Silvio Pellico

Last updated
Silvio Pellico. Silvio Pellico.jpg
Silvio Pellico.

Silvio Pellico (Italian:  [ˈsilvjo ˈpɛlliko] ; 24 June 1789 31 January 1854) was an Italian writer, poet, dramatist and patriot active in the Italian unification.



Silvio Pellico was born in Saluzzo (Piedmont). He spent the earlier portion of his life at Pinerolo and Turin, under the tuition of a priest named Manavella. At the age of ten he composed a tragedy inspired by a translation of the Ossianic poems. On the marriage of his twin sister Rosina with a maternal cousin at Lyon, he went to reside in that city, devoting himself during four years to the study of French literature. He returned in 1810 to Milan, where he became professor of French in the Collegio degli Orfani Militari, now the Scuola Militare Teulié. [1]

His tragedy Francesca da Rimini was brought out with success by Carlotta Marchionni at Milan in 1818. Its publication was followed by that of the tragedy Euphemio da Messina , but the representation of the latter was forbidden. [1]

Pellico had in the meantime continued his work as tutor, first to the unfortunate son of Count Briche, and then to the two sons of Count Porro Lambertenghi  [ it ]. He threw himself heartily into an attempt to weaken the hold of the Austrian despotism by indirect educational means. [1]

The Conciliatore, a review, appeared in 1818. Of the powerful literary executives that gathered about Counts Porro and Confalonieri, Pellico was the able secretary on whom most of the responsibility for the review, the organ of the association, fell. But the paper, under the censorship of the Austrian officials, ran for a year only, and the society itself was broken up by the government. In October 1820, Pellico was arrested on the charge of carbonarism and conveyed to the Santa Margherita prison. After his removal to the Piombi at Venice in February 1821, he composed several Cantiche and the tragedies Ester d'Engaddi and Iginici d'Asti .

The Arrest of Silvio Pellico and Piero Maroncelli, Saluzzo, civic museum. Arresto di Silvio Pellico e Piero Maroncelli - Carlo Felice Biscarra.jpg
The Arrest of Silvio Pellico and Piero Maroncelli, Saluzzo, civic museum.

The sentence of death pronounced on him in February 1822 was finally commuted to fifteen years of jail in harsh condition, and in the following April he was placed in the Spielberg, at Brünn (today's Brno), where he was transferred via Udine and Ljubljana. His chief work during this part of his imprisonment was the tragedy Leoniero da Dertona , for the preservation of which he was compelled to rely on his memory. [1]

After his release in 1830, he commenced the publication of his prison compositions, of which the Ester was played at Turin in 1831, but immediately suppressed. In 1832, his Gismonda da Mendrisio, Erodiade and the Leoniero , appeared under the title of Tre nuove tragedie, and in the same year the work which gave him his European fame, Le mie prigioni  [ it ], an account of his sufferings in prison. The last gained him the friendship of the Marchesa Juliette Colbert de Barolo, the reformer of the Turin prisons, and in 1834 he accepted from her a yearly pension of 1200 francs. His tragedy Tommaso Moro had been published in 1833, his most important subsequent publication being the Opere inedite in 1837. [1]

On the decease of his parents in 1838, he was received into the Casa Barolo, where he remained until his death, assisting the marchesa in her charities, and writing chiefly upon religious themes. Of these works the best known is the Dei doveri degli uomini , a series of trite maxims which do honor to his piety rather than to his critical judgment. A fragmentary biography of the marchesa by Pellico was published in Italian and English after her death. [1]

He died in 1854 at Turin. He was buried in the Camposanto, Turin.

The simple narrative and naive egotism of Le mie prigioni has established his strongest claim to remembrance, winning fame by his misfortunes rather than by his genius. [1] The late nineteenth century English novelist George Gissing read the work, in Italian, whilst staying in Naples in November 1888. [2] "My prisons" contributed to the Italian unification, against Austrian occupation. [3] The pamphlet was translated into virtually every European language during Pellico's lifetime.

Silvio Pellico gave his name to a little community (1,500 inhabitants) founded in Argentina by Italian immigrants from Saluzzo.[ citation needed ]

Main works

Related Research Articles

Italian unification Creation of the politically and administratively integrated nation state of Italy.

Italian unification, also known as the Risorgimento, was the political and social movement that consolidated different states of the Italian peninsula into the single state of the Kingdom of Italy in the 19th century. The process began with the revolutions of 1848, inspired by previous rebellions in the 1820s and 1830s that contested the outcome of the Congress of Vienna, and was completed when Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy.

Carbonari secret society in Italy during the 19th century

The Carbonari was an informal network of secret revolutionary societies active in Italy from about 1800 to 1831. The Italian Carbonari may have further influenced other revolutionary groups in France, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Brazil and Uruguay. Although their goals often had a patriotic and liberal basis, they lacked a clear immediate political agenda. They were a focus for those unhappy with the repressive political situation in Italy following 1815, especially in the south of the Italian Peninsula. Members of the Carbonari, and those influenced by them, took part in important events in the process of Italian unification, especially the failed Revolution of 1820, and in the further development of Italian nationalism. The chief purpose was to defeat tyranny and to establish constitutional government. In the north of Italy other groups, such as the Adelfia and the Filadelfia, were associate organizations.

