Part 3 of 5
ITALY, for the very simple reason that after the great infamy there was no other clot of energy in Europe capable of opposing ANY FORCE WHATEVER to the infinite evil of the profiteers and the sellers of mens’ blood for money.
England grovelled in an utter terror, flat on her belly before the banks and bankers’ touts. The Press lied, economic discussion was taboo, though a huge camouflage of mystification was kept up by licensed economists.
That banks had power in Italy no one will be so naive as to deny, but in no other cranny of Europe was there ANY other power whatever save the power of the gombeen man.
Corbaccio has at last brought out a volume on gun-sellers, putting a name and a date and a detail on what “we” have known for some time.
I don’t at the moment know exactly which who is related to what who or which French nitroglycerine profiteer is a relative of the wife of von Papen.
Or whether England has been sending money to Krupp for munitions received in time for the late shindy or what the British diplomat said at Doorn, but I do know that there are a great number of public men who would not take any trouble to put an end to such doings, or who would excuse themselves on the grounds that they hadn’t the power or “weren’t authorized” or hadn’t received instructions.
JEFFERSON was guyed as a doctrinaire. It is difficult to see what doctrine covers his “Embargo” unless it be the doctrine that when an unforeseen emergency arises one should try to understand it and meet it.
The truth is that Jefferson used verbal formulations as tools. He was not afflicted by fixations. Neither he nor Mussolini has been interested in governmental machinery. That is not paradox, they have both invented it and used it, but they have both been much more deeply interested in something else.
Jefferson found himself in a condition of things that had no precedent in any remembered world. He saw like a shot that a new system and new mechanism MUST come into being to meet it.
He was agrarian IN the colonies and in the U.S.A. of HIS TIME, that is to say a time when, and in a place where, there was abundance and super-abundance of land.
In Europe there wasn’t enough land, not so much in the REAL sense of the land being there but in the sense that it wasn’t available for public needs. IT WAS OWNED.
There existed a problem of distribution in America though nobody called it that.
“Everyone” thought it would be a good thing for the land to become productive.
What’s the difference for the sake of a political emergency between an over-abundance and an over-production which rapidly produces an over-abundance?
And what does one DO when faced with either? Our forefathers pa’acel’d out the land but took no precautions about keeping it pa’acel’d.
And after due lapse of time people found out that land needed labour, Mr. Marx of Germany was the most persistently loud and outspoken about labour.
Marx found it was needed for “everything,” and that from it proceeded all value.
There is a French song which considerably antedates Marx, it says that there is no king, prince, or duke but lives by the effort of the labourer (laboureur in that song indicating mainly the peasant ploughman, as can be proved by the context).
But Jefferson saw machinery in the offing, he didn’t like it, he didn’t like the idea of factory.
If you are hunting up bonds of sympathy between T.J. and the Duce, put it first that they both hate machinery or at any rate the idea of cooping up men and making ’em all into UNITS, unit production, denting in the individual man, reducing him to a mere amalgam.
Possibly in Mussolini’s case it dates from his having been caught for a time under the heel of the mastodon; pushing his car in Lausanne, and seeing the country lads jammed into factories.
Both he and T.J. had sympathy with the beasts. They still plough with oxen in Italy and they say that the sentimental foreigner with his eye for the picturesque and the classic scholar who likes to be reminded of Virgil, etc., are not at the root of it. The bue IS indisputably simpatico. I don’t believe even Marinetti can help liking the sight of a pair of grey oxen scrunching along under olive-trees, or lugging a plough up an almost vertical hillside. There are plenty of fields in Italy where a tractor would be little use and larger farm machinery no economy.
However, the Duce is capable, as T.J. was capable, of putting a prejudice or a sentiment in his pocket. He has looked over a few model factories, he is all for machinery when it means machines in the open air in suitable places, as for bonifica, draining of swamps.
Neither he nor T.J. was interested in, nor bamboozled by, money. That gives us three common denominators or possibly four: agriculture, sense of the “root and the branch,” readiness to scrap the lesser thing for the thing of major importance, indifference to mechanism as weighed against the main purpose, fitting of the means to that purpose without regard to abstract ideas, even if the idea was proclaimed the week before last.
