Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 03.djvu/185

This page has been validated.
Baretti
Baretti
179

which presented itself at this juncture of an engagement in the Italian Opera House at London. He left for London towards the end of January 1751. On his arrival he opened a school for teaching Italian, and was engaged to teach Italian to Mrs. Lennox, the author of ‘The Female Quixote.’ After some time he was presented to Dr. Johnson, who introduced him to the family of Mr. Thrale, and to most of the distinguished scholars and artists of the day. His first literary performances in London were two facetious pamphlets, written in French and published in 1753, relating to the disputes between the actors and the lessee of the Italian Opera House. In the same year he printed in English a ‘Dissertation on the Italian Poets,’ in which he censured some superficial and inexact criticisms of Voltaire. Next he published in 1757 an ‘Introduction to the Italian Language,’ and ‘The Italian Library,’ containing an account of the lives and works of the principal writers of Italy. But his reputation as a scholar was made by his ‘Italian and English Dictionary,’ which first appeared in the beginning of the year 1760. This dictionary entirely superseded all previous works of the kind, and has been often reprinted. The author prefixed to his work a new grammar, and his friend Dr. Johnson wrote for him the dedication.

Determined to return to Italy, he left London on 14 Aug. 1760, and, after visiting Portugal and Spain, reached Genoa on 18 Nov. Previously to his departure from England he had been recommended by Dr. Johnson to write a journal of his travels, and to this suggestion we owe the charming narrative of his tour.

Baretti first visited his brothers at Turin; he afterwards stayed at Milan, where his friends introduced him to Count de Firmian, the Austrian minister, who was regarded as a Mæcenas. The account of his travels, in four volumes, was licensed for the press in the beginning of 1762. In the summer the first volume was published, but the complaints of the Portuguese minister in Italy, on account of certain reflections upon Portugal, induced the Count de Firmian to give orders that the publication should not proceed further. Baretti removed to Venice, much dejected, towards the close of the year 1762. There he prepared for the press the three unpublished volumes of his ‘Travels,’ from which he struck out all the passages relating to the government of Portugal. Baretti now undertook the publication of a periodical sheet which he entitled ‘La Frusta Letteraria’ (‘The Literary Scourge’), himself taking the name of Aristarco Scannabue. His object was to denounce the worthless books of all kinds with which the press of Italy teemed. In the second number his sarcastic remarks on the work of contemporary archæologists gave offence to the Marquis of Tanucci, who was president of the academy for publishing the Herculanean monuments. Tanucci insisted that the ‘Frusta’ should be suppressed and its author punished. Baretti respectfully appeased the marquis's wrath, but his merciless onslaught on bad writers raised up a host of other enemies, and the publication was suppressed in 1765 after the twenty-fifth number.

The suppression of the ‘Frusta’ gave Baretti such a shock that he was obliged to keep his bed for nearly two months after. He left Venice late in 1765 for Ancona, where for about five months he led a most secluded life. There he printed his reply to an attack upon him by Father Buonafede, called the ‘Bue Pedagogo,’ in the form of a continuation of the ‘Frusta Letteraria.’ In sending to his hated adversary a copy of this intemperate reply, he accompanied it with a letter or invective, which was printed in London in 1786 with many variations.

About the middle of February 1766 he proceeded to Leghorn, and after some delay, from illness and want of money, returned to London in the autumn. His old friends received him with cordiality, especially Dr. Johnson, who during Baretti's stay in Italy had kept up a confidential correspondence with him. He now published an ‘Account of the Manners and Customs of Italy,’ in answer to ‘Letters from Italy’ by Samuel Sharp. It passed through a second edition in London, was reprinted in Dublin, and led to the author's election as a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, besides bringing him 200l. It was with reference to this work that Johnson said: ‘His account of Italy is a very entertaining book; and, sir, I know no man who carries his head higher in conversation than Baretti. There are strong powers in his mind. He has not, indeed, many hooks, but with what hooks he has he grapples very forcibly’ (Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. Croker, iii. 48). In 1768 he spent several months in France and Flanders in company with Thrale, the wealthy brewer, and in November of that year he visited Spain. An amplified account of his first journey to that country was published in 1770, and was highly praised by Johnson (see Letter to Mrs. Thrale of 20 July 1771), and brought him 500l. Johnson says that he was the first author who ever received money for copyright in Italy.

On 6 Oct. 1769 Baretti was accosted in the