Lady Hamilton, Nelson and Neapolitan Patriots: Eleonora Pimentel Fonseca/II (part 19)

After the engagement with her cousin was broken, it was not difficult for Eleonora‘s father, Don Clemente Fonseca, to find her a new suitor, thanks also to the conspicuous dowry that she would bring.
The choice fell on a Bourbon army officer, Pasquale Tria de Solis, 44 years old, belonging to the small Neapolitan nobility, and she accepted the decision, driven more by the desire to please her father than by the desire to have a husband, and a house of her own.

They married in 1778 and twenty-five year old Eleonora moved to Pasquale’s house, in a family devoid of any cultural ambitions, extremely Catholic, but with a bigoted religiosity, which loved to live far beyond their real economic means.
A very dark period started for the poetess, with that coarse, uncultured husband, jealous of her literary successes and her relationships with the most famous intellectuals of the time. The man prevented her from continuing her studies and maintaining her correspondence contact. He even burned some of her books written in English and French, arguing that, since they came from foreign countries, they must surely be “heretical” and, as the woman later recalled, “stating that, as a husband, he could and wanted to guide my actions and my conscience. “
She also had to endure forced cohabitation with her four gossipy, spinster sisters-in-law (one of whom was subject to serious mental disorders), who were jealous of their brother.
These turned into his jailers, envious of her cultural superiority, which for them was just “putting on airs”; they were always ready to interfere and often stole her correspondence with the intellectuals of the time (especially with the Abbot Alberto Fortis), delivering it to her brother. These stolen letters were later attached to the records of the separation process as proof of her “infamy”.

In the same year of the wedding , she gave birth to a son, Francesco, who died about eight months later during a plague epidemic. The Solis family blamed her and accused her of causing his death, because she had tried to put into practice new breeding techniques learned from her books. Francesco would remain her only child because, after him, she had two miscarriages, the result of physical and moral cruelty of her husband, who even tried to kill her by pushing her from a balcony.
These tragedies led to the creation of many of her most notable works, since poetry provided an outlet for her pain and grief: she wrote five sonnets in her son’s memory, revealing her deep anguish, and an Ode lamenting her miscarriages. This poem is quite remarkable for the time because the poetess, fond of natural sciences, penned a detailed account of her tragic experience using both medical terminology and neoclassical metaphors. She described the ten days in which she no longer felt the baby moving inside her, the breaking of the amniotic sac, the lack of labour pains, the surgeon’s intervention to extract a dead foetus from her uterus.

In the meantime, her husband had started a relationship with a certain Angela Veronica: he used to take her and her young daughter home, hosting them for whole days.

Married life was a torture for Eleonora, so her father made a decision, seeing the mistreatment suffered by his daughter and the misuse of her conspicuous dowry. Her husband had squandered it without even granting her the annual donation agreed for the purchase of “laces and pins”, the so-called “pin money”, small sums handed out to women to spend for buying small items for personal use, while husbands were in total control of all family wealth, including dowries. Therefore, her father went to the court to ask for his daughter to be returned home.

During the trial, as proof of his wife’s alleged infidelity, Pasquale Tria presented the letters he had stolen, sent to Eleonora by the Venetian geologist Fortis. That was the typical correspondence between intellectuals in which Fortis’ pain for the mistreatment and torture the poetess had to undergo was perceptible.

After long separation proceedings. their unhappy marriage ended in 1785 with their divorce and Eleonora was finally able to return to her familial home, but she lost her job as the Queen’s librarian, because Maria Carolina began to consider her too impulsive.

Unfortunately, her troubles were not over yet: in that period her father died and she found herself alone, in poor health and in serious economic difficulties, so much so that she had to ask for a monthly subsidy from the state.
Those were years of intense and frenetic study, in which her separation from her protector, the Queen, became more and more profound, also influenced by the international political winds.

To be continued

Rotto il fidanzamento con il cugina, non fu difficile per il padre di Eleonora, don Clemente Fonseca, trovarle un nuovo corteggiatore, grazie anche alla cospicua dote che la figlia avrebbe portato.

La scelta ricadde su un ufficiale dell’esercito borbonico, Pasquale Tria de Solis, di 44 anni, appartenente alla piccola nobiltà napoletana, che lei accettò, spinta più dal desiderio di compiacere il padre che dal desiderio di avere un marito e una casa sua .

