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Giuseppe Giusti

Poet and patriot; b. 1809; d. 1850

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Giusti, GIUSEPPE, poet and patriot; b. 1809, at Monsumano near Pescia, Italy; d. March 31, 1850, at Florence. He received his early training under a private tutor and in an academy at Florence. Then he entered the University of Pisa to take up the study of jurisprudence. He did not give overmuch atten-tion to his legal course, yet eventually he secured his degree, in 1834, after a delay due in part to a political satire written by him which displeased the authorities. Now establishing himself in Florence, ostensibly for the practice of law, he really devoted himself to literary pursuits. When his health began to fail, he traveled about the peninsula with the hope of recovering it, visiting Rome, Naples, Leghorn, Milan, Pisa, and other places. In the meantime he had been active as a poet, and, trusting in the reform promised by the grand duke, Leopold II, he addressed to him an encomiastic ode quite different from the satirical verses with which he had assailed him previously. He was admitted into membership in the Accademia della Crusca. Entering seriously into political life as a legislator, he was elected a deputy to the first and second Tuscan Legislative Assemblies, in which he signalized himself by his patriotic endeavors. At first he favored the return of the grand duke, but when the latter came under Austrian auspices Giusti withdrew from public life. By this time tuberculosis, the fatal malady threatening him, began to assert itself all too plainly, and on March 31, 1850, he died of it in the mansion of his friend, the Marquis Gino Capponi, who, like himself, was a sturdy Catholic and patriot.

Among his early compositions there figure his scherzi, as he called them, little lyrics of which some were amorous and others of varied import, and which were scattered broadcast through the land in manuscript form. In 1844 they were published at Leghorn with his sanction. It is obvious that he began his lyric career under the influence of Petrarch; later, however, he developed a romantic and elegiac strain of his own. Notable among his purely lyrical compositions is the “Fiducia in Dio”, which sets forth his hope and faith as a Catholic Christian. With tremendous force does he express himself in his political satires, in which, departing from the conventional employment of the terza-rima and the blank verse, he uses a variety of lyric measures. Taken in their entirety, his political satires present a picture of Italy in his day. They are directed against social abuses of many sorts, and at the same time they express a longing for political and moral regeneration. In view of the frankness and the acritude with which he assailed the grandducal government and the Austrians, it is surprising that he escaped the dungeon to which so many other Italian patriots of the time were condemned. In prose he published but little. Mention may be made, however, of his “Proverbi toscani”, a collection of proverbs annotated by him, and his “Epistolario”, a collection of his letters. These letters are rather too studied and polished in form, but they remain valuable for the autobiographical information that they contain. On the basis of them, the librarian, Guido Biagi, has prepared a volume entitled “Vita di Giuseppe Giusti, scritta da lui medesimo” (Florence, 1893).

J. D. M. FORD


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