The Little Virtues (Le piccolo virtu, written 1960, published in Nuovi Argomenti, and reprinted in her collection named after this essay, trans. Dick Davis, 1985)


by Natalia Ginzburg (1916 - 1991)

Written in the inclusive pronoun (‘We’), yet sometimes asserting singularity (‘Now I believe…’), Ginzburg lectures movingly on the error of teaching children little, risk-free virtues (thrift, tact, desire for success) rather than big, dangerous ones (generosity, courage, love of truth).

Ginzburg’s is parenting advice self-conscious about the loss of her parents’ unselfconscious authority, and the pitfalls of copying their methods – such as giving a child a moneybox. Like Bruno Bettelheim, she warns of suffering ‘a terror of failure’ for one’s child, advocates unconventional honesty, and advises waiting beside them, ‘in silence and a little aloof’, until they find their vocation.

Related recommendations: Montaigne’s ‘On Educating Children’; Bacon’s ‘Of Parents and Children’; GK Chesterton’s ‘On Lying in Bed’

Can also be found at: British Library shelfmark X.950/42517

Origin: Italy

Themes: Modernity and Self-consciousness, Raising Children

Genres: Familiar or Personal

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