-century theatre arose from the interaction between the theatrical-philosophical theories of the second half of the eighteenth century and the practice in boulevard shows. 36  The most comprehensive and accurate text on French melodrama production is J.M. Thomasseau, Le mélodrame, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris 1984. In reply to the controversy against the mélo, Pixérécourt stressed this aspect in particular, that the new genre had created a real entertainment industry which gave work to hundreds of families; see R.-C. Guilbert de Pixérécourt, Guerre au mélodrame, Délaunay, Paris 1818, p. 8. 37  According to the decree, melodramas would be staged at the Ambigu Comique and Gaité theatres, while the vaudeville would be the exclusive monopoly of the Théâtre de Vaudeville and the Théâtre des Variétés. The vaudeville was a light comedy where text alternated with stanzas sung on known melodies; see J. L. Terni, A Genre for Early Mass Culture:

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and commercial dimensions of the theatre, identified in precisely limited theatres and forms, was thus granted true normative recognition. Nowadays we can have but limited awareness of the true size of melodramatic production, since a large part of it has been lost, confined to the dimension of ephemeral entertainment of which we often find traces only in theatre programmes. Music—and therefore the presence of an orchestra—continued to have a decisive role in it for a long time, in the form of an ante-litteram soundtrack that emphasised the twists, the topical moments, the moods and all the emotional moments in the plot.38 Thus, the slow vibrato of violins underlined the most poignant feelings, while the clang of the brass stressed the imminence of catastrophes. The most immediate expression of emotions that could be achieved, which was at the heart of the mélo, found in music its most effective support. Whilst Guilbert de Pixérécourt and Louis-Charles Caigniez were the leading authors of the period, in the first twenty years of the century, dozens of other theatre writers with mostly forgotten names were responsible for an intense output. They included Jean Cantiran de Boirie and JeanBaptiste Hapdé, the latter author of numerous plays with adventurous and eventful machinations, the most famous of which is Le prisonnier masqué (1806). For his part, Caigniez, who, like Pixérécourt, had arrived in Paris from the provinces in the 1790s, had enjoyed huge success in 1802 with his melodrama Le jugement de Salomon, a complicated plot of secret but legitimate loves, of lost and found children and of triumphant justice that would soon reach 300 performances between Paris and the provinces. In 1824, part of this production was collected in twenty volumes of “melodrama masterpieces”, thanks to the initiative of a Paris publisher who planned to exploit the continuous success achieved by these shows on the boulevards.39 The collections contained a long list of texts and often also included the authors of the music, decorations and choreographies, giving us an idea of the composite character of this production system. Significant information on the stage settings would later be published in the four volumes of Pixérécourt’s Théâtre choisi, organised with meticulous French Vaudeville and the City 1830–1848, in “Theatre journal”, LVIII, 2006, 2, pp. 221–248. 38  For a reconstruction of the sound world of the mélo, its effects and its relationship with narration, see Sala, L’opera senza canto, cit. 39  Chefs-d’oeuvre du répertoire des mélodrames du théâtre français joués à différents théâtres, Dabo, Paris 1824–1825, 20 vol.

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accuracy by the author in an attempt to give definitive legitimacy to his work.40 In addition to a chronological table of the works, with a list of titles, places and dates, the first volume included a list of the settings used in Paris and in the provinces and rattled off truly substantial figures. Pixérécourt, who was nicknamed (and who knows, perhaps it was selfdeprecating) “Corneille of the boulevards”, produced a total of 120 texts, written between 1793 and 1835, which he himself subdivided according to their genres. They included 59 melodramas, which are his bestknown works. The number of stagings of each work confirms their rather exceptional circulation, both in Paris and in the provinces, despite the fact that the figure could have been underestimated, as the productions were widespread and thus are difficult to reconstruct. The table below contains a list of the most successful shows and an indication of their respective stagings (from the first until 1840), both in the capital and in the provinces, as reported by the author in the first volume of his Théâtre choisi. These are important figures, which signal the opening of a new landscape in theatrical production: on the one hand, a continuous production of new pièces, requested with pressing urgency by theatre directors; on the other, a very high number of repeated stagings. They are not comparable in absolute terms to the 425 pièces produced since the 1820s and throughout his entire career by Eugène Scribe, one of the most prolific comedy and vaudeville writers in nineteenth-century Europe, whose work has been said to represent the first “industrial” dimension of theatrical entertainment.41 In his case, it was an output that literally showed the traits of collective and serial creation, given that a large part of it was written in collaboration with some minor authors, also mentioned in the programmes.42 However, the production of melodramas anticipated and heralded it, representing an important precedent and a sort of matrix. If we consider the different lengths in the careers of the two authors, the gap is not in fact very large and the rate of production turns out to be similar. We 40  Pixérécourt, Théâtre choisi cit. This was also to distance himself from romantic drama, the genre which during the 1830s had monopolised the attention of the theatre world and revitalised the debate between classicists and romantics. 41  See J.C. Yon, L’industrialisation de la production théâtrale: l’exemple de Scribe et de ses collaborateurs, in “Revue d’histoire du XIXe siècle”, 2, 1999, pp. 77–88. 42  At the same time, the presence of stock authors hired by theatres to produce a certain number of pièces every year was also recorded in English theatres, as argued by Moody, Illegitimate Theatre cit., pp.162 et seq.

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must also consider that at the beginning of his career, in the very first years of the century, Pixérécourt staged in the boulevard theatres between four and eight new texts a year, which were those required in Scribe’s theatrical contracts in the 1820s. Title of the mélodrame Coelina (1800) Le Pélerin blanc (1801) L’Homme à trois visages (1801) La Femme à deux maris (1802) Les Mines de Pologne (1803) Tékéli (1803) La forteresse du Danube (1805) Le Chien de Montargis (1814) Le Monastère abandonné (1816)

Stagings in Paris

Stagings in the provinces

1476 1533 1022 1346 601 1334 604 1158 663

387 1147 644 895 312 904 323 696 396

What began on the boulevards in the early Napoleonic era was a highly standardised and audience-oriented commercial output of pièces that were the theatrical versions of the popular romanticism that James Smith Allen has described very well, above all in his literary forms.43 It was a timing that, at the start of a broad commercial output, turned out to be earlier than in publishing, where the first real innovations in terms of circulation took place in the 1830s, with the birth of illustrated newspapers and feuilletons.44 One of the main reasons for this shift can perhaps be identified in the particular position of theatre, on the uncertain and poorly defined border that runs between culture and entertainment, and in the relationship—more consolidated over time and more immediate in space—that this form of cultural production entertains with the paying public. But the strong specificity represented by the developments of the 1790s must also be borne in mind, when the liberalisation of the theatre market as the only true school for the masses acted as a considerable boost to the development of demand. In the different fields of cultural production, theatre was therefore one of the first to enter the transformative era of full commercialisation. The almost structural practice of “adaptation”, that is to say the imitation and assembly of pre-existing texts, which was rarely reported as such in the  See J. S. Allen, Popular French Romanticism. Authors, Readers and Books in the Nineteenth Century, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse NY 1981. 44  On the timings of this process, see Kalifa, L’ère de la culture marchandise cit., pp. 7–14. 43

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programmes, allowed a truly frenzied production rate of dramas à grande spectacle. The transfer of plots and characters between different literary genres (e.g. from the novel to the stage), but also between different stage forms, is part of a propensity to “permeability” in literary genres which is a strong feature of the period being considered, and is linked, among other things, to the very limited legal recognition of copyright.45 English gothic novels (and their French imitations) were the first to be turned into mélodrames; then came texts by German authors such as August von Kotzebue, Friedrich Ludwig Zacharias Werner and Friedrich Schiller (from each of their texts, Pixérécourt, who could read and translate German, could obtain even more than one pièce).46 Finally, the books by Walter Scott, the viscount of Arlincourt and the adventure novels by Charles Antoine Pigault-Lebrun; and even Shakespeare, whose Macbeth became a melodrama in 1829 thanks to Victor Ducange. Only the normative legitimacy of authorship, on the one hand, and the romantic aesthetics of artistic originality, on the other, would undermine the practice of a casual transfer between different genres and literary forms that we find with extraordinary frequency in the cultural output of the time. But this would only happen from the 1830s. Marie-Pierre Le Hir has retraced very well the complex routes travelled in France by the dual recognition of copyright, for novelists, on the one hand, and theatre authors, on the other.47 In particular, she has pointed out that, from a normative point of view, this period was also a circumscribed and very specific stage, when great freedom in terms of adaptation was granted to the theatre, in the wake of the typically revolutionary idea of the stage as the main vehicle for the education of the population. From this perspective, 45  On the practice of adaptation and its development in the Romantic age, see P.  Cox, Reading Adaptations. Novels and Verse Narrative on the Stage, 1790–1840, Manchester University Press, Manchester 2000; and also F.  Mantaclair (ed.), L’adaptation du roman feuilleton au théâtre, colloque de Cerisy-La-Salle, Presses du Centre Unesco de Besançon, Besançon 1998. After Walter Scott’s case, a real industry of dramatisation arose around Dickens’ books: see H. P. Bolton, Dickens Dramatized, Mansell Publishing, London 1987. 46  As argued by W. G. Hartog, Guilbert de Pixérécourt. Sa vie, son mélodrame, sa technique et son influence, Champion, Paris 1913. 47  M.-P. Le Hir, Authors vs Playwrights: The Two Authorship Systems of the Old Regime in France and the Repercussions of Their Merger, in “Theatre Journal”, XLIV, 1992, 4, pp.  501–514. See also O.  Bara, Balzac en vaudeville: manipulations et appropriations du roman par la scène parisienne (1830–1840), in P. Bourdin and G. Loubinoux (eds), La scène batârde: entre Lumières et romantisme, Presses universitaires Blaise Pascal, Clermond-Ferrand 2004, pp. 91–109.

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anything seemed to be granted to theatre writers, who were urged to adapt successful novels for the stage so that everyone could get to know them. It would only be with the July Monarchy, and following a new strong mobilisation by writers, before “plagiarism” would begin to be recognised even in the ordinary sense of the term as a morally deplorable fact, and, above all, would begin to affect the stage. In 1834, even Balzac complained, for example, of barely managing to release a new book that his literary inventions immediately became theatrical entertainment, ultimately limiting book sales.48 Whilst, from the point of view of the offer, we can say that we are looking at a sort of proto-industry of entertainment, the scale of the demand and the actual attendance to these shows are more complex to disentangle. In fact, reliable data on the daily attendance to theatres and especially on the social profile of the audiences cannot be traced. What we can find in some abundance, in the intense debate that arose around the melodrama, are the stagings and the discourse about the audience, where, however, it is difficult to glean its social description from the ferocious moralistic diatribe against the mélo. Contemporaries were evidently struck by the novelty of the spectacular effects they saw, as well as by the social ones, given that in post-revolutionary France, the mélo appeared to be at least tendentially leading to the “democratisation” of theatre audiences. It is very difficult to say to what extent this also corresponded to making audiences more “working-class”, as the reports were often critical or were pungent parodies of the attempts to make theatre available to the mass market. We certainly cannot speak of “popular” theatre even in the programmatic sense given to the word at the end of the nineteenth century.49 It was rather a theatre that spoke to a broader audience, using a simple and almost childlike language, as the contemporaries often wrote. In the pamphlets, parodies and literary jokes about melodrama that appeared in those years, the images used most frequently to describe its audiences came from the small trades and crafts: bakers, shoemakers, playing-card makers, all described as they ran to the boulevards to watch the latest melodramas and

 Le Hir, Authors vs Playwrights cit., p. 502.  The ambiguity of the notion of popular theatre before the vast movement which developed around this concept between the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries has been stressed by M. Denizot (ed.), Théâtre populaire et représentations du peuple, Presses Universitaire de Rennes, Rennes 2010, p. 8. 48 49

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be corrupted by their violent emotions.50 For example, there was the sad story of a good shoemaker and of his servant wife, both illiterate, who saw their children led astray and ruined by the boulevard shows where they spent most of their days.51 The most famous protagonists of these polemical interventions were, however, a non-specific “bonhomme du Marais”, who evidently represented the dweller in a neighbourhood devoted to small urban trades; and a baker from Gomesse, a suburb to the north-east of the capital, who said he was a poet and the president of the local literary university. Both took part in the city’s theatre life for the first time and were described whilst, in their coarseness and gullibility, they fell victims to the lures of the excessive emotionalism of melodramas. Where everyone—detractors and supporters—agreed was in noting the large numbers of people that went to watch the melodramas. It was a real “crowd”, as newspapers often repeated when describing the gatherings at the entrances of theatres. An 1816 tourist guide teaching British visitors “how to enjoy Paris” remarked upon the presence in the boulevards of a lively and colourful crowd.52 And an exceptional visitor, Lady Morgan, stressed the liveliness of the boulevard environment, featuring a variety of people, including the higher classes, for whom it was fashionable to be seen even in minor theatres.53 Attendance was, however, different on the various days of the week, Mercier wrote in his Tableau de Paris; and on Sundays, only an audience of workers would be found. On the other hand, trying to attract a broad and not necessarily cultured audience had been one of the original aims of the melodrama, both (virtually) in its first role as a philosophical experiment, and in its commercial practice. Rousseau and Benda had theorised it. Pixérécourt had made it one of his hobby horses.54 In the introduction to the aforementioned collection of mélo 50  A. Ricord, Quelques rèflexions sur l’art théâtrale, sur les causes de sa decadence et sur les moyens à employer pour ramener la scène française à son ancienne splendeur, Petit, Paris 1811, p. 44. 51  J. B. L. Camel, De l’influence des théâtres et particulièrement des théâtres sécondaires sur les moeurs du peuple, Impr. de Nouzou, Paris 1822, p. 2. This was the pamphlet which won the competition launched by the Lyon’s Académie des sciences, des lettres et d’arts devoted to the moral influence of theatres. 52  Cited by D. Davidson, France after Revolution. Urban Life, Gender and the New Social Order, Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.) 2007. 53  Lady Morgan, La France, Treuttel et Würtz, Paris-Londres 1817, p. 90. 54  “Consider that I only write for those who cannot read”: this statement by the “father” of the mèlo was reported by A.  De Rochefort, Mémoire d’un vaudevilliste, Charlieu et Huillery, Paris 1863, p. 172.

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masterpieces, unsigned but presumably authored by him, we read that the new genre was intended to appeal to the masses, unlearned but endowed with souls and common sense, intent on being pleasantly distracted and eager for adventures, acts of courage and virtue and lively shows, full of twists and turns of events.55 Finally, a specific section of the audience was considered particularly suited to the melodrama: women. It was clear to the producers themselves, Pixérécourt first and foremost,56 that women were sensitive to emotional emphasis, the tearful passion of melodramatic plots. The image of a female audience devoted to melodrama soon became a sort of cliché in the descriptions of the theatres of the time, as shown in Boilly’s beautiful painting, where a lady faints in the pit of a stage and is promptly supported by her fellow spectators (Fig. 3.2). This was the effect of the melodrama, as the painting is entitled, and it is precisely a new “aesthetics of the effect” that seems to have characterised this type of show and been its true novelty. In fact, the number of visual stimuli offered was reported as one of its strongest attractions and the source of the momentous shift in the viewers’ preference from written texts to shows.57 In the first decades of the century, all this was accompanied by particular creativity in stagecraft, where partially mobile backdrops began to allow rapid scene changes; rather complicated devices such as the well-known diorama made it possible to show moving backgrounds; lighting effects on thin and weightless fabrics created sunsets, dawns, mists and fires that left

55  Essai sur le mélodrame, introduction to volume I of the cited series Chefs d’oeuvres des mélodrames. 56  In yet another intervention on the subject (Le mélodrame, in Paris ou Le livre des Cent-­ et-­un, Ladvocat, Paris 1832, t. 6, pp. 319–352), Pixérécourt imagined a conversation in a drawing room. The detractors of melodrama were a well-groomed old man, two academics, two judges and a member of the accommodation commission. Opposing them, there was the salonnière, a young, art-loving woman claiming to speak on behalf of all women, who declared that they were invariably fascinated, moved and left throbbing with emotion by the plots of the mélo. 57  According to Thomasseau (Le mélodrame cit.) the genre played a great part in the renewal of theatre art taking place in the first half of the century prompted by Romanticism. Scene setting in particular, to which Pixérécourt devoted his obsessive attention became the fundamental element of a profoundly renewed scenic language. See also I. Moindrot (ed.), Le spectaculaire dans les arts de la scène du romantisme à la Belle Epoque, Cnrs Éditions, Paris 2006.

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Fig. 3.2  Louis Léopold Boilly, L’effet du mélodrame. 1830 [The Effect of Melodrama] oil on canvas, Musée Lambinet, Versailles

the audience open-mouthed.58 Amongst other things, the mélo and generally the boulevard shows produced a new generation of prop masters who used lights, sounds and see-through effects in a new style of performance that was fundamentally different from the previous classical shows. It is no coincidence that Louis Daguerre, the future inventor of the process of reproducing images named daguerreotypes in his name, first experimented with light as a decorator at the Ambigu Comique, where he tried to perfect the illusion of the scenes, thus contributing to the great success of some melodramas.59

58  See M.-A. Allevy, La mise en scène en France dans la première moitié du XVIIIe siècle, Slatkine reprints, Genève 1976 (but 1st ed. 1938); and also H.  El Nouty, Théâtre et pré-­ cinema. Essai sur la problématique du spectacle au XIXe siècle, Éditions Nizet, Paris 1978. 59  Allevy, La mise en scène cit., pp. 41–50.

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Between England and Italy: In the Footsteps of a Transnational Product The first mélodrames had been the result of philosophical-theatrical experiments with a European outlook. The involvement of several national literatures also marked the boulevard articulation of the new genre, which was mostly the outcome of adaptations and assembly work from texts in the European proto-romantic style. To confirm and highlight its structurally transnational character, the new genre immediately became subject to a rather rapid and intense circulation.60 Its arrival in 1802 on the London stage, thanks to the playwright Thomas Holcroft, had contributed to its formalisation in France as well. From then on, French melodramas circulated throughout Napoleonic Europe, where, also thanks to a conspicuous mobility of armies and troops,61 there was a substantial intensification of theatrical activity. In the first two decades of the century, many translations, or rather adaptations, of Pixérécourt’s and Caigniez’s shows arrived in Holland, Germany, Russia, Portugal, Spain and Italy, bringing with them all the main features that had characterised their first developments: an absolute moral Manichaeism, an exaggerated use of gesture, extreme physicality and the emotional use of music.62 In comparison with different theatrical systems and cultural environments, the melodrama also had very different outcomes, with equally diversified fortunes and paths that have only been partially investigated. These different trajectories highlight the possible developments of a consumeristic theatrical production in the early nineteenth century, and at the same time, the spread of what Peter Brooks has called—as we shall see—“melodramatic imagination”. The destination reached with greatest speed and frequency was initially Great Britain, or rather London, where Pixérécourt’s, Caigniez’s and later Victor Ducange’s major texts arrived shortly after their French stagings. This is not surprising, given the widespread circulation of pantomime and burletta, short scenes derived from the commedia dell’arte, where struggles to the death between good and evil were represented. In England at the 60  According to J. Chandler, the melodramatic moment identified between 1790 and 1820 (The melodramatic moment, cit. p. xii) was characterised by an “impressive mobility of melodramatic forms and practices across nations”. 61  As argued by Russell, Theatre cit. 62  On the circulation of melodramas, see F.  Rahill, The World of Melodrama, The Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park 1967. Information on Pixérécourt’s translation is taken from Hartog, Guilbert de Pixérecourt. Sa vie, son mélodrame cit.

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beginning of the nineteenth century, the entertainment market was already very articulated in what it was offering and virtually open to non-élite audiences.63 As Jane Moody has shown, the British theatre landscape was dominated by the conflict between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” theatres to conquer a rapidly growing market, while the major London theatres had been radically restructured, greatly increasing their capacity as well as considerably expanding their stage areas for productions that aimed at a high level of spectacularity in their stagings. In London, the mélo found not only great success, but also a very rapid naturalisation. The entertainment formula experimented with on the boulevards (three acts, with musical accompaniment and dialogue) was also the perfect solution to the limitations imposed by the English regulatory system of the time. However, crossing the Channel had in fact led to a rather important variation: in the first two decades of the century, Holcroft’s text and the many other adaptations of French melodramas which had arrived in London had, in fact, been staged in the large theatres, where they took on the role of after-pieces, brief endings to the evening after the high point of drama.64 The fact that they were an imported genre, coming directly from the Paris stages, essentially allowed their entry to the legitimate theatres, where they ended up encouraging greater contamination between entertainment genres and languages and an enrichment in the stage codes. Nonetheless, a clear distinction was rapidly established between two separate and distinct theatrical spheres: the “legitimate” one, more closely monitored by the censorship authority, where the French mélos continued to be staged as after-pieces, but where gradually the high fashion of opera also developed; as well as a more commercial and popular prose-theatre, which increasingly appealed to an audience of commoners. It was within this space that a new generation of English authors of melodrama emerged, urged to produce texts for rapid consumption, while a production with a markedly radical political register was also developing.65 One of the most significant cases of convergence between these two trajectories was William Thomas Moncrieff, an author who, at great speed, churned out burlette and melodramas for the minor theatres with plebeian heroes who tended 63  See P. Borsay, A History of Leisure. The British Experience since 1500, Palgrave Macmillan, London 2006. 64  M.W. Disher, Blood and Thunder. Mid-Victorian Melodrama and Its Origin, Frederick Muller, London 1949; M. Booth, English Melodrama, Herbert Jenkins, London 1965. 65  On the early presence in England of a plebeian dramatic sphere, see the analysis by Worrall, The Politics of Romantic Theatricality cit.

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to challenge the traditional class structure in various ways.66 English melodramatic production had in fact soon acquired a social twist that had been completely absent from the first Paris mélo. Rather than in human nature as such, in many English plots, wickedness tended to nest in the social order itself. It was against its iniquities that the emotional reaction of the audience was directed.67 Thus, starting from the 1820s, a prolific production of melodramas developed, where, as in the very well-known Luke the Labourer or the Lost Son by J. B. Buckstone (1826), the usual confrontation between the hero and the wicked man might be played between an unemployed labourer and his former employer. The narrative device essentially continued along the same tracks, but the interpretative shift was important: evil was no longer traced in human nature itself, as in the treacherous Trugulin in Coelina, but became the product of a social order where injustice dominated. The following decade would see a notable development in England of a minor theatrical production dominated by the melodrama and articulated in numerous thematic and narrative strands. In fact, in the Anglo-Saxon world, melodrama enjoyed a particularly long and intense life, which began to decline only in the years around the First World War, with the emergence of new forms of popular entertainment, such as cinema. A similar trajectory has also been observed in other northern European countries and in the United States, where for the whole century, melodrama production was one of the most lively and lasting expressions of a stage art with a commercial and popular profile that attracted a broad and diversified audience.68 The Italian trajectory of the mélo was very different: the first problem arose regarding the use of the term. The shows derived from Pixérécourt’s and Caigniez’s found in Italian theatres in the Napoleonic age were not in fact identified as “melodrammi”, since the term here continued to mean “lyric opera”. On the contrary, they were given the names of “stage actions” or “spectacular representations”. We know, for example, that  On Moncrieff, see Id., Artisan Melodrama and the Plebeian Public Sphere cit.  A more socially oriented version of melodramas had meanwhile appeared in France as well with Victor Ducange, whose very famous Thérèse ou l’orpheline de Genève (1820) had soon been adapted by an American actor and playwright, John Howard Payne, and fought over by two London theatres a few months after its publication in France. On Victor Ducange, see especially M.-P.  Le Hir, Le romantisme aux enchères: Ducange, Pixérécourt, Hugo, John Benjamins, Amsterdam-Philadelphia 1992. 68  On the American case, see D. Grimsted, Melodrama Unveiled. American Theater and Culture 1800–1850, Chicago University Press, Chicago-London 1968; and also J. D. Mason, Melodrama and the Myth of America, Indiana University Press, Bloomington 1993. 66 67

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between 1802 and 1806, various translations were staged in Venice, and some productions in Milan and Turin, often with different titles and—as was noted in the programmes—with “various changes for the use of Italian theatre”.69 A huge and unusual quantity of translations of texts from the French theatre which today we would call “minor” was recorded in Italy between 1790 and 1820, in the context of a notable growth in theatrical publishing in the form of collections and repertoires of contemporary theatre.70 At least until the 1820s, the number of writers of melodrama in these collections was quite considerable. On the contrary, after the Napoleonic era, the stagings of these shows in theatres became rarer, since in Italy the hegemony of opera and its consolidated production system in shows which combined music and word was unchallenged. However, in Italy, the French mélo had a direct and considerable influence upon opera production, as it found in some leading librettists, such as Felice Romani, highly successful mediators and ultimately contributed to the creation of what has been called the “melodramatic melodrama” of the 1820s and 1830s.71 From the repertoire of the mélo, the opera of the time borrowed first and foremost the topics. The best-known cases include: La rosa bianca e la rosa rossa by composer Simone Mayr (Genoa 1813), taken from Pixérécourt; La gazza ladra by Gioacchino Rossini (Milan 1817), taken from Caigniez’s La Pie voleuse; Margherita d’Anjou (Milan 1820), whose plot Meyerbeer took from Pixérécourt; Il pirata set to music by Bellini (1827), which Romani took from Nodier’s text by the same title. The list is much longer if we look at works less well known today. For example, Pietro Generali’s farce-operas, such as Adelina (Venice 1810), taken from a 1797 text by Edmond de Favières; or Carlo Coccia, whose Fatal supposizione (Venice 1811) has a very similar plot to that of Coelina. Romani himself adapted Ducange’s Thérèse ou l’orpheline de Genève and d’Aubigny’s Les deux sergents, two of the most famous melodramas of the period, as opera librettos for Luigi Ricci. 69  As stated, for example, on the title page of the libretto of Il conte de’ castelli, Italian version of Le Pélerin blanc di Pixérécourt, Rosa, Venice 1806. 70  A systematic reconstruction of this production is in G. S. Santangelo and C. Vinti, Le traduzioni italiane del teatro comico francese dei secoli 17 e 18,  a bibliographic investigation directed by M. Spaziani, Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, Rome 1981. 71  This is the definition suggested by Maria Grazia Accorsi (Il melodramma melodrammatico, in “Sigma”, XIII, 1980, 1, pp. 109–127), who speaks of an opera season marked by the triumph of virtue and morality and by an accentuated sentimental and emotional amplification. On Felice Romani, see the detailed analysis by A. Roccatagliati, Felice Romani librettista, Libreria musicale italiana, Lucca 1996.

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Thus, the operas of the period were filled with orphans, young women forced to defend themselves against shameful accusations about their origins, medallions, secret letters, signs of various kinds that finally allowed revelation and recognition scenes to be staged. More generally, the mélo, as we have seen, dramatised and contributed to popularising the texts of many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novels, creating a lively and intense intertextual chain where, in Italy, opera remained the strong link. Thus, The Bride of Lammermoor by Walter Scott reached Donizetti and other opera composers who experimented with the same subject matter, not through the original novel, but through its melodramatic version, staged on the boulevard by Ducange in 1828. But the meeting points between opera and the mélo do not stop at their subjects. The fact is that, in its historical plots, the operatic world made its own and developed—also with Bellini and Donizetti—some of the elements that had most characterised the major boulevard genre: expressive emphasis and emotional polarisation; the constant attention to twists and turns of events; a search for effect that occurred, above all, through emotional identification and the mirroring prompted by compassion. As Emilio Sala has written and brilliantly argued, the Italian opera of the 1820s and 1830s increasingly incorporated and metabolised many elements that were part of the mélodramatique rhetoric. “The importance of the mélo—he wrote—in the redefinition of opera, especially after Rossini, went beyond the level of the fabula (of the similarities in the subjects, the situations, the actantial roles, etc.) and, in fact, also involved the level of the plot and the dramatic syntax always aimed at exaggerated gestures, coups de théâtre and emotional short-circuits”.72 Unlike the classic device of the first melodramas, always characterised by a happy ending, a constant element in opera texts, especially since the 1830s, was the tragic ending that involved the death of the hero and/or heroine.73 It is difficult, however, to consider it a substantial variant, given  Sala, L’opera senza canto cit., p. 111.  Also in the 1830s French mélo, there were some tragic endings which sometimes replaced the reassuring certainty of the happy ending and brought those plots closer to the most intense romantic atmospheres. The social conditions where the characters acted acquired unprecedented importance, within scenes where poverty and criminality were intertwined, in an atmosphere of revendication and denunciation with often liberal political overtones sometimes expressed in court scenes where the public was called to take the role of the judge. On Ducange and on the application of the idea (which had been Mercier’s) of the dramatist as leader of the people and as executioner, see Le Hir, Le romantisme aux enchères cit., pp. 43–44. 72 73

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that what was staged was, in most of these plots, as in the early mélo, the full and total recognition of virtue, which after many difficult trials reached a sort of “ethical” happy ending. It was precisely the fulfilment of an anxious desire for absolute dichotomies and reassurance over the inevitable prevailing of good that testifies to the pervasive presence of a melodramatic imagination in the operatic texts of the time, together with the strong identification between emotion and virtue. With its expressive paroxysm accompanied by music, boulevard theatre was easily translatable into opera librettos, and in any case, nudged opera production towards a more careful search for effect, a fusion of comic and tragic elements, a marked emotional polarisation and the prevalence of plot over characters, who became mere representations of the passions involved. Whilst therefore in Italy the new genre did not find its own autonomous place as a form of entertainment, many of the devices of the mélodrame were gradually absorbed by opera theatre, which also shared with the former its being a show conceived essentially for entertainment. Moreover, in the 1830s, what is increasingly clearly being perceived today as a melodramatic moment was clearly waning. If we exclude the Anglo-Saxon world, where these shows continued to dominate commercial theatre in their various forms, it was the adjective “melodramatic” that was used most often, mostly derogatively to indicate a predilection for emotional excess and for the emphatic exaggeration of feelings that could unite different genres and productions, theatrical or otherwise. In France, the term mélodrame itself became increasingly rare in theatrical programming, eventually disappearing during the 1840s. Meanwhile, the great season of romantic drama, on the one hand, and comedy-vaudeville, on the other, had begun: the two genres that would dominate the Paris scenes after the July Revolution. The separation between boulevard popular melodrama and Hugo’s romantic drama grew ever-sharper, and the respective circuits finally divided. The fuller development of media culture tended to promote a fragmentation, rather than standardisation, of different audiences in terms of their reasons and needs.74 Despite having almost disappeared from the French stages, the melodramatic element still remained in the form of narrative and expressive devices that pervaded both the literature and the social and political life of the time.

 Kalifa, L’ère de la culture marchandise cit.

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CHAPTER 4

Between Mélodrame and Melodramatic Imagination

Who Is Afraid of the Melodrama? The Mélo as “mover of the heart” Much has been said against the melodrama. This genre, some who claim to be expert say, is subversive of good taste; it tends to diminish theatrical art. We must ban it, destroy it. Introduction to the series “Chefs d’oeuvres des mélodrames”, 1824

From the observations of contemporaries, it was very clear from the start that this was far more than a theatrical phenomenon. From its first developments, the new genre had become the object of a long and ferocious campaign of controversy and parodies, with implications that went well beyond merely aesthetic judgements. These interventions were both in verse and in prose, featuring a variety of tones ranging from ironic and sharp satire to dark and worried condemnation, which had a tendency to present it as a product deeply rooted in its time and as one of the most worrying outcomes of recent events. In this show—it was argued—one could detect all the evil originating from the dismembering of social and cultural hierarchies which had followed the demise of the status-based society of the Ancien Régime, and from the unusual mobility that the revolution had caused in the society of the time; this was both social and spatial mobility, thanks to the geographical fluidity that the revolutionary © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 C. Sorba, Politics and Sentiments in Risorgimento Italy, Italian and Italian American Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-69732-7_4

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events and the large population movements connected to them had produced, thus speeding up the establishment of Paris as a metropolis.1 An imaginary but socially and culturally well characterised author called Placide Le Vieux, a poet and a baker from Gomesse, a suburb in the north-­ east of Paris, is credited with the publication, in 1809, of the first jest in verses entitled Le mélodrame aux boulevard. It described very vividly the way in which the new genre burst onto Paris’ theatrical life and what this meant in terms of disruption of the consolidated framework.2 It was one of the first—and certainly one of the most effective—in a series of parodies which went hand-in-hand with a press campaign harshly opposed to the new genre. They showed all the discomfort felt by contemporaries, but also their surprise, either ironic or contemptuous, when faced with a novelty accused of representing the disorder and social subversion that the revolution had left behind. The writer presented himself as a “historian of the boulevards” and a “knight of the mélo”. In a parody of the small and uncouth provincial man to whom the new times had given access to the world of culture, Placide showed his credentials: he could boast about being part of the University which, as in many other places in the Empire, had been appropriately created in the village of Gomesse as well. The community, he confessed, wanted to turn it into a real academy, but had to give up on this, since only four of its founders had proved themselves worthy men of letters by writing riddles and epitaphs in the newspaper of the Department of Seine et Oise. At any rate, the president of the University was the most respectable farmer in the area and the author of a masterly description of the cultivation of asparagus, but also of a tragedy on the siege of Mytilene which he intended to present to Paris’ Comédie Française very soon. The social context highlighted emerges clearly from the pungent irony: a petty suburban bourgeoisie, presumed to be anxious to enter the world of letters and shamelessly emulative of its behaviour and practices, and therefore portrayed as intent on competing with tragic and lyrical writing, 1  For the elements of social transformation triggered by the new urban mobility, see in particular D.  Garrioch, The Formation of the Parisian Bourgeoisie (1690–1830), Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.)–London 1996. 2  Le mélodrame aux boulevards. Facetie littéraire, historique et dramatique par Placide le Vieux, habitant de Gomesse, de l’Athénée du mème endroit et des sociétés littéraires de Saint Denis et d’Argenteuil, De l’Imprimerie de la rue Beaurepaire, Paris 1809; its author was in fact Jean-Armand Charlemagne, man of letters and theatre writer, who had written antiJacobin pièces such as Le souper des jacobins (1795).

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commenting in newspapers and of course showing off in theatres, as enthusiastic regulars on the boulevards and at the mélos. What, then, was the reason for their extraordinary success? Simple—the alleged baker-poet wrote with absolute certainty. They ensure that “for thirty centimes, an unknown citizen is equal to a patrician”,3 that he is received without disdain and amazed by shows made to strike first and foremost his eyes, where the scenes count more than words; where a hero is outlawed and persecuted, but invariably victorious; where anything and everything happens, in an exciting chain of ever-changing events: murders and love-making, fighting and conspiracy, celebrations and poisoning, on stages populated by “models of virtue and monsters of crime, persecutors and victims”.4 The boulevards as location and the mélo as a genre seemed to embody the overturning of every social and cultural hierarchy, a theatrical “anarchy” produced by the liberalisation of 1791.5 Of course, Placide-from-Gomesse’s wit did not stop there. It went on with the same irony and reversal in his parody of the Parisian theatrical landscape, highlighting two significant elements: firstly, the mélo was “big business”, which made its authors rich, too. Secondly, the secret of the new genre consisted in borrowing from and plagiarising other texts, ransacked as if there was no tomorrow and freely reassembled in an attempt to lavish onto the public all the emotional vocabulary of the eighteenth-­ century literary noir, largely from England, of which it was considered the successor. We thus glimpse how baffled some contemporaries were by a new kind of audience and by the theatrical “democratisation” which, despite the end of revolutionary theatrical projects, still seemed to advance in the new boulevards district, no longer a simple place for acrobats and mimes but a space for a theatrical potpourri, where one could come across the traditional characters of tragedy, such as Brutus and Mithridates, and unfortunate orphans persecuted by the ubiquitous wicked character. Placide’s was the first of a long series of attacks on the mélo, which became even harsher in the following years. One of the most significant, at least for its pungent acumen, was an 1817 satirical pamphlet which—after the Restoration—attempted an even more detailed and precise analysis of

 Ibid., p. 7.  Ibid., p. 9. 5  A. Hapdé, De l’anarchie théâtrale ou de la nécessité de remettre en viguer les lois et les régléments rélatifs aux différents genres des spectacles de Paris, J. G. Dentu, Paris, 1814. 3 4

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the phenomenon.6 At a time when melodrama was no longer a novelty, it asked what its main narrative devices and overall meaning were. As in Placide’s case, the criticism levelled at it was at once political, social and literary. Its authors were three snobbish young men in their twenties, (one was Abel Hugo, Victor’s elder brother), who published a text with an apparently sombre and high-sounding title—A Treatise on Melodrama— and an openly ironic signature represented by the initials of their three names followed by melodramatic exclamation marks: “A! A! A!”. In this case, the reference to the recent revolution was explicit. In the first place, the three young authors wrote, “Melodrama belongs exclusively to our age, although it anticipated it by a few years”, travelling through it with disruptive force to say the least. “Let us say it and repeat it constantly to ourselves, as this phenomenon is so unprecedented: Melodrama has not found in its path the resistance discussed above: it has swept away and invaded everything”. This had happened because it was one of the most successful fruits of the recent revolution and the expression of one of its profound legacies. Not much has been written—in an otherwise extensive historiography on Napoleonic France—on the process of rearticulation of the social and cultural hierarchies that characterised the aftermath of the revolution. Studies of the nineteenth-century European bourgeoisie carried out in the 1980s and 1990s have generally read the situation of the early nineteenth century by paying more attention to elements foreshadowing subsequent developments, such as the full development of a bourgeois society, rather than retrospectively considering how and in which direction French society had tended to rearticulate its social structures after the trauma of the revolution.7 In fact, the few studies available tend to detect, in the first twenty years of the century, a singularly fluid, if very ephemeral society, preceding the more stable reorganisation of the hierarchical order that took place during the Restoration. These renewed social hierarchies had 6  Here and below, I refer to the Italian translation, with an introduction by Peter Brooks, A! A! A!, Trattato del melodramma, Pratiche editrice, Parma 1985. Pixérécourt himself would soon reply to this kind of satirical manifesto with a pamphlet entitled Guerre au mélodrame!!!, Délaunay, Paris 1818, and signed «Le bonhomme du Marais». 7  See, for example, J. Kocka (ed.), Borghesie europee dell’Ottocento, Italian edition edited by A.  M. Banti, Marsilio, Venice 1989; Garrioch’s book, The Formation of the Parisian Bourgeoisie cit., represents an exception to the prevailing approach in its long-term analysis of the Parisian bourgeoisie focusing on a specific urban area and using a socio-political, administrative and cultural approach.

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supposedly found their linchpin and driving force in a new bourgeois sociability, as well as in its healthy and edifying spirit of emulation.8 The early post-Napoleonic phase is considered a transition in the restoration of a social order profoundly compromised by the events of the previous thirty years. What I am most interested in highlighting is how in the various phases of this process, still largely in need of reconstruction, the field of entertainment played a significant role, which we see well reflected in the controversies against the boulevard theatres. The campaign against the melodrama was in fact a strenuous defence against the disintegration of the previous social and cultural order. What made the disapproval of melodrama by contemporaries particularly vigorous seems to have been its embodiment of a series of innovations that questioned the existing ones, both in terms of supply and of demand for entertainment, with the opening up of theatrical spaces to a uneducated, provincial audience. A very similar controversy, both in its terms and its discursive devices, developed in the same period in Great Britain as well: the melodrama, which arrived there from France in the same form and with the same name, achieved considerable success with the public and, at the same time, became the object of forms of satirical and caricatural reversal similar to those described above. For example, the new genre was presented as a sort of “monster”, a disturbing, hybrid creature with multiple arms illegally encroaching upon the traditionally consolidated theatrical space.9 In these campaigns, we find a complex tangle of social, aesthetic and moral motivations, which show how the mélo, as a new and successful entertainment experience, had touched some raw nerves in the functioning of the current theatrical system, variously harking back to prompts linked to the culture of the Enlightenment: the questioning of the social rules that made the theatre an elitist place, the greater attention given to spectacularity compared to words, the strong interweaving of emotion and morality and the direct and often crude gaze on crime and 8  On the rhetoric of emulation as a key instrument to restore social order in nineteenthcentury France, see C.  E. Harrison, The Bourgeois Citizen in Nineteenth Century France. Gender, Sociability and the Uses of Emulation, Oxford University Press, Oxford–New York 1999 and also D. Davidson, France after Revolution. Urban Life, Gender and the New Social Order, Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.) 2007. 9  Moody, Illegitimate Theatre cit., p.  56; and also E.  Hadley, Melodramatic Tactics. Theatricalized Dissent in the English Marketplace, 1800–1885, Stanford University Press, Stanford (Ca.) 1995, pp. 63–64.

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wickedness.10 Finally, the controversy against the mélo can also be read as a classic struggle for the structuring and control of the theatre, useful, among other things, in that it allows us to return to the usual contrast between classicism and romanticism without being conditioned by later developments. In fact, as Marie-Pierre Le Hir has pointed out, all the main ingredients listed by Pierre Bourdieu as the pre-requisites of a conflict of this kind were there: the growth in the body of consumers, both massive and disorderly in the 1790s; the increase and diversification of producers, with the development of a rich and articulated theatrical landscape, and a sort of proliferation of the requests for cultural consecration which tended to accentuate the defence of orthodoxy.11 It was a bitter social and theatrical quarrel, that would lose momentum only after 1830, thanks to a substantial reconfiguration of the entire picture, bringing to the fore better structured and more recognisable romantic demands. Another genre would then be at the centre of the controversy about theatre: the romantic drama, around which Victor Hugo had in those years built his own manifestos, resolutely distancing himself from the commercial adventures of melodramas to set himself up as an independent artistic field, considerably removed from the general public.12 But this was a different phase, which goes beyond the scope of our discussion and where there is no need to tread. It should be noted that, from the very beginning, Guilbert de Pixérécourt had not shied away from the controversy against the mélo; on the contrary, on several occasions he responded to the attacks by taking on the role of advocate as well as of putative father of the mélo. The mélo, he argued, was anything but an attack against public morality; on the contrary, it tended to represent on the stage a realm of virtue where good always prevailed over evil, unlike in the libertine and immoral pièces of the 10  Plus des mélodrames! Leurs dangers considérés sous le rapport de la religion, des moeurs, de l’instruction publique et de l’art dramatique, J.  C. Dentu, Paris 1814; along this line also Camel, De l’influence des théâtres cit. 11  See Le Hir, Le romantisme aux enchères cit. 12  There had been numerous connections between melodrama and romanticism up until then, considering that much of European romantic literature had reached the French public through the melodramas staged on the boulevards. They had often been likened to each other by their detractors as expression of an obvious “corruption of taste” which presented to the public all the “unlikelihood, caves, ghosts, robbers, chains, all the ridiculous horrors of the English novelists” (A. Ricord, Quelques réflexions sur l’art théâtrale, sur les causes de sa décadence et sur les moyens à employer pour rappeler la scène française à son ancienne splendeur, Pillez, Paris 1811, p. 18).

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recent, pre-revolutionary past (and also very differently from the immorality of later romantic tragedies). All this was also very clear to the three young authors who signed themselves as A!. They argued that what was being questioned was a particular form of morality that could be linked to revolutionary events. “Great political upheavals have this particular feature, they wrote: they plunge the soul into a kind of torment that devours it and continues even when the hurricane has passed. Where would we ever be today, if, with the need for emotions that we inherited from the revolution, we did not find in the Melodrama the medium to satisfy it to the full?”.13 The intense explosion of collective emotions produced by the revolution—they argued—had left behind the curious cultural product named melodrama, whose narrative devices the three authors analysed in detail, seeing them as focused on extreme moral and psychological Manichaeism and on a sort of hyperbolic expressionism, linked to the need to express even the strongest emotions directly and without restraint. In this sense, it could not be called a “primitive” form of representation, but on the contrary, it was, like chemistry, the product of modernity, and could be counted as one of the major expressions of the century that was starting. So it was already clear to some contemporary observers that this form of entertainment based on the extreme amplification of emotions represented a sort of direct legacy of the revolution: through its heart-­wrenching plots, melodrama contributed to the reconstruction of an ethical universe well defined in its contours, where good and evil turned out to be fully and clearly intelligible and where, just as clearly, virtue was rewarded and wrongdoings exposed and severely punished. It was not an incitement to evil, but, on the contrary, a tribute to a victorious virtue that showed it had an extraordinary potential to be projected onto reality and to be particularly pervasive in the imagination and behaviour of the time. “We find this grandiose element, which is its essence,—the three authors also wrote,—in many actions, in many events, in so many men of our time”. The mélo tended to escape the theatrical sphere and more generally invade the public sphere and political action, so much so that “Melodramatic behaviour has appeared in literature, administration, monuments and above all in politics. The influence of this ‘mover of the heart’ has been such that there is no honest and peaceful Marais bourgeois who

 A! A! A!, Trattato del melodramma cit., pp. 6–7.

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does not occasionally behave Melodramatically in the humble context of his domestic life”. More than a theatrical device, melodrama could, then, be considered a “mover of the heart”, a form of expression of post-revolutionary sensibility that tended to consider good and evil as absolute principles and was inclined towards a marked dramatisation of emotions. In other words, it could be considered the last and extreme product of that culture of sensibility which had increasingly gained space in the eighteenth-century literary and political public sphere and which during the 1790s had reached its peak by permeating Jacobin rhetoric with the language of love (for political partners and virtuous companions) and hate (for treacherous aristocrats and counter-revolutionaries). In a fine analysis of the linguistic register used by Robespierre during the early 1790s, David Andress has identified in the extreme emphasis on sentiment, which is found even in his daily administrative correspondence, and in the melodramatic juxtaposition of the unarmed people and their wicked oppressor, one of the most interesting and least explored keys to understanding the Reign of Terror, not only in its ideological and institutional events but as an active and lived experience.14 A kind of hyperbolic sentimentalism had gradually characterised revolutionary political language, in the belief that only emotional excess could represent the “natural” sincerity of the human soul. Just like the oratory style of the revolution, and after the latter’s failure, staged melodrama offered its audience a resolutely black-and-white world: a Manichaean realm of virtue where duplicity was exposed and the characters ultimately appeared as they really were, the good in all their innocent sensibility and the bad in all their horrible cruelty. Such a narrative reorganised, in a straightforward and easily understandable way (through schematic, externalised conflicts and neat, clarifying solutions), an ethical system that appeared totally removed from the processes of secularisation and the fall of the traditional sources of authority. This could be done much more safely with the papier-mâché backdrops and the imaginary characters of boulevard theatres. Of the commentators of the time, the one who best developed the perceptive intuitions of the three A!s was ultimately Charles Nodier, narrator, bibliophile and eclectic organiser of Parisian literary life: far from liberal in his political stance, he was one of the creators of the cult of the provinces

 Andress, Living the Revolutionary Melodrama cit., pp. 103–128.

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as the cradle of the true French spirit.15 He intervened several times on the meaning of the infamous melodrama and finally agreed to write the introduction to the volumes that Pixérécourt published in 1841 with his Théâtre choisi.16 In his introduction, Nodier traced a historical significance of the genre, maintaining that it would be a serious mistake to underestimate the weight and the role that melodrama had played in post-­ revolutionary society; it should be considered as a sort of “ethics of the revolution”, the outcome of changes not only in theatrical consumption but also in post-revolutionary collective ethics. At that difficult time when the people could only resume their religious and social education at the theatre, there was a fortuitous perspective in the way melodrama was applied to the development of the fundamental principles of every kind of civilisation […]. What is certain is that in the circumstances in which it appeared, melodrama was a necessity. The entire population had just staged the greatest tragedy in history on the streets and in the town squares. Everyone had been an actor in that blood-soaked pièce, everyone had been either a soldier or a revolutionary or an outlaw. The awe-struck spectators who had experienced dust and blood needed emotions like the ones the return of public order had deprived them of.17

In Nodier’s view, the origins of melodrama as an art form were to be found in the imaginary folds of the moral and liturgical horror vacui which Mona Ozouf has described as the backbone of the new revolutionary celebratory rituals.18 The secularisation of reality, with the progressive removal of sacred symbols, which the revolution had so explosively triggered, would prompt the redefinition of a universe neatly polarised 15  On his very distinctive progress, see Charles Nodier. Colloque du deuxième centenaire, mai 1980, Les Belles Lettres, Paris 1981. See also the pages devoted to him by P. Benichou, L’école du désanchentement: Sainte-Beuve, Nodier, Musset, Nerval, Gauthier, Gallimard, Paris 1992. 16  In the idea, formulated with Nodier’s help, behind the volumes of his Théâtre choisi, Pixérécourt turned the mélo into a true literary form, equal to and even better than the romantic tragedy, stating that melodrama shared neither the latter’s aesthetic subversion nor its moral positions. The overall structure of the books, the choice of works and the posthumous use of critics such as Geoffroy were all elements functional to that aim. On the meaning of the editorial venture of the Théâtre choisi, see in particular R. Martin’s introduction to the complete collection of Pixérécourt’s works: Mélodrames cit. 17  C. Nodier, Introduction, in Pixérécourt, Théâtre choisi cit., vol. 1, pp. iii–vii. 18  See the classic by M. Ozouf, La festa rivoluzionaria (1789–1799), edited by F. Cataldi Villari, Patron, Bologna 1982, pp. 417 sgg., appropriately published in Italian in the series about theatre and theatrical direction edited by Luigi Squarzina.

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between good and evil, full of absolute and grandiose principles, which melodramatic narrative articulated perfectly and within a consistent picture. In its narrative and dramaturgical devices, this picture could be reproduced on the stage throughout Europe: as fiction, it appeared cleansed from the subversive and not easily controllable potential that the very same narrative had shown in the Jacobin squares and committees of the 1790s.

Melodramatic Style and Political Conflict in the Early Nineteenth Century September 1820. A newspaper from the city of Pau, in the Department of the Pyrenees, in the South-West of France, reported the story of a journalist who, when in a deep and remote valley of the Bearn province, had approached a little girl who was walking carrying bundles of wood on her head. When asked what her name was, the child had replied that she was not called Jeanne or Marguerite, as one might have imagined, but Coelina, the rather uncommon title of a novel by François Guillaume Ducray-­ Duminil, as well as one of the well-known melodramas by Guilbert de Pixérécourt. Intrigued, the journalist then learned that the girl’s family had seen it staged by the local drama company on a feast day and had decided to name the new-born girl after the unfortunate but ultimately victorious protagonist, the young girl who on the stages of the whole of France ended up living happily ever after with her beloved.19 Like a modern soap opera, the melodramatic production of the early nineteenth century had the potential to become the object of a form of media cult, engendering processes of identification and mirroring and representing a reservoir of names and specific fashion trends, from which, for example, tailors and hairdressers could take inspiration for dresses, hats or coiffures.20 This is what happened with the hairstyle inspired by Mary Stuart mentioned in 1821 in the Almanach des modes et des moeurs parisiennes with a specific reference to the mélo by the same title which was staged at that time at the Théâtre de la Porte St-Martin; or with the

19  The article, from the “Journal de Pau” of 8 September 1820 is mentioned in Pixérécourt, Théâtre choisi cit., vol. 1, p. 11. 20  See P.  L. Guern (ed.),  Les cultes médiatiques. Cultures, fans et oeuvres cultes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, Rennes 2002.

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Eulalia-style hat, inspired by a very well-known drama by Kotzebue.21 As a widely marketable cultural product, the mélo was at the centre of a process of reception, exchange and appropriation of elements flowing from the stage into society. These exchanges are difficult to pinpoint and even more to “measure” with any accuracy, but in the case of little Coelina they had—apparently—even reached a peasant environment.22 This is all the more relevant if we consider that this cultural production is completely forgotten today. It is in fact very difficult to trace the name of Coelina and its author in the histories of theatrical literature in France, which tend to note a sort of creative vacuum between Beaumarchais’ comedies and Victor Hugo’s tragedies, almost as if the revolutionary and post-­ revolutionary periods had not contributed anything really relevant to theatrical arts.23 The theatrical production of melodramas at the beginning of the century, on the contrary, is exceptionally intense, circulating throughout Europe in translation and imitated everywhere, in the forms and themes to which the various national societies happened to be most sensitive. The story of the provincial journalist, then, throws a glimpse of unexpected light on the theatrical experience of the time and on its ability to influence reality, which obviously isn’t limited to names, objects or hairstyles. In fact, we could argue—and this is precisely what we’ll attempt to do—that in post-revolutionary Europe, melodrama became a very widespread mode of expression and narration, extending well beyond the theatre to strongly affect the context of politics. We thus go back to the melodramatic imagination as described by Peter Brooks used in the opening of this book. It returns to the image of the “mover of the heart” of  Cited in Przybos, L’entreprise mélodramatiques cit., p. 32.  The truth of the story, in particular the actual dissemination of the mélo to provincial theatres, was questioned by C.  Gaspard (Coelina à l’aube de la littérature industriel, cit., p. 136), who wondered whether such dissemination to rural areas was believable and postulated a direct borrowing from Ducray-Dumenil’s novel, re-edited at least twenty times between 1818 and 1876 and very well known throughout France. This, however, does not diminish the significance of the example. Whether as novels or as plays, the melodrama plots were narratives of wide consumption which appeared in a multiplicity of forms. 23  According to M.  S. Buckley (Tragedy Walks the Streets. The French Revolution in the Making of Modern Drama, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 2006) this is a very enduring reading in theatre historiography, found even in more recent studies. In the author’s view, however, the impact of the revolution on English and French theatrical debates and practices was huge. Literary history has had a similar approach, as shown by K. Astbury, Narrative Response to the Trauma of French Revolution, Legenda, Oxford 2012. 21 22

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which contemporary observers had spoken, also stressing the precise historical context which had brought it about and detecting its very high capacity to be projected onto the society and culture of the early nineteenth century. In the early decades of the nineteenth century, a kind of new sensitivity, marked by a drive towards dramatisation and emotional intensity, would basically invade not only literature, both theatrical and otherwise, but also individual and collective behaviour. The analysis conducted so far has attempted to locate the first development of the mélodrame (as the most recognisable product of that imagination) more firmly within the framework of the earliest post-revolutionary society and culture, tracing its origins in the sentimentalist culture and in the unbreakable link between sentiment and morality that it had theorised and represented in many fictional works. It is now time to leave the theatre and understand whether and to what extent this expression of creativity affected the political dimension, its narratives and practices in the early nineteenth century. First of all, it must be remembered that the decades in question were crucial all over Europe in terms of constructing the political sphere, both in its ideal and theoretical forms and in its practices. Yet, they are generally much less regarded by historiography than the period after 1830, and even less so compared to 1848, when the overall picture of what can be defined as political, in its ideological groupings and in its modern action and communication devices, actually began to appear better defined and even more disciplined. The first thirty years of the century are in fact a phase in their own right, where the embryonic forms of political dissent against established power took shape in the name and idealisation of the people, in the different possible interpretations of this term after the hiatus of the revolution. In many cases, they originated in the cultural heritage of republicanism24 and were accompanied throughout Europe by new forms of action and politicisation of public space that can be traced back to a “radical” political grouping that includes both Anglo-Saxon liberal democracy and the republican democracy that developed in continental and southern Europe. Although different, these experiences are united by the idea of ​​a 24  In recent years, greater attention has been paid to this topic, even in the context of the increasing research on populism. For an outline in terms of intellectual and political history, see G. Ruocco and L. Scuccimarra (eds), Il governo del popolo. Rappresentanza, partecipazione, esclusione alle origini della democrazia moderna, 2 vol., Viella, Rome 2011–12. On the Italian case, see also N. Urbinati (ed.), The Transformation of Republicanism in Modern and Contemporary Italy, special issue of “Journal of Modern Italian Studies”, XVII, 2012, 2.

