Thomas Moore toured Italy over a period of less than three months, late September to early December 1819. He travelled with his friend and later biographer, Lord John Russell, and met his friend and later subject of his biographical efforts, Lord Byron.
Moore recorded his experience in his journal, which Lord John Russell published in 1853, a year after Moore’s death. Russell edited Moore’s original, often omitting material that he deemed questionable or potentially insulting to still-living individuals. The original manuscript of the diaries were believed lost, but resurfaced in 1967 in the archives of the Longmans Publishing House. Wilfred S. Dowden supervised their edition in six volumes, restoring wherever possible the original readings.
Despite the obvious superiority of Dowden’s edition, it is Russell’s that forms the basis of this blog. The chief reason is, of course, copyright, which will apply to Dowden’s work for several decades to come. There is another reason, however, which touches more closely upon the purpose of this edition. Ronan Kelly’s masterful biography, Bard of Erin, has reawakened interest in Moore beyond academic circles. I wish to provide through this blog an entrance point to the writings of Thomas Moore to a more general audience than the one addressed by Dowden’s edition.
Hence, instead of tracking literary references or examining the state of the manuscript, I offer the reader maps and illustrations of Moore’s journeys, and explanatory notes on the situations and individuals he met. I believe that, as an Italian studying Irish literature, I am in a good position to advise readers who may be puzzled about the identity of, for example, poet and translator Vincenzo Monti, or sculptor Antonio Canova, and why it is interesting to notice that Moore met them.
Persons. Readers can view annotations or ignore them as they see fit. Entries upon individuals are grouped in appendix-like pages in a separate section of the website, and linked to from each diary entry. Where reliable, freely available English-language resources are available on a specific person or place, I have provided links to them.
Locations. Location-based information is represented through custom-made Google Maps. These have the obvious disadvantage of showing 21st-century landscapes, but they still provide useful visualisations of Moore’s movement across Italy. When Moore visits a city, I have marked on the map the monuments he mentioned and provided contextual annotations and images. The maps are aimed at English-speaking readers unfamiliar with Italian history and art, and are by necessity extremely concise. [Currently available for Milan, Padua, and Venice].
Images. Each post includes a featured image. Wherever possible, I have tried to include 19th-century images of places and monuments that reflect what Moore would have seen. Even the earliest photographs, however, reflect the Italy of the 1850s, over thirty years after Moore’s journey. The limitations of using 21st-century technology to describe 19th-century events are most acute here. The amount and quality of digital images available freely and legally is however always increasing, so I am certain I will be able to improve my selections. I also plan to create a gallery of the artworks Moore describes. This phase will require overcoming Moore’s sometimes shaky attributions, and copyright restrictions on their photographs.
Historical context. Moore visits Italy at a particular time, and his observations show the state of monuments (and minds) of 1819. Napoleon’s Kingdom of Italy had ceased to be only in 1814, and his trace is visible everywhere, nowhere more clearly than in Milan. The Venetian Republic had lost its independence within living memory, in 1797. I will provide annotations on the historical context and suggestions for further reading in the History section.
Travel literature. I also wish to locate Moore within the genre of travel writing, and to compare his portrayal of Italy with those of other British and especially Irish contemporary travelers (Lady Morgan first and foremost).