© Jeff Matthews entry 2003
Books about Naples
I have an
eclectic collection of books about Naples:
archaeology, history, music —whatever strikes my fancy,
really. It's not a huge collection, but it is stuffed
with many of those tiny and ephemeral pamphlets that
come out all the time about The Caves of Naples, The Customs of Naples,
The This & That of
Naples. Maybe a few hard ones, such as The Major-Minor Shift in
the Neapolitan Song as a Manifestation of the
Existentialist Dichotomy in the Popular Psyche.
(OK, I made that one up.) I have a few standard works
such as Acton's The
Last Bourbons of Naples, and I am an absolute
sucker for passages about Naples in 19th century works
such as Mark Twain's The
Innocents Abroad. (For an excerpt, click here.)
—H.M.S. Hannibal at Palermo &
Naples, During the Italian Revolution, 1859–1861.
With Notices of
Garibaldi, Francis II., & Victor Emanuel, by
Admiral Rodney Mundy. London: John Murray. 1st edition,
1863. 8vo.365pp. Frontispiece engraving & map. Some
pencil annotation throughout. Inner hinges very slightly
strained. Top & bottom of spine, edges & corners
rubbed, original cloth lightly marked, else very good
copy. Unfortunately, the price
is US$233.35. I don't want it that bad.
Occasionally, I get on the internet just to see
what is out there in used book shops, not because I am
necessarily going to buy, but I might. I have found a
couple of good volumes that way about, for example, the
U.S. reaction to Garibaldi's invasion of the Kingdom of
Naples, and Antonio Pace's great book, Benjamin Franklin and
Italy. So, just for fun, I looked a bit today.
There is nothing like a used–book store, even if it's
only in cyberspace. Right off the bat, I see something I
Sometimes the National Library in
Naples has these things in the original English.
I'll check that one. Maybe I am setting my sights too
high. Ah, here...$1.39! This is more like it:
by Catherine Coulter. New York, NY, U.S.A. 1985. Mass
Market Paperback. Good. Spine lines/edge rubs/clean Tight
Pgs. Book Description: Golden-haired hellion Arabella goes
adventuring to Naples, Italy to solve the mystery of her
father's missing ships and cargoes. But soon she discovers
that the man behind the thievery is an enemy from her
father's past. A man she shouldn't love, but can't
sure it's a fine book, but I had to go to the OED to even
find out what a "hellion" is—a troublesome or mischievous
person. No. And here is John Horne Burn's classic:
about the seamy kaleidoscope of Neapolitan life at the end
of WWII played out in the famous Galleria Umberto.
[Also see this link.] That book is
from 1947 and has recently been republished. (Here is a separate entry about it.) I
read it once upon a time but don't own it. For $1.95, this
is a definite maybe. As a sheer curiosity piquer, here's
one by the great Polish science-fiction writer, Stanislaw
Chain of Chance. London: Mandarin
Paperbacks, 1990. Softcover. Very Good. 5" x 7 3/4".
Remainder stripe on bottom of book. ...In Italy, a number
of people have died mysteriously. They tend to be foreign,
male, middle-aged and to have some connection with Naples.
But there the resemblances end and even Interpol have
bemusedly closed their files. However, a former astronaut
turned private detective agrees to duplicate the exact
itinerary of one of the victims in an attempt to decipher
the links in an increasingly mystifying chain of
coincidence.. 179pp. Three dollars. Mark that one. That's a keeper, especially
since "... foreign, male, middle-aged..." reminds me of
someone I know. I don't know about the next one:
—The Very Daring Duchess
by Miranda Jarrett. ... formulaic romance between a
conservative Naval officer and an exotic arts dealer.
