Concerning my third driving thought, Riccio is at the root of it because for two months he has not sent me any news at all. As you can tell, my friends keep me on my toes. In seventy days, four correspondents of your caliber have sent me four letters in all. And I instead, during the same period of these four letters, have sent bravely double the amount. Ah, I understand the irony of it, you want to make me pay in kind my past year’s negligence. If this is the case, I will bow my head mumbling that I deserve it. But, getting back to Riccio, he is a special case. To write to me eight days after the departure and then not to write me at all in two months smells a little of a mystery. Anyway, I want to interpret everything in the best light and I wrote him a very long letter which will stir him, I hope, from his two months’ lethargy.
Free from these three stones which were weighing heavenly in my stomach, I will tell you about some other little things of secondary interest. Do you remember when we met Borio71 under the Pogliani colonnade72 and he told us he would come to see me one day? Well, he did come the day before yesterday on his way to Govone. I stayed with him no more than half an hour, but with all my best attempts and skirmishes to force him to open up I did not succeed in making the slightest breech in him, so valiant is he in fending off the rapier-thrusts of the curious. I saw him go as he came, leaving me behind in a total ignorance of his past, present and future activities.
I am turning over in my mind the “Pensées” of Pascal.73 How correct and truthful is the portrait which Chateaubriand74 gives us of this immortal son of Catholic France! How consoling it is to see a man, so well versed in all the sciences, exclaim at the age of thirty-five the biblical saying “vanity of vanity…”, and give himself with childlike simplicity to the study of Scriptures. The Engineer, Mathematician, Philosopher, and the man of letters senses in a flash the tremendous truth that our life is an expiation of an ancient sin and withdraws into solitude, there consecrating himself to the love of God and to the service of his neighbor; there he conceives the plan of a book which ought to compel by way of persuasion and of love all those who in good faith misbelieve to enter into the bosom of the Church, he prepares the material by writing on pieces of paper his daily thoughts, and he dies at the age of thirty-nine with the regret of having left only a rough draft of his work, but happy to go to heaven to receive the reward of his long sufferings. On reading the thoughts of Pascal one has the feeling of visiting the ruins of eastern civilizations: a feeling of marvel and pain. Oh, when will a new vigorous and courageous mind come who will be able to pick up the heritage of Pascal and hurl a new challenge to our all-pervasive Rationalism?
I have also read the “Martyrs of Christianity” by Chateaubriand. Would you believe it? In the hundred times I have taken it up to read it, I have never been able to read more than a few pages at the beginning. But now I have read it with ever increasing satisfaction and I have come to agree with all the applause that the author of this stupendous Christian poem has received from everybody. I would like to encourage all those assiduous adorers of pagan literature to read it, all those people who have persecuted Manzoni,75 the creator of that new literary school, who, making good use of both classicism and romanticism, was able to avoid the too liberal elements of the former without falling into excessive proclamations of the latter. Oh, may we see to it that the generation coming up would be able to recognize in Manzoni the man who found a happy medium between the two warring schools; may we see to it, as Gioberti76 used to say, that he be recognized as the standard bearer of a new conciliatory school to put an end once and for all to the poetic worshippers of the wasteland of Venus and to the nebulous, vacuous utterance of a thousand Byrons77 magnified a hundred times. These are the thoughts that came to me while reading the graceful pages of the French Viscount.
The other day, I had the opportunity of reading that terrifying sermon of Massillon78 on the elect which made the audience suddenly stand up in panic thinking that perhaps the end of the world had already come. I found the sermon the most beautiful experiment in the efficacy of religious speech, dark and terrifying in the style of Isaiah, sad and mournful as in Jeremiah, ingratiating and persuasive as in all the biblical writers.
In this letter also the first and last pages are missing. ↩
I Cor. 10:13. ↩
Probably an ex-seminarian. ↩
The Pogliani colonnade is on the East side of the Alfieri Square in Asti. ↩
Blaise Pascal (1623 — 1662), French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist considered one of the great minds of Western Culture. ↩
Francois Chateaubriand (1768 — 1848), French writer and statesman, most famous for his The Genius of Christianity and his Autobiography. ↩
Alessandro Manzoni (1785 — 1848), the most famous 19th century Italian novelist, poet, and playwright, author of the “The Betrothed”. ↩
Vincenzo Gioberti (1801 — 1852), Italian priest, statesman, and philosopher. ↩
George Gordon Noel Byron (1788 — 1824), English poet, one of the most important and versatile writers of the romantic movement. ↩
Jean – Baptiste Massillon (1663 — 1742), famous French preacher and Bishop. The sermons that Marello refers to is the Lenten homily “on the Fairness of the Elect” delivered at the Versailles royal chaplain 1704 in the presence of King Louis XIV. ↩