Silvio Pellico was an Italian writer, poet and patriot, known above all as the author of Le mie prigioni.
Born June 25, 1789 in Saluzzo, a town currently in the province of Cuneo, from the Piedmontese Onorato Pellico and the Savoyard Margherita Tournier. Both Silvio and the four brothers receive a Catholic education. One of his brothers, Francesco, will become a Jesuit. After studying at Pinerolo and in Turin, Silvio went to Lyon, France, to practice in the commercial sector with his uncle. When he returned to Italy in 1809, he settled with his family in Milan; here he finds work as a French teacher at the military college. Young enthusiast of neoclassical poetry, he frequents Vincenzo Monti and Ugo Foscolo in particular with the latter. He begins then to write, especially for the theater, tragedies in verses of classical system, such as Laodamia (1813) and Eufemio di Messina.
In the same period he was tutor of the little Odoardo Briche, who committed suicide in 1817 with a shotgun. At the fall of the Napoleonic regime (1814) loses the chair of French. On 18 August 1815 in Milan his tragedy Francesca da Rimini is represented. The tragedy reinterprets the episode of Dante in the light of the Romantic and Risorgimento influences of the Lombard period. Since the Briche house fees are not enough for his livelihood, Pellico seeks employment in another noble family.
In 1816 he moved to Arluno, in the house of Count Porro Lambertenghi, where he assumed the position of tutor of his sons Domenico (Mimino) and Giulio Porro Lambertenghi. He establishes relationships with European cultural figures, such as Madame de Stael and Friedrich von Schlegel, and Italian, such as Federico Confalonieri, Gian Domenico Romagnosi and Giovanni Berchet. In these circles were developed ideas tendentially Risorgimento, aimed at the possibility of national independence: in this climate, in 1818 the magazine Il Conciliatore was founded, of which Pellico is editor and director.
Pellico and most of the friends were part of the secret sect of the so-called "Federati". Discovered by the Austrian police that had managed to intercept some compromising letters by Maroncelli, on October 13, 1820, Pellico, the same Piero Maroncelli, Melchiorre Gioia and others were arrested. From Milan, Pellico was taken to the prison of the Piombi of Venice, and then to that of the island of Murano, where he remained until February 20, 1821. Romagnosi was acquitted of the charges. In Venice, on 21st February 1821, the sentence of the famous Maroncelli-Pellico trial was publicly read.
The two defendants were sentenced to the death penalty. For both, then, the sentence was commuted: twenty years of hard prison for Maroncelli, fifteen for Pellico. At the end of March, the condemned were taken to the Austrian fortress of Spielberg. They left the night between 25 and 26 March, through Udine and Ljubljana reached the prison, located at Brünn, today's Brno, in Moravia. The harsh prison experience constituted the subject of the memoirs My Prisons, written after the release which was very popular and exerted considerable influence on the Risorgimento movement. Metternich admitted that the book damaged Austria more than a lost battle. Pellico also wrote the Memoirs after his release, a text that was lost.
After the return to freedom (1830) Silvio Pellico published other tragedies: Gismonda da Mendrisio, Leoniero, Erodiade, Tommaso Moro and Corradino. He also published the moral book The Duties of Men (1834) and Romantic Poems. He was about to emigrate due to the ostracism of the intransigent Catholics who always saw him as a carbonaro, and was presented to the Marquis of Barolo by Cesare Balbo. He was hired as secretary and librarian of Giulia Colbert Faletti and remained in Palazzo Barolo until his death. Troubled by family and physical problems, in the last years of his life he interrupted his literary production. Silvio Pellico died on 31 January 1854. He is buried in the monumental Cemetery of Turin.