Saturday, October 25, 2014


Seeking Sabatini ... and being frustrated!

The Gruppo Editoriale Informazione, Jesi, published online short biographical notices of famous Jesinos, among them Rafael Sabatini. The piece on Sabatini was probably written by the late Giuseppe Luconi (died mid-March 2014), and the following note proceeds on that assumption.

Like his compatriot, the late Claudio G. Fava, (died 20 April 2014) Luconi seemed to attach some importance to a circumstance which I find trivial and pointless, that in "the registry office" the novelist's name was entered as "Raffaele Sabbatini". Both Luconi and Fava found a significance which they did not explain in that double 'b'. Luconi gave the Sabatini home address in Jesi as "80/A, Theatre Piazza". In his article he stated that he had been in correspondence in 1970 with Dr Ambrose Sonder of the Ă‰cole Cantonale, Zug, and from him had obtained the following:

The boy was registered as "Raphael Sabbattini" [now it's a double 't' - what does that mean?]. In the "school journal" Dr Sonder found entries indicating that Rafael attended the German course from October 1889 to June 1890; that he continued in the school during 1891-92; and that he left it during 1892.

At the end of "the course" [not specified] Rafael had the best grades in catechism [!!] conversation, history, geography and calligraphy. The following year, cited as "third class of senior school", Rafael's best mark was only in calligraphy. He was "scolded for getting up late and for drinking cognac" but he was promoted all the same.

An attempt made to obtain clarification from Signor Luconi met with failure. Enquiries addressed to the Kantonsschule in Zug were infructuous, producing a denial that anyone by the name 'Rafael Sabatini' or variants of it had ever been heard of. An approach to the Associazione Culturale 'Res Humanae', Jesi, which had organised the Sabatini Conference in 2001, ended likewise at a brick wall.

What I sought from the latter, among other things, was this: is there any record circa 1875 of an uncle or other relative of Rafael from either the Sabatini or the Manghini/ Mengi side, who was a Franciscan?

The originally Benedictine Church of San Marco, outside the walls of Jesi, was donated by the monks to St Francis of Assisi. This apart, there are some noteworthy points from Rafael's words to an interviewer, and from his oeuvre:
1. Rafael told an interviewer (in 1926, Consolidated Press) that he had been "left with an uncle in a monastery" [see my Romantic Prince: Seeking Sabatini, p 15].
2. His descriptive writing about life in a monastery (see for example Garnache's visit to the Abbot of Saint Francis of Cheylas) has the quality of something experienced.
3. These are Franciscans in Rafael's books:
a) the formidable Abbot in Saint Martin's Summer who cooperates with Garnache to set all to rights at Condillac;
b) Fra Gervasio in The Strolling Saint, a force for good in the life of the effectively parentless Agostino;
c) the "saintly" maternal uncle of Colombo da Siena in Chivalry, who looks after the orphaned boy;
d) Saint Francis of Assisi himself, clearly loved and admired by Rafael;
e) in Bellarion a seeming Franciscan who is a criminal - but is in fact no friar, only a brigand in a Franciscan's robes;
f) significantly, at a time of darkness in Rafael's life, an authentic Franciscan, a peripatetic 'live newspaper' (historically accurate) who makes mischief for Anthony of Egmont, in The Romantic Prince, seriously affecting the course of Anthony's life, and Johanna's. The only bad Franciscan.

Does all this prove anything? Probably not. But it is matter for thought. Or so I believe, which is why I sought information about the possibility of a Franciscan uncle.

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