The Year in Italy

THE year in Italy, from August, 1908 to August, 1909, has been marked, as the whole world knows, by the most terrible and destructive calamity that has ever, in consequence of the unseen forces of nature, befallen a civilized people. Though the facts in themselves were so horrible that even the most sensational newspapers were under no temptation to exaggerate, the press reports contained many inaccuracies, most of which it is now worth nobody’s while to try to clear up. But in some cases gross injustice was done to those engaged in the work of relief, especially to the Italians themselves. More particularly, the correspondents of certain English papers seemed to consider it their most important duty to find fault with the soldiers, sailors, and relief committees, who, in the face of a disaster of unparalleled magnitude, did their best to meet the demands upon them, but at the same time could not help failing grievously in many things. Serious charges, to be sure, of dereliction and incompetence seem to have been substantiated against the navy. The services of some officers and crews were meritorious. But it is certain that other officers showed that fatal defect, so often found in bureaucratic organizations, of shirking responsibility and waiting for orders. The same thing is to be said, perhaps even more, of some prefects and other local authorities. The army, on the other hand, seems to have acquitted itself much better, perhaps because military men, being in general less technically trained than naval, are readier to meet strange and unexpected situations. Considering how many of the rank and file of Italian line regiments are raw and ignorant peasants, it is not wonderful that they were sometimes found wanting. But on the whole, foreign visitors and correspondents spoke well of the fidelity and devotion of the Italian soldier.1

The work of the various committees, and the disposition of the various funds, have been fully treated in the public press; and the several reports either are already, or soon will be, available. I wish to speak more particularly of the measures of permanent relief undertaken by the government itself, and specially authorized and provided for in January by an act of the last Parliament. Under this act the state undertakes to provide for three classes of needs, those of the kingdom as a whole, those of provinces and other local divisions, and those of private persons. For the first class, which includes such items as the reconstruction of public works and buildings destroyed by the earthquake, provision has been made out of the large balance left over from the budget of 1907-08. For the second class, namely, for the benefit of towns, provinces, and so forth, to help them to repair and rebuild their local works and edifices, money is to be raised by the imposition of an additional two per cent for five years on the various categories of direct taxes, as, for example, those on land and personal property.

For the third class of relief, that is, for rebuilding the houses, business and residential, of private persons in the ruined cities, it was found necessary to have recourse to credit to provide the sum, about 150,000,000 francs, which will be needed for such a purpose. And since it would have established a dangerous precedent if the government itself had borrowed to lend to the sufferers, it has preferred to aid them to borrow privately. Accordingly the state promises to secure for those who wish to build on sites within the damaged territory, loans at a low rate of interest payable in thirty years. To make the burden as light as possible, the state undertakes to pay half the yearly interest, and half of the annual installments of principal required by law. Thus the borrower of 100,000 francs will have to pay only 3164.30 francs a year for thirty years, after which he will have his house free of all incumbrance. The state, besides paying the other half, 3164.30 francs a year, will pay an additional tenth, 316.43 francs a year, as an insurance to the loaning companies. Moreover, to all such builders there will be granted for fifteen years an exemption from all national and local imposts, which it is estimated will amount to a saving of from ten to twelve thousand francs a year. A noteworthy advantage of these admirable provisions is that the government can insist that the buildings be constructed according to scientific rules, which, as is well known, greatly reduces the dangers of destruction and injury by earthquake.


The Balkan imbroglio of last autumn and winter was followed by the Italian people with the most intense interest; and, needless to say, their sympathies were entirely against Austria, their ally. On October 4, Tittoni, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who had shortly before had a conference with the Austrian statesman, Aehrenthal, made a brief speech at Carate, in which he implied that the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Austria would make little difference to those provinces themselves, after Austria’s thirty years of protectorate, and would likewise make little difference to the rest of Europe. A few days later the annexation was announced, with what effect on European politics it is needless to relate. Now, since the occasion on which Tittoni spoke was only the presentation of some medals at a school, at which it was quite unnecessary for him to say anything at all about international affairs, some color was lent to the suspicion that he had been prompted by Aehrenthal, who wished to discount the effect of the announcement on public opinion in Italy and in Europe generally. Indeed, it is hard to doubt that the two ministers had reached some kind of an understanding, and that Tittoni would not have gone out of his way to speak at Carate if it had not been for his recent colloquy with Aehrenthal. Be that as it may, his speech was a political blunder of the first magnitude. He should have considered that, to most Italians, Austria is their traditional foe; and that there is only too much reason for believing that this feeling is justified. And he should also have borne in mind the legitimate aspirations of his countrymen in respect to the development of their oriental commerce, which make them fear all Austrian encroachments in the Balkans.

