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LAUREL GARLAND:

WOMEN OF THE RISORGIMENTO

 

 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning || Madame de Staël || Anna Jameson || Theodosia Garrow Trollope || Isa Blagden || Jessie White Mario || Anita Garibaldi || Cristina Trivulzio, Principessa Belgioioso || Harriet Beecher Stowe || Margaret Fuller || Harriet Hosmer || Félicie de Fauveau || Lily Wilson || Cristina Rossetti
 

{Anna Jameson prefaced her Loves of the Poets with a quotation from Madame de Staël:

The laurel wreath laid by the Comune of Florence on Elizabeth Barrett Browning's tomb by Lord Leighton on her 200th anniversary, 2006

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

{Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning eloped together from her Wimpole Street sickroom in 1846 and came to Casa Guidi in 1847. Their first glimpse of their new home would have been of its frescoed walls, then covered with laurel garlands. It was at Casa Guidi that Elizabeth gave birth to her child, in 1849, celebrating that event while mourning the Austrian takeover of Tuscany and the downfall of the Mazzini Republic of Rome to the French in that same year in her political poem, Casa Guidi Windows, and it was here in 1850, that she was proposed for Poet Laureate, and here where she wrote her epic poem, Aurora Leigh , whose heroine crowns herself one June day with ivy and not with laurel.

It was in this room that Elizabeth read novels and wrote poems, her favourites being Madame de Staël's novel, Corinne ou Italy and those of George Sand. She had as a child studied Hebrew and Greek, and knew the poetry of Homer, Sophocles and Lord Byron intimately, their pictures and their books being her cherished possessions. It was to this room that many other women came, women like the Americans Margaret Fuller, Kate Field, Harriet Hosmer, Harrier Beecher Stowe, and the Englishwomen Anna Jameson, Jessie White Mario and Isa Blagden , but not George Sand or George Eliot or Anita Garibaldi or the Princess Belgioioso.

None of these women could attend university. But they could and did write, or sculpt, or heal the sick, or advise nations on freedom. They share a passionate hatred of the abuse of children, of slavery, of the oppression of nations, all as paradigms of their own exploitation as women. In the nineteenth-century they banded together, especially espousing the cause of the Italian Risorgimento. In this talk I shall give portraits of these women, just as much as did Elizabeth Barrett Browning herself adorn its walls, decked with the colours of Beatrice's garb and Italy's then-forbidden flag, with engravings and paintings of poets she loved, and in the same way as would later Lytton Strachey write Eminent Victorians and Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader, and as had Anna Jameson and even Plutarch before them written biographical sketches of great women and men. These women can be her laurel and her ivy, her Casa Guidi Windows opened to the world.

I have in an earlier lecture at the British Institute discussed in detail Elizabeth and Robert's family backgrounds as deeply implicated in slavery in the West Indies. Elizabeth Barrett Moulton Barrett was of slave as well as slave-owning stock (her aunt is the famous Pinkie, born in Jamaica, and dying sooner after this painting was finished, and this is Pinkie's brother, Edward Barrett Moulton Barrett, owner of countless slaves). And likewise was Robert, who was also celebrating, in his Bells and Pomegranates his partly Jewish ancestry. We are dealing with Citizens of the Globe, not merely of Italy or of England or of America.

Madame de Staël

{Let me begin with Madame de Staël (1766-1817), the author of the novel, Corinne ou Italie (1804), which profoundly influenced Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Anna Jameson, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Margaret Fuller. Anne Louise Germaine was the daughter of Suzanne Curchod and supposedly Jacques Necker, the Swiss banker who became France's Minister of Finance in 1776 and 1789. But more likely Edward Gibbon, author of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire , and who had loved Suzanne Curchod for many years, was her real father. Gibbon, two years before she married, described her to a friend: " Mlle. Necker, one of the greatest heiresses of Europe, is now about eighteen, wild, vain, but good-natured, and with a much larger provision of wit than of beauty ." Her husband was to be Eric Magnus, Baron de Staël-Holstein, Sweden's ambassador to Paris.

