In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: Torquato Tasso

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: After 1859

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00191

Source: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Transcribed from digital images of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the marginalia and annotations, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: Floyd Stovall states that Whitman's notes correspond exactly with J. H. Wiffen's The Life of Torquato Tasso, edited by O. W. Wight (1859). See "Notes on Whitman's Reading," American Literature 26 (November 1954): 352.

Contributors to digital file: Lauren Grewe, Nicole Gray, Ty Alyea, and Matt Cohen

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Torquato Tasso

155[illegible]44—1595—(51 years)

Born at Sorrento, near Naples.

Father a poet, and educated gentleman (Bernardo Tasso.)

Mother died at his 16th or 17th year.—

Torquato studied—moved among the nobility, the courts, the learned, &c

Wrote the poem "Rinaldo" in his 18th year
—in 10 months.—rec'd through Italy with great applause.

At the age of 21, went to Ferrara, as a gentleman inof the household of the Cardinal d'Este.

The two ladies, "the Princesses," sisters of the Cardinal d'Este, Lecretia, aged 31 Leonora, 30. ^soon married to [Prince D'Urbino?]—With these "Tassino" was a favorite.—

(The father Bernardo died 1569, aged 76 "after a life marked by many vicissitudes and sorrows, but cheered throughout by a literary enjoyment, and a truly Christian philosophy.—")

In 1570 Tasso "attended his lord the Cardinal to the Court of France."

DTasso made application some time after to be received into the service of Alphonso, Duk d'Urbino, ^Lucretia's husband and succeeded.
—He was assigned a pension of 1500 crowns of gold a month.—

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Taso 2

He soon after worked faithfully and at leisure on the "Jerusalem."

But first finished and published his pastoral poem of "Aminta"—rec'd thro' Italy with great applause.—

Completed the Jerusalem in 1575 (ag 31) —He submitted this poem to the judgment of a number of his friends—
—"a step which in the sequel involved him in the greatest difficulties, not less from the diversity of opinions than from the ascetic severity of some of his censors, who professed to see, in his charming fictions, something profane and seductive," &c &c

The "Jerusalem" underwent several revisions, two grand ones, in particular—one of the censors read it not as a critic, but as an "inquisator"

(Jealousies, absurd criticisms, heart sickness, &c. &c)

Tasso goes to Rome.— But soon returns to Ferrara.)

Has "an interview with one of the Duke's greatest enemies.")

(Italian suspicion and treachery—fears, doubts, and cross‑purposes.)

Several troubled years—the Jerusalem printed

Tasso had not long returned from Ferrara, ere his melancholy, induced originally on his ardent temperament by the severity of his critics, and the persecutions of his enemies, returned upon him more deeply than ever.—

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Tasso 3

He had "symptoms of that mental disorder which was soon to affect his reason."

He disturbed himself with hundreds of fantastic fears.—

"At length one evening in June 1577 (ag 33) in the chamber of the Duchess d'Urbino he ran after one of her servants with a drawn dagger."

The Duke now issued orders to have Tasso confined in his chamber.

(More fears, groundless alarms, dread of losing the favor of the Duke.)

Tasso takes flight clandestinely from Ferrara, leaving his MSS. &c

From this period a wanderer from Court to Court in Italy, a prey to sorrow and morbid heart.

Goes to Sorrento, to his sister—Goes to Rome—at last returns, to Ferrara, under a cool per‑
mission from the Duke

But leaves Ferrara again soon
at last bringing up again at Ferrara—during a marriage festi‑
val of the court—is neglected—

—in a fit of invective gives loose to the keenest invectives against the House of Este—The Duke is app
prized of them, and Tasso, and Tasso is arrested and taken to the hospital of St. Anne, an asylum for lunatics & paupers.

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Tasso Tasso

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Tasso 4

This was in 1579—years passed— sick, declining, sometimes sane, sometimes crazed—over sev over seven years passed in this prison—he was liberated in 1586—

—Again, he travels up and down Italy—


The last twenty years of his life seem to have passed very unhappily, wandering, insane, (just conscious enough of it, to make it doubly poignant),
—either persecuted, or, which is ^always worse, supposing himself to be persecuted.—

Personally, Tasso was of lofty stature, fair complexion, (event‑
ually pale,) head large, beard brown, eyes large, (their look generally directed toward the heavens.)
—of attractive appearance— born a gentleman ^in an age when the term had all its high distinction.

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