Perhaps it is not generally known how remarkably Italy’s commerce in the near East has grown within recent years. In 1900 her exports to Turkey were valued at about $7,500,000, and her imports from the same country at about $5,000,000. Four years later the exports had nearly doubled, and the imports had increased by $2,500,000. This development of commerce along the routes once dominated by the Venetian republic is said to be due in large part to the initiative of the present King, and has brought with it renewed prosperity to the ancient and glorious commercial city. Nor is this eastward activity confined to trade and industry. It is well known that many inhabitants of the Dalmatian coast, though Austrian subjects, are Italian in race, language, and sympathies. And powerful unofficial organizations, like the Dante Society, are busily promoting the Italian language and culture throughout the rejuvenated Turkish Empire. It is even asserted that, in consequence of improved relations between Quirinal and Vatican, religious orders, especially the Franciscans, have eagerly taken up this Italian propaganda.

Feeling against Austria was still further exasperated in the month of November by the maltreatment of some Italian students, Austrian subjects, who had been agitating for an Italian university for the Italian-speaking students of the Austrian Empire. So, when foreign affairs came up for discussion in the Chamber the first week of December, the temper of that body was anything but favorable to Tittoni. A resolution of confidence in the action of the ministry was presented amid such roars of execration that it was some time before the mover could be heard in his own defense. Strong arguments against the resolution were made by Sonnino, Barzilai, and others, leading up to the climax of the debate in the speech of Fortis, an ex-premier and now a supporter of the government. His contribution was decidedly in the nature of a paradox, though a paradox that can easily be resolved. After announcing at once that he should vote for the resolution, he went on to say, quite truly, that the renunciation by Austria of the rights over the Gulf of Antivari, conceded to her by the Treaty of Berlin, would be no compensation unless she also evacuated Spitza. “ But why is it,” he cried, “ that we now find ourselves in this sad condition, that we have to fear no war except from an allied power? For my own part I say, though I hope it will not come to pass, that if this condition does not cease, then let us free ourselves from our allies! ”

The effect of these words was tremendous. Many deputies, among them Giolitti himself, hurried amid deafening applause to congratulate the orator. He was followed by Tittoni, who perhaps did as well as could be expected with a very weak case. He admitted that his countrymen had a right to be dissatisfied with his speech at Carate. He had, he said, omitted to specify, though he thought it would go without saying, that the Treaty of Berlin must not be violated by this annexation without the consent of the signatory powers. He had meant that all along. But weak as his defense was, and bitterly as his policy had been denounced both in and out of Parliament, the resentment of the majority was not strong enough to make them vote against him.

The paradox of the vote of confidence in the minister and the enthusiasm that greeted Fortis’s speech, is therefore easily explained. The enthusiasm represented the personal feelings of the deputies, the vote their sober reflections on the weakness of their position. It was quite plain, and subsequent events made it still plainer, that the powers of the socalled Triple Entente, England, France, and Russia, could not beexpected to make good their protests against the annexation, especially after von Bülow had declared that Germany would stand unwaveringly on the side of Austria. In other words, Italy remained bound hand and foot to the Triple Alliance, and the diplomacy of the Triple Entente failed, because in the present debilitated condition of Russia, it could not make a demonstration of military force on the Continent.

I allow myself a brief digression on the subject of the Treaty of Berlin, the annexation, and the compensations conceded by Austria, as I suspect that the relation between these three factors, in spite of the voluminous discussions of the past year, is not generally understood. In the first place, though no one will deny that the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina was a deliberate violation of the Treaty of Berlin, it is not too much to say that there is hardly one of the many signatories of that celebrated document that has not violated it, at least once. Turkey broke Articles 23 and 61 by not carrying out the reforms she had promised for Macedonia, Thrace, Albania, and Armenia. Russia broke Article 59 by fortifying Batum in 1885; also in 1885, by the union of Bulgaria with Rumelia. And in 1908, by Bulgaria’s declaration of independence and annexation of Eastern Rumelia, some twelve or fifteen articles were violated. By Article 61, all the signatory powers guaranteed the security of the Armenian Christians, and especially England, after the Cyprus Convention. How much good this guarantee has done the Armenians we all know. Therefore it is hard to see why Austria should be expected to regard the Treaty of Berlin as a sacrosanct instrument. And it is doubtful if the annexation of BosniaHerzegovina would have aroused much indignation, if the constitutional movement headed by the Young Turks had not recently won so much sympathy and admiration, and if the annexation, coming along with Bulgaria’s declaration of independence, had not seemed like taking a cowardly advantage of the momentary disorganization of the Ottoman Empire. So long as Turkey was regarded as the “ plague-spot of Europe,” that is until about a year and a half ago, Austria would have been more applauded than blamed for the annexation of the provinces in question. And perhaps it was too much to expect the Hapsburg Empire to have so much sympathy with constitutional movements as suddenly to change her policy with respect to these provinces, where, by virtue of the tacit consent of all Europe, her occupation had so long tended to become, to all intent, possession.

