Lot n° 229
25000 - 30000
partly autograph MANUSCRIT, Des Périls de la Langue Italienne ou Mémoire à un Ami incertain dans ses idées sur la Langue, 1818; title and 87 leaves (7 blank) in-fol. (35 x 22,5 approx.) written on the front (with notes on the back of 9 leaves); bound in one volume in-fol. brown half-chagrined (worn binding, spine and headpieces rubbed), untrimmed (a few small stains, small repairs to title f. and f. 1).
Important manuscript on the Italian language, annotated and commented by Silvio PELLICO.
In 1818, Stendhal was in Milan, felt he was becoming Milanese, and wanted to take part in the great quarrel of Italian romanticism by two pamphlets that he would publish in Italian: one on romanticism, the other on the question of language that agitated all the intellectuals of Italy. The problem was to know if the language should remain dominated by the Tuscan language and frozen in the traditional vocabulary supervised by the Academy of the Crusca and its Dictionary which had not been revised since 1738. The "romantics", and in particular the Milanese, demanded a reform of the language, modernized and enriched by the dialects. Stendhal took sides for this reform, by proposing the creation of a commission formed by representatives of the various regions of Italy. He will have his manuscript translated by his friend Giuseppe Vismara (the manuscript of the translation is in the library of Grenoble, as well as fragments of the draft), but he will give up its publication, in spite of the favorable opinions which had been given by the readers of this manuscript, in particular Silvio Pellico.
The manuscript, begun by Stendhal, then dictated or put in the net by a copyist according to notes, is completed, corrected and abundantly annotated by Stendhal.
The title page is written as follows, in large English letters: [Sottise crossed out] Of the Perils of the Italian Language or
Memoir to a Friend uncertain in his ideas about Language.
Stendhal has crossed out Sottise, and noted below: "in a foreigner". At the top right, we read the date: "10 March "; at the left, Stendhal noted: "Rendu by the amiable Silvio the 8 Sepber 1818" (it is about Silvio PELLICO).
The text is divided into 8 "days" (Giornata prima to Giornata sesta, then two not numbered). Some passages to be completed are left blank. The first page - Giornata prima - is entirely in Stendhal's hand, who has noted in the upper left corner: "Made end of February 1818 and Mars 1818"). He added above the title ("of the Perils &a") an epigraph from Dante. Stendhal exposes the problem at the outset: "A Language is a convention. It is necessary that several Millions of men agree to express their ideas not only by the same words, but also by the same turns. But this is what does not happen in Italy. One might think that a great poet like Vincenzo Monti, while writing about his language, "will consecrate the Arrets of Usage, that eternal and ever-acting despot of Languages". But the use does not exist in Italian where one does not seek "to note in a clear way, the way in which we speak, but the way in which one spoke"... On the back of page 2, Stendhal notes: "It is foolishness and presumption for a foreigner to want to fight the ideas of a man on his own language. Ma la prego di badar bene che queste idee non sono mie, sono scelte in varj grandi filosofi che Lei forse non conosce. 1 March 1818"...
At the head of the Giornata seconda, Stendhal has pencilled in the date "27 fer 1818". He continues to trace the history of the Peninsula at the same time as the history of the language, recognizing the supremacy of Florence in the XII century, but showing that "Milan in the year 1400 had reached the same degree of civilization where Florence had arrived since the year 1300".
The Giornata terza denounces the linguistic despotism imposed by Tuscany, and exercised by the Crusca.
In the Giornata quarta, Stendhal takes as an example the history of the French language and literature, and the role played by the French Academy, which takes into account the innovations of the great authors. An important autograph addition (21 lines) is related to the Dictionary of the Academy which "makes the additions and changes that any living language necessarily requires"... Speaking of old-fashioned authors, Stendhal adds to Guez de Balzac "Voiture and all the people with affectation". A little further, he adds a sentence which summarizes all the debate: "Such are the changes which arrive each day in all the living languages, some of useful, few of necessary, and the greater part by inconstancy".
The Giornata quinta is entitled: "Dangers of the Italian language". Stendhal takes the pen (22 lines) to show, on the occasion of plays recently staged in Milan, how the languages are enriched, and how the noble language obliges to use "trivial comparisons
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