The Catholic Historical Review 88.4 (2002) 746-748
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Carteggio di Agostino Morini, O.S.M. (1853-1874):Vita quotidiana, cultura e letture nel secondo Ottocento. Edited by Filippo Berlasso, O.S.M. 2 vols. [Monumenta Ordinis Servorum Sanctae Mariae, nova series, I/1-2, published by the Istituto Storico O.S.M.] (Rome: Edizioni Marianum. 2001. Pp. liv, 562, 563-1367. Paperback.) [End Page 746]
Agostino Morini was born in Florence on March 4, 1826, and there he received his early education, joined the Servants of Mary, was ordained to the priesthood in 1850, and became a teacher and a scholar, editing classics and corresponding with other intellectuals. Then historical events intervened. Italy's unification adversely affected the Servants of Mary, and the order tapped its best and brightest, including Morini, to find ways to secure its future. Morini became a missionary, arriving in London on Columbus Day, 1864. In 1870 he brought the Servants of Mary to the United States. His work in the mission led to leadership positions within his community, which brought him to Rome. There he died, July 17, 1909.
The two volumes under review are editions of Morini's correspondence from 1853 to 1874, from the beginning of his teaching career to his days in the U.S. mission field. A thirty-five-page introduction provides a brief biography and a lengthy description of the editing process, explaining the choice of material, the gathering of material from diverse archives, and the decisions made in dealing with handwriting, abbreviations, and punctuation. Each letter is numbered, comes with a header listing sender and recipient, place and date, and is followed by the source, lettered footnotes explicating linguistic matters and numbered footnotes annotating the text. Further context is provided by a chronological index at the beginning of the work and by a bibliography, and an index of letters cited but not included in the work. Most of the letters are in Italian; the second most frequently used language was Latin, then French, and finally (two pieces) English; sometimes one letter contains two languages. Morini's most faithful correspondent, at least in this edition, is Victor De Buck, S.J., in Brussels; he also wrote frequently to confrères.
There is a wide range of contents. During the 1850's and 1860's, Morini was part of an international scholarly community, reading broadly and sharing citations with his colleagues. He was also an observer of the cultural, intellectual, political, and social scene in Italy. Ironically, the wider his travels, the narrower the topics of which he wrote: he described his trips, the state of Catholicism in the places in which he lived, and the work in his missions, but does not seem to have had time for broad reading.
Morini's papers shed light on nineteenth-century Catholicism at various levels. When he was in Europe, he kept up with the literature and commented on cultural and political developments that affected the Church. In London and in the United States, he did not re-establish his scholarly work; rather, he used his linguistic abilities to establish the Servants of Mary as one of the many orders ministering to Italian migrants. In his letters, he described the cities in which the immigrants lived; some idea of his opinions can be had by noting he considered Chicago both a Babylon and a Sodom. He also described his work as a missionary.
Scholars researching the Servants of Mary, nineteenth-century Italian Catholicism, unification-era Italy, or missions might want to give 31Ž4" of shelf space to [End Page 747] these two volumes. Libraries supporting studies of nineteenth-century Catholicism, nineteenth-century Europe or mission studies might want to make the volumes available for other scholars, who could use the index to find the topics they need.
Mary Elizabeth Brown
Marymount Manhattan College