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Tommaso Campanella, Lettere: 1595-1638, and Luigi Firpo e Campanella: Cinquant'anni di ricerche e di publicazioni. (Reviews).

Germana Ernst, ed. Tommaso Campanella

Introduction Nicola Badaloni. (Series Cento Libri per Mille Anni.) Rome: Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato, 1999. lv + 1027 pp. n.p. ISBN: n.a.

Tommaso Campanella. Lettere, 1595-1638

Ed. Germana Ernst. (Bibliotheca Stylensis, 2.) Pisa and Rome: Istituti Editoriali e Poligrafici Internazionali, 2000. 171 pp. n.p. ISBN: 88-8147-271-6.

Enzo Baldini. Luigi Firpo e Campanella: Cinquant'anni di ricerche e di publicazioni

(Bibliotheca Stylensis, 1.) Pisa and Rome: Istituti Editoriali e Poligrafici Internazionali, 2000. 63 pp. n.p. ISBN: 88-8147-273-2.

Tommaso Campanella (1568-1639) is one of the most enigmatic figures of the late Italian Renaissance. Born into a very poor Calabrian family, he joined the Dominicans at the age of thirteen and remained in the order for life, despite suspicions of heresy and long bouts of incarceration. Although an early advocate of Spanish world rule, he became a passionate defender of Italian autonomy from Spain. And although he was not a Copernican, his equally passionate anti-Aristotelianism embraced Galileo's evidence for changes in the heavens.

With his fingers in many hot intellectual, political, and religious pies, Campanella got burned frequently. Variously accused of calling the Eucharist a "trifle," of denying that hell, purgatory, and heaven were places, of having a familiar demon, and of fomenting rebellion in Calabria with the aid of the Turks, he was repeatedly charged with heresy and sedition. Since he produced many of his writings during his years of prison and torture, a powerful human element pervades his work. Eventually freed, he briefly served Urban VIII as a natural magician, warding off nefarious celestial influences with ritual incantations in the papal apartments. Although recently rejected as a consultant to the Inquisition (!), he offered to help defend Galileo when the latter got in trouble in 1632. When an anti-Spanish conspiracy implicated one of his own students, Campanella took the latter's condemnation to death as a sign that he should visit France, where he met Gabriel Naude, Pierre Gassendi, and Nicolas Fabri de Peiresc . He spent the last years of his life under the protection of Cardinal Richelieu, who appreciated his new politics more than the Spanish did. Many of us are familiar with his City of the Sun and perhaps with one aspect or another of his work, but few of us have a sense of the man or his career as a whole.

Germana Ernst's Tommaso Campanella is an impressive folio volume that can remedy this defect handsomely. A short review cannot do justice to its thousand pages of Fabriano paper, with texts in the original Latin and Italian and new Italian translations. The volume also includes an excellent 55-page introduction by Nicola Badaloni, a chronology of Campanella's life, a bibliography of Campanella scholarship (up-to-date as of 1999), and brief excerpts of criticism by authors from Johann Gottfried Herder through the likes of Ernst Cassirer, D. P. Walker, Eugenio Garin, and Luigi Firpo.

Badaloni's introduction is an illuminating intellectual biography in its own right. It demonstrates Campanella's early concern with the cluster of domains that would dominate his life-religion, politics, and natural philosophy. These were not separate endeavors, but facets of the same outlook. Indeed, Campanella often moves seamlessly from the physical or physiological realm to the moral or political, from the astrological to the prophetic or religious, and back again to politics. As a young defender of Bernardino Telesio's natural philosophy, for example, Campanella sought to advance the cause of millenarian Spanish rule by using the determinative effect of hot and cold on the characters of peoples to advise Spain on its difficult dealings with the Dutch and Flemings. Badaloni shows how Campanella plays out these early notions in his ideal City of the Sun, which gives expression also to his vision of a Golden Age (a prominent feature of his historical, religious, and prophetic outlook) and his naturalization of social organization, once again intertwining the religious, the natural, and the sociopolitical. As Campanella wrote more systematically about metaphysics and theology, he drew explicitly on elements from pre-Socratic, Platonic, and Stoic philosophies to attack Aristotelian positions on necessity and eternity.

The texts presented here are not the opera omnia, which grow larger with every passing decade (Ernst herself recently discovered the long-lost Atheismus Triumphatus; it is not included here, but the dedicatory epistle appears in her Lettere, reviewed below). Rather, the volume is a selection of important and representative works from a vast corpus. Ernst has used modern critical editions when they exist, emending them as needed. In the surprising number of cases in which they do not exist, she has used seventeenth-century editions or manuscripts, again with emendations. In several cases, this volume also includes the first translation of a central text into a modern language.

