The Greville Memoirs

I am happy that you are using this web site and hope that you found it useful. Unfortunately, the cost of making this material freely available is increasing, so if you have found the site useful and would like to contribute towards its continuation, I would greatly appreciate it. Click the button to go to Paypal and make a donation.

The Greville Memoirs


Lake of Albano — Velletri — Naples — Rapid Travelling in 1830 — A Trial at Naples — Deciphering Manuscripts — Ball at the Duchesse d'Eboli's — Matteis's Plot and Trial — Pompeii — Taking the Veil — Pausilippo — Baiae — La Cava — Salerno — Paestum — Lazaroni — Museum of Naples — Grotto del Cane — The Camaldoli — Herculaneum — Vesuvius — Sorrento — Miracle of St. Januarius — Astroni — Farewell to Naples.

[331] Velletri, April 15th, 1830

Left Rome at nine o'clock this morning; at Albano procured an ancient rural cicerone, a boy, and two donkeys, and set out on the grand giro of the place. The road over the Campagna is agreeable, because the prospect roundabout is so fine, and the aqueducts stretching over the plain so grand. After climbing up to the Capuchin Convent, close to which are the remains of what is called Domitian's Theatre, we came to the lake, which is beautiful, but does not look large, and still less as if it had ever threatened Rome with destruction. There is a road called the Upper Gallery, shaded by magnificent ilexes, which leads to the Villa Barberini, a delicious garden, once Clodius's and afterwards part of Domitian's Villa, containing many remains of former magnificence. This villa was probably the scene of the council described by Juvenal (Fourth Satire).

Misso proceres exire jubentur
Concilio, quos Albanam Dux magnus in arcem
Traxerat attonitos.

I could not make out that any excavations have ever been made here, though they would be certain of finding marbles. The road passes along the hill which overhangs the margin of the lake to Castel Gandolfo, and thence a path [332] leads to the bottom, where are the Emissarium, the Nyphaeum (called the Baths of Diana), and a beautiful view of the lake, Monte Albano, and its towns. There is nothing more curious than the Emissarium, built with a solidity which has defied the effect of time, for it has never required reparations, and performs its office still as it did more than 2,000 years ago (393 years before the Christian era). Nothing is so incomprehensible as the magnitude and grandeur of the works of the Republic before it had acquired power, territory, or population. The Romans built as if they had an instinctive prescience of future greatness, and not even the pressure of immediate danger could induce them to sacrifice solidity to haste. After wondering at their enterprise and industry we may go and admire their subsequent luxury in the Baths of Diana, as the place is called, but which is evidently a natural cave improved into a delicious retreat by some inhabitant of one of the villas above. We mounted the hill and went by another road (called the Lower Gallery, shaded by the finest ilexes, elms, and oaks, which 'high over-arch'd embower,' and where there is one ilex which twelve men can hardly embrace) to the Doria Villa, once Pompey's and likewise Domitian's, who included both Clodius's and Pompey's in his own. There are no remains here, but some arabesques in a sort of grotto, which I suspect are modern. All their villas command views of the Campagna, the sea, Rome, and the mountains. It is no wonder Hannibal was deeply mortified when he looked down on Rome from these hills (the hills at least close by called the Prati d'Annibale) at having twice just missed taking it. Poetry and history contribute alike to the interest of this beautiful scenery. We met an Englishman, a single bird who had lost his covey, and had procured a guide who could not understand what he said. He wanted to go to Albano, and the man was taking him to the Emissarium. We put him right, but his fury in mixed Italian, French, and English was exceedingly comical. It was unlucky that we met him at the top instead of the bottom of the hill.

The road to Aricia, where Horace got such a bad dinner —

[333] Egressum magnâ me excepit Aricia Româ
Hospitio modico —

is beautiful, and close to Gensano we went to look at the Lake of Nemi, which is very pretty, but not so grand as Albano. The peasantry are a fine race in these parts, and we met many men driving carts or riding asses who would not disgrace the most romantic group of banditti. The people were all working in the open air, and seemed very gay. There were few beggars, and not much rags and wretchedness.