As to the modifications of Article 29 of the Treaty, and of the second clause of Article 25, to which Austria has consented, it is not easy to see, as Tittoni and his friends have tried to make out, that Italy derives much advantage from them. The scope of Italy’s diplomacy in the Balkans is to keep Austria from going farther down the Adriatic coast; and farther east, to keep her away from Salonica. As to the first point, the abrogation of those clauses of Article 29 which limited the sovereignty of Montenegro over the port of Antivari, makes little difference in case of war, seeing that the whole port, which is nothing but an open roadstead, is dominated by the guns of Spitza which now becomes Austrian soil. Montenegro was an independent principality before, and could not have been occupied by Austria except by an act of war. In the evacuation of the Sanjak of Novi Bazar, garrisoned by Austria according to the second clause of Article 25, she has done nothing but give up the military occupation of a barren strip of country where it was hard to maintain a garrison in the midst of hostile Serbs. In case of war she could easily occupy it again. I am not arguing that Austria is likely to push farther down the Adriatic, or to occupy Salonica; merely that these socalled concessions would not render either enterprise less difficult.2

I have already referred to the agitation for an Italian university at Trieste for the benefit of Italian-speaking Austrian subjects. The upshot of it all has been, after a great deal of ill-humor on the part of the Austrians, a faculty of law at Vienna. While there can be no doubt that Austria’s behavior toward her Italian subjects leaves much to be desired, it must be admitted, on the other hand, that she would have to fear in a completely organized Italian university a centre of sedition. Moreover, since the population of Trieste is about equally divided between Italians and Croats, who are mutually hostile, if an Italian university were to be established in that city, its garrison would have to be doubled.


The twenty-second Parliament, elected under conditions that I described in my letter of a year ago,3 would have expired by limitation in the present month of November. There were rumors at the time I wrote, not generally credited, of a dissolution and election in the coming spring. But after Parliament had, in January, made the necessary provisions for the earthquake sufferers, it was generally felt that its usefulness had come to an end. And perhaps Giolitti, the Premier, reflected that such a period of national solidarity and good feeling as was naturally caused by common sympathy and helpfulness, was not a bad time for holding a general election with a view to the return of the ministerial majority. At any rate, Parliament was dissolved, and the elections announced for the 7th and 14th of March. Nobody doubted that Giolitti would be returned with a substantial majority. The only questions were, what would be the showing made by the parties of the Extreme Left, Radicals, Republicans, and Socialists, especially by the latter, and by the newly formed Clerical party. For it seems quite proper to speak of such a party now, although its members in the Chamber deny that they represent a regular political organization.

The part played by the Clericals in the elections was a strange one; and even now, after an interval of several months, it is impossible to tell just where they stand. In my former letter I told how, in the election of 1904, there was an open coalition between the ministerial party and the Clericals, which in no case was opposed, and in many colleges was actively encouraged, by the ecclesiastical authorities; and how, less than a year later, in July, 1905, Pius X addressed an Encyclical to the Italian bishops, in which he seemed practically, though not formally, to abrogate the non-expedit. Certainly at that time it was generally interpreted in this sense. But shortly before the last election it was officially announced that the non-expedit remained in unabated vigor, and that only when the bishops had made it clear to the Vatican that, in their sees, the votes of their subjects were necessary to defeat a Socialist or other dangerous candidate, should permission to vote be granted. But, as matter of fact, the Clericals paid no more, perhaps even less attention, to the mandates of the Pope than they had in previous elections. And it was perfectly clear that their organization, the Catholic Union, did not work at all in harmony with the instructions of the Curia. They conducted an open and energetic campaign, one result of which, in some colleges, was the election of a Radical or Socialist candidate, instead of a Constitutional Liberal who would have been much less hostile to the interests of the Church.