Jefferson was denounced as vacillating. A man who plugs after a main purpose for sixty years is no more vacillating than a general who wins a campaign by keeping his light troops mobile. Opportunist? Rightly opportunist!
The bad, or in the deeper sense, the silly opportunism is that of Churchill.
Shane Leslie was greatly bedazzled by his stout cousin Winston. He wrote a book to tell it to dh’ woild. Winston once said to Leslie apropos of thinking and having ideas (in the sense of making ideas for oneself): “Don’t waste your time making munitions, be a GUN and shoot off other people’s munitions.”
Leslie, as a journalist, of sorts, was overwhelmed by this brilliance. Both cousins are half-breed Americans, determined to succeed, just like the cheapest of Mr. Lorimer’s heroes.
Yeats, who was personally impressed by Churchill as a table companion, and who found him so much more interesting than Lloyd George or the other British politicians, was puzzled, at least for a number of years, because Winston didn’t somehow get to the top; and has more or less faded out of the picture, even though Winston’s charming mother used to tell people that Winston had got out the fleet (August 1914).
In short a GUN, a BIG GUN pointed at nothing.
On the other hand Jefferson meant it, and the Romagnol has a meaning. With all the superficial differences that could very well be in this world neither T.J. nor B.M. is a Gorgonist, i.e. one who obscures the whole by the details.
Jefferson as a lawyer and as a law scholar used legalities and legal phrases as IMPLEMENTS, Mussolini as an ex-editor uses oratory, and by comparison with Italian habits of speech (“these damned Eyetalyan intellexshuls that think they are still contemporaries of Metastasio”), that oratory is worth study.
It is as different from Lenin’s as the crags of Zoagli are from the Siberian steppe. It is alternatively gentle and expanded as the etc. . . . plains of Apulia, and abrupt as the Ligurian coast. And if one takes it from the spoken news-reel, one sees that it differs from town to town. For the guy knows his eggs and his Italy. The speech at Forli was at Forli and not at Torino.
THE SECRET OF THE DUCE is possibly the capacity to pick out the element of immediate and major importance in any tangle; or, in the case of a man, to go straight to the centre, for the fellow’s major interest. “Why do you want to put your ideas in order?”
Jefferson was all over the shop, discursive, interested in everything: to such an extent that even wrote a long rambling essay on metric. He was trying to set up a civilization in the wilderness, he measured the Maison Carrée, sent over Houdin to America, and thought it would be better not to sculp Washington in a fancy dress costume.
Mussolini found himself in the cluttered rubbish and cluttered splendour of the dozen or more strata of human effort : history, the romanesque cluttered over with barocco, every possible sort of refinement, dust-covered, sub-divided, passive, sceptical, lazy, caressed by milleniar sun, Rome, Byzantium, Homeric Greece still in Sicily, belle au bois dormante; full of habits, brittle in mind, or say: half of ’em brittle, and the other half having firecracker mentality, sputter-and-bag enthusiasm, all over in thirteen seconds.
All right, bo’, you come along with a card-deck, set card for each clot of theories, demo-liberal, bolshevik, anti-clerical, etc., and make that junk-shop into a nation, a live nation on its toes like a young bull in the Cordova ring.
I have seen several admirable shows in my time. I saw groggy old England get up onto her feet from 1914 to ’18. I don’t like wars, etc. . . . but given the state of decadence and comfort and general incompetence in pre-War England, nobody who saw that effort can remain without respect for England-during-that-war.
I am not contradicting myself. Respect for that honest heave and effort has nothing to do with the state of utter dithering deliquescence into which England slopped in 1919.
I like to see a man do something I can’t. I like to see Brancusi settle a form in stone, or Picabia show up half a year’s work by Picasso with a few apparently effortless twists of the pen.
