History of Italy (1549) [The]

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1st Edition

222 x 146 mm. 145pp Uncirculated. Very good condition. Dust jacket slightly stained with minor tears.... [In stock in Australia, for immediate delivery]

'The Italian nation ... seemeth to flourish in civility most of all other at this day ... Generally ... in manners and conditions [the Italian gentlemen] are no less agreeable than in their speech: so honourable, so courteous, so prudent, and so grave withal that it should seem each one of them to have had a princely bringing-up: to his superior obedient, to his equal humble, and to his inferior gentle and courteous; amiable to a stranger and desirous with courtesy to win his love' - The History of Italy

A Welsh traveller who lived in Italy during the late 1540s, William Thomas was the first to write an English book on Italy. The present edition is an abridgment of Thomas' original work, including his first-hand report on the Italy of that time, with some immediate history, and omitting a lengthy compilation of ancient and medieval history which he had culled from current books. His account of the land and buildings of the six major states of Italy in the 16th century - Venice, Rome, Naples, Florence, Genoa, and Milan - is highly appreciative, as is his briefer commentary on the nature and customs of the people. Each state had its own appeal to Thomas, but all gave him the effect of wealth and sumptuous public splendour.

English enthusiasm for Italian culture reached its height precisely at the time when England was separating itself from the Church of Rome, writes Professor Parks, Professor Emeritus of English at Queens College of the City University of New York. 'Perhaps', he suggests, 'the cultural appeal of Italy was an essential compensation for the loss of the religious tie'. Whatever the cause, Thomas found everything Italian interesting: the rivers, bridges, walls, gates, hills, theatres, temples, pillars; the government - 'this manner of giving their voices by ballot is one of the laudablest things used amongst [the Venetians], for there is no man can know what another doth'; the artisans - 'they are the finest workmen and best inventors of all other'; and the women - 'sure there be dames in Genoa that deserve to be celebrated and chronicled for their excellent practice in love'.

His values essentially aristocratic, Thomas was impressed also by the importance of reputation to Italian gentlemen, and admired the three things professed by them: arms, to maintain honour; love, to show oneself gentle; and learning, to be able to know, to understand, and to offer weighty opinions. He notes with satisfaction that among the 1500 students in Padua at least 1000 are gentlemen, who 'study more for knowledge and pleasure than for curiosity or lucre'.

Thomas' view of Italy as the most civilised nation in the world marks the beginning of the English admiration for Italy that became a passion of the Elizabethans and persisted for more than a century. His Italy is not the place of dark passions and crimes of revenge described in popular Elizabethan dramas, however. Thomas' description 'was modest and truthful', writes the editor, 'and his book is still the first book to read for those who wish to study the long history of English attraction to Italy'.
^ Drama ^ Shakespeare


SKU 9780918016386
Barcode # 9780918016386
Brand AUP
Artist / Author William THOMAS

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