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2002 articles 1997 articles

Panizzi, Grenville and the Grenville Library

Denis V. Reidy


ANTONIO PANIZZI arrived in England in May 1823 'with not quite a sovereign in his pocket, knowing no one, nor a word of the language' as he was later to write. The liberal attitudes of the English especially regarding political, intellectual and religious tolerance and freedom, so much appreciated by Voltaire in his Lettres philosophiques in the eighteenth century, had effectively transformed the English capital into a virtual Mecca for exiles, especially for political exiles, by the nineteenth. Countless numbers of them from all over the world - the Venezuelan patriot and statesman Andres Bello is perhaps one of the most famous - chose to spend the period of their exile in the liberal atmosphere of London, at that period arguably the most powerful and wealthiest capital in the world. The large contingent of Italian political exiles included Ugo Foscolo, Gabriele Rossetti, the father of Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti, Giuseppe Pecchio, Giovanni Arrivabene, Santorre di Santa Rosa and eventually Giuseppe Mazzini, who was later to edit and launch his celebrated journal Giovine Italia working in the British Museum Library. Indeed there were so many political exiles in London in the 1820s that it was extremely difficult for many to find gainful employment. When Panizzi went to visit Ugo Foscolo, the greatest Italian poet of his generation, who was living at the time with his illegitimate daughter Floriana in Digamma Cottage in Regent's Park, Foscolo advised Panizzi not to remain in London but to travel to, and attempt to settle in, Liverpool.

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