The Socialists, profiting by the lesson of their discomfiture in 1904, have employed the intervening time to good advantage, strengthening their organization and developing a more consistent programme. A good many of their leaders are still, as before, of the bourgeoisie, or even of the nobility. But their national convention held at Florence, September 19—22, 1908, marked an important stage in the history of the party. The “ Syndicalists,” or revolutionary element, were definitely read out of the party. The “Integralists ” and “ Reformists,” making common cause, affirmed the principle of political activity with a view to the possession of political power. They declared that under present conditions the general strike is a dangerous expedient, both on account of its immediately injurious effects, and because it prevents the proletariat from working patiently for organization and gradual self-improvement.

After an election signalized, as usual, by many acts of violence, Giolitti and his following were returned with a large majority, — at least three hundred and fifty in a Chamber of about five hundred. But it was prophetically observed at the time that some rather colorless deputies, who had been sometimes for the ministry and sometimes against it, had been replaced by vigorous opponents.4

At first, that is, not counting those cases, not relatively numerous, in which the Chamber’s Committee on Elections ordered a new ballot, or unseated candidates who had been declared elected, the Extreme Left, consisting of Socialists, Radicals, and Republicans, numbered one hundred and nine; the Centre, or constitutional opposition, about forty, with perhaps twenty others whose support they could sometimes count on. The Socialists, partly, as I have said, in consequence of the independent activity of the Clericals, made impressive gains, increasing their numbers from eighteen to forty-two; and at the present writing (August) there are eight or ten more, as the result of recent bye-elections. The Clericals grew from four to twenty-four, and it is a singular circumstance that twenty-two of these twenty-four came from the North, that is, from the most prosperous and progressive part of Italy.


In April, Austria’s new naval programme was published, which calls for three, and maybe four, “ Dreadnoughts ” to be ready in 1912, besides the three new battleships that will soon be finished. Of course, every increase.of Austrian naval force in the Mediterranean tends to alienate Italy from the Triple Alliance. England and France are, and must continue to be, the great naval powers of the Mediterranean, and Austria might easily become a third. And it is precisely with these three powers that Italy’s relations are now the most cordial. Austria’s programme means that the two great Germanic powers of Central Europe, which are now working completely in harmony, will soon have a strong naval base in the Mediterranean. What England thinks about it is plainly to be seen in the recent establishment of a combined military and naval department of the Mediterranean, with Malta as its headquarters and Lord Kitchener in command. That Italy, with her long coast-line and few defensible harbors, and with her many important cities on or near the sea, has reason for alarm, is beyond all question. Her policy of maintaining a fleet twice as strong as that of any other power whose coast-line is exclusively Mediterranean, announced by Admiral Mirabello in 1907, has been seriously menaced.

Add to all this a certain indisposition on the part of Austria to take part in the Exposition of 1911, to be held at Rome and Turin in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Union of Italy,5 and we have the international situation that confronted the twenty-third Parliament when it took up the military and naval estimates in the month of June. In presenting the military estimates, the new Minister of War, General Spingardi, made his first public appearance; and his speech, both soldierlike and statesmanlike, straightway won him the confidence of the Chamber and of the country. His demands for an additional ten million francs for this year’s budget and sixteen millions for next year’s, he explained as partly due to the higher price of food, clothing, and munitions, and partly to the necessity of raising the effective force of the army to 225,000 men, 60,000 of this number to consist of reserves called back under arms. With the aid of a special commission of inquiry, he had fixed the cost of the building and improvement of fortifications at 280,000,000 francs, to be distributed, as the money is needed, through the budgets of a number of years.6

By way of compensation, he proposed the reduction of the term of service from three to two years, which, though the exemptions have been made fewer, will mean an enormous economic gain to the country. The naval estimates set forth by Mirabello, comprising, besides the constructions already provided for, four battleships, three fast cruisers, numerous submarines and other smaller vessels, and a complete system of coast defenses, call for the expenditure within the next six years of 440,000,000 francs, which will mean an augmentation of the regular naval budgets of those years by about 147,000,000.