De Goncourt described her political role:

Madame de Staël was a woman of genius as early as the year 1795. . . The daughter of Necker forbade France to recall its line of kings; she retained the republic; she condemned the throne. She agitated victoriously in behalf of the maintenance of the representative system. The human right of victory was equivalent, with her, to the divine right of birth.
She first met Napoleon at a ball given by Josephine, his beautiful Créole wife from the Caribbean islands, toward the close of 1797. Apparently amongst the comments they then exchanged was the following:

Madame de Staël: When [a man] has had the fortune to meet with a strong-minded woman, one worthy of sharing his laurels, and herself enjoying a high reputation, then the distance of time and space disappears, for it is the renown of both which serves as messenger between them, and it is through the hundred mouths of fame that each receives intelligence of the other'. When [a man] has had the fortune to meet with a strong-minded woman, one worthy of sharing his laurels, and herself enjoying a high reputation, then the distance of time and space disappears, for it is the renown of both which serves as messenger between them, and it is through the hundred mouths of fame that each receives intelligence of the other'.: When [a man] has had the fortune to meet with a strong-minded woman, one worthy of sharing his laurels, and herself enjoying a high reputation, then the distance of time and space disappears, for it is the renown of both which serves as messenger between them, and it is through the hundred mouths of fame that each receives intelligence of the other'.
Because of her opposition to him Napoleon saw that she was kept in exile from France. When Napoleon's son, the King of Rome, was born Mme. de Staël was informed that her exile could end if she would but write and publish loyal stanzas about the event. She refused.

She next visited England where she was treated with the highest consideration and above all enjoyed the friendship of Lord Byron.

In 1816, she wrote " There is a nation which will one day be very great--the Americans ." Only slavery she felt, marred its perfection. " What is more honourable for mankind than this new world which has established itself without the prejudices of the old?--this new world where religion exists in all its fervor without needing the support of the state to maintain it, where the law commands by the respect it inspires although no military power backs it up." In a letter to Thomas Jefferson she wrote, "If you succeeded in doing away with slavery in the South, there would be at least one government in the world as perfect as human reason can conceive it."

Twice she published novels, Delphine first, then Corinne ou Italie. Corinne is an intensely political book. In it a young Scottish nobleman, Oswald, Lord Nevil, finds his childhood friend become an Italian patriot. He witnesses her being crowned with laurel, made Poet Laureate, while dressed as the Sibyl, on the Capitol in Rome and hears her utter political prophetic verses. Perhaps, in this scene on the Capitol, Madame de Staël/Corinne was playing with her biological father's conception of his great work, The Decline and Fall of Rome. In her chef-d'oeuvre, she metamorphoses that into the Renaissance, the Risorgimento, of Italy.

But, instead of marrying Corinne, Lord Nevil weds a pallid proper young girl--and Corinne dies of a broken heart. This novel was read and admired by Victorian generations. Though unbeautiful, Madame de Staël had herself portrayed as enacting the role of Corinne, by the woman portrait painter, Madame Vigée Le Brun.

Anna Jameson

{Anna Jameson had come to Italy for the first time in 1821, a buxom twenty-five year old with a head of reddish-blond hair (just the colour of Poetry in Carlo Dolci's painting, Ruskin noted). She was the eldest daughter of an Irish miniature painter of considerable talent, Denis Murphy, Lady Byron in 1841 writing a poem 'On a Portrait of Mrs. Jameson by her Father'. At first she earned her sustenance as a governess, observing that "the occupation of governess is sought merely through necessity, as the only means by which a woman not born in the servile classes can earn the means of subsistence".

In moments when she was alone, or if her employers went out to some reception to which she was not invited, Anna Murphy immediately opened two diaries. In the second, she has herself die of a broken heart, the work being published as a governess novel with the title, The Diary of an Enuyée, modeled upon de Staël's Corinne ou Italie, but which is also filled with art historical observations. Mrs. Fanny Kemble said, "While under the immediate spell of her fascinating book, it was of course very delightful to me to make Mrs. Jameson's acquaintance, which I did. . . The Ennuyée , one is given to understand, dies, and it was a little vexatious to behold her sitting on a sofa in a very becoming state of blooming plumpitude".

The Frontispiece is of Beatrice Cenci.

In Florence she notes Artemisia Gentileschi's work: One morning, as she looked at a red morocco edition of Corinne, a gift to Schlegel from Mme de Staël, he confessed himself "immortalized" in it, as "the Prince Castel Forte, the faithful, humble, unaspiring friend of Corinne. She also visits Coppel, Madame de Staël's Swiss exile chateau.

In reality, rather than dying of Victorian tuberculosis, Anna Murphy married.

But the marriage failed, and the alcoholic Mr. Jameson went off to Canada.

