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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Purists and Pedantry
By Carlo Goldoni (1707–1793)
 
From the ‘Memoirs of Carlo Goldoni’: Translation of John Black

MY journey to Parma, and the pension and diploma conferred on me, excited the envy and rage of my adversaries. They had reported at Venice during my absence that I was dead; and there was a monk who had even the temerity to say he had been at my funeral. On arriving home safe and sound, the evil-disposed began to display their irritation at my good fortune. It was not the authors, my antagonists, who tormented me, but the partisans of the different theatres of Venice.  1
  I was defended by literary men, who entertained a favorable opinion of me; and this gave rise to a warfare in which I was very innocently the victim of the irritation which had been excited. My system has always been never to mention the names of my adversaries: but I cannot avoid expressing the honor which I feel in proclaiming those of my advocates. Father Roberti, a Jesuit, at present the Abbé Roberti, one of the most illustrious poets of the suppressed society, published a poem in blank verse, entitled ‘Comedy’; and by dwelling on the reformation effected by me, and analyzing several scenes in my pieces, he encouraged his countrymen and mine to follow the example and the system of the Venetian author. Count Verri, a Milanese, followed the Abbé Roberti…. Other patricians of Venice wrote in my favor, on account of the disputes which were every day growing warmer and warmer…. Every day witnessed some new composition for or against me; but I had this advantage,—that those who interested themselves for me, from their manners, their talents, and their reputation, were among the most prudent and distinguished men in Italy.  2
  One of the articles for which I was most keenly attacked was a violation of the purity of the language. I was a Venetian, and I had had the disadvantage of sucking in with my mother’s milk the use of a very agreeable and seductive patois, which however was not Tuscan. I learned by principle, and cultivated by reading, the language of the good Italian authors; but first impressions will return at times, notwithstanding every attention used in avoiding them. I had undertaken a journey into Tuscany, where I remained for four years, with the view of becoming familiar with the language; and I printed the first edition of my works at Florence, under the eyes and the criticism of the learned of that place, that I might purify them from errors of language. All my precautions were insufficient to satisfy the rigorists: I always failed in one thing or other; and I was perpetually reproached with the original sin of Venetianism.  3
  Amidst all this tedious trifling, I recollected one day that Tasso had been worried his whole lifetime by the Academicians della Crusca, who maintained that his ‘Jerusalem Delivered’ had not passed through the sieve which is the emblem of their society. I was then in my closet, and I turned my eyes towards the twelve quarto volumes of the works of that author, and exclaimed, “Oh heavens! must no one write in the Italian language who has not been born in Tuscany?” I turned up mechanically the five volumes of the Dictionary della Crusca, where I found more than six hundred words, and a number of expressions, approved of by the academy and rejected by the world; I ran over several ancient authors considered as classical, whom it would be impossible to imitate in the present day without censure; and I came to this conclusion—that we must write in good Italian, but write at the same time so as to be understood in every corner of Italy. Tasso was therefore wrong in reforming his poem to please the Academicians della Crusca: his ‘Jerusalem Delivered’ is read by everybody, while nobody thinks of reading his ‘Jerusalem Conquered.’  4
 
 
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