All of which is accentuated by my contempt at the sight of some bloater with great position either stalling or avoiding the point or being just too god-damned stupid or too superficially silly to understand something that is put plumb bang in front of him, and which if he weren’t just a lowdown, common, yaller hound dog he would look at and having seen would act on his knowledge.
It is one of my lasting regrets that I didn’t when I had the chance, show up Mr. Balfour. That’s the curse of having had some sort of a bringing up and of not having escaped it. It was, I think, the first time I had seen the great Arthur and I was the youngest man in the room, and I was the only man not in a swaller-tail coat . . . so I was modest and well behaved . . . or at any rate acted that way . . . I also looked at the audience and couldn’t see anyone there who was the least likely to understand what I had ready to tell ’em.
WHO IS worth meeting?
A decade or so ago when I was settling into Paris I more or less unconsciously drifted on to, you can’t say this question, but I was talking to Brancusi with the undefined aim of ascertaining more or less . . . etc. . . .
And he said of Léger, we weren’t talking of anyone’s painting, but he said: “Il sait vivre.”
And years later he said of a group of unsatisfactory people: “Ils sont empoisonnés de la gloire.” Which I suppose you can translate, “poisoned by a desire to get reputations.”
“C’est toujours le beau monde qui gouverne.”
The people who know how to live are, so far as my personal existence and contacts have been concerned, mainly great artists (writers, any kind of constructors) or else artists of conspicuous honesty who go their road with that sincerity which is supposed to govern all the work of the scientists.
That is to say they are interested in the WORK being done and the work TO DO, and not in personal considerations, personal petty vanities and so on.
Such impersonality seems to me implicit in fascism, in the idea statale.
Given the technical advance, the modern 1933 world of anno XI dell’era fascista, the known facts and equations of economics, the known results of certain actions and restrictions of currency, etc.
I have this morning (February 11th) tried to make a “law” or equation covering the new drive in politics or to state the enlightened aim of the differently labelled INTELLIIGENT drives and drifts of the present.
I. When enough exists, means should be found to distribute it to the people who need it.
(I would very nearly say: “and even to those who merely want to use or consume it, with the emphasis on the last pair of verbs.)
II. It is the business of the nation to see that its own citizens get their share before worrying about the rest of the world.
(This is akin to the Confucian idea that you achieve the good of the world by FIRST achieving good government IN your own country.)
III. When potential production (possible production) of anything is sufficient to meet everyone’s needs it is the business of the government to see that both production and distribution are achieved.
Note that in America when there was plenty and more than plenty of land, our government handed it out despite Quincy Adams’s protests.
This third idea becomes an “idea statale” when I say “it is the business of the government.”
But note that Mussolini is NOT a fanatical statalist wanting the state to blow the citizen’s nose and monkey with the individual’s diet. IF, when and whenever the individual or the industry can and will attend to its own business, the fascist state WANTS the industry and the individual to DO it, and it is only in case of sheer idiocy, incapacity or simple greed and dog-in-the-mangerness that the state intervenes to protect the unorganized PEOPLE; public; you me and the other fellow.
The rest is political “machinery,” bureaucracy, flummydiddle. Jefferson, Mussolini, Lenin, all hated or hate it. Lenin wanted to get rid of it: “All this is political machinery, want to get rid of it,” as Stef reported Lenin’s opinion in 1918.
Jefferson started to clean up the social flummydiddle, etiquette, precedence, etc.
In a hide-bound Italy, fascism meant at the start DIRECT action, cut the cackle, if a man is a mere s.o.b. don’t argue.
Get it into your head that Italy was, even in 1900, immeasurably ahead of England in so far as land laws and the rights of the man who works on the soil are concerned. Some of the follies and cruelties of great English owners would not now be permitted in Italy. Certain kinds of domestic enemy would be shipped to the confino.
You can buy and own pretty villas and ancient architectural triumphs, but you can’t cut down olive trees just when you like and you can’t drive the “colonno” off his fields. He can, I think, still be your “colonno” instead of the “colonno” of the former proprietor, but you don’t by any means own him despite the feudal decorations or courtesy.