Si sposarono nel 1778 ed Eleonora, venticinquenne, si trasferì a casa del marito, in una famiglia priva di qualsiasi velleità culturale, estremamente cattolica, ma con una religiosità bigotta, e che amava vivere molto al di sopra delle proprie reali possibilità economiche.
Iniziò per la poetessa un periodo molto buio, accanto a un marito rozzo, incolto, geloso dei suoi successi letterari e dei suoi rapporti con più famosi intellettuali dell’epoca. Le fu impedito di proseguire i suoi studi e di mantenere i suoi contatti epistolari. L’uomo bruciò addirittura alcuni libri in inglese e francese, sostenendo che, siccome provenivano da paesi stranieri, dovevano sicuramente essere “ereticali” e, come poi ricordò la donna, “affermando che egli come marito poteva e voleva guidare le mie azioni e la mia coscienza.”
Dovette anche sopportare la convivenza forzata con le sue quattro cognate zitelle e pettegole, (una delle quali soggetta a seri disturbi mentali), estremamente gelose del fratello.
Queste si trasformarono nelle sue carceriere, invidiose della sua superiorità culturale, che per loro era soltanto un “darsi delle arie”. Erano sempre pronte a interferire e non di rado le sottraevano la corrispondenza con gli intellettuali del tempo (in special modo con l’abate Alberto Fortis), consegnandola al fratello. Queste lettere rubate furono poi allegate agli atti del processo di separazione come prova della sua “infamità”.

Nello stesso anno diede alla luce un figlio, Francesco che morì circa otto mesi dopo durante un’epidemia di peste. I Solis ne incolparono la madre, accusata di averne causato la morte perché cercava di mettere in pratica nuove tecniche di allevamento apprese dai libri. Francesco sarebbe restato il suo unico figlio perché, dopo di lui, ebbe due aborti, risultato della crudeltà fisica e morale del marito, che tentò persino di ucciderla spingendola da un balcone.

Queste tragedie portarono alla creazione di molte delle sue opere più importanti, poiché la poesia le forniva uno sfogo per i drammi della sua vita: scrisse cinque sonetti in memoria del figlio, rivelando profondo dolore e angoscia, e un’ Ode rammaricandosi per i suoi aborti. Questo componimento è davvero notevole per l’epoca perché la poetessa, appassionata di scienze naturali, offrì un resoconto dettagliato della sua tragica esperienza, elaborata con terminologia medica e metafore neoclassiche.
Descrisse i dieci giorni in cui non sentiva più il bambino muoversi dentro di lei, la rottura delle acque, la mancanza di doglie e l’intervento del chirurgo per estrarre dall’utero il feto morto.

Nel frattempo il marito aveva iniziato una relazione con una certa Angela Veronica, che esercitava il mestiere di “cuffiara”: era solito portarsi a casa sia lei che la sua giovane figlia, ospitandole per intere giornate.

La vita coniugale fu una tortura per Eleonora, così suo padre prese una decisione vedendo i maltrattamenti subiti dalla figlia e l’uso improprio della sua cospicua dote, Pasquale l’aveva infatti dilapidata ,senza nemmeno concederle il donativo annuo pattuito per “lacci e spille”, il cosiddetto “spillatico” , quelle piccole somme distribuite alle donne da spendere per l’acquisto di beni personali mentre i mariti avevano il controllo totale di tutte le ricchezze familiari, comprese le doti. Don Clemente Fonseca si rivolse pertanto al tribunale per chiedere il ritorno a casa della figlia.

In sede processuale, a prova delle presunte infedeltà della moglie, Pasquale Tria presentò le lettere che le aveva sottratto, soprattutto quelle inviatele dal geologo veneto abate Alberto Fortis, il tipico carteggio tra intellettuali in cui traspariva il dolore del Fortis per le sevizie che la poetessa era costretta a subire da parte del marito.

Dopo lunghi procedimenti di separazione, il loro infelice matrimonio terminò nel 1785 con il divorzio dei due ed Eleonora poté finalmente tornare alla casa paterna, perdendo tuttavia il lavoro da bibliotecaria della regina, perché Maria Carolina cominciò a considerarla troppo impulsiva.

