The Victorians and the Renaissance

  • Kenneth Churchill


Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century studies of Italian Renaissance art and history had flowed increasingly from the press. Not only in England, but all over Europe, a massive effort had been devoted to the elucidation and evaluation of the achievement of Italy between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries: the footnotes to Symonds’ Renaissance in Italy provide an extensive bibliography. It was on the Continent that the really significant work had been done. In Paris Michelet had excitingly discovered the very concept of the Renaissance as a coherent historical phenomenon of the first importance,1 and in Basel Burckhardt had laid the foundation for all subsequent work on that period of Italian history with his Die Kultur der Renaissance in Italien (1860; translated into English in 1878). But in England works on the Renaissance period had characteristically been either of specialist or of purely journalistic interest, with neither pretension nor title to literary esteem; rare indeed among their pages are those qualities which give a piece of writing a distinctive lasting value independent of changes of attitude towards its subject. One of the features of the last four decades of the century, however, was the appearance of a succession of studies of Italian cultural history of considerable literary quality and importance.


Eighteenth Century English Literature Sixteenth Century Humanist Tradition Grand Tourist 
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Chapter 10

  1. 1.
    See L. Fèbvre, ‘Comment Jules Michelet inventa la Renaissance’, in Studi in Onore di Gino Luzzatto vol. iii (Milano, 1950) pp. 1–11.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    J. A. Symonds, The Renaissance (Oxford, 1863) P. 34.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
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  4. 6.
    See G. N. G. Orsini, ‘Symonds & De Sanctis: A Study in The Historiography of The Renaissance’, Studies in The Renaissance xi (1964) 151–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    For frequent references to Sand, see the index to Symonds’ Letters ed. H. M. Schueller & R. L. Peters (Detroit, 1967–9). Some of Sand’s were among the books he took to Venice in 1862: see H. Brown, John Addington Symonds vol. i (London, 1895) p. 247.Google Scholar
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    See Vernon Lee, J.S.S. In Memoriam in E. Charteris, John Sargeant (London, 1927) PP. 235–55.Google Scholar
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© Kenneth Churchill 1980

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  • Kenneth Churchill

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