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Even her portrait is indistinct. Although a talented poet and narrator publishing as 'Ivory Beryl'she is remembered for those human qualities which made her the gentle helpmate of R.
Bulwer Lytton Owen Meredith, the poetthe patient hostess of the old eccentric Walter Savage Landorand an attentive observer of the Tuscan society of her times. Exotic mysticism and romanticism are mixed in her writing, now all but forgotten, effaced like the inscription on her tombstone No.
Yet her personality remains that of a lively, strong, passionate woman faithful to the most precious gift, that of friendship. O'er the old tower, like red flame curled Which leapeth sudden to the sky Its emblem hues all wide unfurled Upsprings the flag of Italy 2 Its emblem hues!
My Florence, which so fair doth be A dream of beauty at my feet While smiles above that dappled sky While glows around that rip'ning wheat 8 As fair, as peaceful and as bright Art thou as she we hear came down From Heaven in bridal robes of light Thy new Jerusalem St.
The phenomenon of 'colonization' on the part of numerous Anglo-Americans in Florence around the middle of the nineteenth century is well known and often studied. But consulting the autobiographies, the memoires and the letters of the 'Anglo-Florentines' one cannot but note the name of Isa Blagden, which is mentioned everywhere.
This woman seems to have been the friend of all, the common factor among the most diverse of them; she thus occupied an eccentric position, the networker. But today Isa Blagden, author of novels and poems and the central figure of the Anglo-American colony in Florence, is relegated to the margins, is almost forgotten in the history of English literature, as if she disappeared after a brief period of fame.
However, apart from being the recognized epicentre of the Anglo-Florentine community, her experience is fundamental also for understanding the relation of women to the difficult social reality in this historical period. Subjected to innumerable contradicitons, multiple identities, an undefinable self, not identifiable by absolutes, she certainly has the right to sally forth on the public scene.
Isa Blagden is briefly noted in Modern English Biography which lists her works, presenting her though as 'friend' of authors, among them, considering as more important, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Theodosia Trollope. To have known her and to have had her as confidente today would be held among the most significant personalities of the nineteenth century was both the fortune and misfortune of Blagden.
She has in fact obtained a sort of oblique immortality in the memory of the past: Even when alive Blagden was always under the shadow of Browning, she became remembered even in the works on other writers who lived or who only visitied the Tuscan capital, seeing that it was unlikely that Anglo-American artists would stay in Florence without coming to know and to remain drawn to this gentle-souled woman, who received numerous guests in her villas at Bellosguardo.
But this aspect of 'universal friend' has placed other sides of her personality in the shadows, and above all the fact that not did she love to surround herself with artists and writers, but that she was herself a writer.
Novelist and poet, she is dropped after it is said she was a mediocre and scarcely original writer, because she wrote according to the Victorian canon.
From her we can recover her personality, always drawn to attract around her the most important artists of the period, obscuring her work. We forget that Blagden's novels and poems are the one direct source from which can come the identity of the author and who thanks to the pen succeeded in leading a very well-to-do life, even if in the 'economical' Bellosguardo.
The most outstanding characteristic of Isabella Blagden is the lack of information that we have about her life, in particular for the period from her birth to her choice to settle in Italy. The writer left neither autobiography nor diary, and in even the autobiographical works of her most intimate friends there is no information on the period before Besides, the greater part of the letters that she regularly wrote to her numerous friends have been lost.
Lacking primary documentation, the fundamental sources for biographical information concerning Blagden are the introduction to her volume of poetry written by the Poet Laureate Alfred Austin, Blagden's friend in Florence inand the letters sent every month by her dear friend Robert Browning, kept by Isa with care and which fortunately have come down to us.
Non sappiamo neppure con esattezza la data della sua nascita. Tuttavia le date sulla sua tomba sono — Though surrounded by a full crowd of friends, there is not a trace of any family relation. We do not even know with any exactitude the date of her birth. The English Cemetery's Register in Florence, where the writer is buried, affirm that her father's name was Thomas and that Isa died 23 January at Though the dates on her tomb are In What I Remember, Thomas Adolphus Trollope, born intells us that Blagden was much younger than he and this makes us think ofbut this, naturally, is only a supposition, so much are critics divided on the issue.
Nathaniel Hawthorne in his Marble Faun, speaking of one of the romance's protagonists, has written words that apply perfectly to Blagden's situation, with the one difference that Hawthorne's heroine is a painter, rather than a writer.
He speaks of a certain 'ambiguity' which does not necessarily imply anything wrongful; no one knew anything about her, since she made her appearance without an introduction.
Le origini di Blagden dovevano essere ignote anche a molti se non tutti suoi amici. Correva voce che le scorresse nelle vene sangue indiano. Lilian Whiting4 afferma che essa era la figlia di un gentiluomo inglese e una principessa Hindu.
Le origini indiane di Blagden sembrano essere confermate dalle descrizioni fisiche che di lei riportano i suoi contemporanei. Rumour had it that in her veins ran Indian blood.
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Lilian Whiting affirms that she was the daughter of an English gentleman and a Hindu princess. Blagden's Indian origins seem to be confirmed by the physical descriptions given of her by her contemporaries. Kate Field and Margaret Jackson speak of a woman of small stature, with black eyes and hair and an olive complexion; Henry James, who knew her briefly during one of his first visits to Florence, writes of a morning walk from the centre of the city to Bellosguardo during which he spoke with a little and energetic lady with dark eyes and a vaguely Indian aspect.
It is worthwhile noting the fact that a lady like Isabella Blagden, whose past is wrapped in mystery, had chosen Italy for her country of adoption, and in particular the tolerance of Florence, universally noted also for its acceptance of the most 'extravagant' guests.
The travels which meant long stays gave the opportunity to assume manners and roles that at home would have been forbidden or impossible.
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