Ugo Foscolo

Ugo Foscolo (Italian: [ˈuːɡo ˈfoskolo]; 6 February 1778 in Zakynthos – 10 September 1827 in Turnham Green), born Niccolò Foscolo, was an Italian writer, revolutionary and poet.[1]

He is remembered especially for his 1807 long poem Dei Sepolcri.

Niccolò Ugo Foscolo
1813 Portrait
1813 Portrait
Born6 February 1778
Zakynthos (Zante), Ionian Islands, Republic of Venice, now Greece
Died10 September 1827 (aged 49)
Turnham Green, now London, England
Resting placeBasilica of Santa Croce, Florence
Pen nameDidimo Chierico
OccupationPoet, writer, soldier
CitizenshipVenetian (1778–1799), Italian (until 1814), Britain (1814–1827)
Genreslyrical poetry, epistolary novel, literary critic
Literary movementNeoclassicism, Pre-Romanticism
PartnerIsabella Teotochi Albrizzi (1795–1796)
Isabella Roncioni (1800–1801)
Antonietta Fagnani Arese (1801–1803)
Fanny "Sophia" Emerytt-Hamilton(1804–1805)
Quirina Mocenni Magiotti (1812–1813)
ChildrenMary "Floriana" Hamilton-Foscolo
(from Fanny Hamilton)


Early life

Foscolo was born on Zakynthos in the Ionian Islands. His father Andrea Foscolo was an impoverished Venetian nobleman, and his mother Diamantina Spathis was Greek.[2][3][4][5][6]

In 1788, on the death of his father, who worked as a physician in Spalato, today Croatia (Split), the family moved to Venice, and Foscolo completed the studies he began at the Dalmatian grammar school at the University of Padua.[7]

Amongst his Paduan teachers was the Abbé Melchiore Cesarotti, whose version of Ossian was very popular in Italy, and who influenced Foscolo's literary tastes; he knew both modern and Ancient Greek. His literary ambition revealed itself in the appearance in 1797 of his tragedy Tieste—a production that enjoyed a certain degree of success.[7]

Politics and poetry

Foscolo, who, for unexplained reasons, had changed his Christian name Niccolò to that of Ugo, now began to take an active part in the stormy political discussions which the fall of the republic of Venice had triggered off. He was a prominent member of the national committees, and addressed an ode to Napoleon, expecting Napoleon to overthrow the Venetian oligarchy and create a free republic.[7]

The Treaty of Campo Formio (17 October 1797), by which Napoleon handed Venice over to the Austrians, gave a rude shock to Foscolo, but did not quite destroy his hopes. The state of mind produced by that shock is reflected in his novel The Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis (1798), which was described by the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica as a more politicized version of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, "for the hero of Foscolo embodies the mental sufferings and suicide of an undeceived Italian patriot just as the hero of Goethe places before us the too delicate sensitiveness embittering and at last cutting short the life of a private German scholar."[7]

The story of Foscolo, like that of Goethe, had a groundwork of melancholy fact. Jacopo Ortis had been a real person; he was a young student from Padua, and committed suicide there under circumstances akin to those described by Foscolo.[7]

Foscolo, like many of his contemporaries, had thought much about suicide. Cato the Younger and the many classical examples of self-destruction described in Plutarch's Lives appealed to the imaginations of young Italian patriots as they had done in France to those of the heroes and heroines of the Gironde. In the case of Foscolo, as in that of Goethe, the effect produced on the writer's mind by the composition of the work seems to have been beneficial. He had seen the ideal of a great national future rudely shattered; but he did not despair of his country, and sought relief in now turning to gaze on the ideal of a great national poet.[7]

After the fall of Venice Foscolo moved to Milan, where he formed a friendship with the older poet Giuseppe Parini, whom he later remembered with admiration and gratitude.[7] In Milan, he published a choice of 12 Sonnets, where he blends the passionate sentiments shown in Ortis with classical control of language and rhythm.

