Alessandro Manzoni

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Alessandro Francesco Tommaso Manzoni (7 March 1785 – 22 May 1873) was an Italian poet and novelist.[1] He is famous for the novel The Betrothed (orig.Italian: I Promessi Sposi) (1827), generally ranked among the masterpieces of world literature.[2]

Manzoni was born in Milan, Italy, on 7 March 1785. Pietro, his father, aged about fifty, belonged to an old family of Lecco, originally feudal lords of Barzio, in the Valsassina. The poet's maternal grandfather, Cesare Beccaria, was a well-known author, and his mother Giulia had literary talent as well.[3] The young Alessandro spent his first two years of life in cascina Costa in Galbiate and he was wet-nursed by Caterina Panzeri, as attested by a memorial plate affixed in the place. In 1793 his parents broke their marriage and his mother began a relationship with the highbrow Carlo Imbonati, moving to England and later to Paris. For this reason, their son was brought up in several religious institutes. Alessandro Manzoni was a slow developer, and at the various colleges he attended he was considered a dunce. At fifteen, however, he developed a passion for poetry, and wrote two sonnets of considerable merit. Upon the death of his father in 1805, he joined the freethinking household of his mother at Auteuil, and spent two years mixing with the literary set of the so-called "ideologues", philosophers of the 18th-century school, among whom he made many friends, notably Claude Charles Fauriel. There too he imbibed the anti-Catholic creed of Voltairianism.

In 1806–1807, while at Auteuil, he first appeared before the public as a poet, with two pieces, one entitled Urania, in the classical style, of which he became later the most conspicuous adversary, the other an elegy in blank verse, on the death of Count Carlo Imbonati, from whom, through his mother, he inherited considerable property, including the villa of Brusuglio, thenceforward his principal residence.

In 1808 Manzoni married Henriette Blondel, daughter of a Genevese banker. She came from a Calvinist family, but in 1810 she became a Roman Catholic. Her conversion profoundly influenced her husband.[4] That same year he experienced a religious crisis which led him from agnosticism to an austere form of Catholicism.[5] Manzoni's marriage proved a most happy one, and he led for many years a retired domestic life, divided between literature and the picturesque husbandry of Lombardy. His intellectual energy in this period of his life was devoted to the composition of the Inni sacri, a series of sacred lyrics, and of a treatise on Catholic morality, Osservazioni sulla morale cattolica, a task undertaken under religious guidance, in reparation for his early lapse from faith. In 1818 he had to sell his paternal inheritance, as his money had been lost to a dishonest agent. His characteristic generosity was shown at this time in his dealings with his peasants, who were heavily indebted to him. He not only cancelled on the spot the record of all sums owed to him, but bade them keep for themselves the whole of the coming maize harvest.

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