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Bettinelli, Saverio

BETTINELLI, SAVERIO (1718-1808), Italian Jesuit and man of letters, was born at Mantua on the 18th of July 1718. After studying under the Jesuits in his native city and at Bologna he entered the society in 1736. He taught the belles-lettres from 1739 to 1744 at Brescia, where Cardinal Quirini, Count Mazzuchelli, Count Duranti and other scholars, formed an illustrious academy. He next went to Bologna, to pursue the study of divinity, and there he enjoyed the society of many learned and literary men. At the age of thirty he went to Venice, where he became professor of rhetoric, and was on friendly terms with the most illustrious persons of that city and state. The superintendence of the college of nobles at Parma was entrusted to him in 1751; and he had principal charge of the studies of poetry and history, and the entertainments of the theatre. He remained there eight years, visiting, at intervals, other cities of Italy, either on the affairs of his order, for pleasure or for health. In 1755 he traversed part of Germany, proceeded as far as Strassburg and Nancy, and returned by way of Germany into Italy, taking with him two young sons or nephews of the prince of Hohenlohe, who had requested him to take charge of their education. He made, the year following, another journey into France along with the eldest of his pupils; and during this excursion he wrote his famous Lettere dieci di Virgilio agli Arcadi, which were published at Venice with his sciolti verses, and those of Frugoni and Algarotti. The opinions maintained in these letters against the two great Italian poets and particularly against Dante, created him many enemies, and embroiled him with Algarotti. In 1758 he went into Lorraine, to the court of King Stanislaus, who sent him on a matter of business to visit Voltaire. Voltaire presented him with a copy of his works, with a flattering inscription in allusion to Bettinelli's Letters of Virgil. From Geneva he returned to Parma, where he arrived in 1759. He afterwards lived for some years at Verona and Modena, and he had just been appointed professor of rhetoric there, when, in 1773, the order of Jesuits was abolished in Italy. Bettinelli then returned into his own country, and resumed his literary labours with new ardour. The siege of Mantua by the French compelled him to leave the city, and he retired to Verona, where he formed an intimate friendship with the chevalier Hippolito Pindemonti. In 1797 he returned to Mantua. Though nearly eighty years old, he resumed his labours and his customary manner of life. He undertook in 1799 a complete edition of his works, which was published at Venice in 24 vols. 12mo. Arrived at the age of ninety years, he still retained his gaiety and vivacity of mind, and died on the 13th of September 1808. The works of Bettinelli are now of little value. The only one still deserving remembrance, perhaps, is the Risorgimento negli studj, nelle Arti e ne' Costumi dopo il Mille (1775-1786), a sketch of the progress of literature, science, the fine arts, industry, etc., in Italy.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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