Started from Velletri at six in the morning; went very quick over the Pontine Marshes (which form an avenue of about twenty miles, quite straight, shaded with trees, and with vegetation of remarkable luxuriance on each side) to Terracina (Anxur), where we breakfasted in a room looking upon the sea. The place is extremely pretty. Thence to Mola di Gaeta, which is very beautiful, but where we did not stop; and, after a very tiresome journey, got to Naples at two o'clock in the morning. Vesuvius was so obliging as to emit some flames as we passed by, just to show us his whereabouts. They were, however, his first and his last while I was at Naples.

Naples, April 18th, 1830

I am disappointed with Naples. I looked for more life and gaiety, a more delicious air, beautiful town, and picturesque lazaroni, more of Punch, more smoke and flame from Vesuvius. It strikes me as less beautiful than Genoa, but these are only first impressions. The Bay and the Villa Reale, a garden along the sea, full of sweets and sea breezes and shade, are certainly delightful. All the people seem anxious to cheat as much as they can, from the master of the inn to the driver of the hackney-coach. At present I don't feel disposed to stay here, and when I have seen Paestum, Pompeii, and the environs I shall be glad to get back to Rome. Sir Henry Lushington said at dinner yesterday he had seen at Naples a 'Courier' newspaper of that day week, produced by Rothschild and brought by one of his couriers. I came very fast, but was 236 hours on the road, including 20 hours' stoppage. This is [334] 168 hours, which appears incredible, but 'gold imp'd by Jews can compass hardest things.'

April 19th, 1830

I retract all I said about disappointment, for I have since seen Naples, and it is the most beautiful and the gayest town in the world. Yesterday morning with Morier I walked up to the Castle of St. Elmo and the Certosa; went over the chapel, which is full of costly marbles, and fine pictures both in oil and fresco, particularly one by Spagnolet as fine as any at Rome or anywhere. Tasted the custode's lachryma Christi, which, if it be as good of the sort as he pretends, is middling stuff, but not bad with water. Saw all the views, which are magnificent. Walked down to the Villa Reale, which was crowded with people, and the Chiaja with carriages. Dined with Hill — half English and half foreigners — and went to the Opera; a very indifferent opera of Rossini, ill sung, called the 'Siege of Corinth.'

This morning at half-past eight we went to the Court of Justice to hear an extraordinary trial which excites great interest here. The proceedings of the day happened to be very uninteresting, not that it made much difference, for I could not understand a word anybody said, but I had an opportunity of seeing the manner in which they conduct trials in this country, and the behaviour of the judges, the counsel, and the prisoners. Nothing can be less analogous than the proceedings here to those which prevail in our courts; and although it is possible that ours might be better, it is not possible that theirs could be worse.

I soon left the Court, and walked up the Strada di Toledo — the finest and liveliest street in the world, I believe — crowded with people. An Italian proverb says, 'Quando Dio onnipotente e tristo, prende una finestra nella Toledo.' Then to the Museum, of which everything was shut but the library and the papyri. The former contains 180,000 volumes, but is deficient in modern (particularly foreign) books. They showed us the process of deciphering the papyri, which is very ingenious. The manuscript (which is like a piece of charcoal) is suspended by light strings in a sort of frame; gum and goldbeater's skin are applied to it as it is unrolled, [335] and, by extreme delicacy of touch, they contrive to unravel without destroying a great deal of it, but probably they have been discouraged by the small reward which has attended their exertions; for there are several black-looking rolls which have never yet been touched, and very few men at work. The gentlemen who explained to us the process said that Sir Humphrey Davy had attended them constantly, and had taken great pains to contrive some better chemical process for the purpose, but without success.

