Edmondo De Amicis (day ah-MEE-chees), born in Oneglia, Kingdom of Sardinia (now in Italy), on October 21, 1846, was educated at a military school in Modena and was, soon after his graduation, made the director of the military garrison at Florence in 1867. While in Florence, he began to write short stories with a strong patriotic flavor and published his first volume, Military Life in Italy, in 1868.
In 1870, De Amicis left the army and began to write journals of his travels throughout Europe, North Africa, and the Near East. The travel books are rambling accounts of his journeys through a foreign city or country, full of descriptive comments, leisurely descriptions of scenery, and appreciative estimates of art. The most famous of his travel books is that on Holland, a sensitive account of Dutch village life, Dutch gardens, and the glories of Dutch painting. He moved easily from discussing painting to discussing the life and scenery of the town that had gone into the painting. His travel books were also appreciated for his ability to portray a large festive scene—a bullfight, a pageant, a tulip festival.
In later life, De Amicis turned his attention to politics. He became a socialist and infused a good deal of political and social doctrine into his later works. In Italy, his most popular book was The Heart of a Boy, written in the form of a journal in which a schoolboy recounts his day-to-day experiences. The experiences, in turn, demonstrate how a system of education might be developed to produce a socialist community. De Amicis endowed his social ideas with moral value, for he assumed that the community he advocated would bring equality, happiness, and good to all. De Amicis was elected to the Italian Chamber of Deputies from Turin, but he never served because he was unwilling to engage in practical politics. As a writer, however, his utopian ideas, especially as worked out in the schoolboy community in The Heart of a Boy, had a strong influence on Italian youth until about the time of World War I. De Amicis died in Bordighera on March 12, 1908.
Today, De Amicis is not revered as a political thinker, nor do his early...
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