Purtroppo i suoi guai non erano ancora finiti: in quel periodo il padre morì e lei si ritrovò sola, in cattiva salute e in gravi difficoltà economiche, tanto da dover chiedere un sussidio mensile allo Stato. Quelli furono anni di studio sempre più intenso e frenetico, in cui il distacco dalla sua protettrice, la regina, divenne sempre più profondo, influenzato anche dal clima politico internazionale.

continua

Advertisement

73 thoughts on “Lady Hamilton, Nelson and Neapolitan Patriots: Eleonora Pimentel Fonseca/II (part 19)

  1. Un matrimonio combinato e senza amore… povera Eleonora che brutta cosa ha dovuto subire, 😔. Per fortuna che il padre s’è reso conto che questo matrimonio portava grandi sofferenze alla figlia e ha preso una saggia decisione. Sarebbe bello se tante donne, che subendo i maltrattamenti dagli uomini che dovrebbero invece amarle, trovassero la forza di dire “basta!” e lasciare questi mostri di malvagità (definirli uomini non è il termine esatto per chi picchia le donne) prima che sia troppo tardi.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Sante parole carissima Luisa, 👍. Purtroppo aspettano perché credono sempre che il loro lui cambierà ma gli uomini violenti non cambiano mai. È una volta denunciati i maltrattamenti questi uomini devono restare dietro le sbarre invece, dopo poche ore o giorni, è di nuovo punto e a capo: liberi di circolare e, mette i brividi solo a pensarlo, anche di tornare a fare del male. C’è poca tutela verso chi sporge denuncia e l’Italia dovrebbe rendersi conto che così non si può andare avanti. Più tutela = più possibilità di vedere questi mostri dietro le sbarre. Più possibilità di vedere questi mostri dietro le sbarre = meno femminicidi.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Luisa ! I would like to start with a Hindi Poet Maithili Sharan Gupt who wrote , ‘Awala jivan hai teri yahi kahani , anchal me hai dudh aur ankho me pani’ . It means that ‘meek and unfortunate , woman has only two stories— milk in breast and tears in eyes’ . The translation is not exact , but similar to that . Everywhere woman has become tools of exploitation and suppression . So was the case with Lady Eleonora . Since she was intellectual , she was hated by her husband . And such hate culminated into torture and other worldly misbehavior by her husband . Intelligent lady generally get mediocre husband which makes her life like hell . Thanks !

      Like

      1. The proverb you quoted is very profound and truthful. I thank you for sharing it, as I thank you for your beautiful reflections. I particularly agree with the observation that if an intelligent woman marries a vulgar and mediocre husband, her life becomes hell. Thank you !

        Like

  2. Thank you, Luisa, for the fascinating but tragic fate of the married woman in a loveless
    marriage. It makes me thankful to live centuries later, and in a country where women are free to map their lives the way they choose.

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh my God! Dear Luisa. Poor Eleonora Pimentel Fonseca. Her plight is so moving that it could melt the heart of stone. I was moved to tears. Thank God! We are living in a much better modern world but we are not completely free from gender bias. Wonderful share. I was moved to tears. ♥️♥️♥️♥️

    Like

  4. As a man, I even have to say….What is it with some men, that they need to possess someone totally, to the point of cruelty. And you are right Luisa, this kind of stuff still continues. Thanks for sharing the story. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It could not be otherwise that the arranged marriage ended like this. Regarding Eleonora, her story is very moving and it is unfortunate that to this day, women continue to suffer abuse without the law punishing these acts as it should be.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Luisa ! I would like to start with a Hindi Poet Maithili Sharan Gupt who wrote , ‘Awala jivan hai teri yahi kahani , anchal me hai dudh aur ankho me pani’ . It means that ‘meek and unfortunate , woman has only two stories— milk in breast and tears in eyes’ . The translation is not exact , but similar to that . Everywhere woman has become tools of exploitation and suppression . So was the case with Lady Eleonora . Since she was intellectual , she was hated by her husband . And such hate culminated into torture and other worldly misbehavior by her husband . Intelligent lady generally get mediocre husband which makes her life like hell . Thanks !

    Liked by 3 people

  7. “Husbands were in control of all family wealth.” Wow, how many times has the husband used his wife’s riches to pay for his own sins while leaving her a pauper? This is so brutally sad but continues to happen in some societies with the dowry crap.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Poverina in che razza di mani era finita!!! Per quell’epoca davvero notevole i’arguzia del padre che si rende conto dell’infelicità della figlia aiutandola ad uscire da quel matrimonio e da quella famiglia davvero malsani. B79nanotte cara Luisa, un abbraccio 🥰

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s very true, and after all, without one experiencing it, we couldn’t all draw comfort and learn from that persons writing. I think of Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning – without suffering, great wisdom and love don’t come into the literary world. We learn and grow through other’s experiences but without (thankfully) having to suffer the same deprivations.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s