Secular habit, picturesque, etc., as in the case of “the sailor.” There is, near here, an antient villa, and a nabob therein, and “the sailor” just came and sat in the kitchen where there was plenty of room, he adopted the villa, and he ultimately adopted the chauffeur’s seat, etc. That don’t prove anything about anything except certain phases of mentality. Servants ask twice as much from people with big houses as from people with cottages and small flats. Primitive sense of equity and justice or Latin common-sense.
As to the Particular Situation and the Violation of Liberties, Traditional Liberties, “Rights,” etc.
JEFFERSON had no difficulty about keeping MEN in his country, in fact he found it difficult to imagine ANYone leaving America for Europe (Napoleonic and Royal Europe). When a particular emergency arose he showed no regard for liberties in the declaration of EMBARGO.
Mussolini found himself faced with the inverse situation. Italians had for decades been going abroad to work, they sent back “money” but that did NOT tidy up Italy, it did not drain swamps, improve crops, restore buildings that had been knocked cock-eyed by Napoleon, by the Austrians, and by nature the gradual destroyer of roofs.
In particular France was sucking in the best blood of Italy. Germany noticed it, Germany naturally thought France might as well fill up on more or less consanguineous Germans, rather than on Italians who were wanted at home and on natives from the African continent.
Mussolini saw labour going out of Italy to rebuild France and, still worse, to provide soldiers who would, as soon as the Comité des Forges could wangle it, be ready to provide a home-market for Creusot cannon to shoot no matter whom so long as they created consumption of metallurgical products.
Gents who make guns like to sell ’em; such is the present state of the world, in the bourgeois demoliberal anti-Marxian anti-fascist anti-Leninist system.
And as the Stampa correspondent has indicated, the selling of guns and powder differs from ALL other industries in that the more you sell the greater the demand for the product. The more goes to consumer A the greater the demand of the other consumers. Hence the love, the loving and tender love of banks for munition works.
France by the so-called peace got a lot of nice iron, nicely there in the ground, to be dug up for profit, and nobody in the Schneider family considered it wrong to want to sell iron, as quickly and as extensively as possible.
Hence the Italian embargo on the Italian population which has for ten years been improving the olde home yard.
Nobody loathes passports more than the present writer, but passports for a purpose are a vastly different matter from passports shoved on to the American people with no shadow of justification whatsoever at an enormous cost to the American public and as, indirectly, a means of presenting American millions of dollars to foreign and often unfriendly nations for NO cause save the fundamental nastiness of several disreputable or half-witted presidents one of whom was THE record-breaking destroyer of the best American institutions; and with no excuse save the half-wittedness of an unthinking and incompetent bureaucracy.
They weren’t meant to keep Americans at home for the good of America, they were just a useless annoyance because a diseased president [Wilson] with a one track mind liked to show his authority (and didn’t care a damn whether his authority was legal or not) and because pus in one part of a government system tends to produce pustulence throughout that system.
Back of Jefferson’s embargo and of Mussolini’s there was a will for the good of their nations.
In neither man of genius was preconception or theory strong enough to blind the leader to the immediate need.
Even the question of the efficiency of the measures doesn’t arise.
Most historians seem to tend to believe that Jefferson’s embargo may have done more good than harm, there is no shadow of a doubt whatsoever that Mussolini’s embargo has done what the leader intended.
No one denies the material and immediate effect: grano, bonifica, restauri, grain, swamp-drainage, restorations, new buildings, and, I am ready to add off my own bat, AN AWAKENED INTELLIGENCE in the nation and a new LANGUAGE in the debates in the Chamber.
ALL right, go to the House of Commons for a display of gas, evasion, incompetence, and then read the Stampa’s report for 8th January or whenever it was, of Italians getting up and saying what they meant with clarity and even with brevity, or at any rate not stalling and beating about the bush.
And even here is the hand or eye or ear of the Duce, the Debunker par excellence, for the deputies and ministers know that there is an EDITORIAL eye and ear—precisely—an editor, who will see through their bunkum and for whom they will go to the scrap-basket just as quickly as an incompetent reporter’s copy will go to the basket in a live editorial office.