After winning a victory against the French army, Captain
Edward Ramsden, the unwanted fourth son of the Duke of
Harborough, and a fellow officer decide to explore Naples
and enjoy its diversions. Their first stop is the
illustrious Signora Francesca Robin's studio d'artista, an
eclectic museum containing a number of bogus art pieces as
well as a large display of lewd paintings... The story
escalates with the promise of intrigue and sexual tension
but, unfortunately, Jarrett packs her tale with maudlin
dialogue and clichè commentary. Although Jarrett's sex
scenes are steamy and descriptive, her characters are
little more than cardboard... Three
dollars and forty–two cents. Too steep—sexual tension and
steam notwithstanding. Here's one that is actually
—A woman, a man, and two kingdoms: the
story of Madame d'Epinay and the Abbot Galiani,
by Francis Steegmuller. Madame d'Epinay was Rousseau's
patron. She set him up in a gloriously free and bucolic
country estate where he could feel like a noble savage.
("Garçon, a bit more curare on
my spear-point, please.") The "him" in "She set him up..." is
ambiguous. I think it means Rousseau. Anyway, Ferdinando
Galiani (1728-1787) was one of the great minds of the
Neapolitan Enlightenment and the author of some important
works in economics. He was also the ambassador of the
Kingdom of Naples in France in the 1760s. It is entirely
possible that he and madame d'Epinay had something going.
I don't want to know. Oh, no. Here is a mistake:
—Marriage Italian Style, by Arnold
Hano. "...Basis for spicy 1964 Sophia Loren film...
whore's efforts to get longtime lover and womanizer to
marry her and stay true..."
That, of course, is totally wrong. The "basis for Sophia
Loren's spicy 1964...etc." was the stage-play Filomena Marturano by
Eduardo de Filippo. How about:
—The Bay of Noon,
by Shirley Hazard. NY: Picador, 2003. Trade Paperback.
Near Fine/No Jacket. Reprint. 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall.
181 pp. A young Englishwoman working in Naples, Jenny
comes to Italy fleeing a history that threatened to undo
her. Binding tight, text clean... I think I
know that woman. Tight binding, clean text. What else?
Here it is! This is the one I want.
One of the classics in its genre:
Excursions in Italy, by Edward Lear: London:
S. & I. Bentley, Wilson & Fley for Thomas M'Lean,
1846. 2 volumes, folio. (14 1/2 x 10 5/8 inches).
Half-titles, 2pp. publisher's advertisements at back of
vol.II. Titles with wood-engraved vignettes, 55 fine
tinted lithographic views by Lear, printed by Hullmandel
& Walton, 2 lithographic maps, hand-coloured in
outline, 2 leaves engraved sheet music at back of vol.I,
53 wood-engraved vignettes after Lear and R. Branston.
(Some spotting). Original green cloth, blocked in gilt and
blind. Modern green cloth box, green morocco lettering
piece. A fine complete set of Lear's magisterial record of
his travels through Italy. The first volume covers Lear's
tours through the Abruzzi region, "or three Northern
provinces of the kingdom of Naples" (p.1). He made
three excursions between July 1843 and October 1844,
recording in both words and pictures the most memorable
and picturesque of the scenes he encountered. In the
preface he notes that object of the work was "the
illustration of a part of Italy which.. has hitherto
attracted but little attention. With the exception of
[two other works].. I am not aware of any published
account of the Abruzzi provinces in English; and the
drawings with which the following pages are illustrated
are, I believe, the first hitherto given of a part of
Central Italy as romantic as it is unfrequented"
(preface). The second volume, with much briefer text than
the first, includes views "of places in the States of
the Church - most of them within easy reach of visitors
to Rome; yet, with the exception of Isola Farnese,
Castel Fusano, and Caprarola, ..seldom seen by Tourists"
(Preface). Lear notes in both volumes that the drawings "are
Lithographed by my own hand from my sketches".
And it is only $ 9,500. Here—to make that redundantly
transparent—nine–thousand five–hundred dollars. I think
I'll go back and check on Jenny of the tight binding and
[More on Edward Lear and
his later work from 1852, Journals of a landscape
painter in Southern Calabria.]
[To other items on
books about Naples: (2)