Still hoping that his country would be freed by Napoleon, he served as a volunteer in the French army, took part in the battle of the Trebbia and the siege of Genoa, was wounded and made prisoner. When released he returned to Milan, and there gave the last touches to his Ortis, published a translation of and commentary upon Callimachus, commenced a version of the Iliad and began his translation of Laurence Sterne's Sentimental Journey.[7] He also took part in a failed memorandum intended to present a new model of unified Italian government to Napoleon.

Before leaving France in 1806, Foscolo met Alessandro Manzoni once again, who was only seven years younger, in Paris. Manzoni was still living here in the house of his mother Giulia Beccaria. Some studies have compared the poetic production of Foscolo and Manzoni in the period from 1801 till 1803, with very close analogies (textual, metric and biographic) like in Alla amica risanata e Qual su le cinzie cime.[10][11][12]

In 1807, Foscolo wrote his Dei Sepolcri, which may be described as a sublime effort to seek refuge in the past from the misery of the present and the darkness of the future. The mighty dead are summoned from their tombs, as ages before they had been in the masterpieces of Greek oratory, to fight again the battles of their country. The inaugural lecture On the origin and duty of literature, delivered by Foscolo in January 1809 when appointed to the chair of Italian eloquence at Pavia, was conceived in the same spirit. In this lecture Foscolo urged his young countrymen to study literature, not in obedience to academic traditions, but in their relation to individual and national life and growth.[7]

The sensation produced by this lecture had no slight share in provoking the decree of Napoleon by which the chair of national eloquence was abolished in all the Italian universities. Soon afterwards, Foscolo's tragedy of Ajax was presented, with little success, at Milan, and because of its supposed allusions to Napoleon, he was forced to move from Milan to Tuscany. The chief fruits of his stay in Florence are the tragedy of Ricciarda, the Ode to the Graces, left unfinished, and the completion of his version of the Sentimental Journey (1813). His version of Sterne is an important feature in his personal history.[7]

When serving with the French he had been at the Boulogne-sur-Mer camp, and had traversed much of the ground gone over by Yorick in Laurence Sterne's novel of the same name; and in his memoir of Didimo Chierico, to whom the version is ascribed, he throws much light on his own character. He returned to Milan in 1813, until the entry of the Austrians; from there he passed into Switzerland, where he wrote a fierce satire in Latin on his political and literary opponents; and finally he sought the shores of England at the close of 1816.[7]


Edwardes Square, London 10
19 Edwardes Square, London W8

During the eleven years spent by Foscolo in London, until his death there, he enjoyed all the social distinction which the most brilliant circles of the English capital confer on foreigners of political and literary renown, and experienced all the misery which follows on a disregard of the first conditions of domestic economy. His contributions to the Edinburgh Review and Quarterly Review, his dissertations in Italian on the text of Dante Alighieri and Giovanni Boccaccio, and still more his English essays on Petrarch, of which the value was enhanced by Barbarina Brand's admirable translations of some of Petrarch's finest sonnets, heightened his previous fame as a Man of Letters. However, he was frequently accused of financial sloppiness, and ended up spending time in debtors' prison, which affected his social standing after his release.[7]

According to the History of the County of Middlesex, the scientist and businessman William Allen hired Foscolo to teach Italian at the Quaker school he co-founded, the Newington Academy for Girls.[13]

His general bearing in society – as reported by Walter Scott – had not been such as to gain and retain lasting friendships. He died at Turnham Green on 10 September 1827 and was buried at St Nicholas Church, Chiswick, where his restored tomb remains to this day; it refers to him as the "wearied citizen poet", and incorrectly states his age as 50. Forty-four years after his death, on 7 June 1871, his remains were brought to Florence, at the request of the King of Italy, and with all the pride, pomp and circumstance of a great national mourning, found their final resting-place beside the monuments of Niccolò Machiavelli and Vittorio Alfieri, of Michelangelo and Galileo, in the church of Santa Croce,[7] the pantheon of Italian glory he had celebrated in Dei Sepolcri.

