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The materials for the foregoing Essay were furnished to me by an Italian exile, whose assistance I could not avow without compromising him with his fellow-countrymen, and, perhaps, embarrassing his pursuits in England. The critical judgments were from my friend; the language and adaptation to English literature were, of course, my own. The caution of my coadjutor was somewhat justified by the event; for the Essay was assailed by the friends of Monti and the partisans of the romantic school in Italy; and all the praises so justly bestowed upon the verses of Pindemonti did not reconcile the poet to the gentle reproof of those "spiritual exercises which occupied a considerable portion of his time, and plunged him into that absorbing solitude which a more rational religion would have taught him to exchange for the active duties and social amusements of life."
That he was offended I had subsequently a painful proof; for when I requested the co-operation of several distinguished contemporaries of Lord Byron towards erecting a monument to his memory, Pindemonti was the only man who not only gave me a refusal, but replied to me in terms deficient in courtesy and Christian candour. He forgot that if any blame was to be attached to the request, I was the culprit, and not Lord Byron.
The readers of the Essay will observe that it relates chiefly to natives of Upper Italy, and that several writers of eminence belonging to other portions of the peninsula are not noticed in its pages. It was, indeed, my intention to have continued these biographical sketches, by adding to them similar accounts of Betinelli, Nicolini, Giusti, and others (embracing, perhaps, the famous Leopardi), who have attained to eminence since my first acquaintance with Italy; but the friend above alluded to discontinued his assistance, and another person to whom I looked for valuable help, and who kindly promised to give it to me, was called to important public duties, which so much interfered with his literary leisure that I could not venture to remind him of his engagement.
The Cavalier Cosimo Buonarotti was the representative of a family made illustrious by a man of a genius almost universal, and which none but Italians of all modern nations have been found to possess. He lived in the house where Michael Angelo had lived: he was possessed of several unpublished manuscripts, some of them autographs, of his great ancestor; and, with a taste highly cultivated, and manners most engaging, was one of the chief ornaments of Florentine society. I was honoured by his personal intimacy, and by his correspondence, for many years; and he furnished me when at Florence, in 1842, with some notices, both in conversation and by written documents, which would have been of considerable service to me if he had been able to continue his contributions; but he received a high judicial appointment, and subsequently became one of the ministers of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. I saw him in 1854 in that character, and could not help remarking that both he and I had been somewhat diverted from those pursuits to which I had been indebted for my long intimacy with him. He was, however, changed in nothing but personal appearance. I found him the same friendly, urbane, pleasing-mannered gentleman that had greeted me in 1817. But he is gone; nor is there one of all those who made my first residence in Italy so delightful to me now left to receive this assurance of my grateful recollection of them.
It is almost superfluous to add that I leave the undertaking which I had hoped to complete to younger and to abler hands; but it may surprise some readers to hear that at present there is no such general review of the actual state of Italian literature.
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