SANTENA – July 29, 2023 – Last letter to Giuseppina from Santena. Prehistory and epilogue of national history. Santena is closely related to the national writer, nephew of Cesare Beccaria and father-in-law Massimo d’Azzeglio. On 22 May, President Mattarella paid tribute to him at his Milan home.
Amazing irony, given the moment. In a letter from Turin dated September 8, 1859 – www.camillocavour.com – the statesman declared the honor of being his friend: “Sir, … since you want to give some value to the little that I have been able to do for the good of our country, let me ask you for a reward: your precious friendship. The name of Alessandro Manzoni as a friend will be the most precious, the most magnificent reward of the past, the greatest stimulus for the future. Camillo Cavour’s signature. On September 8, Cavour was out of government for almost two months. After the victory and massacres at Solferino and San Martino, he quarreled with Napoleon III. With Vittorio Emanuele II, things were worse. Insults poured in. And it was not the first and not the last time. On July 11, 1859, he resigned. The emperor and the king wanted a truce. Camillus wanted to continue the war and drive Austria out of Italy. Gone to wait. Right, center and left reformists looked at him, desiring the independence and unity of the peninsula. Among the many was Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873). On January 6, 1860, the king reluctantly had to recall Cavour to the government urgently. May 5-6 “Thousand” Garibaldi left to liberate Sicily and the Kingdom of Naples. The race for a united Italy was unstoppable. Who could manage it was Camillo. The politician who connected the peninsula with Europe and the West by the Crimean expedition.
Background Benso’s interest in Manzoni came from afar. This is evidenced by a letter from Pinerolo dated 1829. It belongs to the thirty-eight-year-old Michele Benso, 5th Marquis of Cavour. He is married to Adele de Sellon and is the father of Gustavo and Camillo. He is far from home. He goes into spiritual retreat under the guidance of the blessed Pio Brunone Lanteri. Founder of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary. This 29th year is special. Camillo, a military engineer, receives a copy of The Betrothed as a gift from his beloved Uncle Francino. The most fashionable book at the moment among progressives. Among those who dream of the independence and unification of Italy. Naturally, in the family and in society, in Santene, as in Turin, they talk about this cautiously. Michel is a modern entrepreneur with interests in various sectors. He bought the rest of Greenzane Castle. One of the cornerstones of Italian wine innovation along with Pollenzo, Barolo and, on the other side of the Tanaro, Magliano and San Martino Alfieri. Under Napoleon I, he was Baron of the Empire in the service of Camillo Borghese, husband of Paolina Bonaparte. Dal Principe bought the Leri rice estate (1032 ha), of which he was the administrator. He is engaged in cattle breeding. He is the pioneer of steam navigation on the boat Verbano. From 1825 he invested in postal services between the Piedmontese, Lombard and Swiss shores of Lake Maggiore. He is an entrepreneur competing with politics and public administration. In a word, a modern representative of the new interests emerging in the society of the Risorgimento.
Michel knows the novel and its characters well. On April 22, 1829, he wrote to his wife from the monastery*: Beloved hegumen Lanteri was unwell, and he was by his side. It was lower than other days “Like a lamp that goes out. Quiet in anticipation of paradise. The situation is such that he mentions Don Cristoforo’s farewell at the end of chapter XXXVI. “O dear father…! Will we see you again? Will we see you again? – up there, I hope – and with these words he broke away from Renzo. The scene is magnificent and says a lot about how high the interest in Alessandro Manzoni was in the family, both in Santena and in Turin. A close friend of Abbot Antonio Rosmini, future employee of Il Risorgimento. Saint, host Gustavo Benso. The priest who celebrated in 1851 the marriage between Camillo’s adored nephew, Giuseppina Benso, and Carlo Alberto, son of Cesare Alfieri di Sostegno.
Epilogue. It was fate that the connection between Benso and Manzoni had a sensational epilogue. This concerns nothing less than the last letter** written by Don Alessandro. He was in a hurry and asked for a favor. According to the chronicles, on January 6, 1873, he slipped on the steps of the church of San Fedele in Milan, hitting his head hard. He was 88 years old. He worked extensively on a work published posthumously and incompletely, The French Revolution of 1789 and the Italian Revolution of 1859. He felt that time was running out. He frantically searched for publications that were not easy to track down. From Milan on February 27, 1873, eighty-four days before his death, without mentioning his serious illnesses, he wrote to Giuseppina Alfieri, Camillo Cavour’s favorite niece. He asked for a favor. “Madam! Out of a strong and all too justified desire to return to you at last the volumes of the Moniteur, which you have so kindly provided me, I asked Brera if there were any correspondents there. But when I answer no, I find myself compelled to frown and ask your permission to serve me, as I have long been doing, with you. Our wonderful mutual friend Clara Maffei can give me the answer. Excuse me and deign to believe me. Your most devoted Alessandro Manzoni.” By this time, the great writer of the national language already had the habit of referring to the library of friends, heirs and descendants of Camillo Cavour. With whom he kept in touch through Clara Maffei, lady of the Milanese Quarantotto.
There is a last question. Given the few days since his disappearance, the question arises whether these volumes were returned or whether they remained in the house on Via del Morone, that is, on Via del Gelso, an age-old reminder of connections more relevant than ever.
*Andrea Brustolon. Cavour, Oblates of the Virgin Mary and Pinerolo. Pinerolo Historical Society. Bulletin 2011.
**JOIN ME. Alessandro Manzoni. Unpublished or missing letters. Luca Danzi. MIM publications. 2017.
from Santena, city of Camillo Cavour, July 29, 2023