[A Masked Identity in Seventeenth-century England: the Vicissitudes of the Hebraist Alessandro Amidei]. Reconstructs the strange vicissitudes of Alessandro Amidei, a Florentine, possibly Jewish, who moved to England in 1656. He apparently taught Hebrew at Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the 1650s, and it is certain that he was professor on the same topic in Edinburgh in the 1670s. A singular figure with a shifting and elusive identity, Amidei presented himself as a Catholic ecclesiastic converted to Protestantism on his arrival in England but in following years professed to be a Jew converted to Christianity. In 1684 he was involved in what seems to have been a case of attempted murder to the damage of the sons of Barbara Palmer, Duchess of Cleveland. The duchess’s sons accused Amidei of having poisoned their wine, although this presumed conspiracy was probably their own invention, a strategy to put an end to the union between their mother and a most embarrassing lover, an actor, who was also accused but released. In spite of the reputation he gained in the affair, in the following years Amidei – a character of endless resources – maintained relations with the English intellectual milieu. In the 1690s he was again at Cambridge, where he wrote at least two letters in Italian to John Covel, prominent vice-chancellor of the university. Amidei was also the author of an unpublished Italian translation of the Book of Common Prayer, dated 1661. Amidei’s story is interesting for various reasons. Whatever his real religious identity, his case shows how in the philo-Semite England of those years he found it more convenient to present himself as a Jew than as a convert from Catholicism. His story is also paradigmatic of the bizarre world of destitute wretches, often unfrocked friars and priests, who moved about the Italian Protestant church of London, passing from one confession to the other in search of financial support.
I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.