The contents are organized into three roughly equal sections: autobiographical and literary writings, philosophy and nature, and political thought. The autobiographical and literary writings include the eighty-nine poems and madrigal cycles of the Scelta di poesie filosofiche (published in 1622, but mostly written before 1609), sixteen of the more than one hundred-sixty surviving letters, and the Syntagma de libris propriis et recta ratione studendi (Latin, with Italian translation). Since Campanella's autobiography is lost, the Syntagma is the next best thing, written at the request of Gabriel Naude, whose heavy editorial hand may explain the quirks of the posthumous first edition (Paris, 1642).

For me, the surprise was Campanella's poetry, which survived by the thinnest of threads. Whether didactic, philosophical, or religious, the eighty-nine poems are in turn obscure and illuminating, and always intensely personal. As most were written from prison, it is difficult to read them dispassionately. In the more abstract poems, Campanella transcends his terrible suffering by gazing on high. But others overflow with raw emotion. Despair ("Le morte e dolce a chi la vita e amara / Prendi il tuo, terra avara") alternates with piety, and rebellion with gratitude, as when Campanella, always living dangerously, retells in verse the Parable of the Good Samaritan by casting a cardinal as a villain, a "German Lutheran" as the hero (perhaps his printer, Tobias Adami) and -- implicitly -- himself as the victim. Yet other poems articulate his life's mission ("Io nacqui a debellar tre mali estremi: / tirannidi, sofismi, ipocrisia;").

His poetry was certainly a personal tool of survival, but surprisingly it has also resonated well beyond its time and culture of origin. In the early nineteenth century, Johann Herder was sufficiently impressed by twenty-seven of the Scelta poems to translate them into German.

The second section, on philosophy and nature, includes four works. The Del senso delle cose e della magia, which grew out of the interaction between Campanella and Giambattista della Porta, appears in the original Italian (mediated by the 1925 critical edition), although it was first published in Latin (Frankfurt, 1620). Despite its place in this section, the Apologia pro Galileo (offered in the Latin of the 1622 edition and in Ernst's new Italian translation) is a theological treatise rather than a natural philosophical one. It does not defend a moving earth, about which Campanella was at best agnostic (be wrote a "New astronomy against Aristotle, Ptolemy, Copernicus, and Tycho," now lost). Rather it distances theology from Aristotelianism, while defending Galileo's right to argue for the compatibility of Copernicanism with the Scriptures. The De siderali fato vitando, a crucial document for understanding Campanella's attitude toward natural magic (and his use of it to protect Pope Urban VIII), exists in no modern edition and, until this volume, in no modern translation. The Apologetico that Campanella wrote in defense of the preceding work concludes the second section.

The last section, on political thought, spans most of Campanella's career. It opens with the philhispanism of his Monarchia di Spagna (presented here in the original Italian version and, against Firpo, as a Jugendwerk). From the middle years come the City of the Sun, two works of political aphorisms, and the Political Dialogue between a Venetian, a Spaniard, and a Frenchman. The latter, a pivotal work written by late 1632, marks Campanella's shift to a pro-French position while resonating strongly with the literary form of Galileo's own three-way Dialogo, published earlier the same year. The volume ends with three political discourses from Campanella's final years in France. Rediscovered by Luigi Firpo, they date from 1636 and show that the elderly friar had not lost his verve, his blunt manner, or his recent hopes of foiling Spain.

As this brief overview suggests, Ernst's labors have produced an invaluable and splendid volume, which a good index would have made even more useful.

The two smaller books under review are most appropriate companions to Ernst's collection. Enzo Baldini's Luigi Firpo e Campanella memorializes the accomplishments of Germana Ernst's predecessor as the leading Campanella scholar in the second half of the twentieth century. Firpo's accomplishments include more than fifty years of scholarship, from the early 1940s to his 1997 posthumous editions of La citta del sole and I processi di Tommaso Campanella, and several Campanella discoveries (including the political speeches that conclude Ernst's edition). In another striking testimony to the power of Campanella's poetry, it was Firpo's encounter with it as a law student that drew him to the field in which excelled. Finally, Germana Ernst's edition of Tommaso Campanella, Lettere 1595-1638 offers in one book thirty-eight letters not found in the 1927 edition by Vincenzo Spampanato and scattered in many publications. Her preface includes a plea for a new and complete edition of all the letters. The collection includes correspondence with, among others, Louis XIII of France and Queen Henrietta of England, pleas for food and money, and dedicatory letters. Ernst has also included lists of all extant works (with information about modern editions), of lost works, and an index of names.

Campanella scholarship is lively and thriving. Thanks to these excellent works, its vitality has just become more visible and accessible.
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Author:Shank, Michael H.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2002
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