1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lacaita, Sir James

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LACAITA, SIR JAMES [Giacomo] (1813–1895), Anglo-Italian politician and writer. Born at Manduria in southern Italy, he practised law in Naples, and having come in contact with a number of prominent Englishmen and Americans in that city, he acquired a desire to study the English language. Although a moderate Liberal in politics, he never joined any secret society, but in 1851 after the restoration of Bourbon autocracy he was arrested for having supplied Gladstone with information on Bourbon misrule. Through the intervention of the British and Russian ministers he was liberated, but on the publication of Gladstone’s famous letters to Lord Aberdeen he was obliged to leave Naples. He first settled in Edinburgh, where he married Maria Carmichael, and then in London where he made numerous friends in literary and political circles, and was professor of Italian at Queen’s College from 1853 to 1856. In the latter year he accompanied Lord Minto to Italy, on which occasion he first met Cavour. From 1857 to 1863 he was private secretary (non-political) to Lord Lansdowne, and in 1858 he accompanied Gladstone to the Ionian Islands as secretary, for which services he was made a K.C.M.G. the following year. In 1860 Francis II. of Naples had implored Napoleon III. to send a squadron to prevent Garibaldi from crossing over from Sicily to Calabria; the emperor expressed himself willing to do so provided Great Britain co-operated, and Lord John Russell was at first inclined to agree. At this juncture Cavour, having heard of the scheme, entrusted Lacaita, at the suggestion of Sir James Hudson, the British minister at Turin, with the task of inducing Russell to refuse co-operation. Lacaita, who was an intimate friend both of Russell and his wife, succeeded, with the help of the latter, in winning over the British statesman just as he was about to accept the Franco-Neapolitan proposal, which was in consequence abandoned. He returned to Naples late in 1860 and the following year was elected member of parliament for Bitonto, although he had been naturalized a British subject in 1855. He took little part in parliamentary politics, but in 1876 was created senator. He was actively interested in a number of English companies operating in Italy, and was made one of the directors of the Italian Southern Railway Co. He had a wide circle of friends in many European countries and in America, including a number of the most famous men in politics and literature. He died in 1895 at Posilipo near Naples.

An authority on Dante, he gave many lectures on Italian literature and history while in England; and among his writings may be mentioned a large number of articles on Italian subjects in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1857–1860), and an edition of Benvenuto da Imola’s Latin lectures on Dante delivered in 1375; he co-operated with Lord Vernon in the latter’s great edition of Dante’s Inferno (London, 1858–1865), and he compiled a catalogue in four volumes of the duke of Devonshire’s library at Chatsworth (London, 1879).