This library has survived intact for over 200 years thanks to Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), one of Italy’s best-loved poets. He spent the greater part of his childhood and youth reading in this library, the creation of his father, Monaldo Leopardi.
The Italian class system is not the same as ours; however, I think it is safe to say that the Leopardi were what we would call gentry, and quite comfortably off. Monaldo was an “avid book collector” (p 363 of Canti / GiacomoLeopardi ; translated and annotated by JonathanGalassi. London : Penguin, c2010). In fact he spent so much money on this library that his wife had to sell her jewellery to restore the family fortunes.
I like Monaldo because he was more than a bibliophile. His instincts were those of a librarian; in other words, he wanted to share his books with everyone.
To children friends citizens Monaldo Leopardi…
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Is there anything better than T. S. Eliot talking about his debt to Dante? Here is the majority of his famous essay “What Dante Means to Me” (hence my own “What Eliot Means to Me”), which can be found in his collection of essays, To Criticize the Critic and Other Writings. The essay was originally presented as a speech given at the Italian Institute of London, on July 4, 1950, when Eliot was sixty-one:
May I explain first why I have chosen, not to deliver a lecture about Dante, but to talk informally about his influence upon myself? What might appear egotism, in doing this, I present as modesty; and the modesty which it pretends to be is merely prudence. I am in no way a Dante scholar; and my general knowledge of Italian is such, that on this occasion, out of respect to the…
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