Hugh Honour (2)

I have been thinking more about meeting Hugh Honour in the summer of 1975.   I travelled to Lucca from Siena where I was staying in the Monastery of Pontignano.   He had lived in Asolo in the late 1950s before moving to Lucca and at the time was working on a life of Canova which he never completed.   He used to visit England every year, staying in the Traveller’s Club and getting his hair cut in Trumper’s.   He talked about Mario Praz, who he and his partner John Fleming would have known as the great English scholar in Rome, author of The Romantic Agony and The House of Life.   He said that Praz had the evil eye and could cause a light bulb to break if he wished.   I only met him later in the bookstacks of the Warburg Institute, but retain my admiration for the quality of his writing as an independent scholar.


3 thoughts on “Hugh Honour (2)

  1. Amanda Kinsman says:

    Poor Mario Praz would not have caused the light bulb to break on purpose. Bad luck followed him. This is Muriel Spark’s description.
    On one special evening when Montserrat Caballe was singing in a Bellini opera, the rain started coming through the roof. Now, a well-known Roman of that time was the late Mario Praz, a critic and scholar of English literature (he wrote ”The Romantic Agony”). He was said to have the Evil Eye and was known as the Malocchio. This nickname wasn’t attributed with any repugnance, but rather as an affectionately recorded and realistic fact (for such people are regarded as carriers rather than operators of the Evil Eye). Naturally, everyone noticed when Mario Praz was present at a party, and waited for the disaster. There was usually a stolen car at the end of the evening, or someone called away because his uncle had died. Well, when I saw the rain coming in the roof at the Opera, and heard the commotion behind me, I looked round instinctively for Mario Praz. Sure enough, there was our dear Malocchio sitting under the afflicted spot. He died recently and was mourned on a national scale. (The Italians put their artists and people of letters on a higher level than anywhere else I have known.) Before his house could be unsealed for his heirs, robbers got in and looted his lifetime collection of museum pieces and memorabilia.

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