Bettinelli, Saverio

, one of the most eminent Italian scholars of the last century, was born at Mantua, July 18, 1718. After having studied among the Jesuits in his own country and at Bologna, he entered that society as a noviciate in 1736. He then commenced a new course of studies, including the belles lettres, from 1739 to 1744, at Brescia, where cardinal Quirini, count Mazzuchelli, count Duranti, and other learned men, formed an illustrious academy, and there he became first noticed by some poetical compositions for scholastic exercises. When sent to Bologna to pursue his theological course, he continued to court his muse, and wrote for the theatre of the college, his tragedy of “Jonathas.” The number of literary characters in this city surpashed that which he had found at Brescia. The Institute recently founded by count Marsigli, the Clementine academy of design, the school of the astronomical poet Manfredi, and the growing reputation of his learned and ingenious pupils Zanotti, Algarotti, &c. contributed to fix the attention of the literary world on Bologna. In this society Bettinelli completed his education, and attained the age of thirty. In 1748, he went to Venice to teach rhetoric, and was frequently employed in a similar manner in other places. His superiors intended him for a display of his oratorical talents, but the weakness of his lungs obliged him to decline this. In 1751, he was appointed director of the college of nobles at Parma, and remained here superintending "their poetical and historical studies for eight years, occasionally visiting the principal vines of Italy, on business, or for health. In 1755, ne travelled through part of | Germany, to Strasburgh and Nancy, and returned through Germany to Italy, bringing with him two young princes, the sons or nephews of the prince of Hohenlohe, who had intrusted him with their education. The following year he took a trip to France with the eldest of these princes, and resided at Paris, in the college of Louis-le-Grand. It was during this trip that he wrote the celebrated letters of Virgil which were printed at Venice with those of Frugoni and Algarotti. The opinions, and we may add, the literary heresies, very ingeniously urged in these letters against the reputation of the two great luminaries of Italian poetry, and especially against Dante, created him many enemies, and what gave him most uneasiness, involved him with Algarotti. (See Algarotii). From Paris he made several excursions into Normandy, Lorraine, &c. and paid a visit to Voltaire. From Geneva he went to Marseilles, &c. and arrived at Parma in 1759. The same year he went to Verona, where he resided until 1767, and resumed his offices of preaching and education. He was afterwards for some years at Modena, and when the order of the Jesuits was suppressed, he was appointed professor of rhetoric. On his return to his own country, he applied to his literary pursuits with fresh ardour, and published many works, and having regretted that he had published so much without writing any thing to please the fair sex, doubtless owing to his ecclesiastical character, he afterwards endeavoured to make up for this. in some respect by publishing his correspondence between two ladies, his letters to Lesbia, and lastly, his twenty-four dialogues on love. These he published in 1796, when the war raged in all parts of Italy, and when the siege of Mantua by the French obliged him to leave it. He then removed to Verona, but in 1797, after the surrender of Mantua, he returned again, and although now almost in his eightieth year, resumed his literary labours with his accustomed spirit. In 1799, he began a new edition of his works, which was completed at Venice in 1801, in 24 vols. 12mo. He still preserved his usual gaiety and health at the age of ninety, until Sept. 13, 1805, when he died after fifteen days illness, with the firmness, says his biographer, of a philosopher and a Christian.

His principal works, according to his own arrangement in the edition above mentioned are, 1. “Ragionamend filosofici” con anuotazioni,“a work both religious, moral, | and philosophical. 2.” Dell‘ entusiasmo delle belle arti“the professed design of which was to maintain and revive the studies of imagination; but Bettinelli was not himself a decided enthusiast, and instead of the fire of imagination, we have here much of the coldness of method. 3. Eight” Dialoghi d’amore,“in which he expatiates on the influences which imagination, vanity, friendship, marriage, honour, ambition, science, &c. produce on that passion. In this work is an eloge on Petrarch, one of his most happy compositions. 4.” Risorgirnento negli stucii, nelle arti e ne’ costumi dopo il mille.“This in Italy is considered as a superficial view of the revival of arts and sciences after the tenth century, and as interfering with Tiraboschi, who was then employed on the same subject, but to those who may think Tiraboschi’s work, what it certainly is, insufferably tedious, this will afford much useful information in a shorter compass. The dissertation on Italian poetry is particularly valuable. 5.” Delle lettere e delle arti Mantovane lettere ed arti Modenesi,“an excellent work as far as regards the literary history of Mantua, which was now, if we mistake not, written for the first time. 6.” Lettere dieci di Virgilio agli Arcadi.“Of these letters we have already spoken, and his attack on Dante and Petrarch, although not altogether without such a foundation as strict and cold criticism may lay, will not soon be forgiven in Italy. 7.” Letters on the Fine Arts from a lady to her friend, &c.“8. HisPoetry,“containing seven small poems, or” poemetti,“six epistles in familiar verse, sonnets, &c. In all these he is rather an elegant, easy, and ingenious poet, than a great one. His” Raccolte“is a spirited satire on the insipid collections of verses so common in Italy. 9.” Tragedies,“entitled Xerxes, Jonathan, Demetrius, Poliorcetes, and Rome saved, with some French letters, and an Italian dissertation on Italian tragedy. TheRome saved“is a translation from Voltaire, indifferently performed. He also wrote three other tragedies, but inferior to the former, in which there is an evident attempt at the manner of Racine. 10.” Lettere a Lesbia Cidonia sopra gli epigrammi,“consisting of twenty-five letters, with epigrams, madrigals, and other small pieces, some translated and some original. 11. An” Essay on Eloquence,“with other essays, letters, miscellanies,” &c. As a poet, critic, metaphysician, and historian, Bettinelii’s merit is esteemed by his countrymen as of the first rate and with | respect to the art of composition, they account him one of the purest and most elegant writers of the last century, one of the few who laboured to preserve the genuine Italian idiom from any foreign mixture. 1


Biog. Univcrsclle. Atheneura, vol. V. p. 330.