Giovanni Battista Niccolini was born in Bagni di San Giuliano, in the province of Pisa (some reference works give Lucca as the province, but this is a mistake), on October 29, 1782, to a noble and prosperous Florentine family. Both his father, Ippolito, and his mother, Vincenza da Filicia, were descendants of noble families. Ippolito worked for the grand duke of Tuscany as superintendent of the baths. The young Niccolini attended the Scolopi School in Florence and subsequently enrolled in the School of Jurisprudence of the University of Pisa. He received his doctorate in 1802.
As early as 1799, when Niccolini was still in his teens, he was an ardent republican, an outspoken liberal, and an anticlerical. It is said that he was influenced by his maternal uncle, Alemanno da Filicia. More notable, however, was the influence of the poets Ugo Foscolo and Giovanni Fantoni. In 1803, Foscolo dedicated to Niccolini some odes and sonnets, as well as La chioma di Berenice. Foscolo also seems to have cast Niccolini in the character of Lorenzo Alderani in Le ultime lettere de Jacopo Ortis (1802; Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis, 1970).
In 1804, Niccolini returned to Florence, where his family was experiencing financial difficulties because of his father’s death. From 1804 to 1807, Niccolini worked in the Riformagioni Archive, earning a modest income. In 1807, he succeeded in obtaining a teaching position in history and mythology at the Academy of Fine Arts, where he worked also as librarian and secretary. He was also a member of the Accademia della Crusca (the most important linguistic academy in Italy, founded in Florence toward the end of the sixteenth century, whose purpose was to maintain the purity of the language), which presented him with the Premio della Crusca award for his first dramatic work, Polissena; the play was later staged in the Teatro Nuovo (previously called the Teatro della Pallacorda) in Florence on January 15, 1813. For a short period,...
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