Eleonora de Fonseca Pimental

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Eleonora de Fonseca Pimental

By Julieta Almeida Rodrigues

Eleonora de Fonseca Pimental (Rome, 1752-Naples, 1799) Eleonora Anna Feliz Teresa de Fonseca Pimentel was a notable poet, activist, journalist, and revolutionary, acknowledged worldwide for her role in the 1799 Neapolitan Revolution.[1]  She was born of Portuguese noble parents, Dom Clemente Henriques Fonseca Pimentel Chaves and Catherina Lopez de Leão, in Rome in 1752, and was brought to the scaffold in Naples on August 20, 1799.[2] In Naples, Pimentel was called the “portoghesina,” that is, the “little portuguese,” even though she never visited Portugal.[3] Pimentel is considered a representative of the moral and intellectual tensions and contradictions of the Italian in the second half of the eighteenth century.[4] She moved to Naples, the capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies,  when she was eight years old.

From 1768 to 1792, Pimentel wrote various literary works aimed at both praising and reforming the monarchies of Italy and Portugal. Her poetry, in neo-classical style, was reformist, and had the laudatory tone typical of the . It granted Pimentel the first place in royal competitions, the position of royal librarian to the Queen of Naples, Maria Carolina of Austria , and entrance into Neapolitan literary societies, in particular the Accademia dei Filateli and the Arcadia.[5] Written in Italian and still existing, the most relevant poems include, Il Tempio della Gloria, The Time of Glory (1768); La Nascita de Orfeo, The Birth of Orpheus (1775); Il Trionfo della Virtu, The Triumph of Virtue (1776); the Sonetto Napoletano, Neapolitan Sonnet (c. 1788); Sonetti per S. Leucio , Sonnets for S. Leucio (1789); and La Fuga in Egitto, The Flight to Egipt (1792).[6]

Pimentel corresponded with the major literati of her time: Gaetano Alberto , Antonio , Ferdinando Galiano, Metastasio, and Voltaire. Metastasio called Pimentel, “lamabilissima musa del Tago ” that is, “the most amicable muse of the Tagus.”[7] Voltaire dedicated an admiring poem to her that starts, Usignolo della bella italia, “Nightingale of beautiful Italy”[8] Pimentel kept in close touch with Portugal by correspondence and with the Portuguese Consulate in Naples. There were female Freemason lodges  in Naples that the Queen originally supported with enthusiasm, and Pimentel belonged to one of them.[9]

When Pimentel’s aristocratic mother died in 1771, she left her daughter a considerable dowry. In 1776, Pimentel’s engagement to her first cousin Miguel Lopes, a marriage much sought after by both families, broke off. As a consequence, Pimentel’s father secured her marriage to an officer in the Neapolitan army and also a member of the lower Neapolitan nobility, Don Pasquale Tria de Solis, whom she married in 1778. An unhappy period followed in Pimentel’s life that helps explain her future revolutionary role. This period culminated with the death of the couple’s infant son, Francesco, in 1779. Pimentel wrote five sonnets in memory of her son: Sonetti in Morte del Suo Unico Figlio, Sonnets for the Death of my Only Son, and Ode Elegiaca, Elegiatic Ode, for her miscarriages.[10] Six years into the marriage, Pimentel’s father, his Portuguese noble title already recognized by King, asked in court that his daughter return home. The separation documents, currently part of the Naples State Archives, described the mismanagement of Pimentel’s dowry by her husband, the beatings she endured, and his hatred of her role as a member of the Republic of Letters. Solis asked the court to consign his wife to a convent. In 1784/85 the Court of Naples discontinued the authority of Pimentel’s husband over her.[11] Pimentel’s father died one year later.

Pimentel felt destroyed as a woman, wife, and mother.[12] However, she was now free to continue with her intellectual work. In 1785, she asked the king for a modest pension which was awarded in recognition of her literary merits and indigent condition.[13] To increase her income, Pimentel did translations from foreign languages, in particular from Portuguese and French, but these works did not survive.

Pimentel’s translation from Latin into Italian of Niun diritto compete al sommo Pontefice sul Regno di Napoli, The Pope doesnt have any rights on the Kingdom of Naples (1707), by Nicolo Caravita, was published in 1790, delayed by her ill health caused by the separation from her husband. Pimentel’s extensive commentary to the work transformed her into a political author.[14] When Italy was unified as a country, the Risorgimento (the movement for the country’s unification) applauded the idea that the state must be primarily accountable for and responsive to its subjects, the People (not the Papacy, not the Church).[15] Pimentel’s ideology appeared close to Jansenism, a Catholic movement concerned with reconciling divine grace and human freedom.[16]

Pimentel embraced the French Revolutionary principles of Liberté, Egalité, and Fraternité, which circulated after 1789. In contact with various Neapolitan salons, (Pimentel was also a salonnière), her thinking became liberal, progressive, and republican.[17] Although secular, she was not anti-clerical.

