The Roman Question eBook

Edmond François Valentin About
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 194 pages of information about The Roman Question.

If I wonder at anything, it is that under the present system such artists are to be found at Home as Tenerani and Podesti, in statuary and painting; Castellani, in gold-working; Calamatta and Mercuri, in engraving, with some others.  It is a melancholy truth, however, that the majority of Roman artists are doomed, by the absence of encouragement, to a monotonous and humiliating round of taskwork and trade; occupied half their time in re-copying copies, and the remainder in recommending their goods to the foreign purchaser.

In truth, I had myself quitted Rome with no very favourable idea of the middle class.  A few distinguished artists, a few advocates of talent and courage, some able medical men, some wealthy and skilful farmers, were insufficient, in my opinion, to constitute a middle class.  I regarded them as so many exceptions to a rule.  And as it is certain that there can be no nation without a middle class, I dreaded lest I should be forced to admit that there is no Italian nation.

The middle class appeared to me to thrive no better in the Mediterranean provinces than at Rome.  Half citizen, half clown, the people representing it are plunged in a crass ignorance.  Having just sufficient means to live without working, they lounge away their time in homes comfortless and half-furnished, the very walls of which seem to reek with ennui.  Rumours of what is passing in Europe, which might possibly rouse them from their torpor, are stopped at the frontier.  New ideas, which might somewhat fertilize their minds, are intercepted by the Custom House.  If they read anything, it is the Almanack, or by way of a higher order of literature, the Giornale di Roma, wherein the daily rides of the Pope are pompously chronicled.  The existence of these people consists, in short, of a round of eating, drinking, sleeping, and reproducing their kind, until death arrive.

But beyond the Apennines matters are far otherwise.  There, instead of the citizen descending to the level of the peasant, it is the peasant who rises to that of the citizen.  Unremitting labour is continually improving both the soil and man.  A smuggling of ideas which daily becomes more active, sets custom-houses and customs officers at defiance.  Patriotism is stimulated and kept alive by the presence of the Austrians.  Common sense is outraged by the weight of taxation.  The different fractions of the middle class—­advocates, physicians, merchants, farmers, artists—­freely express among one another their discontent and their hatred, their ideas and their hopes.  The Apennines, which form a barrier between them and the Pope, bring them nearer to Europe and liberty.  I have never failed, after conversing with one of the middle class in the Legations, to inscribe in my tablets, There is an Italian Nation!

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The Roman Question from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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