The army estimates were approved without amendment by a vote of 312 to 49, the minority consisting only of Socialists and a few Republicans. The navy estimates also passed, though by a somewhat smaller majority. This evidence of national solidarity and patriotism will make all true friends of Italy rejoice. Of all the false notions entertained by foreigners in regard to Italy, none is more false than that Italians are with juvenile self-importance, spending extravagant sums in a vain attempt to become a first-class power. It was a cardinal point in Cavour’s policy to make Victor Emanuel’s kingdom a strong military power, whose alliance would be sought and whose enmity feared; and, as matter of fact, it was in this way that Italy’s independence and union were won. There have been a number of times since when she might have had to fight to maintain them. And given the actual perilous state of European politics, there is no country whose fate, in the event of a general war, would hang more in the balance.7


I have already had something to say about the relations of Church and State, under the head of elections. Shortly after the new Parliament assembled, Cameroni, a Clerical deputy from Treviglio in Lombardy, declared his unwavering devotion to United Italy with Rome as its capital, which was straightway interpreted by some foreign journals to mean that the Vatican had decided to withdraw from its hostile attitude toward the Kingdom as an usurping power in the Roman States. The Corrispondenza Romana, the Pope’s official press agency, made haste to assert that this inference was false, and bitterly reproached Cameroni for his compromising utterance. But in spite of such pronouncements as this, and of the reasserlion of the non-expedit, it may safely be said that relations between Church and Kingdom have at least not been getting worse. Parliament has shown no disposition to appear before the world as a persecutor, though it had a good opportunity in the session just ended. On May 21st, Chiesa, a Republican deputy from Tuscany, in a speech in support of a resolution against monastic bodies, was able to produce some startling figures regarding the increase of religious congregations.

The facts antecedent are briefly these. A law of 1860, that is, a year before the union of the kingdom, suppressed the Jesuits in the Kingdom of Sardinia, which included of course Piedmont and Lombardy; and a law of 1867, after the kingdom had been completely united, with the exception of the Roman States, deprived religious corporations of all legal status, and suppressed a large number of the convents, both of monks and nuns, then in existence. Since then the legal possessors of estates used by religious orders have been private parties whom the orders in question can depend upon to hold and bequeath such properties as they direct.

According to Chiesa’s figures there were in all Italy, in the year 1882, 7197 monks, including friars, and 26, 172 nuns. In the present year, there are 8424 monks and 41,653 nuns. In 1901, there were 951 monasteries and 2605 convents of nuns. In 1909, there are 1203 and 2658 respectively. In the same interval, the number of monastic schools for boys has increased from 441 to 542, and that of similar schools for girls from 901 to 1493, or 2035 in all, with a total enrollment of about 155,000.

These statistics made a strong impression in the Chamber, and undoubtedly represent a state of things that is highly displeasing to most of its members. But it was clearly brought out in the debate, especially by Orlando, the Minister of Justice, that there are great practical difficulties in the way of dealing with the subject. When a former prime minister, Zanardelli, well known for his hostility to the Church, made an investigation, he found that different laws were in force in different parts of the country, for the reason I have already stated. In Piedmont, Lombardy, and the old Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, there was a law of suppression against the Jesuits. But this law could have no effect in provinces, like the Roman States and Venetia, admitted after 1860, so that an attempt to enforce it would simply have had the effect of concentrating them around Rome and Venice. Moreover, the Law of Guarantees of 1873 expressly provided that all religious orders might have such representation in Rome as the Pope should require. As to the property of religious organizations, Sonnino recalled that an investigation of this subject is now pending, and warned the Chamber that many Catholics, whose allegiance to United Italy was so long despaired of, have now publicly professed their loyalty, which it would be very unwise to give them any excuse for renouncing. The resolution, put to the vote, was lost by a majority of 116.


It will be seen from what has preceded that the present Chamber has, on the whole, been loyal to its ministerial character, Giolitti’s predominance, which has endured almost unbroken for six years, seemed toward the end of the session to be without doubt or question. Then, in the first two weeks of July, just before the adjournment on July 12, came a crisis, or at least a partial crisis, which. taken together with the fall of Clemenceau in France, affords a striking example of the perishability of parliamentary majorities. In Italy, however, the discomfiture of the premier has not been caused by irritation at a hasty utterance, nor yet by partisan opposition, but by the recognition of a political and moral principle.

The question was one of steamship subsidies, which, doubtless, the ministry would gladly have avoided, but which had to be brought up soon on account of the early expiration of subsidy contracts already granted. A law, bearing the date of April 5, 1908, had recently been passed, fixing the conditions on which such contracts should be made in the future, and recognizing the principle of competition in their allotment. It was, to be sure, brought out in the debate that these conditions were not sufficiently liberal; but, instead of inviting Parliament to amend the law, the government entered into a private negotiation with the “ Italian Lloyds.” This company’s terms were accepted, subject to the approval of Parliament, which the ministry doubtless thought it could easily obtain; and were formulated in a bill by Schanzer, to whose department, as Minister of Posts and Telegraphs, such matters belong.

