06 Oct 2017

How were literary salons born?

Gran Caffè Gambrinus is a place that collects history, tradition and distant times, in a continuous mix of past, present and future.
The Art Nouveau style that shaped it, the custom of hanging coffee, the tradition of the Café Chantant, which gave birth to the word “sciantosa”, and the literary salons that have come to life inside are some of the reasons why his soil was trampled by the Neapolitan nobility and by the most illustrious personages of every age.

But how were literary salons born?

The origin

According to a 1825 writing by Fontenelle, a literary salon is “the place where people love to be in a pleasant conversation”.

To look for the origins of this custom, which has been very popular for a very long time, throughout Europe and beyond, it is necessary to go back in time, overcoming centuries of wars, peoples and traditions: a great quantity of years that it brings us back to the Greeks.

In those days, in fact, there was a symposion, a table spread around which were poured verses and discussions were held of various kinds, including art, literature, philosophy and politics.

It did not take long to “infect” the Romans, succeeding in maintaining this tradition even in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance, where everything had become an entertainment of the nobility, in privileged environments like villas, perhaps of some patrons, castles and monasteries. During humanism we began to talk about sodalitates litterarum or contubernales: nothing but literary salons that succeeded, in particular, to activate the cultural expansion outside the universities or religious circles, beginning to effectively clear the culture . In fact, salons of publishers or dedicated to poetry began to spread, widening the range of participation towards different types of people and of other rank. Thus were born the academies that, during the Enlightenment, were finalized to knowledge; a knowledge that became, therefore, more “bourgeois”, so much so that the meetings began to take place in private homes. It was precisely at that time that the figure of the organizer or entertainer, who was often a woman, was far from the secular or ecclesiastical environment of high society.

The French literary salons, Parisian above all, excelled for fame, as they often participated, prominent personalities through which the discussions filtered and new currents of thought were forged; Thus the idea of ”‹”‹a modern literary living room was born, which still accompanies us today.

Wanting to schematize the qualities that are taken for granted in every meeting of the kind we can say that:

  • the meetings are free, spontaneous and informal;
  • the participants have socio-cultural contiguity;
  • the meetings above all have an intellectual interest;
  • the same intellectual capacity is recognized to the participants, even in the presence of a predominant personality.