Because of the failed marriage, Anna could no longer even return to being a governess. She therefore wrote further books: The Memoirs of the Loves of the Poets by the Author of the "Diary of an Ennuyëe", 1829, in two volumes; Memoirs of Celebrated Female Sovereigns, 1831; Memoirs of the Beauties of the Court of Charles II , 1831; Characteristics of Shakespeare's Women . Anna Jameson had a warm temperament, her friends including Ottilie von Goethe, Lady Byron, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her own niece Geraldine Bate, who married and became Geraldine MacPherson. This is Anna Jameson describing the Coronation of Queen Victoria, whom she knew well:

Mrs. Jameson made the acquaintance of Miss Barrett through the good offices of Mr. Kenyon, their mutual friend. Mrs. Jameson was at the time staying next door to the house on Wimpole Street where Miss Barrett resided. This early period of their acquaintance produced a multitude of tiny notes in fairy handwriting, such as Miss Barrett was wont to indite to her friends, and which are still in existence. Some of these are most charming and characteristic, and illustrate the rise and rapid increase of a friendship that never faltered or grew cool from that time up to the death of Mrs. Jameson.

Anna Jameson, with her young niece, helped the eloping Elizabeth Barrett, who was seriously ill, and Robert Robert Browning, who was robust, in Paris and Pisa while on her way to Rome and working on her masterpiece, Sacred and Legendary Art. They seemed to have walked out of the pages of her volumes, The Loves of the Poets .

Later her niece who was with her writes: At Pisa, Geraldine assisted Anna with drawings and cups of tea. Outlines were drawn, tracings made, careful drawings put on the wood and sent home to be engraved for the illustrations. The plates of the Campo Santo at Pisa for Sacred and Legendary Art would cause the young painters, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Holman Hunt and Everart Millais, to form the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The exquisite drawings made for this book are at Baylor University's Armstrong Browning Library. Anna Jameson wrote to Lady Byron, "Not often have four persons so different in age, in pursuits--and under such peculiar circumstances been so happy together."

In 1857 Anna Jameson lived around the corner from Casa Guidi in Via Maggio; like Elizabeth, she was to die in 1860 without seeing Italian liberation succeed.

Theodosia Garrow Trollope

Theodosia Garrow and Elizabeth Barrett Browning already knew each from Torquay in Devon where Elizabeth had been sent because of her tuberculosis, an illness she shared with Theodosia. Like Elizabeth, she was small and exotic, her own background being part East Indian, part Jewish, and from this she is partly the model for Nathaniel Hawthorne's Miriam in The Marble Faun. Both Theodosia and Elizabeth were to come to Florence where Theodosia met and married Thomas Adolphus Trollope, bearing him the child Bice, Pen's playmate, translating Niccolini's plays, supporting the Risorgimento, until her own early death.

Isa Blagden

{Elizabeth set her epic poem's most important Dantesque-scene at Bellosguardo. She knew of it because of her friend, Isa Blagden . Isa is likewise the model for Miriam in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Romance, The Marble Faun. Alfred Austin said of her: "The news, ' Isa is coming,' invariably thrillled with an almost childlike delight a certain Florentine circle." "She gloried in the gorgeous apparel of the external world, just as--many will remember--she delighted in bright textures and vivid colours for feminine adornment." Kate Field said:

There was a great love story. Because she was Anglo-Indian or part Jewish, no one knew quite what, it was not acceptable for her to marry Lord Lytton, whose life she had saved through her careful nursing. A relative later wrote: " Romeo-like he arrived at Florence, sighing for Rosaline, and almost immediately met his Juliet. Barriers more impassable than the feuds of Montagues and Capulets prevented any happy issue to this new attachment, but it profoundly affected many years of his life, and coloured all his early writings ." The Brownings hoped they would marry. Anna Jameson's letter, July 25, 1857, describes them: In Elizabeth Browning's words: ' On April 6 [1867] we had tea out of doors on the terrace of our friend Miss Blagden, in her villa up at Bellosguardo, not exactly Aurora Leigh's, mind). You seemed to be lifted up above the world in a divine ecstacy. Oh, what a vision!'

Henry James talked with her one morning at Bellosguardo:

Among the manuscripts in the Armstrong Browning Library are Isa Blagden's verses 'On the Italian colors being replaced on the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, April 27th, 1859'. Isa was present at the entombment of Italy's hopes of liberty and unity at the close of one decade, and at their glorious and final resurrection towards the close of the next. She even lived to see Rome delivered, and raised to its proper dignity as the capital of the new Kingdom. As her poems testify, she took the warmest interest in the fortunes of the beautiful and now prosperous land. Signora Villari, the wife of the great historian Pasquale Villari, was by her bedside when she died, January 20, 1873. She is buried in the ' English Cemetery ' in Piazzale Donatello, near Elizabeth Barrett Browning's tomb.

