…79 our vacations are quickly coming to an end. We had one hundred and fifty days of vacation and we have already spent half. What can we do? Peruccati wrote to me again saying that he is now near Cividale80 in the mountains among the Slavic people and the Slovenians. Now I know that they had to evacuate the area because of political events there;81 with little honor, and the poor Boggio had to drink a doubly bitter dosage of the waters of Lissa without being able to sing with the French poet: “…has lived too long who for the fatherland has died.”
Now we have every reason to be satisfied. Dishonored already beforehand throughout Europe for our misadministration, for our bankrupt financial condition, for our diplomatic servitude, for our ill-advised political maneuvers, we were lacking yet this occasion to be dishonored fully, even in our military pride. Defeated on all fronts, in the mountains, on the plains and on the sea, the Supreme Command had to tell the king’s Government that our army is not in condition to withstand the Austrian Army.
Oh, I feel rising within me flashes of shame just thinking about the dishonest language with which our newspapers and press not long ago were publicizing in shameful terms the political testament of Franz Joseph.82 Impotence is not contemptible except when it goes along with bragging as well. Italy knows all about it. I will not write any more about this sorrowful history, but if I were to tell the whole truth I would never be able to finish. Never mind. God has put a limit to the arrogance of the fool as to the violent waves of the sea: ultra non preteribit.83 Let us accept with humble brow the decrees of His Eternal Wisdom.
I have no news from our friends. I stayed with Vandero for two days at San Luigi84 where I was on some business. His family is still in Turin. Torchio, the ex-cleric of the Penitentiary85, is a prisoner of war. Botto, the editor of the “Turin Gazette” has died. The political opponent of Ricasoli, Farini86, the lunatic, has gone to rejoin his friend Cavour.87 The same has happened to Senator Sforza Cesarini. Did your uncle pick up a good number (for the military service)? The armistice and the probability of peace are manna from heaven. There is no way one can instill confidence into these recruits, even by pointing out all the probabilities of a physical discharge. My brother trembles already at the thought of just passing the physical exam and calls upon God to free him from this great infamy (sic).
There is a thirty-month old child in the neighborhood who, because of the richness of his mother’s breasts to which he is still very much attached, is so round, smooth, and ruddy that he looks like a cupid. When I pass by his house and I see him smile mischievously, a mischievousness that I interpret as a request for a search in my pockets (often the repositories of some well-liked sweets) he reminds me of your Nicolaus (I was about to write “little Nick”). From what you tell me, he must be a carbon copy of our Petie (this is his name).
Spoil him a little bit for me and tell him that I am in love with his innocence and that I envy those beautiful years of his which once passed will not return anymore.
Here I end. The letter to Riccio and yours have exhausted my letter writing resources and I feel tired. Goodbye. When you offer your homage to the Almighty, remember also your poor friend.
The communion of prayer, after the Eucharist, is the most consoling truth of our Faith to be found in the Creed. All the others cause us to fear, but this one places in our hands the powerful means to do violence, so to speak, to the mercy of God. Oh, let’s make use of it, my dear friend, let us interweave our prayers, and may the Angel of forgiveness keep count of it in that frightful record book of things to be expiated.
It is the season of joyful get-togethers and I am happy in the hope of having you here for a few days with me among the joyful hills of San Martino Tanaro. Make sure that my hopes will not be in vain and at your arrival you will receive a million thanks.
I give you a sad farewell and I declare with my whole heart that I am your unending friend
Be mindful that our current accounts show a credit on my part of twenty pages. Send me at least a half of them. I insist on the invitation of your coming here to San Martino. How many things to see and to say! Write to me quickly and don’t say “no.”
The first page ( or pages? ) is missing. ↩
Cividale, a city in the Venetian Region in the Province of Udine, North-East of Venice. ↩
The Third War of Independence against Austria (during the Prussian-Austrian War). The Piedmontese troops were defeated at Custoza (June 24) and at the naval battle of Lissa (June 20) where the ournalist Pietro Carlo Baggio met his death on the Adriatic Sea, on the admiral ship. Since Prussia (Piedmont’s ally) won the war, Austria was forced to cede the Venetian Region to Piedmont in the Peace Treaty of Vienna (October 3, 1866). ↩
Franz Joseph (1830 — 1915), Emperor of Austria (1848 — 1915). ↩
“No trespassing.” ↩
San Luigi is a little town near San Damiano d’Asti where Vandero was born. ↩
Canon Giovanni Cerruti, Penitentiary of the Asti Cathedral (cfr. Letter 1). ↩
Luigi Carlo Farini (1812 — 1866), succeeded Urbano Rattazzi as Prime Minister and in 1863 started to give signs of mental illness. Cavour had died in 1861. For Ricasoli, cfr. Letters 3, 5. ↩
Camillo Cavour (1810 — 1861), Italian Statesman. As Prime Minister of the king of Piedmont, he worked tirelessly to bring Italy under the rule of his king. ↩