Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry Feb. 2004, entry 2 from May 2023

Realism (lit.)     
Edoardo Scarfoglio   (1860–1917)

The direct language of the literary movements known as "Realism" and "Naturalism" of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the result of many political and social processes. Among these were the growth of a middle class, the rise in literacy, and the theories of Marx and Darwin, which called for exacting statements and description. This "democratization" of literature —that is, the need to write about and for new social classes (and old ones not written about before), to write about the real lives of real people in the plain, unadorned language of everyday life— led to Zola, Verga, Stephen Crane, Dreiser, and  D.H. Lawrence.

Such directness occurs late and rather suddenly in Italian literature. Edoardo Scarfoglio was from Paganica in Abruzzo but lived and worked in Naples much of his life. He was among those Italian writers who started to write short fiction (the novella) in the late 1800s and then longer fiction, novels, a form ignored before then by Italian authors, largely bound, as they were (until Manzoni), to classical literary forms. Scarfoglio was successful early in life; he was in his twenties when he could be said to have "made it" as a writer of short, realist fiction, particularly with the publication of The Trial of Phryne in 1884.

For whatever reason, perhaps because journalism was the natural vehicle for everyday language, he gave up "literature" and dedicated the rest of his life to journalism. He married the most prominent Italian woman writer of the day, Matilde Serao. Together they founded a number of newspapers, among which was Il Mattino, still the largest Neapolitan daily. Together, they moved Naples out of the backwaters and into the mainstream of Italian journalism; they provided space for some of Italy's fine talent of the day by serializing such writers as D'Annunzio.

Scarfoglio's narrative skills are best seen in the novella, mentioned above: The Trial of Phryne. It is a retelling, set in small-town Italy of the late nineteenth century, of the trial of Phryne, a Greek courtesan from the fourth century, b.c. She was on trial for blasphemy. Her life was at stake and ultimately saved by her lawyer's appeal to the Greek concept that the Good, True, and Beautiful were inseparable and that such a Beautiful defendant must, therefore, be Good and True. She bared her breasts to the jury and was roundly and firmly acquitted. Sociologists use this episode to speak of such things as the rhetoric of silence in women's judicial supplication, and rhetoric as a "craft of logos," where technique determines outcome, emerging as an indeterminate act outside Western definitions of rhetorical process. The rest of us think of it in terms of, "Listen, sweetheart—smile, look beautiful, and keep your mouth shut."

Scarfoglio's Phryne is a young village beauty by the name of Mariantonia, guilty of poisoning her mother–in-law. Italians who have not read Scarfoglio know the episode anyway from the film version, one part of Alessandro Blasetti's 1952 episodic film, Altri Tempi (Other Times), starring Vittorio De Sica as the lawyer and Gina Lollobrigida as Phryne/Mariantonia. In his appeal to the court, De Sica says, "Does not the law of our land state that the mentally handicapped be acquitted? Why then should such a physically endowed creature as this magnificent woman beside me not be acquitted, too?"

As a writer and literary critic Scarfoglio advocated the liberation of Italian literature from French influence. As an editorialist, he supported such things as Italian expansionism in Africa and the Aegean in the 1890s. Indeed, one finds this reference to him in a lengthy article on "The Italians in Africa" in a copy of The Fortnightly Review from October, 1896: 

Signor Scarfoglio, the editor of Il Mattino of Naples, is the great advocate for the war policy. Perhaps it may be the Spanish blood which flows in the Neapolitan veins, leading to a certain want of judgment and carelessness about consequences, which has made this aspect of the case favorable to the Southern eyes, and secured for Signor Crispi and his ambitious schemes for the glory of Italy in Africa, at all hazards, the warmest support from the South.

That was written by an Englishman during the heyday of British imperialism. Clearly, what was sauce for the English goose was not meant for the swarthy Italian gander.