As compared with the provisions of the law of April 5, the stipulations with the Italian Lloyds called for an initial reduction in tariffs of ten instead of twenty per cent, a contract of twenty-five instead of twenty years’ duration, and there were also considerable reductions in the requirements of tonnage, speed, and the age of ships. But the most striking feature of the new agreement was the provision that the amount of subsidy for the last twenty years of the contract should depend upon the experience of the first five years of the same. Baron Sidney Sonnino, the leader of the Centre, and a master in the whole sphere of economy and finance, seized upon this as the best point of attack, and in a powerful and closely reasoned speech showed what enormous loss would result to the country if the bill became a law. Without assuming dishonesty on the part of the officers of the company, he pointed out that in these first five years it would be to their interest to make the service cost as much and earn as little as possible. And the most searching and vigilant government supervision imaginable would be powerless to check the extravagant management that would go on in every part of the world visited by the ships of the Italian Lloyds. Likewise, in this first five years it would be doubly to the company’s interest to issue as many bonds as it could for the purchase of ships and supplies, and to devote the largest possible share of its earnings to the sinking fund; doubly to its interest, because in that way it would not only have its additional ships and materials, and its sinking fund increased for the retirement of obligations, but would also, by thus adding to its expenses, have put itself in the way of receiving a larger subvention.

It soon became evident that, after Sonnino’s speech, it was impossible for the bill to pass as it stood. He was followed by able speakers on the same side, who pointed out other grave defects. Not a word was said in defense, except by Giolitti and Schanzer. Both betrayed their incompetence in fiscal matters generally, which was nothing new; and Giolitti gave additional evidence of his worst moral quality, which is his utter and abject cowardice. The debate ended, he first read a letter from Senator Piaggio, chairman of the Italian Lloyds, which stated that, in view of the opposition which the stipulations with his company had encountered in the Chamber, he was quite willing that the contract should be put up at public auction, holding himself ready, however, to sign this contract not later than the last day of December, if no satisfactory bids should have been offered by other parties in the mean time. Accordingly, Giolitti declared himself ready to open the contract to public competition, all negotiations to be subject to the approval of Parliament. In these circumstances the Chamber would surely, he said, recognize the necessity of suspending the discussion of the present bill, and also the right of the government to know if it still enjoyed its confidence. At this plain confession of weakness, there was a great outcry of triumph from all the opposition benches. “ It is not only my right, but my duty,” Giolitti shouted above the tumult, “ to know whether I still have the confidence of the Chamber.”

Thereupon arose such a pandemonium that the session had perforce to be adjourned. When order was restored, a resolution had been sent up to the Speaker, signed by the requisite number of the Premier’s followers, to the effect that ” the Chamber, in view of the declarations of the government, suspends the discussion of the bill.”

It was pointed out, in the debate that followed, that to pass the resolution would seem to leave the ministry free to advertise for bids on the terms of the contract with the Italian Lloyds, the vicious nature of which had been so clearly exposed. And it was finally agreed that the question of the bids should not be confused with the postponement of the bill, but should be reserved for a separate motion early in the next session. But Giolitti having declared that, he included in the present motion the question of confidence, deputies of every shade of political opinion, save only the Premier’s personal following, rose to protest that their votes for the suspension would be cast with the distinct understanding that they did not imply confidence in the ministry; and among these speakers was Finocchiaro-Aprile, leader of a newly formed group of members who had hitherto voted with the ministerial party. Giolitti, with safe temerity, challenged the opposition to propose a separate vote of lack of confidence, if they thought themselves strong enough. He knew very well that on such an issue, which would be altogether personal and partisan, he could win. But he also knew that if it came to a vote on the dealings with the Italian Lloyds, his majority, if it survived at all. would be so much reduced that he would be virtually defeated. In these circumstances the resolution for the suspension was carried without a dissenting voice. But that the ministry is discredited and in serious difficulties, there is no doubt whatever. It remains to be seen whether it can extricate itself when Parliament reassembles in November.


The year in Italy has been an annus mirabilis in literature. It began, to be sure, with the complete failure of D’Annunzio’s Fedra, a cold academic performance in spite of a large infusion of D’Annunzian “ passion,” and in spite of a few fine passages which could hardly fail in a work of such length by an author of undoubted genius. It is a pity that the long list of Hellenizing dramas, from Seneca down through Corneille, Dryden, and Voltaire, has not yet taught the lesson that a first-rate play cannot be made by refurbishing an old Greek theme. But happier efforts of genius were soon to come. Giovanni Pascoli, the worthy successor of Carducci in the chair of Comparative Literature at Bologna, has published his Nuovi Poemetti (Zanichelli, Bologna, 1909), which is the third volume of his Poesie, and completes the series, the first, second, fourth, and fifth volumes having already appeared. This volume seems to me to represent the summit of the poet’s achievement up to now. The form is prevailingly terza rima, the themes for the most part pastoral.