April 20th, 1830

A delightful drive (made by Murat) to the Marquis di Gallo's villa on the Capo di Monte, which far surpasses all the villas I saw at Rome. The entrance is about half a mile from the house, through a wood, one part of which is a vineyard; the vines hanging in festoons from cherry trees, and corn growing underneath. The house is not large, but convenient; a wide terrace runs along the whole front of it with a white marble balustrade; below this is a second terrace covered with rose-trees; below that a third, planted with vines, and oranges, and myrtles. From the upper terrace the view is beautiful. Naples lies beneath, and the Bay stretches beyond with the opposite mountains, and all the towns and villages from Portici to Sorrento. On the right the Castle of St. Elmo and the Certosa, and Vesuvius on the left. There is a large wood on one side, cut into shady walks and laid out with grottoes, and on the other a vineyard, through which there is also a walk under a treillage of vines for nearly half a mile. The ground extremely diversified, and presenting in every part of it views of the surrounding country —

Umbrageous grots and caves
Of cool recess, o'er which the mantling vine
Lays forth her purple grape, and gently creeps

It is always let, and, till he went away, was occupied by Stackelberg, the Russian Ambassador.

In the evening went to a ball at the Duchesse d'Eboli's; very few people, and hardly any English, and those not the best — only four, I think: Sir Henry Lushington, the Consul; [336] a Mr. Grieve, of whom I know nothing but that his father was a physician at St. Petersburg, and that he killed his brother at Eton by putting a cracker into his pocket on the 5th of November, which set fire to other crackers and burnt him to death; Mr. Auldjo, the man who made a very perilous ascent of Mont Blanc, of which he published a narrative; Mr. Arbuthnot, who levanted from Doncaster two years ago — but most of the Italian women were there, and I was surprised at their beauty. Acton, who introduced me to some of them, assured me that they were models of conduct, which did not precisely tally with my preconceived notions of Neapolitan society. They danced, but with no music but a pianoforte. This is one of the few houses here which is habitually open, for they have not the means of doing much in the way of society and gaiety; they are poor, and the Government (the worst in the world) interferes. The Duchesse d'Eboli is poor, but she was a beauty, and has had adventures of various sorts.

April 21st, 1830

Dined with Keppel Craven yesterday; Acton, Morier, Duchesse d'Eboli, and some other people.

The day was so disagreeable yesterday I could not go out — not cold, but a hurricane and clouds of dust. The principal topic of conversation at dinner was the trial, which goes on every day, has already lasted a month, and is likely to last two or three more. The Code Napoleon is in force here, so that there may probably be something like a certain and equal administration of justice between man and man; but this is a Government prosecution, and therefore exempted from ordinary rules. The history of this trial exemplifies the state of both the law and the Government of this country. The accused are five in number; the principal of them, Matteis, was an intendente, or governor, of a province; 2nd, the advocate-general of the province; 3rd, Matteis's secretary; and 4th and 5th, two spies. These men united in a conspiracy to destroy various persons who were obnoxious to them in the province, some of them actuated by political motives, and others in order to get possession of the property of their victims. The bugbear of the Court is Carbonarism, and Matteis pretended that there was a Carbonari plot on [337] foot, in which several persons were implicated. He employed the spies to seduce the victims into some imprudence of language or conduct, and then to inform against them; in this way he apprehended various individuals, some of whom were tortured, some imprisoned or sent to the galleys, and some put to death. These transactions took place eight or nine years ago, and such was the despotism of this man and the terror he inspired, that no resistance was made to his proceedings, or any appeal against them ever sent to Naples. At last one of his own secretaries made some disclosures to Government, and the case appeared so atrocious that it was thought necessary to institute an immediate enquiry. The intendente was ordered to Naples, and commissioners were sent to obtain evidence in the province and sift the matter to the bottom. After much delay they made a report confirming the first accusations and designating these five men as the criminals. As soon as the matter was thus taken up, the public indignation burst forth, and a host of witnesses who had been deterred by fear from opening their lips came forward to depose against Matteis and his associates. They were arrested in the year 1825 and thrown into prison, but owing to the difficulties and delay which they contrived by their influence to interpose, and to the anomalous character of the prosecution, five years elapsed before the proceedings began. At length a royal order constituted a Court of Justice, composed of all the judges of the Court of Cassation (about twenty), the highest tribunal in the kingdom, and they have just been enjoined not to separate till the final adjudication of the case. Although the offences with which the criminals are charged are very different in degree, they are all arraigned together; a host of witnesses are examined, each of whom tells a story or makes a speech, and the evidence is accordingly very confused, now affecting one and now another of them. They have counsel and the right of addressing the Court themselves, which the intendente avails himself of with such insolence that they are obliged to begin the proceedings of each day by reading an order to the prisoners to behave themselves decently to the Court. Their counsel [338] are assigned by the Court, and it is not one of the least extraordinary parts of this case that the advocate of Matteis is his personal enemy, and a man whom he displaced from an office he once held in the province. They say, however, that he defends him very fairly and zealously. The day I was there the proceedings were uninteresting, but yesterday they were very important. An officer was examined who had been imprisoned and ill-treated in prison, and who deposed to various acts of cruelty. They on their part hardly deny the facts, but attempt to justify them by proving that the sufferers really were Carbonari, that other governors had done the same thing, and that they were doing a service to the Government by these pretended plots and consequent executions. Though their guilt is clear, it is by no means so clear that they will be condemned, or at least all of them. The public indignation is so great that they must sacrifice some of them, and the spies, it is said, will certainly be hanged. Matteis has interest in the Court, but, as a majority of votes will decide his fate, it is most likely he will be condemned.