As personal testimony to PERSONAL feeling, I feel freer here than I ever did in London or Paris. I am willing to admit my capacity for illusion, but right or wrong, that is my feeling. And as an act or declaration of faith, I do NOT BELIEVE that any constructive effort has been ham-strung in this country since the Marcia su Roma.
As to thought and letters: the Bolsheviki have never been able to live up to the declaration that even they want to permit “fellow-passengers,” they have proclaimed that literature is for the state, but they don’t mean it as, let us say, I do. I believe that any precise use of words is bound in the long run to be useful to the state and the world at large.
The Duce comes out to meet one in his puncturing of the pretences of party careerists.
Speaking to fascist writers: “A membership ticket in this party does not confer genius on the holder.” He was speaking in particular of literary and journalistic ability.
A decent concept of a twentieth century world is like the decent concept of a town or a family, you don’t want your neighbour down with cholera; you don’t want your family full of sickly members all yowling for help. You don’t want the cells in your muscles all squshy and some so weak that one cell grips over and gets out of hand.
If anyone holds the long-distance record for common-sense, that man is Confucius. And the concept I have in mind is: benefit of the world by means of good INTERNAL GOVERNMENT of the country.
A squshy and unstable state, particularly in the Italian peninsula, is not an aid to the health of Europe.
A state strung along the Atlantic sea-board in 1800 with an enormous unoccupied hinterland was a very different kettle of onions.
But the types of mind fitted to deal with either, and with unexpected situations in either, are types which may have a very deep kinship which you may perceive if you can but sort out the likenesses underlying.
The shortsighted squeal, they always squeal except when they are being diddled or hypnotized.
DURING the past twenty years the fundamental capacities of humanity for supplying itself with everything it wants have changed at a geometrical ratio outsoaring anything previous man had guessed at.
Just as the quantity of fertile available land had soared out of the previous bounds of human imagination when Europe had a new continent thrown into her silly lap, and proceeded to play the god-damned drivelling fool, first with a grab for metal that annihilated the Incas, then with a gamble for “colonies,” i.e., vast tracts that no nation in Europe at that time was organized to manage.
The putrid idiocy of eighteenth-century European governments is something no normal man can imagine until he has waded through a hundred volumes of the history of that period. The kings and ministers of that day were as idiotic as Otto Kahn or the last Czar of the several Russias, and they saw equally NOT AT ALL into the present.
I know why my friend the urbane and far more than distinguished jurisconsult is worried, sincerely worried and distressed by fascismo. He has the elegiac mind: as per his “the mistake of my generation was . . .” And he is worried because in his huge cases he don’t from one day to another know what the law will be, and all his forty or fifty years of patient diligent and exacting acute study are likely to go west at any moment as far as immediate utility is concerned.
Mussolini may at any moment find out that some laboured and ingenious device for securing a fair amount of justice in some anterior period and under earlier states of society NO LONGER works, or is no longer capable of giving as much justice as some new rule made to fit the facts of the year ELEVEN, facts, i.e. that have been facts for a short time only.
This is of necessity distressing to a man at the head of his profession, who has got used to being comfortably at the head of his profession; but it is a vastly different distress to that of my father-in-law in England when bothered by Mr. Lloyd George. He was bothered because Lloyd George’s laws were framed in such sloppy and ambiguous language that NO ONE, positively no one, could make out what they intended: i.e., they really took the legislative power out of the hands of the legislators and left it for wanglers and pettifoggers, to be construed to the gang’s greatest advantage.
There are more ways than one of diddling people, nations, organizations, out of power “by law possessed.”
Jefferson in his Generation
PROBABLY no writer on American history has been more impartial than Woodward, author of Washington Image and Man, and certainly no one has had a greater knack for assessing the specific weight of the early notables, without heat, and with insuperable fairness, the fairness of a man who isn’t out to prove anything, who hasn’t an axe to grind—I don’t mean merely a personal axe, but who is simply observer and not a protagonist or an advocate of some next thing to do or some “right course of action.”
