Manara, Prosper

, a statesman and elegant writer, was born at Borgo Taro, a small town of the dukedom of Parma, on the 14th April, 1714. He was the eldest son of Marcel marquis of Ozzano, of an ancient family amongst the Parmesan nobility, and of a lady named Pellegrini, of birth equally illustrious. As soon as he arrived at an age competent for a learned education, he was placed in the college of Parma, where he went through all his studies with assiduity and success; and in the earliest period of his youth displayed that peculiar fondness for the belles lettres and fine arts, which afterwards constituted his predominant and almost exclusive passion. On quitting college, he repaired to his native place, where his father, with a view of giving him some knowledge of domestic economy, associated him in the management of his large estate, and thus gave him for some time rather more occupation than was compatible with his literary pursuits. After his father’s death he married a lady of noble birth, of the name of Antini; and soon added to his other occupations that of superintending the education of his children. In this way he spent many years, on his manor of Borgo Taro, and occasionally gave specimens of his talents in painting and poetry. His performances in the former art were not numerous or highly distinguished, and were only intended | as presents to his friends; but in poetry he reached the highest degree of merit, and seemed to have well availed himself of those favourable circumstances which the spirit of the age had introduced. The abbe" Frugoni was then one of the most conspicuous leaders of the new poetical band; and having fixed his residence at Parma, he naturally became, in that small metropolis, the head of a school, in which, by exploding the frequent antitheses, the inflation of style, the wantonness of conceits, and the gigantic strains of imagination, he introduced an easy, regular, descriptive, sentimental, and elegant poesy, and what was more remarkable, gave to blank verse a strength and harmony till then unknown. Mr. Manara, although a professed admirer of Frugoni and his disciples, did not choose to be of their number as far as regarded their enthusiasm, imagery, rapidity of thoughts, and luxury of versification. He was conscious that his own poetical fire was like his temper, endowed with gentleness and sensibility; and with this spirit wrote those elegant eclogues, which soon proved rivals to the pastoral songs of the celebrated Pompei; and in the opinion of the best judges, united the flowing style of Virgil with the graces of Anacreon. His sonnets, too, though not numerous, might be put in competition with those of Petrarch.

During his retreat also, he wrote his very excellent translation of the Bucolics of Virgil, which was thought to display taste, elocution, harmony, and such an happy substitution of the Italian for the Latin graces, as to give it the double appearance of a faithful translation and an original composition. It rapidly went through several editions, and raised the name of the author to the first rank among his contemporaries in the art of poetry.

In 1749, and the thirty-fifth year of his age, Manara was called to town by his sovereign, and the place to which he was appointed, the first he had filled at court, was admirably adapted to his temper. No sooner had the highspirited Infant Don Philip become the pacific possessor of that principality, than he thought of reviving the languid progress of scientific and literary pursuits; and instituted that famous academy of arts, which, except those of Rome and Bologna, was soon accounted the best in Italy. He himself was appointed academician and counsellor, invested with a vote; and he greatly distinguished himself, as might be expected, in the sessions of the society, and in the | annual speeches on the solemn distribution of its premiums. The first minister of state, marquis of Felin, a man of great discernment and sagacity, was not long in perceiving that Manara, by his uncommon abilities, was entitled to higher honours and employments at court. Accordingly, in 1760 he appointed him a chamberlain of the royal house, and soon after, superintendant of the newly-projected high road, through that lofty branch of the Apennines which connects the Ligurian with the Parmesan dominions; and from that time he was gradually promoted to more conspicuous and important places. He succeeded the abbe" de Condillac in the education of the young Infant (his late royal highness) Ferdinand, and acquitted himself of this task to the complete satisfaction of his friends and countrymen. The amiable prince himself was so duly sensible of his services in this respect that he rewarded him with an extraordinary pension for life^ and with the eminent dignity of first chamberlain of his royal family.

From 1767 to 1781 his farther advancements were so rapid, that we can only slightly glance at them. The celebrated Theatin Paciaudi being directed to new model the university of Parma, he established it on the same plan as that of Turin 1 he invested a committee of secular clergymen with the power of directing all moral and religious concerns in it, and another committee of lay noblemen, under the name of magistracy of reform, with that of superintending all its temporal and economical transactions. Manara was appointed one of these magistrates, with the additional prerogative of being the exclusive director of that branch of the establishment which was called the royal college of noblemen, and in this double capacity he answered the most sanguine expectations. In 1771 he was appointed counsellor of state to his royal highness, and in 1773 was sent ambassador to the court of Turin, for the purpose of felicitating his late Sardinian majesty on his accession to the crown.

It reflects no small honour on him, that during these numerous occupations in the court and in the state, from 1749 to 1773, he wrote his masterly translation of the Georgics of his favourite Latin poet. The great success of his former essays on the Bucolics, inspired him with the design of some farther similar exertions of his powers; but he had no sooner written the first two books, than he was trusted with a charge utterly incompatible with his literary | avocations, as it deprived him of any tolerable degree of leisure; being in 1779 appointed tutor to the infant hereditary prince, don Luigi, the late king of Etruria. He was not, however, suffered to remain long in this employment, being before the expiration of three years, appointed minister of state, to which he acceded with great reluctance, and at length his age being too much advanced to suffer him to continue, he solicited, and obtained from his sovereign permission to retire. His retreat was attended by the warmest mark of good-will from the court, by all the honours suitable to his station, and by an additional pension.

Soon after his retreat from the ministry, though he had already reached the sixty-ninth year of his age, he thought of bestowing his now uninterrupted leisure on the translation of the other two books of the Georgics, a performance for which, owing to his past occupations, no hopes perhaps were entertained by the public. This task he actually performed with so much care, attention, and zeal, that these last two books were decidedly better translated than the two former; a truth of which the respectable writer himself was so convinced, that he carefully revised, and almost totally altered the preceding part of his work. This uncommon zeal, however, was attended by a fatal consequence; for being determined to copy, as he did, the whole manuscript with his own hand, he fell into a giddiness which prevented him from any literary labour during the last days of his life, and scarcely left him the power of perusing historical books and periodical works for the sake of amusement.

Although Manara never wrote any large work in prose, his letters to his friends and relatives were considered as a model of epistolary style. He must have kept up indeed a large correspondence with his poetical contemporaries of Italy, as it was his custom to shew his compositions previous to publication, to the most intelligent persons, and to listen with docility to their respective opinions. Canonici, Mazza, Pagnini, and many others were of the number. To the last mentioned poet, already celebrated as the translator of Theocritus and Anacreon, he was indebted for some valuable hints when about to publish his translation of the Georgics. The marquis Prosper Manara died Oct. 18, 1800. All his poetical works, with his life by Mr. Cerati, (from which the preceding account is abridged) | were published in the following year, 1801, in 4 elegant little volumes, by the celebrated Bodoni. 1


Baldwin’s Literary Journal, vol. II.