April 22nd, 1830

Yesterday to Pompeii, far better worth seeing than anything else in Italy. Who can look at other ruins after this? At Rome there are certain places consecrated by recollections, but the imagination must be stirred up to enjoy them; here you are actually in a Roman town. Shave off the upper storey of any town, take out windows, doors, and furniture, and it will be as Pompeii now is: it is marvellous. About one-fifth part of the town has been excavated, and the last house found is the largest. It is said 1,000 men would clear it in a year, and there are thirty at work. The road is a bed of dust, and infested with blind beggars, each led by a boy. There are habitations almost uninterruptedly along the road between Naples and Pompeii, built apparently for no other reason than because they are exposed to eruptions of the mountain, for any other part of the Bay would be just as agreeable, and safe from that danger.

This morning we went to an Ursuline convent to see two [339] girls take the veil. The ceremony was neither imposing, nor interesting, nor affecting, nor such as I expected. I believe all this would have been the case had it been the black veil, but it was the white unfortunately. I thought they would be dressed splendidly, have their hair cut off in the church, be divested (in the convent) of their finery, and reappear to take leave of their relations in the habit of the order. Not at all. I went with A. Hill and Legge, who had got tickets from the brother of one of the sposine; we were admitted to the grating, an apartment about ten feet long by five wide, with a very thick double grating, behind which some of the nuns appeared and chattered. A turning box supplied coffee and cakes to the company. I went to the door of the parlour (which was open), but they would not admit me. There the ladies were received, and the nuns and novices were laughing and talking and doing the honours. Their dress was not ugly — black, white, and a yellow veil. The chapel was adorned with gold brocade, and blue and silver hangings, flowers, tapers; a good orchestra, and two or three tolerable voices. It was as full as it could hold, and soldiers were distributed about to keep order; even by the altar four stood with fixed bayonets, who when the Host was raised presented arms — a military salute to the Real Presence! The brother of one of the girls did the honours of the chapel, placing the ladies and bustling about for chairs, which all the time the ceremony was going on were handed over heads and bonnets, to the great danger of the latter. It was impossible not to be struck with this man's gaiety and sang-froid on the occasion, but he is used to it, for this was the fourth sister he has buried here. When the chapel was well crammed the sposine appeared, each with two marraines. A table and six chairs were placed opposite the altar; on the table were two trays, each containing a Prayer Book, a pocket-handkerchief, and a white veil. The girls (who were very young, and one of them rather pretty) were dressed in long black robes like dressing-gowns, their hair curled, hanging down their backs and slightly powdered. On the top of their [340] heads were little crowns of blue, studded with silver or diamonds. The ladies attending them (one of whom was Princess Fondi and another Princess Bressano) were very smart, and all the people in the chapel were dressed as for a ball. There was a priest at the table to tell the girls what to do. High Mass was performed, then a long sermon was delivered by a priest who spoke very fluently, but with a strange twang and in a very odd style, continually apostrophising the two girls by name, comparing them to olives and other fruit, to candelabri, and desiring them to keep themselves pure that 'they might go as