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powerful introduction of the emotional dimension into political action.25 “The arrival on the scene, in the wake of liberalism, of radicals,—Maurizio Ridolfi has written,—reflected the need to overcome an elitist view of politics, bringing institutions representing them closer to the people and thus opening up to an idea of politics that included passions and emotions”.26 In the long revolutionary season running through Europe between 1789 and 1848, the emotional aspects of political action were actually at the centre of the scene, representing one of the most obvious special features of that phase and resulting in a particular emphasis attributed both to the symbolic, visual and theatrical aspects of political practices, and—as we shall see in more detail further on—to the melodramatic quality of the narrative devices around which they were articulated. Some voices from British historiography have insisted on both these aspects, investigating in particular the continuities and fractures that took place between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the various aspects of political conflict.27 In the context of a re-reading of political and social conflict that has taken on markedly cultural and anthropological traits, some historians sensitive to the use of fiction as a cultural resource, and to its specific role in forming language and the representations that structure social and political identities, have directly taken up Brooks’ suggestion to consider melodrama not only as a theatrical product but as a narrative and an expressive device that left its mark on nineteenth-century political culture. Lynn Hunt had already drawn attention to the birth and role of the melodrama genre as a significant sign of a change in the collective imagination, which the American historian viewed as taking place in the final years of the century: a progressive rehabilitation of the family, the only possible refuge in the uncertain and dangerous world that followed the dramatic years of the Reign of Terror, in an attempt to recreate a (male) framework of order and peace.28 But some studies of early 25  On the progressive disciplining of political action and communication in the first half of the century, see the classic book by J.  Vernon, Politics and the People. A Study in English Political Culture, c. 1815–1867, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1993. 26  M.  Ridolfi (ed.), La democrazia radicale nell’Ottocento europeo. Forme della politica, modelli culturali, riforme sociali, Feltrinelli, Milan 2005, p. xii. 27  The bibliography on this is extensive. See in particular the studies by J. Epstein, especially Radical Expression: Political Language, Ritual and Symbol in England 1790–1850, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1994. 28  See the strong presence in the first melodramas of children, mostly orphans, who in the usual climax of the final scene of revelation and recognition find out about their origins and

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nineteenth-century England first pointed out that the construction of the first radical political space was strongly affected by melodramatic sensibility and its specific devices. In particular, Patrick Joyce and James Vernon, authors of innovative studies on culture and democratic political practice in the first decades of the century, have identified the melodrama, with its world of clearly-polarised moral contours and its deeply consoling appeal to a primitive state of innocence and harmony, as one of the most important “structures of the imagination” in the society of the time, suited to providing a convincing narrative form for a new type of political conflict that was beginning to appear, but was not yet dominated, as would be the case soon afterwards, by languages of class.29 If collective identities are defined, and this seems unarguable, even through specific ways of narrating reality, the melodramatic approach had its greatest potential in the symbolic reassurance it was able to provide to its audience, stating that there was a moral order in the world which, despite inequality and apparently ubiquitous abuses, would win through in the end thanks to the exposing of the villains and their machinations. “The melodramatic form of political imagination—Vernon wrote—provided a readily accessible and resonant language of feeling and desire, which instilled the subject with a sense of agency, by evoking a world larger than life in which the forces of good would always triumph over those of evil. […] Such forms structured the dynamics of oral, visual and, to a lesser extent, printed modes of political communication”.30 Important debts could obviously be traced in the Christian narratives of providence and redemption, also profoundly reassuring. But in that phase they were replaced, with the pervasive force of old and new media, by a narrative and expressive mode closely linked to the period in question and fostered by the melodramatic narratives that ran through novels and minor theatre. Elaine Hadley, who has worked extensively on the relationship between fiction production and political culture in Georgian and Victorian England, has written that it tended to envisage a world of justice and neat solutions, in utopian dissonance with the complexity of the modern world, reconstruct the family they come from. See L. Hunt, The Family Romance of the Revolution, University of California Press, Berkeley 1992. 29  See Vernon, Politics and the People cit.; P. Joyce, Democratic Subjects. The Self and the Social in Nineteenth Century England, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1994, and Ibid., Visions of the People. Industrial England and the Question of Class, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1991. 30  Vernon, Politics and the people cit., pp. 331–332.

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highlighting its presence in two elements to be found mostly intertwined with each other: the extreme emotionality of the communicative register, which emphasised passions and emotions in an non-elitist way, and a high degree of theatricality, which made these passions clearly visible by enhancing their dramatic quality.31 A real transfer of melodrama onto the political struggle, in fact, can be perceived, according to Hadley, not only in the narrative modes of dissent but in its overall communication. In other words, in the construction, imbued with violent emotiveness, of texts, speeches, pamphlets, petitions, campaigns based on an intermingling of frustration and redemption; as well as in gestures, actions and visual traces of various kinds which displayed an extreme dramatisation of the struggle between good and evil. Where, then, can we trace the features of this early nineteenth-century melodramatisation of the political sphere? The studies cited so far have concentrated above all on the Anglo-Saxon case and have focused their attention on conflicts sometimes characterised by a direct link with theatrical spaces. This is the case, for example, of the so-called Old Price Riots, a prolonged cycle of unrest that developed in 1809 in and around one of the major London theatres, Covent Garden, where political and theatrical reasons were closely intertwined.32 The 1834 campaigns against the Poor Law were also imbued with melodramatic narrative, when pamphlets, flyers, speeches and petitions invariably played on images laden with excessively melodramatic emotion, with the people admitted to the newly established workhouses portrayed as the victims of unusual suffering and real torture, in a flood of physical and psychological details aimed at showing the unbearable moral wickedness of the law.33 As the century progressed, these confrontational stances tended to be more disciplined, above all by attenuating their more violently emotional aspects. And yet, there is no doubt that narratives and practices of political struggle with a decidedly theatrical and melodramatic quality emerged from time to time at specific junctures throughout the nineteenth century. Good examples are the women’s protests against child prostitution and against the Contagious Diseases Acts which developed in the 1870s and 31  Hadley, Melodramatic Tactics cit. Hadley’s work also revolves around the argument that melodramatic style represents a “nostalgic” answer to the prevailing market. 32  For details on the uprisings, see the worthy reconstruction by M.  Baer, Theatre and Disorder in late Georgian London, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1992. 33  Hadley, Melodramatic tactics cit., pp.  78 .et seq, and Joyce, Democratic Subjects cit., pp. 176 et seq.

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1880s, with widely covered campaigns in the media. They featured the same narratives that had populated the stage for decades, with a rich and wicked seducer, oppressor of both class and gender, who with all the means at his disposal made attempts to seduce an innocent, helpless and poor young girl, who became the undisputed heroine.34 The spreading of melodramatic style to the political sphere—we argue—extended well beyond the English case and in fact found particularly significant and fertile ground for development in the conflicts related to national claims, very widespread in early nineteenth-century Europe. In these cases, the interchange with the fictional dimension became particularly stringent and direct, as well as very effective in terms of communication, and contributed to the great success of national narratives and of the political experiences connected to them.

National Narratives The risk to be carefully avoided in an analysis of this kind, Rohan McWilliam stressed in a critical review of the aforementioned studies, is to make the melodramatic style a sort of pass key useful to define any simplistic and Manichaean approach to the political reality of the time.35 Only investigations of specific cases and times, careful to grasp the various possible variations, can usefully reconstruct the paths, outcomes and, above all, meanings of a connection between melodramatic imagination and political struggle. This is what we will attempt to do by focusing on the development of the Italian national-patriotic discourse and the political struggles connected to it, closely analysing the excesses of emotion and theatricality that ran through it. Before doing so, however, it is necessary to look at the possible threads which in the early nineteenth century and beyond the specific case, had linked melodrama with the burning issue of nationhood. The contrast between an innocent, oppressed people and an evil oppressor country had in fact already been one of the first plots staged in the boulevard theatres, in the usual context of escapes, disguises and twists that had contributed to the enormous success of the genre. Of course, the 34  See J. Walkowitz, City of Dreadful Delight. Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late Victorian London, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1992. 35  R.  McWilliam, Melodrama and Historians, in “Radical history review”, 78, 2000, pp. 57–84, stresses the limited usefulness to historical reconstruction of using the mélo as a static and fixed category through the century, a sort of monolithic “structure of feeling” typical of the nineteenth century.

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national variation had immediately shown its risks as well, giving rise not only to the usual criticism by the detractors of the genre, but to cases of real censorship by government authorities, worried by the possible international tensions, in particular with the Austrian government. This was the case with Tékéli ou le Siège de Montgatz, a historical melodrama à grand spectacle that Pixérécourt staged at the Ambigu Comique in 1803.36 It narrated the seventeenth-century adventures of a historical character, the Hungarian aristocrat Imre Thököly, an important figure in the national mythography of Hungary for his struggle against the Habsburg domination.37 Pixérécourt probably took the story from a novel by Pigault-Lebrun published in 1798, Les Barons de Felsheim. It told the long and unfortunate story of an outlaw, repeatedly betrayed and imprisoned, and of his attempts, ultimately without lasting success, to free his motherland from the atrocious Austrian domination. The melodrama version, however, took up only a specific episode in the long saga of the character’s life and this allowed the author to wrap up his story at least with a momentary happy ending. Whereas in the novel a nostalgic register and slow rhythm prevailed, in the mélo the action was fast, dynamic, designed to thrill and entertain. It would in fact be one of Pixérécourt’s greatest successes, both in terms of number of productions and editorial versions, and, despite the initial censorship issues, it enjoyed a lasting reputation. It was edited several times by the usual publisher Barba and, in 1824, was included in the series of melodrama masterpieces. The show staged Count Tékéli as he tried to return home from forced exile on the island of Rhodes. His main objective was to save the community of Montgatz and its combative lady, his beloved wife Alexina, from an Austrian siege.38 All the ingredients of the classic mélo were featured. The scene opened on a dense forest struck by a violent hurricane, near the besieged city of Montgatz. In the woods, Tékéli and his lieutenant were hiding, disguised as peasants in an attempt to reach the city eluding the 36  See the introduction to the issue entitled Le mélodrame, edited by A.  Ubersfeld and A. Billaz, in “Revue de sciences humaines”, 162, 1976, pp. 3–7. 37  A. Ehrard recalled his name appearing in Diderot’s and D’Alembert’s Encyclopédie in the entry “Hungary” written by the Chevalier de Jaucourt (Des bords du Danube au Théâtre de l’Ambigu-Comique, un heros à transformations: Tékéli, in Bernard-Griffith and Sgard, eds, Mélodrames et romans noirs, cit., pp. 145–160). 38  Tékéli ou le siège de Montgatz, mélo-drame historique, en prose et en grand spectacle, par R. C. Guilbert-Pixérécourt, réprésenté pour la première fois à Paris, sur le théâtre de l’Ambigu Comique le 7 nivoise, an XII, Chez Barba, Paris 1804.

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control of the Austrian armies. The pair managed to escape a frantic shooting in the trees and took refuge in a village where a wedding was taking place. At this point, we had the classic scene of a country wedding, complete with flowers, garlands and festive dances. Helped by some honest and brave peasants, the two put in place a daring plan to escape the Austrian soldiers who were combing the village to find them. Hidden in a bag of wheat, they managed to enter the besieged city, just in time to participate in the last resistance that the brave citizens were trying to muster against the final attack launched by the “barbarous and murderous enemy”. In fact, as a final confirmation of their barbarism, a cruel Austrian emissary had arrived on the scene of the siege, declaring that no prisoners would be taken and every Hungarian captured alive would be killed by the sword. Having swiftly dropped his peasant clothes and appearing in full military uniform, including a knight’s plumed hat, Tékéli then prepared to lead his people. The ending, needless to say, was a happy one. The performance ended with a lively battle scene on the ramparts of the town, where the besieged fought with renewed courage, declaring that they would rather die than leave the city and its flags in the hands of a merciless enemy. While the fight appeared to favour the Hungarians, in the final duel, Tékéli got the better of Count Caraffa, the commander of the Austrian troops, and managed to disarm him. However, in the final moment of the duel, he spared him and with a chivalrous gesture extended his hand saying mercifully: “You obey the emperor, I obey my heart”. As in any self-respecting mélo, the hero represents sensibility, the natural virtue of sentiment prevailing over the forces of evil and is the embodiment of the ideal of chivalrous honour. In this text, it is absolutely clear that, whenever the main narrative device of the melodrama consisted in the persecution of an innocent person by an evil one, thwarted after many adventures by the intervention of the hero, it could very easily be articulated in a national context, with the doubtless advantage of turning complex geo-political conflicts into a duel between a few, morally well-defined characters. The long-standing historical problem of the relationship between the Austrian empire and Hungary was thus exemplified by the events surrounding two fighters: on the one hand, the besieger, who could count not only on military strength but also on a structural propensity to tricks and intrigue; and on the other, the besieged, whose weapons were weaker, but in the end managed to prevail by virtue of his courage and tenacity. It was a narrative model that could

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be immediately understood and taken in by anyone, and that would be replicated over and over again, both on the stage and outside, in the context of a real political struggle. The first opportunity to reproduce this device on an actual political scene was represented in those years by the Spanish uprising against Napoleonic domination. In 1808, their temporary victory over the French was in fact characterised, above all in Madrid, by the extensive use of the theatre as an instrument of propaganda to mobilise the citizens against the French armies.39 Moreover, the occupying authorities themselves had encouraged the enhancement of theatrical activity, subsidising the major theatres and calling for the translations of numerous plays from the French repertoire. The 1808 Madrid Second-of-May Uprising and subsequent flight of the French troops thus inaugurated a theatrical season entirely in the name of patriotic cohesion. The theatres were filled with shows where the devices of the melodrama were placed at the service of a veritable extolling of past and recent national history, in what was presented as a crusade against the invaders linking the ancient struggle against the Moors with the current war against the French. For example, the legendary story of Pelayo, the Asturian hero who led the revolt against Arab domination, was staged. The wars against invaders took on the epic register of a struggle between good and evil and the dramaturgical one typical of melodramas: the Spaniards fighting stage battles and duels, foiling their conquerors’ tricks and vile deceptions. Thus, Gaspar de Zavala y Zamora, previously the author of sentimental and tearful comedies, staged “immediate” history texts such as Aragón restaurado por el valor de sus hijos, or short, one-act allegories such as España encadenada por la perfidia francesa y libertada por el valor de sus hijos. Antonio Valladares de Sotomayor, a prolific playwright and novelist, proposed, among others, the text Defensa de la Coruña par la heroica Maria Pita, where, in a crescendo of coups de théâtre, special effects and military actions, an apparently weak and defenceless woman showed herself capable of starting an uprising against the French.40 In the 1820s, the strand of historical melodrama, already tried out in the Napoleonic period almost all over Europe, developed more widely, in 39  E. Larraz, Théâtre et politique pendant la guerre d’indépendance espagnole 1808–1814, Thèse de doctorat d’état, Université de Bourgogne, Dijon 1987. 40  Ibid., La guerre d’indépendance espagnole au théâtre 1808–1814. Anthologie, Université de Provence, Aix en Provence 1987.

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response to the demands of a history-hungry public, thus turning the visualisation of the past into a real fashion.41 In these melodramas, which often took up real historical events, we find a close correspondence between the represented past and the present, as if current events could find clarity and immediate intelligibility only in the examples of history. Even before Italy, Poland is a significant example of melodramatic narration of a national issue and, at the same time, of close interaction between stage and political reality. From the 1830s onwards, many theatrical texts put it on the stage all over Europe, but also in the United States, presenting it as a fight to the death between wicked oppressors and the oppressed Polish people, thus contributing to its wide international impact. This was the fate of some classical texts by the great author Adam Mickiewicz (in particular, his 1832 pièce The Ancestors, which tells of the martyrdom and resurrection of Poland) or texts with wider and easier appeal, such as The Brazen Drum, or the Yankee in Poland. A National Drama, which a well-­ known American author of melodramas, Silas Steele, published in 1846. But some texts written or staged immediately after, or even during, the 1830 revolution are much more interesting to our argument. Nowadays, the immediate staging of very current events is somewhat astonishing, yet many traces are found, even in entertainment genres for wide consumption.42 In the specific case of revolutionary Poland, these were theatrical re-writings of events that had just taken place, which took the form of real melodramas and appeared in the period between January and May 1831, when the insurrection was still underway.43 Their authors were patriots who in some cases had even participated in the revolutionary uprising. Titles such as The Student from Krakow or the Sacrifice for the Homeland, or An Invalid or Bravery Rewarded tell us something about the nature of these  I am borrowing the expression used by M. Samuel, The Spectacular Past. Popular History and the Novel in Nineteenth Century France, Cornell University Press, Ithaca–London 2004. 42  On Italy, see the Panorama Garibaldi presented to English audiences shortly after the epic deeds by the Mille, when events in Southern Italy were still unfolding. See the reconstruction by M. Pellegrino Sutcliffe, Marketing Garibaldi Panoramas in Britain (1860–64), in “Journal of Modern Italian Studies”, XVIII, 2013, 2, pp. 232–243; also the extraordinary case analysed by M. Riva, Spettacolo, informazione e propaganda nel “Panorama Garibaldi” della Brown University, in Fiorino, Fruci, Petrizzo (ed), Il lungo Ottocento e le sue immagini cit., pp. 53–66. 43  These are minor texts, recovered and analysed in H.  Filipowicz, From Comedy to Melodrama: the Transposition of a Polish Theme, in “Themes in drama”, edited by J. Redmond, 14, 1992, pp. 105–120. 41

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narratives, where the fate of the homeland is identified with characters who are mostly as young and vulnerable as they are brave. The plots of these texts told the stories of young lovers who temporarily set aside their private lives to devote themselves to fighting for their homeland and freedom. The suffering of innocent Poland at the hands of invaders who violated all divine and human mercy laws was completely identified with them, and their misfortunes. The narrative hinged upon the plots hatched in reaction to this state of affairs. They always ended well, thus satisfying the desire for a positive narrative of the current political situation. As in classic melodramas, the action mostly took place out of town, in villages and country manors, where the rural environment took on the meaning of a place of innocence and purity, a space for sensitive hearts, despite the fact that barns and haylofts proved to be excellent places to hide the weapons used in the conspiracy. In these plays, an echo of the victorious 1794 battle of Raclawice against the Russians can be heard several times, acquiring the symbolic meaning of the regaining of freedom. Linking the present with the not-so-distant past, what was traced in the narrative was not a vague analogy, but the real continuity represented by a tradition of uprisings against foreign invaders, which was repeatedly—and insistently—referred to. The oldest protagonists, in fact, recalled that they had participated in the heroic event, while the younger ones revealed that they were the descendants of the heroes of that battle. But this wasn’t all: the scythes and swords that the fighters carried with them were almost always glorious emblems of that past, inherited from their fathers as mementos laden with memories but also with strength for a struggle that remained to be concluded. Thus, objects, symbols and weapons, ubiquitous props in any melodrama, acquired a strongly national symbolic value, as a tangible connection between the past and the present. The insurrection, H.  Filipowicz has concluded, was ultimately never read as a destructive force, a source of chaos or anarchy, but as a means of redemption, necessary to bring a glorious and peaceful past back to life; it was essentially the way in which the patriots reclaimed their destiny and their country. “The history of the world has never seen a more noble revolution than ours”, the student from Warsaw proclaimed, dispelling any suspicion of subversion that the word “revolution” itself might conjure up.44 The conflict, in fact, broke out so as to bring back order where chaos  Ibid., p. 111.

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reigned. Whereas before the insurrection a world turned upside down prevailed, where churches were used as prisons, traitors were government officials and patriots were persecuted, the success of the revolution ensured that order was completely restored: oppressors and traitors received their just punishment, while lovers married to the joy of all and sundry, in a symbolic harmony of celebrations, banquets and dances. In short, they were plays that, not unlike those staged by the Spaniards during the war against the French, accompanied and strengthened their struggle, as a battle song could achieve much more than a simple narration of events. They were texts written to accompany the action and give it strength. Poland seems to confirm what we have said about the marked tendency of early nineteenth-century conflicts to a melodramatic style that is difficult to trace in the same terms in the following decades. For example, the theatrical texts, even those with a clearly patriotic inspiration, which appeared in Poland in the 1850s or after the 1863 revolution, looked very different. In this case, the representations were more complex, both in terms of the plots and of the characters’ psychology, and the optimistic, melodramatic certainty based on the victim-aggressor polarity and on its resolution in a happy ending gave way to a more complex narrative, where factors other than wickedness and virtue and a greater complexity in the characters’ psyche played an important role. It was above all in the early nineteenth century, and until the 1848 revolution, that the melodramatic narration of instances of national oppression was not only frequently presented on theatrical stages, both outside and inside the actual theatres of these conflicts, but directly affected the practices and forms of communication of a political sphere which was still being defined. We shall endeavour to understand the reasons, devices and meanings by focusing on the case of the Italian Risorgimento, and, in particular, on the revolutionary experience of the so-called Long 1848.

CHAPTER 5

Melodrama Italian-Style: In Search of an Audience Between Fiction and Politics

The birth of the mélodrame was linked to the need, political-philosophical on the one hand and commercial on the other, to involve a new audience in the theatre and to respond effectively to its demands for entertainment. The public issue was immediately at the centre of the picture. Madame De Staël sensed it: instead of deploring what was happening in the smaller theatres, she wondered, with a mixture of interest and surprise, what the secret of the mélo was, why so many people liked it and why it was so successful.1 This unprecedented centrality of a judging public was clearly part of the development of a cultural market that was gradually widening its participation, in different ways and times for the different arts and geographical locations. But it also immediately acquired an intrinsic political value, because the public could become synonymous with burgeoning public opinion and the nature of its sociological and cultural contours was confronted with very different ideas on what was starting to take shape as a public political sphere.2

1  De l’Allemagne par Madame de Staël, Firmin Didot Frères, Paris 1852, p.  189. Immediately afterwards she stressed the need for pièces able to “strike at the same time the imagination of men of all classes”. 2  The common reader, the figure with very vague sociological traits mentioned by Samuel Johnson, and whose judgement became a key element in a novel’s success, featured prominently in the English debate, both literary and political, throughout the eighteenth century.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 C. Sorba, Politics and Sentiments in Risorgimento Italy, Italian and Italian American Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-69732-7_5

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With the start of the revolution, as we saw on the Boulevard du Temple, it was the very notion of the public that changed considerably, widening to include for the first time those who could not read, the first “plebeian public sphere”, which began to fill theatres and places of entertainment, or at least some of them, on special occasions such as free-admission evenings, looking for cheap entertainment. In the development and success of the new genre of melodrama, the ability to speak to a different and renewed audience, however unrestricted and non-elitist, had mattered a great deal. This element, for better or for worse, had seemed to the most acute observers the most important novelty it had come with. The discourse about the public, as well as the new experience of the public, lies at the centre of the change that we are trying to reconstruct, although in both cases, it is far from easy to identify its contours precisely. What particularly complicates the picture are the constant interconnections and cross-references between the various contexts involved—artistic, commercial and political—which are particularly complex to identify and decipher, despite being immediately noticeable by whoever tackles the issue. The idea of books for all, and even before that of theatre for all, accompanied and, in fact, tended to anticipate that of politics for all, but the issue of the precise definition of those “all” remained open for a long time.3 This debate began to intensify, becoming decidedly trans-national, in the second half of the eighteenth century, although each nation experienced it very differently in terms of timing, characteristics and process. So what happened in Italy? Were a clearly livelier cultural market, an imposition of a new audience-oriented perspective and a search by writers, composers and artists for new audiences observed there as well? And what space did melodramatic aesthetics find there? Despite the fragmentation of the country and the overall backwardness of its cultural market, at the time, the issue of a literary public was discussed in Italy as well. It was done On this topic, see I. Haywood, The Revolution in Popular Literature. Print, Politics and the People, 1790–1860, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2004. 3  Jürgen Habermas (The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a category of Bourgeois Society, Polity, Cambridge 1989) has suggested that in the development of what he calls the “bourgeois public sphere”, the literary dimension had preceded, between the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, the more strictly political one. In his argument, however, he has underestimated the economic and commercial aspect of the question, which appears to be just as important to understand the process underway. This is pointed out, for example, by A.  J. La Vopa, Conceiving a Public: Ideas and Society in Eighteenth Century Europe, in “Journal of Modern History”, LXIV, 1992, 1, pp. 79–116.

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above all to lament its limitations and to highlight this as a clear reflection of the country’s lack of “civilisation”. From the end of the eighteenth century, the topic had returned periodically to the cultural agenda, showing especially strong and even growing connections with the political sphere: more than a true audience, the public of the arts and culture here was a “people” to be involved in the redemption of the country. The peculiarity of the situation is the fact that, in other nations, the strong connections with politics were loosened more rapidly, due to the artistic field becoming progressively more autonomous, as Pierre Bourdieu has masterfully shown about France, and consolidating precisely in the Romantic period.4 In Italy, on the other hand, the search by many men of letters for a wider and more recognisable “popular” public was inextricably connected—precisely in the Romantic age—to the push for the civil and political renewal of the peninsula. The Enlightenment perspective of civil and educational art thus found a very long resonance in the liberal and democratic thought of the nineteenth century. All this took place while the cultural market began to experience some sizeable transformations: on the one hand, a veritable explosion of theatrical demand and supply, seen in the increase of both dedicated spaces and texts represented; on the other, the emergence in the literary world of the new format of the novel, an element of significant novelty in terms of narrative forms and of challenge to the previous production framework. However, the plots and various story lines connecting these different contexts—the market, the public, politics and censorship—make the Italian picture particularly hard to untangle.

New Narratives of the Past Between Rossini and Walter Scott At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Italian publishing world was marred by considerable backwardness and a long-standing “ancient typographical regime” featuring the extreme fragmentation of activities, poor circulation of books and limited readership.5 The absence of large 4  P.  Bourdieu, The rules of art. Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field, Cambridge, Polity Press 1996. 5  G.  Turi (ed.), Storia dell’editoria italiana contemporanea, Giunti, Firenze 1997; G. Albergoni, Il mestiere delle lettere tra istituzioni e mercato. Vivere e scrivere a Milano nella prima metà dell’Ottocento, Franco Angeli, Milan 2006.

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metropolitan centres such as London and Paris, the political division of the peninsula, the presence in all pre-unification states of very binding systems of preventive censorship, the low literacy rate and the unresolved question of a standard language which could be used for different genres and readers were all factors contributing to ensuring that production and dissemination of periodicals, as well as of literature in its various forms, were much more contained than in England and France, the two countries which were the main points of reference for Italian scholars. Only after the unification of the peninsula, and particularly in the last thirty years of the nineteenth century, did a mass-consumption publishing industry capable of reaching a truly diversified readership develop, thanks also to the pulling power of educational publishing. However, substantial signs of transformation can also be seen in the publishing landscape of the early nineteenth century. In the years between the 1820s and the 1850s, production in Italy underwent significant changes, which can at least in part be interpreted as steps towards a media culture that anticipated and experimented with forms and solutions destined to develop more widely in the following decades.6 We cannot say that a systematic and elaborate project to popularise literature, such as occurred in the second half of the nineteenth century, was initiated in the intellectual debate or by publishers, but a growing awareness about the need to respond to a range of increasing expectations could be gleaned in those involved. Reflections and innovative stimuli thus developed that led to subsequent transformations and gave new impetus to a literary society in transition towards modernity. At the centre of this change, there was undoubtedly the historical novel, both Scott’s adventurous and Ann Radcliffe’s gothic varieties. Their intense Italian trajectory not only opened a fierce debate among the experts but also produced, right from the start, many editions and many imitators. Giovanni Ragone, who has attempted a quantitative analysis, has calculated that the presence of foreign novels in Italy was a real driver, especially of the livelier markets such as Milan and Naples. Of the 283 novels that were published in total in Milan between 1820 and 1840, the vast majority are translations of foreign texts, especially by Walter Scott (104 titles). In Naples, the second Italian centre for the number of

6  See the introduction to L. Braida and M. Infelise (eds), Libri per tutti. Generi editoriali di larga circolazione tra antico regime ed età contemporanea, Utet, Turin 2010.

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published novels, the foreign ones were 89 out of a total of 123 titles.7 These are limited figures if compared to the international scene, where the phenomenon of “devouring novels” had already spread in the second half of the eighteenth century and production had become increasingly intense in the first decades of the following century.8 Franco Moretti has estimated that around 200 novels were published in England during the 1840s. A similar figure has also been calculated for France.9 Whereas, therefore, in Italy the season of the novel asserted itself fully only later, it is however clear that even in those first steps, the new genre was already disrupting the consolidated production framework and creating important opportunities to rejuvenate the market. Thus, new production formats (editorial series) were tried out around the novel, considerable business revenue was accrued and intense exchanges with European literature were activated. The first attempts to identify a new readership can also be traced in this context, for example, women, to whom the series Biblioteca amena e istruttiva per le donne gentili, published by Pirotta in Milan (1821–1822) was addressed. Despite its limited scope, the Italian market was undoubtedly receptive to the innovations being experienced in other countries. The translations of European bestsellers appeared only slightly later compared to their countries of origin, and they were immediately numerous and repeated. Ann Radcliffe was first translated in 1816; Walter Scott in 1821, with his complete collection soon available in Italian. Foremost Romantic printer Vincenzo Ferrario promoted a whole collection entitled Romanzi storici di Walter Scott (Walter Scott’s Historical Novels), only the first in a long series of reprints and editions in various cities.10 Around the dominant foreign production there was also a burgeoning Italian historical novel production which had a real annus mirabilis in 1827, when, in addition to Alessandro Manzoni’s masterpiece,  G. Ragone, Italia 1815–1870, in Moretti (ed.), Il romanzo, vol. III, cit., p. 352.  R.  Altick,  The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading Public 1800–1900, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1957; F. Barbier, L’empire du livre. Le livre imprimé et la constitution de l’Allemagne contemporaine (1815–1914), Cerf, Paris 1995. 9  About England, see F. Moretti, La letteratura vista da lontano, Einaudi, Torino 2005, p. 14; about France, the figure is in R. Ponton, Le champ littéraire en France de 1865 à 1905: recrutement des écrivains, structure des carrières et production des oeuvres, Thèse 3° cycle, Paris, EHESS, 1977. With thanks to Valentina Perozzo for the information. 10  On the history of these editions, see E. Irace and G. Pedullà, Walter Scott in Italia e il romanzo storico, in S. Luzzatto and G. Pedullà (eds), Atlante della letteratura italiana, vol. III, Einaudi, Torino 2012, pp. 47–50; for a European overview, see M. Pittock, The reception of Sir Walter Scott in Europe, Continuum, London 2007. 7 8

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three of the most successful novels of the period were published: The Battle of Benevento by Francesco Domenico Guerrazzi, The Castle of Trezzo by Giambattista Bazzoni and Sibilla Odaleta by Carlo Varese. This production continued intensely in the 1830s, encouraged by Massimo D’Azeglio’s, Tommaso Grossi’s and Cesare Cantù’s novels and experiencing many forms, given that their plots and characters were continuously adapted for the theatre. As we have already seen with France, the mostly two-way transfer between the page and the stage (and also between different genres) became a real peculiarity of the period and testifies to a dual ongoing process: on the one hand, the dramatisation of the novel, which even with Scott was increasingly based on plots with dramatic and spectacular traits; on the other, the fictionalisation of the theatre, which in Italy had its strong point in romantic opera. What seemed to unite the two contexts and represent their true novelty was the presence of new forms of narration that never failed to strike their contemporaries, almost surprised by the opening up before them of new imaginative spaces. Carlo Varese, a well-known author of historical novels with a Scott-like flavour, where Sardinian mountain dwellers were—not very subtly—reminiscent of the Scottish highlanders, left an admired description of what was happening.11 In 1832, in the introduction to one of his novels, he devoted some reflections to two authors who he thought had marked and transformed an entire era: Gioacchino Rossini and Walter Scott. Why mention them together, he wondered? Because they were the unrivalled champions of narratives which could seduce and excite every kind of reader / spectator. I don’t know—he wrote at the beginning—whether the idea of comparing ​​ two great minds that for almost twenty years have shared the dictatorship in 11  Carlo Varese wrote eight historical novels between 1825 and 1832, most of them set in Sardinia. He thus responded to the prompts published by Berchet in the magazine “Il Conciliatore” to bring forth topics drawn from the “national histories”. For information on his chosen setting, Sardinia, Varese had relied on recent historiography, in particular Storia della Sardegna by Manno (1826), but also on information on rites and magic practices collected by Ferrero La Marmora in Voyage en Sardaigne published in 1826. Reviewing the novel immediately after its publication, a young Mazzini had stressed the high potential of Sardinian and Corsican themes, see G. Mazzini, Scritti editi ed inediti, in Edizione Nazionale degli Scritti Editi e Inediti di Giuseppe Mazzini (henceforth SEI), Galeati, Imola 1906–1943, vol. I, pp. 27–28.

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the beautiful realms of music and literature will not be considered as one of the eccentricities that for some time now seem to have claimed the right to tickle the minds of Italians, and above all of the French and the English. A composer and a novelist are two beings who could very well reach the peak of fame without knowing each other apart from by name; nor would it be impossible for Rossini to have never read a page by Walter Scott, or that the latter had never heard, other than strummed in the streets of London or Edinburgh, a tune by the wizard from Pesaro. […] So here is my suggestion: “Walter Scott is the Rossini of literature, Rossini is the Walter Scott of music”.12

The somewhat surprising assimilation between the two authors was due to the fact that both had shown an unrivalled ability to fascinate the public, thanks to narrative devices based on tension and rhythm, on clarity and intelligibility, with images in quick succession to engage the intuition and imagination of the readers/spectators, keeping them in suspense, waiting for the inevitable coup de théâtre. It was as if readers and spectators were involved in a powerfully attractive game, where the narrative aspects were able to flatter and kidnap them, “because the enigma is presented with such mastery, and as it gives you all the means to see through it, it leaves you in the dark enough to flatter your shrewdness for having guessed it”.13 Thus, the two authors ended up sharing the same public, potentially wide and uneducated, because in the end, Varese concluded, “there is no cobbler who can boast ears on his head, who has not in spite of himself been fascinated by Rossini’s melodies, and has not whistled them in his workshop while stitching shoes with pitched string; as there is no apprentice grocer whom a mutual-instruction or an elementary school has taught to spell, who has not come across Scott’s novels at least five or six times. In other words, the successes of these two popular masterminds are somewhat miraculous”.14 Through tighter, more engaging and immediately understandable narrative forms, they had engendered a renewed relationship with their own public, which may not have been as wide as Varese assumed, but could 12  C. Varese, Di Rossini e di Walter Scott messi a confronto come genii d’indole identica e del romanzo in generale, in Id., Preziosa di Salnura ossia i montanari sardi, vol. 1, Edes, Sassari 2002, pp. v–vi. On the writer’s progress, see the introduction by A. M. Morace to C. Varese, Il proscritto. Storia sarda, Ilisso edizioni, Nuoro 2004. 13  Ibid., p. xxiii. 14  Ibid., pp. vi–vii.

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certainly not be considered to be limited to men of letters, as had traditionally been the case in Italy.15 The other element to consider is that between the 1820s and the 1840s, the novelty of this perspective was gradually concentrating around the representation of historical subjects. Thus, a narrative of the past was becoming established which, on the one hand, was a combination of history and invention and, on the other, showed it could involve a potentially wider audience than the usual scholars, thus giving rise to a wave of historical renaissance very similar to the one which had swept through Europe at the beginning of the century. As elsewhere, it used different media— novel, melodrama, historical dance—and spread an imagination of the past with spectacular traits, that is to say markedly visual, theatrical and aimed at a wider consumption.16 Ignazio Cantù had described it very well: Scott’s and his characters’ enormous fortune had meant that for the first time women indulged in “the noble amusement of reading”, but more generally that history became familiar to most people.17 In those years, similar momentum towards the representation of episodes from the national past was also affecting painting, where the connection with the theatre was expressed perfectly well in Francesco Hayez’s production. His paintings, Opprandino Arrivabene had commented, created a relationship between spectacularity and visual evidence which was both effective and unexpected, and was able to touch the viewers’ hearts directly: “Most of the time, Hayez’s paintings appear as if they are enveloped in an artificial atmosphere, and we seem to see the events portrayed, as in a theatre rather than on the great world stage […]; but when you stand before one of these paintings, and you stop and look at it for a long time, your eye becomes accustomed, so to say, to that artificial atmosphere, and those faces and those actions speak to your heart, and you

15  The reflections penned by the poet Giacomo Leopardi in Pisa on 5 February, 1828 are well known: he wrote that in Italy “there were more writers than readers, since many writers do not read, or read less than they write” and “in Italy it can be said that whoever reads, does so only in order to write”, in Zibaldone, commented edition and revision of the critical text edited by R. Damiani, tomo II, Arnoldo Mondadori editore, Milan 1977, p. 2877. 16  Samuel, The spectacular past cit. On Italy, see G. Pagliano Ungari, Il romanzo storico del Risorgimento italiano, in C.  Bordoni (ed.), La pratica sociale del testo. Scritti di sociologia della letteratura in onore di Erich Kohler, Clueb, Bologna 1982, pp. 189–204. 17  I. Cantù, Carlo Varese, in “Rivista europea”, 11, 1838, p. 375.

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almost forget that you are in front of a cold canvas, and believe in the weeping or the joy that the painter has wanted to express”.18 Once again, it was the “effect” on the public that attributed novelty value to this production. Finally, in the context of the same visualisation of the past, the ancient fashion of fancy dress balls, organised to evoke particular moments in a city’s history (such as the Golden Age of the Medici in Florence in the ball organized by the Borghese family in 1823) was resurrected among the aristocracy and the upper middle class in various Italian cities or to reproduce as tableaux vivants the subjects and heroes of the most successful novels, melodramas or historical pictures. This was the case with the well-­ known Batthyany family party, immortalised by Francesco Hayez himself in 1828, where the fictitious characters created by Vincenzo Bellini or by Tommaso Grossi were played by members of the most prominent Milanese families.19 Available to less exclusive guests, a little later, there were the shows/tableaux that the Keller Company put on in many theatres of the country: living group sculptures on more or less heroic episodes of the national history, outlining its contours in visual terms as well.20 This massive flow of historical narrative with markedly visible traits invested the society of the time, allowing it to “look” at the past, not just read about its events. In the years when very strong suggestive power is attributed to sight, considered more suitable than other senses to an immediate and effective mimesis of reality,21 the past found new evidence even in unsuspected media, such as the first illustrated novels. These were often, at least initially, significantly costly ventures, such as the one by publishers Ferrario which, in 1829, illustrated Scott’s Ivanhoe with lithographs by Hayez. But the idea must have soon enticed many other 18  Cited in F.  Mazzocca, Pittura e melodramma 1828–1850, in M.  C. Gozzoli and F. Mazzocca (eds), Hayez, Electa Mondadori, Milan 1983, p. 144. 19  On the fashion of fancy dress balls, see also S. Pinto, La promozione delle arti negli Stati italiani dall’età delle riforme all’Unità, in Storia dell’arte italiana, Parte II, vol. II, Einaudi, Turin 1982, pp. 791–1079. 20  Teatro Carcano. Gruppi plastici di L. Keller, in “L’Italia musicale”, I, 7 luglio 1847, 1, pp. 6–7, and La Compagnia Keller, ibid., II, 21 giugno 1848, 47, p. 343; and also L. Cicconi, Quadri plastici di Keller, in “Il Mondo illustrato”, 22 luglio 1848, pp. 456–458. 21  On this topic, see C.  Sorba, Parigi 1841: l’età del teatro per gli occhi, in P.  Capuzzo, C. Giorgi, M. Martini and C. Sorba (eds), Pensare la contemporaneità. Studi di storia per Mariuccia Salvati, Viella, Roma 2012, pp.  309-324; see especially G.  L. Fruci and A.  Petrizzo, Visualità e grande trasformazione mediatica nel Lungo Ottocento, in Fiorino, Fruci, Petrizzo (eds), Il lungo Ottocento e le sue immagini cit., pp. 5–19.

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­ublishers, finding broader application, if in 1840 even Alessandro p Manzoni decided to produce himself a serialised edition of his Promessi sposi illustrated by Turin painter Francesco Gonin, an admired set designer of the Teatro Regio.22 Even in the pages of novels, characters and places from the past thus acquired their own intense physicality, more precise colours and consistency, just as they had in the theatre, where many of the topics and plots were the same. Here a concern about a full visual correspondence with the historical accuracy of the events staged was becoming a real priority for composers (and for Verdi more than his predecessors), who attributed ever more importance to the evocative accuracy of the historical contexts reproduced on the stage, in a representation of the past based on a total visual illusion.23 A framework of strong emotional and visual amplification of historical subject matters thus anticipated the development of the long Italian 1848, creating important links between the new media culture and the events of the time. Clear traces of such widespread and multimedia staging of the national past would be found in revolutionary political practices.

Foscolo, Mazzini and an Audience for Politics The issue of the public came to the fore in the late eighteenth century throughout the varied world of letters and arts. This was easier and more usual in musical theatre, which had always assumed a paying public; but was more controversial in literature, where the increasing importance of the size of the market faced considerable and widespread resistance. It is significant that an interest in the relevant public is found even in historiography. Cesare Balbo, for example, on several occasions insisted on the need to develop in Italy, as in other countries, a less erudite historiography, in the shape of national history compendiums, so as to spread the knowledge of the most important and significant episodes of their past to a broader public.

22  On illustrated editions of Manzoni see A. Cadioli, La storia finta. Il romanzo e i suoi lettori nei dibattiti di primo Ottocento, Il Saggiatore, Milano 2001, pp. 215 sgg.; for an overview of illustrated publications in Italy, see M. Giandebiaggi, Bibliografia e iconografia del romanzo popolare illustrato in Italia (1840–1899), Agnesotti, Viterbo 1987. 23  The case of Verdi’s Attila is significant, see the dossier edited by H. M. Greenwald in “Cambridge opera journal”, XXI, 2009, 3 (with essays by P. Gossett, C. Sorba, D. L. Ipson, F. Izzo, A. Gerhard).

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The fact is that all this had precise political implications and involved, above all in the views of the most committed intellectuals and writers, facing the issue of national liberation. The creation of a cultural market equipped with its own devices, its own operational rules and its own public found considerable obstacles when literature appeared as the true guardian of national identity, as a crucial mythopoeic laboratory and as a vehicle of dissemination and mobilisation around the national-patriotic discourse.24 Such a perspective had begun to gain ground in eighteenth-­ century literary discussions, finding increasing momentum in the republican period, particularly about theatrical reforms, and detailed expression in Ugo Foscolo’s writings and experience. This writer had in fact committed himself on the various fronts where the subject had acquired a leading role. In 1797, he had promoted the experience of Venice’s civic theatre as an effective school of virtue for the masses and had repeatedly intervened on the new and reviled genre of the novel with the same objective: to underline its ability to appeal to what he called the “great public”, a multitude of individuals—halfway between literary scholars and idiots—who had to be educated, amused and “taught with tears”.25 His writings clearly stressed his desire to enhance the potentially vast section of ​​the public that was to be the backbone of the salvation of Italy and that literature in its various forms could appeal to much more than philosophy, because it could touch the heart as well as the mind. As is well known, Foscolo’s vision of art with strong civilian connotations represented an important legacy for the next generation. The critical and literary work carried out in Milan during the Restoration by Giovanni Berchet and Pietro Borsieri was inspired by Foscolo: their romantic openings continued to be intertwined with evocative elements from the Enlightenment with no apparent contradiction. Their pages contained a strong appeal for a civilizing literature that would “warm the heart of the nation” and a democratisation of the world of letters that would follow on from Foscolo’s arguments. It was necessary, in the well-known words from Berchet’s Lettera semiseria, not to address an aristocratic clique of scholars, nor the brute people lacking the smallest tools for 24  On this, see the observations by G.  Albergoni, Letterati, lettere, letteratura, in Banti, Chiavistelli, Mannori and Meriggi (eds), Atlante culturale del Risorgimento cit., pp. 86–100. 25  Foscolo had outlined his views in Saggio di novelle di Luigi Sanvitale, in ibid., Scritti letterari e politici dal 1796 al 1808, edited by G.  Gambarin, Le Monnier, Firenze 1972, pp. 261–265.

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understanding, but the average public of which Diderot had spoken, a multitude of readers educated to emotions to which the name of people was given.26 In practice, looking at the public of literature continued to be a less indefinite way of referring to a civil society that would take on the responsibility of bringing Italy out of a centuries-old decline. However, in the 1820s, the controversies surrounding the novel were still too strong for this new interest to develop freely.27 During the following decade, in Mazzini’s democratic following and in the face of an editorial market disturbed by the disruptive phenomenon of Walter Scott’s novels, the usual search for the public seemed to widen to include genres more appropriate to a non-educated readership, such as, but not exclusively, the novel. Patriot and poet Antonio Gazzoletti, for example, wrote that poetry was certainly not the genre best suited to appeal to the people and a creative effort was needed to find more adequate forms and narrative devices. “We ought to think of popular music, and also of popular painting, I mean; what immediately reaches the heart, through the ears and eyes or any other of the five senses can be adapted to any social class”.28 The one who devoted himself to developing the reflection around a civil art that would appeal to a new public, opening up to new forms and devices, was Mazzini himself, whose intense activity as a literary and artistic critic became part of a substantial intellectual and creative effort devoted to the communicative dimension of his political work.29 Pushing 26  According to Cadioli (Pubblico e lettore negli scritti di Giovanni Berchet, in Scrittore e lettore nella società di massa, Lint, Trieste 1991, pp. 343–351) Berchet’s views about audiences were variously articulated over time and expressed a growing awareness of the political specificities that the literary question takes on in Italy. 27  Given its overtly commercial nature, all the reflections and reproaches about the unprecedented development of a cultural market had been converging on the novel. Among other things, many of the discursive devices encountered in the French polemic on prose melodrama had appeared: the outrageous profits that the novel provided for its major authors, the mechanisms of uncontrolled readership and moral corruption that it tended to induce in a inadequately prepared public. Its supporters pointed to its possible educational role: the novel could help spread historical knowledge and a fascination for the collective past; and could educate to empathy towards the suffering of individuals and peoples. On the novel as a discredited genre and at the same time apt to deny itself, see W. Siti, Il romanzo sotto accusa, in Moretti (ed.), Il romanzo, vol. 1, cit., Einaudi, Turin 2001, pp. 129–156. 28  Cited in M.  Columni Camerino, Idillio e propaganda nella letteratura sociale del Risorgimento, Liguori, Naples 1983, pp. 73 et seq. 29  See M.  Finelli, Giuseppe Mazzini: la democrazia della comunicazione, in S.  Mattarelli (ed.), Frontiere del repubblicanesimo, Franco Angeli, Milan 2006, pp. 123–137; and L. Riall,

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him in that direction was probably also the influence of the reformist and radical English environment, which in those years was tackling the forms of a new kind of politics more directly than could happen elsewhere. One of the most important goals to strive for was obviously reaching a new audience and “introducing” it to politics. In this perspective, according to Mazzini, literary fiction could have a crucial role, provided that it proved able to develop a new vocabulary and a new register capable of speaking directly to the heart and emotions. It is no coincidence that Mazzini’s discourse on the new aesthetics of politics, constructed between the 1820s and the 1840s in some long essays, paid particular attention to the novel, to melodrama and to historical painting, the genres then considered the most audience-oriented.30 It was a strongly internally coherent discourse, which resumed some of the eighteenth-century reflections on the citizen-spectator and often appeared in contrast with the romantic positions of which he stressed the novelty, but above all the limits.31 Mazzini welcomed and accepted the Saint-Simonian dichotomy between an age of individuality, the romantic era and a new literary dimension—a social and no longer individual art— which would represent the young, popular and revolutionary Europe emerging from the 1830 barricades. In essence, a rapidly changing world needed to be matched by a new aesthetic dimension linked to the development of a new public sphere. If there were other times—he wrote in 1837—when writers represented, so to speak, a world apart, having no influence at all on the masses and, at least visibly, not influenced by them […] it is because at that time there was no social thought […]. The people were not alive yet: today they are alive […]; the number of those who write, judge, read has increased considerably; it grows every day. Hence the change that took place in the poet’s mission. It is the people that the poet must address; it is to them that he must yield inspirations and empathy.32

The stakes were high. Artistic languages would allow a form of direct communication with the people, with strongly symbolic and evocative The Politics of Italian Romanticism: Mazzini and the Making of a Nationalist Culture, in Bayly and Biagini (eds), Giuseppe Mazzini and the Globalisation of Democratic Nationalism cit., pp. 167–186. 30  For an overview of Mazzini’s discourse, see C. Sorba, “Comunicare con il popolo”: Novel, Drama and Music in Mazzini’s Work, ibid., pp. 75–92. 31  G. Mazzini, Byron e Goethe (1840), in SEI cit., vol. XXI, pp. 187–240. 32  Ibid., The Present State of French Literature (1838), ivi, vol. XVI, pp. 251–290.

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traits, thus acquiring a decisive role in the forms of a new type of politics destined to appeal to everyone, not only to the middle class but also to the “Hottentots” Berchet had spoken about. According to Mazzini, at this important juncture, the Italian literary landscape, not by chance “increasingly suspicious in the eyes of the country’s oppressors”, displayed more potential than the French one. There, romantic individualism was being replaced by the domination of Balzac’s or Sue’s “light literature”, that is to say by a realism without ideals which he considered vulgar and immoral. In Italy, it would be important to go down the path of social art instead, and beyond the dichotomy between the dominant Manzoni’s school and the one following Foscolo’s tradition. The former had produced works such as Tommaso Grossi’s Marco Visconti, Massimo D’Azeglio’s Ettore Fieramosca or Silvio Pellico Le mie prigioni, which had all been translated into English and were already very popular, but—in his opinion—had strong limitations due to their lack of energy and combative power.33 The opposition to Manzoni’s followers was represented by the new writers who came from Foscolo’s powerful tradition, where energy and strength were, on the contrary, the dominant features. In this case “the word Nation is written on their flag and their byword is eternal fight […]their nationality is that of the Middle Ages, mistrustful, hostile, avenger”. They were novels that overflowed with “energy, imagination and sacred disdain”, so precisely the traits necessary to the art of the future, the one which could reach the ultimate goal of “enlightening by moving”. Therefore, not an imitation or a description of reality, but its extreme emphasis, as was the case in Guerrazzi’s Siege of Florence which was “a real battle and contains all the inspiration, all the alternatives, all the fierceness of a battle”.34 “Everything—he also wrote about the so-called Foscolo’s school—in their writings is placed one level above reality. Whether good or wicked, their characters are men with an iron mettle […]. They love strength and therefore try to gain possession of it: they also try to strengthen the weak souls of their peers”.35 In short, it had nothing in common with Balzac and his literature with neither banner nor faith, able to look at the “reawakening of the people”

33  Ibid., De l’art en Italie. À propos de Marco Visconti, roman de Tommaso Grossi (1835), ivi, vol. VIII, Letteratura II, pp. 45–46. 34  Ibid., Frammento di lettera sull’Assedio di Firenze (1840), ivi, vol. XXI, pp. 346–367. 35  Ibid., Moto letterario in Italia (1837), ivi, vol. VIII, Letteratura II, p. 364.