And this is the fine flower and almost the justification of journalism in America. It is the new ideal of being impartial, and marks the rise of a journalist who isn’t taken sufficiently seriously as an historian, who probably doesn’t take himself for quite the historian that he is.
You will go far without finding any sounder estimates than his of Jefferson and John Adams, or a better summary than his so brief summary of Jefferson’s view. I wonder if I can compass as good a one before citing the letters.
JEFFERSON didn’t believe any nation had the right to contract debts that it couldn’t pay off with reasonable effort within nineteen years.
This didn’t come into practical politics in his time. He wanted to get rid of slavery, this didn’t happen in his time though he took thought to prevent its spreading into the North and West.
He believed in keeping out of European affairs and America was kept out until 1812.
“The cannibals of Europe are eating each other again.” That’s up-to-date (1932) all right enough. Read Corbaccio’s edition of the volume on cannon touts, it may indicate the spirit of Europe, or of North Europe as distinct from Mediterranean sanity.
For if Rome was a conquering empire, renaissance Italy evolved the doctrine of the balance of power, first for use inside the peninsula. Italy produced notable peacemakers who based their glory on peace tho’ it came by the sword, Nic. Este, Cosimo, Lorenzo Medici, even Sforza condottiero, all men standing for order and, when possible, for moderation.
The main line of American conflict for the first half of the last century was the fight between public interest and the interests. Not a showy theatrical shindy. And we end to-day with enlightenment of a Jeffersonian fundamental, transposed, expanded, developed.
“The best place for keeping money is in the pockets of the people.”
That does not mean to say that we are to go back to Indian or Burmese hoarding. You must take the text and let time transpose it.
We have had the century of the “benefits of concentration of capital” (and the malefits).
We have come to the point where money must be got into people’s pockets if goods are to move and modern life to continue “the good life.” All of this is dynamic and mobile and the furthest possible remove from static oriental burial of jewels and silver.
The Hindu buries his metal because he has no trust in public order or the durability of a dynasty and because he wants to hide the money for safety. This course did NOT produce mechanical progress.
But it is very different from the tying up of credit or paper money in banks.
Paper money in the popular pocket would not breed stagnation and it would not stay there for the reasons of oriental hoarding. The popolano would want to show it was there. Its distribution would mean greater mobility of goods.
La richezza è lo scambio.
Prosperity comes from exchanging. Old common-place but one that needs constant re-advertising. The French bas-de-laine never did any harm, or no harm by comparison with the double-locking and immobilization of credit.
Credit is or was immobilized in India by burial of metal. It is not the means but the end that matters.
Rephrase Jefferson’s saying: “The best place for a nation’s reserve of credit is in as many individual pockets as possible.”
I think that will probably hold right through the coming change in the system.
If money is ever conceived as certificate of work done there will be no need of taxes. Work done for the state will be paid by state certificate, issued direct, without anyone’s needing to cadge around and get it from Bill, Dick and William before paying it to Joe, Mike and Henry.
I have worried considerably over what appears to be the too great ease and simplicity of this proposition. For every bit of DURABLE goods there ought certainly to be a ticket, so that instead of toting the block of rock or the arm-chair you could, with greater ease, tote the ticket and swap it for whatever you at the moment wanted.
But what about perishable goods, stuff that rots and is eaten, can you have spare tickets lying about with nothing to correspond or be delivered, i.e., depreciation in the value of the tickets?
Recorded time has dealt with the underlying equation and perishable goods, grain and foodstuffs have been in times of plenty extremely cheap by comparison with permanent goods.
Still if the certificate of work done let us say for the government is only paid out by John to Joe WHEN Joe delivers, i.e., if it only circulates when it moves for value received it could conceivably retain a true value. The unspent notes in John’s pocket would not of necessity upset the whole working of a new system, or force people to sell apples at street corners.
There is no reason why this reserve in everyman’s pocket should be any more dangerous than a reserve in a bank. It would be much less likely to freeze.
I suspect that the amount of money paid directly for necessary and desirable public works is about proportionate to that increase of circulating medium which Hume saw as needful for national welfare.
