A Foreigner with a Fruit Knife: Identity and Culture in Eighteenth-Century London

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Abstract/Description: The life of Giuseppe “Joseph” Baretti is a window into individual and collective identities in eighteenth-century London. After coming to the city in 1751, Baretti, an Italian scholar, established himself among the British intelligentsia by writing about Italy’s language and culture. In 1769, he had a violent altercation on Haymarket Street, and killed one of his assailants with a fruit knife. What followed was one of the most prominent murder trials of the century. An English jury acquitted Baretti on self-defense grounds after Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, Edmond Burke, and a host of other luminaries testified on his behalf. Baretti’s victory earned praise in the press and catapulted him to newfound fame. However, in the decades following the acquittal, Baretti alienated his allies and tarnished his public image, leading critics to redefine him as an ‘angry Italian.’ By using the scholar’s experiences to examine understandings of foreignness, gender, class, and sexuality, this thesis illuminates the culture of Europe’s most diverse metropolis.
Subject(s): Baretti, Giuseppe
London, England
1750-1770