Alessandro Manzoni: Wikis


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Alessandro Francesco Tommaso Manzoni

Born 7 March 1785(1785-03-07)
Milan, Italy1
Died 22 May 1873 (aged 88)
Milan, Italy
Occupation Poet, novelist
Genres lyric, tragedy, novel, essays
Literary movement Romantic
[ Official website]

Alessandro Francesco Tommaso Manzoni (March 7, 1785 – May 22, 1873) was an Italian poet and novelist.[1] He is famous for the novel The Betrothed, one of the major works of Italian literature.



Manzoni was born in Milan, Italy, on March 7, 1785. Pietro, his father, aged about fifty, belonged to an old family of Lecco, originally feudal lords of Barzio, in the Valsassina. The poet's maternal grandfather, Cesare Beccaria, was a well-known author, and his mother Giulia had literary talent as well.[2]

Alessandro Manzoni was a slow developer, and at the various colleges he attended, he was considered a dunce. At fifteen, however, he developed a passion for poetry, and wrote two sonnets of considerable merit. Upon the death of his father in 1805, he joined his mother at Auteuil, and spent two years mixing with the literary set of the so-called "ideologues", philosophers of the 18th century school, among whom he made many friends, notably Claude Charles Fauriel. There too he imbibed the anti-Catholic creed of Voltairianism, and only after his marriage, under the influence of his wife, did he exchange it for a fervent Catholicism.

In 1806–1807, while at Auteuil, he first appeared before the public as a poet, with two pieces, one entitled Urania, in the classical style, of which he became later the most conspicuous adversary, the other an elegy in blank verse, on the death of Count Carlo Imbonati, from whom, through his mother, he inherited considerable property, including the villa of Brusuglio, thenceforward his principal residence.

Manzoni's marriage in 1808 to Henriette Blondel, daughter of a Genevese banker, proved a most happy one, and he led for many years a retired domestic life, divided between literature and the picturesque husbandry of Lombardy. His intellectual energy in this period of his life was devoted to the composition of the Inni sacri, a series of sacred lyrics, and a treatise on Catholic morality, forming a task undertaken under religious guidance, in reparation for his early lapse from faith. In 1818 he had to sell his paternal inheritance, as his money had been lost to a dishonest agent. His characteristic generosity was shown on this occasion in his dealings with his peasants, who were heavily indebted to him. He not only cancelled on the spot the record of all sums owed to him, but bade them keep for themselves the whole of the coming maize harvest.

In 1819, Manzoni published his first tragedy, Il Conte di Carmagnola, which, boldly violating all classical conventions, excited a lively controversy. It was severely criticized in a Quarterly Review article to which Goethe replied in its defence, "one genius," as Count de Gubernatis remarks, "having divined the other." The death of Napoleon in 1821 inspired Manzoni's powerful stanzas Il Cinque maggio, one of the most popular lyrics in the Italian language. The political events of that year, and the imprisonment of many of his friends, weighed much on Manzoni's mind, and the historical studies in which he sought distraction during his subsequent retirement at Brusuglio suggested his great work.

Round the episode of the Innominato, historically identified with Bernardino Visconti, the first manuscript of the novel The Betrothed (in Italian I Promessi sposi) began to grow into shape, and was completed in September 1823. The work was published, after being deeply reshaped by the author and revised by friends in 1825–1827, at the rate of a volume a year; it at once raised its author to the first rank of literary fame. It is generally agreed to be his greatest work, and the paradigm of modern Italian language.
In 1822, Manzoni published his second tragedy, Adelchi, turning on the overthrow by Charlemagne of the Lombard domination in Italy, and containing many veiled allusions to the existing Austrian rule. With these works Manzoni’s literary career was practically closed. But he laboriously revised The Betrothed in the Tuscan idiom, and in 1840 republished it in that form, with a historical essay, La Storia della Colonna infame, on details of the XVII century plague in Milan so important in the novel. He also wrote a small treatise on the Italian language.

Statue of Alessandro Manzoni in Milan.

The death of Manzoni's wife in 1833 was preceded and followed by those of several of his children, and of his mother. In the mid 1830s he attended the "Salotto Maffei" salons in Milan, hosted by Clara Maffei, and in 1837 he married again, to Teresa Borri, widow of Count Stampa. Teresa also died before him, while of nine children born to him in his two marriages all but two pre-deceased him. The death of his eldest son, Pier Luigi, on April 28, 1873, was the final blow which hastened his end; he fell ill immediately, and died of cerebral meningitis. His funerals were celebrated in the church of San Marco, with almost royal pomp. His remains, after lying in state for some days, were followed to the Cimitero Monumentale in Milan by a vast cortege, including the royal princes and all the great officers of state. But his noblest monument was Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem, written to honour his memory.

See also


External links

This article incorporates text from the public-domain Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913.


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Politics without history is like a man who walks along without a guide.

Alessandro Francesco Tommaso Manzoni (1785-03-071873-05-22) was an Italian novelist, poet, dramatist and critic, best known for his novel I promessi sposi.


  • Non sempre ciò che vien dopo è progresso.
    • What comes after is not always progress.
    • "Del romanzo storico" (1850), in Andrea Tagliapietra (ed.) La storia e l'invenzione (Milano: Gallone, 1997) p. 64; Sandra Bermann (trans.) On the Historical Novel (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984) p. 113.

I promessi sposi (1827; rev. 1840-42)

English quotations and page-numbers are taken from Archibald Colquhoun (trans.) The Betrothed (London: Everyman's Library, 1956).

  • All'avvocato bisogna raccontar le cose chiare: a noi tocca poi a imbrogliarle.
    • A lawyer must be told things frankly; then it's up to us to muddle them up.
    • Ch. 3; p. 35.
  • È uno de' vantaggi di questo mondo, quello di poter odiare ed esser odiati, senza conoscersi.
    • It is one of the advantages of this world that people can hate and be hated without knowing each other.
    • Ch. 4; p. 44.
  • Ma la pratica generale ha volato che ella obblighi soltanto a non confidare il segreto che ad un amico egualmente fidato, e imponendogli la condizione medesima. Cosi d'amico fidato in amico fidato, il segreto gira e gira per quella immensa catena, tanto che giunge all' orecchio di colui o di coloro a cui il primo che ha parlato intendeva appunto di non lasciarlo giunger mai.
    • The general practice is for the secret to be confided only to an equally trustworthy friend, the same conditions being imposed on him. And so from trustworthy friend to trustworthy friend the secret goes moving on round that immense chain, until finally it reaches the ears of just the very person or persons whom the first talker had expressly intended it never should reach.
    • Ch. 11; p. 155.
  • Ma cos'è mai la storia, diceva spesso don Ferrante, senza la politica? Una guida che cammina, cammina, con nessuno dietro che impari la strada, e per conseguenza butta via i suoi passi; come la politica senza la storia è uno che cammina senza guida.
    • But what is history, Don Ferrante would often say, without politics? A guide who walks on and on with no one following to learn the road, so that his every step is wasted; just as politics without history is like a man who walks along without a guide.
    • Ch. 27; p. 374.

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