Jessie White Mario

{Jessie White ' is a great woman to whom we Italians owe a lot ' Giosué Carducci said. She had met Garibaldi in London in 1854, when he was more or less engaged to be married to an Englishwoman. As this lady's friend she had come to Italy to rejoin the General. Garibaldi valued her masculine energy and her gifts as a medically trained nurse. She was a most fervent disciple of Mazzini who held her in high esteem. Even before meeting him Miss White had been fired with his theories, and once she had met him, she threw herself into the cause with such passion that the apostle himself was frightened. 'Good and devoted as she is, Jessie infuriates me. She talks like a soldier; she insults everyone; she uses a dictatorial manner which is more imperious than Garibaldi's own.'

Jessie White arrived in Genoa in 1857 to take part in the Mazzinian rising for which she had collected considerable funds, but she was promptly arrested and kept in jail for four months. In prison she made the acquaintance of Alberto Mario, an exceedingly handsome young patriot who shared her views. From that moment, the heart of Jessie White nursed not only a fraternal friendship for Garibaldi and a disciple's cult for Mazzini, but a flaming woman's passion for Mario, whose wife she soon became, and with whom she pursued her devoted service to the cause of her adopted country. After 1860, along with her husband, she followed Garibaldi on the field of battle in all his campaigns, and was always in the thick of the fight as an heroic nurse. Miss Henrietta Corkran gave a portrait of Jessie White:

She became an intimate friend of General Garibaldi, and so came in contact with Mazzini and Orsini and other Republican leaders. She was the enthusiastic ally of Garibaldi in the Italian War to shake off the Austrian yoke, and distinguished herself greatly as a kind of aide-de-camp to the General in many of the engagements. She was thrown into prison upon a charge of which she was ultimately acquitted. She then married Mario, an aide-de-camp of Garibaldi. Jessie Mario also accompanied the General in his expedition across Sicily and Rome. She nursed the wounded soldiers inthe hospitals; they were devotedly grateful to her, and always spoke of her as an angel.

Though they were friends, inevitably things moved towards open disagreement between the invalid Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the robust Jessie White Mario. In fact when Mrs Mario went to America to give a series of propaganda talks and used the name of the Brownings as a recommendation for the cause they were horrified lest they be taken as patrons of revolutionary ideas, and they issued a denial in an American newspaper. Polemical correspondence ensued in the columns of the Athenaeum, which ended with a letter from the Browning stating that ' despite our high esteem and personal affection ' for Jessie Mario, there was diversity in their political opinions. They became reconciled later, but when Elizabeth heard of the arrest of Jessie and of her expulsion to Switzerland, she did not conceal a certain feeling of relief.

Thomas Adolphus Trollope said of Jessie White:

In the last years of her life, widowed and much impoverished, she supported herself with dignity by teaching in Italian secondary schools and by writing a history of the events she had taken part in. To the end dressed in her Garibaldi red shirt.

Anita Garibaldi

{Anita, Garibaldi's tiny, determined wife, had met him in Latin America, and joined him through terrible times, being pregnant with their child at the Fall of the Roman Republic in 1849. Margaret Fuller describes that Fall of Mazzini's Roman Republic to the French:

Anita Garibaldi died in childbirth during that flight, the two corpses being buried hurriedly in shallow sand, so that dogs dug them up again.

Cristina Trivulzio, Princess Belgioioso

{Margaret Fuller, writing from Italy to America, described the hospital work being done by Jessie White Mario and by Cristina Trivulzio, the Princess Belgioioso.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

{Harriet Beecher Stowe, the apostle of freedom for the slaves, came to Florence in 1857. The fabulous success on two continents of Uncle Tom's Cabin assured her an enthusiastic reception in Italy also. "We find her reading Madame de Staël, and especially Corinne, with eager delight. In Rome one day she visited the workshop of the brothers Castellani, patriots and goldsmiths, and admired the exquisite workmanship of their jewelry. Castellani handed her the head of an Egyptian slave chiselled in black onyx saying:

Mrs. Stowe moved in such an aura of fame that the Brownings awaited her arrival with some misgiving. But they were quite won over by her simplicity and earnestness. ' I, the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin? No, indeed! The Lord Himself wrote it, and I was but the humblest instrument in his hand. To Him alone be all the praise.'