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on the 1830 barricades with cold and impassive eyes.36 It was rather a mixture of emotion, ferocity, paroxysm of passions, atrocious and cruel deeds, all elements designed to move and terrify. They resembled Byron and Radcliffe rather than Scott, their stories were interwoven with oppression and suffering which inspired disdain, pain and indignation, but were also imbued with the fervour of regeneration and redemption. In short— we would say—they were melodramatic plots, which Mazzini, not surprisingly, considered even more effective if staged in a theatre. More than with the novel, of which he recognized the profound novelty, the “social art” to which he stubbornly continued to allude should in fact be found in the performing arts, the only ones which could share “with oratory art the pride of communicating directly with the people”.37 And to Mazzini, more than to anyone else, it was very clear that theatre in Italy meant the opera, the real substitute for Schiller’s tragedy, that had very little chance to develop in Rossini’s homeland.38 The civil and moral role attributed by Schlegel to theatre in Italy was to be fulfilled by opera, the only one able to electrify, move and excite Italian audiences. Thus, he theorised in his text on the Philosophy of Music, which he published in instalments in “L’Italiano” between 1835 and 1836, in which opera was at the centre of a possible national awakening of the arts which could entice heroic and combative tensions in the public. In the early nineteenth century, Mazzini’s discourse on art, literature and theatre represented the most advanced frontier of a democratisation project that also needed to involve the cultural sphere, and was expressed in a search for true popularity, in an all-out struggle against academicism, in the rejuvenation of genres and formats, and in the move towards the consolidation of structural links with European literatures.39 Its most  Ibid., The Present State of French Literature, cit.  Ibid., Del dramma storico (1830), in SEI, cit., vol. I, pp. 292–293. 38  Ibid., Filosofia della musica (1836), edited by M. De Angelis, Guaraldi, Florence 1977. On the origin of this text, see the reconstruction proposed by S. Durante, Music and Nation. Essays on the Time of German and Italian Unifications, Department of Music, Harvard University 2019. 39  The development of a new European literature had to start from the recognition of mutual debts between the various national literatures: “And if I open the Histories of Literatures—he wrote in 1829—they present an alternation of glory, decadence and mutual influences, and intermingling of one into another […]. No people ever had a Literature entirely extracted from their own innards, without some foreign fragments mixed in with their traditions at first, and later on with their conquests”, in Ibid., D’una letteratura europea (1829), in SEI cit., vol. I, p. 183. 36 37

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direct reference was an idea of ​​art as an instrument of education and civilisation that came from the Enlightenment. At this point, the main thread of our discourse reappears. In Mazzini’s arguments, a precise reference to a series of devices that we have seen belonged to the aesthetics of melodrama was in fact very clear. Emotional emphasis, the complete identification between sentiment and morality, the ability to directly touch the strings of passion and compassion appeared to him as the most appropriate ways to turn artistic languages into ​​ effective tools of mobilisation around the watchword of nation. It was above all on the democratic, and in particular on Mazzini’s front, that an artistic dimension conceived as functional to the liberation of the Risorgimento drew fully on the register and devices of melodrama and from there, as we shall see, it also flowed into political communication.

Towards an “Industrial Literature”? A superb traditional nuisance, whenever we talk about gain or money made from letters, causes either laughter or indignation. Laughter in those who, looking at life as a comedy, bring into the argument the ancient divorce between gold and knowledge; indignation in those, strictly idle, who call profanation the mixing of material goods with the riches of ingenuity. (Cesare Cantù, 1838)40

Beginning in the 1830s, the Milanese cultural proto-industry, followed at a distance by the Neapolitan one, was aiming squarely at the development of a national novel market, mostly in translation, as well as the publication of sheet music and librettos. The major publishers launched collections of fiction with the aim of promoting a product of average culture suitable for a broader demand. Everyone obviously had to deal with a particularly narrow market, preventive censorship and control over the circulation of books, but, despite this, they did not appear to give up on variously substantial efforts to change.41 A new, decisive turn came about in the following decade, when the novel became the driving force of the market, and new possibilities appeared. In addition to the widening appeal of Scott and his imitators,  Condizione economica delle lettere, in “Rivista europea”, 1, 1838, p. 35.  Studies have shown that the various ways to circumvent prohibitions were by then well established; see M.  I. Palazzolo, I libri, il trono e l’altare. La censura nell’Italia della Restaurazione, Franco Angeli, Milan 2003, and the bibliography. 40 41

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the 1840s saw the arrival of the French feuilleton, of adventurous, daring and largely visual novels by Alexandre Dumas and of the harsher and more socially connoted ones by Eugène Sue, who immediately produced numerous imitators. What Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve had contemptuously described as “industrial literature”, a narrative production in virtually serial fashion made for mass consumption, was beginning to reach Italy too, both as translations of French texts and as novellas and short stories by Italian authors which increasingly found room on the pages of the new periodicals, in a growing trend of science, letters, arts, theatre and vaudeville magazines which, from the end of the 1830s, began to appear in many Italian cities. The year 1846 saw the first Italian edition of both Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo and Sue’s Mysteries of Paris, the blueprint for a real strand of Mysteries set in the various Italian cities42; his The Wandering Jew was first translated in Florence in 1847 and, in the following year, a new translation appeared by Guerrazzi himself.43 The case of Sue’s novels is a rather extraordinary example of early cultural globalisation, a real mystery mania that produced an unprecedented cloning of novels on European and American slums, vouching for the completely new possibilities created by the recent media transformations.44 As well as the translations, the reactions of the Italian literary world were also immediate, and the discussion arising around the possible versions of “light literature” was immediately rather intense. Despite the fact that reflections on the Italian book market were beginning to be more articulate and mature than in the previous twenty years, the voices sensitive to modernising the literary sphere, giving it greater autonomy from politics and morality, as well as greater market power, were very few (one was Cesare Cantù, mentioned in the epigraph above). Many were hugely critical of, when not disgusted by, a literature that seemed to move away from all moral and poetic aims. Even the commentators from the 42  The first Italian edition of Eugène Sue’s book was published by Capolago in 1846. Many more followed. Very soon the strand of Misteri set in various Italian cities also started: first Livorno (1849), then many others up to the famous I misteri di Napoli by Mastriani (1869–70). See E.  Ghidetti, Eugène Sue e il romanzo sociale in Italia, Casini, Florence– Rome 1965. 43  On the popularity of the Ebreo errante in Italy during the Risorgimento, see the notes by A. Gramsci in Letteratura e vita nazionale, Editori Riuniti, Rome 1991, p. 153. 44  See the worthy dossier edited by M.  E. Thérenty, Les Mystères urbains au prisme de l’identité nationale, published on http://www.medias19.org/index.php?id=13307.

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democratic front, more sensitive to the development of a new popular literature and more aware of the importance and the opportunity of the transformations in progress, continued to point out, in the name of an educational and civilizing project, that literary “industrialism” was completely inappropriate to the Italian situation. This was the case with poet, librettist and playwright Francesco Dall’Ongaro, in the 1830s and 1840s leading light of Trieste newspaper “La Favilla” (1836–1846), a patriot and progressively close to Mazzini’s positions, whose reflections deserve a brief mention because they were well known and discussed in democratic circles. In 1842, he had engaged in a real defence of what he called “light literature, for magazines, centred on emotion”, saying he was convinced that it was more useful than philosophical syllogisms to “shake up the imagination”, “inflame the will” and therefore also “reawaken the desire for good”.45 Despite being in favour of novels “which are read with pleasure” and can be read by all, he was however equally persuaded—and underlined it strongly—that they should maintain “a noble goal”. The same was true of sentimental novels and feuilleton short stories, many of which were appropriately published in his magazine: they were useful and appropriate only if prompted by a real knowledge of, and love for, the people. “To keep this moral and poetic sense alive in the multitude of readers […]the short and easy texts the periodical press is publishing are useful—provided they are prompted with faith and affection by people who do not shy away from studying the habits, language, virtues and defects of the people themselves”. It was not always so—Dall’Ongaro wrote—given that in France there were plenty of “writers who at the cost of decency and morality aspire to a shameful celebrity” (and it is significant that from Mazzini onwards the negative example was almost always Balzac). This was not so with Eugène Sue, whose intent was rather “to draw the attention of the good to the suffering of the poor” and not “just to earn money and entertain readers”. The operation launched by Dumas with his Crimes célèbres, he wrote in another article, could be equally useful, were it not for its “monstrous” title, which seemed to want to take readers “to the filth of vice”.46 If people wondered why so many crimes featured in our literature, his answer was always the same: “literature must move the souls of readers”, they  F. Dall’Ongaro, Letteratura leggera, in “La Favilla”, VII, 15 July 1842, pp. 209–214.  Ibid., Crimes célèbres di Alexandre Dumas, in “La Favilla”, VI, 4 December 1841, pp. 386–389. 45 46

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must respond “to the vague desire for pathos that fills our souls”. To do this—it was clear by now—”we need daggers, poisons, prisons, nefarious loves”. The new narratives that from the 1820s onwards had changed the face of the Italian and European literary worlds had introduced all this and, in doing so, they had built a new relationship with the public, together with an “imaginative language that shakes the simple and strong popular souls”.47 There was no point in wondering—Dall’Ongaro concluded— how appropriate or dangerous this was. They had better resolve the dilemma by simply following the series on celebrated crimes with a similar series on virtues, above all if the latter were not at all famous but secret and not flaunted, as happened in the texts by D’Azeglio, Carcano and Hugo. The moral message was quite clear: a literature that proposed to speak equally to the entire people could never forget its educational, moral and edifying role; it had to focus on it. A somewhat similar attitude was displayed by Carlo Tenca, Milanese journalist and critic, publisher and magazine editor, and like Dall’Ongaro progressively close to Mazzini’s positions. A sharp analyst of the Italian literary market, he directly addressed one of the key problems, namely achieving popularity.48 Tenca was well aware that long-term social and cultural problems (the widespread illiteracy among women, the issue of a standardised language, the disarray of the book trade) were hampering communication with the public, but he felt the inadequacy of scholars themselves in creating a direct relationship with it was equally important. This relationship and its profound transformations were the focus of a long essay that appeared in 1846 in the “Rivista europea”, where he lucidly highlighted as one of the specific features of the Italian case the clear difference between a well-oiled theatre market endowed with a consistent and passionate audience and a literary market where such privilege was only achieved by foreign production.49 This had also happened because the Italian literati had failed to respond to the momentous transformation  C. Tenca, Letteratura popolare in Italia, in “Il Crepuscolo”, 20 January 1850, pp. 9–10.  Tenca’s numerous interventions on popular literature, which had appeared in “Rivista europea” and in “Crepuscolo”, are collected in C. Tenca, Delle strenne e degli almanacchi. Saggi sull’editoria popolare (1845–1859), edited by A. Cottignoli, Liguori, Naples 1995. 49  C. Tenca, Delle condizioni della odierna letteratura (in “Rivista europea”, 2, 1846), in Ibid., Giornalismo e letteratura nell’Ottocento, edited by G.  Scalia, Cappelli, Rocco San Casciano 1959, pp. 74–100. This article was a reply to the views Francesco Guerrazzi had expressed in the foreword of the new edition of Battaglia di Benevento (Milan 1845). 47 48

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prompted by the French Revolution, namely precisely the change of the reference public, an entity that remained “unexplored”. “Nowadays the masses do not yield to any authority. Their instinct guides them to reject any literature that strives to impose itself on their imagination. They know very well what they do not want even if they do not yet know what they do want. Observe them at the theatre, where instinct appears faster and more certain, and where judgment is sacred and final”. The public he saw around him was “new, fiery, as undisciplined as a child just escaped from his tutor” and it was important to present a “new language and new forms” to it. “We do not realise—he continued—that contemporary literature has radically changed, that if once a man of letters was confident of a public traditionally educated to his own ideas, now a huge multitude of people stands before him, for whom he must be an interpreter and, almost, a prophet”. It would be necessary to offer this multitude enthusiasm, passions, involvement, just as musical theatre had been able to do, deciding to enter this new, immense vortex that is nowadays’ public, exploring its tendencies, highlighting whatever badly known or indeterminate may be brewing within it, giving it an awareness of itself and of its aims […]. We cannot completely condemn the masses if, disdainful of the literature that is like dead words for them, they flocked boisterously to the musical theatres, looking for easy pathos and the free outpouring of joy and pain. This is the arena where they rule as kings, take pleasure in their triumphs and feel the fullness of life; here art embraces the whole sphere of affections and the harmony between the multitude and the artist is whole and immediate.

It therefore had to be admitted, he concluded almost in spite of himself, that composers and choreographers had been able to do better than men of letters since they had talked to their audience, perceiving its moods and the extent of its expectations, perhaps succumbing to its demands but relating to it.50 This is why the masses “prefer this art, before which they can flutter and be moved as they please […]. Until literature arises to the magnitude of a public event, music and dance will be preferred and attract universal attention”.51 50  On the increasingly marked audience-oriented structure of the Italian opera system, see C.  Sorba, To Please the Public: Composers and Audiences in Nineteenth-Century Italy, in “Journal of Interdisciplinary History”, XXXVI, 4, spring 2006, pp. 595–614. 51  Tenca, Delle condizioni della odierna letteratura cit., p. 97.

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In the face of an undoubtedly sharp and discerning analysis of the current situation, Tenca’s conclusions went, however, almost as a knee jerk reaction, in the direction already indicated by Mazzini in the past and openly hostile to a full autonomy of the literary field from the conditioning of politics and morality. They show the depth and complexity of the relationships between the literary field and the historical situation of Italy. For Tenca, the solution could not, therefore, rest in the so-called industrial literature, be it native or from beyond the Alps. What was required was a new popular language, an expression of a communicative style that overcame the usual gap between “men of study” and “men of instinct”. And even newer popular “contents”, capable not so much of representing reality as it was (as Balzac did), as of showing a clear direction for transformation and improvement. Tenca did not venture to outline a more precise picture, hoping that others would do so, but indicated precisely in the representation of the national past (that “fervour of historical studies that now arises in every part of Italy”) one of the most promising paths to pursue to achieve a really popular literature, since “history is a prompt to industriousness and a nation beginning its education with this study can look forward to the renaissance of its own literature in the near future”.52

Melodrama Italian-Style At the centre of Antonio Gramsci’s well-known “national-popular” analysis lay what he called the “Italian melodramatic disease”. He referred to a particular and persistent taste displayed by audiences, above all popular ones, for a “swollen, oratorical solemnity, full of melodramatic sentimentality, that is to say of theatrical expression, combined with Baroque vocabulary”.53 The period we are talking about is crucial in the genesis and development of this “disease”. The literary and theatrical production of the time clearly showed substantial traces of the narrative devices that we have repeatedly noted. And, above all, the intellectuals of the period who most yearned for a committed literature in terms of the national claims made clear references to them.

 Ibid., p. 99.  Gramsci, Letteratura e vita nazionale cit., p.  78; in English see Antonio Gramsci: Selections from Cultural Writings, edited by D.  Forgacs and G. Nowell-Smith, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1985. 52 53

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Thus, a paradoxical reversal of perspectives occurred compared to the critical gaze of the French towards industrial literature; in fact, especially in the texts by Mazzini and his followers, melodramatic aesthetics seemed to become not the quintessence, but an alternative to the shallowness of the emerging cultural market; not a symptom of degeneration, but an antidote to industrial literature, almost a guarantee of a distance from Balzac’s coldest realism. It is no coincidence that, according to Mazzini, precisely Donizetti— the greatest representative of “melodramatic melodrama”—was the most promising example of the renewal of opera in the direction of civil commitment. The composer had in fact shown that he knew how to touch the strings of political passion in operas such as Marino Faliero, Maria Stuarda or Anne Bolena. But what had most impressed Mazzini had actually been his ability to involve his audience in narratives full of twists, the marked definition of his characters, based around their contrasting features and his skilful spectacularisation of the past. These were the classic devices of the imaginary mélo, intertwined with more romantic evocations and with rigorously tragic endings imbued with the inevitable moment of liberation, represented in its extreme degree by the sacrifice of death. In those early nineteenth-century years, Italian spoken theatre also appeared extensively melodramatic. More than in Silvio Pellico’s, Gianbattista Niccolini’s or Carlo Marenco’s historical tragedies—more literary than spectacular texts, which recalled Dante’s themes and erudite topics—we find features that can be literally linked to mélo aesthetics in the extensive production of Neapolitan Baron Giovanni Cosenza,54 in Carlo Roti’s pathetic plots,55 often adapted or translated from French, and in the plays by the aforementioned Francesco Dall’Ongaro. These were mostly impactful dramas, centred on the edifying revelation of virtue, in some cases even occurring ex post facto, after the protagonist’s death. An example of this is his very well-known tragedy Il povero Fornaretto (Trieste 1846), in which the protagonist’s innocence of the heinous crime that occurred in the first scene is revealed only after his death sentence has been carried out. Whether featuring innocents executed for crimes they had not 54  A very successful author in Naples and elsewhere, between the 1820s and the 1830s, he devoted himself to adaptations of the major novels of the time, from Grossi’s Marco Visconti to Cantù’s Margherita Pusterla; see R. Contarino, Cosenza Giovanni Carlo, in Dizionario biografico degli italiani, vol. 30, Treccani, Rome 1984, pp. 20–22. 55  See Teatro di Carlo Roti, 4 voll., Tip. Colajanni, Trapani 1833–36.

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committed, or seduced and abandoned orphan girls who finally saw their own evil seducer exposed, in most of these texts, in addition to the usual final restoration of the ethical order, we are also faced with an effort to popularise narrative forms that followed known patterns. As far as the novel was concerned, the presence of melodramatic narrative structures united the main production of both Manzoni’s school and, even more markedly, Foscolo’s. For example, all the novels belonging to the Risorgimento canon identified by Alberto Mario Banti—the set of texts whose reading was supposed to ignite a truly patriotic spark in an entire generation—are built around key figures of traitors.56 Cesare Borgia and Grajano d’Asti in D’Azeglio’s Ettore Fieramosca, Troilo degli Ardinghelli and Malatesta Baglioni in Nicolò de’ Lapi, Fabrizio Maramaldo, Giovanbattista da Recanati and Giovanni Bandino in Guerrazzi’s Siege of Florence are certainly the key characters in the events, in the sense that they represent their actual driving forces. They are the ones who, through machinations, intrigues, extracted secrets and false information, move the plot forward, allowing the absolute juxtaposition between good and evil, and, in the end, producing the full recognition of virtue and justice as embodied in the hero and heroine. Their motivations, obviously a variety of them, matter very little. What matters is the ethical horror that they prompt in the reader and the absolute contrast with the positive characters, outstanding champions of virtue. However, the tones and devices of the moral-sentimental aesthetics of melodrama did not only run through the novels with a historical-patriotic theme. Between the end of the 1830s and the early 1840s, they also appeared, in a crude and even macabre version, in pathetic novels set in current times. They were stories interwoven with sufferings, persecutions and injustice which called for the readers’ indignation and grief and, as with the former, could also have political overtones. This happened, for example, in the strongly anticlerical plot of Ginevra e l’orfana della Nunziata, published by Antonio Ranieri in 1839. In it, a young and innocent protagonist experienced from her earliest age the most brutal cruelty and oppression, in a crescendo of horrific narratives involving a wicked seducer, in this case represented by a priest, the terrible Don Serafino.57 56  A.  M. Banti,  The Nation of  the Risorgimento. Kinship, Sanctity, and Honour in the Origins of Unified Italy, Routledge, London-New York 2020. 57  See A. Chemello, La letteratura popolare e di consumo, in Turi, Storia dell’editoria cit., pp. 169-170; A. Bianchini, La luce a gaz e il feuilleton: due invenzioni dell’Ottocento, Liguori, Napoli 1988, pp. 150 et seq.

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However, Guerrazzi’s battle-books are undoubtedly the most melodramatically effective examples of all these fictional narratives. Not by chance was he the author Mazzini praised the most for his ability to create heroic and combative tensions in the public; and the example Gramsci cited the most as representative of national-popular aesthetics in the Italian novel. Behind his two major patriotic novels, The Battle of Benevento and The siege of Florence, whose editorial history is particularly intense,58 lay a long experience of the author with the international literature most imbued with melodramatic imagination. He had translated Radcliffe and Byron into Italian, but also Fenimore Cooper, the most melodramatic of the American authors from the beginning of the century.59 In his novels, not only did the narrative framework show a clearly mélo structure, but so did the whole dialogical relationship with the reader, imbued with passion, indignant fury and the most radical expressive extremism.60 In terms of the plot, its logical progression perfectly fitted the well-known formula: a desire to settle the score with wickedness and injustice within a framework of absolute Manichaeism, where sublime virtues and pure heroism were measured with abominable crimes, with the writer in charge of pointing out those responsible for them, demanding from his readers their full empathetic participation. In terms of expressive register, on the other hand, there was a noticeable gap with what had been found in other national contexts, which brings us back to Gramsci’s considerations. The language is, in fact, courtly, refined and pompous, whose “popularity” was entrusted to powerful declamatory orality, strong theatricality and the pathos of invective much more than to lexical and syntactic simplification. When he writes, Guerrazzi is always on the stage, Mazzini commented, declaring this was one of his main virtues.61 We must also remember that the ones we have mentioned were some of the few Italian novels able to compete with 58  On Guerrazzi’s sensational success in terms of editions and reprints, see T. Scappaticci, Un intellettuale dell’Ottocento romantico. Francesco Domenico Guerrazzi: il pubblico, l’ideologia, la poetica, Longo editore, Ravenna 1978, pp. 11 et seq. 59  S. Railton, Fenimore Cooper. A Study of His Life and Imagination, Princeton University Press, Princeton 1978. 60  G. Rosa, Il romanzo melodrammatico. F.D. Guerrazzi e la narrativa democratico-risorgimentale, La Nuova Italia, Florence 1990. 61  S. Romagnoli, F.D. Guerrazzi e il romanzo storico, in S. Soldani (ed.), F. D. Guerrazzi nella storia politica e culturale del Risorgimento, Olschki, Florence 1975, pp. 91–128.

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musical theatre texts in terms of widespread and consolidated success and, as Gramsci would argue, of “national-popular inspiration”. The success enjoyed by Guerrazzi’s novels, moreover, was extraordinarily long-lasting: in a 1906 investigation, they still ranked among the most popular books read by Italians.62 This is the most classic example of how the Italian-style melodrama was, from the point of view of linguistic structure, much closer to the production of librettos for opera—characterised precisely by archaic and convoluted language—than by the simplified prose of the French and English mélo. We shall return to the lexical aspects of this topic further on. Suffice it to note that the explanations cited by Gramsci for such a contradiction between popularity and lexical pomposity include the Italians’ lack of familiarity with intimate and individual reading; the extensive familiarity with a large number of collective rhetorical events ranging from religious to funerary, to legal oratory; and of course, the great popularity of musical theatre. Many recent studies on the history of books, however, have insisted on the long-term importance of the forms of oral reception of texts as evidence of the strongest peculiarities in the history of reading in Italy.63 We can therefore conclude that in Italy, in the years between 1820 and 1848, we witness the proliferation of a large number of historical narratives characterised by strong visual impact and a register which can be defined as melodramatic. Many of them featured narrative and expressive devices that were a perfect response to the prompts Mazzini had first addressed to writers, composers and painters and that many had reiterated in those years. They gathered together elements designed to strike, involve and move a wider audience and at the same time encourage it to act; in short, to create a social art which could unite the community around shared values. The “melodramatic disease” that Gramsci cited as one of the strong specificities of Italian popular literature arose precisely from the expressive extremism of the literature of the Risorgimento, from its militant pathos, its taste for excess and its tension towards a popularity with a visionary outlook.

62  See G. Tortorelli, I libri più letti del popolo italiano: un’inchiesta del 1906, in Ibid., Studi di storia dell’editoria italiana, Patron, Bologna 1989, pp. 153–169. 63  This aspect has been discussed, for example, by M. Roggero, Le carte piene di sogni. Testi e lettori in età moderna, Il Mulino, Bologna 2006, pp. 126 et seq.

CHAPTER 6

The Melodramatic Narration of Oppressed Italy

Truth and Fiction During the first half of the nineteenth century, the national-patriotic discourse was structured in Italy in the form of a consistent and well-defined narrative; in his studies, Alberto Banti has masterfully analysed both its morphological aspects (identified in the figures of kinship, holiness and honour) and its archaeological ones (perceived in an intertwining of familiar, religious and chivalrous language).1 What I would like to illustrate here is how in the articulation of this discourse, between the French years and 1848, there was also the strong and effective intervention of what we have defined as a melodramatic style of narration and expression, that is, a structure of representation that arose and developed in post-revolutionary Europe, based on extreme emotional amplification and on a highly spectacular moral Manichaeism. In its specific devices, it became, in fact, the backbone of this political narration. We are talking about a narrative construction with features that can be defined as pre-political, in the sense that they represented the shared background of a patriotic movement which then had to elaborate and present solutions to the national question that were politically very different. 1  Banti, The Nation of the Risorgimento cit.; for a full discussion on this author’s work, see Alberto Banti’s Interpretation of Risorgimento Nationalism: A Debate, in “Nation and Nationalism”, XV, 2009, 3.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 C. Sorba, Politics and Sentiments in Risorgimento Italy, Italian and Italian American Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-69732-7_6

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Much has been written in recent years about national historical narratives in nineteenth-century Europe, their mythopoeic force and their means of dissemination.2 We know how, in the various countries, professional historians, increasingly recognisable and recognised scholars in their scientific and civil roles, played a central role in their creation and dissemination, which took place in a context of varied and articulated interchange with other narrative genres: literary fiction, theatre, historical painting and even minor forms of representation such as optical performances—panoramas and dioramas—as well as the whole set of objects and material devices belonging to so-called banal nationalism.3 Many narrative means essentially contributed to defining and disseminating the plots, episodes, heroes and the visual symbols of national master narratives, that is to say, of those powerful narrative structures that legitimised and gave meaning to the communities of each nation.4 In Italy, this interaction was particularly lively and involved a sort of mutual support, sometimes in terms of a substitution but often of interchangeability between different textual productions. Novels and melodramas, short stories and prose tragedies, as well as painting and historical essays, helped to forge and amplify a narrative of the national past that, as almost everywhere at the time, assigned a key role to the Middle Ages, an era painted in a sort of chiaroscuro effect and given rather uncertain boundaries that tended to stretch up to the sixteenth century.5 The cultural production of the period was characterised by a very high degree of permeability between genres and narrative forms, resulting in continuous adaptations and re-appropriations of plots and characters not only between 2  See, in particular, the Nhist project and the series of book published about it by Palgrave Macmillan (see note 11). 3  An extensive number of studies have shown that, in order to be a nation, a country needs first and foremost a narrative. For a seminal study, see H.  K. Bhaba (ed.), Nation and Narration, Routledge, New  York 1990; see also M.  Billig, Banal Nationalism, Sage, London 1995. 4  On the concept of master narrative, see the essay by K. Thijs, The Metaphor of the Master: “Narrative Hierarchy” in National Historical Culture of Europe, in S. Berger and C. Lorenz (eds), The Contested Nation. Ethnicity, Class, Religion and Gender in National Histories, Palgrave Macmillan, New York 2008, pp. 60–75. 5  One of the peculiarities of Italy is the fact that in the first half of the century, the central importance of the medieval settings was promoted and practised with more success and notoriety by writers, poets and painters than by historians of the period; see M. Moretti and I. Porciani, Italy’s Various Middle Ages, in R. J. W. Evans and G. P. Marchal (eds), The Uses of the Middle Ages in Modern European States, Palgrave Macmillan, New York 2011.

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literary fiction and historiography but also between novel, poetry and theatre. They were continuous and mostly multidirectional textual transfers, for which it is difficult, and perhaps not very useful, to trace a precise genealogical line. It was an infinite gallery of mirrors, Alberto Banti has written, “where the fiction refers to real experiences, which refer to other inventions still”.6 Cesare Balbo had already suggested this to future historians: to disentangle political history from literary history would have been an impossible task for future historians. What we can take as certain is the decisive role as a link between history and fiction played by the work of Jean Charles Léonard Sismonde de Sismondi, and in particular by his History of the Italian Republics in the Middle Ages. Simonetta Soldani has shrewdly defined it as a sort of “natural ‘warehouse of props’ for anyone who wanted to talk about the ‘history of the renaissance of freedom in Italy’, or rather of the History of the Risorgimento, Progress, Decadence and Ruin of Freedom in Italy, as Sismondi himself wanted to call the first Italian translation of the abridged edition of his Republics, published in Lugano in two volumes in 1833, and on sale at just two and a half lire per volume”.7 The work, especially in its more commercial abridged version,8 actually represented in those years a real reservoir of historical episodes that could be perfectly updated and adapted to any scenario, even at local or municipal levels.9 Thus, from the thirteenth-century story of the Vespers, when the Sicilian people turned against French domination to the epic victory of the Lombard League towns over the German army led by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, from the Renaissance Challenge of Barletta between Italian and French knights to the heroic death of Francesco Ferrucci in the siege of Florence by Charles V’s imperial troops, 6  A. M. Banti, La memoria degli eroi, in A. M. Banti and P. Ginsborg (eds), Storia d’Italia. Annali 22. Il Risorgimento, Einaudi, Turin 2007, p. 638. 7  See S. Soldani, Il Medioevo del Risorgimento nello specchio della nazione, in E. Castelnuovo and G. Sergi (eds), Arti e storia nel Medioevo, vol. IV, Il Medioevo al passato e al presente, Einaudi, Turin 2005, p. 167. 8  See J.-C.-L. Simonde de Sismondi, A History of the Italian Republics, Wildside Press 2008. 9  Ernesto Sestan has underlined the frequently twofold significance, national and municipal, of Italian patriotic heroes, corresponding to a profound connection between nation and city: Giovanni da Procida is the national hero of the South, Balilla in Genoa, Ferrucci in Tuscany, Stamura in Ancona and so on, up to the epic events of the struggle against Barbarossa, which have different locations; see Legnano nella storiografia romantica, in E.  Sestan, Scritti vari, Storiografia dell’Otto e Novecento, edited by G.  Pinto, vol. III, Le Lettere, Florence 1991, pp. 221–242.

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numerous episodes of national history—mostly already part of eighteenthcentury historiography, but powerfully updated by Sismondi’s imposing narrative—ended up representing the character plot of a path towards independence from foreign powers that acquired form, solidity and communicative effectiveness through different means. The various articulation of these episodes in the literature of the period, in fact, occurred almost in parallel, even on the part of the author himself, both on the level of fiction and of historical reconstruction, as these narrative forms still had mobile and uncertain boundaries. And, on the other hand, what united them was precisely the power attributed to the narrative dimension, which ensured an immediate closeness to the experience of the past.10 Before writing his Summary of Italian History, where the struggle of the towns against Barbarossa was called a “war of independence”,11 Cesare Balbo—who was at once historian, writer and politician—had written several chapters of a novel in Walter Scott’s style devoted to the Lombard League which he never completed. Michele Amari, also a writer and historian, had also planned to do the same with the Sicilian Vespers. After all, his approach to historical studies had taken place in Walter Scott’s shadow, as had happened, he wrote, for thousands of other people in Europe.12 Cesare Cantù—also a writer, historian and patriot—in the second half of the 1820s worked almost simultaneously at his novel in verse L’Algiso o la Lega Lombarda, a story of thwarted love in the midst of the struggle against the fierce German emperor, and at the two volumes of an history of the city of Como, an erudite and precise analysis of the events surrounding the pro-imperial town that had opposed the League, becoming its acknowledged counterpart.13 For his part, between the late 1820s and the 1840s, Carlo Varese published numerous historical novels once 10  See G. Pomata, Versions of Narrative: Overt and Covert Narrators in Nineteenth Century Historiography, in “History Workshop”, XXVII, 1989, 1, pp. 1–17. 11  “The most beautiful, the only holy and national to be found, before the last, in the history of modern Italy, was not, however, unanimous, nor universal, nor waged until the desired outcome had been achieved”, Balbo wrote, Della storia d’Italia cit., p. 186. 12  Much of the Romantic historiography, from Augustin Thierry to Thomas Macaulay, had in fact freely recognised its debt to Walter Scott; on Amari, see M. Moretti (ed.), Michele Amari, Istituto poligrafico italiano, Rome 2003, pp. iii–xlvii. 13  For a reconstruction of the literary and historical production on the “saga” of Frederick I Barbarossa, see F. Cardini, Federico Barbarossa e il romanticismo italiano, in R. Elze and P. Schiera (eds), Italia e Germania. Immagini, modelli, miti fra due popoli nell’Ottocento, Il Mulino-Duncker and Humblot, Bologna-Berlino 1998, pp.  92 sgg.; on the continuous transfer of elements from high to low culture in the construction of an Italian master narra-

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again reminiscent of Scott’s style, but also a history of the Republic of Genoa in eight volumes.14 Moreover, these authors were aware of tackling different forms of narration of the past, both legitimate and characterised by reciprocal crossovers and benefits. As Cesare Balbo wrote in his Summary of the History of Italy: None of those who are going to write the extended history, or any compendium of this period, will be able to separate, as we have done until now, the political from the literary history. Both had too many links, unfortunately; but in the last few years they have had so many, that they are constantly intermingled.15

The examples could go on, but the point is that in the Romantic age, the boundary between what was and was not fiction writing was still under construction, and this boundary had the soft and permeable consistency of a sponge. Hayden White wrote this in his analysis of the peculiar narrative realism of French Romantic historiography,16 but this is even more true in Italy, where the professionalisation of historical work advanced more slowly and with greater effort. That is to say, in the early decades of the nineteenth century, historians and fiction writers shared the ambition to experiment with new forms of reconstruction of the past, and the distinction between their reciprocal grounds was just beginning to be discussed and analysed.17

tive, see the essay by I. Porciani, L’invenzione del Medioevo, in Castelnuovo, Sergi (eds), Arti e storia nel Medioevo cit., pp. 253–280. 14  See the pages devoted to him by Cantù, Scrittori contemporanei d’Italia. Carlo Varese cit., pp. 375–386 and 425. 15  Della storia d’Italia dalle origini fino ai nostri tempi. Sommario, reprint edited by G. Talamo, Giuffrè, Milan 1962, p. 526. 16  The historically changing borders between fictionality and factuality have been widely covered, especially in the relationship between historiography and the historical novel, beginning with H. White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in XIX Century Europe, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore-London 1973; later on, the volumes by D. La Capra, History, Politics and the Novel, Cornell University Press, Ithaca-London 1987, or S. Bann, The Clothing of Clio. A Study of the Representation of History in Nineteenth Century in Britain and France, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1984. For a current overview of the issue, see M.  Martinat, Tra storia e fiction. Il racconto della realtà nel mondo contemporaneo, Et al, Milan 2013. 17  The reflection on the relationships between history and historical fiction began in those years, in the wake of the extraordinary success of Scott’s novels in Europe, and occupies an

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In the second half of the century, the creation of an institutionally-­ recognised disciplinary framework for historical investigation would produce a clearer demarcation between the two writing styles, their methods and their devices, as well as their protagonists. It was a process with obviously different timescales and traits in different European countries. A somewhat similar path to the Italian one has also been identified in Hungary, and more generally in the countries of central and eastern Europe. Here, too, thanks to a particularly cautious censorship and a poorly defined academic structure, the nineteenth-century national movements were accompanied by a very lively production of historical fiction; so much so that even in the 1850s, novels and historical essays were much more supportive than in competition with each other in telling a national history that developed simultaneously between historiography and fiction.18

The Narrative Device At times the imagination found itself descending into reality, as in the Duchess of Berry’s enterprise in the Vendée, which people said was Walter Scott’s fault Benedetto Croce, 193219

Rather than returning to the varied and articulated ground of the means used to disseminate the national discourse, on which much has been written, I think it is necessary to bring into closer focus the narrative devices, because in them the intertwining and reciprocal exchange between historiography and literary fiction is clear and frequent, and shapes a decidedly melodramatic narrative of national history. As we have seen in the previous chapters, the great popularity of the mélo had been based on the construction of simple and largely predictable plots, which were also highly coded and spectacular. The dramatic principle that lay at the heart of this narrative formula, as it had quickly interesting space in the Italian literary discussion, above all with Manzoni and Tommaseo; see Cadioli, La storia finta cit. 18  On Hungary, see S. Hites, Reluctant Supplements. Historical Novel, Historiography and Historiographical Metafiction, in “Hungarian studies”, XV, 2001, 2, pp. 203–232; and also M.  Baar, Historians and Nationalism. East-Central Europe in the Nineteenth Century, Oxford University Press, New York 2010. 19  Storia d’Europa nel secolo Decimonono, Laterza, Rome-Bari 1932, p. 107.

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developed in France at the beginning of the century and then spread throughout Europe, consisted of the basic contrast between good and evil, between light and darkness. What was represented was a world of binary oppositions where virtue, as violated and silenced innocence, was threatened in its very survival by wickedness. The latter had the upper hand for most of the drama but was eventually overpowered. The action unfolded through a chain of events that involved numerous plot changes and left spectators with bated breath, albeit in constant expectation of the usual happy ending: at first obstacles, deceptions and machinations of all kinds were put in place by the wicked; and then duels, chases, but also cunning battles were fought by the hero to defend himself and assert his own innocence. Invariably the story unfolded in two stages: first the unmasking of evil and the identification of virtue, and then its liberation from the oppression of evil. The finale mostly consisted in an act of collective “recognition” affecting both evil and virtue, and in the violent dispatching of the former, thus allowing the restoration of the latter. Violated innocence and triumphant virtue thus generally represented the two points of departure and arrival of the story. To get to the heart of this narrative device, we shall use an example that was rather well known at the time, repeatedly translated into Italian and even adapted into an opera. Il conte de’ castelli was the original title given to the Italian version of a mélo, Le Pélerin blanc, originally staged by Pixérécourt in 1801 and apparently rerun at the Ambigu Comique 386 times.20 This very successful show in post-revolutionary Paris was translated, taken up and adapted in many different ways in various European countries in the first thirty years of the nineteenth century. In Italy, it was published in Venice in 1806 as a “spectacular stage action”, in a translation apparently endowed with “various changes for the use of Italian theatre”.21 There were two further translations, with the more literal title of Il pellegrino bianco, in Padua in 1818 and in Milan in 1830. We have no precise data on its representations in prose form. But we know that it was turned into an opera in 1838 with the title I due Savojardi by Messina’s composer Mario Aspa, a prolific opera composer working above all in Naples and

 Pixérécourt, Théâtre choisi cit., vol. 1, p. lviii.  Il Conte de’ Castelli, azione scenica del signor R.-C.  Guilbert-Pixérécourt, traduzione inedita con varj cangiamenti per uso del teatro italiano del signor G.R., Rosa, Venice 1806. 20 21

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preferring dynamic plots and larmoyants drawn from French theatre.22 It was staged in Naples, at the Teatro del Fondo, in 1838 and then also at La Scala in 1841. In short, it was one of those minor texts totally unknown today, but evidence of a vast and periodically re-emerging popularity of the French mélo plots between the beginning of the century and the 1840s. We initially find them as actual translations, and then in the guise of “adaptations” which, as in this case, did not even refer to the original text by Pixérécourt, despite re-proposing it almost literally. Over time, they became bare plots, reusable narrative formulas that could be taken up and passed on as such.23 The plot tells the story of two children wandering through a rather vaguely defined, seventeenth-century Provence (which became Savoy in the opera), poor, homeless and without a family, after the death of their mother, who left them a mysterious box, to be opened when they came of age. Totally unaware of their origins, the two wandering youngsters come across the two wicked people who many years before had set fire to their castle and supposedly killed their father, the Count (“the wisest and most amiable man in Provence”), whose body had never been found. They are Baroness de’ Castelli, the Count’s niece, and her faithful secretary Orlando. Both are now running the Count’s estates, as their responsibility in the original tragedy has never been proven. In the castle, the unsuspecting children also meet other characters, and in particular a grim servant of vaguely German origins, who passes himself off as deaf. This is actually the Count himself, who has survived the fire and has returned home in disguise, frantically searching for his children, whom he finally sees standing before him. As almost always happens in melodramatic plots, however, it is the wicked who move the action forward with their constant intrigues. Having treacherously discovered the secret of the two young wanderers, jealously kept in their mother’s box, the two villains in fact plan to dispatch them with poison. And they would certainly succeed if their machinations were not foiled by the servant himself, aka the Count de’ Castelli, who in the final scene is revealed to the world, exposes their evil deeds and joyfully finds his lost children again. 22  For one of Aspa’s most melodramatic and pathetic works, see Il quadro parlante e la muta orfanella (Napoli 1834), about a dumb young girl who saves a noble woman from a highwaymen’s attack using her exceptional mimicry; or Il deportato di Caienna (1844), the story of a young man unjustly deported for a crime he did not commit. 23  See J. G. Cawelti, Adventure, Mystery and Romance. Formula Stories as Art and Popular Culture, Chicago University Press, Chicago and London 1976.

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The narrative framework typical of the so-called classic melodramas is very easily recognisable and it is easy to imagine the popularity and success of stories of this kind, characterised by a fast narrative rhythm, numerous twists and an enthralling pathetic crescendo. Unlike the two major dramatic forms (comedy and tragedy), the final moment of the mélo was never a reconciliation of the sides, obviously impossible in such clear juxtaposition between good and evil, nor a new and different situation, more or less positive than the starting one. On the contrary, it consisted of the recognition and reconstitution of the initial situation: the original innocence was collectively revealed and freed from every misunderstanding, as well as from any oppression and injustice, returning to its initial state.24 In this sense, Peter Brooks has argued, melodrama can be seen as a “tragedy about the concealment of innocence”, which through a series of tests can reassert itself and its full readability before the world. Not by chance did the moment of “recognition” and the self-assertion of the innocent protagonist (“I am the one who …”) represent a melodramatic structure in these texts, one of the most spectacular and most intense moments of pathos in these stories, as for instance in Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo. The narration of the Italian homeland oppressed by evil Austrian domination, as was constructed in the experience of conspiracy and through the interaction between historiography and fiction mentioned above, faithfully followed this device and, as we shall see, in some cases also literally reproduced its plots and roles. Oppressed, deceived, unacknowledged, in Manzoni’s words, the Italian homeland was “a dispersed common people that has no name”. Only by acknowledging itself and exposing the treacherous wickedness of the oppressor who had exploited its land for centuries would it be able to find the original unity and greatness that many centuries of foreign domination had undermined and concealed. However, it was not a new narrative. It re-elaborated a series of elements coming from other discourse structures but condensing them into a story with melodramatic tones that appeared more modern, understandable and emotionally engaging. The most profound contribution flowing directly into that story, and which can be glimpsed in its folds, was the traditional millenarian Christian narrative based on the expectation of a different future that would

 Brooks, The melodramatic imagination cit, p. 32.

24

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inevitably restore the lost order.25 But on a more contingent level, the weight of a more recent narration of national literary history that had originated outside Italy, and precisely in the French and English worlds, at the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, must also be borne in mind.26 Marcello Verga has shown very convincingly how such a narrative, based on the combination of decadence and regeneration, which Benedetto Croce described as a sort of original master narrative of Italian studies, had been taken over by the Italian literary world during the second half of the eighteenth century.27 It had known a new, very powerful success in the early nineteenth century thanks to a significant transition from the literary to the political field. The idea of a post-Renaissance decadence of Italy, of the loss of its ancient greatness due to a series of junctures, above all the long Spanish domination, had ended up becoming at first a paradigm of the discourse on literary Italy, relegating the Italian baroque to oblivion and marginalisation, and then a canon of historicalpolitical interpretation encoded by all reconstructions of the period, starting with Sismondi’s extremely influential work. This, Adrian Lyttelton has pointed out, must have been a real tonic for Italian studies and in general for the self-­representation of intellectuals.28 For Sismondi, Italy had taught the world the practice of freedom in the golden age of medieval towns, representing a ray of sunshine in feudal Europe, and yet eventually losing all potential at the beginning of the sixteenth century, weighed down by foreign oppression. This transition would become the pivot around which to explain the centuries-old Italian crisis and also build the hypothesis of an inevitable redemption effort as the liberation from that oppression. 25  On Mazzini’s and his followers’ revolutionary Millenarianism, see F.  De Giorgi, Millenarismo educatore. Mito gioachimita e pedagogia civile dal Risorgimento al fascismo, Viella, Rome 2010. 26  M. Verga, “Nous ne sommes pas l’Italie, grâce à Dieu”. Note sull’idea di decadenza nel discorso nazionale italiano, in “Storica”, XV, 2009, 43–45, pp.  169–207. On the idea of decadence in European political thought, see also J. Y. Fretigné and F. Jankowiak, La décadence dans la culture et la pensée politique: Espagne, France et Italie, XVIIIe-XXe siècle, École Française de Rome, Rome 2008. 27  Hence, the oblivion in which the seventeenth century was left, which Croce tried in part to redress in his Storia dell’età barocca in Italia, with a less negative reading of both the culture and the political events of the time; see Verga, “Nous ne sommes pas l’Italie” cit., p. 203. 28  A. Lyttelton, Creating a National Past: History, Myth and Image in the Risorgimento, in A. R. Ascoli and K. von Henneberg (eds), Making and Remaking Italy: The Cultivation of National Identity around the Risorgimento, Berg, Oxford and New York 2001, pp. 42 et seq.

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Thus, Cesare Balbo, in his role as historian, shortly before the 1848 revolution was able to describe a country that in a brief moment (precisely between 1492 and 1559) had lost all the advantages of freedom, and with them its industriousness and its independence, to sink into a true “decadence”. But it was a reading that allowed him—and this is the point—to dream about other possible destinies, lost at that time but that Italy could well hope to recover: “If this work of uniting the States had continued, without invasions, without foreign overpowering, God knows what magnificent destiny would have befallen Italy from then on! It was not God’s will, alas”.29 In short, foreign domination had prevented a future that appeared bright and had sunk the country into the darkest decline. It was the fundamental recognition of this transition, the exposure of an oppression against which to mobilise, which represented the decisive spring to launch the current resurrection.

Oppression and Redemption The profound re-establishment of historical discourse which took place around the idea and reality of nations produced in Italy, as well as in most European countries, a strong, essentially mythopoetic focus over a long medieval age that extended up to the early sixteenth century. It was a very useful period for the configuration of national discourse, as it ultimately encompassed both the greatness of the communal age and the decline caused by foreign domination, the tragedy of “civil discords” that had seen Italian cities and states oppose each other and the hope represented by attempts at redemption based on overcoming conflicts and on a desire of federation to which the present could usefully allude and refer. These Middle Ages were a time overflowing with passion and fury. If an emphasis on narrative pathos, a vivid emotional euphoria ran through the narratives of all the countries that had to achieve their independence,30 in the patriotic narrative of the Risorgimento, the emotional register touched peaks of a real “paroxysm of emotions”, to use a typical term from the  Balbo, Sommario cit., p. 236.  This has been underlined by J. Tollebeeck about Belgium, a country where the struggle had not been as long and troubled; see Historical Representation and the Nation State in Romantic Belgium (1830–50), in “Journal of the History of Ideas”, LIX, 1998, 2, pp. 329–353. 29 30

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melodramatic register. When Giosuè Carducci, the greatest poet of a united Italy, spoke of Berchet’s Fantasie—the poetry that had most popularised the redemptive image of the victory at Legnano—he maintained that those verses could not be recited “without roaring”, and there is no doubt that a burst of raging indignation runs them, as through most of the patriotic texts of the period. If therefore Italy shared with other countries a whole series of elements (the use of the past as a reservoir of memories, the contracting of historical time that made current and ideologised the Middle Ages, placing them in an extraordinary flow of continuity with the present), it also displayed some peculiarities: first of all, the prominent role played by fiction narratives, then the central importance attributed to the decadence- resurrection device, and finally an exaggerated emotionalism running through the storyline of national history. The elaboration of such a narrative, where a centuries-long destiny of oppression was broken up by single, brief moments of revolt or redemption, took shape and was codified between the end of the eighteenth century and the 1840s, in a development full of entirely explicit references to the present. The variations could obviously be different and stress the role of different actors. Thus, a neo-Guelph reading insisted on the key role played by the Pope in the struggle against Frederick I Barbarossa, whereas the neo-Ghibelline one emphasised episodes where the Church and foreign invaders marched in the same direction.31 But the narrative device remained unchanged. A first form of politicisation was proposed by the democratic and patriotic literature of the so-called French triennium, finding an influential spokesman in Ugo Foscolo and convinced followers in figures already mentioned several times, such as Matteo Galdi, Giuseppe Lattanzi and Melchiorre Gioia.32 In the following decades of Restoration and therefore of intense censorship, however, such inextricably historical and political discourse had found its main expression in fiction, where a series of episodes and characters often coming from Sismondi, but re-read in the wake of Scott, had become codified. Literature, theatre and painting thus experienced a real invasion of medieval or sixteenth-century stories that can easily be classified as episodes of rebellion, resistance, affirmation of Italians against unjust and barbarous oppression: thus, the many episodes linked to Frederick I Barbarossa’s Italian campaign, the epic of the siege of  See Lyttelton, Creating a National Past cit., pp. 49–50.  See Verga, “Nous ne sommes pas l’Italie” cit., pp. 194 et seq.

31 32

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Florence, the events of the Sicilian Vespers, or, more recently, the episode of Genoa’s 1746 revolt against the Austrians. In all these stories, the persecution of the oppressed by an oppressor was identified with individual characters, their relationships of hatred, love and betrayal within the framework of a restricted community. These narrative dynamics—in particular the hero, heroine and traitor triangle—have been convincingly outlined by Alberto Banti, but the works he has examined are only the tip of the iceberg in a much larger production. For every Niccolini, Guerrazzi, D’Azeglio or Hayez, there were numerous imitators, not only of Scott but of the Italian writers themselves: writers, playwrights or minor painters, educated citizens who tried their hand at the patriotic narrative of the national past and contributed to reiterating and consolidating its features, perhaps on a local scale. For example, the large number of representations of the Sicilian Vespers that followed one another between the 1820s and the 1850s, in the form of tragedies, paintings, melodramas and poems, revisiting a plot that by then must have been well known to the public: the revolt against the increasingly aggressive domination of the Angevins.33 Men of different political orientation charged this material about the past with increasingly symbolic, and at the same time, passionate value: from the most fervent republicans, followers of Mazzini, to the most tenacious supporters of the monarchy, evidence of a narrative that ran sideways through the Risorgimento. This is particularly evident not only in literary but in historiographical production, which in the 1840s had seen a marked increase and, at the same time, a real crescendo of emotional amplification, which, in the various registers used, tended to break clearly away from Sismondi’s original narratives. In 1842, when Michele Amari published his book on the war of the Vespers, which would force him to flee abroad, his political objective is clear and barely concealed. He even wrote that he would hide “neither love nor anger: because man vainly promises to leave them out when the facts of men are told”.34 Giuseppe La Farina, who in 1844 had overseen a new edition of Carlo Denina’s Delle Rivoluzioni d’Italia, had written a Storia d’Italia narrata al popolo italiano (History of Italy Narrated to the Italian People) published in 1846  in various 33  See the list attempted by M. C. Pagano, Il mito del Vespro nell’immaginario patriottico ottocentesco, in “Polo Sud”, 2, 2012, pp. 99 et seq. 34  M. Amari, La guerra del Vespro siciliano o un periodo delle istorie siciliane del secolo XVIII, II edition revised and corrected, Baudry, Paris 1843, p. 97.

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volumes. In it, he referred explicitly to Sismondi, but showing a very different emotional inspiration. The insistence on the decadence- resurrection combination was in fact accompanied by crude and violent language, aimed at showing how Italy had been driven into the ground by various dominations and how “the greedy and insatiable Germans devoured everything”.35 Descriptions such as the following thus appeared, imbued with a true aesthetic of horror: “Sicily was sacked and pillaged by Henry VI, who had red-hot iron crowns nailed on the heads of his victims; Milan was oppressed by Galeazzo II who had men devoured alive by dogs, and found a way to kill the rebels within forty days with tortures that the mind refuses to remember; Siena was besieged, sacked, stained with blood by Tiberius Medici; Florence was defiled by rapes and covered in blood by the vile Alexander”.36 Even Balbo’s historical Sommario, published in the same year, would not avoid a strong emotional emphasis, presenting one after the other the history of Italy’s decadence and its attempts at redemption and clearly showing his political imprint.37 They were the first attempts at a general history of Italy which he himself had bemoaned was missing: a history book “legible, commonly, universally, nationally read”, also to be put in the hands of the young. In 1848, Balbo himself translated the book on the history of the Lombard League by German historian Johannes Voigt, sympathetic to Barbarossa, proposing a sort of inversion of meaning and dedicating it to the heroes of the recent insurrection against the Austrians, the Five Days of Milan, whose action had emulated and exceeded the town knights’ at Legnano.38 At the end of the 1840s, the overall picture of this narrative was not only fully structured but proposed and disseminated in many different languages and media. Its main features (characters, episodes, images of the past) were consolidated and ready to be the object of wider dissemination, through history compendia for the young, or to come to life in real political propaganda.

35  G. La Farina, Storia d’Italia narrata al popolo (568–1815), Poligrafia italiana, Florence 1846, p. 68. 36  Ibid., p. 25. 37  Balbo, Della storia d’Italia cit. 38  See D. Laven, The Lombard League in Nineteenth Century Historiography, c.1800–c.1850, in S. Berger and C. Lorenz (eds), Nationalizing the Past. Historians as Nation builders in Modern Europe, Palgrave Macmillan, New York 2010, pp. 358–383.

