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The Italians of to-day ( 1912) book by Richard Bagot

The Italians of to-day 



The cordial reception given by the Press and the reading public generally to My Italian Year leads me to believe that some further description of Italian life may not, perhaps, be unwelcome even to the perusers of that volume, and also, possibly, to that larger British public which is not always in a position to provide itself with books of the kind. 

It is, indeed, to this larger public that I dedicate the following pages, and this not for the sake of popularity hunting, but from an earnest desire to add to my many efforts to contribute to a better and more intimate understanding of modern Italy and her people than at present obtains among the mass of my compatriots.


 Of  English books dealing with Italy, her art, her history, her monuments, and her glorious past, there are very many; but of books dealing with her present, and with the home he, characteristics, and aspirations of the modern ItaUans there are extremely few. We English have made the mistake of confusing our traditional love for Italy with almost total indifference towards, or misconception of, Italians. The result has been, and I do not shrink from affirming it, that the so-called English friendship for Italy has not been received with that cordiality by the Italians which would have been the case had its professors not clearly indicated that it consisted rather in an aesthetic and sentimental admiration for an Italy of the past than in any appreciation of, or sympathy with, the energetic, virile, and courageous people which has made, and is still making, the Italy of to-day.


 I wish to make myself clearly understood at the very commencement of this little volume, so that intending reader may cast it aside forthwith if they do not find themselves in agreement with my object in writing it. The following pages are not for the aesthetic and artistic to whom the name Italy stands for all that is most beautiful; neither are they for the historian nor even, primarily, for the traveller through the  Italian kingdom. 

They are merely offered to the attention of the man in the street who, although he very often has considerable knowledge of the Italy of past ages gathered from the works to which I have alluded, has very little acquaintance with, and, I fear, very many misconceptions of, the character and the nature of the modern Italians. 

It may be asked why I, an Englishman, should care what impressions the majority of my compatriots may or may not hold concerning a foreign people. I can only reply that I have lived among and with that people for very many years; and that when I hear them misjudged, or read things about them which I know to be false, I feel pre- precisely the same indignation as that which is aroused in me by similar superficial judgments passed on English people by those who neither know nor understand them. Now, it is very natural that the great mass of the British public should hold very mistaken ideas concerning Italians. I think I am not unduly exaggerating when I say that to this great mass the name Italian conveys little else than barrel-organs, ice-cream vendors, cheap restaurants, waiters, and the like — all useful objects in their way, but not

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