13 August 2013

Carissimo Figlio, Why Won't You Write?


Some things never change! From the private collection of a friend, today's gem is a letter written in Italian from a couple in Fiume to their son in New York, in 1831. That's a little early for Italians to be in New York, so I was interested. 

When I first read this letter I noticed that the verbs sometimes get placed at the end of the sentences, as in German. I wondered if perhaps Italian were not the author's native language. Not having studied Italian literature, I am not sure, but think that it may just be the style of writing at the time. The author uses the formal you (Voi) even though he is addressing his own son. I do think there may be a little bit of dialect here as well.

Come to find out, this little part of the world has a most fascinating history. Today Fiume lies in Croatia where it is known as Rijeka, and it still has a mix of ethnicities. It is nestled at the top of the Adriatic sea, across from Venice. Because of its strategic position, Fiume has been vulnerable to constant power struggles over the centuries, especially between Austria, Italy, Hungary, and Croatia. 

The gist of the letter is one great nag of "We love you, but why don't you write, you ungrateful wretch of a son?" Most of the handwriting is legible to me, but there are a few places where I wonder if it's a word I don't know or the author misspelled it, or it's dialect.

I'll put my best transcriptions here, but if you can read the Italian handwriting or can translate it better than I, please contact me and I'll amend! My translation is in blue. It gets pretty hairy towards the end when I can't figure out the sentence structure. Perhaps I am misreading the handwriting.

[Envelope]
Al Stimatto
Sig.r Wincenzo Fronk
Bibietz nella contra[cut off]
N. 88
                    @
New York    Novajorka

To the Esteemed 
Mr. Vincenzo Fronk 
Bibietz, number 88 [? street] 
@
New York


                    Carissimo Figlio
                                      Fiume li 14 Luglio 831(sic)
                    Dearest Son
                                      Fiume, 14 July 1831


     Corso gia un lungo tempo, che noi giorno in 
giorno aspettavamo un qualche dalla nostra amata 
prole foglio, il che al oposto nulla ricevuto abbiam
e pare, che affatto abbiate in oblio posso il Sommo 
Iddio, ed i vostri amati genitori:

     A lot of time has already passed during which we've waited, day by day, for something from our beloved progeny [foglio? It means sheet of paper, unless he meant to write figlio, or son]--but on the contrary, we have received nothing, and it seems that indeed you may have forgotten the Lord God and your beloved parents.

     Nulla ci fatte palesi dal vostro stato, se sia
buono o cattivo, se siete amogliato o nubile, purre
potevate dire una qualche parola ai vostri genitor
ri, almeno ricordarsi di loro con qualche presente
se non per altro, solamente per quei 9 mesi, che
la vostra mezza morta Madre, la quale [mi] disse
i 9 mesi vi [po]Le [porte?] nel suo ventro, e vi do' la vita.

     You don't send us any information about your status--whether it be good or bad, whether you are married or single. You could have said a quick word to your parents, at least remembering yourself to them along with some present: if for nothing else, for those 9 months that your half-dead mother, who carried you for 9 months in her abdomen, to give you life. [That's my favorite bit!]



     Scritto avete, che spedito 200 collonata mediante un
vostro amico avete, quali in questi [L]idi non giungessero
ne a Trieste, ne a Fiume, ricordatevi di noi, se volete com
pare felice, ma speriamo, che ci avreste sempre pel vostro
Labro, gia da lungi non ricordarsi di noi, neppure
per una chichera di Caffé, direte con qual occa
sione voglio spedire, nulla vale, sapete molto
bene, che li non mancano dei Mercanti, e Conso
li, i quai per queste parti hanno dei riscontri
e comunicazione; e poi nulla altro, e senza dubbio
vi potevate ricordare della patria goffra. E
cosi samano i genitori Padre e Madre ? Vi bas
cio per ricordarvi, se Iddio vi vuole del bene.

Pieces of Eight, Spanish Dollars, Pillar Dollars

You have written that you sent 200 Spanish Dollars via a friend of yours, which in these [days?] haven't reached either Trieste or Fiume. Remember us if you want to, happy friend, but let's hope that you always have your Labro [ancient name of city?]. Already for a long time you've forgotten about us, not even for a cup of coffee, I'd say with that occasion I want to send, no value, you know very well, that there there is no lack of merchants, and consuls, which in these parts have responses and communications, and then nothing else and without a doubt you could have remembered the disgraced homeland. And what do the parents Father and Mother know? Lower yourself to remember, if God wishes you well.

E se a caso vi volete ricordare della Va Patria
[si] non mancano occasioni, ne Bastimenti, e noi
sapendo più per poter vi animare, se non Salutan
dovi tutti della nostra nostra famiglia. Padre. Madre
Sorella Cattarina. Spadoni, natta dal intesso utero
che voi, e la Foniza, nostra amata Sorella
giuniore, e in nomma tutti amici dei amici
e [de mei] Sara possibile: ci dichiariamo i
                                      vostri affez. Genitori
                                       Giuseppe, e Maria
                                       Frank, detti Bibietz

And in case you want to remember your country, [if] there is no lack of opportunity or ships, and we, knowing more to be able to bring you to life, if all of the members of our family do not send greetings. Father. Mother Sister Cattarina. Spadoni, born from the same uterus as you, and Foniza, our beloved Sister Junior, and basically all of the friends of friends of my that are possible: we declare ourselves your affectionate parents
                                     Giuseppe (Joseph) and Maria (Mary)
                                     Frank, called Bibietz [this is like a dit name]

Phew. I can't figure out a lot of what he's saying except I just know he's whining! Let me know if you can do better!