Scarfoglio had insatiable wanderlust, at one point lamenting his life as a "hack journalist" and claiming that had been born to "hunt elephants on the banks of the Omo and sail amidst the fissures of the polar ice-pack." Aboard his vessel, Claretta, he sailed at least to the eastern shores of Greece and coastal Turkey. From his ship, he wrote Letters to Lydia, passionate prose disclosing his affair with the actress Lydia Gautier. He separated from his wife, Matilde Serao, in 1902 and died in 1917. He is the father of Neapolitan journalist, Antonio Scarfoglio.

=========================added May 2023============================
This comes from Luciano Mangiafico (LM) - with my editing and chart-flowing-jm
       Scarfoglio 2         The
            Please do not adjust your screen. It won't help.

In graph theory, acyclic coloring is vertex coloring in which every 2-chromatic subgraph is acyclic. The acyclic chromatic number of a graph is the fewest colors needed in any acyclic coloring. I have decided to replace this with a much easier bysicklic flow-chart. The
premise (alias crude sterotype); Neapolitan love triangles or even rectangles, quintanlgles, septangles, etc. etc. are soap-operas in progress; corollary - all soap operas are flow-charts.

You will need a cast of characters:
  • Edoardo Scarfoglio journalist, founder of il Mattino, novelist & sciupafemmine (a man who treats women like a used hanky);
  • Gabriele D’Annunzio  novelist and Italian patriot;
  • Matilde Serao    journalist and novelist, Scarfoglio's wife and co-founder and co-owner of il Mattino;
  • Olga Ossani     opera singer (she thickens the plot!);
  • Gabrielle Bessard     female French cabaret singer (another plot-thickenette!);
  • At least one love child;
  • A small legion of extras who appear in the original and are filtered into our universe from another, where everyone and everthing is/are/am/be connected. If you eschew the obfuscation of my classy flow-chart and would rather read the original, here (greatly edited):

What you are about to read was true, but the truth was changed to protect the guilty

The journalist and novelist Edoardo Scarfoglio (image, left), in his own way, was just as flamboyant but not as talented as his friend, Gabriele D’Annunzio. In October 1886 in Rome, Scarfoglio wrote a satirical poem, Risoatto al Pomidauro, about a poem by Gabriele D’Annunzio, Isaotta Guttadauro. The parody’s authors were Scarfoglio, his wife Matilde Serao (image, right), and poet Giovanni A. Cesareo. Then, Serao wrote in her own column another parody of the D’Annunzio piece, Risaottina allo Zafferano. D’Annunzio did not take these parodies kindly and challenged Scarfoglio to a duel. The swordplay took place on Nov. 22, 1886 and D’Annunzio was wounded on his right arm. The doctors in attendance stopped it. Despite this altercation, the two stayed friends and Scarfoglio kept publishing D’Annunzio’s writings in the various newspapers he directed, both in Rome and Naples.

Scarfoglio and Serao met in 1883 and started a relationship. Their intellectual and noble friends in Rome were scandalized by this, and Scarfoglio in a letter to Olga Ossani (1857-1933), perhaps another of
D’Annunzio's lovers, defended Matilde as a woman who while publicly conventional, superficial, vain, and not particularly good-looking, in private was totally the opposite and he liked her. When they married in Rome in February 1885, Matilde was pregnant with their first child.

In 1885, the couple moved to Naples to a large apartment in the Monte di Dio neighborhood. The two together started and directed several dailies that made good money. Scarfoglio, a playboy, was in serial affairs with a number of women. He entertained most of them in hotels or in his 100-foot yacht docked at Santa Lucia near Castel dell’ Ovo. One of his lovers was Vittoria Lepanto (1885-1964), then a teenager and future movie actress who had fallen in love with him. Still another was opera singer Severina Javelli (1866-1958). Javelli, whose beauty had besotted philosopher Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, playwright Marco Praga, and author Ugo Oietti, began the affair with Scarfoglio at about the time she sang at San Carlo Theater in 1901. Adelina Magnetti (1880-1963), a famous actress who acted in Neapolitan dialect and was dubbed the Eleonora Duse of Neapolitan theater, was also Scarfaglio’s lover. That affair did not last too long, either, because Magnetti left Scarfoglio for comic actor Eduardo Scarpetta (1853-1925), another who liked to use women once and then throw them away. He was married, but had affairs with a music teacher, with his wife’s half-sister, with his niece, Luisa De Filippo, with whom Scarpetta had three children
Titina, Peppino, and Eduardo De Filippo, the noted playwright. The three of them make up the well-known, iconic theatrical family in Naples.  WAKE UP!

