Torquato Accetto, a great scholar in southern Spain

by Silvio Sannino

The viceregal period, despite its well-known elements of voltage e crisis, was a great time for the south artistic and cultural vivacity. There were very many men of culture born and lived in the realms of Naples e Sicily under the aegis of Habsburg: Giordano Bruno, Tommaso Campanella, Bernardino Telesio, Torquato Tasso, Giambattista Marino to name just a few of the best known names. Not all, however, was destined the same fame among posterity. There are many characters who, despite their undoubted contribution to cultural life of the south and the whole of Europe, are mostly unknown to the general public.

Among them must certainly be counted Torquato Agree. Distinguished poet active in the Baroque Naples who had a fair literary fame at the time, only to be forgotten until its rediscovery in the 1920s. His works that have come down to us, however small, trace the figure of an intellectual with broad-minded He is able to wide-ranging reflectionsor, conveyed by a deep literary and philosophical knowledge of ancient and modern classics.

Torquato Accetto, a great scholar in southern Spain
view of Naples, early 1600s. View without Vesuvius, as in use in the landscaping of Naples until 700

Torquato I accept: a problematic biography

On Torquato Agree you have very few biographical references, mostly deriving from its own poems. It was born towards the end of the 16th century in Trani, from Baldassare Accetto and Delia Sangiorgi. In some of his sonnets he also mentions a younger brother by name Rodrigo. No other information about his family life is currently available. His education must have been of great quality, mainly related to philosophy and at letters following pedagogical principles similar to those humanistic.

However his economic conditions they did not allow him to pursue his literary vocation in an undisturbed way. Driven by necessity, he moved in 1612 AD Andria, where it became secretary at the Carafa dukes. A fate common to many writers of the time who often, pushed by economic reasons, they dedicated themselves toadministration of feudal goods of the southern patriciate. Just think that even the Basile, for a good part of his life, he added administrative tasks to his literary commitment.

Torquato Accetto, a great scholar in southern Spain
seventeenth-century map of the city of Andria with the Carafa coat of arms

It was probably during the period of service with the Carafa dukes that Torquato Agree he matured many of his moral ideas. Contact with the harsh and violent reality of the feudal courts had one deep influence on the poet's reflections on the dissimulation and its relationship with the Truth which we find exemplified in his literary works. In 1618 the presence of Torquato Agree in Naples at theAcademy of the Idle.

At the time, the Academy, founded by Giovan Battista Manso, it was probably the most active literary institution at the capital of the kingdom, frequented by the likes of Giovan Battista Della Porta e John Milton. The first collection of Rime di Torquato Agree, published at the bottom of Nomiche Poems of the Manso. The Rhymes were the subject of numerous revisions and re-editions from 1621 to 1638. The poetry of Torquato Agree it was therefore often the subject of a meticulous labor limae both conceptual and stylistic.

Torquato Accetto, a great scholar in southern Spain
coat of arms of the Accademia degli Oziosi

The Rhymes of Torquato I accept

The reference model of Torquato Agree from the point of view formal e linguistic was the Bembian Petrarchism collimated, in the thematic field, with i classics of his era (first of all Torquato Tasso e Giambattista Marino). L'influence of modern classics it is also found in the organization of the work: in the Rhymes Torquato Accetto adopts a model of subdivision of poems by theme following the example of Giambattista Marino.

In these compositions the author manifests a peculiar need for search for the Truth. With respect to this theme, the poet is linked to two traditions: the first is that of Renaissance Neoplatonism inaugurated by Marsilio Ficino. The second (and perhaps the most felt by Torquato Accetto) is the one that is linked to Speeches of the heroic poem by Torquato Tasso. In them the Sorrentine poet indicates the ultimate goal of the poem search and unveiling of the truth, understood as not only a thematic element but also ethical and moral.

Therefore, the conception of a pedagogical poem prevails, the task of which is to lead the reader towards good and virtue. In the Rhymes of Torquato Accetto we find the use of Neoplatonic images as the veil, the night and the day. Among all these symbols, the use of theshadow, understood as intermediate point between day e night, between truth e lie. The shadow does not constitute a negative state per se, but represents one intermediate condition which always tends towards the light and therefore towards the Truth and the Virtue.

Torquato Accetto, a great scholar in southern Spain
“The conquered Jerusalem”, definitive edition of “The liberated Jerusalem” composed by Tasso according to the dictates of his “Discourses of the heroic poem”.

Torquato's work I agree: "On honest dissimulation"

The short treatise published in Naples in 1641 is part of a wider one debate insideAcademy of the Idle. In fact, it constitutes a response toApology of the lie, text written by the man of letters Giuseppe Battista capable of demonstrating how the lie was present in every context, sometimes even constituting one preferable alternative to the truth. Both texts are part of the great discourse on reason of state which had wide popularity in Italy since the publication of Prince.