virgins into the chamber of their beloved.' When the Sacrament was administered the ladies took the crowns off the girls, who were like automata all the time, threw the white veils over them, and led them to the altar, where the Sacrament was administered to them; then they were led back to their seats, the veils taken off and the crowns replaced. After a short interval they were again led to the altar, where, on their knees, their profession was read to them; in this they are made to renounce the world and their parents; but at this part, which is at the end, a murmuring noise is made by the four ladies who kneel with them at the altar, that the words may not be heard, being thought too heart-rending to the parents; then they are led out and taken into the convent, and the ceremony ends. The girls did not seem the least affected, but very serious; the rest of the party appeared to consider it as a fête, and smirked and gossiped; only the father of one of them, an old man, looked as if he felt it. The brother told me his sister was eighteen; that she would be a nun, and that they had done all they could to dissuade her. It is a rigid order, but there is a still more rigid rule within the convent. Those nuns who embrace it are for ever cut off from any sort of communication with the world, and can never again see or correspond with their own family. They cannot enter into this last seclusion without the consent of their parents, which another of this man's four sisters is now soliciting.

We afterwards drove through the Grotto of Pausilippo, that infernal grotto which one must pass through to get [341] out of Naples on one side; it is a source of danger, and the ancient account of it is not the least exaggerated: —

Nihil isto carcere longius, nihil illis faucibus obscurius, quo nobis praestant non ut per tenebras videamus sed ut ipsas.

There are a few glimmering lamps always obscured by dust, and it is never hardly light enough to avoid danger except at night; in the middle it is pitch dark.

Then round the Strada Nuova, Murat's delightful creation, and walked in the Villa Reale, where I found Acton, who had been all the morning at the trial, which was very interesting. A woman was examined, who deposed that her husband was thrown into prison and ill-treated by Matteis because he would not give some false evidence that he required of him; that she went to Matteis and entreated him to release him, and that he told her he would if she would bring her daughter to him, which she refused, and he was put to death. On this evidence being given, the examining judge dropped the paper, and a murmur of horror ran through the audience. The accused attacked the witness and charged her with perjury, and said he was ill in bed at the time alluded to. The woman retorted, 'Canaglia, tu sai ch' egli e vero,' and there was a debate between the counsel on either side, and witnesses were called who proved that he was in good health at the time. They think the evidence of to-day and the apparent disposition of the judges must hang him.

Salerno, April 24th, 1830

Here Morier and I are going to pass the night on our way to Paestum, and as he is gone to bed (at half-past eight) I must write. Yesterday morning Morier, St. John, Lady Isabella, and I went to Pozzuoli, embarked in a wretched boat to make the giro of Baiae.

Ante bonam Venerem gelidae per litora Baiae
Illa natare lacu cum lampade jussit amorem,
Dura natat, algentes cecidit scintilla per undas,
Hinc vapor ussit aquas, quicumque natavit, amavit.

Venus bade Cupid on fair Baiae's side
Plunge with his torch into the glassy tide;
As the boy swam the sparks of mischief flew
And fell in showers upon the liquid blue;
Hence all who venture on that shore to lave
Emerge love-stricken from the treacherous wave.

