Thursday, June 14, 2012



David Gilmour, The Last Leopard: A Life of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (London: The Harvill Press, 1988), p. 106 (footnotes omitted):
'I am a person,' noted Lampedusa in 1954, 'who is very often alone. Of the sixteen hours of daily wakefulness, at least ten are spent in solitude. And being unable, after all, to read the whole time, I amuse myself by constructing literary theories...' In fact he was not really thinking up theories but simply cogitating on writers, placing them in categories and making comparisons between them. It was, in the literal sense of the word, his pastime. As Francesco Orlando recalled after his death, 'Literature was the great occupation and consolation of this nobleman from whom various patrimonial misfortunes had removed all worldliness and practical usefulness, and who was reduced to living isolated, without any luxury other than his considerable expenditure on books...'
Literature was essential to Lampedusa‘s life. It gave him most of his ideas and much of his happiness, and it also attenuated the heavy depressions to which he was increasingly prone. According to Licy, 'he never left the house without a copy of Shakespeare in his bag, with which he would console himself when he saw something disagreeable'. 'There were several editions of Shakespeare’s works: some of them were portable, and these he took with him on his walks to the club; others were large volumes to read during sleepless nights...' The Pickwick Papers, which may have been his favourite book of all, was also crucial: 'He had a copy on the bedside table at night, he took it with him when he travelled, he kept rereading it.' Literature aroused emotions in Lampedusa in a way that human relations could not. He was capable of laughing aloud at Shakespeare's characters and confessed that he had once wept at the beauty of Milton's Lycidas.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

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