Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873)
«Quel ramo del lago di Como, che volge a mezzogiorno, tra due catene non interrotte di monti, tutto a seni e a golfi, a seconda dello sporgere e del rientrare di quelli, vien, quasi a un tratto, a ristringersi, e a prender corso e figura, tra un promontorio a destra, e un’ampia costiera dall’altra parte; e il ponte, che ivi congiunge le due rive, par che renda ancor più sensibile all’occhio questa trasformazione, e segni il punto in cui il lago cessa, e l’Adda ricomincia, per ripigliar poi nome di lago dove le rive, allontanandosi di nuovo, lascia l’acqua distendersi e rallentarsi in nuovi golfi e in nuovi seni.”
Alessandro Manzoni was born in Milan in 1785 from Pietro and from Giulia, daughter of Cesare Beccaria.
The Manzoni years of Lecco were the first twenty. In fact he was taken to Lecco immediately after his birth to be sent to nurse. Very little is known about this period of his life. The same author contributed to the oblivion of these years by refusing his first works.
In 1805, after the cohabitant of his mother Carlo Imbonati died, he settled with her in Paris. Those were years that strongly influenced his intellectual formation. He was profoundly influenced by French culture and in particular by Enlightenment ideas. The central event of his existence dates back to the Parisian period: conversion to Catholicism.
In 1808 he married Enrichetta Blondel, a Genevan family living in Milan, and the marriage was another decisive experience, both for the deep affection that bound him to his wife and for the influence that this fervent Calvinist exercised over of him. After the 1930s his life changed, at least in part. Enrichetta’s death hit him hard. Later came a second marriage with a woman, Teresa Stampa, much less intellectually than him. He followed the course of the Risorgimento with a warm heart, sharing his ideals and hopes. In 1860 he was appointed Senator of the Kingdom: with this task he voted in 1864 in favor of moving the capital from Turin to Florence as long as Rome had not been freed. As president of the parliamentary commission on language he wrote, in 1868, a brief report on the Italian language: Of the unity of language and the means of spreading it.
On 28 June 1872 he was appointed honorary citizen of Rome. He died on May 22, 1873, suffering from meningitis.
Alessandro Manzoni began in the early years with compositions of neoclassical inspiration. Religious conversion brought about a great turning point in his literary activity. Between 1812 and 1822 he composed the sacred hymns, five poetic compositions dedicated to the major feasts of the Catholic Church: The Resurrection, The name of Mary, Christmas, The Passion, Pentecost. In 1821 he wrote the so-called “civil hatred”: “March 1821”, dedicated to the anti-Austrian uprisings of that year, and “Il Cinque Maggio”, which was launched at the announcement of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte. Two attempts at religious poetry, the hymns “Ognissanti” and “Natale 1833” (inspired by the death of his wife Enrichetta Blondel) remain unfinished.
Between 1816 and 1822 he also wrote two tragedies, Il Conte di Carmagnola (1816) and Adelchi (1822), the result of a careful theoretical reflection on the theater and on the tragic genre in particular. However, Manzoni’s most complete and mature work is the novel I Promessi Sposi, written in a first version (with the title Fermo e Lucia) between 1821 and 1823; then deeply modified from the point of view of the narration, the novel is “lightened” removing many historical traits and then published in 1827; finally again revised, this time only in linguistic form: in the search for a language accessible to Italians of various origins and cultures, Manzoni chose the Florentine spoken by his contemporaries as a model.