GEFTER WONDRICH Roberta Title: Charles Lever’s Italy in the Risorgimento: an Anglo-Irish Perspective Abstract: This contribution focusses on Charles Lever, a 19th century Anglo-Irish novelist, Charles (Dublin 1806-Trieste 1872), who in his early career in the 1840s became as famous as Thackeray and Dickens, with whom he collaborated, but whose fame progressively declined as the quality of his work improved. A Protestant doctor who became a diplomat, consul and deputy consul in Italy, first in La Spezia and Bagni di Lucca, then in Trieste, Lever was a cosmopolitan intellectual and a prolific narrator who authored more than 40 novels. It was mainly in three works of the 1860s - a collection of essays, Cornelius O’Dowd (1864), the novel Tony Butler (1865), and a collection of short stories and confessions, Paul Gosslett’s Confessions in Love, Law, and the Civil Service, (1868) - that he partly staged his stories in contemporary Italy and drew on the political turmoil and diplomatic intrigues in which the British Foreign office was involved in Southern Italy. Not only did he consider some aspects of the ‘Southern question’ such as brigandage, Camorra and their political entanglements, but he also featured the Garibaldian enterprise in Tony Butler and analysed the Italian leader’s personality, role and hero-worship in his miscellaneous writing, further to his personal acquaintance with him. It is therefore likely that Lever should have influenced some diplomats of his time, and that he contributed to the English construction of the Garibaldi myth as well as the English public opinion on the Italian political arena. Significantly, he did it with the clear intentions of broadening the traditional binary opposition between England and Ireland in the direction of a wider European context, of which he saw Italy was part. Contemporary Italy thus became, in several of his works and in his diplomatic experience, an interpretative key for the Irish political situation in the light of Protestant England’s and catholic Ireland’s common grounds in their response to the Italian Risorgimento, those of “religious animosity and the British–Irish semi-colonial relationship” (N. Carter). Lever has enjoyed limited critical attention so far, with two main publications by Tony Barenham (New Evaluations, ed., 1991), who championed his reappraisal, and Stephen Haddelsey (Charles Lever: The Lost Victorian, 2000). A monographic issue of Anglistica Pisana IV-, 1-2 (20017), edited by T. Barenham and M. Curreli, and a significant recent article by John McCourt (Irish Studies in Italy, 2016), followed by a reading of the financial theme in a single novel by Silvana Colella (Estudios Irlandeses, 2019) are the only Italian publications on Lever. This research aims to shed new light and trace a full appraisal of the relevance of Lever’s representation of Italy, Southern Italy and its Anglo-Irish relations in the context of British and Anglo-Irish culture in the second half of the 19th century, referring to the fashioning of Italian national identity through the eyes of foreign travellers and intellectuals, to the notion of meridionism (M.Pfister) and the time-honoured idea of Italy as England’s other. This study thus aims to contribute a case study focussed on a rather idiosyncratic perspective on the centrality of Italy in the age of nation-building contained in some literary narratives targeted at a mainstream readership which were inspired by Lever’ lifelong involvement with Europe and Italy, enjoyed from the experience of his hyphenated Anglo-Irish identity.

“Charles Lever’s Italy in the Risorgimento. An Anglo-Irish perspective”, in Cosmopolitan Italy in the Age of Nations, Edoardo Tortarolo ed. Routledge, 2021

Gefter Wondrich Roberta
2022-01-01

Abstract

GEFTER WONDRICH Roberta Title: Charles Lever’s Italy in the Risorgimento: an Anglo-Irish Perspective Abstract: This contribution focusses on Charles Lever, a 19th century Anglo-Irish novelist, Charles (Dublin 1806-Trieste 1872), who in his early career in the 1840s became as famous as Thackeray and Dickens, with whom he collaborated, but whose fame progressively declined as the quality of his work improved. A Protestant doctor who became a diplomat, consul and deputy consul in Italy, first in La Spezia and Bagni di Lucca, then in Trieste, Lever was a cosmopolitan intellectual and a prolific narrator who authored more than 40 novels. It was mainly in three works of the 1860s - a collection of essays, Cornelius O’Dowd (1864), the novel Tony Butler (1865), and a collection of short stories and confessions, Paul Gosslett’s Confessions in Love, Law, and the Civil Service, (1868) - that he partly staged his stories in contemporary Italy and drew on the political turmoil and diplomatic intrigues in which the British Foreign office was involved in Southern Italy. Not only did he consider some aspects of the ‘Southern question’ such as brigandage, Camorra and their political entanglements, but he also featured the Garibaldian enterprise in Tony Butler and analysed the Italian leader’s personality, role and hero-worship in his miscellaneous writing, further to his personal acquaintance with him. It is therefore likely that Lever should have influenced some diplomats of his time, and that he contributed to the English construction of the Garibaldi myth as well as the English public opinion on the Italian political arena. Significantly, he did it with the clear intentions of broadening the traditional binary opposition between England and Ireland in the direction of a wider European context, of which he saw Italy was part. Contemporary Italy thus became, in several of his works and in his diplomatic experience, an interpretative key for the Irish political situation in the light of Protestant England’s and catholic Ireland’s common grounds in their response to the Italian Risorgimento, those of “religious animosity and the British–Irish semi-colonial relationship” (N. Carter). Lever has enjoyed limited critical attention so far, with two main publications by Tony Barenham (New Evaluations, ed., 1991), who championed his reappraisal, and Stephen Haddelsey (Charles Lever: The Lost Victorian, 2000). A monographic issue of Anglistica Pisana IV-, 1-2 (20017), edited by T. Barenham and M. Curreli, and a significant recent article by John McCourt (Irish Studies in Italy, 2016), followed by a reading of the financial theme in a single novel by Silvana Colella (Estudios Irlandeses, 2019) are the only Italian publications on Lever. This research aims to shed new light and trace a full appraisal of the relevance of Lever’s representation of Italy, Southern Italy and its Anglo-Irish relations in the context of British and Anglo-Irish culture in the second half of the 19th century, referring to the fashioning of Italian national identity through the eyes of foreign travellers and intellectuals, to the notion of meridionism (M.Pfister) and the time-honoured idea of Italy as England’s other. This study thus aims to contribute a case study focussed on a rather idiosyncratic perspective on the centrality of Italy in the age of nation-building contained in some literary narratives targeted at a mainstream readership which were inspired by Lever’ lifelong involvement with Europe and Italy, enjoyed from the experience of his hyphenated Anglo-Irish identity.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11368/2995008
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