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There were certainly many successive adjustments, adding or taking away something from the narrative built in those years. Some historical events, which initially were part of this shared master narrative, were ultimately forcibly removed due to unexpected turns of events, for instance, the story of Caterina Segurana, the young commoner who was said to have stopped the conquest of Nice by the Turks and the French in 1543. With the transfer of Nice to France in 1860, it lost all reason to be included in the history of Italy. Other episodes, however, were added. Thus, numerous stories of the heroic defence of individual cities from foreign troops’ attempts to conquer them were  recovered from the local past and proposed in numerous chronicles or novels with an almost identical narrative structure. The glorious defence of Vercelli from the attack of the Spanish army in 1617 became, to name but one example, a real episode of the “war of national independence, of freedom”, reconstructed by historian and novelist Costanzo Ferrari, from Brescia.39 None of these successive additions seemed to acquire the symbolic force on a national scale that the original episodes had by then achieved, but they consolidated the post-unification contours of a growing municipal patriotism that would articulate the myth of the Risorgimento epic through many excellent local variations.40

From the Past to the Present: The Three Years Between 1846–1849 The “Long 1848” was a substantial turning point in terms of communication and dissemination of this master narrative, especially since it produced the explicit transposition in the present of Austrian domination; and its transformation into real political discourse, at least virtually open to broader communication. In fact, for the first time, a political movement came out in the open—in squares, in newspapers, in theatres—that until then had grown in hiding. The experience of 1848, it is well known, represented in Italy an extraordinary opportunity for geographic and social

39  C. Ferrari, Valore e sventura. Episodio storico della gloriosa difesa di Vercelli contro le armi di Spagna nel 1617, De Gaudenzi, Vercelli 1851 (the quote is on p. 8). 40  C. Sorba, Il mito dei comuni e le patrie cittadine, in M. Ridolfi (ed.), Almanacco della Repubblica. Storia d’Italia attraverso le tradizioni, le istituzioni e le simbologie repubblicane, Bruno Mondadori, Milan 2003, pp. 119–130.

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extension of the boundaries of public opinion and of the verbal, visual and gestural communication tools at its disposal.41 During this three-year period, there was an impressive proliferation of the periodical press and of the most varied forms of news communication: notices, leaflets, banners, posters and booklets of every shape marked a radically renewed political and communicative landscape. Such a flood of printed words invaded small and large urban centres of the Italian peninsula to such an extent and in such an unprecedented way that they also became the object of caricatured depictions. One of them showed “L’Arlecchino, one of the many satirical newspapers of the time, in a cartoon where a passer-by was literally stunned by the newsboys who surrounded him trying to sell him newspapers (“a paperphobia attack”, the caption read).42 In the varied universe of this patriotic propaganda, the presence of references to national history was constant, almost relentless. Even brief references to small and great heroes of the centuries-old struggle against foreign invaders ran obsessively and continuously through the hymns, poems, speeches, warnings and political catechisms of the revolutionary months, reminding all supporters of the national cause that it was necessary to act as at Pontida and Legnano, uniting in a common struggle against the invader, or behaving with the sheer courage in the face of danger shown by Balilla in Genoa or by Giovanni da Procida in Sicily. Such an abundance of propaganda material, dispersed today through many Italian and foreign libraries, would deserve a close analysis to systematically investigate its main narrative and linguistic elements.43 However, even at a cursory glance, it is clear that, in the 1848 landscape, the national history of decadence and regeneration acquired more openly 41  For an overview of the communicative innovation of 1848 and an updated bibliography, see E. Francia, 1848. La rivoluzione del Risorgimento, Il Mulino, Bologna 2012 (in particular ch. 5). 42  Ibid., p. 242. On the role of caricature, see A. Morachioli, L’Italia alla rovescia. Ricerche sulla caricatura giornalistica tra il 1848 e l’Unità, Edizioni della Scuola Normale di Pisa, Pisa 2013. 43  For instance, an analysis similar to that of fifty-eight Milan newspapers of various types carried out, more than thirty years ago, by S. De Stefanis Ciccone, I. Bonomi, A. Masini, La stampa periodica milanese della prima metà dell’Ottocento. Testi e concordanze, 4 vol., Giardini editore, Pisa 1983; and outlined by the same authors also in Il lessico della stampa periodica milanese nella prima metà dell’Ottocento, La Nuova Italia, Firenze 1990. On the new pathways to bring history and linguistics closer to each other, see the forum edited by a F. Socrate and C.  Sorba, Tra linguistica e storia: incroci metodologici e percorsi di ricerca, in “Contemporanea”, 2, 2013, pp. 285–334.

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melodramatic traits, which sometimes referred literally to the plots and situations of consumer literature that even in Italy was beginning to gather pace. In the stories of Italian heroes and Austrian villains, the combination of violent ethical Manichaeism and a sense of ineluctable redemption imbued with melodrama all, or nearly all the 1848 material, but there was also a series of other, more specific elements. I refer to the emotional amplification of the linguistic register, to a language of roles that made each character the perfect personification of abstract moral faculties, in the constant presence of images of blood and violence aimed at accentuating the unsustainable level of persecution. First of all, the very structure of patriotic discourse followed the profound meaning of melodrama, that is, the anguished struggle for the recognition of innocence as a conquest of freedom and identity. An enemy-tyrant oppressed, tortured, persecuted the Italian homeland, which for centuries had been helplessly trodden upon by a foreign heel. “A just thrill of indignation against betrayed innocence, oppressed virtue and triumphant infamy” ran through the population; the quote is taken from a Neapolitan proclamation of 8 September 1848, but it sounds like the most classic mélo.44 An afflicted and misunderstood community had to rise from its ashes and sufferings, driving out the foreigners, but at the same time recognising itself and making itself known. In the second half of the 1840s, when this narrative emerged from the élite circles of conspiracy to involve a large and composite population,45 it was presented both in the form of more popular narratives, for example, histories of Italy told to the people, and, as we shall see, in the guise of true patriotic cults or collective performances. The enemy himself, the Austrians, recognised the importance and pervasiveness of this narrative, its extraordinary ability to arouse empathy, even at the international level, and regardless of any action the Austrians 44  The proclamation was posted on the streets of Naples and included as a seditious act in Atto di accusa del p.m. con le successive decisioni della Gran corte criminale e speciale di Napoli nella causa degli avvenimenti politici del 5 settembre 1848, Stamperia del Fibreno, Naples 1851, p. 43. 45  For a glance at the debate about “mass Risorgimento” from opposite points of view, see M. Meriggi, Il Risorgimento rivisitato: un bilancio, in A. Roccucci (ed.), La costruzione dello Stato-nazione in Italia, Viella, Roma 2012, pp.  39–57, and A.  Petrizzo, Risorgimento a dimensione massa, in Verso l’Unità. Conferenze e laboratori didattici organizzati con la collaborazione della Domus Mazziniana, in “Quaderni del Centro per la didattica della storia”, 2011, 17, pp. 35–41.

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could actually perform. In his account of events, Count Hübner proved to be well aware of this, pointing out that “the national spirit has developed everywhere”, although, from a practical point of view, Lombardy could not, in his opinion, complain too much about foreign domination.46 An Austrian veteran who published his recent memoirs of the Italian battlefields argued that “the hatred against Austria had corroded and penetrated so profoundly in the Italian states and in the life of the people that in the year 1848 it exploded […]. Those who read the newspapers without visiting or studying Italy in person would have believed that during the Austrian domination, the country had fallen into the deepest barbarism. In actual fact, there is new prosperity, new roads continuing the work of Napoleon, a great development of Milan but also of Venice”.47 And yet, he wrote, “there was no act of despotism of which Field-­ Marshal Radetzky was not accused”. So much so that it was no surprise if the foreign press “showed itself to be malicious and unjust beyond belief”.48 Even the antagonist par excellence, the Count of Metternich, seemed well aware of this. In a memorandum of 1846, he stressed that “regeneration” had become the “constant aim” of Italian patriots, accompanied by a very gloomy portrayal of the persecution suffered: “Listening to all these writers, it is Austria that prevents the peninsula from taking flight towards the glorious destinies awaiting it; so the new age could not, according to them, begin but from the day when the foreign domination has collapsed”.49 During the three-year period of the long Italian 1848, the effort to popularise the sentimental-patriotic reading of the national past and present made the melodramatization of the conflict more explicit and articulated it in various ways, making it become one of the strongest features of the whole event. On the one hand, the narrative of national history repeated the devices of melodramatic stories with calque-like precision. On the other hand, political propaganda made extensive use of the technologies of a new media culture, took on a communicative register based 46  Le compte de Hübner, Une année de ma vie 1848–49, Hachette, Paris 1891 (in italics in the text). 47  Memorie della guerra d’Italia degli anni 1848–49 di un veterano austriaco, 2 vol., Tipografia Guglielmini, Milan 1852, vol. 1, p. 27. 48  Ibid., p. 44. 49  C. von Metternich, Mémoirs, documents et écrits divers, cited in A. M. Banti (ed.), Nel nome dell’Italia. Il Risorgimento nelle testimonianze, nei documenti e nelle immagini, Laterza, Rome-Bari 2011, p. 77.

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on the accentuated and transparent expression of emotions and showed, as we shall see later on, a persistent desire to dramatise the conflict itself. A key role in this creative effort, in the name of a melodramatic style, was played by Mazzini, whose tireless international action was responsible, for example, for the intuition related to the great political and media potential of the figure of Garibaldi. Lucy Riall has reconstructed with considerable skill the complex journalistic construct that in the second half of the 1840s, well before his arrival in Italy, made Garibaldi’s fame as an international freedom fighter and the expectations of his commitment to the national cause grow. This campaign was articulated precisely by resorting to the typically melodramatic device of exposing the injustice suffered. In fact, the presentation of the soldier-hero and his South American feats to the national and international public was carried out by Mazzini, who wrote about it in various publications, including “The Times”, around the idea of a “media persecution” designed by their local opponents to vilify him and the Italian Legion in Montevideo. It was a campaign that portrayed him as an adventurer, a mercenary, a greedy and dangerous thief; but they were squalid and cowardly insults that Mazzini hastened to expose through the publication of a letter which demonstrated all his disinterested passion for freedom.50 Thus, he simultaneously pointed out to public opinion both the cruelty of his enemies and the virtues he had shown, in the face of the harsh trials to which he had been subjected. He had suffered injustice, prison and torture, he had been driven to illegality by great passion, he had fought an overwhelming enemy with a few, poorly armed men and had displayed exceptional courage. It was a simple and powerful narrative that led the reader to an obligatory moral choice, and that also worked, melodramatically, as a form of reassurance. Garibaldi gave the Italians confidence in themselves, Cavour would say of him later, and this judgment was obviously linked to his key role in the subsequent events. However, the effectiveness of that image, as we know amplified in the following two decades by real novels, was also linked, starting from the American adventure, to having resorted to a melodramatic narrative formula of easy and immediate reception.

 Riall, Garibaldi. Invention of a Hero cit., pp. 40 et seq.

50

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The History of Italy Told to the People Run, my booklets, I am letting your reins loose, fly like the leaves carried by the wind, go into hamlets and villages, rest on the peasant’s plough, allow yourself to be read by the craftsman leaning against his anvil, to be spelled out by children and women. For this outcome I wrote you in an easy way. Tell them how many reasons we have to curse the Germans. Because they killed our fathers, they overthrew our cities, they slaughtered our brothers […]. Increase in them the hatred against that cursed race […]. And while we will kill them in the towns’ districts, let women, the elderly and children kill them with tiles, stones and boiling oil from the bell towers and the roofs of the houses.51

In some cases, such as the one from which the lines above are taken, national history became the object of specific popular dissemination, a sort of serialised pedagogical narrative. It was a small series of historical booklets entitled Libri per il popolo (Books for the People), published between the spring and summer of 1848 by a Turin-based printing company founded in those years, Baricco and Arnaldi, and soon known for its initiatives aimed at a wider public than usual.52 Of the thousands of patriotic publications, pamphlets, hymns and occasional texts that were published all over Italy during that year, these booklets stand out, and deserve a closer look, both because they are the outcome of a small, ad hoc publishing project, which did not stop but continued in a different format after 1848; and because they achieved a remarkable success in terms of readership, about which we have some quantitative information. The author was an interesting and not very well-known figure, perhaps also because of his difficult categorisation within the narrative of the Risorgimento.53 Felice Govean was a Piedmontese patriot predictably raised in a solidly Jacobin family. His father and before him his grandfather had openly adhered to revolutionary ideals. In addition to politics, his education had been characterised by his love for the theatre. So, at least, Vittorio Bersezio claimed, when commemorating him in 1898 and promoting a committee  F. Govean, La battaglia di Legnano, Baricco e Arnaldi, Turin 1848, p. 22.  For some brief information about this, see Origine e progressi dell’arte tipografica a Torino dal 1474 al 1861, Tipografia Eredi Bocchi, Turin 1861, p. 141. 53  Bartolo Gariglio, who devoted a book to Govean’s most famous publishing venture, the paper “Gazzetta del Popolo”, has placed him in the group of Piedmontese democrats not following Mazzini; see Stampa e opinione pubblica nel Risorgimento. La “Gazzetta del popolo” (1848–1861), Franco Angeli, Milan 1987. 51 52

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to erect a monument in Turin dedicated to the man he defined as a “true tribune of public liberties”.54 Precisely because he had dreamed of writing tragedies like Schiller’s and of delivering them like famous actor and patriot Gustavo Modena, in his youth he had fled his official job to join a Milanese comic theatre company. Only the practical needs of life had forced him to leave it in order to learn a real job, becoming a printer, but this had not completely quashed his theatrical sensibility. Returning to Turin in 1846, aged twenty-seven, he approached a group of Piedmontese democrats, which included Domenico Carbone, Michele Lessona and Giovanni Battista  Bottero, with whom he would subsequently enjoy a long journalistic collaboration. His first publishing initiative was precisely the series of booklets we have been discussing, devoted to the popular heroes of the fight against foreign invaders and sold by Baricco and Arnaldi at a particularly low price to encourage their popularity. The first was devoted to the young hero Balilla, who had started a great anti-Austrian insurrection in Genoa in 1746, like a young David throwing stones (Fig. 6.1). Subsequent booklets dealt with the other heroes of an Italian history in a strictly patriotic reading, along an entirely consistent thread that focused on a series of attempts to regain freedom from foreign, particularly Germanic domination. They were very short texts, using fictional adventures in an easy-to-read style, to tell episodes of a “figural” history of the Italian nation, at that juncture very well known and already part of the shared patriotic narrative, thanks to the many expressive means used to convey it, as mentioned above, and to the strongly narrative and symbolic nature of Mazzini’s propaganda. The story of Balilla was followed by all the protagonists of the well-known script, namely Ferruccio, the Sicilian Vespers, Masaniello and Segurana and four episodes of a saga about Barbarossa with the following titles: The Oath of Pontida, Stamura of Ancona, The Siege of Alessandria and the Battle of Legnano. The series would not be completed, due to the onrush of events surrounding the war and the urgency of other publishing projects, but seven of the nine titles planned were quickly published and had a rather extraordinary success with the public. The concern moving a young Govean in his first initiative was reported to his readership in “two words” contained in the first pages of the book, 54  Commemorazione di Felice Govean fatta da Vittorio Bersezio il 10 ottobre 1898 nella Sala Vincenzo Troya e cenni sopra la costituzione del Comitato per il Monumento, Vincenzo Bona, Turin 1899, p. 9.

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Fig. 6.1  Storie d’Italia raccontate al popolo: Balilla [Stories of Italy told to the People: Balilla], Baricco e Arnaldi, Turin 1848 (cover)

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where the author outlined informally, with intentional intimacy with his readers, what he had in mind to do.55 The worthy printers who in Italy had printed books “for tuppence”, he wrote, could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Giuseppe Pomba, the true “emperor of printers”, had succeeded the great Venetian family printers, the Remondini. Finally, in Turin, Alessandro Fontana had attempted it with his Biblioteca mista economica (Assorted Economic Library). Now, however, it was a matter of taking a more decisive initiative by promoting a real turning point in the publishing offer to the uneducated classes, since “it would be good to sweep away some rubbish such as Bertoldo, Bertoldino and Cacasenno, the beautiful Magalona, Guerin Meschino, the Royals of France […] together with some trash about miraculous false legends […] designed to send people to sleep”. It was time to find a convincing alternative to traditional low-cost publishing, made up of almanacs, satire about uncouth peasants and chivalrous tales, whose extraordinary and persistent success was well known and even cited by Manzoni in his Promessi sposi (The Betrothed).56 Govean proposed texts such as those be replaced by “booklets that in a simple and non-barbarous style would teach simple people the history of our glorious national events, of our heroes, of our famous men of non-imaginary existence”, in a sense recovering and rebalancing towards its civil function the popular taste for the history of the “ancient knights”. At the heart of things, there should therefore be the national history of servitude and oppression, so as to arouse disdain and indignation in the readers and prompt them to participate in a common struggle. “The people who toil daily ignore the how and the reason why certain things happened because they don’t have time to read big books […]. I thought of starting from the original root of the evil that then produced the effort to eradicate it, so that the people may have a connection, tenuous if you like, but a continued one, starting from which they would see how and when

 Balilla, Cenni storici compilati da F. Govean, Baricco e Arnaldi, Turin 1848, pp. 3–4.  “Peasants, when they can read, are happy to resort to their copies of the Pescatore di Chiaravalle, Guerin Meschino, Bertoldo and the Royals of France”, Stefano Jacini noted in La proprietà fondiaria e le popolazioni agricole in Lombardia, Civelli, Milano-Verona 1856, p. 80. On popular knowledge of chivalric stories, see Roggero, Le carte piene di sogni cit., pp. 33 et seq. 55 56

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the Germans began to bother us the first time, and then persisted so much that it all ended up at Legnano!”.57 In short, it was a matter of giving historical importance to the hatred of the Germans as perennial oppressors, and of doing so with adventurous and compelling stories that led to the emulation of the heroes of the past. The crucial nature of this last reason was well expressed in the final words of Balilla: “Italians, this is a page of your history. Learn it. And may future historians, writing the history of our times, record in their books many names resembling Pietro Micca, Ferruccio or the young Balilla”.58 The first series of historical booklets was due to be followed by a second series of booklets entitled Fatti storici moderni (Modern Historical Facts) and devoted to some contemporary figures, already fully part of the pantheon of heroes of Italian-ness. They were Pius IX, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Vincenzo Gioberti and the Bandiera brothers. As evidence of the extent to which, in the spring of 1848, the characters and the episodes mentioned were already immediately evocative of the patriotic cause, some of the booklets were inscribed with relevant verses from Goffredo Mameli’s patriotic anthem (or, rather, “Mamelli”, as the name was spelt next to his following famous verses: “the children of Italy are called Balilla”, “Every man has Ferruccio’s hand and heart”, “from the Alps to Sicily, everywhere is Legnano”). So what kind of stories are we talking about?

A Few Figures and a Little About Trade Before dwelling upon the structure of these stories, it is important to note the fact, quite unusual for this kind of ephemeral material, in terms of its form and nature, that we know something about its actual distribution, apparently very high for Italian publishing standards. The fourth issue, in fact—the one devoted to Stamura of Ancona—contained a thank you to the public for the great favour shown to the publishing venture. Some figures were also included. Twelve thousand copies had been sold of the first issue released, the one on Balilla and four editions printed in three months. Ferruccio had sold slightly fewer, while the first edition of the Oath of Pontida had sold out in just one day and had to be reprinted 57  Giuramento di Pontida, Cenni storici compilati da Felice Govean, Baricco e Arnaldi, Turin 1848, p. 3. 58  Balilla cit., p. 15.

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immediately. We cannot attempt comparisons with similar publications, but the uncommon scope of these figures is clearer if we consider that the two major liberal newspapers founded in Turin after the edict of partial liberalisation of the press in 1847, Count Cavour’s Risorgimento and Lorenzo Valerio’s Concordia, could count on a readership not exceeding 1500 subscribers, therefore a much narrower pool of readers.59 La Patria, the most important moderate newspaper in Florence, had 600 subscribers in 1847, which would become 1200 the following year, in line with the Turin print runs.60 In the already quoted commemoration of Govean, Bersezio maintained that up until then no book had ever sold “so many copies” in Italy and this had brought great earnings to its publisher.61 We are therefore talking about booklets circulating widely (albeit probably in the limited area of Turin and the Piedmont region) and reaching a wider audience than the one normally approaching the political debate. Whilst in such an initiative there was a clear and obvious political will, there was also no shortage of commercial implications, two aspects that in figures such as Govean are inextricably intertwined. The first laws which liberalised the press, in 1847, and the abolition of censorship, in 1848, effectively opened up to publishers and to cultural entrepreneurs in general, a field of action that until then had been precluded to them and which was now widely exploited. One example are music publishers. As early as 1846, both Ricordi and Lucca, the two foremost Italian music publishers, had identified in patriotic songs one of the products most in tune with the current situation and at the time much more saleable than the usual musical scores. They therefore included a great number of them in their catalogues, as well as in the advertisements published in newspapers.62 At the same time, and for the first time, they promoted in theatres operas focusing on patriotic themes (as Ricordi, normally very cautious in 59  See F. Della Peruta, Il giornalismo italiano del Risorgimento, dal 1847 all’Unità, Franco Angeli, Milan 2011. 60  See A. Martinoli (ed.), Periodici dei secoli XVIII- XIX, catalogo della Biblioteca di storia moderna e contemporanea, introduced by F. Della Peruta, Nove Grafie, Rome 1990. 61  The collection of letters between Daniele Manin and Giorgio Pallavicino (Epistolario politico 1855–57, L. Bertolotti, Milano 1878, p. 45) report that the beginning of Govean’s fame was linked to “his booklet about Balilla, which had an almost fabulous success, so much so that hundreds of thousands of copied were distributed within a few days”. 62  On the extensive publication of patriotic songs by music printers in the spring of 1848, see P.  Gossett, “Edizioni distrutte” and the Significance of Operatic Choruses during the Risorgimento, in V. Johnson, J. F. Fulcher, T. Ertman (eds), Opera and Society in Italy and France from Monteverdi to Bourdieu, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2007, pp. 197

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this regard, did with Giuseppe Verdi’s Battle of Legnano during the Roman Republic). In those months, these and other, less openly engaged operas were advertised by relying on their closeness to the present. When the only openly patriotic opera by Giuseppe Verdi, not by coincidence also devoted to the episode featuring the Lombard League, was staged in Rome at the Teatro Argentina in January 1849, it found an audience, to put it mildly, ready to welcome it.63 Some references to these commercial aspects appear in the correspondence and travel diaries of the numerous foreign observers who, in the course of 1848, crisscrossed the country, above all those most critical of the ongoing struggles. When, in 1848, Charles MacFarlane, an English conservative (more about him later), travelling up the country from Sicily stopped in Arezzo, he noticed that the permanently crowded cafes often had new names with political connotations. They were called Resurrection or Risorgimento, Freedom and Equality Cafe, or Italian Independence Cafe. Walking through Foligno, he stopped at a bookseller-printer and was surprised to see the type of publications displayed in the shop. Everything, he maintained, referred to present-day events: from pamphlets and proclamations often unauthorised and burning with patriotic fury, to Vincenzo Gioberti’s complete works, to the writings by that “stark mad of Gavazzi”, the priest and patriot well known for his vehement public speeches;64 and then Mazzini, Francesco Domenico Guerrazzi and Massimo D’Azeglio. No literature, art or history book that did not speak of the homeland was shown to customers walking by. The liveliness of the newspapers and flyers business must also have been truly extraordinary, in its novelty. A Bohemian patriot who was in Naples in February 1848 described the new trade that had been quickly created: “Thus a new industry arose and especially in the main street called Toledo, there was a large number of stalls, some mobile, some fixed, with all the newcomers in the freed press. There were also many single sheets of all

sgg. On the role of patriotic music, see R. Carnesecchi, “Venezia sorgesti dal duro servaggio”: la musica patriottica negli anni della Repubblica di Manin, Il Cardo, Venice 1994. 63  I have analysed the specific case of the Battaglia di Legnano in Il Risorgimento in musica: l’opera lirica nei teatri del 1848, in A. M. Banti and R. Bizzocchi (eds), Immagini della nazione nell’Italia del Risorgimento, Carocci, Rome 2002, pp. 149 et seq. 64  C. MacFarlane, A Glance at Revolutionized Italy, Smith, Elder & Co., London 1849, vol. 2, p. 86.

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Sicilian newspapers and the proclamations by the leaders of the Sicilian revolt […]. Thus, many scoundrels secured new sources of income”.65 Moreover, commercial implications went well beyond the written word and included products of wider consumption: such as the brands of mineral water named Nazionale or Pius IX, advertised by Turin’s producers Riccardi and Bonino in “Il Mondo illustrato” (The Illustrated World),66 or even the sweets in the Pope’s colours that enticed customers in confectioners’ shops.67 The forms and progress of the trade in patriotic emotions that spread over this three-year period have not been fully investigated yet and would deserve a closer look, despite the paucity of sources. It is not a question of “exposing” the commercial intentions hidden behind ideological fervour, but of showing how they perfectly coexisted and were intertwined, as spin-offs of the liberalisation of the market and of its explosive force. This is evidenced by Govean’s career: after the remarkable—perhaps unexpected—success of his historical booklets for the people, he obtained from his publisher the go-ahead for a longer-term project, the “Gazzetta del Popolo, a new newspaper conceived as a way to talk about politics to a broad audience. The booklets on the history of Italy were therefore part of an articulated project of reform of political communication, designed to bring its message to readers who were not able to understand “the abstruse concepts found in papers like the ‘Risorgimento’, the ‘Opinione’ and the ‘Concordia’, ensuring a format which could be grasped by the faculties of the poor and which may be of some use to them”.68 The new paper was run by Govean himself and by Giovanni Battista Bottero, and began publishing on June 16, 1848. It thus appeared at an advanced stage of the war, when the enthusiasm of the beginning of the conflict had been replaced by disappointment at its slow progress and about the Pope’s distancing himself from the national cause. Its success in terms of readership was remarkable indeed, compared to the print runs of the other Turin newspapers. In 1850, it had 10,000 subscribers, rising to 14,000 in 1853.69 We can assume the figures to have been overestimated by the protagonists of the story, as an 1853 report by British ambassador 65  C. Hoyer, Una lettera del patriota ceco Francesco Ladislao Rieger sugli avvenimenti del febbraio 1848 in Napoli, quoted in Nel nome dell’Italia cit., p. 191. 66  “Il Mondo illustrato”, 6 May 1848. 67  Ragguaglio de’ casi di Parma, in “La Patria”, 16 July 1847, p. 14. 68  Avviso, in “Gazzetta del Popolo”, I, 16 June 1848, 1, p. 4. 69  Letter of Manin to Giorgio Pallavicino, in Epistolario politico cit., p. 46.

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Sir James Hudson spoke of 8000 subscribers, but, in any case, these are figures to which the Italian market, still very much confined to individual cities, was not accustomed.70 The decisive factor to explain this popularity was first of all the decidedly lower price compared to the other newspapers (5 cents compared to 40 for the “Risorgimento” and 20 for the “Concordia”71). But other elements making it more popular must also be noted, such as its smaller and more manageable format, or the immediacy of its language, which required constant interventions by its editors-in-chief to achieve the “simplicity, brevity, clarity” which had already been stated in the first issue as a fundamental stylistic feature of the paper. This effort took place even at the cost of actual editorial interventions on texts submitted by external correspondents, which the editors justified with their intention of “dressing them with words suited to the abilities of all”. With Felice Govean and his initiatives, we thus have the most complete editorial attempt from 1848 to make politics accessible to a wider public. The narrative melodramatisation of national historical events was part of the same effort and also of a crucial effort to disseminate the political objectives of the Risorgimento movement among the people. From a strictly political point of view, the position of the newspaper actually changed over the months and years, going from a pro-Gioberti position (presenting Gioberti as a “great unifier”) to a marked anticlericalism that tended to intensify in the following years. In any case, its loyalty to a firmly monarchical constitutional liberalism and its lack of interest in Mazzini’s positions remained firm, despite the enthusiasm and support it gave to the Republics of Rome and Venice.72 More than the political positions it took, what characterised this venture and makes it worthy of note is the format of the paper itself, the target it addressed and its battle to spread education and reading to the people. Moreover, these elements were combined with a constant attention to initiatives with a strong media impact: in turn, it held a subscription to award the Honorary Sabre to Garibaldi (the military 70  “Il Mondo illustrato”, one of the first illustrated periodicals published in Italy, never exceeded 3,000 copies. Runs of 10,000 copies became usual for the most popular papers only ten years later. 71  According to Rosario Romeo, this equated to one-third and one-fifth of the average labourer’s wages, cited in Cavour e il suo tempo, vol. II, Laterza, Rome-Bari 1984, p. 271. 72  On this, see the analysis by Bartolo Gariglio, Stampa e opinione pubblica nel Risorgimento cit. In his letters, Gustavo Modena called Govean “Mazzini-phobic”, see T. Grandi (ed.), Epistolario di Gustavo Modena (1827–1861), Vittoriano, Rome 1955, p. 255.

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leader under whose guidance “even children become heroes within a few days”73); supported the construction of the famous obelisk to the Siccardi laws, which in Piedmont, in 1850, had sanctioned the separation between the state and the church; and collected funds to equip with cannons the fortress of Alessandria, which Govean had chosen as the protagonist of one of his history booklets for the people and of a theatrical pièce written in the days immediately after the Austrians entered the city.74 In the case of the “Gazzetta”, too, the commercial aspects of the initiative were very clear and were even strengthened as time went on. Starting from the second year, 1849, the newspaper provided a supplement entitled Omnibus, which included paid advertisements encouraged by the motto “advertising helps trade”.75 Here again, we can see the close connection with politics. The advertisements which stand out are in fact those of patriotic publications of various kinds, such as the Biografia iconografica degli uomini celebri che dal secolo X fino ai dì nostri fiorirono nei paesi oggidì componenti la Monarchia di Savoja (Iconographic Biography of Famous Men who from the tenth century up to the present day flourished in the countries that today constitute the Savoy Monarchy), a series of images of historical celebrities, or historical novels drawn from episodes of the recent Lombard revolution.

Violence, Deceptions, Sieges: Sentimentalising Politics Govean’s historical booklets are particularly significant in the almost literal transfer of a melodramatic modality into the national-patriotic narrative and their success in terms of readership suggests that the formula must have been effective. It was a narrative device that we find with surprising 73  Una spada d’onore a Garibaldi, Subscription promoted by the “Gazzetta del Popolo”, III, 14 January 1850, 11 (supplement). It took up the initiative of “Mondo illustrato”, 13 May 1848, when Luigi Cicconi published the picture and description of the sabre itself. 74  On Govean’s tragedy, L’assedio di Alessandria nel 1174 and the censorship it was initially subjected to, see L. Collino, Felice Govean autore drammatico, in “Il Risorgimento italiano”, XIX, 1926, 4, pp. 555–557. The subscription in favour of the city was launched in 1856 with patriots of various leanings. See V.  G. Pacifici, La sottoscrizione per i cento cannoni di Alessandria: motivazioni, polemiche e svolgimenti, in “Rassegna storica del Risorgimento”, LXXI, 1984, 2, pp. 173–196. 75  In Restoration papers, advertising was very rare. As late as the 1830s, in Milan, only the official daily paper, the “Giornale di Milano”, had the prerogative of an ads page.

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frequency in many other types of texts published between 1846 and 1849, both actual propaganda documents and stories of the current or recently ended revolution. In particular, the emotionality that characterised them was expressed in a sort of hyperbolic realism that tended to insist on and almost delight in the representation of violence and blood, making us fully understand the cultural distance that separates us from those events. All this was framed in a very precise, morally connoted language of roles: the characters populating these stories are always defined by moral descriptions qualifying them immediately in the eyes of readers and listeners. Like the evil figure of the betrayer, who in melodramas was “the most cruel, horrible, abominable the earth and infernal abysses contain”,76 so the oppressor of the fatherland, whether actual or historical, was always “contemptible”, “infamous”, “insolent”, “most foul”, “skilled in the art of deception” and “capable of throwing mud over the Italian people with both hands”, if not a bloody “barbarian”, in the political sense that this term had assumed as the opposite of “civilized” in the French triennium.77 No less extreme was the personification of virtue, whose sufferings reach paroxysmal peaks. The news of the day reported the stories of young volunteers kissing their amputated limbs, as relics of the best days of their lives; of wounded men surviving for days sucking the edge of a wet sheet; of torments and torture of every kind inflicted on the patriots, as in the Calabrian revolt of September 1847, after which—it was said—“ some had their temples pierced with nails, others had their beards torn off”.78 Such a way of defining the enemy, on the one hand, and heroes or heroines, on the other, was repeated in various types of texts. The most crude and violent tones, of course, appeared in the texts of revolutionary propaganda, such as speeches, proclamations and warnings addressed to the

 A! A! A!, Trattato del melodramma cit., p. 18.  The politicisation of the term “barbarian” was frequent in the words of patriots from the end of the century, such as Giuseppe Compagnoni or Matteo Galdi. The discrimination between civilisation and barbarism was often identified with the presence/absence of freedom; vandal and vandalism were also used; see E. Leso, Lingua e rivoluzione. Ricerche sul vocabolario politico italiano del triennio rivoluzionario 1796–1799, Istituto veneto di scienze, lettere ed arti, Venice 1991, pp. 114 et seq. 78  This appears in C.  Spellanzon, Storia del Risorgimento e dell’Unità d’Italia, vol. I, Rizzoli, Milano 1938, p. 239. In this case, these images were offered at the end of the century in a book which contributed to the teaching of the epic of the Risorgimento; however, it took up patterns frequently used in the chronicles of 1848. 76 77

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citizens to arouse their indignation and encourage them to take up arms and participate in the ongoing uprising. The victorious barbarians will steal everything from you, everything they will set on fire: your women will be raped, your children, ridiculed and stabbed will be the amusement and joy of their brutal desires (Bologna, August 1848).79 As long as one single German enemy in arms desecrates Italian soil with his barbarous foot; as long as the sultriness and the stench of his foulness infects this land all around […] we cannot yet sing our anthem of freedom (Venice 1848).80 And the enemy does not give up. It covers every land with traps, attacks women, children and old people in the streets of Milan […], spills innocent blood in Treviso, slaughters in Padua, runs about assassinating in Milan, imposes silence with iron, with exile, with the gallows (Milan, May 1848).81

Faced with such atrocities, the patriotic movement was prompted to a kind of blood enthusiasm: Piedmontese people, let us slaughter the Germans! Let our wrath be exceeded only by God’s wrath when He strikes and kills with lightning. […] Rise up, Piedmontese people, to slay the wicked, the thieves, the murderers, the Germans! (Turin 1849).82

The enemies were often portrayed as capable of untold violence on the weakest and most defenceless, who appeared to be the constant object of their attention. Austrian soldiers or Italian gendarmes on the beat were described as mistreating old beggars on street corners, dragging the sick and the dying from their beds to take them to prison, or bringing their sabres down on the head of a six-year-old girl. And if, as in the episode reported by “La Patria” in July 1847, it might happen that the child was 79  L’Italia ai suoi figli, proclama rivolto a Bolognesi, Pontifici, Italiani il 2 agosto 1848, reproduced in M. Gavelli, O. Sangiorgi, F. Tarozzi (eds), Un giorno nella storia di Bologna: l’8 agosto 1848, Vallecchi, Florence 1998, p. 110. 80  Sensi predicati all’improvviso in Venezia nella Piazza di San Marco dall’apostolo della crociata italiana Gavazzi, Beccuzzi editore, Venice 1848. 81  Del moto popolare italiano, in “L’Italia del popolo”, 20 May 1848, p. 2. 82  Proclama, published in the Supplement to “Gazzetta del Popolo”, 25 March 1849, 72.

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saved thanks to her father’s prompt reaction, the outcome could be equally dramatic, if Marchioness Pallavicini who was present at the scene miscarried due to the shock.83 As in any self-respecting melodrama, the protagonists, who were also the recognised victims of the story, were physically weak and frail characters (old men, women, often orphaned children, the sick), but with such courage, will-power and cunning as to make them capable of overcoming the evident superiority of their enemy, his propensity to betrayal, his lack of respect for every moral law. They have been described as structural victims84 and therefore apparently defenceless compared to wicked people who tended to use their power fraudulently. On the contrary, their persecutor was often a powerful man, or at least a figure very far from the margins of society, fully endowed with the capacity for speech and action, and given to betrayal, deception and fraud to achieve his goals. Indeed, their capacity for deception was often the evident proof of the moral baseness of the wicked, against whom one could only react with equal cunning. It is interesting to note that even in most of the historical works published in the 1840s—the most politically oriented—the language and the narrative articulation were very similar. In the episodes of foreign oppression, one of the most codified and violent situations was undoubtedly the siege, where overwhelming troops and unscrupulous commanders reduced helpless communities to hunger and despair. In addition to being a customary setting of innumerable melodramas (such Pixérécourt’s Tékéli, of which we have already spoken), the image of a city besieged by the enemy recurred frequently in European national master narratives. Another example is the siege of Buda by the Turks in 1541, which became one of the most classical images in the Hungarian patriotic narrative, both fictional and non-fictional. In Italy, Frederick I Barbarossa’s various military campaigns were marred by a long sequence of terrible sieges of starved-­ out cities, with ferocious and deceitful attempts to subjugate the population, often followed by resistance and liberation efforts. In the second half of the 1840s, the stories devoted to siege episodes multiplied and followed very similar patterns,85 as did historical narratives in the strict sense. In 1846, Cesare Balbo wrote about the atrocities  Ragguaglio de’ casi di Parma cit.  Przybos, L’entreprise mélodramatique cit., p. 88. 85  The role of women was crucial during sieges; see, for example, A. Bulgarini, L’assedio di Siena, Firenze 1845; G. Cannonieri, L’assedio di Ancona nell’anno 1174, Florence 1848. 83 84

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committed by Barbarossa in his Italian campaigns using extremely crude language, in order to emphasise the emperor’s ferocity: “As a barbarian, Frederick has the prisoners hanged before the walls […], he ferociously kills the adult hostages and ties the children to a wooden tower that was advancing according to the practice of assault”.86 In 1844, Cesare Cantù described a bloodthirsty Barbarossa who “sent back the Milanese he had captured with their hands chopped off or without their eyes”.87 Giuseppe La Farina illustrated the 1174 siege of Ancona by reporting numerous episodes of cruelty and courage including the following, which deserves to be cited for its truly ferocious nature: Hunger grew: people ate macerated leather, wild herbs, sea nettles. Men fell exhausted from starvation. A noble woman, young and beautiful, passing by Porta Balista, with her infant in her arms, saw a warrior lying on the ground, languishing and dying of hunger. “For fifteen days, she said to him, I have eaten only leather, and my milk is beginning to dry up: do get up, and if my breast still contains a few drops, bring your lips to it, and restore yourself so you may defend the homeland”. The warrior looked up, recognised the woman, felt ashamed of her generous offer, gathered the strength that remained to him, stood up, took up his shield, wielded his sword, threw himself furiously at the besiegers, killed four … fell and died!

Betrayal is often the key to reading the whole story, as we can see in La Farina again: “Reading contemporary chroniclers raises the suspicion that not hunger, but betrayal put Milan in the hands of Barbarossa. Count Guido of Biandrate commanded the Milanese forces, despite the fact that his allegiance had appeared suspicious in a day with the inhabitants of Pavia […].I think I can see in Guido one of those men who place themselves at the head of political movements and, under the guise of moderation and prudence, extinguish public energy, discourage the people and betray their homeland”.88 Betrayal might be followed by deceit, as in the story of Emperor Arrigo IV’s attempts to take Rome: “They say he asked one of his henchmen to set fire to the Vatican basilica, hoping that the Romans, running to extinguish the fire, would leave the walls undefended; but shrewd Gregorio, instead of leaving the walls undefended, he strengthened their defences  Balbo, Sommario cit., p. 149.  C. Cantù, Milano e il suo territorio, Pirola, Milan 1844, t. I, p. 21. 88  La Farina, Storia d’Italia narrata al popolo cit., p. 45. 86 87

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with new fighters: they add he extinguished the fire with a sign of the cross”.89 Many of these episodes also featured, as we have said, in Sismondi’s Storia delle repubbliche (History of the Republics). There, however, the analysis tended to be more articulated and above all less passionate. Describing Frederick I’s arrival in Italy, the Genevan intellectual reported numerous episodes of plunder, but did not dwell on gory details, insisting on the difficulty encountered by the Emperor in controlling the intemperance and violence of his army, rather than on Barbarossa’s alleged “cruelty”. Even the well-known episode of the children hanging from the mobile tower as an ingenious expedient to tame the resistance of the city of Crema, reported by Balbo and many others, was reported in the History of the Republics without insisting on the brutality and without complacency.90 The stories offered by Govean’s usual booklets more closely resembled the gruesome stories seen above, even if the episodes were abbreviated, fictionalised and enriched with characters that added a surplus of audacity and adventure to the story. “Barbarossa’s immense army, mostly made up of barbarous and ruthless people, descended like a torrent, razing the Italian cities to the ground”, Govean wrote.91 He was equipped with war machines of all kinds, but the courage and resilience of the inhabitants forced Barbarossa to lay siege to them. The narrative thus brought characters of exceptional value into focus. In Alessandria, the hero of the story is an old shepherd named Galiaudo who, using an old, enormous broadsword, made all the inhabitants of the city, gathered in the public square, swear they would not give in to sufferings and dangers, and die rather than surrender to the German power. Then, when the enemy generals pretended to grant a truce to the city for Good Friday, while they were actually preparing a ferocious night attack, Galiaudo himself foiled the evil plan: he entered the German camp with cunning, secretly witnessing the machinations and warned his fellow citizens of the imminent attack. In Ancona, on the other hand, the two heroes responsible for prompting and representing collective courage were a young widow and a priest. The former addressed her fellow citizens while swinging a menacing axe  Ibid., p. 191.  Sismondi, Storia delle repubbliche italiane cit., pp. 50–55. 91  F.  Govean, L’assedio di Alessandria, Baricco e Arnaldi, Turin 1848. In the Oath of Pontida many other sieges are mentioned: Tortona, Spoleto, Milan. 89 90

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over the iron helmet that barely covered her blond braids. “O men, will women have to teach you how we should die for our homeland?” she shouted as she led the counter-attack against the deadly German war machines bearing down from below the walls. In the meantime, the priest strove at the sea front, where the Venetian ships allied with Barbarossa tried to prevent any attempt by the besieged to escape. In a hail of arrows, as in the sequence of an action film, the churchman, who was also an excellent swimmer, was able to reach the Venetian ships and cut their anchors with an axe, casting them adrift. Finally, the same narrative devices, undoubtedly modern in their ability to grasp the readers’ attention, appeared in many of the stories of revolutionary days, chronicles, pamphlets and novels published in the immediately following months and years.92 Some modest but valiant heroes, entirely similar to those of the ancient sieges, featured there, too; as well as such atrocious violence that, as someone wrote, “the hand trembles and becomes weak to support and guide the pen”.93 The chronicle that Ignazio Cantù, Cesare’s brother, a well-known figure in the Lombard publishing world, devoted to the rising of the Five Days of Milan in 1848 was one of the crudest and fullest of sensationalist elements. His pages reported the feats of many unknown figures who, in the fury of the revolt, proved capable of extraordinary actions: I saw a Frenchman, delirious for the triumph of our cause, bring down five opponents with five shots; a hunter from our parts shot down eight within a few minutes, and so it is said of others. […] An old man, seeing there was a little discouragement: forward, he said, my chest will be your shield! […] Innkeeper Carlo Carati from Corsico, surrounded by enemy bullets climbed twice over the walls with news for the Provisional Government; Antonio Leoncini answered those who wanted to dissuade him from attacking a castle full of Germans: bullets do not hit those who have the name of Pius IX written on their foreheads. A lady disarmed three policemen; another killed as many Croats, nor was she the only one who in those days displayed prodigious firing skills; a group of defenceless children aged between eight and ten stripped some soldiers of their bayonets […]. On the Carobbio a

92  See the bibliography in D.  Muoni, Le cinque giornate di Milano. Saggio bibliografico, Tipografia Bortolotti, Milan 1878. 93  Milano nelle memorabili cinque giornate del marzo 1848, ossia descrizione di varj avvenimenti non ancora pubblicati del cittadino G. Bianchi, Milan s.d. (but 1848).

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man, after losing his right hand, fought with his left; […] a dying man wrote with his own blood on the wall: courage, brothers!94

At the same time, the description of Austrian violence reached paroxysmal dimensions and made Milan a place of horror and massacre: Many children were found either smashed against the walls or trampled on the ground; a group of eight had been treated like that; two more had been nailed to a wooden chest, two burned with turpentine, another had been speared with a bayonet onto a tree and left there writhing for an hour under his mother’s eyes, another had been thrown on the corpse of his breastfeeding mother so he could continue suckling, one had been cut in two and bound with his own intestines […] on the corpse of his brother who had been shot, another was forced to kneel and stabbed there; some were burned alive in quicklime, others thrown alive in the sewers or in wells; others had their stomachs covered with pitch and were then burned; not to mention those shot in their beds, rooms and hiding places […]. Those who are far away will accuse me of exaggerating, yet this is but a small example of the enormities committed by their momentarily prevailing forces.95

Another chronicle of those days, also studded with “bodies of men and women massacred and mutilated in a thousand ways and insulted”, declared these images were impossible to find “among civilised people and not even among the Asian tribes”, and were worthy of perpetuating “in Lombardy the abhorrence of the Austrian name up to the most distant posterity”.96 These images were actually not so unusual for readers of the time. Once again, the reference to the literary world is important in order to grasp how these modes of representation were rooted in the cultural and emotional context of the period. In a beautiful book which intertwines literary analysis and historical investigation, Ian Haywood has argued that, between the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries, romantic readers were exposed to a surprising deluge of what he called “spectacular violence”: stories where blood, corpses, mutilations and atrocities of various kinds ran through both literary and journalistic narrative, representing 94  I. Cantù, Gli ultimi cinque giorni degli austriaci in Milano. Relazioni e reminiscenze del cittadino Ignazio Cantù, Gaetano Nobile, Naples 1848, pp. 31 and 55. 95  Ibid., pp. 68–69. 96  La rivoluzione di Milano. Cenno popolare, Tipografia nazionale Rusconi, Novara 1848.

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one of its most recognisable and at the same time least studied features.97 And they displayed, if not a predilection, certainly a custom with the description of macabre, cruel and terrifying scenes. It is not a question of arguing that the period we are talking about was more violent than others, but of noting how in that phase, marked among other things by huge revolutionary events, a particular cultural investment in a representation of violence accentuating its dramatic, visceral and visual aspects imposed itself. In the final analysis, they were “sensational”, if by this term we mean not only exceptional and superlative, but also related to the senses and sensibility. Haywood tends to stress in particular the interchange taking place between the literary dimension and the political reality of the time, affected, for example, in England, by a particularly gory representation of slavery that ran through the whole abolitionist debate. But the exchange clearly runs two ways, as is rather obvious in our case, in a discursive flow that fed the romantic imagination and had a strong impact on the public. In the case of the Risorgimento narrative, in a way not too dissimilar from what happened in the abolitionist debate, it was a narrative device aimed at producing a moral message with strongly emotional tones and therefore largely intelligible. The insistence on the goriest and most bloody aspects of foreign domination/persecution became part of a highly performative political discourse. Clearly not all the writings devoted to telling the story of the recently ended revolts displayed a level of brutality similar to the quoted texts, nor a complete flattening of the sentimental/moral assessment of the event. The tones may have been more moderate, the narrative may have argued the events of those days more articulately and rationally, identifying limits, difficulties and ambiguities in the patriotic front as well as in the Austrian strategies. And yet, even the most rational commentary failed to escape the coils of melodramatic narrative, which represented its most pervasive and constant trait. In his analysis of Milan’s days of insurrection, written in France in September-October of the same year, even Carlo Cattaneo ended up calling Radetzky “truculent”, the Austrians “the scourge of our

97  I. Haywood, Bloody Romanticism. Spectacular Violence and the Politics of Representation, 1776–1832, Macmillan, London 2006.

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families”, “the King Charles Albert” “a villain”, and the Milanese people endowed “only and exclusively with generous feelings”.98 As a “mode of excess” tending to accentuate as much as possible the drama and intensity of emotional representation, melodrama, according to Brooks, produced a sort of democratisation of ethics through its sentimentalisation.99 Applied to the context that most interests us, this means that it made it possible for everyone to access the political dimension through the medium of feelings. The melodramatic mode thus offered the patriotic narrative of national history, particularly in its democratic variations more prone to emotionalism, a language of sentiment and virtue that was accessible and effective, a story capable of reaching the deepest layers of everyone’s sensitivity and of producing an immediate empathic identification with the victims.

The Vocabulary of Emotivity Between Colloquialisms and Archaisms An amplification of the emotional register can be traced in the language of 1848, which in many cases, we have seen for the “Gazzetta del Popolo”, became the object of specific attention by patriots. It was clear that to speak to the many, clarity, simplicity and immediacy were needed, the same intention which had prompted the foundation of the newspaper, but also the politicisation of the moral and emotional vocabulary went in that direction. A significant precedent could be found in the experiences of the French triennium (1796–99). To define a language of politics, and make it understandable to most people, the only possible reference went back to that distant moment of very high militant tension that even in Italy had marked a real re-founding of public language, although still limited in terms of real popularisation.100 In fact, the similarities between the two periods are quite obvious: in addition to the repeated use of the language of emotions (love, hate, virtue, humanity, but also kisses, hugs, tears) in political terms, one of the 98  C.  Cattaneo, Dell’insurrezione di Milano nel 1848 e della successiva guerra. Memorie, Tipografia della Svizzera italiana, Lugano 1849. 99  Brooks, The melodramatic imagination cit., p. 48. 100  On the development of linguistic innovation during the so-called Jacobin triennium, see Leso, Lingua e rivoluzione cit. On the limited and therefore ineffective nature of this innovation the most critical analysts of the events had insisted, in particular V. Cuoco, Saggio sulla rivoluzione di Napoli, Tipografia Milanese, Milan 1801, pp. 104–105.

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more explicit elements of continuity with the three-year republican period was the declared central importance given to the public, which even in the 1848 political material, both journalistic and in pamphlet form, was there in the form of appeals, warnings, forewords addressed to the readers.101 The language of 1848 was in fact often characterised by persistent colloquialism that seemed to reproduce an immediate, albeit clearly virtual relationship between the writers and their public. Let us examine Govean’s booklets once again. Most of them began or ended with an appeal by the author to his readers that adopted the typical register of the spoken language and the usual technique of the physical presence of an audience, as in the circumscribed space of a theatre: “Therefore, good Italian people, since it seems that talking about it with me does not bore you too much, I will continue to keep you company; yes, we all belong to the same family, and it is likely that we will get on well, as good brothers do”.102 And also: “People, readers, who already so graciously welcomed my poor pages of history that undeservedly but with my heart and soul I write for you, I hope to see you again, and soon, at the Battle of Legnano. There I will tell you how peace was dealt with and how very lowly it was broken”.103 The intent that seemed to underlie this practice was twofold. On the one hand, to emphasise the importance given to the recipient and to the byword of full intelligibility; on the other, responding to the need to provoke action and induce behaviour. The language of 1848, Erasmo Leso has argued, was, and to the highest degree “a conative, expressive language, conjugated in the future, the place of performativity where sometimes saying and doing coincide”.104 The calls to the public represented a more or less emphatic exhortation to a commonality of views, collective action and the virtual sharing of patriotic enthusiasm. 101  Significantly, in 1849 the Nuovo vocabolario filosofico-democratico indispensabile per ognuno che brama intendere la nuova lingua rivoluzionaria was also reprinted. This was a reactionary polemic work first published in 1799 and reprinted at the end of the new revolutionary days which had prompted new fears in more moderate public opinion. Its publisher also stated he was convinced that “the beginning, progress and development” of both revolutionary events were “similar and practically identical”. 102  F. Govean, Stamura di Ancona, Baricco e Arnaldi, Turin 1848, p. 3. 103  Id., L’assedio di Alessandria cit., p. 18. 104  E. Leso, 1848–1849. Lingua e rivoluzione, in P. L. Ballini (ed.), 1848–1849. Costituenti e costituzioni. Daniele Manin e la Repubblica di Venezia, Istituto veneto di scienze, lettere ed arti, Venice 2002, pp. 225–240.