As noted by historian Lucy Riall, the glorification of Ugo Foscolo in the 1870s was part of the effort of the Italian government of this time—successful in completing the Italian unification but at the cost of a head-on confrontation with the Catholic Church—to create a gallery of "secular saints" to compete with those of the Church and sway popular feeling in favor of the newly created Italian state.[14] However, the quality of Foscolo's work is undisputed.

References in modern culture

Edwardes Square, London 12
Blue plaque in Edwardes Square



  • A Bonaparte liberatore [To Bonaparte the liberator] (1797)
  • All'amica risanata (1802)
  • Alla Musa (1803)
  • Alla sera[16] (1803)
  • A Zacinto [To Zakinthos] (1803)
  • In morte del fratello Giovanni (1803)
  • Dei Sepolcri [Of the sepulchres] (1807)



  • Tieste (1797) [Thyestes]


  1. ^ Biography at Infotube
  2. ^ Ugo Foscolo: An Italian in Regency England, Vincent, Eric Reginald Pearce, 1894, Cambridge University Press, p. 106
  3. ^ The Chronicles of Fleetwood House, Adam John Shirren, 1977 Pacesetter Press, p. 155
  4. ^ Introduction to Italian Poetry, Rebay, Luciano, Courier Dover Publications, p. 97
  5. ^ Dictionary of Italian Literature, Bondanella, Julia Conaway, Peter E. Bondanella, Greenwood Press, p. 215, ISBN 0-313-20421-7
  6. ^ The Australian Library Journal, 1951 Library Association of Australia, University of Michigan, p. 179
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainStuart, James Montgomery (1911). "Foscolo, Ugo" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 27 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 730–731.
  8. ^ Foscolo, Ugo (1807). "Dei Sepolcri". Classicitaliani. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  9. ^ From Robert Walsh, The American Quarterly Review, Volume 16, p. 77
  10. ^ Pierantonio Frare, Foscolo e Manzoni – rapporti biografici e polemiche testuali, in Rivista di letteratura italiana, XVII, 1 (1999), pagg. 29–50
  11. ^ Poesie di Alessandro Manzoni prima della conversione, co note critiche di Alberto Chiari, LeMonnier, Firenze, 1932; and then in Franco Gavazzeni, Alessandro Manzoni: poesie prima della conversione, Einaudi, Torino, 1992
  12. ^ Gianmarco Gaspari,Beccaria-Foscolo<---Manzoni, Annali Manzoniani, I (1990), pagg. 197-218, also cited in Letteratura delle riforme, Sellerio, Palermo, 1990, pagg. 232-258
  13. ^ A. P. Baggs, Diane K. Bolton and Patricia E. C. Croot, 'Stoke Newington: Education', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 8, Islington and Stoke Newington Parishes, ed. T. F. T. Baker and C. R. Elrington (London, 1985), pp. 217–223. British History Online [accessed 28 March 2016].
  14. ^ Riall, Lucy (2007). Garibaldi : invention of a hero. Yale University Press. p. 4.
  15. ^ Franca Oliva Fusco: Cinema e Poesia.
  16. ^ Foscolo, Ugo. "To the Night". Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  17. ^ First edition by Vincenzo Di Benedetto, Turin 1991.

External links

A Zacinto

"A Zacinto" (Italian: [a ddzaˈtʃinto]; "To Zakynthos") is a pre-Romantic sonnet written by Ugo Foscolo in 1803.

Andreas Kalvos

Andreas Kalvos (Greek: Ἀνδρέας Κάλβος, also spelled Andreas Calvos; 1 April 1792 – November 3, 1869) was a Greek poet of the Romantic school. He published five volumes of poetry and drama - Canzone... (1811), Le Danaidi (1818), Elpis patridos (1818), Lyra (1824) and New odes (1826). He was a contemporary of the poets Ugo Foscolo and Dionysios Solomos. He was among the representatives of the Heptanese School of literature. No portrait of him is known to exist.