From the first, Pascoli has chosen Virgil as his master; and it may safely be asserted that, in the bucolic style, the Mantuan bard has never, for purity and refinement of spirit, and for true quality of inspiration, had a worthier follower. He has all the close, intense observation and love of external nature, that mark the true pastoral poet. His style and treatment are at times somewhat difficult and indirect, but never in the way of artificial refinement. Once you have overcome the difficulty and traced out the indirection, you are nearer to the poets’ mind and to the all-pervading mystery of nature which is his theme. I cite as an example the first poem in the present volume, La Fiorita. This is the story of the happy loves of a shepherd and shepherdess, who are, by the way, very unlike the traditional Strephons and Phyllises of academic pastoral poetry. The poem is divided into nine parts, all but the second of which take their names from birds that come in the spring to sing of “ short-lived flowers and eternal love.” The second part is called Il Solitario, who is Dore, the shepherd’s younger brother, who, after hearing the first songs of spring, makes a flute of chestnut-wood, whose notes are heard in undertone throughout the music of the poem.

The year has also brought to fame a writer whose genius and personality are altogether novel and unique. Sem Benelli’s Cena delle Beffe, a dramatic poem in four acts, has been produced with brilliant success in the principal theatres of Italy. Sem Benelli is a Florentine, thirty-one years of age, but in spite of his youth he has endured a lifetime of trial and tragic experience. At the age of eighteen he was left, by the death of his father, with a family dependent upon him. Thus forced to interrupt the literary studies already dear to him, but true to the old Florentine tradition of the unity of creative art, he betook himself to another though humbler branch. He became a craftsman, a carver in wood, a maker of household furniture, who strove to fashion everything that came under his hand into a thing of beauty, knowing that it was in this union of the useful and the beautiful that the art of his native city first became great. But, in the midst of this life of toil and care, he found time for the study and composition of dramatic poetry. His first failures, and they were insuccessi clamorosi, he bore with the same courageous and unyielding temper that he showed in his many other trials. Finally, not long ago, he had his first success in the Maschera di Bruto.

The Cena delle Beffe8 would be hard to qualify either as a comedy or tragedy. The ending is tragic, though the incidents are more in the nature of comedy but always with an undertone of tragic irony. The scene is laid in Florence in the time of Lorenzo the Magnificent. The plot turns on the revenge that Giannetto Malespini, by nature a defenseless butt of brutal and malicious jests, takes on two brothers who are his most persistent tormentors. The presentation of character is masterly, with deeper suggestions than the action has scope to develop. The form is hendecasyllabic blank verse, by common consent one of the most difficult kinds of Italian versification, which he has handled with consummate skill. It has even been maintained that he has finally solved the problem of hendecasyllabic blank verse by making the accents of the line correspond, not only, as is traditional and necessary, with grammatical stress, but also with the more fleeting and indeterminate accents of sentence and period.

The inspiration of the poem, its tone, quality, and suggestion, are of the purest Tuscan, the Tuscan of the greatest and best period. And this, perhaps, is for the present his chief title to honor, though the merits of his poem be great. Through a long period of trial and hardship, tempted by poverty to go in easier and more devious paths, surrounded by the influences of a cheap anti venal modern theatre, he remained true to the high ideals he had drawn from a glorious past, —

Pindarici fontis qui non expalluit haustus,
Fastidire lacus et rivos ausus apertos.

Thus his triumph is not only personal, but also belongs to a principle, and wins for himself and his country the praise ot a high achievement, and the promise of greater things to come.

NOTE. That I may better introduce to the reader Pascoli’s beautiful poem to which I referred above. I reproduce Part I, entitled Il Pittiere, in which the characters are Dore and the bird : —


Oh ! tutti i giorni e tante volte al giorno
s’ erano visti! L’ uno era in oreechi
sempre che udisse spittinire intorno.
Es’ ei tornava a casa con due stecehi
o due vincigli, l’ altro lo seguiva
da ramo a ramo. Erano amici vecchi.
Ma oggi, tutto maraviglia viva
nel petto rosso, l’ uno alzava a scatti
la coda al dosso di color d’ uliva.
Parea dicesse : — O dunque fa di fatti !?-
Ora alïava in terra tra lo sfagno,
ora volava in cima a gli albigatti.
Con gli occhi tondi aperti sul compagno
molleggiava sul cesto e su l’ ontano.
L’ altro sedeva al calcio d’ un castagno,
con una vetta e un coltelluccio in mano . . .