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There is no detailed study of the linguistic structures of 1848 patriotic discourse, but history of language scholars agree in noting a considerable degree of lexical innovation, also expressed in a renewed love of dictionaries. Significantly, between 1848 and 1851, Pomba and Baricco & Arnaldi, two publishers working on the popular front, published two dictionaries aimed at defining the contours of, and offering the public, a political language that could also be used by non-scholars.105 The Dizionario politico (Political Dictionary) published by Pomba was addressed at Italian young people, declaring its objective was “spreading to the masses the rudiments of Politics, which many now say they master, despite never touching the edges of the vessel that holds its secrets with their lips”.106 Whatever fate was in store for Italy—a constitutional monarchy or a democratic republic—it was necessary “to prepare its elementary books”, and lexis was part of these requirements. In actual fact, the book did not include any significant new developments, identifying only a few new words that mostly referred to foreign events, for example, the term “abolitionist […] to indicate those who oppose the slavery of blacks”; or “tree of freedom”, a symbol that was said to be of unknown origin but also present in Italian political memory. The people’s political dictionary promoted by the “Gazzetta del Popolo” was more interesting, starting from the format itself. In fact, it came out in eight small-format monthly booklets, with a practical aim clearly expressed in the usual foreword to readers which suggested the following: “When you read the “Gazzetta del popolo”, or go to the Chambers, or sit at a banquet of workers, or listen to the chatter of cafe politicians and are left baffled hearing a word uttered that you’re unfamiliar with, so you do not understand, pull out the Dictionary advertised and be instructed by it. And I promise you that within a month you will own such political language”.107 105  Trifone also mentions the publication, in 1851, of an anonymous booklet entitled Vocabolario socialista (Socialist Dictionary), which included around twenty head words: Ricerche sulla formazione di un vocabolario socialista, in “Studi linguistici italiani”, IX, 1983, pp. 179–207. 106  Dizionario politico nuovamente compilato ad uso della gioventù italiana, Pomba, Turin 1849. 107  P. Trifone (ed.), Dizionario politico popolare, foreword by L. Serianni, Salerno, Roma 1984, p. 25. The book was part of a series devoted to popular education launched by the newspaper in 1850 under the auspices of the newly formed Società della Libera propaganda and was the first example of what would become self-help, post-unification literature. In this

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What language was therefore proposed by the new dictionary? Pietro Trifone has pointed to a certain lexical creativity, expressed both in numerous neologisms enriching the existing political language, and in its more marked specialisation. The substantial number of foreign, not exclusively French terms, as evidenced, for example, by the english word meetings, is significant. This shows how even vocabulary reflected the transnational nature of the Risorgimento movement and its experiences in exile. The primacy of emotional over semantic content was also clearly visible and expressed in various devices. This can be seen in the frequent use of modifiers which reinforced meaning, such as “ultra” (ultracodini, ultraradicali), or “one” (codone); the underlining of specific opposite pairs (progress/conservation; liberal/retrograde); in the definition of some crucial words such as revolution, “the holy word of the people”, which reactionaries and moderates use “in a pejorative sense and as a bogeyman”.108 What is most striking, however, in the language of 1848, both in these lexicographical efforts and even more in the expressive methods used in newspapers and propaganda material, is the interweaving and overlapping of opposing lexicons and syntactic constructions, in a sort of contradictory but still constant fluctuation between a desire to polarise, simplify, make the language more concise, and the persistence of literary and archaic modules drawn from tradition.109 Outdated or poetic expressions such as eziandìo or poscia appeared rather frequently in pamphlets and public speeches; doglia for dolore (pain); guatare for guardare (to look at); sembiante for volto (face); anti vedere for prevedere (to foresee); orare for pregare (to pray) and so on. Abbraccio (hug)  was often replaced by the Latin amplesso or the allotrope abbracciamento.110 In the exuberant season of the new 1848 journalism, there was undoubtedly a step forward towards the development of a modern political language, but certainly not the overcoming of courtly and bookish expressive forms which continued to run through political and literary case, too, the venture brought great satisfaction to the publisher, as 26,650 copies of each booklet were printed. 108  Ibid., p. 204. 109  A.  Masini, La lingua dei giornali dell’Ottocento, in L.  Serianni and P.  Trifone (eds), Storia della lingua italiana, vol. II, Lo scritto e il parlato, directed by Alberto Asor Rosa, Einaudi, Turin 1994, pp. 667–701. 110  These are some of the examples suggested by M. R. Bricchi, La roca trombazza. Lessico arcaico e letterario nella prosa narrativa dell’Ottocento italiano, Edizioni dell’Orso, Alessandria 2000, very frequent in journalistic language and 1848 propaganda as well.

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communication. In information as in patriotic propaganda, a composite language continued to prevail, in which deliberately colloquial forms aimed at making communication popular and immediate appeared next to archaisms coming from a culture reminiscent of Latin.111 According to Andrea Masini, who has worked on the language of nineteenth-century newspapers, even ten years later, on the eve of unification, the true connective tissue of journalistic language was still traditional literary ­ Italian.112 And on the other hand, the same stratification of different forms can also be found in most of the period’s novel culture, within which Manzoni’s commitment to linguistic innovation and communicative “cleaning-up” remained quite exceptional and isolated. This has been well argued by Maria Rosa Bricchi, showing, in the narrative fiction of the 1830s and 1840s (following Manzoni’s powerful effort), the persistent and generalised prevalence of a taste for archaic words, ancient-sounding and convoluted language of which Guerrazzi was only the most obvious example.113 Can this be interpreted as a kind of linguistic inertia, of homage to a tradition that wanted to ennoble the novel genre by inserting reliable and legitimate words? Or as a psychological rather than a stylistic option, useful to perform a reassuring function? What is most striking is how very close the literary and the political communication contexts were in the prevalence of a similar combination of courtly and ordinary terms. Thus, we find ourselves back with Gramsci’s melodramatic style, the inclination towards a solemn and courtly language that often accompanied the emotional excess of the Risorgimento, both in fiction texts and in 1848 oratory, and which can also very often be found in the invectives of preachers, Gavazzi above all, where the millenarian echoes of the national-­ patriotic discourse were clearly expressed.114 This emotionality was often paralleled by an expressive emphasis with prophetic-exhortative tones where exclamations and interjections abounded (once again as in the melodrama), and the use of the traditional rhetorical repertoire tended to somewhat intensify the sense, for example with the frequent appearance of

111  See De Stefanis Ciccone, Bonomi, Masini, La stampa periodica milanese della prima metà dell’Ottocento cit., and Id., Il lessico della stampa periodica milanese cit., who also observed the large number of neologisms of foreign origin, especially in politics. 112  Masini, La lingua di alcuni giornali milanesi dal 1859 al 1865 cit. 113  Bricchi, La roca trombazza cit. 114  See E.  Francia, Clero e religione nel lungo Quarantotto italiano, in Banti e Ginsborg (eds) Storia d’Italia. Annali 22. Il Risorgimento cit., pp. 438 et seq.

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typical rhetorical devices of repetition and polarisation of meaning (such as hyperbole, antithesis and the oxymoron).

A mélo About 1848 A veritable survey of the figures, narrative forms and even typical language of melodramatic style can be found in a novel devoted to the revolutionary days, published in Turin after they ended. Its author wrote he had written it “among the tears and hardship of exile” in order to “move to indignation and affection all those who do not despair of the future”.115 It’s worth reporting its plot in full, because it contains all the elements illustrated so far and allows us to summarise how the device as a whole worked. The author’s life is also significant in terms of the trajectories of a generation. Costanzo Ferrari was a man of letters and patriot from Brescia known, at least locally, for writing yet another historical novel set in the thirteenth century, in the context of the ancient struggle between Frederick II and the free towns between Parma and Brescia.116 Exiled to Paris, after 1848, he was fully involved in the network of Italian political exiles, earning something by translating and carrying out journalistic tasks for the “Courrier Franco-italien”, the newspaper founded and directed by the Sicilian patriot Giacinto Carini. During his post-revolutionary exile, his attention shifted from the past to the present to tell what he called “a story of doom and blood, of virtue and abjection, in which we all took part”. The protagonist, Maria, is a beautiful and lively young girl, sweet and simple, clean, neat and down to earth, but with a burning love for her homeland that she tries hard to convey to her beau Ernesto. Until then, he had been forced to “breathe figures and calculations” behind a shopkeeper’s counter, as far from the impulses of political emotion as could be. And yet he is prompted to patriotic commitment by the girl herself who controls his behaviour and harshly reprimands him when he turns up with a cigar in his mouth, in the middle of a smoking strike against the Austrians. Why is there so much political passion in Maria? “I am unhappy—she explains—every pain has come to me from these brutes, every punishment from this paternal government”, as the Austrian government was ironically referred to. Her father, in fact, a captain in the Napoleonic army and 115  C. Ferrari, Maria da Brescia ovvero l’amore e la patria, episodio della rivoluzione lombarda negli anni 1848–1849, Crivellari, Turin 1849, p. 7. 116  Id., Tiburga Oldofredi. Scene storiche del secolo XIII, Quadri, Brescia 1847.

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then a Carbonaro, had been discovered and forced into exile, as subsequently had her brother, for belonging to Young Italy, the national-­ patriotic movement founded by Giuseppe Mazzini. Before escaping, the latter had initiated Maria into his patriotic passion, secretly making her read Berchet’s poems and Pellico’s memoirs. At the age of 15, the girl quivered with hatred for the Austrians and, when the moment of revolution comes, her ideas are clear. Faced with her young lover’s fears about the dangers that they are running into, Maria responds by showing him the inevitable examples from the past, which were still fresh references to remember: “The Sicilians were well able to drive out the French with their Vespers—the young girl says to reassure him—we will also sound our bells. […] To Genoa’s Balilla, stones were enough!”.117 During the days of revolution, the family gathers up again, holds political discussions and takes real family oaths such as these: “Gathered here within our family, we swear eternal war of extermination against those beasts dressed in human form, against the cruel who are tearing this land to pieces, oppress the miserable, who, not satisfied with our treasures, suck our blood itself. Vengeance! Vengeance! We swear it! The two lovers shouted holding their hands tightly”.118 Ernesto and his brother Giulio then leave for Milan and then for the Tyrol; Maria stays back, to embroider flags and comfort Ernesto’s mother. At this point, the inevitable traitor’s character, Antonio, an apothecary, but actually involved in rather shady business, who for a long time has been looking at sweet Maria with interest, appears on the scene. Many signs of his appearance hint at the real nature of his soul, treacherous and deceitful. As in all mélos, the body’s traits are highly revealing. In fact, Antonio is “rather fat in body and limping on his left foot; with dark complexion but regular features; pitch black and restless eyes; a sweet voice and noble bearing; insinuating manners; never did a violent emotion alter the features on his face”. When the revolution is over and the Austrians have been expelled, he pretends to be a patriot and struggles ostentatiously on the barricades, even if, we find out at the end, he is an Austrian informant. However, he also finds the time to create a sentimental betrayal in addition to the political one, a complicated plot to take Ernesto away from Maria. He hires a woman in Milan who, by relying on the young man’s generosity, entices  Id., Maria da Brescia cit., p. 36.  Ibid., p. 84.

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him deceitfully and seduces him with her devious amorous skills. She then pretends to be pregnant and forces Ernesto to ask her to marry him, through a letter that Antonio himself gives to Maria, who is unaware of it. The scam is however discovered by Giulio, Maria’s brother and friend of Ernesto, who, in disguise, posing as a passing traveller, enters the woman’s house and forces her to confess what has been going on. The novel closes, therefore, with a double exposing: the private betrayal, on the one hand, and the political one, on the other, given that the despicable Antonio had sold to the Austrians documents, news and figures relating to the Italian army. In Ferrari’s novel, the melodrama of the nation—in its contemporary and not just historical version—is perfectly articulated. His characters are not political heroes or celebrities, but everyday figures, modest and unknown, who live the whole drama of the unsustainable persecution to which the country is subjected. And they try to free themselves by foiling the wickedness of the oppressor and recognising themselves as a brave and virtuous community of brothers. They do this with the usual paraphernalia of adventures and disguises, escapes and recognitions, signs and violence that melodramatic narrative had inaugurated and re-proposed in a thousand stories, fictional and non-fictional, since the beginning of the century. And which will continue to enrich the Risorgimento epic in the following decades.

CHAPTER 7

Not Just Words: Emotional Bodies in the “Long 1848”

What are words? One tear surpasses them all in eloquence. Elogio delle lacrime, Lied by Franz Schubert based on a text by August Wilhelm Schlegel (reduction for voice and piano by F. D’Albeth, Salani, Florence 1915.)

In the “universal enthusiasm” of 1848 street politics, not only did political speeches feed on melodrama but also political practice.1 The public sphere was invaded by highly emotional rituality, a repertoire of particularly emphasised dramatic gestures and a number of outward signs such as clothes, rosettes, flags and hats often referring to the well-known historical atmospheres of collective redemption and to the narratives that, in previous years, had contributed to building an unprecedented national symbolic heritage. What we have defined as a melodramatic “style” was expressed not only in the narration of national history and in its written dissemination, but in a strong tendency to dramatisation pervading the conflicts of the Risorgimento and, in particular, the revolution of 1848.

1  On the streets, more than the barricades as a fundamental element of 1848, see M. Gailus, The Revolution of 1848 as “Politics of the Streets”, in D. Dowe et al. (eds), Europe in 1848. Revolution and Reform, Berghan Books, New York-Oxford 2001, pp. 779–798.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 C. Sorba, Politics and Sentiments in Risorgimento Italy, Italian and Italian American Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-69732-7_7

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This was not a new element. The emphasis on the visible and performative qualities of political interactions was particularly accentuated in the early nineteenth century, not only in Italy. In fact, it can be said that it was a common element to various radical political movements developing in Europe at the time, in more or less direct continuity with the experience of the Great Revolution, whose language, gestures and rituals were revitalised during 1848,2 permeating the development of claims and national movements, regardless of how harshly they conflicted with the existing order. Studies on the political practices of Jacobinism and British Chartism,3 of the supporters of the first republican insurrections and of Saint-­Simonianism in France4 or of the national movements in Germany and in Hungary5 have shown how, in the early decades of the nineteenth century, the construction of the first, true arena of politics was accompanied by a strong attention paid to its symbolic aspects and to a spectacularisation of conflicts across collective behaviour, at a time when the public sphere was still considerably limited in its operation by censorship and police control. In such a context, where the openings available to freedom and speech were still very unstable—as they could open up and close quickly—visual demonstrations and the dramatisation of actions represented the usual devices of political expression selected by activists of the time, in order to reach and mobilise a wider audience than could be reached by the written word. This widespread desire to “stage the revolution” lends itself to different interpretations, even when referring to the same context. Some reconstructions of early-nineteenth-century England have shown this. The 2  On the importance of the symbolic, ritual and celebratory dimension in the Great Revolution there is an extensive bibliography, beginning with the classic by L. Hunt, Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles 2004; on the specific role played by theatricality, see in particular Friedland, Political actors cit. 3  J. Epstein and D. Karr, Playing at Revolution: British Jacobin Performance, in “Journal of Modern History”, LXXIX, 2007, 3, pp.  495–530; J.  Epstein, Understanding the Cap of Liberty: Symbolic Practice and Social Conflict in Early Nineteenth Century England, in “Past and Present”, 122, 1989, pp. 75–118. 4  S. Kroen, Politics and Theater. The Crisis of Legitimacy in Restoration France 1815–1830, University of California Press, Berkeley-London 2000. 5  J. Sperber, Festival of National Unity, in “Past and Present”, 136, 1992, pp. 114–138; C. Tacke, Revolutionary Festivals in Germany and Italy, in Dowe et al. (eds), Europe in 1848 cit., pp. 799–829.

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emphasised theatricality of behaviour in the radical movements of the time has been interpreted by James Epstein and David Karr as a reaction and a challenge to the restrictions of the public sphere6; by Marc Baer, who has studied the Covent Garden Old Price Riots (1809), as a way to dampen and attenuate the subversive and devastating nature of the conflicts themselves7; in general, the importance of constructing a sense of legitimacy and belonging of participants in a still early stage of political organisation has been underlined. This has been noted by Alain Corbin about 1820s France and by Charles Tilly when trying to reconstruct the repertoire of modes of action of the first political and social opposition movements.8 Before attempting an interpretation of what was happening in Italy, we will therefore try to closely analyse its expressions and devices. The case of Italy is not entirely comparable to those just mentioned, at least in its timing. In the first decades of the nineteenth century, the tight political control that the pre-unification governments put in place on opinions and behaviours meant that the patriotic movement could only operate strictly underground. The gradual creation of the national-­ patriotic discourse and its main figures also took place between the 1830s and 1840s, above all in the literary context, highly allusively and anything but overtly.

A Theatrical Revolution Only with the commemorations and celebrations of 1846 and in the subsequent three-year period that ended with the fall of the Roman and Venetian republics could the Risorgimento claims first come out in the open, together with a real visual staging of the political discourse that went with them. For Italy, it is therefore necessary to concentrate on the “Long 1848” in order to find the dynamics mentioned above: a spectacularisation of the master national narrative with strongly melodramatic traits. A brief summary of the events of these three years can help us to better understand how particular the Italian case was.  Epstein and Karr, Playing at the Revolution cit.  Baer, Theater and disorder cit., pp. 238–245. 8  A. Corbin, L’agitation dans les théâtres de province sous la Réstauration, in M. Bertrand (ed.), Popular Tradition and Learned Culture in France from XVI to XX Century, Anma libri, Stanford 1985, pp. 93–114; C. Tilly, Invention, Diffusion, and Transformation of the Social Movement Repertoire, in “European Review of History”, XII, 2005, 2, pp. 307–320. 6 7

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Everything began with the election of Cardinal Giovanni Mastai Ferretti as Pope Pius IX in June 1846. The new Pontiff inaugurated his reign by granting an amnesty to political prisoners and exiles and setting up some study commissions to look at a series of constitutional reforms. This immediately fed the popularity of a figure who seemed to embody the liberal pope imagined by Vincenzo Gioberti in his work, published only a few years earlier and entitled Del Primato morale e civile degli Italiani (On the Moral and Civil Primacy of the Italian Race). Some subsequent edicts, which included, among other things, the easing of censorship on political publications, helped galvanise liberal and patriotic public opinion. They also strengthened a propensity to express patriotic jubilation in Italian streets and squares that had already begun with the election of the new Pope and which will be discussed later. In the meantime, the Austrian government decided to strengthen its military contingent in Ferrara, within the Papal State, and did so blatantly. This led to a reaction from various rulers of Italian states and to the signing of a preliminary agreement for the creation of a Customs League between the Kingdom of Sardinia, Tuscany and the Papal State. Some aspects of the moderate and neo-Guelph plan for the independence of the country thus seemed to come to fruition quickly. Or at least this is what many activists thought, attributing to these innovations a patriotic significance that to a large extent they did not have. The year 1848 began with a revolution in Palermo, Sicily, against the Bourbon government. In this insurrection patriotic, social reasons and a generic opposition to the rulers were inextricably intertwined. However, it triggered a chain reaction in the rulers of the various Italian states. The first to grant a constitution based on the model of the 1830 French and the 1831 Belgian constitutional texts was Ferdinand II of Bourbon. He was immediately followed by Leopold II of Tuscany and by Charles Albert of Savoy, while for the first time, the Pope established a government open to the laity. These statutes opened up some spaces of freedom which were previously unthinkable, even in terms of freedom of the press and of association, the effects of which will be discussed later. As is well known immediately afterwards, between February and March, revolution spread in Europe, starting in Paris and going as far as Vienna, where the situation precipitated very quickly. The events in Vienna had immediate repercussions on the Italian territories of the Habsburg Empire. A republican government was established in Venice under the leadership of Daniele Manin and Niccolò Tommaseo. The so-called Five Days broke out in Milan, leading

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to the removal of the Austrians and the formation of a provisional government. Immediately afterwards, Charles Albert of Savoy decided to intervene in the Lombardy-Veneto region by declaring war on Austria. The other constitutional sovereigns announced they would send regular and volunteer troops, in the hope of liberating Lombardy and the Veneto. In April 1848, support for the revolution and the patriotic war seemed to be very widespread and appeared to join the different cores of the Risorgimento movement, from moderate liberals to neo-Guelphs, to democrat supporters of Mazzini. However, the picture changed rapidly between the end of April and May, with the departure from the ongoing war of both the Pope and the Bourbons. In an official speech to his cardinals, Pius IX explained that he could not support a war “of Catholics against Catholics”, as were the Austrians themselves. Ferdinand II closed Parliament and sent his army to repress the liberal-inspired insurrection attempts that had broken out in various parts of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In the meantime, Piedmont’s war against Austria suffered important setbacks, leading to the heavy defeat at Custoza which in August brought Lombardy back into Austrian hands. The last phase of these three long years, between the autumn of 1848 and the first months of 1849, was when democratic republics were established in Rome, Tuscany and Venice. These were brief and different episodes which nevertheless represented important stages of apprenticeship in politics, for example, through universal, albeit male suffrage. The last to capitulate was Venice, which yielded to the Austrian siege in August 1849. The path of the Italian “Long 1848” is therefore complex and multifaceted in its various stages, which include grave and bloody episodes: revolutions, wars, armistices and sieges. But it was also a moment marked by a high degree of theatricality and dramatisation, which in the course of events, as we shall see, took on a meaning that was anything but marginal. In actual fact, all over Europe, the revolution of 1848 was considered by many observers of the time as highly theatrical. To describe and give overall meaning to the story of events, the metaphors referring to the “spectacle of the revolution” are ubiquitous, both in positive and negative assessments.9 An exceptional witness of 1848 in Paris, Alexis de Tocqueville, said that in the hectic days of February it seemed that all the insurgents 9  On recurring analogies between revolution and theatre, see A. Dooden, The Dramatising of Politics: theatricality and the revolutionary Assemblies, in “Forum for modern language studies”, XX, July 1984, 3, pp. 193–212.

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were performing the revolution fought by their fathers. And the surprising thing was that none of them, for obvious reasons due to their ages, had experienced it directly. In 1850, from Italy, once events had come to an end, the French historian gave the following reading of what had happened: “We tried to warm ourselves on our fathers’ passions, without succeeding; we reproduced their gestures and poses, as we had seen them at the theatre […]. Although I saw clearly that the epilogue of the tragedy would be terrible, I could never take the actors too seriously, and everything seemed to me a terrible tragedy performed by provincial thespians”.10 In him, as after all in Marx,11 the reference to the theatricality of the revolution was the expression of an extremely critical approach to events and an attempt to explain their failure. Yet, de Tocqueville appeared to be well aware—even if he did not seem interested in investigating the reasons—that they were not just metaphors, in the sense that, in those days, theatre had taken shape in reality. This was testified by the examples of many curious disguises he talked about, such as Armand Marrast’s, whose idea it had been to have members of the Constituent Assembly wear a kind of uniform, and in particular the white undershirt with turn-ups which actors playing Robespierre invariably wore in the theatre. Whatever the reason, de Tocqueville said that the theatre had entered real life with force and that to the people involved this had appeared, at that time and only briefly, quite natural. In Italy, where the openings for speech and political action had hitherto been almost non-existent, this propensity for a visual and theatrical representation of national ties was marked and present throughout the entire three-year period, from the so-called demonstrations of 1846–1847 to the barricades of 1848, making the separation between stage and reality ever more blurred. This, at least, was the perception of many contemporaries, who noted that theatre was then more abundant in the streets than on stage. In February 1848, “Il Mondo illustrato, one of the magazines that closely followed the symbolic and ritual aspects of the ongoing conflict, not least because of the novelty of its visual format, maintained that 10  A. de Tocqueville, Ricordi, foreword by F.  Braudel, Editori Riuniti, Roma 1991, pp. 53–54; R. Sprang, First Performances. Staging Memories of the French February Revolution, in A. Korner (ed.), 1848: A European Revolution? International Ideas and National Memories of 1848, Palgrave Macmillan, New York 2000, pp. 164–184. 11  “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce”: K. Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, New York 1852, p. 1.

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theatrical news could at the time be considered completely sui generis, overwhelmed as it was by the sweeping theatricality of politics: The theatre chronicle of this year is peculiar, and worthy of curiosity: it is not dressed in limelight, and the stage, which was its former field, is now its accessory. […] Our chronicle has also become political in a moment when politics, according to romantic language, oozes from all the pores of Italy. […] Hence in theatres, as in the streets, in foyers and in churches the public vote is manifested. […] Each theatrical show has disappeared in the fanaticism of patriotic imaginations, flags, pennants large and small and the tangle of headscarves and scarves.12

Dramatising the Past Over this three-year period, many episodes from the historical-patriotic narrative referred to in the previous chapter became the subject of collective performances which initially took place within the framework of commemorations and celebrations that preceded the actual insurrection, continuing then in the phase of revolution and war. In those dramatisations (processions, pilgrimages, public banquets, oaths, brotherhoods and reconciliations), the continuum between past and present proposed by patriotic propaganda with pounding emphasis seemed to become reality, with the patriots themselves becoming medieval or Renaissance knights ready to chase the enemy off their land. Speeches, leaflets, orations and perorations held on those occasions were filled with references to these ancient events and participants in demonstrations were called new Ferrucci, Micca, Balilla, Masaniello and knights of the Lombard League, in other words, the protagonists, in the past and in the present, of national redemption. Along with tricolour rosettes and scarves, settings referring to the ancient past also made their appearance, such as the municipal Carroccio pulled by oxen, or patriotic attires that deliberately recalled the settings of historical novels or melodramas of the time. In short, the highly spectacular historical imagination that had established itself throughout Europe in the wake of Walter Scott’s novels found full political expression here, too.13 Until very recently, little attention has been paid to the festive dimension and to the patriotic dramaturgy of 1848, unlike what has happened for  “Il Mondo illustrato”, 19 February 1848, p. 111.  Samuel, The Spectacular Past cit.

12 13

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this three-year period in France. However, we now have some reconstructions concerning in particular the Tuscan cities, Turin, Rome and the Papal State, so we can make some overall considerations.14 We know now that the long season of celebrations and rituals began in the summer of 1846, when the election of Pope Pius IX to the Holy See triggered a first series of celebrations in the Papal State, including its small towns, and in most of the other states. The occasion brought an extraordinary number of people onto the streets and soon took on patriotic overtones, in the context of a wave of emotionality which gave rise to concern for the authorities, as well as for some moderate public opinion. Despite fears and police checks, between 1846 and 1847, there was a rapid increase in the intensity of “demonstrationism”, that is to say the propensity to stage forms of political dramatisation of various kinds: celebratory events with a meticulously constructed dramaturgy, demonstrations of jubilation or mourning on the occasion of specific situations, more impromptu occasions of staging where increasingly shared external signs appeared. These were large processions which, as happened in Germany in unification celebrations, were organised as part of civic feast days and involved the participation of many sections of a city’s social body. Or they were anniversaries of events in a new patriotic calendar, both anchored to the past (Pontida, Balilla’s rebellion) and linked to current events (the election of the new Pope, his and King Charles Albert’s name days), or even pilgrimages to places of civil worship (such as Gavinana, where the captain of the Florentine republic Francesco Ferrucci had died in 1530, fighting against the armies of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V). Finally, less predictable and more feared gatherings in the squares could also take place, where patriotic signs and outfits appeared, or spontaneous but no less ritualised manifestations such as fraternal hugs, tears and 14  On Tuscany, see A.  Petrizzo, Spazi dell’immaginario. Festa e discorso nazionale in Toscana tra 1847 e 1848, in Banti and Ginsborg (eds), Storia d’Italia. Annali 22. Il Risorgimento cit., pp.  509–540; on Turin D.  Maldini Chiarito, Piazze e folle dalla Restaurazione allo Statuto, in V. Castronovo (ed.), Storia illustrata di Torino, vol. IV, Torino dalla Restaurazione al Risorgimento, Sellino, Milan 1992, pp. 941–960; on Rome L. Nasto, Le feste civili a Roma nell’Ottocento, Gruppo editoriale nazionale, Rome 1994; and also F.  Rizzi, La coccarda e le campane. Comunità rurali e Repubblica romana nel Lazio (1848–1849), Franco Angeli, Milan 1988. A comparative overview of the major city squares of 1848 has been recently completed by D. Orta, Le piazze d’Italia 1846–48, Comitato di Torino per lo studio del Risorgimento italiano, Carocci, Rome 2008.

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reconciliation rites. However it manifested itself, this festive dimension tells us a great deal about the consolidation of the symbolic universe of the nation, its narrative and experiential nature. However, before dealing more closely with 1848’s theatricality and its highly melodramatic aspects, it is worth summarising what appeared as the main traits of demonstrationism in the areas where it was most widespread—Latium, Tuscany and Piedmont—and where it was found far beyond the big cities. The points listed below may serve to outline a preliminary picture of events. 1. Festivals, rituals and patriotic celebrations taking place between 1846 and 1849 mobilised large masses of the population. The first large processions organised to celebrate the Pope and his acts of mercy or reform, and later those celebrating constitutional concessions, gathered some tens of thousands of people. In this regard, the press provided some quantitative data, indicating the size of the event. In Rome, there was talk of 60,000 people attending the celebrations of 8 September 1846, when the commemorations of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary turned into a civil festival where papal flags were joined by a thousand tricolours.15 And of 70,000 people marching along Via del Corso in Rome, decorated with flowers and banners to celebrate the granting of the Statute on 15 March, 1848.16 Of celebrations in Tuscany, the newspapers talked of 20,000–30,000 people. 2. The calendars of celebrations, their devices and the symbols and language used were progressively more uniform on a national level. Although the situation in the various states and cities was different, an increasing synchronisation of events tended to develop, clearly emerging in the descriptions made by the press.17 The protagonists 15  L.  Nasto, Le feste civili a Roma 1846–49, in “Rassegna storica del Risorgimento”, LXXIX, 1992, 3, p. 318. 16  Orta, Le piazze d’Italia cit., p. 59. 17  Ibid, pp. 114 et seq. Orta stresses the proliferation of celebrations throughout the country, finding considerable evidence both in newspapers and in archives. A series of initiatives, for instance, was the Feste del Perdono (Celebrations of Forgiveness), about the amnesty given by the Pope. They were recorded in July 1846 in Recanati, Senigallia, Macerata, Terni, Faenza and Ravenna. They were also particularly lively in Rimini, Pesaro and Gubbio (see pp. 19–20). “Il Mondo illustrato” reported in September 1847 that the visits of the King to Acqui, Alessandria, Moncalieri, Pinerolo and Voghera gave rise to celebrations, illumina-

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of these ritual occasions themselves seemed to perceive the exceptional nature of situations that were so similar in different states and cities. Bettino Ricasoli, who was in Genoa for the great celebrations in honour of Balilla (10 December 1847), wrote that “in everything it seemed we were in Florence”, because the programme of the day and its symbolic devices were the same.18 At the end of 1847, the year when the greatest number of “celebratory festivities” or “settings” was recorded, the explicitly anti-Austrian dimension seemed to take over, beginning with the public expressions of grief for the victims of Milan’s smoking strike, which in January 1848 were recorded, almost simultaneously, in Rome, Turin and Venice. Between January and February, the granting of statutes gave rise to a further series of celebrations, with Naples’ constitution celebrated in Turin and Rome with considerable fanfare. “The joys of an Italian province are a joy for the whole nation—“La Concordia”, one of Turin’s democratic newspapers, wrote—there is now no Piedmontese who does not know that a victory in Naples is a victory in our homes”.19 3. In the organisation and symbolic articulation of celebrations, moderate liberals, neo-Guelphs and democrats found a momentary— ephemeral but real nevertheless—convergence. Historical references and narratives are substantially shared; even the symbolic figures potentially more loaded with party meanings (Pontida for the neoGuelphs, or the “brotherhoods” coming from Jacobin rhetoric for the Democrats) tended to acquire a shared meaning.20 The role of driving force played, especially at the start of this festive season, by the ever closer identification of the Pope with the patriotic cause is clear. The initial spread of celebrations, their sacralisation, the involvement of considerable crowds of people and a strong female presence were made possible precisely by the ubiquitous figure of the Pope, whose portrait and flags became intertwined with the tions, jubilant cries for Charles Albert and Pius IX together. Demonstrations in Savona, Mondovì, Ivrea, Vercelli, Pinerolo, Alessandria, Casale, Valenza, Novara and Cuneo were recorded by the police when Naples’ Constitution was granted. 18  Petrizzo, Spazi dell’immaginario cit., p. 533. 19  Orta, Le piazze d’Italia cit., p. 114. 20  “The hegemonic neo-Guelph rhetoric—Petrizzo wrote (Spazi dell’immaginario cit., p. 526)—turned out to be very permeable to accepting and revitalising the ancient Jacobin vocabulary”.

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colours of, and references to, the resurgent homeland. Mazzini was not enthusiastic about such an insistent choral acclaim to the pontiff, which followed and reproduced the celebratory forms of the Ancien Regime, nor about the weak reforms promoted by them, yet he immediately understood the magnitude of the occasion and recommended his followers infiltrate these mass meetings in every possible way, colouring the celebrations with the symbols of nationality. “Take advantage of the smallest concessions to bring the masses together. Festivals, dances, songs and gatherings—he wrote in a Geneva newspaper in October 1846—are enough to sow the seed of ideas and give people the feeling of their strength”.21 For their part, the Piedmont democrats participated directly in the planning of celebrations thanks to leading members such as Lorenzo Valerio.22 At least until the summer-autumn of 1848, when their political trajectories clearly separated, neo-Guelph forces and democrats tended to interact on the squares without great tensions. This seemed to be facilitated, on the one hand, by their shared perception that the new politics required a qualitative leap in their communication tools and, on the other, by their shared adherence to the usual master national narrative, which was the background to the celebrations. Very clearly, the democrats were not the only ones who insisted on the fact that the national cause had to be disseminated and popularised in unconventional and highly symbolic ways. Cesare Balbo’s position, that mass mobilisation was in any case harmful and to be avoided, was counterbalanced by that of figures like Massimo D’Azeglio, who responded to those fears by writing that the times did not admit reticence in terms of collective mobilisation. “Not depressing but exciting” strategies needed to be deployed, and therefore collective enthusiasm by any means.23 And “L’Italia”, Giuseppe Montanelli’s Florence newspaper, alluded to the popular demonstrations of 1847, and to the fears that they seemed to arouse, in almost angry tones, that warranted no response: “Do we or don’t 21  “L’osservatore di Ginevra”, 16 October 1846, cited in Nasto, Le feste civili a Roma cit., p. 317. 22   On Valerio’s complex trajectory, see M.  Thom, “Neither Fish nor fowl”? The Correspondence of Lorenzo Valerio, 1825–1849, in “Modern Italy”, XI, 2007, 3, pp. 305–326. 23  M. D’Azeglio to F. Predari, 31 March 1847, in M. D’Azeglio, Epistolario (1819–1866), edited by G. Virlogeux, Centro studi piemontesi, Turin 1987, vol. III, p. 265.

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we want the restoration of national unity? With books alone it is impossible to achieve it. We need symbols, we need forms where the emotion that all hearts must experience is expressed with factual language”.24 4. The reports of demonstrations insisted almost obsessively on the fact that it was a disciplined, unanimous, jubilant mobilisation; where scripts were punctually followed and the feared disorders avoided, in a careful management of collective emotions. And after all, one of the main bywords of the national-patriotic discourse was unanimity, the harmony between different classes and persuasions, which became not only an integral part of the demonstrations, but one of the elements of patriotic dramaturgy most imbued with meaning. The idea of overcoming ancient contentions to appear united in the face of the enemy, as the League had done when opposing Barbarossa, was articulated in many different ways. It clearly was a discursive construction rather than a real situation, and yet the overall image was solid, at least until the summer of 1848, with some exceptions represented by a more conflictual town such as Livorno, where between December and January, there were already riots and disorders motivated by growing social unrest.

The Role of Communicators So who was responsible for devising and directing this chain of demonstrations, dramatisations, settings? Both the protagonists’ memoirs and the early historiography of the Risorgimento dwell very little on this aspect, or rather they tend to emphasise the idea of a volatile but effective communication chain that was supposed to have linked the behaviour of patriots below the surface. In the chronicles of the time, passages such as this, for example, can be found: “Who directed all the demonstrations? […] The secret committee. Where was this committee, who was on it? […] I never knew, and I believe that I will die without knowing it. It is indeed true that one day I was told by a man, with an air of importance, he was a member, immediately adding words of recommendation concerning my silence on the matter: but in spite of this, I still believe that he had dreamt it, and that the secret  “L’Italia”, 4 September 1847, cited in Petrizzo, Spazi dell’immaginario cit., p. 522.

24

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committee was like the phoenix […] Everyone says it exists. No one knows where it is”.25 In later reconstructions, the volatility of the organisation became a red thread running through the narrative: “One day the news of some concession by the Pope came from Rome, and the ladies appeared immediately at the theatre dressed in white and yellow. Was it the news of the Constitution of Naples? in the twinkling of an eye, all the men wore a Calabrese-style hat. The police forbade hats, and three days later everyone wore velvet-cotton clothes from the Vaprio factory. What did it mean? Nothing, but the police worried about it, and it was a reason to do so. Who gave these instructions, who managed these demonstrations, no one knew and no one tried to find out …”.26 Many of the foreign observers who travelled around the peninsula during 1848—whether they were critics or sympathisers—insisted on the spontaneity and lack of real coordination in the demonstrations and acts of defiance of the established order. In actual fact, even if simple word of mouth must have played a considerable role, as can be gleaned from some police document,27 the organisational work presiding over demonstrationism must have been considerable. The one who—earlier on and more lucidly—as we have seen, had understood the importance for the national cause of the symbolic dimension that artistic (as well as religious) language allowed to define and disseminate had been Mazzini. To him, as we know, we owe the start of the cult of many contemporary heroes (the Bandiera brothers and Garibaldi first and foremost) and the attention to a political community’s foundational practices drawn from the Great Revolution, such as collective oaths. But a heightened sensitivity to communicative aspects developed across the board between democrats and neo-Guelphs and the fact that a key role in this creative process was played by some of the figures who had most 25  Considerazioni sopra gli avvenimenti del 1848  in Lombardia del maggiore Francesco Lorenzini, Tipografia della Giovane Svizzera, Lugano 1849, p. 17. 26  R. Bonfadini, Mezzo secolo di patriottismo: saggi storici, Fratelli Treves, Milan 1886, p. 233. 27  A report of the Venetian Police from 17 February 1848 mentions papers circulating among the philosophy students of the Liceo S. Caterina, calling them “forward-ons, in other words circulars destined to be passed on in school from one hand to another among students” containing directions of patriotic behaviour or attire (see Carte segrete e atti ufficiali della Polizia austriaca in Italia dal giugno 1814 al 22 marzo 1848, III, Tip. Elvetica, Capolago 1852, p. 198).

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contributed to the construction and dissemination of the master national narrative, especially in fiction, such as Massimo D’Azeglio, Francesco Domenico Guerrazzi, Giuseppe Montanelli, Cesare Cantù and Lorenzo Valerio, cannot be coincidental. None of them can be called a true “master of ceremonies”, as the painter Jacques-Louis David had been for the great celebrations of the French Revolution or Walter Scott for George IV’s visit to Edinburgh in 1822, when the Scottish city had been turned into a great historical scene of Celtic re-enactment, complete with clans’ tartans and a Gaelic toast, to which the king himself had conformed perfectly, dressing appropriately and playing his part.28 But in many cases, they are credited with devising the celebratory events and the symbols used, sometimes the result of quick decisions and equally quick implementations. We are thus witnessing the transposition, in the squares and on the streets of many cities, of images and characters that in the previous decade had travelled through literature, theatre and historical painting: the Carroccio and its medieval knights; Pontida and the sacred oath of union against the enemy; the heroic martyrdom of Francesco Ferrucci; the challenge to foreign invaders launched by Balilla or Giovanni da Procida. Out of the figures mentioned above, Massimo D’Azeglio was perhaps the most volcanic creator of patriotic “fantasies”, the most acutely aware of the crucial nature of these symbolic aspects for the success of the national cause and even the most imaginative in translating some literary and pictorial figures into tangible signs. Exciting tempers, he later wrote, had been one of the main objectives of his extremely eclectic activity as writer, artist and man of action,29 and this multiplicity of roles had earned him a particular mention among the celebrity portraits published in 1855 by Giuseppe Rovani. “Of all our illustrious contemporaries—he wrote— no one distinguished himself like D’Azeglio, and was able to be, in a short

28  More than a “collective hallucination”, as Scott’s biographer called it, that urban setting represented taking on the myth of the Highlands as legitimate narrative of Scottish identity, after the writer had so forcefully presented it as such in his novels; on the event, see H. Trevor Roper, The Invention of Tradition: the Highland Tradition of Scotland, in E. Hobsbawm and T. Ranger (eds), The invention of tradition, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1983, pp. 29–30. 29  M. D’Azeglio, I miei ricordi, edited by C. Ghisalberti, Einaudi, Turin 1971, p. 373.

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time, artist, writer, musician, writer of political sciences, leader of troops and president of a ministry”.30 This extraordinary list of activities lacks what we are most interested in, namely the more or less secret creation of symbolic opportunities aimed at political mobilisation. His monumental correspondence, however, provides substantial traces of it and shows how it related to an interest that had more ancient origin, expressed at the beginning of the 1830s: the desire to recover the glorious facts of the nation that lent themselves to reconstructing the glories of the national past in art. He had written it in a letter to his future father-in-law, Alessandro Manzoni, in 183131: one’s readers or painting enthusiasts, but often both, needed to be presented with edifying historical examples of victorious Italianness. D’Azeglio achieved this by giving strong creative priority to the visual element.32 La disfida di Barletta (The Challenge of Barletta) was first a large canvas presented at Brera (1831) and then the famous novel about Ettore Fieramosca (1833), also containing several lithographs.33 An analogous shift—from visual to literary narrative—also affected the main event in the Barbarossa saga, namely the battle of Legnano, with the great canvas entitled Il Carroccio (1831), which became the subject of what should have been D′Azeglio’s third novel. However, this literary work was left unfinished due to the urgency of his political objectives, as he wrote very clearly to Cavour who, in 1847, suggested he publish it as a feuilleton added to the paper “Il Risorgimento”: “My novel, which Balbo has praised (many thanks) and that you appear to want, I so wish I could let you have it, and do a good turn for the takings of the “Risorgimento”! But of 40 or 45 chapters it should have, it has but 8. And thinking of continuing it now is like thinking of flying. It is not the time for novels, but for history—and not to write about it but to make it”.34 30  G. Rovani, Storia delle lettere e delle arti in Italia giusta le loro rispondenze ordinata nelle vite e nei ritratti degli uomini illustri del secolo XIII fino ai nostri giorni, C.  Nicolini, Milan 1855. 31  M. D’Azeglio to A. Manzoni, 12 July 1831, in Epistolario cit., vol. I, pp. 82–83; 1831 was the year of the two large canvases on La disfida di Barletta and La battaglia di Legnano which had achieved considerable success in Milan. 32  F.  Mazzocca, Ideali e strategie di un artista moderno, in V.  Bertone (ed.), Massimo D’Azeglio e l’invenzione del paesaggio istoriato, Edizioni Gam, Turin 2002, pp. 11–44. 33  Lithographs were generally very well received and D’Azeglio knew this. This had been the case, for example, with the ones Hayez had carried out for the Lombardi alla prima crociata (1827–28) and the Soggetti tratti dall’Ivanhoe di Scott (1828). 34  M. D’Azeglio to Cavour, 28 December 1847, in Epistolario cit., vol. III, p. 509.

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Within a few years, the turning point towards a different role from that of an artist took shape in D’Azeglio’s life: on the one hand, the well-­ known role of moderate opinion leader, with the publication of the book I casi di Romagna; on the other, the less explored but equally decisive role of expert and effective communicator. The first evidence of this was in 1846, when, passing through Genoa after the publication of the booklet had had him banned from Tuscany, he tried to put into practice an idea that his friend Giacinto di Collegno, patriot and naturalist, had suggested: organising a show of reconciliation between Italian cities during the Congress of Scientists that was due to take place shortly afterwards, based on the return to the legitimate owner of an ancient trophy that Genoa had stolen from Pisa in a thirteenth-century battle. The event was, in fact, ancient. The chains of Pisa’s port had been taken to Genoa in 1290, after the fleet led by Carlo Doria had defeated its arch enemy Pisa, already beaten a few years before at the Battle of Meloria. Promoting the return of the ancient trophy, which however found the Genoese more reluctant than expected,35 he seemed to foresee a real virtuous chain of restitutions between cities, an indication of the definitive overcoming of the city wars that had inflamed Italy in the past. These were small gestures, he was well aware, but with considerable symbolic strength, also because of their obvious materiality. He therefore imagined building around them yet another spectacle susceptible of ritual repetition. “If this is done—he wrote to his brother—they will think of doing the same in Florence and it would be good if all the Italian cities that have such shameful trophies sent them back where they were taken from. They are not much but they are very effective, and after all the world is moved more with twigs than with poles”.36 Shaping these “twigs” became a regular activity in the following days and months. We find examples of this in Genoa’s Congress of Scientists itself, where he promoted the conferring of a sabre of honour to Garibaldi, commander of the Italian Legion in Uruguay. And, in the meantime, he wrote to his wife that he was “arranging” another important event, “the anniversary or centenary of the expulsion of the Germans”.37 This phase 35  Especially “among the people who do not understand such distinctions and are very attached to their trophies”: D’Azeglio to Luisa D’Azeglio Blondel, 11 April 1846, ibid., p. 72. 36  D’Azeglio to his brother Roberto, 6 April 1846, ibid., p. 69. 37  D’Azeglio to Luisa D’Azeglio Blondel, 11 April 1846, ibid., p. 72.

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saw the first staging of the myth of Balilla, an event with very uncertain historical evidence, once again literary, but celebrated with great energy first in 1846 and then with a grandiose staging in 1847.38 Whereas D’Azeglio played a role of no small importance in Balilla’s media construction, it was even more decisive in the political definition of another key figure in the national mythology: Francesco Ferrucci. In this case, he shared the work with Francesco Domenico Guerrazzi, another man of letters gone into politics. In 1836, he was the first to act on the suggestion made by Sismondi’s work, taking up the heroic story of the Florentine captain and giving it a national-patriotic twist in his novel L’assedio di Firenze (The Siege of Florence), which would become one of the most important long-sellers in early nineteenth-century literary production. In the figure of Ferrucci, the “last Italian” before the decline and moral decadence of the peninsula, the sharing of the master narrative inspired by Sismondi between moderates and democrats was therefore evident, albeit not very long-lasting.39 But, for the purposes of our discussion, this is above all indicative that the cult of the hero was immediately translated into a form of dramatisation, in the construction not only of a homeland time but also of a homeland place which the activists could experience. Thus, the pilgrimages to Gavinana were started, the village where the leader had died in 1530 at the end of a bloody battle against the pontifical-imperial troops. The ascent to the village near Pistoia became a patriotic ritual during the 1840s, with the blessing and active participation of both novelists who had brought its memory back to life, D’Azeglio and Guerrazzi. Within a few years, the cult grew and spread thanks to an extraordinary media dissemination, a mixture of history and fiction passed on in many different media and means. Between 1847 and 1848, D’Azeglio’s role as a patriotic communicator reached its peak. From February 1847, he was in Rome, where he had a vast journalistic and political activity and stimulated the lively Roman demonstrationism. The war then opened up a new creative space, intertwined with his completely new role as man of action. As Deputy-Head of 38  For a description of the celebration, see G.  Mameli, La vita e gli scritti, edited by A. Codignola, La Nuova Italia, Venice 1927, p. 126. 39  In fact, the post-unification reading of Ferrucci was anything but peaceful and shared. For the democrats, especially Guerrazzi, it was an opportunity to criticise the political and moral outcomes of unification. For a full account of the event, see A. Petrizzo, “The Garibaldi of the Sixteenth Century”. Francesco Ferrucci and the Heroes of the Risorgimento, in “Journal of Modern Italian Studies”, XVIII, 2013, pp. 145–156.

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the General Staff, he in fact accompanied the expedition of General Giovanni Durando, who left Rome on 24 March 1848 headed for Bologna, but soon trespassed towards the Veneto in support of the insurgents. His duties included writing speeches and agendas for the troops, in order to motivate them, strengthening and directing their commitment. In reality, he did much more because he provided the expedition with an easily recognisable and useful identity. Thanks to his imagination, the pontifical troops became in fact an army of new crusaders capable of reviving the ancient alliance between the Pope Alexander III and the Lombard towns, and of fighting the Austrian barbarians with the same strength and combativeness that had been able to defeat Barbarossa’s troops in the twelfth century (Fig. 7.1). They wore the cross of Christ on their chests, while a medieval-looking carroccio, a cart surmounted by a banner hailing Pius IX and a large cross, preceded the army as it travelled.40 Meanwhile, a series of speeches centred on the glorious Lombard past accompanied the show. “Soldiers and combatants!—stated one of D’Azeglio’s first appeals to the troops—The whole world is looking at you and saying: We see the Italian militias at work. The glorious spirits who fought at Legnano smile at you from the heaven: the Great Pius gives you the blessing of the Almighty: Italy trusts in your virtue”.41 And also: Soldiers! The noble Lombard land that was already a glorious theatre of war of independence when Alexander III blessed the oaths of Pontida, is now trodden by new warriors, with whom we are now about to share dangers and victories. They too, we too, are blessed by the right hand of a Great Pontiff, as were our ancient ancestors […]. Such a war of civilisation against barbarism is therefore not only a national but a highly Christian war. It is therefore fitting, and I have decided, that we all march towards it decorated with the Cross of Christ. Those who belong to operational corps will carry 40  “By order of the general—he wrote—I compiled an agenda according to which every soldier must wear on his chest a four-colour cross. […] I have also thought (you will say, there goes the artist) that a special flag could be appropriate on this occasion and speak to the imagination. It will bear the motto God wants it and Pius IX, etc.… It will be raised on a cart with a small altar for the camp mass. […] Don’t make fun of us, and remember that men are led through their senses, like children” in D’Azeglio to A. Franzini, 16 April 1848, in Epistolario cit., vol. IV, pp. 99–100. 41  M. D’Azeglio, Ordini del giorno e comunicati pel generale Durando, in Scritti e discorsi politici, vol. 1, 1846–48, foreword by M. De Rubris, La Nuova Italia, Florence 1931, p. 547.

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Fig. 7.1  Giuseppe Kier, 8 aprile 1848. Partenza d’una crociata di Veneziani per la Guerra Santa dell’Indipendenza italiana [8 April 1848. Departure of a Crusade of Venetians for the Italian Holy War of Independence], colour litograph, Venice, Museo Correr (detail)

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it on their heart in the way they will see on mine. With it and for it we shall win, as did our Fathers.42

Both the cross and the carroccio were D’Azeglio’s inventions and their function was clear: they were religious symbols, he wrote succinctly to his brother Roberto, which had to speak “both to our imagination and to our enemies’”.43 Both had to be nourished, as D’Azeglio knew very well, and Durando himself understood. In an official dispatch at the end of April, he emphasised the effect that this image had on the population: “The joy that our arrival produces in these populations is incredible. At every step, cheers, all kinds of welcome. […] Our Carroccio with the flag of Pius IX was welcomed, at its entrance in Padua, with particular demonstrations. The people untied the horses and led it all over Padua”.44 It must be said, however, that the device of a real carroccio that accompanied the patriots was not new. It had been tested in the constitutional demonstrations of February-March, for example, in Turin, where Angelo Brofferio enthusiastically described it, recalling “those city flags waving on the cart, those soldiers dressed in iron with their Italian uniforms, those clubs, those spears, those brown visors, and a martinella war bell that a friar rang with solemn chimes […] and everyone foresaw that from celebrations it was time to move on to arms”.45 D’Azeglio knew the context well, since the direction of those celebrations had been entrusted to his brother Roberto—he really was a master of ceremonies Walter Scott-style—who had not failed to ask him for advice.46 Daniela Orta has accurately described the events and shown how Turin had begun to mobilise late, only in the autumn of 1847, at the cry of “Long live Pius IX, Carlo Alberto and Gioberti”. “Il Mondo illustrato, which had just begun publication, closely followed the collective  Ibid, p. 548.  Ibid, p. 549. 44  Lettera di Durando al Principe Aldobrandini, Ministro della Guerra a Roma, il 29 aprile 1848, published in R. Giovagnoli, Ciceruacchio e Don Pirlone. Ricordi storici della rivoluzione romana dal 1846 al 1849, vol. 1, Forzani e C. tipografi del Senato, Rome 1894, p. 539. 45  A. Brofferio, Storia del Piemonte, Fontana, Turin 1849–52, vol. III, p. 42. 46  Receiving his congratulations as well: “I am also pleased that all the celebrations and demonstrations went well—he wrote in a letter on 11 November 1847—. You see, I was right, there was no need of experts to stage the opera” (D’Azeglio, Epistolario cit., vol. III, pp. 486–487). 42 43

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enthusiasm of those days, right from the first “jubilant demonstrations” that had followed the King’s motu proprio of 29 October granting some cautious reforms; it described city lights, a great crowd in the streets, groups of young people with lit torches praising the king, noting that it was a celebration with many different features, because “it was an impromptu celebration, a national celebration, a spontaneous celebration “.47 These first demonstrations, however, had considerably alarmed the court and more moderate political circles, so that the idea of strict ​​ control over its dramaturgy, timing and participation soon imposed itself. Roberto D’Azeglio was thus charged with acting as a master of ceremonies, presiding over a commission that in the following months would plan festive events (first the big celebration of 4 December, then the celebrations for the Statute of 27 February), devising in detail their scenography, gestures, times, setting up the security service and distributing printed leaflets with all necessary directions. In this top-down regulation of patriotic passions, the elder D’Azeglio was supported by various leading personalities from Turin’s political-cultural world, including democratic sympathisers such as Lorenzo Valerio and Angelo Brofferio. It is precisely to this committee that we owe the idea of the ​​ Carroccio, the culminating moment of the celebrations of the Statute. “An immense multitude applauded with unutterable enthusiasm this altar on which the Lombard League swore—“La Concordia” reported— […]. The Carroccio from Via di Po came to Piazza Castello […] always in the midst of hailing, cheers and applause of the people there gathered; as it passed by from all the balconies, from all the windows handkerchiefs and flags were waved, and flowers thrown”.48 Thanks to the growing (literary and visual) media success which this image had enjoyed in previous years, it must have been clear to everyone what it was and what it represented: the very possibility of a national Risorgimento in collective agreement and with the Pope’s backing. Demonstrations of this kind, not far off though less grand than those devised in Edinburgh by Walter Scott, had required accurate and careful organisation, a precise programme of spaces and times and training of participants. 47  Cronaca contemporanea, in “Il Mondo illustrato”, 6 November1847, p. 706; see also the illustration of the celebration and jubilations in Piazza Castello on the evening of 31 October. 48  “La Concordia”, 28 February 1848, cited in Orta, Le piazze d’Italia cit., p. 131.

