Amorous Fiammetta, Giovanni Boccaccio, introduction by Edward Hutton, trans. & illus. various unknown. (Rarity Press, New York, 1931 )
9.5″ X 6.5″, 356pp, Hardcover no DJ, red cloth boards, botton and fore edges deckled. Good condition for age, a fading on spine, silver gilt lettering and decorations
Originally titled “Elegia di Madonna Fiammetta” (The Elegy of Lady Fiammetta), this marvelous European romance was written by Giovanni Boccaccio somewhere between 1343 and 1344. It is a first-person confessional monologue narrated by a woman and is considered the first psychological novel in a modern language and a precursor of stream-of-consciousness fiction. Lady Fiammetta, recounts how, although a married woman, she falls in love with a handsome young foreigner named Panfilo and, becomes his lover. Panfilo subsequently abandons Fiammetta and returns to his native land, where his father is said to be dying. When he fails to keep his promise to return, Fiammetta, describes her longings, her anguish, and her despair. A host of contradictory sentiments drive her to desperation and to an unsuccessful suicide attempt. After a time, Fiammetta resumes her futile wait for Panfilo. She finally resolves to seek him out in his native land. Disguising her true intent from her husband, she secures his promise to help her in this undertaking. Addressing an exclusively female audience, Fiammetta warns them about the vicious ways of men. Her whole narrative adds up to an indictment of men as both readers and lovers. Fiammetta has been variously described as a pathetic victim of male cruelty; an irresponsible fool of a girl; a sophisticated, cunning, and wholly disingenuous female; and, finally, a genuinely modern woman. Whatever judgment we make of her, Fiammetta stands out among medieval women as an ardent and outspoken feminist.
Sometime around 1330 Boccaccio fell in love and married his “Fiammetta” who most believe is Maria d’Aquino (?-1382), a royal bastard, an illegitimate daughter of Robert the Wise, King of Naples and Count of Provence. He wrote about her and their relationship in several of his literary works. She is traditionally identified as Fiammetta. According to him, Maria’s mother was a Provençal noblewoman, Sibila Sabran, wife of Count Thomas IV of Aquino. She was born after Countess Sibila and King Robert committed adultery at his coronation festivities in 1310, but was given the family name of her mother’s husband. Her putative father placed her in a convent. In 1345 she was an accomplice in the murder of King Andrew, the husband of her niece and Robert’s successor, Queen Joanna I. For this Maria was sentenced to death and beheaded in 1382 on the orders of Queen Joanna I’s successor, King Charles III.