Angeliki Palli

Angeliki Palli (1798 – 1875) was a Greek-Italian writer, translator and early feminist.

The daughter of a rich Greek merchant, she was born in Livorno, Tuscany and grew up in the Greek community there. She spoke Greek, French and Italian. Palli wrote tragedies, dramas, short stories, romantic novels and poems. In 1851, she published a feminist essay targeted at young mothers Discorso di una donna alle giovani maritote del suo paese. One of the themes in her work was the Greek struggle for independence from the Turks. She married the Italian politician Giampaolo Bartolomei.Palli translated works by William Shakespeare, Victor Hugo and by French and Greek poets into Italian.Her literary salon attracted intellectuals of the time including Ugo Foscolo, Lord Byron, Alessandro Manzoni, Andreas Kalvos, Alphonse de Lamartine, Giovanni Battista Niccolini, Giuseppe Mazzini and Firmin Didot.

Angelo Anelli

Angelo Anelli (10 November 1761 – 9 April 1820) was an Italian poet and librettist who also wrote under the pseudonyms Marco Landi and Niccolò Liprandi. He was born in Desenzano del Garda and studied literature and poetry at a seminary in Verona. In 1793 he enrolled in the University of Padua, receiving a degree in Canon and Civil Law two years later. Active in the politics of the Cisalpine Republic in his youth, he was imprisoned twice. His 1789 sonnet on the vicissitudes of Italy under Austrian domination, "La calamità d'Italia" (The Calamity of Italy), was for a long time incorrectly attributed to Ugo Foscolo.From 1799 to 1817, Anello was one of the "house librettists" at La Scala. His opera librettos include those for Rossini's L'italiana in Algeri, Paer's I fuorusciti di Firenze, Usiglio's La secchia rapita, and Pavesi's Ser Marcantonio which later formed the basis for Donizetti's Don Pasquale. He largely abandoned his literary career to return to the legal profession in 1817 when he was appointed professor of procedura giudiziaria (judicial procedure) at the University of Pavia. He died in Pavia at the age of 58.

Claudio Lotito

Claudio Lotito (born 9 May 1957 in Rome) is an Italian entrepreneur. He is the owner and president of the Serie A football club S.S. Lazio since 2004.

Lotito earned his High School Diploma in Classics at Ugo Foscolo Classical Lyceum in Albano Laziale and a Bachelor of Arts in Pedagogy cum laude from University of Rome I "La Sapienza".

Lotito was banned from football for two and a half years in 2006 for his part in the 2006 Italian football scandal. Lotito got banned again for 10 months due to third parties ownership of Mauro Zárate and Julio Ricardo Cruz. However it was shortened to 2 months after appeal. He is second on the electoral list for the Senate in the Caserta-Avellino-Benevento district, close to Naples, for the coalition around Silvio Berlusconi

Dei Sepolcri

Dei Sepolcri is a poem written by the Italian poet, Ugo Foscolo, in 1806, and published in 1807. It consists of 295 hendecasyllabic verses. The carme (as the author defined it) is dedicated to another poet, Ippolito Pindemonte, with whom Foscolo had been discussing the recent Napoleonic law regarding tombs.

Diodata Saluzzo Roero

Diodata Saluzzo Roero (1774–1840) was an Italian poet, playwright and author of prose fiction. Her work drew praise from such figures as Tommaso Valperga di Caluso, Giuseppe Parini, Ludovico di Breme, Alessandro Manzoni, Vittorio Alfieri and Ugo Foscolo, and her life served as an inspiration for the protagonist in Germaine de Staël's 1807 Corinne.Diodata Saluzzo was born in Turin to Jeronima Cassotti di Casalgrasso and Giuseppe Angelo Saluzzo di Monesiglio, a well-known scientist. In 1795 She became one of the first women to be admitted to the Accademia degli Arcadi, and the following year released her first collection of poems. In 1799 she married the count Massimiliano Roero di Revello, but on his death three years later returned to live with her family. A collection of her romantic short stories on historical themes was published in 1830. Of these the best known is Il Castello di Binasco, a novella based on the second marriage and execution of Beatrice di Tenda, first published in Raccoglitore in 1819.Diodata Saluzzo Roero died in Turin in 1840.