Neapolitan intellectuals were now corresponding with French patriotic societies, and the former Neapolitan Freemason lodges, of which Pimentel was a part, developed into Jacobin clubs.[18] Here, a feeling of conspiracy grew with a view to overcoming the monarchy. Those like Pimentel, who spoke French and other foreign languages, were under particular suspicion.

Pimentel was among the Enlightened minority who, a few weeks after King Ferdinand IV fled Naples, welcomed the French army that entered and occupied Naples on January 1799. This minority was composed of so-called Jacobins or Neapolitan Patriots, sympathizers with the French Revolution who were either part of the aristocracy or members of the propertied and educated classes. [22] Pimentel became notorious as a revolutionary leader as a result of her work as editor-in-chief of the major Republican newspaper, Il Monitore Napoletano. For her contributions, Pimentel was later designated as one of the founders of Italian journalism.[23]

Thirty-five issues of the newspaper were published, commencing on February 2, and concluding on June 8, 1799. The circulation was between one hundred and four hundred copies per number.  Sometimes, the Naples edition and the countryside edition differed; the countryside edition was published in dialect, so that peasants could better understand the Republic. Ninety-eight percent of the population of Naples was considered illiterate.

Il Monitore Napolitano reported on the challenges faced by the new Republican Provisional Government: to draft a new constitution, to end the kingdom’s feudal system, and to reform the entire judicial structure. The new laws of the Republic were transcribed and commented upon as they were being enacted; these concerned public office, the involuntary lending to the French, and the abolition of feudal oppression. There was news about the provinces: the regions that praised or despised the Republic, among others. There was foreign news, news about the other Italian Republics, what the French Army was doing in , and details of the French Constitution. There were advertisements, for instance, for the translation of French books, such as Candide by Voltaire.[24]

Pimentel praised the arrival of the French. Her views were pedagogical, she believed it was possible to educate the masses. She insisted that the lowest of the low (the lazzaroni, the plebe) might, with the help of the people (the popolo), achieve a higher cultural and instructional level.[25] Pimentel gave information on the Halls of Public Education, newly opened instruction rooms to discuss major Republican themes. She commented on the new Republican catechisms disseminated by the progressive clergy.[26] Within a climate of civil war, she published articles on the emerging difficulties because the poor, dispossessed, and unemployed had not adhered to the newly established Republic. They had remained devout Catholics and fiercely loyal to the monarchy.

Over time, Pimentel became somewhat disillusioned with the French Army. There were statements that the decrees from the Republican Assembly of Representatives did not have the force of law until they were sanctioned by the French Commander-in-Chief. She cautioned readers about the dangers of further chaos and anarchy in the city of Naples. In Number 28, Il Monitore Napoletano appealed to the courage of all, because freedom cannot be loved in halfand cannot produce its effects until everyone is free.[27] Honest with her readers, from number 26 onwards, Pimentel  began addressing them as “Magestas Populi,” the “People as Sovereign.” She reported on a delegation from the Republican Provisional Government going to Paris to ask the French Directorate for help to stabilize the Republic.

On June 11, 1799, the Monitore Napoletano did not come out as scheduled.

On June 13, Cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo entered Naples at the head of The Army of the Holy Faith, composed of 4,000 royalists, the so-called Santafede. Admiral Horatio Nelson’s fleet was protecting the Bay of Naples and the French army had withdrawn into the northern theater of war under orders from the Directorate. Amid a blood bath, the city fell into Ruffo’s hands. On June 19, the Neapolitan Patriots signed the capitulation in front of foreign dignitaries allied with the Kingdom. Soon afterwards, the period of Royal Terror started when the King, backed by Admiral Nelson whose puppet he had become, arrived to declare the capitulation null and void. He then appointed the “Giunta di Stato,” that is, “The High Court of State.”[28]

On June 28, Pimentel and other leading Republicans waited on ships in the harbor of Naples which were due to depart for Toulon, in France. The signed capitulation allowed the Patriots to leave Naples if they wished.  But Pimentel was arrested, taken from the ship, and brought to land in custody.[29]

Summarily condemned by The High Court of State, Pimentel asked to be decapitated like the aristocrats of Naples. Her wish was not granted.[30] She was advised that although a Neapolitan subject, the Kingdom of Naples had only recognized her father’s Portuguese nobility. As a consequence, she was not considered an aristocrat in Naples.

Pimentel was condemned to death on August 17. Together with seven other Patriots, she was hanged in Market Square on August 22, the last of eight Patriots to be brought to the square.[31].While she was being lead to the scaffold, the lazzaroni  of Naples chanted: ,

“Long live Carolina

Death to the Jacobina”[32]

There is no plaque in Naples indicating the location of Pimentel’s body, and her resting place remains unknown.

[1] Atto Vannucci, ed, I Martiri della Liberta Italiana dal 1794 al 1848. Memorie Raccolte (Milano: Tipografia Bortolotti di Giuseppe Prato Editore, 1887), 77-81.