Federico Confalonieri Italian revolutionist

Count Federico Confalonieri was an Italian revolutionist.

Vincenzo Gioberti Italian philosopher and politician

Vincenzo Gioberti was an Italian clergyman, philosopher, publicist and politician. He was a prominent spokesman for Liberal Catholicism.

Malatesta (I) da Verucchio (1212–1312) was the founder of the powerful Italian Malatesta family and a famous condottiero. He was born in Verucchio. He was the son of Malatesta (I) della Penna (1183-1248).

Saluzzo Comune in Piedmont, Italy

Saluzzo is a town and former principality in the province of Cuneo, Piedmont region, Italy.

Špilberk Castle

Špilberk Castle is a castle on the hilltop in Brno, Southern Moravia. Its construction began as early as the first half of the 13th century by the Přemyslid kings and complete by King Ottokar II of Bohemia. From a major royal castle established around the mid-13th century, and the seat of the Moravian margraves in the mid-14th century, it was gradually turned into a huge baroque citadel considered the harshest prison in the Austro-Hungarian empire, and then into barracks. This prison had always been part of the Špilberk fortress and is frequently referenced by the main character, Fabrizio, in Stendahl's novel, "The Charterhouse of Parma."

Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta Italian condottiero and nobleman

Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta was an Italian condottiero and nobleman, a member of the House of Malatesta and lord of Rimini, Fano, and Cesena from 1432. He was widely considered by his contemporaries as one of the most daring military leaders in Italy and commanded the Venetian forces in the 1465 campaign against the Ottoman Empire. He was also a poet and patron of the arts.

Adelaide Ristori Italian actress

Adelaide Ristori was a distinguished Italian tragedienne, who was often referred to as the Marquise.

Francesca da Rimini Italian noble

Francesca da Rimini or Francesca da Polenta was the daughter of Guido da Polenta, lord of Ravenna. She was a historical contemporary of Dante Alighieri, who portrayed her as a character in the Divine Comedy.

Giovanni Malatesta Italian noble

Giovanni Malatesta, known, from his lameness, as Gianciotto, or Giovanni, lo Sciancato, was the eldest son of Malatesta da Verucchio of Rimini.

Villa del Balbianello building in Lenno, Italy

The Villa del Balbianello is a villa in the comune of Lenno, Italy, overlooking Lake Como. It is located on the tip of the small wooded peninsula of Dosso d'Avedo on the western shore of the south-west branch of Lake Como, not far from the Isola Comacina and is famous for its elaborate terraced gardens.

Thomas II, Marquess of Saluzzo Italian noble

Thomas II was Marquess of Saluzzo from 1336 to his death. He succeeded his father, Frederick I.

Francesca da Rimini, Op. 4, is an opera in four acts, composed by Riccardo Zandonai, with libretto by Tito Ricordi, (1865–1933), after the play Francesca da Rimini by Gabriele d'Annunzio. It was premiered at the Teatro Regio in Turin on 19 February 1914, and is still staged occasionally.

Albert Atto I was an Italian nobleman. He was a member of the Obertenghi family. From 1014 onward, he was margrave of Milan and count of Luni, Genoa and Tortona.

Diodata Saluzzo Roero (1774–1840) was an Italian poet, playwright and author of prose fiction. Her work drew praise from such figures as Tommaso Valperga di Caluso, Giuseppe Parini, Ludovico di Breme, Alessandro Manzoni, Vittorio Alfieri and Ugo Foscolo, and her life served as an inspiration for the protagonist in Germaine de Staël's 1807 Corinne.

Gottfried Wilhelm Becker was a German physician and writer.

Carlo Felice Biscarra Italian painter (1823-1894)

Carlo Felice Biscarra was an Italian painter and art critic.

Juliette Colbert de Barolo 1785-1864, philanthropist woman

Juliette Colbert Falletti de Barolo - born as Juliette Victoire Colbert - was a French Roman Catholic philanthropist and the founder of both the Sisters of Saint Anne and the Daughters of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Colbert was a well-educated girl living in France during and after the tumultuous French Revolution which caused her faith to deepen since she had the desire to aid the poor and neglected. Her marriage to a nobleman in Paris led to the two setting off to live in Turin where the couple threw themselves into charitable works. The couple bore no children but rather "adopted" the town's poor. Colbert was widowed some decades later and became professed into the Secular Franciscan Order while establishing hospitals and schools as well as other charitable institutions.

Ethna Byrne-Costigan was an Irish academic and writer.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Chisholm 1911.
  2. Coustillas, Pierre ed. London and the Life of Literature in Late Victorian England: the Diary of George Gissing, Novelist. Brighton: Harvester Press, 1978, p.69.
  3. Ford 1913.

Further reading

See also …
Commons-logo.svg Media at Wikimedia Commons
Gutenberg ico.png Works at Project Gutenberg
Dpe.png Works at Dominio Público