In one instance in 1894, Scarfoglio’s two-year affair with French cabaret singer, Gabrielle Bessard, ended tragically. She had a child with Scarfoglio, who, like the amoral pig he was, deserted her. The morning of August 29, she showed up at his door-step with the baby, put the baby down, rang the bell and gave the maid a note reading, “Forgive me if I come to kill myself on your doorstep like a faithful dog. I shall always love you!”. Then she pulled out a pistol and shot herself. Taken to the Ospedale degli Incurabili, she died on September 5, 1894.

By then Matilde Serao had decided to raise her husband's innocent love child. She named the child Paolina, after her own mother. Scarfoglio’s paper tried to hush the event up but after the news got out, he admitted to the relationship. He wrote Olga Ossani that he didn't feel guilty but was suffering deeply. By 1895, Scarfoglio and Serao were through and were legally separated. He then sailed off on his yacht to Greece and Constantinople for two months. D'Annunzo went with him, as did painter, photographer, and ethnologist Guido Boggiani who was later killed by indios in Paraguay. Also along were attorney and politician Pasquale Masciantonio and French historian and journalist George Herelle, who had translated D’Annunzio’s L’ Innocente into French. D’Annunzio later wrote about the cruise.

Scarfoglio always lived large and had his own yacht. In 1902, in his written reply, Per La Verità, when accused of peddling his influence, he wrote that “there are many men in the world who can have a yacht.” Classic legal defense! Through the years, he owned various vessels. At one time, he owned the Tartarin, but for the trip to Greece he used Fantasia, the title of one of his wife’s first novels. His love of yachts continued; the sailing journal Rivista Nautica in its May 1908 issue said that his sister, Teresa Scarfoglio, had bought a 160-feet, 326-ton French yacht named Poupette and given it to her brother for a Pacific cruise.

Politically, Scarfoglio was philo-German. He thought Italy should have colonies in Africa. He also knew good stories when he saw them
and he might even embellish them. Take the one about German industrialist Friedrich Krupp (1854-1902). Please. He liked to vacation on Capri. There were rumors that Krupp was a homosexual and was organizing orgies on Capri. The rumors found their way into print in the fall of 1901 when Scarfoglio, while withholding Krupp’s name, wrote in his newspaper, Il Mattino, an article titled Krupp Re dei Cannoni e dei Capitoni / The Cannon King, King of the Eels (capitone is an eel-like fish and, in Neapolitan dialect, another word for penis.) Scarfoglio was like Pietro Aretino during the Renaissance, who used his pen to extort money from those he wrote about or planned to expose. Other Krupp articles did not follow and Socialist sources whispered Scarfoglio had been paid off by Krupp, both with money and a free vacation at the Hotel Quisisana in Capri. In the late spring of 1902 the Capri Carabinieri (state police) looked into Krupp’s activities and discreetly told Krupp that Italy wanted him to leave and not come back. Krupp returned to Germany where in November 1902 he committed suicide.

Scarfoglio disliked the Italian Royal House of Savoy. He felt they were not  active enough (read: belligerent) in advancing Italian interests. He decried the coming wedding of the Savoy crown prince Vittorio Emanuele with princess Elena of Montenegro, writing of Le Nozze ai Fichi Secchi /The Wedding of the Dry Figs, a pun
tiny Montenegro was famous for its figs, which were dried. Symbolically, the crown prince was physically and intellectually unimpressive, and was to wed a tall, sturdy woman of healthy peasant stock in an attempt to improve the dynasty’s gene pool. Scarfoglio wrote about the future king: 'His physical shape and height are already little in line with the ideal that people have of Kings; in the few times he has appeared in public he has not captured their imagination ...he is not the first man to reign who looks like that, but so far he has not given any sign of superiority of soul or intellect…'"