Despite this they can also be considered ethics treaties, since the use of certain behaviors is not limited only to the political sphere but in general also extended to the contexts of everyday life. This is especially present in the text by Torquato Acceto. In Of honest dissimulation the author tries to find a way to survive the brutality of the world without abandoning virtue and truth. A viable alternative is found in the art of dissemble.

Torquato Accetto, a great scholar in southern Spain
Lorenzo Lippi (1606-1665): "allegory of simulation"

By dissimulation we mean the art ofl hide reality without lying, thus covering the Truth with a veil of shadows and then reveal it at the most opportune moment. Through dissimulation, according to Torquato Accetto, something is not simulated different from the Truth, merely hiding the Truth without ever taking your mind off it, to then reach it at the most opportune moment.

Dissembling thus allows virtuous men to resist the reverses of fortune adapting to the difficulties dictated by fate without however staining himself with any impiety. "Estote prudentes sicut serpentes, et simplices sicut columbae” (“Be prudent like snakes, and white like doves“), So reads one of the most famous quotations from Torquato Accetto's work, taken from Gospel of Matthew.

The dissimulation for the author is a real one art, understood in the sense Renaissance, like a technique which is learned through a strict moral discipline. This technique is in line with the concept of caution typical of the texts on the reason of state of the Renaissance period (think of Memories of the Guicciardini) and constitutes an element of Ciceronian derivation. Prudence also refers to the Stoic tradition, to which the author is connected in various parts of the text. Suffice it to say that the fifteenth chapter is completely dedicated to the removal and control of anger, understood as "enemy from the dissimulatione“.

Torquato Accetto, a great scholar in southern Spain
Titian (1490-1576), allegory of prudence

The use of countless quotes. The material used by the author is extremely varied: they range from sacred texts a Dante, from the Renaissance poeticsand ai modern classics how Marine e Badger, paying particular attention to the tradition of Latin classicism. The quote does not simply constitute a erudite reasonor typical of the time, but integral part of the argumentative purposes of the text. References to other authors are not untied from the main discourse, indeed, they are an integral part of it and demonstrate the deep culture and elasticity mind of the author.

For Torquato Accept, a single day will be free from the need to conceal: the day of doomsday. On that day being "finished human interests, the hearts more manifest than the foreheads [...] the dissimulation between men will have nothing to do". The author's conceptual horizon is therefore of type eschatological and inscribed in the Christian tradition. It also appears peculiar, towards the end of the chapter, a possible attack on Machiavelli. For the author during the day of judgment "it will not help to sew the skin of the fox where that of the lion does not reach“.

The text of the Florentine man of letters could not be cited explicitly, having been placed in theindex of prohibited books. This hypothetical thrust to Machiavellianism can be considered both as a demonstration of religious orthodoxy both like a sincere one stance by Torquato Accetto, thus going to tie it to the vein ofantimachiavellismo, very popular in the southern seventeenth century.

The conclusion of the treaty constitutes a real praise of dissimulation. Dissimulation is here understood as "decorum of all other virtues", Since they"they are more beautiful when […] son disguised". For the author, dissimulation is created through "not believing all the promises, not nourishing all hopes“, Thus configuring itself as one real protector not only of statesmen, but of all virtuous men. The eulogy ends with these words: "to give you thanks, I would offend your laws by not concealing what for reason I have concealed“.

Of honest dissimulation, Torquato I accept
Of honest dissimulation, Torquato I accept

The rediscovery

He was the great philosopher Benedetto Croce to rediscover the texts of Torquato Accetto in the 1920s. Croce recognized theirundoubted validity bringing them back to the attention of criticism after almost 300 years of oblivion. It is also probable that Croce, in the hard years of the twenty years, found comfort and refuge in the texts of the Accept.

Today, despite the little notoriety at the great audience, the works of Torquato Accetto have acquired a certain importance among scholars, considered as important attestations of the Italian and European seventeenth century, as well as how thick literary works. The work of Torquato Accetto, despite the differences due to the centuries that distance us from him, is still capable of speak to the hearts of readers, making up a big one element of reflection for an era like ours, so distant from that of Accetto and yet, in many respects, very close to it.

Torquato Accetto, a great scholar in southern Spain
vintage photo by Benedetto Croce


Torquato I agree: honest dissimulation

Giancarlo Alfano - Paola Italy - Emilio Russo - Franco Tomasi: Italian literature: from Tasso to the end of the nineteenth century, Mondadori

Damiano D'Ascenzi: Research on the prose of Torquato Accetto and other studies, Nuova Cultura editions, 2016

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