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Gino Capponi by T. A. T.

GINO CAPPONI, whose death, on the 3d of February last, has been noticed in all the principal journals of Europe and America, belonged to a family that has been honored in Florence for more than five hundred years, and whose name occurs on almost every page of its history. He was born in that city on the 14th of September, 1792. His name in full was Gino Alessandro Giuseppe Gaspero, but no one ever heard of him save as Gino. At seven years of age he shared the exile of his parents, who followed their sovereign, the grand duke Ferdinand, when he was driven from his dominions by the victorious arms of France. He was little more than twenty when he went as a member of the embassy sent to Napoleon I. immediately after the battle of Leipsic, on which occasion he is recorded to have had a long conversation with the emperor. After the restoration of the Tuscan sovereign at the fall of Napoleon he traveled extensively in England, Germany and France. Returning to his country, he was continually eager in using his large hereditary wealth for the promotion of education among all classes of his countrymen. He was one of the principal founders and supporters of the celebrated periodical, the Antologia, which played so large and conspicuous a part in preparing the public mind for the awakening which finally issued in that resuscitation of Italy which we have all witnessed.

In 1841 he mainly contributed to the foundation of the Archivio Storico Italiano, the fruitful parent of various other publications of the same kind which have within the last thirty years done infinitely more for students of Italian history than all the three centuries which preceded them. The famous bookseller Vieusseux, who himself did much and suffered much in the cause of the nascent Italian liberties, undertook the material portion of this enterprise, which was rewarded by a large measure of literary success, and by the fear and enmity of the oppressors of Italy throughout the Peninsula.

Capponi, however, would fain have avoided revolution could it have been avoided without sacrificing liberty. In July, 1847, when the general state of Europe was bringing home to the minds of rulers the cogent necessity of becoming reformers or of vanishing, Capponi was made a councillor of state, and at the close of that year was employed by the grand duke to draw up a scheme of representative institutions for Tuscany. To give anything approaching to a complete account of Capponi's activity during the troubled period which followed would be to write the history of Tuscany during that period. The general progress of affairs was precisely that which history has had so often to recount. The sovereign, frightened, obstinate, and little able to appreciate the forces opposed to him, was wavering, fickle, timid, yet stubborn, and, above all, untrustworthy. The people were bent on pushing matters to extremes to which those who had so far been their leaders were unwilling to go, and, as usual, the best of those leaders were shunted from the road, happy if they were able, as Capponi was, to retire in safety to the tranquil seclusion of studious life. When, after the flight of the grand duke from his dominions and his subsequent restoration by Austrian bayonets, a regular government was once more established in Florence, Capponi was constant, though wholly unconnected with public life officially, in tendering counsel to the grand duke which, had it been listened to, might have saved his throne and changed all the future of Italy. But he was disregarded, and even suspected; and, as we all know, the end came in the memorable 1859. After the union of Italy under Victor Emmanuel, Capponi was at once named a senator and decorated with all the honors the sovereign had to bestow. But, alas! they were bestowed on a blind old man, whose misfortune incapacitated him from taking any part in public life. From the time when the Italian revolution was consummated the life of Gino Capponi was that of a retired and laborious student. The loss of his sight by no means involved in his case the abandonment of literary labor; and his last great work, published but a year or two ago, the History of the Republic of Florence, is the second great historical work which in our own time has been produced by an author deprived of eyesight.

Capponi began his literary life at twenty by the publication in 1812 of Observations on a Critical Examination of Amerigo Vespucci's First Voyage to the New World: he ended it, as has been said, by the publication at eighty of his Florentine History. To give even the titles of all the works he published in the interim would occupy more than two of these columns. He has left in manuscript a History of the Church during the First Centuries and Records of the Years 1814-16, 1821, 1831, 1847-49. It is to be hoped that the latter of these works will see the light: Capponi's account of the memorable years in question would be no small boon to the historian.

It is needless to say that the funeral, and obsequies of this great citizen were surrounded by every observance that could help to mark the nation's sense of the greatness of the loss it had sustained. It would be hardly possible to name a corner of Italy that has not by deputation or special official message sought to associate itself with the task of doing him honor.