Edwardes Square

Edwardes Square is a garden square in Kensington, London, W8. The square was built between 1811 and 1820. 1–23 and 25–48 Edwardes Square are listed Grade II for their architectural merit.No. 11 was the London home of the author and humanist Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson (1862–1932). The Italian poet Ugo Foscolo lived at no. 19 between 1817 and 1818. The comedian Frankie Howerd lived at no. 27, from 1966 until his death in 1992. The Scarsdale Tavern is a pub at no. 23A.

Enrico Emanuelli

Enrico Emanuelli (17 April 1909 - 1 July 1967) was an Italian novelist, essayist and journalist.

Born in Novara into a wealthy family, after the primary school Emanuelli studied as an autodidact. In 1928 he co-founded, with Mario Soldati and Mario Bonfantini, the literary prestigious magazine La Libra (1928-1930). The same year he made his novel debut with Memolo, ovvero vita, morte e miracoli di un uomo, which got him critical comparisons to Ugo Foscolo and Giacomo Leopardi.In 1929 Emanuelli started his journalistic career, collaborating with the Genoa newspaper Il Lavoro. He later directed the magazine Costume and worked, often for reports from abroad, for La Stampa and Corriere della Sera. His travels inspired him several books in the form of travel diaries such as Giornale Indiano and La Cina è vicina. His 1959 novel The man from New York (Italian: Uno di New York) got him a Bagutta Prize as well as critical praises which paired him to Gustave Flaubert and Alain Robbe-Grillet.Emanuelli died of a heart attack on July 1, 1967. His last novel, Curriculum mortis, was released posthumously and incomplete in 1968, yet it was received as his masterpiece.

Giuseppe Bossi

Giuseppe Bossi (11 August 1777 – 9 November 1815) was an Italian painter, arts administrator and writer on art. He ranks among the foremost figures of Neoclassical culture in Lombardy, along with Ugo Foscolo, Giuseppe Parini, Andrea Appiani or Manzoni.

Ippolito Pindemonte

Ippolito Pindemonte (November 13, 1753 – November 18, 1828) was an Italian poet. He was educated at the Collegio di San Carlo in Modena, but otherwise spent most of his life in Verona.

He was born into an aristocratic family, and travelled a great deal in his youth. He was a good friend of Giuseppe Torelli and the scholar Girolamo Pompei. His brother Giovanni Pindemonte was a prominent dramatist.He witnessed and was deeply affected by the French Revolution, residing in Paris for ten months during 1789. He later spent time in England and Austria. A Romantic poet, he was principally influenced by Ugo Foscolo and Thomas Gray, and was associated with the Della Cruscans. He devoted much of his life to a translation of the Odyssey, which was published in 1822.

Italian poetry

Italian poetry is a category of Italian literature.

Jacobo Ortis

Jacopo Ortis is a 1916 Italian silent drama film directed by Giuseppe Sterni and based on the novel Le ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis by Ugo Foscolo.

It was the debut film of Paola Borboni.

List of Italian-language poets

List of poets who wrote in Italian (or Italian dialects).

Luigi Scevola

Luigi Scevola (born Brescia, 1770 - died Milan, 1819) was an Italian dramatist. He wrote in the style of Ugo Foscolo, and was the author of the tragedies Socrate (1804), Annibale in Bitinia (1806) and Saffo (1814). One of his plays was the basis of the libretti for Giulietta e Romeo by Nicola Vaccai and I Capuleti e i Montecchi by Vincenzo Bellini.

