Pagina:Ferrero - Meditazioni sull'Italia, 1939.djvu/219

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200 giudizio di max ascoli

the same time so distinct from each other as to from what can be called an harmonious contrast.

He had the tradition of a family that during three generations did creative work in the intellectual fleld; who knew the sudden rush of popularity and the bitterness of misunderstanding; and who knows now that bitterest among bitter things, exile. He had in his blood the patience of scholarly work, the warm human feeling which aroused an interest in all social phenomena; an extraordinary capacity of expressing in some comprehensive patterns a wide range of historical or social experiences; and above all an absolute, unswerving devotion to the search for truth and to an idea of justice. He was proud of his family in the same high degree in which his family was proud of him; he resented every attack against his family; since childhood he had learned to face enemies or doubtful friends rather than real friends. The political tradition of his family obliged Leo at twenty-four years of age to give up a literary career in Italy that looked more than promising, to become a writer in a foreign language, a çontributor to a foreign literature.

And yet, was Leo just the charming Crown Prince by hereditary right of intellectual dynasty? I like to put this question now, and I would like that this question, together with our passionate denial, could reach the sour people who may have thought so when Leo appeared on the literary scene of Italy. Our denial is passionate because we know that Leo. thanks to his tradition, and in spite of his tradition, had one of the most distinct individual personalities with whom we ever came in contact.

What was the essence of this personality? In the few, very few years he had in which to express himself, what were the activities in which he gave signs of fuller accomplishment? He was brilliant as a journalist; he was learned and better read than psychology of a man or of a crowd, yet he was not a journalist; he was learned and better read than it is possible to believe, when one thinks that he had only toward himself the obligation of scholarly work, yet he was not a scholar; he was more than interested in social phenomena and keen in