The Doctor, seeing his client more attentive than alarmed, was greatly surprised. He must be matriculated, said he to himself— ' A h ! ah!' added he aloud; 'you have been obliged to shave off the lock. You have been prudent; however you need not have done so, when putting yourself under my hands. The case is serious; but you don't know what I have courage to do in a time of need.' To understand this mistake of the Doctor's, it must be known, that at that time, bravoes by profession, and villains of every kind, used to wear a long lock of hair, which they drew over the face like a visor on meeting any one.

  • It would be very helpful if you would give us an indication of when this comes from, and especially from what date. It is either quite old, or possibly pretending to be old - and if the latter, the author may simply have got the language wrong.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 14:22
  • I don't see any reason why the standard definition would not suffice there: 'enrolled in a school (of higher learning)' and therefore more educated and less likely to be in awe of, or fearful of, the doctor.
    – Hellion
    Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 14:24
  • None of the meanings of matriculate in the OED make sense without an explicit or implicit mention of what the person is matriculating into; so I suspect that this use relates to some institution which is not specifically mentioned in the quotation, so requires more context.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 14:25
  • The excerpt is from what looks like a pretty rubbishy translation of I Promessi sposi (The Betrothed), an Italian historical novel by Alessandro Manzoni, first published in 1827. Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 14:44

1 Answer 1


This appears to be a case of mistranslation from the Italian. The quote is from The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi) by Alessandro Manzoni. In the Project Gutenberg edition, this passage reads as follows:

The doctor, perceiving his new client more attentive than dismayed, marvelled greatly. “He must be enrolled as one of the bravoes,” said he to himself; “Ah! ah!” exclaimed he, addressing Renzo, “you have shaved off the long lock! Well, well, it was prudent; but placing yourself in my hands, you need not have done so. The case is a serious one—you can have no idea how much resolution is required to conduct these matters wisely.”

To understand this mistake of the doctor's, it should be known, that the bravoes by profession used to wear a long lock of hair, which they pulled over the face as a mask in enterprises that required prudence as well as strength.

I expect neither matriculated nor enrolled conveys the real Italian meaning well. My guess is that the original means he has taken part in some ceremony in which you join the bravos. It would be good to have somebody who knows Italian look at the original.

Finally, since Project Gutenberg offers for free a translation that appears from this passage to be much better than the one you are reading, you might want to consider reading the Project Gutenberg translation instead.

  • I'd certainly agree this translation looks much better than the one I found with OP's exact phrasing. Not that I know anything about the original, or how accurate any translation might be, but Gutenberg's version certainly seems to read more "naturally" in English. Allowing for the archaic phrasing, of course, but that in itself seems entirely appropriate for something written in 1827. Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 15:00
  • The Italian is Che sia matricolato costui
    – Neil W
    Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 15:08
  • So could translate 'registered','able' or 'downright' according to wiktionary.
    – Neil W
    Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 15:14
  • This promessisposi.weebly.com/capitolo-iii.html suggests the Italian meaning might be something like a 'He's a downright crook'. But that has to explained to Italian readers via a footnote.
    – Neil W
    Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 15:19
  • In summary: it's a bad translation.
    – Neil W
    Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 15:20

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