Margaret Fuller

"{M agnificent, prophetic, this new Corinne. She never confounded relations; but kept a hundred fine threads in her hand, without crossing or entangling any." So wrote Emerson on of New England's Margaret Fuller. Born in 1810, her tragic death by drowning occurred 16 July 1850. At age of six Margaret read Latin as well as English and soon after Greek, at 15 revelling in Madame de Staël and Petrarch.

She travelled to Italy as a journalist, already deeply committed to women's position.

Mentions Adam Mickiewicz's presence. Their declaration of faith In Florence he was addressed as the "Dante of Poland ."

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote that

The American Consul spoke of her work in the Roman Republic's Hospitals. There are two sculptures which particularly inspired women in the nineteenth century.

One is Michelangelo's 'Aurora' from the Medici Tomb in the New Sacristy at San Lorenzo. The Republic of Florence commissioned these sculptures. Later Michelangelo wrote a poem for Dawn to speak in which she desires not to awake while the Medici have robbed Florence of her freedom. Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote about it at length in Casa Guidi Windows and used it for the title of her epic poem, Aurora Leigh.

The other is Hiram Powers' 'Greek Slave'. It appears to be about the War of Greek Independence, in whose cause Lord Byron fought and died. But it is really about Hiram Powers' own knowledge of himself as both American and Native American, and about Italy, which in this period was ground under by Austria, Spain and the Pope, as had Greece been by Turkey. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who was Hiram Powers' great friend and admirer, spoke of him as part Native American. Another sculpture of his is 'The Last of her Tribe', in which an Indian maiden is fleeing from her persecutors. It is exquisite. Elizabeth wrote a powerful sonnet about the 'Greek Slave', which Queen Victoria read. The Queen also saw the sculpture for it was at the centre of the Great Crystal Palace Exhibition she visited, leaning upon her Prince Consort's arm. Margaret Fuller had written:

She prefers his busts. But she had also written approvingly: 'As to the Eve and the Greek Slave, I could only join with the rest of the world in admiration of their beauty and the fine feeling of nature which they exhibit. The statue of Calhoun is full of power, simple, and majestic in attitude and expressions.'

Hiram Powers' 'Greek Slave' is normal in its proportions. But Hiram Powers also sculpted colossal statues, as did similarly the tiny Harriet Hosmer. One gigantic statue of Calhoun by Powers was shipwrecked, if indeed it did not cause the wreck of the ship on which the Fuller-Ossoli family perished; one marble effigy of a statesman never reached America, another ended at the bottom of the Bay of Biscay.

Just before Margaret sailed Mrs. Browning wrote of their last evening in Florence: To Miss Mitford EBB wrote: Pen showed this Bible to Lillian Whiting:.

Angiolino was nourished by means of a goat on shipboard, there being no refrigeration for the Victorian sea voyage. Small pox broke out, Angiolino miraculously recovering, but the Captain died. The first mate failed in navigating the ship and it wrecked off Fire Island. "Neither Margaret's body, nor that of her husband was ever recovered; that of little Angelo was borne through the breakers by a sailor and laid lifeless on the sands. The manuscript of her "History of Italy" was lost in the wreck." The still warm bodies of steward and child and trunk with letters beween her husband and herself were all that survived.

It was this drowning of her friend, in a ship named the `Elizabeth', that paradoxically released Elizabeth to write Aurora Leigh, whose two heroines she models upon Margaret Fuller and upon herself.

Harriet Hosmer

{Harriet Hosmer initially studied anatomy in St Louis, though as a woman she was not permitted to attend medical school, coming to Rome from Boston when she was 22. She became the pupil of John Gibson, who in turn was the pupil of Canova, and she " used to ride out along through the streets of Rome, her short brown curls cut like a boy's, gathered under a little velvet capt, and her hands deep in the pockets of a velvet jacket, to the astonishment and fascination of everyone'. 'A slight, delicate, though well-rounded figure, a forehead "royal with truth," short curling hair and rosy, smiling cheeks, not to speak of the "dimples" that Mrs. Browning loved in her "Hattie," made up a buoyant and magnetic personality." Brownings write to her lovingly, mentioning her Greek studies.

In the winter of 1853 she sculpted the clasped hands of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning.

There are photographs of Hattie in short skirt on steps working on male statue three times her size, then of her sculpture of 'Beatrice Cenci', which was exhibited in the Royal Academy, 1857. That sculpture shows Beatrice Cenci, the night before her execution, asleep in her Castel Sant'Angelo cell. Harriet Hosmer, like the Pre-Raphaelite Brethren before her, is likely influenced by Anna Jameson.

