The Valley of Decision eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 553 pages of information about The Valley of Decision.
for the great part their country was to play; and contact with the Waldensian and Calvinist heresies had stiffened Piedmontese piety into a sombre hatred of schism and a minute observance of the mechanical rules of the faith.  Such qualities could be produced only at the expense of intellectual freedom; and if Piedmont could show a few nobles like Massimo d’Azeglio’s father, who “made the education of his children his first and gravest thought” and supplemented the deficiencies of his wife’s conventual training by “consecrating to her daily four hours of reading, translating and other suitable exercises,” the commoner view was that of Alfieri’s own parents, who frequently repeated in their son’s hearing “the old maxim of the Piedmontese nobility” that there is no need for a gentleman to be a scholar.  Such at any rate was the opinion of the old Marquess of Donnaz, and of all the frequenters of Casa Valdu.  Odo’s stepfather was engrossed in the fulfilment of his duties about the court, and Donna Laura, under the influence of poverty and ennui, had sunk into a state of rigid pietism; so that the lad, on his visits to his mother, found himself in a world where art was represented by the latest pastel-portrait of a court beauty, literature by Liguori’s Glories of Mary or the blessed Battista’s Mental Sorrows of Christ, and history by the conviction that Piedmont’s efforts to stamp out the enemies of the Church had distinguished her above every other country of Europe.  Donna Laura’s cicisbeo was indeed a member of the local Arcadia, and given to celebrating in verse every incident in the noble household of Valdu, from its lady’s name-day to the death of a pet canary; but his own tastes inclined to the elegant Bettinelli, whose Lettere Virgiliane had so conclusively shown Dante to be a writer of barbarous doggerel; and among the dilettanti of the day one heard less of Raphael than of Carlo Maratta, less of Ariosto and Petrarch than of the Jesuit poet Padre Cevo, author of the sublime “heroico-comic” poem on the infancy of Jesus.

It was in fact mainly to the Jesuits that Italy, in the early part of the eighteenth century, owed her literature and her art, as well as the direction of her religious life.  Though the reaction against the order was everywhere making itself felt, though one Italian sovereign after another had been constrained to purchase popularity or even security by banishing the Society from his dominions, the Jesuits maintained their hold on the aristocracy, whose pretentions they flattered, whose tastes they affected, and to whom they represented the spirit of religious and political conservatism, against which invisible forces were already felt to be moving.  For the use of their noble supporters, the Jesuits had devised a religion as elaborate and ceremonious as the social usages of the aristocracy:  a religion which decked its chapels in imitation of great ladies’ boudoirs and prescribed observances in keeping with the vapid and gossiping existence of their inmates.

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The Valley of Decision from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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