Alessandro Manzoni (he never used his title of Count) was born of a patrician family at Milan, on March 7, 1785. His maternal grandfather was the noted publicist, the Marquis Cesare Beccaria. In his early studies, pursued mainly at Milan, he inclined naturally towards belles lettres, and, reading assiduously by himself, he developed the seeds of genius within him. Toward the literary career his steps were guided also by his relations with the kindly Italian poet, Monti, whom he venerated. In 1805 his mother took him to Paris, where he frequented salons, the atmosphere of which was wholly rationalistic and Voltairean, and in which he imbibed doctrines of skepticism. These, however, were not to last with him. At this time there was formed his friendship with the French scholar and man of letters, Claude Fauriel, who now and for many years later helped to mold his mind. Back in Milan in 1808, he married there in that year the Protestant lady, Enrichetta Blondel. Two years later, she became a Catholic, and Manzoni, impelled by her example and by a deep-rooted love, hitherto latent, for the ancestral religion, followed her into the Church, to remain thereafter a sincere and devout communicant. Abiding in the Milanese region, he wrote there in 1821 his remarkable ode, the “Cinque Maggio,” commemorating the death of Napoleon, and at about this same time he commenced the composition of “I Promessi Sposi.” When it was fully published in 1827, he removed with his family to Florence, and for a while enjoyed the favor of the grand duke,—who decorated the walls of his palace with scenes from “I Promessi Sposi,”—and the society of leading statesmen and writers, such as Giusti, Capponi, Niccolini, and Leopardi. Returning ere long to Milan, he had the misfortune to lose (1833) his wife, as well as his daughter, Giulia, who was married to the novelist Massimo d’Azeglio. In the sorrow of this period he derived no little comfort from his friendship with the brilliant although impetuous philosopher Rosmini and the novelist Tommaso Grossi. He remarried in 1837. During the stirring days of 1848, he showed himself a sterling Italian patriot, and urged his three sons to fight valiantly against the Austrian arms then engaged in subjugating his native region of Lombardy. With the success of the Austrians he retired voluntarily to a villa on Lake Maggiore, but the liberation of Lombardy again in 1859 brought him prominently to notice. King Vittorio Emmanuele bestowed honors upon him and assigned him a pension, which to one in his straitened circumstances was very grateful. He was made a senator in 1860, and played a part in the Assembly which proclaimed the Kingdom of Italy. Shortly after, in 1864, he was one of the National Assembly that voted for the transference of the capital from Turin to Rome. The Holy City he never visited, but in 1872 he was elected an honorary citizen of Rome, and in the letter in which he thanked the mayor for the courtesy shown him he expressed his joy at the consummation of Italian unity. He died on May 22, 1873.

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