MovieChat Forums > Berkeley Square (1933) Discussion > Letter to Pettigrews written in Italian

Letter to Pettigrews written in Italian


I am puzzled by the fact that when Mrs. Pettigrew starts to read the letter she says is from their American cousin, Peter Standish, there is a closeup of the letter -- and it is written in Italian. I know enough Italian to know it says exactly what she is reading (in English). No mention is made of the Italian-language content of the letter.

reply

The letter would likely have been written in Latin. That would have been a language that was understood certainly by all educated men and probably a number of educated women as well.

Darling, I am trouble of the most spectacular kind!

reply

Thanks for your quick reply! However, I know absolutely no Latin whatsoever, yet I was able to read and understand the letter, completely (thinking it was Italian). I think I'll do an on-screen catch of the letter, then ask around to see what the concensus is: Italian or Latin. Since I don't know Latin at all, it's possible it's closer to Italian than I had assumed. Thanks, again!

reply

I've checked several language experts and they all agree the letter's language is Italian. Here's a rough transcription of the handwritten note taken from the actual screen:

il tre Settembre, Settecento e ottovintaquattro
Molto Amata Cugina,
Arrivato a Londra sul momento, mi procurero l'onore di veninir (?) a Salutare alle cinque e mezzo in Berkeley Square.
La bella miniatura della cugnia Kate mi è giunta molto gradida el è Stata la mia.


I believe what happened is that the makers of the movie were just lazy. It was probably supposed to be Latin (as you said), but they used Italian out of laziness -- figuring nobody would know the difference -- except for nerds like me! LOL!

reply

If Peter was American and the Pettigrews were English then why not just write the letter in English since it was both of their first languages? I find that more confusing than why the letter was in Italian or supposed to be Latin.

reply

I am watching the film right now on TCM. I was struck by the same question. The letter is definitely in Italian. Very odd to me since Standish is an American traveling from the States to England and writing to British relatives. I was thinking they would offer some explanation but apparently not.


Morse's Law: There's always time for one more pint.

reply

... i.e. the era of Byron and Shelley, Italian was a very fashionable language for the English gentry to learn. Once Napoleon was defeated, the Tour of Europe was a popular pastime for those with money, and Italy was a favourite location ... the weather being considerably better than back in Blighty. I don't think it was meant to be Latin.

"As quickly as you can ... snatch the pebble from my hand." Honga-Hula!

reply

yes, i like your reasoning.

reply

This was based on an unfinished Henry James work, 'The Sense of the Past' (1917), where a young American in 1910 trades places with an early ancestor in 1820. His notes for the book are telling: the portrait, the candlelight, the sense that he wanted a similar sensation to 'The Turn of the Screw,' but not quite that. I could find no Italian in a quick skim of the original, which is available for free by Delphi Classics...'The Complete Works of Henry James ' and the complete works of many others at www.delphiclassics.com. I got mine at Amazon via my Kindle. Anyway, Henry James also wrote about his Italian travels in 'The Italian Hours' (1909).


See also https://www.jstor.org/stable/2932615?seq=2#page_scan_tab_contents. about James and Italy.

reply