Pareva savio, un altro! Il suo coltello
fece alla vetta torno torno un segno
uguale, netto, e un piccolo tassello.
Ed egli poi con arte e con ingegno
torse la buccia tra i due pugni, e trasse
fuor della buccia umido e bianco il legno.
Tagliò del legno quanto gli tappasse
quel cannoncello, ma non tutto e troppo.
Scese il pittiere su le stipe basse.
Provò se il fiato non avesse intoppo,
soffiando un poco, e si drizzò contento.
Frullò il pittiere sur un alto pioppo.
Poi, nella selva, coi capelli al vento,
lungo il ruscello, il fanciulletto Dore
col flauto verde annunzïò l’ avvento
dei fiori brevi e dell’ eterno amore.


O primo fiore ! O bianca primavera !
Hai gli orli rossi, come li ha l’ aurora,
e il sole biondo è nella tua raggiera !
Dore sonava. All’ uccellino allora
sovvenne il nido. Alzò, partendo, il canto
che là negli alti monti ove dimora,
canta alle solitudini soltanto.
  1. Especially to be noted in this connection is the testimony of Mr. H. Nelson Gay, in his report on the American Relief Expedition in Calabria (February 6-17), which has been incorporated in the report of the American Relief Committee.
  2. I take this opportunity of saying a few words about the “ Irredentists,” the name given to that small party of Italians who wish to acquire for United Italy those portions of Austria with an Italian-speaking population, that is, the Trentino, South Tyrol, Trieste, Istria, and Dalmatia. Something indeed is to be said for the rectification of the frontier between Italy and the Trentino, which, cutting across the northern end of Lake Garda, is unscientific and annoying for many reasons. But in Trieste, Istria, and Dalmatia, the case is widely different. Travelers, who hear Italian spoken everywhere along the eastern shore of the Adriatic, naturally suppose that the whole country is Italian. But the fact is that, inland, it is not Italian at all. According to the best authority on the subject (Auerbach, Les Races et les Nationality de l’Autriche-Hongrie), only nine per cent of the inhabitants of Dalmatia are Italians, though the proportion is much larger, about forty per cent, in Istria and Trieste. I mention these things, by the way, because the indiscriminate sympathy of foreigners for Italy, and especially as against Austria, sometimes leads them astray in matters of fact.
  3. “ The Last Two Years in Italy,” Atlantic Monthly, December, 1908.
  4. The most dramatic incident of the campaign was the election of Don Romolo Murri, the Modernist priest, as Radical deputy from the college of Montegiorgio in the Marches. Murri first became prominent as leader of the Christian Democrats, a party which, like the Christian Socialists in England, has for its object the application of Christian principles to the social and political problems of to-day. At first they were sincerely anxious not to -antagonize the Church, but falling under suspicion of liberalism and modernism, they were, to the regret of many Catholics, formally condemned by the present Pope, and Murri himself was suspended a divinis. Undaunted by this, he continued his work, by speaking and writing, gradually assuming a more hostile attitude towards the Roman hierarchy. His last book, Clerical Politics and Democracy, was placed on the Index in January; and after his election, but before he took his seat, when he had sent a defiant response to a warning letter from his bishop, the major excommunication was formally pronounced against him.
  5. Austria has finally decided to take part. Many Austrian and Hungarian newspapers did themselves much credit by deploring the folly and meanness of a policy toward an ally, that would keep alive the hostilities and rancors of fifty years ago.
  6. It should be observed here that this huge sum is now required on account of the timorous and short-sighted policy, which, for fear of offending Austria, so long neglected the defenses of the northeastern frontier.
  7. In spite of earthquake relief, failure of revenue from the stricken districts, and extraordinary military and naval expenditures, the budget, according to the calculation of the Hon. Luigi Luzzatti, the eminent economist, will show this year a surplus of about twelve million francs. Considering that most of the other nations of Europe, and also the United States, are facing deficits, foreigners who criticise Italian financial management would do better to preach their lessons of economy first at home.
  8. Published by Fratelli Treves, Milan. English, French, German, and Spanish translations are being, or have been made ; and the drama will be brought out in the indicated countries, including the United States.