Obviously the minute you had such a system everyone and every gang and combine would run to your congress or your law-chamber howling for jobs, but everyone else would be vastly more alive to the use and meaning of public work, and after the first fever even an elected government might be approved or improved.
At any rate ALL PERMANENT AUGMENTATIONS OF PLANT ought to be paid for in this manner.
(Pardon digression, the author will retract when proof to the contrary it presented.)
C’est Toujours le Beau Monde qui Gouverne.
ANYONE who has seen the furniture at Schönbrunn ought to understand the flop of the Austrian Empire, and anyone who saw it before the flop ought to have known that the flop was coming.
Frobenius has outstripped other archæologists and explorers
(a) because he does not believe things exist without cause;
(b) as corollary, because he considered that the forms of pottery, etc., had causes.
Franz Josef was one of the most schifoso figures of the period remembered by living people, he hadn’t even the superficial and tricky brilliance of the unspeakable Hohenzollern. Nasty men have occurred without affecting the course of empire very much, but an age SHOWS in its forms, in its material forms, you can’t have the top of an empire stuck in that congeries of an East Side brothel enriched to the n’th during a growing period of a nation.
When the court furnishings get to the level of Koster and Bial’s music-hall stage parlour, the empire is on the wane.
Pewk, artistically speaking, is distinguishable by the substitution of expensiveness for design in all material objects. The great age does not care for cost, it usually manifests at a minimum of material expense and a maximum of cerebral outlay.
However, dropping theory, the bolsheviki brought in a greater care for intellectual life and probably a greater respect for criteria than the Romanoff’s supporters had had.
The last time I was in England I went to a party, a Labour Member’s party, the mental life was more lively than that at Liberal parties.
When one beau monde gets too ditheringly silly or too besottedly ugly, a new and different beau monde rises to replace it.
As in a new art movement, I think the vitality shows first in a greater exigence and precision with regard to antiquity, and a break with the conventionally recognized “classic,” or accepted great works of the past, whereof the list has always been vitiated, and in the menu of which there are jumbled together the real works and the sham or the hokum.
The Italian awakening began showing itself in two ways.
I. The bookshop windows began to change. In place of the old line, Dante, Petrarch, Tasso and Ariosto, there began to appear slowly translations of Kipling and Dostoievsky and, as the hole in the dyke widened, the torrent of translations good, bad and indifferent, yellow literature, the best Wallace, the worst slop, Wodehouse, woodlouse, etc., but also H. James, Hardy, and a discreet number of books worth reading, though not yet any real criteria nor any successful effort to get the best before the worst. As far as the public is concerned no such effort is apparent in France, England, or America either.
But no one who ever looks in a bookshop window and who has known such Italian windows for thirty years can fail to have seen the difference, the sign of hunger and curiosity.
II. The restauri. From Sicily up to Ascoli, from one end of the boot to the other, the blobby and clumsy stucco is pried loose from the columns; the pure lines of the romanesque are dug out, the old ineradicable Italian skill shows in the anonymous craftsmen. Three whole columns, six fragments, a couple of capitals are scratched out of a rotten wall, and within a few months the graceful chiostro is there again as it had been in the time of Federigo Secondo.
Someone mentions the Senatore Corrado Ricci and no one knows who else or how many other sensibilities have been employed.
Where other regimes would have haggled and niggled the fascist regime has just gone ahead, without any fireworks whatever. Apart from specialists employed I don’t suppose there are ten men in Italy who know as much about these restorations as I do, simply from having dawdled about the peninsula looking at what was in front of me. It is not merely a matter of FILLING IN the old gaps with concrete. It is a reconquest of an ancient skill, such as I saw the head artisan using in Teramo or in Ascoli Piceno up in the mountains over there by the Adriatic “where nobody goes.”
The term “gerarchia” is perhaps the beginning of a critical sense, vide the four tiles and the dozen or so bits of insuperable pottery, pale blue on pale brownish ground, in the ante-room of the Palazzo Venezia.