Scarfoglio’s amorous affairs and biting articles made a lot of enemies. They had their knives waiting to cut him down to size. In 1899 the Socialist newspaper La Propaganda accused the Mayor of Naples, Celestino Summonte and liberal Member of Parliament Alberto Casale of corruption and contacts with the criminal world. Casale sued the paper but lost the case and resigned when the newspaper presented evidence. The upshot was that the Italian government formed a Royal Commission of Inquiry into corruption in Naples, also known as the Saredo Inquiry from the name of the chairman, Giuseppe Saredo (1832-1902). He had a distinguished career both as a legal scholar and a high-ranking government official. In 1891 Saredo was de-facto mayor of Naples in a time of political turmoil. The inquiry lasted ten months and was hindered by non-cooperation of bureaucrats and officials. It issued a two-volume, 4,000-page report in October 1901. It showed corrupt politicians and criminals hand in hand, trading favors, awarding illegal contracts, bribing, extorting, and falsifying documents. Twelve people were convicted, including Casale and Summonte. Politicians sympathetic to the Camorra were voted out the following year.

Even Scarfoglio and his wife, Matilde Serao, were drawn into it. The report said that the publishers of Il Mattino, “the couple, Scarfoglio-Serao, have corrupted journalism, muddying the waters of public opinion and are accessories or principal authors of the very crimes committed by fired officials.” Scarfoglio did have high contacts in the Camorra and the political world and apparently was taking bribes from both and from private businesses for favorable articles, or for silence in the newspaper, or for peddling influence. Scarfolgio was a man with expensive tastes and a love of high living, and had at the time a large yacht with a full-time crew of nine, and he always needed money. He admitted that keeping and sailing the yacht for two months a year cost 15,000 lire; this was at a time when a high-ranking official, say, a prefect, made 12,000 lire a year, while a bricklayer made 4-5 lire a day. The report accused Scarfoglio of getting paid off to help stop a second electric light company from operating, also that he helped secure the garbage collection contract, and also a bribe having to do with a proposed tax on animal-drawn carts. Even the company that ran the tram lines had paid Scarfolgio 18,000 lire (equal to more than $50,000 today, 2023). And his wife? Matilde Serao was a serious candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature. (Mussolini didn't like her because she had signed an anti-Fascist manifesto.)  The report accused her of the less serious offenses of taking money for recommending individuals for municipal jobs. Scarfoglio defended himself and his wife (from whom he was about to be separated) in print, saying that while it was true that his expenses were high, the money had come from profits made by his newspaper, some 60,000 lire per year. His wife, he wrote, also had no need to take money from job seekers. She had plenty of income from her novels, short stories, press articles, and her salary as their newspaper's co-director and owner.

In the view of Il Mattino (through Scarfoglio), Saredo had been on a mission, even a plot, to besmirch Naples and all Neapolitans, another example of the distant central government's bias against southern Italy. Even poet and journalist Ferdinando Russo (1866-1927) put in his two cents against Saredo in a dialect bit of verse:

Comme? Simmo fetiente tuttuquante?  /  E comme? E` Galantuomo sultant’isso?...
(How come we are the dirty ones? / How is it that only he is an upright gentleman?...)

The Saredo report cited, names, dates, amounts of the payoffs, and copies of the documents. That may be, but neither Scaroglio nor his ex-wife Serao were ever tried, or even charged. Poor Sanredo, by all accounts an honest jurist searching for the truth,
was hounded to the end of his life. He died in December 1902. Not only Scarfoglio but businessmen and politicians could breathe freely again. The righteous monster from the federal government was gone.

Selected References
1. Barbagallo, Francesco. Storia della Camorra, Bari: Giuseppe La Terza & Figli, 2011;
2. Picone, Generoso. I Napoletani. Bari: Giuseppe La Terza & Figli, 2005;
3. Quagliolo, Federico. L’Inchiesta Saredo sulla Camorra Amministrativa a Napoli: quando lo Stato studiò         la Corruzione;;
4. Scarfoglio, Edoardo. Per La Verità. Napoli: Tipografia Angelo Trani, 1902;
5. Serpentini, Elio Simone. D’Annunzio a duello

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