Gino Capponi, Count
Historian and litterateur; b. at Florence, Italy, September 13, 1792; d. February 3, 1876
Cappom, GINO, COUNT, historian and litterateur; b. at Florence, Italy, September 13, 1792; d. February 3, 1876. He came of an ancient family, whose members had often figured in the annals of Italian literature. Under private tutors of note, Count Capponi was well trained in the humanities and in such modern languages as English, French, and German. Fond of travelling, he early began his peregrinations throughout his native land, acquainting himself with the past and present traditions of Italian art and letters. In 1813, when he had but barely reached man’s estate, he visited Paris, on a deputation to Napoleon. He also visited England, where he contracted a close friendship with the exiled Foscolo, and later he travelled in Holland and Germany. Back in Florence once more, he devoted himself to constant study, maintaining all the while constant relations with the best scholars and writers of the time, and figuring prominently in the various learned and literary academies. To his initiative and active cooperation was due the successful launching of a number of important periodicals dealing with many and varied interests. Thus the “Antologia” was founded in 1821 by Vieusseux, who valued greatly the aid given him by Capponi, and he was quite efficacious in starting the “Giornale Agrario Toscano” (1827), the “Guido, del-l’Educatore” (1836), and the “Archivio Storico Italia” (1842). Entering into political life, he there professed moderate sentiments and so recommended himself by his self-restraint and prudence that he became head of a ministry in the Grand Duchy during the troublous times of 1848. He was afterwards a senator of the realm. He passed the latter part of his life in darkness, having been stricken by blindness in 1840.
While engaged in translating from the French a history of Florence by Mme O. Allart, he conceived the idea of writing his own “Storia della Repubblica di Firenze”, which, after twenty years of labor, he published in 1875 (Florence, 2nd revised ed., 1876), by the advice of the German historian, Alfred von Reumont. His history extends from the beginning of the commune down to the fall of the republic in 1530, and is a statement of all that is told by the old Florentine chronicles and by the early historians, substantiated by documents and amplified with considerations on the state of culture in the various periods. Many of his lesser writings have been brought together in the “Scritti editi ed inediti” published by M. Tabarrini (Florence, 1877). Interesting still is the polemic which he wrote in connection with the controversy about Amerigo Vespucci. Those who treat of the Lombards in Italy must take cognizance of his “Lettere al professor Capei sulla dominazione dei Longobardi in Italia”. His views on pedagogical matters are expressed in the “Frammenti sun’ educazione” and his studies in political economy take a practical turn in the “Cinque letture di economia toscana”. With the zeal of an intelligent student of folklore he arranged, amplified, and published the “Raccolta di proverbi toscani” of the scholar Giusti. Instructive not only with regard to the man himself, but also for the general political, social, and literary conditions of his time, is the “Epistolario” published in six volumes by G. C. Carraresi (Florence, 1884-90); it embraces many letters written by others to Count Capponi, as well as those written by him.
The personality of Capponi reveals itself in every respect as one of the most engaging that modern Italy has possessed. He was a man of strong integrity, a sturdy Catholic, friendly to those forms of political liberty that obeyed the moral law, and thoroughly imbued with love for all the arts of refinement.
J. D. M. FORD