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Just like the celebrations in Genoa, for which a similar organising committee has been envisaged, here, too, nothing had been left to chance, in a script that envisaged different roles for the different sections of the population (posses of women, children and clerics), and a precise sequence of scenes, music and even silence. Finally, the report of the events emphasized the perfect and orderly execution of the representation. In addition to the newspapers, we find it in the words of some witnesses such as Giovan Battista Cevasco, writing from Genoa to Lorenzo Valerio expressing his enthusiasm for the day just passed, in which more than 35,000 people must have participated, he said. He claimed that the celebration had been majestic and imposing, orderly and jubilant: so that I believe no pen is capable of describing it conveniently. The Italian thought that people wanted to express in celebrating the memorable action of 1746 could not have been expressed more worthily nor more vigorously. The directions of the programme were observed religiously by all, and the order was wonderful […]. In everyone’s heart the words that the Committee had had posted in every street in large characters were sculpted: Order, brothers—all of Italy is watching us!!! […] Kisses, embraces, promises of brotherhood, of union, of harmony until death: there was no hand that would clasp another, no eye without tears; it was a moment of very moving outpouring! The Piedmontese preceded the other Italians, having the city’s ribbon around their heads […], the Lombards, Neapolitans and those from Parma had no flag; we welcomed them in our groups and held them close by our side.49

Finally, if we move onto Lombardy, once the Austrians had been driven out, we can also find forms of political dramatisation conceived and organised by skilled communicators such as Cesare Cantù, another eclectic protagonist of the literary and publishing world of those years.50 One such example was the anniversary of Pontida, the location of a sacred oath sworn by Lombard municipalities and an important chronotope of patriotic worship. The organisation of the solemn anniversary was meant to be a way of instilling fighting energy “into the populations about to fall

49  L. Valerio, Carteggio (1825–1865), collected by L. Firpo, G. Quazza, F. Venturi, edited by A. Viarengo, Fondazione Einaudi, Turin 1994, vol. II, p. 566. 50  His sensitivity to perceiving the ongoing transformations in the publishing industry is well expressed in the book Condizione economica delle lettere cit., pp. 35–59.

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asleep”, as Cantù wrote.51 The celebratory booklet published for the occasion stated that the idea of ​​a solemn celebration had been taking shape among the Lombard patriots since the early days of the insurrection, as the connection between present and the past seemed so immediate.52 It must have been clear, however, that it was not a celebration in the strict sense, but a “religious and patriotic ceremony” useful for “rekindling the spirits”. The script of the day included all the stages of patriotic dramaturgy as consolidated in the celebrations of 1847: a mass and a Te Deum; the blessing of the flag with the portraits of the two Popes, the current one and the historical one (Pius IX and Alexander III); cannon shots; a collective oath solemnly pronounced by the Chief of the Civic Guard, who proclaimed that he was prepared “to shed the last drop of our blood before allowing the sacrosanct banner of our independence to be ripped away from the Alps again”. Cantù closed the day with a speech centred on the usual link between past and present, praising the renewed alliance between Church and State, indispensable for “redeeming every corner of Italy from the German abomination”. At the end of the ubiquitous banquet, the participants knitted their napkins together to represent their regained unity, thus resuming a practice that dated back to the federation celebrations of 1798. In devising and prompting highly spectacular street politics, other key figures, this time in Tuscany, were scholars and activists for the national cause, Francesco Domenico Guerrazzi and Giuseppe Montanelli. Both are responsible for the proliferation of rites of reconciliation between cities and different groups, as well as the highly dramatic practice of collective oaths for the national cause. This was the most structured and practised rite of patriotic liturgy, a theatrical dramatisation of the birth of a political community and frequently the concluding moment of banquets and demonstrations. Several episodes of this kind were reported by the contemporary press and in memoirs: in these situations patriots, generally encouraged by a leader, would swear in unison to commit their lives to the “holy Italian cause” and solemnly curse those who dared to betray it, using the

51  Letter of C. Cantù to G. Cobianchi (30 July 1849), appendix to R. Balzani, La questione della legalità rivoluzionaria e la lotta politica a Milano, in N.  Dal Corno and V.  Scott Douglas (eds), Quando il popolo si desta: 1848 l’anno dei miracoli in Lombardia, Istituto per la Storia del Risorgimento italiano, Franco Angeli, Milan 2002, pp. 103–122. 52  La Lega lombarda giurata in Pontida il 7 aprile 1167 e ivi festeggiata il 7 maggio, description of the speeches of the priest Locatelli, Cesare Cantù, Francesco Cusani, Pirrotta, Milan 1848.

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classic melodramatic device of recognition/exposing of good and evil.53 At least in literary fiction, these oaths could also be pronounced in private, as we have seen between the two young protagonists of the novel Maria da Brescia. Finally, the frequent theatrical reflections of these practices are also significant: for instance, the many scenes of oaths on the operatic stages of the 1840s, and how, in the early months of 1848, such scenes often provoked thunderous applause and requests for encores in the (few) theatres still open. This was the case with the Disfida di Barletta, an opera by Viennese composer Ferdinand Karl Lickl on a libretto by a poet from Trento, Antonio Gazzoletti, which on 17 March 1848 provoked lively reactions at the Teatro Grande in Trieste.54 It also happened with two of Verdi’s operas, Ernani and I masnadieri, in which the moment of the oath acquired a very marked political significance. However, the opposite might also occur at that point: the representations held in the streets would appear on the stage. In the umpteenth reversal of roles between reality and theatre, the same triumphant Carroccio, set up for the Turin celebrations and for Durando’s crusaders, would accompany the victorious knights in the last scene of Verdi’s La Battaglia di Legnano (The Battle of Legnano). Both stage directions and the words in the libretto accompanying the chorus “Giuriam d’Italia por fine ai danni, cacciando oltr’Alpe i suoi tiranni” (We swear we shall put an end to the troubles of Italy, by driving its tyrants beyond the Alps), included precisely the most frequent iterations of the patriotic dramaturgy that had imposed itself since 1846. The indications in the libretto, in fact, went as follows: “all the knights cross their swords above Arrigo’s head, then lift him up and offer him their fraternal embrace: lastly he also unsheathes his Sword, and the following Oath is pronounced in one voice”. In January 1849, to general jubilation, the fraternal embrace between the conspirators, the crossing of swords and the collective oath, inclusive of future disgrace against any traitors (“Il vil suo nome infamia suoni / ad ogni gente, ad ogni età”—May his cowardly name be a synonym of infamy/ 53  For some examples, see C. Sorba, Il 1848 e la melodrammatizzazione del Risorgimento, in Banti and Ginsborg (eds), Storia d’Italia. Annali 22. Il Risorgimento, cit., pp. 481–508. 54  As evidence of the full functioning of the inter-textual chain mentioned, between the 1830s and the 1840s, at least six operatic texts had been derived from D’Azeglio’s novel, and several more, based on the historical challenge between French and Italians, would become operas after 1848; see G.  Procacci, La disfida di Barletta: tra storia e romanzo, Bruno Mondadori, Milan 2001.

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to any people, at any age), which had been heard in the previous months in many Italian squares and streets, were put on the stage at the Teatro Argentina in Rome.

The Physiognomy of Patriotism A propensity towards “demonstrationism” was one of the most widely shared and unprecedented traits of the Italian “Long 1848”, and also one of the most melodramatic, that is to say capable of creating moments when emotional pathos and theatricality were fully expressed around the national narrative. The importance of this was confirmed by the first issue of “L’Italia del popolo (The People’s Italy), the new newspaper directed by Mazzini, who in his opening article traced a sort of synthetic summary of the steps that had led to the current revolution and war. At the core of that complex trajectory was the capacity shown by the different artistic languages ​​to grow and mobilise the collective interest towards the cause of the nation, in a constant fluctuation between past and present. This had been followed—he said—by the peculiarity of that universal “ardour” that had developed during 1847, under Vienna’s astonished gaze: The closer it gets to us, the more political art becomes, that is to say, it becomes national; literature sanctified by suffering spreads love for the motherland and hatred for foreigners, narrates ancient feats spurring onto future ones; sculpture and painting, by depicting the most deserving men and glorious deeds, become teachers of generous affections to those who cannot read, to the people […] Thus through art, which is always democratic in its outcomes and its aims, little by little the different classes have met, understood one another, have blended together, until thought has moved the masses and the Italian people, like Michelangelo, have become soldiers. Since 1821, our history has been nothing but a history of trials; either the armies rose up, or the nobles, or the thinkers, or the middle class, until the clergy became a citizen, too, reassured doubters with a Christian word […] a spark caught and from it a great fire blazed. A new ardour is spreading everywhere; whether we celebrate the expulsion of the Germans from Genoa, or we pay a devout visit to Cavinana, or we plead forgiveness in temples for the wounded souls of the Bandiera brothers, or the masses walk in long processions, although peaceful, feared; the Papal State is renewed and the love for the motherland is no longer a crime …

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Astonished, Vienna looks on.55

The meaning of what had happened during the 1840s was thus summarised in a few lines. The conclusion of the journey was more melodramatic and bloodier than ever. Evil did not cease to lurk and raged in every possible way against good, which still raised its head: “And the enemy does not give up. It covers every land with traps, throws itself on women, children and old people in the streets of Milan […], covers Treviso in innocent blood, slaughters in Padua, runs around murdering in Milan, imposes silence with weapons, with exile, with the gallows […] but do not fear […] The Lombard people rise and in five days erase the shame of five centuries, overshadow the courage of the confederates in Pontida […]”. If this was the prevailing register, it certainly cannot be surprising if most of the actions and dramatisations mentioned—as we learn from plentiful references in this sense in the chronicles of the time—brim with emotion and tears. One of the most widespread and repeated sequences of 1848 patriotic dramaturgy consisted in the gesture of embracing and kissing in tears, a practice that, in the mid-nineteenth century, resumed verbatim and renewed the political emotionalism of the Great Revolution and the culture of sensibility that pervaded it.56 This was the so-called brotherly kiss, urged by Abbot Lamourette in an attempt to find a moment of conciliation between the quarrelsome deputies who sat in the Legislative Assembly in 1792.57 Not an extemporaneous act, therefore, but a sort of ritual mutual recognition through collective emotion, which, in the climate of “poetic excitement” of the 1846–1849 three-year period, had found a precise space, well represented in the prints and illustrations of the time. Thus, in Rome, on the occasion of the Celebrations of Forgiveness in July 1846, “the hearts of the Romans throbbed, […] their eyes brimmed with tears […] the infinite crowd of people had no tears left”.58 At the proclamation of the Pope’s motu proprio in Bologna, even the cardinals were crying together with the people. In Tuscany, at the celebrations of September 1847, as reported countless times in the newspaper “L’alba”,  Del moto popolare italiano, in “L’Italia del popolo”, 20 May 1848, pp. 1–2.  A. De Baecque, “Les ris et les pleurs”. Spectacles des afféctions 1790–1791, in Fètes et révolution, Délégation à l’action artistique de la Ville de Paris, Paris 1989, pp. 140–155. 57  On Lamourette as a skilled communicator, see R.  Darnton, The Kiss of Lamourette. Reflections in Cultural History, Norton, New York 1990, pp. 3–20. 58  Il Perdono. Feste del popolo romano narrate da Filippo Maria Gerardi, Tipografia Puccinelli, Rome 1846. 55 56

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all embraced one other in tears, even the Carabinieri, a military corps in the Piedmontese army. “And we have seen some of them with their eyes brimming with tears throwing themselves in a rush of enthusiasm in the arms of the people, and receiving and giving the brotherly kiss, with an outpouring of emotions that is easier to understand than to describe”.59 Why, then, so many repeated tears? Crying created closeness between patriots’ bodies and sharing of experiences, but above all it defined the ethical boundaries of their community. Only true patriots were, in fact, considered capable of the “moral tears” mentioned in eighteenth-century discussions and involving a direct, unmediated expression of sincere emotion, flowing straight from the heart. According to Rousseau, having a marked capacity to be moved meant having unquestionable virtue, a capacity for empathy totally missing in cowards and the wicked which found man in his natural state.60 In short, we are back to the core of the culture of sensibility from which melodrama as a narrative form had originated and of which it had been an effective attempt at popularisation. Drawing on what we said in the previous chapter about narrative level, we can say that the Italian 1848 revolution represents the final moment in the political parable of that culture. It featured one of its main postulates with particular evidence: the idea that the body was the most natural element in the human organism, the least corruptible by culture and society, the one from which the most truthful and least liable to falsification forms of communication could flow. Crying is one of these, for its ability to express the most intense and immediate emotions, and many writers, artists and musicians of the period directed their praises to it. Such as Cesare Cantù, who, at the beginning of his best-known novel, Margherita Pusterla, accurately identified his readers as those who proved to be capable of “emoting”.61 Recent studies have pointed out that between the eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries, tears were still understood as both public and private expressions, as well as almost wholly ungendered. The situation would become very different in the second half of the nineteenth century, when the practice of crying, and the tearful and sentimental literary genres,

59  Feste popolari, in “L’Alba”, 8 September 1847, included in G. La Farina, Scritti politici, collected and published by A. Franchi, Società anonima, Milan 1870, p. 116. 60  T. Lutz, Crying. The Natural and Cultural History of Tears, Norton, New York 1999. 61  C. Cantù, Margherita Pusterla. Racconto, 3 vol., G. Truffi, Milan 1838.

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were definitely reserved for women and the lower classes.62 In this phase, crying still had a political value, in line with the eighteenth-century renewal of oratory, which deemed it as a fundamental element in a language designed to reach the widest possible number of people.63 As had been the case with the heroes of melodramas, 1848’s enormous pamphlet production often underlined in patriots the physical traits that unequivocally revealed their virtue by inscribing it in their bodies64: a predisposition to tears, blushing, yearning, sighs and the palpitating of their heart. The role of his physical appearance in the construction of Garibaldi’s image was decisive from the beginning: his deep, dark eyes, his expressive gaze and his high, smooth forehead were all evidence of his moral rectitude.65 On the other hand, narrative fiction as political propaganda stressed in villains and traitors the bodily signs that fully revealed their low ethical qualities. The scar on Trugulin’s hand (the villain in Coelina) or Antonio’s limping (the traitor in the novel Maria da Brescia) were tangible signs of moral abjection. A similar role is played by the ferocious, blood-shot eyes featured by the Austrians in many contemporary 1848 stories, the same Austrians who slaughtered, murdered and burnt Italians alive during the Milan uprising. In melodramatic narrative, the identification of evil and virtue invariably went through a set of visible and obvious material signs inscribed in bodies, a sort of physiognomy of patriotism. In Ann Radcliffe’s gothic novel, one of the main sources of early melodramas, we find the precedents of those narrative devices. The role of her character was 62  A. Vincent-Buffault, Histoire des larmes, XVIIIe–XIXe siècles, Rivage, Paris 1986; and also A. Coudreuse, Le goût des larmes au XVIIIe siècle, Puf, Paris 1999. 63  The so-called tearful oratory had considerable space in political practice up to the midnineteenth century. On the relationship between political oratory and body language, see J.  Riegelman, Declaring Independence. Jefferson, Natural Language and the Culture of Performance, Stanford University Press, Stanford 1993, showing how in mid-eighteenth century American States, a skilled speaker had to be able to communicate not only his thoughts and feelings but their experience, too. The credibility of arguments thus depended upon the emotional credibility of speakers. On the poetics of “enthusiasm” and their political repercussions in British radicalism during the Romantic age, see also J. Mee, Romanticism, Enthusiasm and Regulation. Poetics and the Policing of Culture in the Romantic Period, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2003. 64  A melodramatic body, P. Brooks said, is “the place to inscribe and express core meanings”; see P.  Brooks, Il corpo melodrammatico, in Gallo (ed.), Forme del melodrammatico cit., p. 178. 65  Riall, Garibaldi. Invention of a Hero, cit., pp. 46 and 91.

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consistently emphasised by physical traits drawn from a limited and very explicit repertoire of possibilities. In the same framework of accentuating the bodily dimension of communication as a presumed guarantee of its naturalness and sincerity, was also inscribed a predilection, both in the 1848 experience and in the narrative, for accentuated and emphatic gestures, once again, bringing revolutionary practice closer to the style of melodrama. Highly symbolic scenes were in fact often characterised by an extremely theatrical use of gestures, which became the most transparent expression of emotional states. The dramatisations discussed above—and their relative visual documentation—often insisted on the solemnity and extreme expressiveness of gestures. The most frequently cited of 1848 oaths, the one by Montanelli on the River Arno, showed him with an immediacy that in the writing was accentuated by capital letters, as had been done through the parodic treatise of melodrama by the three As!: “YES, YES We swear!—then I replied: WE SHALL ALL BE THERE. And with their raised arms, outstretched hands, cheeks streaked with tears, for three times ALL the multitudes answered with an enormous and unanimous cry that still echoes inside me”.66 On the other hand, the explosion of gestural emotion typical of the Italian 1848 is once again reminiscent of the theatrical stages of the period, where acting was based on extreme physical expressiveness. This dramatic practice was gradually consolidated in the early nineteenth century, in line with what had been theorised in Johann Jakob Engel’s treatise, published in Germany in 1785 and widely translated throughout Europe.67 Its undoubted importance in the theatrical field—it was the first attempt to found a real “science of acting”—was matched by a strong influence beyond the theatre. In fact, this text had contributed to the idea that gestures should be considered the fundamental communicative device, not only for actors but for men in general, the “natural” sign of emotions and the expression of the language of the soul. It was no coincidence that the Italian translation, published in 1818, had been done not by a man of theatre but by Doctor Giovanni Rasori, a scientist of the Enlightenment, friend of Melchiorre Gioia’s and Francesco Salfi’s, with whom he had lived through the great season of theatrical reforms in the Cisalpine Republic. 66  G. Montanelli, Memorie sull’Italia e specialmente sulla Toscana dal 1814 al 1850, Società editrice italiana, Turin 1853, p. 25. 67  Lettere intorno alla mimica cit.

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Engel’s treatise, fundamental to all subsequent acting textbooks, must have been of particular interest to him because it focused on the vital force of emotions in their bodily expression. The melodramatic genre, significantly the evolution of pantomime, had in fact been an extreme expression—and almost a caricature in its accentuation of gestures. The frequent presence, in melodramatic plots, of mute characters, who could express themselves only through gestures and facial expressions and reply in such “naturally sincere” fashion to the evil machinations of words, woven against them by the ubiquitous villains, is evidence of this.68 The marked expressiveness of 1848 political practices, so manifestly emphatic in their bodily and gestural form, thus fits, on the one hand as a long-term effect of eighteenth-century sentimental culture and, on the other, in a theatrical custom which must have been quite familiar to the men and women of the time.

Clothes, Beards and Feathered Hats Count Hübner, we have come across him already, was an Austrian diplomat who in the winter of 1848 was in Milan charged with the task, entrusted to him by Metternich himself, of probing the mood and condition of the Italian situation. Despite himself and without knowing exactly what to do, he had found himself in the middle of Milan’s insurrection. In his diary of those days, he reported in great detail the salient moments of the Five Days as they unfolded, with numerous references to the most surprising aspects of theatricality and collective euphoria. He described— with ill-concealed irony—many insurgents’ feathered hats, tricolour rosettes and patriotic accessories, remarked upon clothes that seemed to be borrowed from theatrical tailors, or mentioned “gentlemen dressed in the Spanish-style: an Andalusian hat adorned with an ostrich feather, velvet jacket, straw-coloured gloves”.69

68  One of the classic examples was in Pixérécourt’s Chien de Montargis, where the protagonist was involved in a trial and needed to prove his innocence without using words. But the most paradoxical of dramatic mutes was the character of Fenella in La Muette de Portici by Auber (1831), discussed by M.  A. Smart, Mimomania. Music and Gesture in NineteenthCentury Opera, University of California Press, Berkeley 2004, pp. 32–63. 69  J. A. von Hübner, Milano il 1848 nelle memorie del diplomatico austriaco conte Giuseppe Alessandro Hübner, A. Vallardi, Milano 1898, pp. 78–79. His memoirs were published later but are said to have been taken verbatim from his diaries of the time. It is fairly clear that the

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The spectacularisation of the past, which occurred above all during 1847, continued during the revolutionary days and almost naturally became part of the new repertoire of political action. In his description of the third day of the insurrection, on Monday, 20 March, Hübner focused in particular on the insurgents’ eccentric clothes: A few hours later, two gentlemen armed to their teeth were announced. One was Count Barni, the other a German Austrian (!) I had met once in Vienna in the high-finance halls. These gentlemen, like all their comrades in arms, wore rather picturesque fancy outfits that one might have said had been taken out of the wardrobes of the Opéra theatre. Some armed men served us as escort. Coming out of the Agnello district, we emerged onto the Corso, and an original, bizarre, impressive show offered itself to my eyes. This large avenue […] was all crossed by barricades formed with objects of all kinds: kneelers taken from churches, household objects, carts and coaches, including some fine equipment. […] In the midst of this chaos of artificial obstacles a colourful crowd was pressing. Many priests, with wide-brimmed hats, decorated with tricoloured rosettes, and carrying a sword or a sabre; gentlemen with velvet jerkins copied from a Velasquez or a Paolo Veronese painting, some half wrapped in cloaks which nowadays are only seen at masked balls and are known as Venetian cloaks, all with their brows shaded by sombreros topped by huge plumes or large ostrich feathers; middle-class men wearing Calabrian-style hats, or, in Verdi’s honour, Ernani-style hats.70

It is rare to find such details in contemporary reports. The impression is that this was due not so much to the fact that they were rare and unusual, but rather to the prevalence, at the end of the day, of a certain restraint by the protagonists themselves to dwell on aspects that seem eccentric or difficult to explain (other than as “masquerades” or “1848-style feats”, as critics described them in the following years).71Significantly, foreign observers were more likely to remark upon them, often to smile at them.72 text is based on notes taken at the time, but there are also annotations and glosses typical of a later sensitivity. 70  Ibid, pp. 91–92. 71  Petrizzo, Spazi dell’immaginario cit., pp. 509–511. 72  The gazes are different. On the one hand, T. Bellamy, the author of Rome, impressions et souvenirs, 2 vol., Vermot, Paris 1858, wrote that it was “impossible de voir quelque chose de plus bouffon que l’enthusiasme de tous ces bourgeois déguisés en soldats” (p. 22); on the other, Margaret Fuller (Un’americana a Roma 1847–1849, edited by R.  Mamoli Zorzi,

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The descriptions left by a gentleman of marked Tory leanings we have already come across are insistent and lucid, as well as marked by typically British distancing. Charles MacFarlane had left England for Istanbul in 1847, sailing then from Malta to Messina and travelling up the Italian peninsula in the summer of 1848. He wrote, for example, that in Ancona, he had happened to meet a real crowd of characters for the most part “fiercely moustached and with long beards, almost all dressed in national guard uniforms or with fancy military hats […] to show they were citizen-­ soldiers”.73 And that was not all. The amused traveller pointed out that the Italians often seemed to show their political belonging by wearing particular headgear: “political opinions were also strongly announced by their hats. Liberals wore hats of many and various kinds. They had Chapeau à la Robespierre, republican Chapeau, Calabrian-style Chapeau, for the most part decorated with tricoloured bows and rosettes”.74 In spite of what all these observers seemed to think, the spectacle of a revolutionary “fashion” could not be said to be new or exclusively Italian. During the French Revolution, the politicisation of clothing had been quite frequent and had aimed to create a sort of new regime of appearances that would detach itself clearly from the ancient one, that is, from the frivolities, colours and materials of aristocratic dress.75 Since then bands, rosettes, badges, but also hats, jackets and shirts had been part of the political outfit of patriots, revolutionaries and activists. This happened in almost all radical and opposition movements that developed in Europe in the first decades of the century and variously appropriated the symbols of the Great Revolution, updating and re-interpreting them. One of the most popular and meaningful was, needless to say, the Phrygian cap, that is, the classic Jacobin headdress that in the initial decades of the century appeared in various political and national versions. It was a symbol with a complex genealogy behind it which, perhaps precisely because of the multiple meanings it potentially contained, was particularly effective and long-­lasting.76 In England, for example, the cap of liberty became the Studio Tesi, Pordenone 1986) enthusiastically described these elements as typical of the artistic and passionate propensity of Italians. 73  MacFarlane, A Glance at Revolutionised Italy cit., vol. 1, p. 282. 74  Ibid, p. 18. 75  See R.  Wrigley, The Politics of Appearances. Representations of Dress in Revolutionary France, Berg, Oxford 2002. 76  On the genealogy of the Phrygian cap and its various strands, see F. Benigno, Simboli della politica. Lo strano caso del berretto della libertà, in “Storica”, XV, 2009, 43–45,

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most significant symbol of the great demonstration which, in August 1819, led to the Peterloo Massacre and the emblem of the fight against any attempt to limit freedom of expression and association. James Epstein, who has reconstructed its history, has stressed how the red Jacobin cap had known in those years a sort of original re-fashioning by British popular radicalism.77 These were also the years when even in French republicanism there was a real return of the bonnet rouge and of ties of the same colour, together with other items of clothing that acquired a political and demonstrative value: straw hats with red ribbons, waistcoats à la Robespierre, suits à la Carmagnole, or the Marat medallions that adorned the chests of the silk workers in Lyon’s 1831 uprising.78 A real obsession with clothing symbolism clearly ran through the opposition movements in these decades, but no adequate analysis has yet clarified its often fluid pathways, investigating signs and objects that went through many variations and nuances of meaning with significant changes in time and space, but also according to the social and political groups that adopted them. What seems certain is that dressing in a certain way represented, in that historical phase, a widely used way of intensifying and amplifying the reasons for the protests, perhaps giving them a challenging dimension that explicitly meant to exceed the word, and in any case expressed meanings difficult to produce discursively, both orally and in written form, and which were more suited to being displayed, especially in an image that tended to refer to the past. We can tentatively say that it was a way, effective or presumed to be so, to emphasise one’s freedom to move at will in the public space and, in doing so, give meaning to the past and direction to the future. The case of the Risorgimento is particularly interesting from this point of view. Even the Italian conspiracy season of the 1820s and 1830s had pp. 57–81. And also D. Harden, Liberty Caps and Liberty Trees, in “Past and Present”, 146, 1995, pp. 66–102. 77  According to J. Epstein (Understanding the Cap of Liberty cit.), even a superficial look at the papers of the British Home Office or the newspapers of the 1815–1820 period is evidence of the surprising weight acquired in the political struggle by objects such as flags, ribbons, hats, rosette and medals. The autumn 1819 repressive laws outlawed the entire repertoire of symbols experimented with up to then, but all of this re-emerged strongly in the mass demonstrations of the chartist movement in the early 1830s; see P. A. Pickering, Class without Words: Symbolic Communication in the Chartist Movement, in “Past and Present”, 112, 1986, pp. 144–162. 78  G.  Perreux, Au temps des sociétés secrètes. La propagande républicaine au début de la Monarchie de Juillet (1830–35), Hachette, Paris 1931.

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had its own signs and symbols. Since its sectarian origins, and in the context of the obvious need for secrecy, the development of the Italian national-patriotic movement had strongly focused on symbolic language, for example, in terms of colours.79 During the revolution of 1820–1821 in Naples the red, light blue and black rosette of the Carboneria was very popular, together with the yellow ribbon that recalled the idea of Sicilian independence.80 In Turin, where the French influence was strongest, in addition to the Carboneria flag, the republican bonnet rouge had also become popular with students. It is no coincidence that the government had soon banned wearing rosettes and flags other than the House of Savoy’s.81 However, the 1846–1849 three-year period represents a decisive qualitative leap in terms of symbolic practices, with particular emphasis precisely on clothing. The loosening or the abolition of censorship and of police checks, in fact, opened up an important, even if short-lived, space for the self-representation of patriotism and became a much greater opportunity than the previous ones to show off clothes, hats and accessories with precise historical-political value, in a dimension of widespread and insistent theatricality. This meant that many patriots moved on the new political scene dressed in actual theatrical costumes, historical outfits that became popular among activists and recalled the Renaissance settings of many well- or lesser known novels, poems, paintings and operas. When describing the Five Days rising in his History of Italy from 1815 to 1850, published two years after the events in Milan, Giuseppe La Farina described, for example, a real raid made by patriots on the collection of ancient weapons belonging to nobleman Ambrogio Uboldo, stating that other offensive weapons “were taken from antiques warehouses: the spears, halberds and swords hitherto used by singers and mime-artists on 79  Limited attention has been paid by historiography to the colour dimension of politics; this was pointed out by M. Agoulhon, Les couleurs dans l’histoire recente, in Histoire vagabonde, vol. III, La politique en France, d’hier à aujourd’hui, Gallimard, Paris 1996, pp. 170–188. See however the essays in S. Pivato and M. Ridolfi (eds), I colori della politica. Passioni, emozioni e rappresentazioni nell’età contemporanea, Centro sammarinese di Studi storici, San Marino 2008. 80  This was stated by A. Comandini (L’Italia nei cento anni del secolo XIX giorno per giorno illustrata, Vallardi, Milan 1901–02, vol. 1, pp.  1034 sgg.), when narrating the events of 13–15 July 1820, both in Naples and in Palermo. 81  Ibid, pp. 1108 sgg. Some bonnets rouges had appeared, for instance, at the demonstrations at the Theatre d’Angennes in Turin on 11 January 1821, which had resulted in scuffles and arrests.

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the stages of La Scala and Canobbiana theatres passed into the hands of the fighters for the motherland”.82 The practice of patriotic clothing asserted itself before the insurrection and continued during it, closely followed by the attentive gaze of the first fashion magazines. It is difficult to say exactly where and when the first “demonstration clothes” described as “Italian-style” or “Lombard-style” appeared. However, they must have materialised during the events of 1847, as we have seen centred around the celebration of mythical episodes from the national past. In any case, in February 1848, there were images of them already perfectly encoded in their main elements, together with the first bans on wearing them issued by the authorities. “La Concordia”, Turin’s newspaper directed by Lorenzo Valerio and named precisely after unanimous patriotic intentions, on 8 February, published a male figure, very similar to those that were appearing in fashion magazines, presenting it to its subscribers with the title “Dress style proposed to Italians”. The figure wore a men’s suit consisting of a velvet blouse tied at the waist by a leather belt and accompanied by a large cloak, a medallion and a feathered hat (Fig.  7.2). Very similar images appeared several times in illustrated magazines between March and April, in the midst of the revolution. But already some of the protagonists of Padua’s riots in early February recalled them as frequently worn by patriots in those days: “In the long procession of 5,000 people which, on 7 February 1848, accompanied the coffin of student Giuseppe Placco di Montagnana, whose death, which had taken place two days before, had given rise to a great demonstration of students, very many, in fact most of them, were dressed in the Italian style: wide black velvet trousers, tightfitting velvet jackets, black velvet cloaks, perfectly worn in the Ernani style, wide-­brimmed felt hats with a black feather and buckle on the front”.83 On that date, the patriots’ “uniform” was therefore already clear: a velvet suit, a cloak, a wide-brimmed felt hat, a buckle rigorously placed on the front and the unmissable feather.84 Beards and moustache had to 82  G. La Farina, Storia d’Italia dal 1815 al 1850, Società editrice italiana, Turin 1851–52, vol. III, p. 240. 83  E. Piva, Un volontario garibaldino. Il generale Domenico Piva, note storiche biografiche (1826–1907), in “Rassegna storica del Risorgimento”, IV, 1, genn.-febb. 1917, p. 53. 84  “Whoever’s not wearing a buckle at the front—will be declared a German—this will be the sign of Italy”, stated a sign posted in Venice, kept with the papers of the Austrian police

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Fig. 7.2  Foggia d’abito proposto agli Italiani [Dress style proposed to Italians], January 1848, Florence, Tipografia del Vulcano 1848

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feature on their faces, recalling a series of figures that included bandits, artists, subversives and patriots.85 The first traces of these forms of clothing in Venetian and Milanese police announcements and reports also date back to early February, proving that the authorities knew and feared their highly communicative and imitative potential. In Venice, the police department issued a long and detailed explanation of the reasons behind their prohibition, which evidently must have seemed unusual: The different styles of attire and clothing, usually harmless expressions of capricious fashion, do not deserve the attention of the Police, except when they offend the respect for decency, morality or religion, or when they are chosen as a symbol and sign of recognition of a political party, especially at times of political unrest, as the current ones unfortunately are. Noting now that black and coloured hats, wide brimmed and pointed on one side, and with uniform peaks decorated with feathers and shiny buckles, would be used by the party opposed to our Government as emblem of their political sentiments, I deem that both the manufacture and the sale and use of such hats is to be forbidden.86

In Milan, a few days later, the following, more stringent notice was issued: “The use of wearing hats known as in the Calabrese, Puritan and Ernani styles has been adopted by someone. Being unable to tolerate this use, it is absolutely forbidden, with the penalty of immediate arrest for anyone disobeying”.87 and reproduced in P. Brunello, Cappello all’Ernani o all’italiana, in Voci per un dizionario del Quarantotto, Comune di Venezia,Venice 1999, p. 40. 85  J.-M. Le Gall (Un idéal masculin. Barbes et mustaches XVe-XVIIIe siècles, Payot, Paris 2011) speaks of a return of moustache and beards, which had practically disappeared from the models of masculinity from the seventeenth century onwards, first with the age of revolutions and then in the Napoleonic armies. As late as the mid-nineteenth century, beards were still a symbol of anarchy and subversion and forbidden in France to some professional categories such as notaries, lawyers, priests, officials and servants. 86  Divieto della Direzione di Polizia di Venezia, 9 February 1848, in Carte segrete e atti ufficiali della Polizia austriaca cit., pp. 198–199. 87  A facsimile of the document is reproduced in Spellanzon, Storia del Risorgimento cit., vol. III, p. 620. The ban on wearing patriotic accessories was extended in the 1850s to other states, betraying a real obsession with visual reproduction by the authorities. In February 1850, the Perugia chief of police issued the following warning: “Red-coloured hats so called in the Ernani style are forbidden. The bearers and sellers of hats and tricoloured objects will be subject to the fine of five ecus for a first offence, in case of repeated offences the fine will

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Even the British dispatches pointed out the prohibitions that in the Lombardy-Veneto region affected actions considered allusively patriotic, for example, “whenever an action that is harmless in itself, for example wearing certain colours, or displaying them, wearing certain badges or signs, singing or reciting certain songs and poems, applauding or whistling certain passages of a dramatic or mimic production and streaming to a given meeting place”.88 So if in Austrian-occupied Lombardy-Veneto patriotic clothes and accessories represented at that point a challenge to the established order supervised by the authorities, in the meantime, in Turin, ruled by the House of Savoy, they represented a sort of fashion that could make its appearance on social occasions. It certainly featured prominently in early March at the Philharmonic Academy ball, where many had turned up wearing “Italian-style clothes”. Luigi Cicconi explained it in “Il Mondo illustrato” (The Illustrated World), publishing two fashion plates, male and female.89 The man wore an almost identical suit to the one that had appeared in “La Concordia” shortly before, which evoked not so much a warlike image as the profile of a “knight-conspirator”; the lady wore a velvet riding habit with a high bodice that enhanced her waist and feminine shape, a long scarf and a cord belt”90 (Fig. 7.3). On their heads, both wore the usual feathered hat, which in the meantime was taking on three different styles: Ernani, Puritani or Calabrian. The journalist described all of this as “a modern fancy style that smacks of antiquity”, in other words, a modern need echoing the forms of the past. In actual fact, historical quotations were plentiful, albeit vague: both the round and ruffled neck and the sleeves, tight along the arms, recalled be doubled and the person arrested”, cited in Le canzonette che fecero l’Italia, chosen and commented by E. Jona, Longanesi, Milan 1962, p. 13. 88  Correspondence respecting the affairs of Italy presented to both Houses of Parliament by command of Her Majesty, Harrison and Son, London 1849, vol. II. 89  Varietà. Ballo dell’Accademia Filarmonica, in “Il Mondo illustrato”, 4 March 1848, p. 144. 90  The features of the outfit reflected the overall transformations that female attire had known since the 1820s. The high-waisted neo-classical cut had been replaced by a line that enhanced the figure with a close-fitting bodice and widening of the skirt. A growing asymmetry of gender roles had thus gradually materialised in clothing styles. The sobriety, simplicity and uniformity of men’s dark suits had been matched by a sort of transfer of frivolity and an accentuation of gender attributes in women’s clothing; see S. Franchini, Editori, lettrici e stampa di moda. Giornali di moda e di famiglia a Milano dal “Corriere delle Dame” agli editori dell’Italia unita, Franco Angeli, Milan 2002, pp. 51–52.

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Fig. 7.3  Costume italiano [Italian outfit] in “Il Mondo Illustrato”, February 1848

Renaissance styles well documented in the historical painting of the period, as did the cord belt loosely tied around the waist. The journalist offering their descriptions could only refer, as a possible explanation of such attire, to the exceptional nature of the moment: “in other years—he is forced to admit—it would have been a fancy dress. Today it is the symbol of a feeling, it is an example of a fashion that we would like to see adopted by Italians”.91 Who can we imagine wore clothes in this style? It must have obviously been only a small élite of activists, perhaps aristocrats, such as those who  Varietà cit.

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had probably participated in the Turin ball. Yet some scattered sources tell us that with the outbreak of the revolution, those styles of dressing up acquired a performative capacity strong enough to spread more widely among patriots. At least some elements, the feathered hats first of all, became an accessory that could be obtained—if desired—quite easily. It is no coincidence that the police bans mentioned above also concerned manufacturers and retailers. In Venice, “manufacturers are warned not to get involved in their manufacture, retailers not to stock them in their stores and shops and not to sell them”,92 and a report written ten days later spoke of two students who had travelled to Padua to find out about the precise shape of Italian-style feathered hats and place some orders for them.93 The patriot Alberto Mario has claimed that in Padua, on 8 February 1848, at least four hundred students had participated in the anti-Austrian demonstrations dressed “Italian-style”. He has also mentioned that on that occasion, black feathers to put on their hats had been distributed to citizens—so well beyond the best known activists—to make their joining of the patriotic cause more explicit and recognisable.94 Travelling up the peninsula following General Pepe to bring aid to the ongoing war in Lombardy and the Veneto, young Neapolitan patriot Alessandro Poerio wrote to his family letters overflowing with tricoloured banners and Italian-style clothes. In Ancona, he said, “everyone is wearing a tricoloured ribbon or cross; everywhere tricoloured flags with no other coat of arms or insignia are waving in the most popular places”. In Venice, he witnessed a square packed with national guards, “young people dressed in the Italian-style in tailored velvet suits and feathered hats, jubilant people, and all with tricoloured ribbons, or rosettes, or crosses”.95 Then there were some protagonists of the ongoing events who recalled how, in the March revolutionary days, or immediately afterwards, they had not failed to obtain accessories that they defined as stage-props, so as to adhere to the current fashion. They confessed it—one would say from their tone—almost with embarrassment. Giuseppe Torelli wrote that he visited five or six gunsmith workshops, randomly attaching around his 92  Divieto della Direzione di Polizia di Venezia, 9 February 1848, in Carte segrete e atti ufficiali della Polizia austriaca cit., p. 199. 93  Rapporto di polizia del 17 febbraio 1848, ibid. 94  A. Mario, Scritti scelti e curati da Giosuè Carducci, vol. I, Zanichelli, Bologna 1884, p. 6. 95  Alessandro Poerio a Venezia. Lettere e documenti del 1848, illustrated by Vittorio Imbrani, Morano, Naples 1884.

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body a number of cutting weapons that hindered his movements but made him look like the proud character in Chiara di Rosemberg, an opera by Luigi Ricci, rather well known at that time.96 He also recalled how the Marquis Roberto D’Azeglio walked the streets of Turin with a yellowish leather belt holding an exceedingly enormous scimitar. In Milan, the situation must have been even more obvious, as we have seen in Hübner’s description and as Giovanni Visconti Venosta recalled several years later in his memoirs: “Even some serious men had not deemed it strange, in those early days, to dress almost in that fashion. Nor had it seemed strange to Cesare Correnti, secretary general of the Provisional Government, whom in those days I also saw dressed in velvet, in the Lombard-style, with a tricoloured sash across his chest, and a sabre at his side”.97 The most vivid image of that rush to dress up as a medieval or renaissance knight has been provided by painter Carlo Bossoli, in a tempera painted close to the events, where, on 19 March, the insurgents are seen— in their feathered hats—entering the house of the banker Uboldo di Villareggio and sacking his precious armoury98 (Fig. 7.4). Or in another tempera devoted to a large barricade in Piazza San Babila around which the young and the old busy themselves, all wearing a clearly visible sign of patriotism. Moreover, the interest of these signs does not seem to me to lie so much in the extent of their proliferation as in the fact that they immediately took on an allusive power, becoming a very well-known distinctive sign that painters and illustrators used widely in their representations of 1848 (Fig. 7.5). Even a quick glance at the iconography of the uprisings shows how feathered hats, in their various forms, appeared in other places and situations, as well as in the March 1848 days: on the head of a young Garibaldi in Rome in 1849 as on Costabile Carducci’s, the protagonist of the uprisings that erupted in Cilento in June, whom biographers described as dressed in the Calabrian style, in “a dark cloth overcoat, grey

96  G. Torelli, Ricordi politici, Libreria d’istruzione e di educazione di P. Carrara, Milano 1873, p. 74. The opera had been staged for the first time at La Scala in 1831, with considerable success. 97  G. Visconti Venosta, Ricordi di gioventù. Cose vedute e sapute 1847–1860, L. F. Cogliati, Milan 1904, p. 114. 98  C.  Bossoli, L’armeria Uboldo invasa dagli insorti milanesi, signed tempera kept in Milan’s Museo del Risorgimento and reproduced in A. Peyrot, Carlo Bossoli. Luoghi, personaggi, costumi, avvenimenti nell’Europa dell’Ottocento visti dal pittore ticinese, Tipografia torinese editrice, Turin 1974.

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Fig. 7.4  Carlo Bossoli, L’armeria del nobiluomo Uboldi invasa dagli insorti milanesi il 19 marzo 1848 [Count Uboldi’s armoury broken into by insurgents seeking weapons, 19 March 1848] oil on canvas, Milan, copyright Comune di Milano, Palazzo Moriggia/Museo del Risorgimento

military-style trousers, an Italian-style felt hat decorated with a feather and a black bow”.99 Visual effects of this kind also worked very well outside the national borders, making sympathisers of the Italian cause recognisable many miles away from their country. We know, for example, that in Pera, a former Genoese colony in the Ottoman Empire that would become a district in the future Istanbul, within the sizeable Italian community, patriots were easily distinguished because they wore strange hats and long moustaches. We are told as much by ubiquitous English traveller Charles MacFarlane, who claimed he had seen many of them in the city coffee houses. In the huge Italian colony, he wrote in his travel diary, during his stay both in Istanbul and Smyrna, he had witnessed many demonstrations, meetings, 99  M. Mazziotti, Costabile Carducci ed i moti del Cilento nel 1848, Società Dante Alighieri, Rome 1909, p. 2.

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Fig. 7.5  Frammento di un ventaglio [Detail of a fan] colour litograph, France c.1849, Civica Raccolta delle Stampe Achille Bertarelli, Castello Sforzesco, Milan

Te Deums and oaths to the national cause, as well as solemn celebrations in honour of Pius IX, during which one could come across “a great deal of music played by a marching band, and a great hodgepodge of moustaches, beards, hugs and kisses among patriots”.100 The proliferation of politically oriented beards and moustaches especially struck him and he returned to them several times in his report of his trip to Italy, too. According to him, shaving or touching any part of one’s face with a razor was considered a sign of monarchical or aristocratic tendencies, and therefore it was clear that “a real republican face displayed nothing but a little forehead, eyes, nose and bushy hair”.101 In short, long beards and feathered hats, kisses, hugs and tears, made Italian patriots recognisable even beyond the Mediterranean. What seemed paradoxical to him, and he noted it between the lines, was the fact that many in these Eastern lands only had ancient Italian ancestors. People of uncertain nationality, who spoke badly not only Greek and Turkish, but even Italian were thus praising the national Risorgimento.

 MacFarlane, A Glance at Revolutionised Italy cit., vol. 1, p. 6.  Ibid, pp. 17–18.

100 101

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Fashion Italian-Style But where did those clothes, hats and accessories come from and what were they inspired by? It is worth noting the considerable weight, in this whole affair, not only of literary references but also of connections with the world of fashion and with theatrical stages. Since the 1830s, the emerging sector of fashion, variety and theatrical news press (areas often still linked together) had experienced significant growth, in Milan and elsewhere. The pioneering “Corriere delle Dame” (Ladies’ Courier), created in 1804  in Milan by Carolina Lattanzi, had been joined by numerous other titles, including “Corriere per le mode” (Fashion Courier) in Turin (1832), “Piccolo Corriere delle Dame” in Genoa (1833), “Flora delle Mode” (1836) and “Folletto” (1836) in “Florence”, “La Toletta” in Naples (1837) and “Il Felsineo” in Bologna (1840).102 At the beginning of the 1840s, therefore, the sector was rather lively and looked directly at similar French productions, obviously showing itself sensitive, given the direct commercial implications, to the debate on editorial sales and on the search for new readers. These papers were written by the likes of Carlo Cattaneo, Carlo Tenca, Angelo Brofferio and Francesco Dall’Ongaro, who sometimes acted as editorial managers. It is therefore easy to see how the patriotic turmoil of the late 1840s was also affecting this apparently more secluded journalistic sphere, bringing about more or less temporary transformations in formats and editorial strategies as well. On the other hand, the “Corriere delle Dame” had shown a marked political sensibility from the very start, hosting a famous column by democratic journalist and writer Giuseppe Lattanzi, entitled Termometro politico (Political Thermometer), which lasted until the 1820s and the repressive turn following in the early uprisings.103 More than a political turning point, which even these newspapers experienced at the end of the 1840s, what is worthy of note is how the progress of the so-called demonstration clothes of 1847–1848 drew attention to the “fashions of Italy”, and to a connection between clothes and nation, which in the specialised press, and obviously for an élite readership, went further back in time. The idea had come from Carolina  See the detailed analysis in Franchini, Editori, lettrici e stampa di moda cit., pp. 51–52.  G. Sergio, Parole di moda. Il “Corriere delle Dame” e il lessico della moda nell’Ottocento, Franco Angeli, Milan 2010. 102 103

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Lattanzi herself, who, at the beginning of the century, had launched a project to encourage national fashion itself imbued with patriotic tones.104 It had affected not so much the creative aspects, on which French preeminence was undisputed, but rather production and craftsmanship, materialising in  the encouragement to use Italian materials such as Florence straw, or coral and shavings for decorations, or in fact, the cotton velvet produced in Genoa or Vaprio: a fabric that would later be used for Italian-style clothes, in a form of ostracism against German wool.105 Often, as we have seen, these fashions recalled ancient clothing, finding possible suggestions in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century paintings. Significantly, in 1840, the “Messaggero delle donne italiane di Lucca (Lucca’s Messenger of Italian Women) had launched an illustrated column entitled Costumi italiani antichi (Ancient Italian Clothes), which together with Biografie, storie e rimembranze italiane (Italian Biographies, Stories and Memories) was supposed to recall the history of the national past, displaying its clothing aspects.106 These visual inspirations can be found in 1848 clothing, making us better understand Count Hübner’s words when he described how in the streets of Milan, he happened to stumble upon “gentlemen with velvet jerkins copied from a Velasquez or Paolo Veronese painting”.107 On the other hand, it was quite clear that in order to find anything resembling a “national dress” it would have been difficult to draw upon a tradition of popular outfits, which by their nature were markedly regional: the pictorial and theatrical sources of the Renaissance past were therefore much more effective. But the exchange with the political reality obviously went two ways: on the one hand, the interest of fashion and variety journalism for national-­ patriotic discourse grew towards the end of the 1840s, on the other, it was linked to collateral initiatives, such as the one promoted by the Society for the Promotion of Arts and Crafts in Milan, which, in 1847, had awarded a gold medal to the producers of a corduroy cotton velvet designed to represent an obvious alternative to fabrics of German and Austrian

104  R. Levi Pisetsky, Storia del costume in Italia, vol. II, Istituto dell’Enciclopedia italiana, Rome 2005. 105  G. Butazzi, La moda a Milano dal Regno d’Italia al 1848. Proposta per una ricerca sulle prime manifestazioni di “moda d’Italia”, in “Il Risorgimento”, XLIV, 3, 1992, pp. 493–514. 106  See Franchini, Editori, lettrici e stampa di moda, cit., p. 52. 107  Hübner, Milano il 1848 cit., p. 92.

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production.108 In the summer of 1847, the “Corriere delle Dame” also published some articles devoted to Italian fashion vocabulary, which took stock of the specifics of national fashion.109 At the outbreak of the insurrection in Milan, the local newspaper thus resumed its original tradition of political commitment, adding to its columns a news review that gave an account of the ongoing conflict, offering its readers a series of patriotic tales and pointing out that at least two of the seven or eight fashion plates printed each month would be “original Italian fashions” (Fig. 7.6). In Memorie di una modista (Memoirs of a Milliner), a short story by Luigi Cicconi published in the meantime in “Il Mondo illustrato”, the protagonist Virginia was a fervent patriot working as a seamstress and concealing her conspiratorial activity behind frequent business trips. Fashion could be, it said, a “very comfortable means of carrying out a well-­thought-­out conspiracy without trouble”.110 Even the newspaper “La Moda” (Fashion) by Francesco Lampato, the other important Milan newspaper in competition with the “Corriere delle Dame”, devoted its pages to political information and to the current affairs about revolution and war. On the other hand, the general situation, both national and international, had made the usual scheduling, which required constant communication with France, from which most of the material to be published came, increasingly difficult. The responsibility for that situation of impasse, wrote the “Corriere delle Dame”, also rested with a real boycott by the Austrians, which had affected fashion plates and drawings as well. In fact, the 20 April issue contained, without the shadow of any irony through the article, a precise accusation levelled against the Austrian authorities of sacking and “destroying out of a feeling of revenge and devastation” all the fashion items from Paris, “be they patterns for dressmakers, fashion plates, or colorful designs for upholstery, as well as samples of fabrics for the spring season”.111 On the other hand, in the same month, some articles had been devoted to the atrocities and wickedness of the Austrians, which is evidence of how deeply these 108  D.  Riva, I velluti dell’Adda. Un caso di pionierismo manufatturiero in Lombardia: il cotonificio di Vaprio d’Adda (1839–1989), Diapress, Milan 1990. 109  “Corriere delle Dame”, 8 June and 3 July 1847. 110  Cited in A.  Bondi, Una capitale della moda, in Torino nel Risorgimento, in “Rivista Museo Torino”, 3, 2011, p. 49. 111  Cited in Sergio, Parole di moda cit., p. 105.

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Fig. 7.6  Mode d’Italia [Italian Fashion] in “Il Corriere delle Dame”, 27 march 1848

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newspapers were pervaded by the national-patriotic narrative and were active vehicles of its dissemination. Between March and July 1848, therefore, images or references to Italian-style clothes and feathered hats also appeared on these commercial pages. On 30 March, the newspaper wrote that “in Lombardy and in most of Italy the great fashion of the moment is velvet clothes with Calabrian-­ style hats”.112 On 15 April, a fashion plate entitled Mode d’Italia (Italian Fashions) with its relative headdress variation (“a white beaver Calabrian-­ style hat”) was printed. In July, the well-known Luigi Cicconi published in “Il Mondo Illustrato” a two-part Storia della moda italiana (History of Italian Fashion), which traced the origins of the national style of dressing from the Longobard age to the beginning of the nineteenth century.113 But the war was getting worse and the “Corriere delle Dame” once again noted its progress in terms of clothes and headdresses: “Lombardy, depleted of national enthusiasm, gradually resumes the French or English style, with top hats and tailcoats”.114 In Lombardy and Piedmont, Italian-­ style clothes were already disappearing in the summer of 1848, although Cesare Cantù, when launching his new, rather late newspaper, “La Guardia Nazionale” (The National Guard), on 1 July published the following note: “we are now wearing Pius IX’s rosettes and medals, Calabrian-style hats, velvet robes and red caps; we have a moustache and a dagger, and a tricoloured belt; but you know our face; it is the same we held high under the dark German oppression; which did not go pale during the five days and did not blush after them”.115 In the following months, the images of feathered hats still accompanied the experiences of the republics of Rome and Venice, as many illustrations of the period, as well as the first images of the hero-adventurer par excellence, Giuseppe Garibaldi, show us. Swiss volunteer Gustav von Hofstetter described him with a pointed hat and an ostrich feather on one side and a beard so thick that it almost hid his face, while the painter sent by the “Illustrated London News” portrayed him on horseback and in clothing

 “Corriere delle Dame”, 30 March 1848, p. 157.  La Moda e la Politica, in “Il Mondo illustrato”, 22 July 1848, pp. 459–460 and 29 July 1848, pp. 476–478. 114  Mode, in “Corriere delle Dame”, 20 July 1848, p. 516. 115  C.  Cantù, Proemio, in “La Guardia Nazionale”, 1, 1 July 1848, p.  1 and 29 July, pp. 476–478. 112 113

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Fig. 7.7  George Husman Thomas, Giuseppe Garibaldi and his Negro servant, in “The London Illustrated News”, 21 July 1849

that he defined as “wonderfully picturesque”, complete with “a black feathered hat with its brim lowered”.116 (Fig. 7.7).

Patriots, Knights, Brigands and Robbers The threads linking 1848’s patriotic practices with the developing world of fashion, therefore, were anything but subtle, testifying to the ability of the national discourse to welcome and make its own the most varied suggestions. The other important reservoir of visual references from which the Risorgimento political symbolism drew its inspiration were theatrical stages, which, after all, were in close contact with fashion, on both production and media levels. They were, in fact, in many ways, two adjacent worlds where the same people often moved. Felice Romani, perhaps the most famous librettist of the time, author of many of the texts set to music by Bellini and Donizetti, was director of  Both references are in Riall, Garibaldi. Invention of a Hero cit., pp. 92 and 95–96.