Palazzo Belgioioso

The Palazzo Belgioioso (also spelled Belgiojoso) is a palatial residence in the northern Italian city of Milan, completed in 1781 in a Neoclassical style by Giuseppe Piermarini.

Considered to be one of Milan's architectural treasures, the mansion is modeled on Luigi Vanvitelli's Palace of Caserta. Built for Prince Alberico XII di Belgioioso d'Este, it is located on a side street off Via Manzoni on the site of the house where he was born. One of the finest examples of Neoclassical architecture in Lombardy, it stands out like a jewel in the centre of the city. It was designed in 1772 by Giuseppe Piermarini who in this instance abandoned the sober and austere style of early Neoclassicism, building an imposing and highly decorated mansion which dominates the street. The most lavishly decorated part of the facade is the slightly protruding central section with a series of four giant order columns, an entablature and a tympanum enclosed by pilasters. The ground floor is finished in rusticated bugnato ashlar, the first floor, separated from the second with bas-reliefs of heraldic symbols, has windows crowned with garlands and decorative mouldings. Some of the rooms still have period decorations, the most famous of which is the gallery decorated with frescoes by Martin Knoller and stuccos by Giocondo Albertolli. Rinaldo's room, also decorated by Knoller, was inspired by Torquato Tasso's epic poem Jerusalem Delivered.Under the ownership of Alberico XII di Belgioioso d'Este, a keen collector of books and works of art, the residence was frequented by illustrious intellectuals of the times, including the poet Giuseppe Parini and the writer Ugo Foscolo. Work carried out in 1991 restored the mansion to its former glory.

The Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis

Ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis (The Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis) is an epistolary novel written by Ugo Foscolo between 1798 and 1802 and first published later that year. A second edition, with major changes, was published by Foscolo in Zurich (1816) and a third one in London (1817).

The model was Goethe's novel The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774). Another influence is Rousseau's Julie, or the New Heloise (1761). Foscolo's work was also inspired by the political events that occurred in Northern Italy during the Napoleonic period, when the Treaty of Campoformio forced Foscolo to go into exile from Venice to Milan. The autobiographic elements reflect into the novel.

Ortis is composed by letters written by Jacopo to his friend Lorenzo Alderani; the last chapter is the description of the young man's last hours and suicide written by Lorenzo.

The plot is located in the countryside near Padua and takes place between October 1797 and March 1799. Jacopo Ortis is a patriot who must retreat in a village in Colli Euganei to escape political persecutions. Here he meets a girl, named Teresa, and her family. The two youths fall in love, but this love is impossible, since the girl is fiancée to Odoardo, and Jacopo is in no condition to offer her a marriage.

In despair, Jacopo travels through Italy (then divided into various little states) and visits many cities, among them Florence, with the historical tombs of Santa Croce, Milan, where he meets Giuseppe Parini, Genoa, Ventimiglia. After a deep meditation about nature, history and human fate, he resolves to go back to Veneto. He visits Teresa, then his mother. Finally he commits suicide.

Transalpina Square

Transalpina Square (Italian: Piazza della Transalpina, meaning "Square of the Transalpina [Railway Line])"; Slovene: Trg Evrope, meaning "Europe Square"), is a square divided between the towns of Gorizia, northeastern Italy, and Nova Gorica, southwestern Slovenia. The railway station of Nova Gorica is located at the eastern end of the square, on the Slovenian side.

Vincenzo Cuoco

Vincenzo Cuoco (October 1, 1770 – December 14, 1823) was an Italian writer. He is mainly remembered for his Saggio Storico sulla Rivoluzione Napoletana del 1799 ("Historical Essay on the Neapolitan Revolution of 1799"). He is a considered one of the precursors of Italian liberalism and the realist school. Cuoco adapted the critique of political rationalism of Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre for liberal ends, and has been described as a better historian than either of them. He influenced many subsequent Italian intellectuals, from Ugo Foscolo and Alessandro Manzoni to Bertrando and Silvio Spaventa to Benedetto Croce and Antonio Gramsci.

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