The 'Zenobia' was famous, and exhibited in London in an octagonal temple, Charles Sumner said " It lives and moves with the solemn grace of a dethroned queen ." It is now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. For the London Exhibition the Prince of Wales also loaned 'Puck', described as ' a laugh in marble', and Lady Marian Alford, Medusa. The 'Sleeping Faun' was shown in Dublin. Harriet moved to the Palazzo Barberini, where she created a companion 'Waking Faun', now being 36. Much later Lillian Whiting describes her, in Chicago, reading from Browning's letters to her, then bursting into tears soon before 1908. When she died at 78, she was still planning projects that would take yet another lifetime.

Félicie de Fauveau

The sculptress Félicie de Fauveau was no lover of the Risorgimento but a French Royalist, having to live in exile in Florence because of her politics, following even imprisonment in France. She was much admired by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Isa Blagden, the latter writing a fine essay on her, worthy of being read here.

Lily Wilson

In Elizabeth Barrett Browning's day and in her circle were such women as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Hosmer, Harriet Martineau, Anna Jameson, Cristina Rossetti, Margaret Fuller, Isa Blagden , Princess Belgioioso, Theodosia Garrow Trollope , Jessie White Mario, Anita Garibaldi, and last but not least Elizabeth Wilson without whom Elizabeth could never have come to Italy nor borne the child Pen nor written Aurora Leigh. It was Lily who persuaded Elizabeth to come off laudanum long enough for a successful pregnancy, the child Pen Browning, who was her great joy.  I suggested to Margaret Forster the writing of Lady's Maid, and now I wish I could rewrite that book and make it more poetical. Lily Wilson called her two sons, Orestes and Pylades, the classical pair whom Elizabeth, as Electra, had mentioned in her Sonnet V. Elizabeth was very jealous of Wilson and dismissed Lily from her service for her second pregnancy, her two sons having to be raised apart, one in England, one in Italy. When the brothers eventually met neither shared a language with the other. Like Walter Savage Landor and Marian Erle, Elizabeth Wilson, too, was capable of great madness, learning and poetry and did not just have the 'damp housemaid's soul' Forster gives her. Walter Savage Landor was her boarder at a time of his greatest dementia.
 

Christina Rossetti

{Christina Rossetti and Dante Gabriel Rossetti were the children of Italian parents, their father, Gabriele Rossetti, being from Naples of illiterate parents but educated at University of Naples, then as a political exile, being Professor of Italian, at King's College, while their mother was of Tuscan aristocracy. They spoke Italian with their father, English with their mother, whose commonplace book from which she taught them contained Byron and Sappho.

The figures of Dante and Beatrice became for this family the ideal of love between men and women. While the Risorgimento was taking place in Italy, in England we witness the Oxford Movement in religion and the Pre-Raphaelite Movement in art. We could almost say that the Italian Risorgimento was inspired by English-speaking ladies from both sides of the Atlantic while the English Pre-Raphaelite and Oxford Movements were inspired by Englishmen in love with Italy. Dante Gabriel Rossetti sketched Lord Tennyson reading Maud at a dinner party Elizabeth and Robert attended and Elizabeth treasured that sketch, keeping it on the mantle piece at Casa Guidi. But it was Tennyson whom Queen Victoria had had become Poet Laureate in 1850, not Elizabeth.

These women, as poets, writers, journalists, sculptors, and in all but license, doctors, lived in flesh and blood the pages of Madame de Staël's Romance, Corinne ou Italie. They similarly understood the language of freedom being spoken in marble by Michelangelo and Hiram Powers, and that spoken in poetry by Sophocles and Byron. Even Elizabeth and Robert's child, Pen, grew up to become a sculptor, studying under Rodin, and sculpting his illegitimate daughter, Ginevra, as this bust of the murdered heroine Pompilia of his father's The Ring and the Book. Ginevra is Elizabeth's granddaughter. Some day I should like to publish a book in Italian on these women (its English title being Laurel Garland: Women of the Risorgimento), awarding a chapter, a laurel leaf, to each of them. These women, gathered from the British Isles, Europe and the Americas, shaped the histories of Florence and Rome, and earned Laura's wreath.

Cameo with Poet's Laurel Garland, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Tomb
 

In compiling this lecture/essay I am greatly indebted to the Armstrong Browning Library and Museum, Baylor University, Texas, U.S.A., to the kindness of the Browning Institute's Casa Guidi, 1987-1988, and to Giuliana Artom Treves, The Golden Ring: A Study of Anglo-Italian Relations. Julia Bolton Holloway.
 

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