1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Poerio, Alessandro

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POERIO, ALESSANDRO (1802-1848), Italian poet and patriot, was descended from an old Calabrian family, his father, Baron Giuseppe Poerio, being a distinguished lawyer of Naples. In 1815 he and his brother Carlo accompanied their father, who had been identified with Murat's cause, into exile, and settled at Florence. In 1818 they were allowed to return to Naples, and on the proclamation of the constitution in 1820 the Poerios were among the stoutest defenders of the newly-won freedom. Allessandro fought as a volunteer, under General Guglielmo Pepe, against the Austrians in 1821, but when the latter reoccupied Naples and the king abolished the constitution, the family was again exiled and settled at Gratz. Alessandro devoted himself to study in various German universities, and at Weimar he became the friend of Goethe. In 1835 the Poerios returned to Naples, and Alessandro, while practising law with his father, published a number of lyrics. In 1848 he accompanied Pepe as a volunteer to fight the Austrians in northern Italy, and on the recall of the Neapolitan contingent Alessandro followed Pepe to Venice and displayed great bravery during the siege. He was severely wounded in the fighting round Mestre, and died on the 3rd of November 1848. His poetry “reveals the idealism of a tender and delicate mind which was diligent in storing up sensations and images that for others would have been at most the transient impressions of a moment.” But he could also sound the clarion note of patriotism, as in his stirring poem Il Risorgimento.

His brother Carlo (1803-1867), after returning to Naples, practised as an advocate, and from 1837 to 1848 was frequently arrested and imprisoned; but when King Ferdinand, moved by the demonstration of the 27th of January of the latter year, promulgated a constitution, he was made minister of education. Discovering, however, that the king was acting in bad faith, he resigned office in April and returned to Naples to take his seat in parliament, where he led the constitutional opposition. The Austrian victory of Novara (March 1849) set the king free to dissolve parliament and trample on the constitution, and on the 19th of July 1849 Poerio was arrested, tried, and condemned to nineteen years in irons. Chained in pairs, he and other political prisoners were confined in one small room in the bagno of Nisida, near the lazaretto. The eloquent exposure (1851) of the horrors of the Neapolitan dungeons by Gladstone, who emphasized especially the case of Poerio, awakened the universal indignation of Europe, but he did not obtain his liberty till 1858. He and other exiles were than placed on board a ship bound for the United States, but the son of Settembrini, another of the exiles, who was on board in disguise, compelled the crew to land them at Cork, whence Poerio made his way to London. In the following year he returned to Italy, and in 1860 he was elected deputy to the parliament of Turin, of which he was chosen vice-president in 1861. He died at Florence on the 28th of April 1867.

See Baldachini, Della Vita e de' tempi di Carlo Poerio (1867); W. E. Gladstone, Two Letters to the Earl of Aberdeen (1851); Carlo Poerio and the Neapolitan Police (London, 1858); Vannucci, I Martiri della libertà italiana, vol. iii. (Milan, 1880); Imbriani, Alessandro Poerio a Venezia (Naples, 1884); Del Giudice, I Fratelli Poerio (Turin, 1899); Countess Martinengo Cesaresco, Italian Characters (London, 1901).