1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Settembrini, Luigi

SETTEMBRINI, LUIGI (1813–1877), Italian man of letters and politician, was born in Naples. At the age of twenty-two he was appointed professor of eloquence at Catanzaro, and married Raffaela Luigia Faucitano (1835). While still a young man he had been affected by the wave of liberalism then spreading all over Italy, and soon after his marriage he began to conspire mildly against the Bourbon government. Betrayed by a priest, he was arrested in 1839 and imprisoned at Naples; although liberated three years later he lost his professorship and had to maintain himself by private lessons. Nevertheless he continued to conspire, and in 1847 he published anonymously a “Protest of the People of the Two Sicilies,” a scathing indictment of the Bourbon government. On the advice of friends he went to Malta on a British warship, but although, when King Ferdinand II. granted a constitution (16th of February 1848), he returned to Naples and was given an appointment at the ministry of education, he soon resigned on account of the prevailing chaos, and retired to a farm at Posilipo. When reaction set in, once more Settembrini was arrested as a suspect (June 1849) and imprisoned. After a monstrously unfair trial, he and two other “political” were condemned to death, and nineteen others to varying terms of imprisonment (February 1851). The death sentences were, however, commuted to imprisonment for life, and Settembrini was sent to the dungeons of San Stefano. There he remained for eight years. His friends, including Antonio Panizzi, then in England, made various unsuccessful attempts to liberate him, and at last he was deported with sixty-five other political prisoners. The exiles received an enthusiastic welcome in London, but Settembrini after a short stay in England joined his family at Florence in 1860. On the formation of the Italian kingdom he was appointed professor of Italian literature at the university of Naples, and devoted the rest of his life to literary pursuits. In 1875 he was nominated senator. He died in 1877. His chief work is his Lezioni di letteratura italiana, of which the dominant note is the conviction that Italian literature “is as the very soul of the nation, seeking, in opposition to medieval mysticism, reality, freedom, independence of reason, truth and beauty” (P. Villari).

See L. Settembrini, Ricordanze, 2 vols., edited by F. de Sanctis (Naples, 1879–1880); Epistolario di Luigi Settembrini, edited by F. Fiorentino; P. Villari, Saggi critici (Florence, 1884); Countess Martinengo Cesaresco, Italian Characters (London, 1901).