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the “Corriere delle Dame” between 1833 and 1834. Engraver Sergent Marceau, the pride of this newspaper and author of many of its fashion plates, was also the designer of theatrical costumes for La Scala and other theatres. One of the most frequent and successful encounters between Hayez’s historical painting and opera took place precisely in the context of costumes. In general, the suggestions of, and actual, theatrical loans in fashion trends were very frequent. In fact, a large number of clothes, hairstyles and ornaments were named after operas, characters or artists whose stage costumes they tended to inspire. The popularity of the specialised press made this meeting possible and frequent as far back as the early years of the century. So, for example, in 1815 the “Corriere delle Dame” published fashion plates inspired by Stefano Pavesi’s semi-serious opera Agatina o la virtù premiata (Agatina or Virtue Rewarded), which had been very successful at La Scala by proposing a classic mélo where the mistreated protagonist was finally betrothed to a prince in the usual final denouement. Moreover, the passions of the Risorgimento also found their way into the interchanges between the stage and visual taste, if we consider that in 1848 one of the most popular and cited hats was the one described as “Ernani-style”: generally a red felt hat, with a crown shaped as a truncated cone with a buckle and a long feather on its side, resembling the one worn by the fierce outlaw created by Victor Hugo and set to music by Giuseppe Verdi (Fig.  7.8). To understand this transfer, we should consider that, since its opening night in Venice in 1844 and even more in the following two years, Verdi’s opera had become hugely popular. Marcello Conati, who has collected the data relating to its productions, has claimed that Ernani was not only a success but a real fashion. In 1846, it was by far the most widely staged opera in Italian theatres, with sixty-five productions in as many theatres, followed, but at great distance, by the thirty-one productions each of now “classic” operas such as Rossini’s Barbiere di Siviglia (the first true repertoire opera in Italian musical theatre), or more recent texts such as Verdi’s I Due Foscari and Donizetti’s Linda di Chamounix.117 Newspaper reports of the time allow us to accurately follow the rapid growth of this popularity. After the first performances in Venice in 1844, there were people who argued that everywhere, “in atriums, streets, halls and ingenious conferences”, its new 117  M. Conati, Observations on the Early Reviews of Verdi’s Ernani, in Ernani Yesterday and Today, in “Bollettino dell’Istituto nazionale di Studi verdiani”, 10, 1989, pp. 211–279.

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Fig. 7.8  Ernani Hat of the Vicentine Crusader Volunteers belonging to Count Camillo Franco who died in Monte Berico on 10 June 1848, Vicenza, Museo del Risorgimento

arias were being sung and that “few scores produced a stronger, more lively impression than this sweet Ernani. […] every evening there was a crowd, there was a crush in the theatre”.118 Two years and many productions after the first one in Venice, the “Ricoglitore fiorentino, in a long ironic article, claimed that people had had enough of Ernani, “the most popular opera by very popular Maestro Verdi”: “I’m telling you in your ear, but I’m a little tired of this Ernani. Go to the Pergola, Ernani is being sung, go to Piazza Vecchia, Ernani is being staged, to rest your hearing you flee to the prose theatre but between one act and the next the orchestra scrambles your ears with the inevitable Ernani. […] Because this opera has been transcribed for any instrument, from the ophicleide to the piccolo, from the double bass to the viola”.119 The patriotic reception of the opera, whose origins date back to the productions in Bologna and in the Pontifical Legations of the summer 1846 added and contributed to this.120 In addition to presenting a  “Gazzetta privilegiata di Venezia”, 30 March 1844, ibid. in the appendix ivi, p. 225.  “Ricoglitore fiorentino”, October 1846, ivi, p. 258. 120  On the evening of 19th July, the news of the amnesty granted by Pius IX arrived in Bologna. “A sizeable group of young people with lit torches decorated with flowers and laurel and with a sumptuous flag bearing the Pope’s name started to sing the final act of 118 119

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c­ onspiracy against the emperor complete with oath of allegiance to the cause, in fact, the text lent itself easily to being understood as an allusion to the recent papal reforms and, in particular, to the amnesty granted to political prisoners.121 The juxtaposition between the figure of the outlaw Ernani and the image of a conspirator must have clearly been immediate for contemporaries, quite unlike what happens nowadays, providing a communicative effectiveness to the political use of the feathered hat that would otherwise be difficult to understand. It was in fact the feather, as we have seen, that united 1848’s various demonstrative headdresses, proposing for patriots the quite romantic figure of the outlaw, the brigand and the robber. Out of its various styles, the one dating furthest back in time was the “Calabrian-style”, which had a rather curious political history. Worn by the bands of Cardinal Ruffo’s Sanfedists in 1799, this hat had in fact been taken up again in 1848 to identify figures of freedom fighters, in homage to Mazzini’s followers shot in Calabria on 2 October, 1847.122 It stood out from other similar hats because of its tall, rigid and pointed cone-shaped crown, different from the limper and bolder one recalling the figure of the outlaw Ernani. The third political hat, the “Puritani-style” one, was once again of theatrical origin and probably referred to one of Vincenzo Bellini’s more “political” operas, composed for Paris on a libretto by exile Carlo Pepoli and probably inspired by one of Walter Scott’s novels.123 What seems interesting to note is that even in this case, as for the “Ernani-style” hat, it was worn by the character of an outlaw who was actually a knight in disguise. On the other hand, romantic literature had produced a large number of figures of this kind, whose prototype can be found in Schiller’s The Robbers, one of those theatrical texts with countless translations and adaptations, in different forms and genres. Schiller’s Karl Moor was a young nobleman with revolutionary ideas who, feeling betrayed by his family and life, Ernani changing Charles’ name for Pius IX’s, shouting glory and honour to him, a change dictated by their heart which history will record”. This was reported by the pamphlet entitled Il Perdono. Feste del popolo romano narrate da Filippo Maria Gerardi, Tipografia Puccinelli, Roma 1846, citing the “Gazzetta privilegiata di Bologna”. 121   On the allusive potential of Ernani, see Sorba, Il Risorgimento in musica cit., pp. 143 et seq. 122  Mentioned by Croce, Storia d’Europa nel secolo Decimonono cit., p. 148. 123  On the political reception of Bellini’s last opera, as well as of Donizetti’s Marino Faliero, both staged in Paris in 1835, see Sorba, Teatro, politica e compassione. Audience teatrale, sfera pubblica ed emozionalità in Francia e in Italia cit., pp. 421–446.

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decided to join a band of outlaws, becoming their leader. Many later writers developed similar characters: for example, Byron’s The Corsair, Charles Nodier’s Jean Sbogar and Victor Hugo’s aforementioned Hernani. They were all figures of mysterious outlaws, of noble birth but forced to exist outside the law by defamatory accusations, or by the wickedness of their antagonists. However, they were figures driven by fiery passion, which became symbols of political resistance and generous struggle for freedom, albeit with some moral ambiguity.124 There had also been a specifically Italian variation of the gentleman and political rebel outlaw, the one offered by Lady Sydney Morgan in her fictional biography of Salvator Rosa, the seventeenth-century painter of southern landscapes riddled with outlaws and beggars.125 The English writer had in fact reversed the usual image of Italy as a land of bandits in a very romantic fresco of brave leaders fighting against the despotic tyranny of Spain. On the stages of the 1840s, Verdi had thus proposed two strong figures of outlaws with precisely these characteristics, Ernani’s and Carlo’s in I Masnadieri, the opera liberally drawn from Schiller and staged in London in 1847. To understand how even from the opera stages of the time, visual prompts such as feathered hats reached political practice, we must consider the changes that were taking place in those years in the control and codification of scenes and costumes. In fact, throughout Europe, together with a growing professionalisation of the figures of costume designers, there was also increasing interest in the historical accuracy and fitting of scenes and costumes with the time when the tragedy was supposed to take place.126 Even in Italy, where touring theatrical troupes and their practice 124  The literature of the time as teeming with these “bandits with a heart of gold” as “creatures of emotion” was mentioned by Croce in Storia d’Europa nel secolo Decimonono, cit., pp. 82–84; also, more extensively, Praz, La carne, la morte e il diavolo cit., pp. 49–57. The Romantic passion for outlaws had also drawn the attention of Dumas and Dickens to the real figure of the outlaw Alessandro Massaroni. On the topic and on its implications for opera, see D. Ipson, “All more or less Portraits”: The Image of the Brigand on the Stage and Pages of the Risorgimento, paper presented to the conference The Gazing Society, Padua, 23–25 February 2012. 125  Lady Sydney Morgan, The Life and Times of Salvator Rosa, 2 vol., Galignani, London 1824; see M. Isabella, Risorgimento in exile. Italian Emigres and the Liberal International in the Post-Napoleonic Era, Oxford University Press, New York 2009, pp. 200–201, outlining some Italian intellectuals’ critical response. 126  The first professional costume designer is understood to have been James Robinson Planché, working at London’s Covent Garden in the 1820s. An expert on heraldry and

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of adapting different costumes to different roles still prevailed, in the 1840s decisive steps were taken in the direction of preserving historical correctness in scenes and costumes. Thus, the visual dimension of an opera began to be fixed, at least in its general terms and directed by the composers themselves. Mercedes Viale Ferrero has attributed the real turning point in this direction to the production of Attila in 1846, when the drawings of scenographer Giuseppe Bertoja, a recurring figure in Verdi’s productions, were reproduced in colour lithographs in the periodical “L’Italia musicale” (Musical Italy), representing a model rather closely followed in subsequent productions.127 Regarding the production and proliferation of costumes, some initial studies have confirmed the existence of an organised distribution network of theatre agencies which involved the major theatrical tailors and even reached the European capitals, confirming the i­nternational nature of all production aspects of opera.128 The first Verdi fashion plate published in sector newspapers seem to have appeared slightly later than Ernani. They were for Macbeth and appeared in the “Gazzetta Musicale di Milano” (Milan’s Musical Gazette) in the autumn of 1847, with those for I masnadieri published by “L’ Italia Musicale a few months later. The fact that Verdi had made his first European trip in that year cannot be considered a coincidence. This had taken him to London and Paris, where the publication of theatrical fashion plates was a customary practice dating back to the Petite galerie dramatique, ou recueil des différentes costumes d’acteurs, a collection of prints published by Martinet from 1796. Verdi, with his usual decisiveness, adopted the French composers’ practice of giving stage directions which would be accepted in their entirety, and prompted the antiques, as well as author of mélos, farces and burlettes, he based his work on real historical research and used arms and armour experts for his stagings. See R. Guardenti, Il costume teatrale: un lento cammino verso il realismo, in Alonge and Davico Bonino (ed.), Storia del teatro moderno e contemporaneo cit., pp. 1163–1193; P. Bignami, Storia del costume teatrale, Carocci, Rome 2012, pp. 146 et seq. 127  M.  Viale Ferrero, The Sets for the First “Ernani”. Notes on Verdian Scenography, in Ernani yesterday and today cit., pp. 198–210. 128  R.  Cohen and M.  Conati, Les “figurinis” italiens des opéras de Verdi, in “Opera e libretto”, 1, 1990, pp. 281–297; on the attention paid by Verdi and the major theatres of the time to historical credibility and accuracy of costumes, see G. Agosti and P. L. Ciapparelli, La Commissione artistica dell’Accademia di Brera e gli allestimenti verdiani alla Scala alla metà dell’Ottocento, in P. Petrobelli and F. Della Seta (eds), La realizzazione scenica dello spettacolo verdiano, Istituto nazionale di Studi verdiani, Parma 1986, pp. 215–229.

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emergence in those years of a tendency to follow the typology of the main visual stage directions. This meant that the public learned to recognise and participate in Verdi’s sets, even when they were adapted for puppet theatres. Although there are very few examples of the fashion plates relating to 1840s productions, we still have the pencil drawings relating to the 1844 Parma staging of Ernani, where the protagonist of the opera appears almost wrapped in his cloak and holding the well-known feathered hat (Fig. 7.9). In a world that in the early decades of the nineteenth century was experiencing the first real explosion of the image market, thanks, among other things, to a series of landmark technological innovations, even live shows began to reproduce and disseminate its images, promoting their collective consumption and eventually their symbolic use. And in fact, a direct mirroring between the drawings of the theatrical costumes and the representation of the revolution that had just occurred can be found in Milan in a beautiful colour lithograph whose title copied precisely the French opera mentioned above, however adapting it to the context of the Five Days. In the Galleria dei principali costumi milanesi prima durante e dopo la rivoluzione (Gallery of the Main Milanese Costumes Before, During and After the Revolution), the different characters who had played a role in the recently ended revolution stood lined up like actors thanking their public from the stage: a student wrapped in his cloak, a clergyman with a sword and a cross, a woman armed with a rifle, a craftsman with the tools of his trade, the officers of the civic and national guards. Needless to say, many of them wore, more or less boldly, cloaks and feathered hats in their different styles129 (Fig. 7.10).

An Interpretation: Between Performativity and Surveillance A more frivolous production represented by the first fashion newspapers and by theatrical fashion plates also contributes to the construction and visual rendering of the Risorgimento narrative. Moreover, in the early 129  Feathered hats had also been the symbol of the so-called heroes of the sixth day, the people in Milan who had declared themselves patriots only after the end of the insurrection. See the caricatures with this title published in “Lo spirito folletto” (see Lo spirito folletto: 1 maggio-31 luglio 1848, facsimile of the original, Centro editoriale internazionale, Rome 1973).

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Fig. 7.9  Scene figure for Ernani, Parma 1844. Archivio storico del Teatro Regio, Parma

nineteenth century, theatrical and art journalism in general was probably the liveliest sector in the landscape of the Italian press, where an updated professionalism and sectorial language had developed earlier. What remains to be understood is the reason for such an explosion of theatricality and spectacularisation of the past, which was such a strong feature of the Italian “Long 1848”. Its protagonists’ reflections are not

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Fig. 7.10  Una galleria dei principali costumi milanesi prima, durante e dopo la rivoluzione, 1848 [A series of the main Milanese outfits before, during and after the revolution], colour litograph by G. and C. Vallardi, Milan, copyright Comune di Milano, Palazzo Moriggia/Museo del Risorgimento

terribly helpful, either because they were reticent about it, or because they were too immersed in the atmosphere of those days. Patriot Pietro Sterbini, animator of the Roman demonstration season, as well as writer of tragedies inspired by Vittorio Alfieri, commented upon the events organised in Rome in November 1847 as follows: Rome is preparing to celebrate with solemn pomp the inauguration of the State Council. Every class of people yearns to take part in the celebration and the neighbouring villages are ready to rush to the capital to join the popular enthusiasm […]. To some foreigners this enthusiasm might have seemed the effect of fanatic imagination, to some of our enemies it seemed appropriate to ridicule our celebrations […]. What almost the whole of Italy is presenting to the nations today is certainly a new spectacle in history: a social revolution that does not stop at the surface but attacks the f­ oundations,

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takes place between celebrations and cheers, between tears of joy and brotherly embraces.130

These words may be misleading, if taken literally. The celebrations, cheers, tears, hugs and we may also add the clothes, hats or daggers on their sides, represent for Sterbini not the surface of things, the superficial excitement foreign observers often smiled about, but the depth of the transformation that was taking place. The Roman patriot’s words were probably circumstantial, but they remind us that what was happening was a serious matter: a widespread and whenever possible accomplished need to affirm one’s identity as a patriot by adopting a sort of stage costume, and carrying out acts that were unequivocal signs of recognition, as well as part of a system of very highly allusive signs. In fact, we could say that the shorter the theatricalisation of the national cause had been, the more extensive and ostentatious it had appeared, through ritual gestures and specific clothing, or through the more symbolic armoury of the revolutionary celebration, made up of flags, rosettes, handkerchiefs and bands of all kinds. There had been, in fact, different and not entirely comparable forms of dramatisation: on the one hand, the widespread and poorly pre-­arranged stagings, hats, daggers and rosettes worn with consistent imitative excitement by patriots; on the other, a more precise and organised celebrative dramaturgy, with sequences and scenography on some specific occasions meticulously constructed by the local authorities themselves. But the two levels had often intertwined and overlapped, even converging—during the months of unanimity—on the same images and symbols.131 Limiting ourselves to a first, psychological reading, visual prompts of this kind ended up answering several questions together, and for this reason, they were particularly effective; on a subjective level, they confirmed people’s perception of themselves as patriots and their participation in collective patriotic harmony; externally, they contributed to giving maximum visibility to participation and, at the same time, represented a provocation against the Austrian authorities. However, if we want to take a step forward in the direction of an anthropological reading of the  P. Sterbini, Roma 13 novembre, in “Il Contemporaneo”, 15 November 1847, p. 1  A high rituality index is typical—according to Julian Przybos—of the structured and repetitive nature of melodrama itself, where people cry together, thus rebuilding group solidarity (L’entreprise mélodramatique cit., pp. 189 et seq.). 130 131

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phenomenon, we need to articulate our reflections in several directions. In terms of clothes, the forms we have seen so far were quite different from the more usual types of disguise used during the Ancien Regime and modernised during the nineteenth century, which were generally linked to sexual identity and to a desire to appropriate spaces of freedom otherwise precluded.132 And yet, exactly like them, they signal the presence of an “identity game”, of an attempt at simulation and dissimulation frequently found, among other things, in the short stories and novels with the melodramatic structure of those years, often centred on experiences of self-loss and recovery.133 At the same time, both clothing and ritual dramatisations do not seem to be opportunities to challenge consolidated social norms, or perhaps for the carnivalesque reversal of roles and practices, in the ways masterfully described by Bakhtin and taken up by many studies above all, but not only, about the early modern age. A device of this type has been studied, for example, in the case of the eighteenth-century English Masquerade, an urban phenomenon of considerable proportions, made up of masked balls and gatherings in Haymarket and Vauxhall, which also, and powerfully, made its way into eighteenth-century narrative, in Henry Fielding’s and Samuel Richardson’s poems and novels.134 The events of 1848 appear somewhat different and look much more like a “cohesion ritual” similar to those that Victor Turner first studied in the Ndembu people of Central Africa and then developed in his studies on social drama135: a performance through which the political subject constitutes and affirms himself as such. Doing so in such a theatrical way means emphasising its meaning, since theatre, as Turner wrote, “is, indeed, a hypertrophy, an exaggeration of jural and ritual processes; it is not a simple replication of the “natural” total processual pattern of the social drama”.136 More than an imitation of daily dramatisation, it produces its accentuation, doubling its effectiveness.

132  See on this, the bibliography and analysis in L. Schettini, Il gioco delle parti. Travestimenti e paure sociali tra Otto e Novecento, Le Monnier, Florence 2011. 133  J. Lacroix, Rites et pratiques de déguisement et de évanouissement dans la nouvelle en vers du Risorgimento, in “Revue des Études italiennes”, 1–3, 1988, pp. 23–33. 134  T.  Castle, Masquerade and Civilization: The Carnivalesque in Eighteenth Century English Culture and Fiction, Stanford University Press, Stanford 1986. 135  V. Turner, From ritual to theatre. The human seriousness of play, PAJ Publications 1982. 136  Ibid, p. 12.

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In their consciously exhibited dramatisation, patriots then expressed an important opportunity for the illusionary amplification of reality, whose realism arises from the explicit materialisation of fiction.137 The very etymology of the term “performance” hints at this: according to Turner, it is to be traced not in the idea of “manifesting form”, but in Old French parfournir, which refers to the processual sense of “bringing to completion” or “accomplishing”. “To perform is thus to complete a more or less involved process, rather than to do a single deed or act”.138 In our case, the crowds in Tuscany and the Romagna, Genoa and Padua which gave life to demonstrations full of melodramatic theatricality, or the single patriots dressed in Italian style with their Ernani hats, who, in the streets of Florence, Turin, Parma or Rome, embraced each other and swore allegiance to the Italian cause, staged the spectacle of national unity, and in doing so, they intensely experienced its reality, bringing it to completion. Not a simple apprenticeship to the nation’s “imagined community”, but its implementation. Many cultural history studies have insisted in recent years on performance as a particularly effective expressive vehicle in identification processes, and more generally in the production of political meanings, so much so that Peter Burke has spoken of a sort of “performative turn” as having occurred in recent studies on the basis of some important theoretical references.139 In this case, we could say that the nation’s melodrama, whose narrative was constructed in the first decades of the century, during the “Long 1848” found many effective opportunities to be staged with a highly performative value. In them, however, another aspect can be identified which intersects with the previous one and must also be considered. The theatricality of 1848’s demonstrationism also represented a useful way to defuse the 137  According to Claude Lévi-Strauss, musical performance has even greater illusory capacity. See his excellent analysis in Id., Bolero de Maurice Ravel, in “L’Homme”, XI, 1971, 2, pp. 5–14. 138  Turner, From ritual to theatre cit., p. 91. 139  P.  Burke, What is Cultural History?, second edition Polity Press, New  York 2008, pp. 93. The most important references, in addition to Victor Turner, include James Austin’s studies on performativity of language and Judith Butler’s on performativity of gender roles. On the notion of performativity, see J. Austin, Other Minds. Philosophical Papers, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1961, and Id., How to do things with words, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1962 as well as J. Butler, Bodies that Matter, Routledge 1993; on gender performativity, see J. Butler, Gender trouble. Feminism and the Subversion of identity, Routledge 1990

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explosive potential of the Risorgimento emotionality and monitor its most dangerous outcomes.140 The spectacle of celebrations and festivities that preceded and accompanied the outbreak of the 1848 revolution, as the press reports and the protagonists’ descriptions insistently emphasised, was orderly, unanimous and polite, where the script and roles were always respected. “The sun shone on the preparations for a demonstration that was due to have an entire people for actors, for a reason a unique fact in modern history, for an echo the voice of Italy […] And its performance was carried out to perfection; nothing failed, nothing went badly, not even the shadow of disorder ever flashed”.141 This was the report of the celebrations of December 1847 in Genoa in the newspaper “La Patria”. But the reference to the order and composure of the demonstrations is in most contemporary reports, to dispel any fear of subversion and popular revolt. Luigi Farini retrospectively called it a “festive revolution”, adding: “Someone well versed in worldly matters who saw the celebrations in those days, then told me how the sight of that man-made commotion, of that order in disorder, of those leaders, those flags and that multitude had deeply affected him, and made him reflect upon it. He called that exhibition a festive revolution and foretold that it would not end with the celebrations”.142 Even after Milan’s Five Days, many contemporary comments spoke of an “orderly revolution”, aimed not at overturning the existing order but rather at reassembling it, fighting the foreign power who had undermined it in its foundations. “The revolution in Milan—Ignazio Cantù had written—took place in the most energetic, most moderate, most just way. […] In the midst of a multitude drunk with victory and delirious with the joy of destroying the documents of an abhorred government, this word was passed around: order! And immediately the crowd held back from any further damage respecting anything that was not immediately attached to

140  On this aspect, see A.  Volpi, Linguaggi simbolici nel 1848: appunti vari sull’idea e sull’immagine della moderazione, in R. P. Coppini (ed.), Università, simboli, istituzioni: note sul ‘48 italiano, Pacini, Pisa 2000, pp. 83–125), in whose view 1848’s Italian people, orderly and unanimous, seemed a poetic and lyrical subject more than an agent of subversion. 141  “La Patria”, 11 December 1847, 95, and 15 December 1847, 99, p.  384 and pp. 400–401. 142  L.  C. Farini, Lo Stato romano dall’anno 1815 al 1850, Tip. Ferrero e Franco, Turin 1850, vol. II, p. 197.

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the form of government. All personal property was preserved with the most scrupulous observance”.143 Furthermore, a sort of obsession with revolutionary legality also ran through and permeated the behaviour and strategies of the democrats and their leaders, Carlo Cattaneo in the first place, but also Mazzini. According to Roberto Balzani, in fact, it was precisely on this ground that in a way he immediately lost his battle with the moderates.144 But more than the contrast between the two dimensions mentioned above—theatricality either as a cohesion ritual or as an instrument of surveillance—their constant coexistence on the streets and in the squares in 1848 provides us with seemingly the closest image of the short but intense experience of those years. If it was considered as an essentially visual and imaginative feature, suitable to be spectacularised, represented and thus experienced by the masses, the nation was a reality which could very easily reflect unity of purpose. This is especially true when compared to the projects and institutional strategies whose virtual unanimity broke down during the summer of 1848, leading to pronounced differences among the emerging political perspectives and their strategies.

 Cantù, Gli ultimi cinque giorni degli austriaci in Milano cit., p. 24.  Balzani, La questione della legalità rivoluzionaria cit., pp. 103–122.

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CHAPTER 8

Politics and the Language of Sentiment

After the Emotional Storm Unanimous melodramatic theatricality had been a fairly limited moment which would not recur. In the summer of 1848, the military picture changed radically in favour of the Austrians, the political confrontations on the Italian front became increasingly harsh and a widespread distancing emerged from the “universal enthusiasm” of the previous months. This disillusion took on different, even opposite, directions and political variations, which, however, ended up sharing a derisive attitude, more or less benevolent depending on the political parties, towards what had happened in the previous months, in particular towards the emotional and theatrical impetus that had characterised pre-revolutionary demonstrationism and the first months of the revolution. A “comic-insurrectional almanac” for the year 1849 inspired by Mazzini’s views and published in Rome, for example, offered its readers a sort of periodic political “prophecy” which, for the month of January, drew a parody of neo-Guelph patriots, capable only of dressing in strange clothes, shouting and waving flags: “The year has inherited all the power of the deceased [1848]. And so it appears dressed in the following style: carrying a broadsword on its left side, a roll of parchment tied to a white and blue ribbon on its right. In one hand it holds a flag with the motto: Barbarians out! with the other it is about to cling to a large boot”. © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 C. Sorba, Politics and Sentiments in Risorgimento Italy, Italian and Italian American Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-69732-7_8

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The image for the month of April was even more explicit: “Last year, in April, we believed that our tricoloured scarves were enough to make our enemy flee at breakneck speed; but this year in April we shall all the more believe that our sashes, if they are too long, will only manage to trip over those who wear them. We need anything but sashes: forks and cannons, and then we shall have our Easter of Resurrection”.1 Not only the moderates, who had often put up with the excitement of those days with little conviction, but also the democrats believed that it was no longer time for rosettes and fraternal embraces, and something more serious was needed. In the meantime, the nation’s melodramatic narrative began to feature radically different versions, where the role of traitor might be played by Charles Albert or Pius IX, in other words by the sovereigns who had not seen the patriotic war through to the end.2 With the progressive fading away of unanimity and the clearer articulation of the opposition between moderates and democrats, the ritual gestures of harmony and brotherhood gradually seemed to become flimsier, together with the theatricality of feathered hats, which reappeared once again in the broad mobilisation that accompanied the demonstrations for the Constituent Assembly and the autumn-winter plebiscites.3 During the following, complex season of constituent assemblies and republics, some of these rituals were in fact updated and took on the meaning of party allegiance, alongside symbols recalling more radical political experiences. This happened to the trees of liberty erected in Livorno and other towns in Tuscany, or the red republican flags being waved in Brescia during the insurrection at the end of March 1849.4 A detailed historical analysis of the progress of such disenchantment, between the summers of 1848 and 1849 and then in the years immediately following, is yet to be written and could tell us more about the crucial end moment of the revolutionary experience. The traces that can be gleaned, however, quite clearly detect how the progressive crushing of an undifferentiated liberal front also caused widespread perplexity as to 1 S  ior Antonio Rioba. Almanacco comico insurrezionale per l’anno 1849. Fuori i barbari, Venice, 1849. 2  For this kind of reading, see, for example, the reconstruction of 1848 offered by republican L. Anelli, Storia d’Italia dal 1814 al 1850, Tip. Nazionale Biancardi, Turin, 1856. 3  G. L. Fruci, Il sacramento dell’unità nazionale. Linguaggi, iconografia e pratiche dei plebisciti risorgimentali (1848–1870), in Banti and Ginsborg (eds), Storia d’Italia. Annali 22. Il Risorgimento cit., pp. 567–607. 4  See S. Onger (ed.), Brescia 1849. Il popolo in rivolta, Morcelliana, Brescia, 2002.

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what—to many if not all—had appeared perfectly normal only a few months before. The political criticism of the excesses, and at the same time the inconsistency, of 1848 found in the historical-patriotic performances and enthusiasm of demonstrationism an excellent element to focus on, since they seemed to represent the proven and indisputable evidence of a “propensity in almost everyone to rave, to close their eyes to the dangers, to dream of the return of the golden age, to believe charlatans and impostors”.5 Even Giuseppe Montanelli, in his historical notes on the Italian revolution published in 1853, although acknowledging that it had not at all been a joke (“We got what was most difficult—the re-awakening of a people sleeping on their chains”), at the same time noted its volatile and flimsy nature: “I confess that if the Italian Risorgimento had appeared to me only as waved tricoloured flags, national songs, wreaths of flowers scattered on the tombs of the ancestors, I would wonder whether I had witnessed some staged acts”. The following war had clarified that it had not been so: during it, “I saw with my own eyes eighteen-year-old boys fight like lions, I saw a contempt for death had reached the new generation”.6 The war had therefore provided real substance to what might otherwise have appeared as an ephemeral and ethereal show. Or worse, as a squabble and a farce, as the republican political mobilisation of the autumn would be described by Massimo D’Azeglio, who—as we have seen—had not spared himself in the invention of symbols and had well understood its mobilising potential at the time. This view of 1848—as an insubstantial event in its theatricality—seemed to consolidate and soon became conventional wisdom, at least on the liberal-­moderate front. Ten years later, close to the new war against the Austrians, the Piedmontese newspaper “L’Opinione” wrote, for example, that Verdi’s La Battaglia di Legnano—with its collective oaths and carrocci—had now, in the eyes of the contemporary public, lost the fascination it had had in Rome in 1849, when the opera was staged for the first time. No wonder, the newspaper added, since then “putting Italy, the Lombard league and the carroccio on the stage; talking about freedom, 5  This reactionary reading of events was by G.  Spada, Storia della rivoluzione di Roma (1868), citata in Volpi, Linguaggi simbolici nel 1848 cit., p. 84. 6  G.  Montanelli, Opere politiche 1847–1862, edited by P.  Bagnoli, Edizioni Polistampa, Florence, 1997 (the citations are on pp. 21 et seq.).

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homeland, shouting ‘Death to Tyrants and Oppressors’ was enough to draw a storm of applause […]. Such was the trend of the times, which now, fortunately, have greatly changed. Now, more than in words, we believe in facts […] both in politics as at the theatre”.7 The image of what would be called “quarantottate” (1848 pranks) had therefore become established immediately after the events, finding ample confirmation later, both in the first historiography of 1848 and in the memoirs of its protagonists. The most significant from our point of view were Giovanni Visconti Venosta’s, a teenager at the time of the events, who described the situation in Milan freed from the Austrians as a theatrical scene where it was not at all surprising to meet people disguised as knights or medieval outlaws and theatrical tailors were stormed even by the most level-headed people to grab jerkins, helmets, boots, mortar boards and swords. At that time of extraordinary collective excitement, he wrote, people might see dramatic and funny things, but they all seemed absolutely serious. From a distance, all this seemed still noteworthy, perhaps precisely because of the distance that seemed to exist between the present and the past, when the wounded on stretchers and individuals “in shiny armour, wearing scarves and hats with feathers of all colours, walking with ancient broadswords, like singers on the stage” were admired in the same way.8 But there had also been different reviews of what had happened. In his comments of 1851, Carlo Cattaneo had preferred to underline the overwhelming novelty that the ritualistic-theatrical and generally symbolic practices experienced in 1848 had imposed on the forms of politics, contributing to significantly widen its public and proposing a highly performative reading. [Mazzini’s followers] used clandestine and legal leaflets, songs, cheers to Pius IX, Balilla’s stone and Pisa’s chains. They used the funeral clothing of churches and the gay ones of festive vigils; they arranged roses and camellias, umbrellas and lanterns to produce tricoloured displays; they brought out Calabrian-style hats and velvet jerkins; the banner of the nation and that of its hundred towns. It was a new language that spoke to all the people of Italy

 “L’Opinione”, 4 April 1859, p. 3.  G. Visconti Venosta, Ricordi di gioventù. Cose vedute e sapute 1847–1860, L. F. Cogliati, Milan, 1904, p. 96. 7 8

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louder and clearer than the other language had spoken in five centuries. […] They revealed the people to the people, Italy to Italy. […].9

Even Luigi Carlo Farini, describing the demonstrations for the celebration of 1746 in Genoa, tersely concluded: “Thus the idea of independence was not confined to academic and literary circles, but it spread to the people, and so memories of popular struggles were evoked that were bound to ignite a desire to imitate them”.10 Both figures had experienced the events first hand and remarked that they had been anything but a joke. What might have appeared in someone’s eyes as useless buffoonery had actually had a strong political significance that could not be denied. Beyond any different assessment, what seems certain is that it had been a brief moment and that neither Italian-style clothing nor patriotic hats would have a future, as on the contrary had happened with the Phrygian cap or the red shirt, real “reservoirs of meaning”, variously exploited and exploitable in different forms and ways. For example, the political traces of the Ernani hat seem to be completely lost after its appearance on the heads of innumerable patriots in lithographs and canvases depicting the scenes of 1848, as well as of some volunteers in Garibaldi’s Expedition of the Thousand. It was more likely to be found in subsequent literary productions, where it appeared not as a symbol alluding to forms of conspiracy and subversion, but as a frivolous accessory of post-unification fashion, almost as a way of returning to the pages of the fiction from which it had emerged. For example, it was worn by Giacinta, the young lady in the title of a novel by Luigi Capuana published in 1879, dedicated to Émile Zola, which caused a notable sensation in the literary world of the time.11

European Indignation Regardless of the criticism levelled at it, the melodramatisation of political practice which had been so explosively expressed between 1846 and 1849, however, suffered a definitive setback in the 1850s. The emotion, enthusiasm and excitement of the 1848 mobilisation was followed by the return of sovereigns, the repudiation of the previous constitutions, the restoration of censorship practices and a wave of persecution against patriots, 9  C.  Cattaneo, Tutte le opere, edited by L.  Ambrosoli, vol. V, Mondadori, Milan, 1974, pp. 641–643. 10  Farini, Lo Stato romano dal 1815 al 1850 cit., vol. 1, p. 174. 11  L. Capuana, Giacinta, Brigola, Milan, 1879.

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many of whom opted for exile. An exceptionally strict policy produced the immediate closure of the spaces of freedom on which the 1848 experience itself had been built, while the Austrian, Bourbon and pontifical reaction resulted in arrests, summary trials and executions. All this, however, triggered renewed and widespread outrage in public opinion, urged on by the growing attention that the major French and English newspapers, not just liberal and radical ones, devoted to the Italian national cause. It was also favoured by the possibility of drawing on a well-oiled melodramatic national narrative which could stir and mobilise. The attention given in the major European countries to the Italian question was certainly not new. The myth of Italy as a place of glory and desolation together, masterfully interpreted by Lord Byron, had nourished romantic culture since the beginning of the century, capturing the imagination of romantic historiography and of a large number of travellers and artists.12 The political, diplomatic and cultural importance of the transnational dimension of the Italian Risorgimento has been the focus of many recent studies which have followed the progress of the Italian question in the public debate of some mainly European, but also American and even Asian countries,13 signalling the importance that these exchanges had in the development of national affairs. For the United Kingdom, Maurizio Isabella has shown how a complex dialogue between Italian intellectual élites in exile and the British world had been established since the 1820s thanks to the consistent commitment of exiles in the journalistic world, a source of profit but also an extraordinary opportunity of contact with international public opinion.14 Maura O’Connor has traced the different trajectories of a real infatuation with the Italian cause which developed in British artistic culture and political imagination.15 The articulation of a pro-Italian view in England was therefore not a novelty in the 1850s, and yet at the beginning of the decade, it expanded considerably thanks to hitherto unprecedented campaigns and means of 12  P. Ginsborg, Risorgimento e romanticismo, in Banti and Ginsborg (eds), Storia d’Italia. Annali 22. Il Risorgimento cit., pp. 5–68. 13  Bayly and Biagini, Giuseppe Mazzini and the Globalisation of Democratic Nationalism cit. 14  See M. Isabella, Risorgimento in exile cit., and C. Duggan, Gran Bretagna e Italia nel Risorgimento, in Banti and Ginsborg (eds), Storia d’Italia. Annali 22. Il Risorgimento cit., pp. 777–796. 15  M.  O’Connor, The Romance of Italy and the English Imagination, Macmillan, London, 1998.

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mobilisation. Ad hoc committees and associations, public meetings and conferences, subscriptions and petitions multiplied and attracted a large, socially articulate audience not only in large urban centres.16 The fact that in the 1850s and 1860s, the media revolution whose beginnings we outlined in the previous chapters experienced rather substantial progress was certainly part of these developments. In the major European countries, modern mass publishing began to assert itself, diversified in terms of themes and target audience, while the practice of illustration, almost experimental in the previous decades, became usual, cheaper and widespread. At the same time, the forms and opportunities of popular entertainment expanded, becoming increasingly recognisable compared to educated entertainment production, and open to current events, including politics. The complex media trajectory of the hero Garibaldi perfectly shows how, after 1848, the Italian cause even acquired the profile of an event for collective entertainment, obscuring most of the other national causes and heralding the unusual coverage granted by the international media to his Expedition of the Thousand to Sicily. In French public opinion, empathy for the Italian cause was more nuanced and articulated because it was flanked by a consistent line of Catholic-traditionalist opinion describing the Roman republic as the realm of revolutionary and murderous terrorism.17 There too, however, in the 1850s, there was a marked increase of media interest in Italian affairs. Various reasons, intertwined and imbued with national specificities, can contribute to explaining an objectively uncommon dissemination (British anti-Catholic propaganda was certainly one of them). An important, perhaps decisive role, however, was also played by its communicative features, which revealed a peculiar ability of the Italian question to emotionally stimulate the imagination of European public opinion, bringing us back to its strong melodramatic power. The media coverage that it achieved was undoubtedly linked to the opportunity to use both the well-established 16  Elena Bacchin has traced an impressive number of public debates on the Italian question held in Great Britain between 1847 and 1864. The number of participants varied, but in some cases was over a thousand people (Il Risorgimento oltremanica. Nazionalismo cosmopolita nei meetings britannici di metà Ottocento, in “Contemporanea”, 2, 2011, pp. 173–202). 17  On France, see P. Finelli and G. L. Fruci, “Que votre révolution soit vièrge”. Il “momento risorgimentale” nel discorso politico francese, in Banti and Ginsborg (eds), Storia d’Italia. Annali 22. Il Risorgimento cit., pp. 747–776.

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channel of the world press, which in the 1850s cast a firm gaze on what was happening in Italy,18 and the new media, recently entered into common use. These were visual media, such as periodicals and illustrated books, lithographs and loose prints, the optical shows of the so-called pre-­ cinema, or the increasingly fashionable popular literature, the serialised biographical dictionaries of illustrious men or “famous contemporaries”, and finally the reproduction of objects, medallions and gadgets with a political appeal. Using these old and new means for the dissemination of Risorgimento images and bywords, activists could count on a narrative device with well-­ tested effectiveness, capable of making it immediately accessible to a large and not necessarily cultured audience. In other words, Italy became, in a compact even if variously modulated narrative, the innocent victim of outrageous and barbaric persecution by some governments—the Austrian, pontifical and Bourbon—which recognised neither the most elementary rules of justice, nor of human mercy, raging most arbitrarily and wickedly against individuals (but representing an entire people) in an objective state of weakness. On the basis of a melodramatic narrative such as this, a great number of voices of Italian exiles and foreign sympathisers, and many fictional and journalistic text formats contributed to building instances of real collective indignation.19 The support and sympathy of numerous literary celebrities (in England the Carlyles, the Brownings, Charles Dickens and Algernon Charles Swinburne; in France celebrities such as Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo) favoured and supported media campaigns in which the images of very different Italian figures of heroes gained unusual and sometimes surprising fame: the paradigmatic, adventurous and romantic Garibaldi; the more ascetic and feared Mazzini; or the apparently less attractive Daniele Manin, the bourgeois but no less heroic figure at the centre of Venice’s republican experience, who enjoyed enormous popularity in France.20 18  See F. Cammarano and M. De Marchi (eds), Il mondo ci guarda. L’unificazione italiana nella stampa e nell’opinione pubblica internazionali (1859–1861), Le Monnier, Florence, 2011. 19  On the British context, see the many examples in the final chapter of E.  Bacchin, Italofilia. L’opinione pubblica britannica e il Risorgimento (1847–1864), Comitato di Torino dell’Istituto per la Storia del Risorgimento italiano, Carocci, Turin, 2014. 20  G. L. Fruci, “Un contemporain célèbre”. Ritratti e immagini di Manin in Francia fra rivoluzione ed esilio, in M.  Gottardi (ed.), Fuori d’Italia: Manin e l’esilio, Ateneo Veneto, Venice, 2009, pp. 129–155.

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The emotion of exiles was also strongly encouraged by the proliferation of such pro-Italian views. Thus, Giuseppe Montanelli, who was in France, admitted with some abandon that he saw “with ineffable gratification displayed on the streets of Paris the portraits of our warriors and not only those of our singers; and my heart beats faster when a Parisian labourer stops before the image of Garibaldi, and gazes at it moved and with admiration”.21 No longer just opera voices aroused the curiosity for Italy of a large and socially varied international audience, but some of the most unfortunate heroes of the Risorgimento, in particular the designated victims of its persecutors’ barbarism: Carlo Poerio in the Bourbon prisons, the subject of a sensational political denunciation by William Gladstone (1851)22; Jacopo Ruffini, portrayed by his brother Giovanni in the novel Lorenzo Benoni, a true Victorian best seller (1853)23; Felice Orsini, who with the booklet Austrian Dungeons (1856) and then with Memoirs and Adventures (1857) gained great popularity in England, offering extremely crude images of the Italians’ suffering.24 These were different cases, but united in their portrayal of the same story of degradation and violation of freedom, insisting on the summary nature of trials, on the injustice of the confiscation of the patriots’ property, on the inhumanity of the conditions of detention. All these reports conveyed and developed the idea, already advanced in the 1820s in the face of Silvio Pellico’s case and then expressed many times by Mazzini’s followers, that Italy did not represent a specific geopolitical problem, but the very cause of humanity, in whose favour it was necessary to fight against the wickedness of governments, their barbaric practices (the beatings, tortures and the inhuman places of detention), the iniquity of judicial systems. “To benefit Italy is to benefit the whole of humanity”—wrote a sympathizer to Mazzini in 1842—because “for a very long time I have firmly believed that justice is the basis of all rights and

 Montanelli, Opere politiche 1847–1862 cit., p. 21.  For a summary of the event and the text of the letters, see M.  G. Gajo, Le lettere di Gladstone ad Aberdeen, in “Rassegna storica del Risorgimento”, LIX, 1973, 4, pp. 32–47. 23  A.  C. Christensen, A European Version of Victorian Fiction. The Novels of Giovanni Ruffini, Rodopi, Amsterdam-Atlanta, 1996. 24  F.  Orsini, The Austrian Dungeons in Italy, Constable, Edinburgh, 1856; and Id., Memoirs and Adventures, Constable, Edinburgh, 1857. 21 22

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therefore I have concluded that the Italian cause is but a consequence of the humanitarian one”.25 Needless to say, these were important principles, which show how the events of the Risorgimento were intertwined with wider and more crucial processes of recognition of human rights. But what we want to emphasise here is how this political discourse developed into more or less adventurous but always highly melodramatic stories, where the pathos of suffering was followed by the exposure of injustice and the recognition of the courage and self-denial of an entire people. The grip on the public of campaigns of this type must have been quite strong if, for example, in England, a truly impressive number of people were mobilised in meetings and subscriptions in favour of the Italian cause. The melodramatic style, practised with such force in 1848’s patriotic communication, could now also be applied to very different and even radically opposed political narratives, specifically anti-Risorgimento ones. In the early 1850s, the counter-revolutionary front, in fact, could already count on distribution circuits and on mobilisation networks on an international scale, as well as on its own counter-narratives.26 If not the most significant, certainly the most melodramatic of them because it came from a real specialist of the genre, was the one proposed in 1850 by the Viscount d’Arlincourt, who after some very successful novels had earned the appellation of the French Walter Scott. L’Italie rouge tells the story of his journey through post-revolutionary Italy, from Genoa to Sicily. But it was also the story, as he declared at the beginning, of the sad spectacle of the decline of a great nation, where socialism could be said to be one step away from triumph. Many episodes are described in a counter-­revolutionary key, but from our point of view, the narration of one of the salient episodes of the Sicilian 1848, the siege of Messina by the Bourbon troops who sought to recapture the city fallen into the hands of the insurgents is noteworthy for its almost literal melodramatic style. Both the narrative sequence and the images used are in fact entirely similar and as crude as those we have seen used by Felice Govean in his booklet on the siege of Ancona, only reversed in terms of the identification of the virtuous (the 25  Lettera anonima a Mazzini da Smirne, reproduced in Ricordi dei fratelli Bandiera e dei loro compagni di martirio in Cosenza, Genoa 1846, p. 11. 26  See the case studied by S.  Sarlin, Fighting the Risorgimento: Foreign Volunteers in Southern Italy (1860–63), in “Journal of Modern Italian Studies”, XIV, 2009, 4, pp. 476–490.

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besiegers) and the wicked (in this case, the besieged). The revolutionaries barricaded in the city are described as brutal destroyers and even cannibals, apt to mutilate the bodies of their enemies and eat them raw on bread27; even the commander of the Bourbon army, a heroic and loyal fighter, lost two sons in the assault, barbarously killed by the revolutionaries. The example confirms the extreme pervasiveness and flexibility of a narrative modality that had developed at the turn of the century, first of all in theatres and consumer literature, and had proved perfectly apt to arouse immediate indignation, disgust and empathy not only among spectators and readers looking for entertainment, but also among those who approached, perhaps for the first time, the complex questions of national politics. The group of Jesuits who founded the journal “La Civiltà cattolica” in Naples in 1850 must have perfectly understood this, entrusting Father Antonio Bresciani, already the author of instructive and ethnographic works, with the task of including in the magazine fictional stories with a reactionary reading of the recently ended revolution through the exploits of invented characters.28 The objective was clear: to use the means of adventurous narration, moreover in feuilleton format, until then abhorred as a corruptor of the youngest and most fragile minds, to bring young people and women back to the teachings of the Catholic religion. It was an indirect but very explicit recognition of the effectiveness that those narratives had shown as instruments of political mobilisation on the liberal front. The three novels by Bresciani, which followed one another in the appendix to the magazine between 1850 and 1851, in fact used all the canonical devices of the melodramatic style to narrate almost with the tones of biblical prophecy the revolutionaries’ thirst for hatred and destruction, clearly emerging from their bloodthirsty faces. So the characters of L’ebreo di Verona (The Jew from Verona), a  reversed clone of Eugène Sue’s well-known novel, wandered in Naples in May 1848, on the eve of the uprisings that would deeply shake the city, and were confronted by “the shady and ferocious faces of conspirators who turned rooms upside down in order to bar the windows, ripping out doors and hatches and 27  Le Vicompte D’Arlincourt, L’Italie rouge ou histoire des révolutions de Rome, Naple, Palerme, Messine, Florence, Parme, Modène, Turin, Milan, Venise, Allouard et Kaeppelin, Paris, 1850, pp. 266 et seq. 28  V. Titoni, La rivoluzione del Risorgimento in Padre Bresciani, in “Rassegna storica del Risorgimento”, XXXIX, 1952, 4, pp.  814–817; E.  Picchiorri, La lingua dei romanzi di Antonio Bresciani, Aracne, Rome, 2007.

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even removing mattresses from under the sick” in true devastating fury. In the midst of “that horrible juncture”, the good people obviously quivered with fear, all the more so the many defenceless people involved, given that “the houses were full of weak and infirm old men, fearful young girls, boys, children, of shy, nursing, pregnant or sick women”, all swept away by the murderous fury of the patriots.29 This device had been so well understood and internalised that the melodrama of the nation could easily be turned into its opposite.

A Melodramatic Risorgimento: From Museums to Early Cinema The melodramatic Risorgimento, with its theatrical feathered hats, halberds and swords, did not seem to disappear. In fact, before and above all after unification, it invaded the literary and theatrical production devoted to narrating its epic, as well as the prolific martyrologic genre already started in 1848 with the work of Atto Vannucci, a gallery of stories of suffering and sacrifice based on the device already identified several times, the recognition of virtue synchronised with the exposing of disgrace.30 In the unanimous and performative version that had characterised 1848, the melodrama of the nation then returned to the forefront in the 1880s, when it became the heart of the pedagogical idealisation of the Risorgimento epic which developed in the cultural policies of Francesco Crispi’s Italy. Studies agree that the decade was a crucial moment of rethinking and memorial reuse of the complex events that led to national unification. The goal was a cultural nationalisation that seemed to require both more effective tools of patriotic education extended to new sections of the population and a more inclusive reading of the recent events, through a sort of conciliation between the different contributors to the founding process, those who followed the moderate project and those who referred to the 29  A. Bresciani, L’ebreo di Verona. Racconto storico dall’anno 1846 all’anno 1849, Tipografia Arcivescovile, Milan, 1855, vol. II, p. 13. 30  Roberto Balzani has highlighted perfectly how from 1848 onwards Mazzini’s pantheon of martyrs, hitherto clandestine and highly inclusive, became an important and highly effective communicative part of the Risorgimento public discourse. Many later martyrologists closely followed that original model, expanding it in many editions in post-unification Italy (see Alla ricerca della morte utile. Il sacrificio patriottico nel Risorgimento, in O. Janz and L. Klinkhammer (eds), La morte per la patria. La celebrazione dei caduti dal Risorgimento alla Repubblica, Donzelli, Rome, 2008, pp. 3–22).

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democratic tradition.31 The particular sensitivity expressed towards the Risorgimento themes by men of the historical Left now in government, in many cases former supporters of Mazzini or Garibaldi, went in this direction, as well as occasional factors such as the rapid disappearance of the main protagonists of those events; and for deeper but less tangible reasons, such as the spread of a feeling of moral crisis in the country that would require a return to high, shared values. All this contributed to stimulate, in the cultural debate as well as in local and central politics, an effort to consolidate the memory of the nation’s Risorgimento in a new, pacified form, codifying its political and symbolic reading much more than its historical one. The exhibitions in the first museums of the Risorgimento are some of the most relevant opportunities to enhance and disseminate the myth of the Risorgimento, in that they were forms of staging the recent past particularly useful for the patriotic literacy of new generations.32 In the museum collections inaugurated in many cities in the decades between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, narrative and melodramatic register thus returned to the foreground, with a clear and entirely appropriate objective to the device itself: to strike the collective imagination, moving visitors and arousing immediate support for such heroic and sacrificial events through strong emotional impulses and often deliberately gory and macabre images. The operation was rather easy to carry out, since it did nothing but recover the melodramatic narrative of the nation, as it had imposed itself during the 1830s and 1840s, enriching its contents and updating its forms. Lastly, a shared narrative of the Risorgimento events was proposed, whose protagonists, be they moderate or democrats, federalists or neo-Guelphs, were united by the same objective of liberation from foreign oppression 31  The articulation in terms of civil pedagogy of the Risorgimento myth has been the subject of several studies that have provided a timely and detailed reconstruction. See U. Levra, Fare gli italiani. Memoria e celebrazione del Risorgimento, Comitato di Torino dell’Istituto per la Storia del Risorgimento italiano, Torino, 1992; Il mito del Risorgimento nell’Italia unita, numero speciale di “Il Risorgimento”, XLVVII, 1995, 1–2; Pédagogie et liturgie nationale dans l’Italie postunitaire, in “Mélanges de l’École française de Rome”, 109, 1997. The multi-faceted trajectory of the myth has been well described by M. Baioni, Risorgimento conteso. Memorie e usi pubblici nell’Italia contemporanea, Diabasis, Reggio Emilia, 2009. 32  See M.  Baioni, La “religione della patria”. Musei e istituti del culto risorgimentale (1884–1918), Pagus, Treviso, 1994, and S.  Montaldo, Celebrare il Risorgimento. Collezionismo artistico e memorie familiari a Torino, 1848–1915, Comitato di Torino dell’Istituto per la Storia del Risorgimento italiano, Carocci, Turin, 2013.

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and by a history made up of heroism, sacrifice and martyrdom for the nation. In the locations of the secular cult of the homeland and in the material objects exhibited there, it was thus possible to encounter a sort of symbolic condensation of the two key aspects that had created the nation’s melodrama and on whose co-existence the effectiveness of the story was founded: the patriots’ humiliation and the full recognition of their virtue, the suffering of their sacrifice and, at the same time, the liberation of their homeland. The combination of these elements materialised in the museum display of a series of memorabilia made significant by their being tangible—books, documents and newspapers, but above all blood-stained clothes, remains of uniforms, feathered hats, locks of hair, “political” snuff boxes, flags, rosettes—objects often coming from patriotic collections imbued with fetishism belonging to the veterans themselves. In the museums of the Risorgimento, as many inaugural speeches stated, the narration thus impinged on the memory of the “painful servitude” and on the affirmation of the “glorious redemption”, finding in this inseparable combination of circumstances a reconciled and edifying view. In the meantime, other means contributed to spreading the same image of the recent past through the society of the period: new commemorative practices and celebratory spaces33; popular biographies of its great protagonists34; an endless occasional production proliferating during civil celebrations and patriotic ceremonies35; anthologies of texts such as Letture del Risorgimento italiano (Readings from the Italian Risorgimento), chosen and introduced by Giosuè Carducci (1896); and historiography itself, charged with consolidating the ecumenical vision of events in works such as Francesco Bertolini’s Storia del Risorgimento italiano (History of the Italian Risorgimento), published by Treves in 1888, or the monumental Storia critica del Risorgimento italiano (Critical History of the Italian Risorgimento) by Carlo Tivaroni, which appeared in nine volumes between 1887 and 1897. Massimo Baioni has shown how such an operation of civil pedagogy, not too difficult in itself since it recovered existing images and narrations, was actually destined to meet many obstacles in Italy at the end of the 33  B.  Tobia, Una patria per gli italiani. Spazi, itinerari, monumenti nell’Italia unita (1870–1900), Laterza, Rome-Bari, 1991. 34  C. Ceccuti, Le grandi biografie popolari nell’editoria italiana del secondo Ottocento, in Il mito del Risorgimento cit., pp. 110–123. 35  F. Dolci, L’editoria d’occasione del secondo Ottocento nella Biblioteca di storia moderna e contemporanea di Roma, ivi, pp. 124–148.

