Melton prior Institut


Linton- Life in the Collections

Joseph Mazzini:

59) Essays: Selected from the Writings, Literary, Political, and Religious.

Newcastle, London, New York 1882

This selection of essays, which were compiled from the six-volume edition of Mazzini’s Life and Writings (London, 1864 -70) appeared ten years after the author’s death. Linton esteemed Mazzini’s literary criticisms: “As a literary man he must take high rank. His comments on Dante, his criticisms of Goethe, Carlyle, and others, may be read for their purely literary merit as well as for their profound thought and critical perception. (...) His style, peculiarly his own, is vigorous, of the purest Italian (...), passionately earnest, yet ever the words well chosen and well marshaled, reminding the reader in their sustained lenght of sentence and vehemence of argument, intreaty or invective, of the mighty prose of Milton.” (Linton, European Republicans)

The selection includes his clear-sighted warnings against the threats of Carlyle’s self-centred antidemocratic heroism, which he viewed as being inspired by “the evil genius of Goethe.” He held the German poet together with his great role model Byron for being the last representatives of a declining age of individuality, both being “noble monuments of feudal times.” In his article Byron and Goethe, which first appeared in the Monthly Chronicle in 1839, he characterizes the two as complementary poetic forces, which are united in their fatalism and egotism. Through their artistic excellence, they have exhausted in the author’s view “both forms of the poetry of individuality,” the more subjective, represented by Byron and the more objective, represented by Goethe, and have thus “completed the cycle of its poets, thereby reducing all followers in the same sphere to the subaltern position of imitators, and creating the necessity of a new order of poetry,” a poetry, which would no longer “teach us inactive contemplation.”