Forneri, James

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Modern Languages

June/July 1789 - 5 September 1869)

Although not destined to rank among the University’s scholarly immortals, James Forneri could almost certainly claim one of the most interesting resumés. Born in the year of the French Revolution to a family (DeForneri) of French extraction settled for several generations in the Piedmont region of Italy, Forneri’s first year saw his father and elder brother pursued across Italy by the forces of the Revolution. As he grew up in the post-Revolutionary period, Forneri was initially slated for the Roman Catholic priesthood, and began study at the Seminario Romano in Rome. After the death of his elder brother, however, Forneri abandoned the study of theology for jurisprudence and canon law, eventually receiving an LLD from the University Della Sapienza, again in Rome. He was subsequently admitted to the Turin Bar in 1809.
At this point, he joined the Napoleonic Wars, serving in the French army (1812) as a sub-lieutenant in the 4th Regiment of the Guards. During the reactionary period that followed Napoleon’s defeat, Forneri was a member of the Carbonari, participating in the Carbonari Revoluion from 1820-1821. Following the defeat of that up-rising, he fled to Spain in 1821, where he fought for the constitutional party. He was eventually captured by the French, but was able to escape to England in 1824, where he was offered a teaching position at a small private school outside of London. From there he moved on to Hull, and then to Belfast and the Chair of Modern Languages in the Belfast Royal Academical Institution. In 1851, he accepted an invitation to teach at the Windsor Collegiate Academy in Windsor, Nova Scotia. Two years later, he was appointed (under a warrant signed on May 28th , 1853by Lord Elgin, the Governor-General of Canada) as the first incumbent of the Chair in Modern Languages at University College, University of Toronto. In this position he remained until his retirement in 1866. ADG

King, John. McCaul, Croft, Forneri. Toronto: Macmillan, 1914.