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century, when the conflicts between the various sides in the Risorgimento were far from dormant, and, in fact, intertwined with new political articulations and new social conflicts. Thus, at the turn of the century, the pedagogical, unanimous and sentimental paradigm that had presided over the creation of the first museums caused bitter controversies on at least two fronts. On a scientific level, it began to be contested by those who called for a more detached, less oleographic reconstruction, more mindful of an accurate documentary reconstruction of events. On a political one, it was the object of tearing symbolic conflicts between the official reading of events and a reading that wanted to be radically alternative, democratic and republican, endowed with its own symbols and heroes and different from the monarchical and moderate paths.36 In town halls at the end of the century, these conflicts were linked above all to town celebrations, such as the choices of new place names, the construction of monuments to the great people of the homeland and the placement of commemorative plaques in urban spaces. The harshness of this opposition became clear in 1898, the fiftieth anniversary of the 1848 revolution, when separate demonstrations and processions were organised in many towns and references opposed (Napoleon III against Mazzini, Cavour against Pisacane) in a commemorative antagonism that would continue to mark the history of united Italy for a long time.37 Despite this, even the reconciled narrative found its own effective trajectories of affirmation and the first museums were a good example of this, a real sum of Risorgimento melodrama with a virtually shared profile. They were certainly not the only one, however, if we also consider popular literature, theatre38 and, in Giolitti’s era, early cinema, which drew much from the events of the Risorgimento. As far as literature is concerned, there is no doubt that the Libro Cuore (Heart Book), the unsurpassed outcome of a secular, more solidal nationalising effort, best expressed Crispi’s  Baioni, Risorgimento conteso cit., pp. 43–46.  On the problem of separate allegiance in Italian history, see L. Di Nucci and E. Galli della Loggia (eds), Due nazioni. Legittimazione e deligittimazione nella storia dell’Italia contemporanea, Il Mulino, Bologna, 2003; for a European analysis, see F.  Cammarano and S. Cavazza (eds), Il nemico in politica. La delegittimazione dell’avversario nell’Europa contemporanea, Il Mulino, Bologna, 2010. 38  See T. Bertilotti, Un dramma “concepito come un romanzo d’appendice”. Traduzioni del Risorgimento sulle scene della Grande guerra, in C. Sorba (ed.), Il secolo del teatro. Spettacoli e spettacolarità nell’Ottocento europeo, special issue of  “Memoria e ricerca”, 29, 2008, pp. 101–122. 36 37

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version of the national melodrama. Its spectacularly emotional structure has been correctly underlined by Folco Portinari, who has identified two of its distinguishing factors, for example, its “tenor-like prose” and linguistic register entirely marked by exclamatory intonations.39 But its melodramatic nature is deeper and is expressed first of all in proposing with conviction and narrative effectiveness a view of the nation based on strength of sentiments, never fearful of their possible excess. In fact, as Gilles Pécout has recently stated, it is based around an aesthetics of the heart played on the unbreakable bond between sentimental impulse and morality that the family and the school were in charge of passing on to the new generations of Italians.40 In Edmondo De Amicis’ school stories, as in the edifying monthly stories mostly devoted to Risorgimento conflicts, good and evil are absolute and constantly opposed values. Pupils Franti and Nobis’ pure malice is counterbalanced by Garrone and De Rossi’s model, unblemished goodness. Both are immediately legible in their physical characterisations, as in any self-respecting melodramatic body. Franti’s murky eyes and low forehead, his invariably vile smiles, Precossi’s, “the blacksmith’s son”, good, sad eyes, De Rossi’s blond curls on his high forehead show us with absolute immediacy the connection between a character’s appearance and moral profile. At the same time, the narrative device recurring most frequently to solve the plot, in reports of both current and Risorgimento events, was as usual the final revelation of virtue. In the story of the little Florentine copyist who, unbeknown to anyone, gets up at night to complete his father’s work, and, even more, in that of the Sardinian drummer boy who, with patriotic obstinacy, drags his injured leg on the battlefield of Custoza in order to take his message to the rescuers, what keeps readers glued to these stories is exactly what had been observed by the spectators of the first mélo: unrewarded and never exhibited sacrifice, revealed only in extremis by circumstances. The extreme cruelty perpetrated against the young patriot from Padua, sold to travelling acrobats, kicked and beaten up, deprived of food, yet capable of refusing with all his Italian pride the help of those who offend his country, reproduces the most classic melodramatic plots and arouses equally, immediate empathy and emotion. 39  F. Portinari, La maniera di De Amicis. Introduzione a E. De Amicis, Opere scelte, edited by F. Portinari and G. Baldissone, Mondadori, Milan, 1996. 40  G. Pécout, Le Livre Coeur: éducation, culture et nation dans l’Italie libérale, afterword to E. De Amicis, Le Livre Coeur, Éditions de l’Ens, Paris, 2001.

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Although its critics immediately blamed it for its excessive sentimentality and pathos, the extraordinary editorial success of the book is well known: it sold over three hundred thousand copies within a few years and was translated into twenty-five different languages. Its highly successful publication is clear evidence of the new dissemination opportunities that the patriotic message, in its most melodramatic version and in the forms of popular literature, enjoyed at the end of the century. These new opportunities were even more evident in early cinema, recognised today as the most legitimate heir of the ancient mélodrame. Its representation of the nation’s mélo was extraordinarily effective, thanks to the unique opportunity to reproduce the mimic and gestural emphasis, capable of expressing the true paroxysm of passions, which had been one of the original pantomimic ingredients, and which characterised the acting style of silent films.41 In this case, then, the potential for dissemination and reproduction was much greater, given the extremely fast and timely proliferation of the first cinemas in Giolitti’s Italy.42 Once again melodrama became the key modality of an educational story of national history. In the sixty films set during the Risorgimento released between 1905 and 1927 and recently surveyed,43 the most frequent typology was not “reconstructed current affairs”, newsreels of the past as had been the first great success of film-making about the Risorgimento (La presa di Roma—The Taking of Rome, a narration in images of the battle of 20 September 1870); nor the great heroic biographies, which also appeared to outline the figures of the fathers of the homeland. Far more numerous were edifying historical dramas telling the exploits of anonymous invented characters, including many children, old people, defenceless women, common people displaying heroism and being true models of virtue.44 The difficult cinematic staging of large-scale military events made a choice of this kind almost obligatory, thus literally recalling 41  In silent films there was a recurrence of the body semiotics that had first appeared as a narrative in the mélo; see J. Bratton, J. Cook, C. Gledhill (eds), Melodrama. Stage, Picture, Screen, British Film Institute Publishing, London, 1994. 42  G. P. Brunetta, Il cinema muto italiano. Da “La presa di Roma” a “Sole”. 1905–1929, Laterza, Rome-Bari, 2008. 43  See G. Lasi and G. Sangiorgi (eds), Il Risorgimento nel cinema italiano. Filmografia a soggetto risorgimentale 1905–2010, Edit, Faenza, 2011. 44  For a recent and up-to-date reading of the relationship between cinema and the Risorgimento, see also G. Ghigi, Il tempo che verrà. Cinema e Risorgimento, Gambier and Keller, Venice, 2011.

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the 1848 narratives we have illustrated. These stories were tearful and pathetic, but also adventurous and full of twists, despite their predictability, with young patriots trying to escape the Austrians’ siege at night to seek help; regardless of enemy fire, they climbed bell towers to signal from above the right direction to be followed by a friendly army; they sacrificed themselves even to adventurously save the flag. In some of these films even truly emblematic figures of classic melodramas reappeared, such as shepherd children, very little suited to a rapidly modernising Italy at the beginning of the century. A 1910 film (Eroico pastorello—Heroic Shepherd Boy), for example, told the story of a young Sicilian boy who joined Garibaldi’s troops and distinguished himself in a series of acts of valour. He was captured and imprisoned by the Bourbon army but managed to escape and, despite being injured, rejoined Garibaldi’s Red Shirts, bringing them decisive information on the enemy’s position. Even more classic in melodramatic terms, was the plot of I Mille (The Thousand) (1912), whose protagonist was a young Sicilian shepherdess who fell in love with, and was loved by, the son of a rich local gentleman. However, he opposed the youngsters’ love in every possible way. Only when the girl distinguished herself in Garibaldi’s ranks by her courage and was praised by Garibaldi himself, did the father of her beloved, also a patriot, willingly agree to their marriage, in an epilogue where the role of villains was strictly confined to the Bourbon troops. The examples of melodramas of the nation offered by Risorgimento cinema were numerous, and were also often taken from literature—from the Libro Cuore first and foremost, but also from Giovanni Ruffini’s Dottor Antonio—and included different episodes and phases of the Risorgimento experience, from the insurrections of the 1820s to the breach of Porta Pia in 1870. In them, however, there was always a strong presence of children who became the privileged public, as well as protagonists, of the first real mass dissemination of the Risorgimento myth.45 Thus, the young hero Peppiniello in Morte bella (A Beautiful Death) (1914) saved his father, a Carbonaro, from execution in Naples in 1820, and the two adolescent protagonists of Stirpe di eroi (Race of Heroes) (1911) gave their lives to defend the Roman Republic.

45  This has been shown by A. Gibelli, Il popolo bambino. Infanzia e nazione dalla Grande guerra a Salò, Einaudi, Turin, 2005.

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To Conclude The variations of the nation’s melodrama in Crispi’s and Giolitti’s times, the decades at the turn of the twentieth century, did not add much to the original elaboration whose origin and traits we have tried to outline. It modernised its means and media, but offered an almost identical narrative, in terms of characters, devices and situations. Melodramatisation, which is a form of all-round sentimentalisation of politics, essentially continued to be the privileged mode of expression of the national discourse in Italy, in a communicative framework where collective emotion was the strongest element of persuasion and mobilisation available to patriotic activism. It is increasingly clear, however (as we have seen for the reactionary narratives after 1848), that the political allegiance of the message could be very different and even have opposite objectives. We have seen how the origins of the device in post-revolutionary Europe and its proliferation in Italian patriotic narratives and practices of the early nineteenth century were closely linked to the construction of a modern political sphere and the emergence of a new public, responding to the first needs to democratise the political message with a belief that was both from the Enlightenment and romantic in the cognitive and mobilising values of emotions (especially if expressed in narrative form). Designed to touch and involve a wider audience than in the past, and to include virtually all sensitive souls, the melodramatic style did not express a specific political meaning. As a modality of feeling but also of experience, the melodramatic style caused reality to be observed, read and acted out starting from an affective reaction that generated a moralising emotion, for example, a strong sense of justice, in an interpretative key that was both sentimental and moral. We have explored its origins and development, closely connected to the beginnings of a cultural production conceived for large and repeated consumption, and we have shown some recurrences in the collective sensibility, focusing on the conflicts for the conquest of national independence of the Italian Risorgimento. In the last chapter, we briefly followed the developments of the nation’s mélo after the key moment of 1848, which represented the peak, and at the same time the beginning of the decline, of a full melodramatisation of the Risorgimento political struggle. From that moment, it represented the main narrative thread of the Risorgimento

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myth, in a trajectory that has long marked school teaching and common sense.46 Quite another matter, which falls outside this discussion, were its developments in different historical times, although clearly the discourse on melodramatic style in politics does not end here. A marked propensity in that direction has crossed and still occasionally crosses the Italian political landscape, to the extent that the news, even from parliament, continues to be filled with betrayals and traitors, structural and serial victims, invective and indignation featuring both a moral and sentimental register, all key and ubiquitous elements of any melodrama. Is this an Italian peculiarity, or one which from the nineteenth century onwards found particularly favourable conditions for development in Italy? Is it a form of political communication with particular developments during later history, not only in relation to the national question? To answer questions of this kind, a different investigation from the one carried out so far would be required, as the present one was based on the idea of ​​precisely situating this particular form of expression and political mobilisation in its exchanges with the media culture of the early nineteenth century. However, it is worth concluding with a mention of what is configuring as a sort of broad and widespread return of melodramatic style in the reality and media landscape of the new millennium. It was precisely this, from a radio host reporting the spectacle of the tricoloured stripes left by the Italian Air Force Aerobatic Team, that started the journey of this book. It has been said that the modern era is one of victims.47 Both in gazing at the past, at the twentieth-century tragedies of genocides and the Shoah, and in gazing at the present and its problems, it is individual and collective victims who monopolise the scene, in a sort of globalisation of suffering with extraordinary possibilities of amplification in the new media. In a public sphere increasingly emotionally uninhibited and increasingly driven by affectivity, narratives centred on suffering seem to prevail, where protagonists are asked to tell their own story of survival by transforming the past into the vivid memory of direct traumatic experiences. 46  It is worth mentioning that the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the unification in 2011 have prompted a rather heated debate on the public use in the form of civil pedagogy of the Risorgimento. See its reading in E. Francia, Il Presidente, lo storico, il comico. Note sul Risorgimento del 150°, in “Contemporanea”, 1, 2013, pp. 145–158. 47  See the reflections in E. Traverso, Il secolo armato. Interpretare le violenze del Novecento, Feltrinelli, Milan, 2012.

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Much has been written about the pathways of a now largely dominant memorial history increasingly controlled by communication professionals and witnesses rather than by professional historians.48 It is in this context that the features of a melodramatic way of reading and experiencing reality are being re-proposed. Ubiquitous emotional excesses, racy ethical extremism and the language of roles and invective imbued with emotions are generating mobilisation phenomena that have been defined as post-­ postmodern. Thomas Elsaesser, a scholar who already in the early 1970s had reflected with great lucidity on the complex, not only fictional pathways of these devices, has recently focused on this return of the melodramatic style.49 Returning to the question, he recalled that melodrama can be read as a re-active and performative experience of the self, opposed and alternative to forms of experience that can be said to be propositive and goal-oriented. The most significant example is represented by current TV communication, which has developed genres that operate precisely on the basis of this device in order to directly mobilise the public’s emotions and affectivity, on the one hand, by insisting on giving victims a voice and, on the other, by soliciting reactions based exclusively on empathy and compassion. The well-known Oprah Winfrey Show, a twenty-five-year-old cult American television show (1986–2011), followed by millions of people and a model format for many other similar programmes, was the first and longest lasting of these shows: a public grandstand from which the female presenter outlined to the television audience cases of abuse and injustice of all kinds, through the direct intervention of the people involved. In this way, the extreme complexity of reality tends to be replaced by a picture dominated by the clash between persecutors and victims, where, however, the latter, as in any melodrama, gain strength from the very hard trials they are subjected to. It is a form of reactive and performative representation, which attempts to offer neither explanations nor solutions to the problems forcefully placed in the spotlight. Does melodramatic style, then, prove to be an imaginative mode perfectly suited to an era 48  For an overview of literature, see the introduction by Franco Benigno (Fare storia al tempo della memoria) in Parole nel tempo. Un lessico per pensare la stori a, Viella, Rome, 2013. 49  T.  Elsaesser, A Mode of Feeling or a View of the World? Family Melodrama and the Melodramatic Imagination Revisited, in E. Degrada (ed.), Il melodramma, Bulzoni, Rome, 2007, pp. 23–68. Elsaesser’s first intervention, published in 1972, was translated into Italian as Storie di rumore e di furore. Osservazioni sul melodramma familiare, in “Filmcritica”, 339–340, 1983, pp. 454–488.

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characterised not only by the end of utopias, but also by a substantial distrust of any possibility of transformation and improvement of reality? Answering that it does would mean closing the book on a truly bleak perspective. Let us say then that reconstructing its historical substance and its early nineteenth-­century trajectory was meant to be a way of probing its nature, its implications and its limits more closely.

A Brief Chronology of the Italian Risorgimento

1796

The French army, commanded by young general Napoleon Bonaparte, invades the Italian peninsula and over the following two years occupies a large part of it. A Republican Triennium opens for a large territory from the north to the south of the peninsula. It is the first phase of elaboration of a national-patriotic discourse in Italy. 1797 With the treaty of Campoformio, France hands the Veneto over to Austria. 1799 The Austrian and Russian offensive leads to the end of the pro-French republics, the return of the sovereigns and harsh repression; numerous anti-republican uprisings break out in various parts of the peninsula. 1800–1814 In 1800, Napoleon returns to Italy and defeats the Austrians; the Napoleonic domination begins: some territories are annexed to France; others become part of kingdoms controlled by the French authorities. 1814 After Napoleon’s defeats in Europe, Lombardy and the Veneto become part of the Habsburg Empire. 1815 The Peace of Paris and the Congress of Vienna establish a new geopolitical order for Italy based on the return of the previous sovereigns and substantial Austrian control. In the North, Piedmont and Liguria (Kingdom of Sardinia) are ruled by the Savoy dynasty; in the South, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies sees the return of the Bourbons; in the centre, the Church State under papal control and some smaller states (Modena, Parma and Tuscany) linked to Austria by alliances are reorganised. (continued)

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 C. Sorba, Politics and Sentiments in Risorgimento Italy, Italian and Italian American Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-69732-7

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(continued) 1820–1821 The world of secret sects, including the Carbonari, gives rise to some attempts at revolution in Naples, Palermo and Piedmont; the intervention of the Austrian troops heralds a phase of severe repression of the sectarian network. 1831 In Emilia, a new attempt at revolution in Modena and in other cities is quashed by Austrian troops. 1831 In Marseille, Giuseppe Mazzini founds the Giovine Italia, a political association aimed at the constitution in Italy of a unitary, independent, republican and democratic state. In the following years, an extensive affiliate network develops in Italy and in Europe. 1843 Piedmontese priest Vincenzo Gioberti publishes Del Primato morale e civile degli Italiani which raises a new opportunity for independence of the peninsula and constitution of a federation of states led by the Pope. It is the so-called neo-Guelph political project. 1843–1845 Three attempts at insurrection inspired by Mazzini’s project fail (in Romagna, Calabria and Rimini). 1846 A new Pope, Pius IX, is elected. The granting of an amnesty for political crimes and some institutional reforms fuels his popularity and Gioberti’s idea of a liberal Pope. 1848 (February) Insurrection breaks out in Palermo and Ferdinand II of Bourbon grants a constitution. He is followed by other rulers: the Pope, the Grand Duke of Tuscany and Charles Albert of Savoy. 1848 (March) Insurrections in Paris and then in Vienna have immediate repercussions on the Italian territories of the Habsburg Empire. The populations of Venice and Milan rise up against the Austrians and provisional governments are formed. At the end of March, Charles Albert of Savoy declares war on Austria and seems to gain the support of the other Italian sovereigns. Numerous regular and volunteer corps set off to support the war effort in Lombardy and the Veneto. 1848 (June–July) The Austrian counter-offensive prevails over the Piedmontese army and Lombardy is back in Austrian hands. 1848–1849 In addition to the Republic of Venice (March 1848), the Roman Republic and a provisional government with democratic leadership in Tuscany are formed (February 1849). Democratic political devices, such as elections with universal male suffrage, are tested in these three places. 1849 Both an attempt by Piedmont to resume the war against Austria and the experience of the Republics end badly. The defeats in war and revolution herald a phase of harshly repressive policies. Piedmont is an exception as it maintains a constitutional government and becomes the destination of many patriots exiled from other Italian states. 1851–1853 Numerous attempts at insurrection made by Mazzini’s followers, in particular in Milan in 1853, fail. (continued)

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(continued) 1855–1856 Piedmont participates in the Anglo-French alliance against Russia in the Crimean war in an effort to get closer to the two European powers in an anti-Austrian strategy. At the Paris Congress, Piedmontese Prime Minister Camillo Cavour brings the Italian question to the attention of Europe. 1857 The Società Nazionale italiana (Italian National Society) is founded with the aim of uniting Italian patriots around the Kingdom of Sardinia. 1858 Secret agreement in Plombières between Victor Emanuel II of Savoy and Napoleon III on a possible military intervention by France alongside the Kingdom of Sardinia in a war against Austria. 1859 Piedmont declares war on Austria, supported by France. The FrancoPiedmontese troops report victories in Lombardy and approach Venice. 1859 (Spring) Popular uprisings in Tuscany, Parma and Modena lead to the formation of provisional governments and plebiscites asking for annexation to the Kingdom of Sardinia. 1859 (July) Napoleon III decides to interrupt the war with the armistice of Villafranca. Lombardy becomes part of Piedmont, while the Veneto remains in Austrian hands. 1860 (March) Elections by limited suffrage are held in the Kingdom of Sardinia, Lombardy, Emilia and Tuscany to form the new Turin Parliament. 1860 (May) Campaign by Garibaldi and his Thousand Troops in Sicily where he defeats the Bourbon forces, travelling up to Naples. 1860 (October–November) Plebiscites calling for the annexation of the regions of southern and central Italy (Marche and Umbria) to the new unified kingdom. 1861 (March 17) Proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy led by Victor Emanuel II of Savoy and first meeting of the new Parliament in the capital Turin. 1866 Alliance with Prussia in a new war against Austria; despite a military defeat, Italy manages to annex the Veneto. 1870 Italian troops enter Rome; Rome and the Lazio region are annexed to the Kingdom of Italy. The Pope retreats into the Vatican State. 1871 The capital is moved to Rome.

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Index1

A A!A!A! (Abel Hugo, Armand Malitourne, and Jean-Joseph Ader), 86 Académie de Musique, 23 Accorsi, M.G., 80n71 Adaptation, 58, 62, 63, 66n33, 71, 72, 72n45, 77, 78, 126n54, 132, 138, 228 Adelphi (Theatre), 32 Agoulhon, M., 210n79 Alessandria, 159, 164, 185n17 Alexander III, Pope, 194, 199 Alfieri, V., 41, 44, 46, 50, 233 Algarotti, F., 41 Allen, J.S., 71 Alonge, R., 230n126 Amari, M., 134, 143 Ambigu Comique (Theatre), 22, 26, 63–65, 68n37, 76, 99, 137 Ancona, 133n9, 163, 164, 208, 216, 248

Anderson, B., 6 Andress, D., 90 Arena (Theatre), 47 Arena del Sole (Theatre), 47 Arezzo, 156 Arlincourt, C.-V. Prévost Viscount d’, 72, 248 Arrivabene, O., 112 Ashley (Theatre), 32 Aspa, M., 137, 138n22 Astbury, K., 93n23 Auber, D.-F.-E., 206n68 Aubigny, R. Stuart Count of Beaumont seigneur d’, 80 Audience, 1, 2, 5, 7, 10, 13, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21, 24, 26, 29, 31–33, 37–40, 43–46, 54, 54n3, 55, 59, 63–66, 73–76, 78, 79, 82, 85, 87, 90, 96, 102n42, 105–129, 155–157, 169, 178, 245–247, 257, 259

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.

1

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 C. Sorba, Politics and Sentiments in Risorgimento Italy, Italian and Italian American Studies, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-69732-7

291

292 

INDEX

Audinot, N.-M., 22, 24 Auger, H., 19n11 Austin, J., 236n139 B Bacchin, E., 245n16, 246n19 Baer, M., 97n32, 179 Baglioni, M., 127 Baioni, M., 251n31, 252 Bakhtin, M., 235 Balbo, C., 3, 114, 133–135, 141, 144, 162, 164, 187, 191 Balilla, 133n9, 146, 151, 152, 154, 155n61, 174, 183, 184, 186, 190, 193, 242 Balzac, H. de, 17, 21n18, 73, 118, 122, 125, 126 Balzani, R., 238, 250n30 Bandiera, brothers, 154, 189, 201 Bandino, G., 127 Banti, A.M., 12, 127, 131, 133, 143 Bara, O., 23n20, 38 Barbaja, D., 48 Barletta (Challenge of), 133, 191 Barni, G., Count, 207 Bastille, 35, 37 Batthyany, family, 113 Bazzoni, G., 110 Bearn, 92 Beaumarchais, P.-A. C. de, 33, 42, 66, 93 Bécu, M.J., Countess Du Barry, 16 Bellamy, T., 207n72 Bellini, V., 80, 81, 113, 225, 228, 228n123 Benda, G., 16n1, 58, 60, 74 Berchet, G., 110n11, 115, 116n26, 118, 142, 174 Bernard, M., 2 Bernard-Griffith, S., 63n24 Berry, M.C.F.L. of Bourbon-Naples, Duchess of, 136

Bersezio, V., 150, 155 Bertoja, G., 230 Bertolini, F., 252 Body/ies, 18, 88, 138, 166, 174, 177–238, 204n63, 249, 254, 255n41 Boilly, L.-L., 21 Bologna, 47, 48n96, 161, 194, 202, 220, 227, 227n120 Bordeaux, 28 Borghese, family, 113 Borgia, C., 127 Borsieri, P., 115 Bosisio, P., 45 Bossoli, C., 217, 218 Bottero, G.B., 151, 157 Boulevard du Temple/ Boulevard du Crime, 16, 17, 21–28, 31, 32, 35, 38, 40, 46, 48, 53, 61, 62, 66, 106 Boulevard theatres, 21, 37, 38, 51, 61n20, 67, 68, 71, 82, 87, 90, 98 Bourdieu, P., 88, 107 Bourdin, P., 35 Boutet, J.M., 63 Brazier, N., 16n2 Brescia, 43, 45, 145, 173, 240 Bresciani, A., 249 Bricchi, M.R., 172 Brigand (s), 225–231 Brofferio, A., 196, 197, 220 Brooks, P., 4–7, 6n9, 6n11, 63n25, 77, 86n6, 93, 95, 139, 168 Browning, R., 246 Brunello, P., 213n84 Buckley, M.S., 93n23 Buckstone, J.B., 79 Buda, 162 Burke, P., 236 Butler, J., 236n139 Byron, G.G., 119, 128, 229, 244

 INDEX 

C Caigniez, L.-C., 69, 77, 79, 80 Calabria, 228 Cammarano, F., 246n18, 253n37 Campardon, É., 16n2 Canonica, L., 47 Cantiran de Boirie, 69 Cantù, C., 110, 120, 121, 126n54, 134, 163, 165, 190, 198, 199, 199n52, 203, 224 Cantù, I., 112, 237 Capuana, L., 243 Carati, C., 165 Carbone, D., 151 Carcano, G., 123 Carducci, C., 217 Carducci, G., 142, 252 Carini, G., 173 Carlyle, T., 246 Castle, T., 235n134 Castronovo, V., 184n14 Cattaneo, C., 3, 167, 220, 238, 242 Cavazza, S., 253n37 Cavour, C. Benso, Count of, 155 Ceccuti, C., 252n34 Censorship, 29, 29n39, 35, 50, 78, 99, 107, 108, 120, 136, 142, 155, 159n74, 178, 180, 210, 243 Cevasco, G.B., 198 Challamel, A., 17, 27 Charle, C., 8n15 Charlemagne, J.-A., 84n2 Charles Albert, King of Sardinia, 168, 180, 181, 184, 186n17, 240 Charles V, Emperor, 184 Chateaubriand, F.-A.-R. de, 9 Chénier, M.-J.-B. de, 33, 35, 42, 46 Chiavistelli, A., 12n25 Ciapparelli, P.L., 230n128 Cicconi, L., 159n73, 214, 222, 224 Cisalpine Republic, 43, 44, 205

293

Cloth/ing, 100, 177, 189, 206–221, 224, 226, 234, 235, 239, 242, 243, 252 Cobianchi, G., 199n51 Coburg (Theatre), 32 Coccia, C., 80 Comédie Française, 16, 84 Comédie italienne / Opéra Comique, 23 Communication/communicator, 1, 2, 4, 7, 10, 13, 13n27, 60, 94, 95n25, 96–98, 104, 117, 120, 123, 145, 146, 157, 172, 187–201, 203, 205, 222, 248, 258, 259 Conati, M., 226, 226n117, 230n128 Consumer culture, 10 Cooper, F., 128 Corbin, A., 179 Correnti, C., 217 Corriere delle Dame, 222, 223, 226 Corriere per le mode, 220 Cosenza, G., 126 Covent Garden (Theatre), 29, 29n38, 66, 97, 179, 229n126 Crispi, F., 250 Croce, B., 136, 140, 140n27 Custoza, 181, 254 Cuvelier de Tyre, J.G.A., 63, 63n26, 64n27, 65 D Daguerre, L.-J.-M., 76 D’Alembert, J.-B., 19, 99n37 Dall’Ongaro, F., 122, 123, 126, 220 Dalmistro, A., 49 Davico Bonino, G., 230n126 David, J.-L., 190 D’Azeglio, M., 123, 127, 143, 187, 190–194, 191n33, 194n40, 196, 200n54

294 

INDEX

D’Azeglio, R., 197, 217 De Amicis, E., 254 De Bonald, L., 68 De Staël, M.me (A.-L.-G. Necker), 105 Debord, G., 7, 7n13, 8 Degli Ardinghelli, T., 127 Denina, C., 143 Dibdin, T., 32 Dickens, C., 9, 229n124, 246 Diderot, D., 1, 15, 17–19, 61, 64, 99n37, 116 Donizetti, G., 81, 126, 225, 226 Donnet, A., 26, 34 Doria, C., 192 Drury Lane (Theatre), 29n38 Du Barry, M.-J. Bécu Countess, 16 Dubois, J.B., 59 Ducange, V., 72, 77, 79n67, 80, 81, 81n73 Ducray-Duminil, F.-G., 64, 92 Dumas, A., 9, 10, 121, 122, 139, 229n124, 246 Durando, G., 194, 196, 200 E Edinburgh, 111, 190, 197 Elsaesser, T., 259, 259n49 Emotion/emotionality, 1–14, 19, 26, 54–62, 69, 74, 75n56, 82, 87, 89–91, 95, 97, 98, 116, 117, 119, 122, 141, 149, 157, 168, 172–174, 188, 202, 203, 205, 206, 237, 243, 247, 254, 257, 259 Engel, J.J., 60, 205, 206 England, 31 Epstein, J., 6n11, 178n3, 179, 209, 209n77 Ernani hat(s), 227, 236, 243

F Fabre d’Églantine, P.-F.-N., 33 Faire, L., 8n16 Farini, L.C., 3, 237, 243 Fashion, 20, 27, 46, 46n93, 57, 78, 92, 102, 113, 121, 206, 208, 211, 213–217, 220–226, 230, 231, 243 Favières, E. de, 80 Feeling(s), 2, 4, 20n14, 55, 56, 58–60, 65, 69, 82, 96, 168, 187, 204n63, 215, 222, 228, 251, 257 Ferente, S., 3n3 Ferrari, C., 145, 173, 175 Ferrario, V., 109, 113 Ferrucci, F., 133, 133n9, 154, 183, 184, 190, 193, 193n39 Feuilleton, 54, 71, 121, 122, 191, 249 Fiction, 5, 14, 35, 55, 56, 92, 95, 96, 105–129, 131–136, 135n17, 139, 142, 172, 190, 193, 200, 204, 236, 243 Fielding, H., 235 Fieramosca, E., 191 Filipowicz, H., 103 Finelli, P., 245n17 Fiorino, V., 8n14 Firpo, L., 198n49 Florence, 113, 121, 133, 143, 144, 155, 186, 187, 192, 220, 221, 236 Folletto, 220 Fontana, A., 153 Foscolo, U., 43, 114–120, 127, 142 Franchi, A., 203n59 Franchini, S., 214n90, 220n102, 221n106 Franci, G., 63n24 Francia, E., 258n46 Franzini. A., 194n40 Frederick I Barbarossa, Emperor, 133, 142, 162

 INDEX 

Frederick II, Emperor, 173 Friedland, P., 34n53, 178n2 Fruci, G.L., 8n14, 240n3, 245n17, 246n20 Fuller, M., 207n72 Furnee, J.H., 9n17 G Gailus, M., 177n1 Gajo, M.G., 247n22 Galdi, M., 45, 46, 142, 160n77 Galeazzo II Visconti, 144 Galli della Loggia, E., 253n37 Gallo, B., 6n9, 63n24 Gammerl, B., 3n3 Garibaldi, G., 149, 154, 158, 189, 192, 204, 217, 224, 243, 245–247, 251, 256 Gariglio, B., 150n53 Gaspard, C., 93n22 Gavazzi, A., 172 Gavinana, 184, 193 Gay, J., 30 Gazzetta Musicale di Milano, 230 Gazzoletti, A., 116, 200 Gender, 9, 21, 98, 214n90, 236n139 Generali, P., 80 Geneva, 187 Genoa, 80, 133n9, 143, 146, 151, 174, 186, 192, 198, 201, 220, 221, 236, 237, 243, 248 Genre (theatrical), 4, 14, 15, 20, 53–82 Geoffroy, J.-L., 91n16 George IV, King of England, 190 Gesture, 12, 18, 25, 37, 50, 58–60, 77, 81, 97, 100, 177, 178, 182, 192, 197, 202, 205, 206, 234, 240 Ghigi, G., 255n44 Ghisalberti, C., 190n29

295

Giacinto di Collegno, 192 Gibelli, A., 256n45 Ginsborg, P., 12 Gioberti, V., 154, 156, 158, 180, 196 Gioia, M., 142, 205 Giovagnoli, R., 196n44 Giovanbattista da Recanati, 127 Giovanni da Procida, 146, 190 Gladstone, W., 247 Gledhill, C., 5n8, 255n41 Gluck, C.W. von, 42 Goethe, J.W. von, 19 Goldhill, S., 8n16 Gomesse, 74, 84 Gonin, F., 114 Gottardi, M., 246n20 Govean, F., 150, 150n53, 151, 153, 155, 155n61, 157–159, 159n74, 164, 169, 248 Grajano d’Asti, 127 Gramsci, A., 125, 128, 129, 172 Grimaldi, J., 32 Grossi, T., 110, 113, 118 Guardenti, R., 230n126 Guerrazzi, F.D., 110, 118, 121, 123n49, 127–129, 143, 156, 172, 190, 193, 193n39, 199 Guido of Biandrate, 163 Gunn, S., 8n16 Guy, E., 7n13 H Hadley, E., 96, 97, 97n31 Hapdé, J.-B., 69 Harden, D., 209n76 Hartog, W.G., 77n62 Hat, 93, 100, 189, 206, 211, 213, 214, 218, 224–226, 228, 231 Hayez, F., 112, 113, 143, 191n33, 226

296 

INDEX

Haymarket, 29, 235 Haywood, I., 166, 167 Hegel, G.W.F., 182n11 Hemmings, F.W.J., 26, 33 Henry VI, Emperor, 144 Hobsbawm, E., 190n28 Hofstetter, G. von, 224 Holcroft, T., 66, 67, 77, 78 Holstein, H., 25n30, 34 Hübner, J.A. von, 148, 206, 206n69, 207, 217, 221 Hudson, J., 158 Huet, M.H., 34n53 Hugo, A., 86 Hugo, V., 82, 86, 88, 93, 123, 226, 229, 246 Hungary, 99, 99n37, 100, 136, 178 Hunt, L., 95 Husman Thomas, G., 225 I Il Caffé, 41, 42 Il Felsineo, 220 The Illustrated London News, 224 Il Mondo Illustrato, 157, 158n70, 182, 185n17, 196, 214, 215, 222, 224 Imbrani, V., 216n95 Ipson, D.L., 229n124 Isabella, M., 244 J Joyce, P., 96 K Karr, D., 179 Keller Company, 113 Kotzebue, A. von, 56, 72, 93

L La Civiltà cattolica, 249 La Concordia, 186, 197, 211, 214 La Farina, G., 143, 163, 210 Lagrave, H., 24 La Guardia Nazionale, 224 La Moda, 222 Lamourette, A.-A., 202 Lampato, F., 222 Landriani, P., 40 La Patria, 155, 161, 237 L’Arlecchino, 146 La Scala (Theatre), 39, 226 La Toletta, 220 Lattanzi, C., 220, 221 Lattanzi, G., 39, 43, 44, 142, 220 Le Chapelier, I.-R.-G., 33 Legnano, Battle of, 142, 144, 146, 154, 169, 191, 194, 200 Le Hir, M.-P., 72, 79n67, 88 Le Vieux, P., 84 Lentasio, 47 Leoncini, A., 165 Leso, E., 169 Lessing, G.E., 17, 18, 44 Lessona, M., 151 Lévi-Strauss, C., 236n137 Lewis, M., 63 Lickl, F.K., 200 Lille, 28 L’Italia musicale, 230 Livorno, 47, 121n42, 188, 240 Lombardy-Veneto, 46, 181, 214 London, 13, 27, 29–32, 36, 39, 61, 66, 66n33, 77, 78, 79n67, 97, 108, 111, 229, 229n126, 230 L’Opinione, 157, 241 Louis XIV, King of France, 23 Lucca, music publisher, 155 Lyceum (Theatre), 32 Lyon, 57, 209 Lyttelton, A., 140

 INDEX 

M Macaulay, T., 134n12 MacFarlane, C., 156, 208, 218 Madrid, 101 Maldini Chiarito, D., 184n14 Mameli, G., 154, 193n38 Mamoli Zorzi, R., 207n72 Manin, B., 2 Manin, D., 155n61, 180, 246 Manno, G., 110n11 Mannori, L., 12n25 Mantaclair, F., 72n45 Mantovani, L., 49 Manzoni, A., 109, 114, 118, 127, 136n17, 139, 153, 172, 191, 191n31 Marais, 24, 89 Maramaldo, F., 127 Marat, J.-P., 209 Marceau, S., 226 Marenco, C., 126 Mario, A., 216 Marrast, A., 182 Marseille, 28 Martin, L., 13n27 Martin, R., 91n16 Marx, K., 182, 182n11 Masaniello (Tomaso Aniello), 183 Masini, A., 172 Maslan, S., 34 Massaroni, A., 229n124 Mass culture, 5, 5n8 Mastriani, F., 121n42 Mayr, S., 80 Mazzini, G., 110n11, 114–120, 122, 123, 125, 126, 128, 129, 140n25, 143, 149, 150n53, 151, 156, 158, 174, 181, 187, 189, 201, 228, 238, 239, 242, 246, 247, 248n25, 250n30, 251, 253 Mazziotti, M., 218n99 Mazzocca, F., 191n32

297

McCalman, I., 29n38 McWilliam, R., 6n10, 98 Media culture, 13, 14, 82, 108, 114, 148, 258 Medici, family, 113, 144 Mee, J., 204n63 Melodrama/mélodrame/ melodramatic, 2, 15n1, 17, 54, 83–129, 131–175, 177, 239 Meloria, Battle of, 192 Mercier, L.-S., 1, 17–19, 19n11, 21, 33, 54, 54n3, 59, 61, 74, 81n73 Meriggi, M., 12n25 Messaggero delle Donne Italiane di Lucca, 221 Messina, 137, 208, 248 Metastasio, P., 58 Metternich, K. von, 148, 206 Meyerbeer, J., 80 Micca, P., 154, 183 Mickiewicz, A., 102 Milan, 6n9, 22, 39–51, 80, 108, 109, 115, 123n49, 137, 144, 146n43, 148, 159n75, 161, 163, 165–167, 174, 180, 184n14, 186, 189n26, 191n31, 202, 203n59, 204, 206, 210, 213, 214n87, 217–222, 220n103, 231, 231n129, 233, 237, 242, 250n29, 254n39 Milizia, F., 41 Minghetti, M., 3 Mittié, J., 64n27 Modena, G., 151 Mollier, J.-Y., 10n21 Moncrieff, W.T., 78 Montaldo, S., 251n32 Montanelli, G., 187, 190, 199, 205, 205n66, 241, 241n6, 247 Montevideo, 149 Montgatz, 99 Montmartre, 37

298 

INDEX

Moody, J., 29n40, 30n41, 70n42, 78 Morality, 19, 36, 44, 55, 80n71, 87–89, 94, 120–122, 125, 213, 254 Moretti, F., 6, 109 Morgan, Lady S., 74, 229 Museum, 3, 27n32, 250–256 Music/musical, 4, 12, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29–31, 31n47, 37, 41, 42, 50, 56–61, 64–67, 69, 77, 78, 80, 82, 111, 114, 116, 120, 124, 128–129, 155, 155n62, 198, 219, 225, 226, 236n137 Mute, 26, 58, 65, 66, 206, 206n68 Mycock, A., 7n12 N Nantes, 28 Naples, 108, 126n54, 137, 138, 147n44, 156, 186, 189, 210, 210n80, 220, 249, 256 Napoleon III, 253 Napoleon, Bonaparte, 148 Narration, 3, 5, 7, 9, 69n38, 93, 102, 104, 110, 131–175, 177, 248, 249, 252, 255 Nasto, L., 184n14, 185n15, 187n21 National/nationalism, 3, 7, 10–14, 35, 36, 43, 44, 50, 66, 77, 93, 98–104, 112–115, 119, 119n39, 120, 125, 128, 131, 132, 133n9, 134, 134n11, 136, 140–143, 145, 146, 148–150, 153, 157, 158, 162, 168, 177–179, 182, 183, 185, 187–191, 193, 194, 197, 199, 201, 208, 211, 216, 218, 219, 221, 222, 224, 225, 231, 234, 236, 241, 244, 245, 249, 250, 254, 255, 257, 258 Naugrette-Christophe, C., 23n22 Niccolini, G., 126, 143

Nice, 145 Nicolet, J.-B., 16, 22, 24 Nodier, C.-E., 80, 90, 91, 91n16, 229 O O’Connor, M., 244 Olympic (Theatre), 32 Opéra (Theatre), Paris, 207 Opera/operatic, 4, 5, 19, 23, 25, 42, 48, 50, 51, 53, 57, 58, 65, 78–82, 80n71, 92, 110, 119, 124n50, 126, 129, 137, 138, 155, 156, 200, 200n54, 210, 217, 217n96, 226–231, 228n123, 229n124, 241, 247 Oratory of Bellarmino, 47 Orphan, 62, 64, 65, 81, 85, 95n28, 127 Orsini, F., 247, 247n24 Orta, D., 184n14, 185n17, 196 Osborne, R., 8n16 Ozouf, M., 91 P Padua, 137, 161, 196, 202, 211, 216, 236, 254 Pallavicini, Marquess, 162 Pallavicino, G., 155n61 Pantomime, 17, 18, 23, 25, 26, 30, 32, 36, 37, 40, 46, 50, 58, 62, 63, 77, 206 Papal State, 180, 184, 201 Paris, 4, 7, 7n13, 9, 13, 16, 16n3, 21–34, 38, 39, 48, 49, 51, 53, 58, 62, 68–70, 68n36, 74, 75n56, 78, 79, 82, 84, 108, 137, 173, 180, 181, 210n79, 213n85, 222, 228, 228n123, 230, 247 Parma, 173, 198, 231, 236 Parterre, 18, 21

 INDEX 

Patriot/patriotism, 102–104, 116, 122, 134, 145, 148, 150, 151, 156, 159n74, 160, 160n77, 168, 173, 174, 183, 188, 192, 196, 199, 201–206, 208, 210, 211, 213, 216–219, 222, 225–231, 233, 234, 236, 239, 243, 247, 250, 252, 254, 256 Pau, 92 Pavesi, S., 226 Pavia, 163 Payne, J.H., 79n67 Pécout, G., 254 Pelayo, 101 Pellico, S., 118, 126, 174, 247 Pepe, G., 216 Pepoli, C., 228 Pera, 218 Performance/performativity, 17, 21, 22, 38, 53, 57, 64, 69, 76, 100, 132, 147, 169, 183, 226, 231–238, 236n137, 241 Perreux, G., 209n78 Petri, R., 3n3 Petrizzo, A., 8n14, 186n20 Peyrot, A., 217n98 Picchiorri, E., 249n28 Piccolo Corriere delle Dame, 220 Pigault-Lebrun, C.-A.-G. Pigault de l’Épinoy, 72, 99 Pindemonte, G., 46, 49, 50 Pisa, 112n15, 192, 242 Pisacane, C., 253 Pius IX, Pope, 3, 154, 165, 180, 181, 184, 186n17, 194, 196, 199, 219, 224, 227–228n120, 240, 242 Pixérécourt, R.-C.-G. de, 48, 53, 61n20, 64–66, 66n33, 68n36, 69–72, 70n40, 74, 75, 75n56, 75n57, 77, 79, 80, 86n6, 88, 91, 91n16, 92, 92n19, 99, 137, 138, 162, 206n68

299

Placco, G., 211 Planché, J.R., 229n126 Poerio, A., 216 Poerio, C., 247 Poland, 102–104 Politics/politicization, 1–14, 33–40, 46, 63, 89, 93–95, 105–129, 142, 150, 157–168, 160n77, 170, 178, 181, 183, 187, 193, 199, 208, 210n79, 239–260 Pomba, G., 153, 170 Pontida, 146, 184, 186, 190, 194, 198, 202 Portinari, F., 254 Potémont, A.M., 28 Provence, 138 Przybos, J., 234n131 Public, 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 16, 16n3, 18, 20, 21n18, 22, 22n19, 25–27, 29–33, 35–37, 41–44, 47, 49, 50, 53, 61, 68, 71, 81n73, 85, 87, 88, 88n12, 91, 94, 102, 105–107, 111, 113–116, 116n27, 119, 123, 124, 128, 143, 146, 149–151, 154, 156, 158, 163, 164, 167–171, 169n101, 180, 183, 184, 186, 203, 209, 231, 241, 242, 244, 245, 245n16, 248, 250n30, 256, 257, 258n46, 259 Public sphere, 7, 11–13, 39, 89, 90, 117, 177–179, 258 R Raclawice, 103 Radcliffe, A., 62, 64, 108, 109, 119, 128, 204 Radetzky, J., 148, 167 Ragone, G., 108 Ranger, T., 190n28 Ranieri, A., 127

300 

INDEX

Ranza, G.A., 44 Rasori, G., 205 Re, C., 47 Reddy, W., 55, 56 Religion, 213, 249 Remondini, Family, 153 Revolution/revolutionary, 3, 4, 7, 12, 20, 21n18, 23n23, 26, 27, 33–36, 34n53, 34n54, 40, 45, 46, 50, 51, 54, 54n3, 63, 72, 83–86, 89–91, 93–95, 93n23, 102–104, 106, 114, 117, 141, 146, 150, 159, 160, 165, 167, 169n101, 171, 173, 174, 177, 179–183, 201, 203, 205, 207, 208, 210, 211, 213n85, 216, 222, 228, 231, 233, 234, 237–241, 245, 248, 249, 253 Rhodes, 99 Riall, L., 149 Ricasoli, B., 186 Ricci, L., 80, 217 Richardson, S., 235 Ricoglitore fiorentino, 227 Ricordi, music publisher, 155 Ridolfi, M., 95, 210n79 Robespierre, M.-F.-I. de, 90, 182 Roccatagliati, A., 80n71 Romani, F., 80, 225 Romantic/romanticism, 8, 51, 60–62, 70n40, 71, 72, 75n57, 81n73, 82, 88, 88n12, 89, 91n16, 107, 110, 115, 117, 118, 126, 135, 166, 167, 183, 204n63, 228, 229, 229n124, 244, 246, 257 Rome, 29n37, 43, 44, 156, 163, 181, 184–186, 189, 193, 194, 201, 202, 217, 224, 233, 236, 239, 241, 255 Romeo, R., 158n71 Rosa, A., 48 Rosa, S., 229

Rossini, G., 50, 80, 81, 107–114, 119, 226 Rosso, S., 6 Roti, C., 126 Rougemont, M. de, 16n3, 38 Rousseau, J.-J., 1, 15n1, 19, 19n13, 20, 20n14, 45, 57, 58, 58n10, 60, 61n20, 74, 203 Rovani, G., 40, 190, 191n30 Ruffini, G., 256 Ruffini, J., 247 Russell, G., 30n42, 36n63 S Sadler’s Well (Theatre), 30n41, 31 Sainte-Beuve, C.A., 121 Sala, E., 2n1, 58, 58n10, 61n20, 81 Salfi, F.S., 40, 42–44, 46, 205 Samuel, M., 102n41 San Salvatore in Xenodochio (Church), 47 Santangelo, G.S., 80n70 Santa Radegonda (Theatre), 47 Savoy, family, 138 Schiller, F., 17, 19, 44, 72, 119, 151, 228, 229 Schlegel, A.W., 60, 61, 119 Scott Douglas, V., 199n51 Scott, Jane, 30n41 Scott, W., 9, 10, 72, 72n45, 81, 107–114, 116, 119, 120, 134–136, 134n12, 135n17, 142, 143, 183, 190, 190n28, 196, 197, 228 Scribe, E., 70, 71 Sedaine, M.-J., 33 Segurana, C., 145, 151 Sensibility, 2, 6, 7, 55, 59–62, 90, 100, 151, 167, 202, 203, 220, 257 Sentiment, 90, 94, 100, 120, 168, 213, 239–260

 INDEX 

Sestan, E., 133n9 Sgard, J., 63n24 Shakespeare, W., 72 Siccardi, G., 159 Sicily, 144, 146, 154, 156, 180, 181, 245, 248 Siege, 84, 99, 100, 133, 142, 159–168, 181, 248, 256 Sismondi, J.-C.-L. de, 62, 133, 134, 140, 142–144, 164, 193 Soldani, S., 133 Spada, G., 241n5 Spaziani, M., 80n70 Spectacle, 1, 7–11, 33, 181, 192, 208, 233, 236, 237, 248, 258 Spectacularity, 8n16, 67, 78, 87, 112 Spectator/spectatorship, 2, 9, 14, 19, 22, 22n19, 24, 26, 35, 39, 42, 55, 75, 91, 110, 111, 137, 249, 254 Spellanzon, C., 213n87 Squarzina, L., 91n18 Starobinski, J., 19n13 Steele, S., 102 Sterbini, P., 233, 234 St-Germain Fair, 16 Sue, E., 9, 118, 121, 121n42, 122, 249 Surrey (Theatre), 32 Swinburne, A.C., 246 T Tacke, C., 178n5 Teatro Argentina, Rome, 156, 201 Teatro Contavalli, Bologne, 47 Teatro del Corso, Bologne, 47 Teatro del Fondo, Naples, 138 Teatro Fiando, Milan, 47 Teatro Grande, Brescia, 45, 200 Teatro Regio, Parme, 114, 232 Tenca, C., 123, 123n48, 125, 220

301

Terni, J.L., 185n17 Théâtre de la Gaité, 16, 65 Théâtre de la Nation, 63 Théâtre de la Porte St-Martin, 92 Théâtre de l’Impératrice, 37 Théâtre des Associés/ Patriotique, 27 Théâtre des Délassements Comique, 25n28, 27 Théâtre des Grands Danseurs du Roi/ Théâtre de la Gaité, 16, 65 Théâtre des Variétés Amusantes, 27 Théâtre Français, 23, 37 Theatrical/theatricality, 2, 4, 15–17, 17n5, 20, 23, 23n22, 25, 27, 30–34, 36–39, 38n70, 41–46, 48–50, 53–85, 87–91, 91n18, 93–95, 93n23, 97, 98, 101, 102, 104, 107, 112, 115, 125, 128, 151, 159, 178n2, 179–183, 185, 199–201, 205, 206, 210, 220, 221, 225, 226, 228–232, 235, 236, 238–242, 250 Thérenty, M.-E., 13n27 Thierry, A., 134n12 Thököly, I., 99 Thomasseau, J.-M., 68n36, 75n57 Tilly, C., 179, 179n8 The Times, 149 Titoni, V., 249n28 Tivaroni, C., 252 Tobia, B., 252n33 Tocqueville, A. de, 181, 182, 182n10 Tollebeeck, J., 141n30 Tommaseo, N., 136n17, 180 Translation, 2, 42, 46, 60n18, 61n20, 66n33, 77, 77n62, 80, 86n6, 93, 101, 108, 109, 120, 121, 133, 137, 138, 205, 228 Transnational/transnationality, 4, 8, 12, 21, 77–82, 171, 244 Trieste, 47, 122, 200 Trifone, P., 170n105, 171

302 

INDEX

Turin, 80, 150–153, 155, 157, 161, 173, 184, 184n14, 186, 187n23, 190n29, 196, 197, 200, 210, 210n81, 211, 211n82, 214, 216, 217, 220, 236, 256n45 Turner, V., 235, 236, 236n139 Tuscany, 133n9, 180, 181, 185, 192, 199, 202, 236, 240 U Uboldo of Villareggio, A., 217 United States, 102 V Vaillant, A., 13n27 Valcour, P., 25 Valerio, L., 155, 187, 190, 197, 198, 198n49, 211 Valladares de Sotomayor, A., 101 Vanderbroek, O., 64n27 Vannucci, A., 250 Varese, C., 110, 110n11, 111, 134 Venayre, S., 13n27 Venice, 43, 44, 48, 49, 80, 115, 137, 148, 158, 161, 180, 181, 186, 195, 211n84, 213, 216, 224, 226, 227, 246 Venturi, F., 198n49 Verdi, G., 114, 156, 200, 207, 226, 229–231, 230n128, 241 Verga, M., 140 Vernon, J., 96 Veronese, P., 207, 221

Verri, A., 42 Viale Ferrero, M., 230, 230n127 Viarengo, A., 198n49 Victim, 4, 40, 62, 66, 67, 74, 85, 97, 104, 144, 162, 168, 186, 246, 247, 258, 259 Vincent-Buffault, A., 204n62 Vinti, C., 80n70 Violence, 3, 41, 147, 159–168, 175 Virlogeux, G., 187n23 Virtue, 3, 4, 16, 18, 29, 33, 41, 42, 56, 58, 60, 64, 65, 75, 80n71, 82, 85, 88–90, 100, 104, 115, 122, 123, 126–128, 137, 147, 149, 160, 168, 173, 194, 203, 204, 250, 252, 254, 255 Visconti Venosta, G., 217, 242 Voigt, J., 144 Volpi, A., 241n5 Voltaire (F.-M. Arouet), 18 Vorstadttheater, 32 W Walpole, H, 63 Werner, Z., 72 White, H, 135, 135n16 Wild, N, 26n31 Winston, J., 30n42 Worrall, D., 20n16 Z Zavala y Zamora, G. de, 101 Zeno, A., 58 Zola, É., 243