This book attempts to chart the vision of Italy as it was developed by the second generation English Romantic poets, influenced as they were by the malign influence of the Gothic novelists. It examines the influence of Italian writers in new English translations at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries, especially on Byron, perhaps the most influential authority on Italy in his day.
It traces the awakening of a new historical awareness of an Italy apart from Rome and the Renaissance and the new use to which classical lore was put by poets as similar and yet so different as Keats and Leopardi. It examines the influence of new tourists, especially women, of landscape painting, of interests other than antiquarianism, it discusses social phenomena that influenced opinion, like lawlessness and the Roman Catholic Church. England greeted the Risorgimento with disbelief, given the poor opinion with which so many of her tourists returned from Italy, but with a sympathy born of the better knowledge of her situation that these same tourists had provided. Italy’s transformation from geographical expression to nation and acceptance in her new role as a European power was certainly helped by this long process of familiarisation.