[2] Joaquim de Araújo, “Leonor da Fonseca Pimentel e as suas relações com Portugal,” in Portugal e Itália. Ensaio de Dicionário Bibliográfico. António de Portugal de Faria, (Leorne: Typografia de Raphael Giusti: 1898), 418.

[3] Giorgio Spini, Una Testimone della Verità. Eleonor de Fonseca Pimente (Naopli, La Città del Sole, 2007), 13.

[4] Benedetto Croce, ed, Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel. Monitore Repubblicano del 1799; articoli politici, seguiti da scritti vari in verso e in prosa della medesima autrice (Bari: Gius, Laterza e Figli, 1943); and Franco Schiattarella, La Marchesa Giacobina. Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel (Napoli: Schettini, 1973).

[5] Luigi D’Alessio, “Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel tra Arcadia e Illuminismo,” in Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel, Tra Mito e Storia, ed. Francesco D’Episcopo (Napoli: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, 2008), 11-12; and Elena Urgnani, La Vicenda Letteraria e Politica di Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel (Napoli: la Cittá del Sol, 1998) 24.

[6] Urgnani, La Vicenda Letteraria e Politica.

[7] D’Alessio, Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel, 13.

[8] D’Alessio, Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel, 19.

[9] Harold Acton, The Bourbons of Naples, 1734-1825 (London: Faber and Faber, 2009) 156.; and Maria Antonieta Macciocchi, Cara Eleonora (Milano: Cooperativa Libreria, 1935) 122.

[10] Urgnani, La Vicenda Letteraria, 156-172.

[11] Archivo di Stato di Napoli, Processi antichi, Gran Corte della Vicaria,

Ordinamento Zeni, Processo di separazione di d. Eleonora Pimentel Fonseca dal

marito D. Pasquale Tria de Solis.

[12] Macciocchi, Cara Eleonora, 177-190.

[13] Schiattarella, La Marchesa Giacobina, 94.

[14] Croce, Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel, 19-24.

[15] Lorenza Rocco Carbone, “Eleonora, anima e voce della Republica napoletana del 1799. La memoria storica. Il ‘Monitore Napoletano,’” in Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel, Tra Mito e Storia, ed. Francesco D’Episcopo (Napoli: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, 2008), 47.

[16] Spini, Una Testimone della Veritá, 38-39.

[17] Carbone, Eleonora, anima e voce, 48-49.

[18] Acton, The Bourbon of Naples, 1734-1825, 246. ; and Schiattarela, La Marchesa Giacobina, 115-135.

[19] Schiattarella, La Marchesa Giacobina, 130-131.

[20] Urgnani, La Vicenda, 102-104.

[21]Um Incidente Diplomático em torno da Prisão de Leonor da Fonseca Pimentel em 1789. (Introdução de Fidelino de Figueiredo),” Revista de História. Lisboa, 4 (15) Jul-Set 1915, 259-269.

[22] Atto Vannucci, ed, I Martiri della Liberta Italiana dal 1794 al 1848. Memorie Raccolte (Milano: Tipografia Bortolotti di Giuseppe Prato Editore, 1887), 77-81

[23] Croce, Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel, 33-35.; and Carbone, Eleonora, anima e voce.

[24] Monitore Napoletano No. 19, April 13, 1799.

  1. Monitore Napoletano, No. 3, February 9, 1799 pages 1-2
  1. Monitore Napoletano, No. 6, February 19, page 7

27 Monitore Napoletano, No. 28, May 14, 1799, page 1

[28] John A. Davis, Naples and Napoleon: Southern Italy and the European Revolutions, 1780-1860 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 121.

[29] Schiattarela, La Marchesa Giacobina, 181-182.

[30] Maria Rosaria Pelizzari, “Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel,” in Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel: Il fascino di una donna impegnata fra letteratura e rivoluzione, ed. Mario Battaglini (Napoli: G. Procaccini, 1998), 116.

[31] Nicola, Carlo de. Diario Napoletano, 287.

[32] Macciocchi, Cara Eleonora, 104.

Bibliography

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 Battaglini, Mario ed. Il Monitore Napoletano. Napoli: Alfredo Guida Editore, 1999.

Carbone, Lorenza Rocco. “Eleonora, anima e voce della Republica napoletana del 1799. La memoria storica. Il ‘Monitore Napoletano.’” In Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel, Tra Mito e Storia, edited by Francesco D’Episcopo, Napoli: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, 2008.

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D’Alessio, Luigi. “Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel tra Arcadia e Illuminismo.” In Eleonora de Fonseca Pimentel, Tra Mito e Storia, edited by Francesco D’Episcopo. Napoli: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, 2008.

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Page Citation:

Julieta Almeida Rodrigues. “Eleonora de Fonseca Pimental.” Project Continua (June 22, 2015): Ver. 1, [date accessed], http://www.projectcontinua.org/eleonora-de-fonseca-pimental/

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