I was disappointed with the country, which is bare and uninteresting; but the line of coast, with the various bays and promontories and the circumjacent islands, is extremely agreeable, and the Bay of Baiae, with the Temple of Venus, delightful. The Temple of Mercury is also worth seeing. The Cave of the Sybil, Lake Avernus, and Temple of Apollo are not worth seeing, but as they are celebrated by Virgil they must be visited, though the embellishments of Virgil's imagination and the lapse of time have made disappointment inevitable. Nature indeed no longer presents the same aspect; for there is a mountain more (Monte Nuovo) and a wood less about the lake than in Virgil's time. We found two ridiculous parties there, one English, the other French, the latter the most numerous and chattering, and mounted on asses, so as to make a long cavalcade. There was a fat old gentleman just coming puffing out of the cave, and calling with delight to his ladies, 'Ah, mesdames, etes-vous noires?' as they certainly were, for all one gets in the cave is a blackened face from the torches. There was another gaunt figure of the party in a fur cap, who was playing the flute —

His reedy pipe with music fills,
To charm the God who loves the hills
And rich Arcadian scenery.

We landed from our boat in various places, but declined going down the Cento Camerelle to have a second face-blackening. All the ruins, said to be of Caesar's and Marius's Villas, Agrippina's Tomb, Caligula's Bridge, &c., may be anything; they are nothing but shapeless fragments, only on a rock I saw a bit of marble or stucco in what they call Caesar's Villa. The Stygian Lake presented no horrors, nor the Elysian Fields any delights; the former is a great round piece of water, and the latter are very common-looking vineyards. When well wooded, which in the time of the [343] Romans it was, this coast must have been a most delicious and luxurious retreat, so sequestered and sheltered, such a calm sea, and soft breezes.

Mira quies pelagi; ponunt hic lassa furorem
Aequora, et insani spirant clementius Austri.

We went up to look at the old harbour of Misenum, where, instead of a Roman fleet, were a few fishing-boats, and walked back through fields in which spring was bursting forth through endless varieties of cultivation — figs, mulberries, and cherry trees, with festoons of vines hanging from tree to tree, and corn, peas, and beans springing up underneath.

Our boatmen, as we rowed back, were very proud of their English, and kept on saying 'Pull away,' 'Now boys,' and other phrases they have picked up from our sailors. This morning we set off to come here [to Salerno] with Vetturino horses; the dust intolerable; stopped at Pompeii, and walked half round the walls and to the Amphitheatre. All the ground (now covered with vineyards) belongs to the King (for Murat bought it); the profusion and brilliancy of the wild flowers make it quite a garden —

Flowers worthy of Paradise, which not nice art
In beds and curious knots, but nature boon
Pours forth profuse on hill, and dale, and plain.

If Murat had continued on the throne two or three years longer, the whole town would have been excavated. He, and still more the Queen, took great interest in it, and they both went there frequently. She used to see the houses excavated, and one day they found the skeleton of a woman with gold bracelets and earrings, which were brought to her, and she put them on herself directly. In their time 800 men and 50 cars were at work; now there are 40 men and 6 cars. The expense of 800 men and 50 cars would be about £13,000 a year, but these men will spend nothing. A car costs a scudo, and a man four carlins, a day. (A scudo is ten carlins, a carlin fourpence.) The Royal Family seldom or never come here; the Duke of Calabria has been once. The Amphitheatre, [344] though not to be compared in size or beauty with the Coliseum, is much more perfect. The road here is beautiful, particularly about La Cava. I walked up to the Convent of the Trinita; it stands on the brink of a deep ravine in the middle of the hills, which are tossed into a hundred different shapes and covered with foliage — a magnificent situation. The convent is very large, and well kept; it contains fifty monks, who were most of them walking about the road. Here were all the raw materials requisite for a romance — a splendid setting sun, mountains, convent, flock of goats, evening bell, friars, and peasants. Arrived here, delighted with the outside and disgusted with the inside of the town; but the Bay of Salerno is beautiful, the place gay and populous, all staring at a fire-balloon which was just ascending, and soon after came down in the sea. The inns execrable. We got into one at last, in which there is a wide terrace looking over the sea, and there we ordered our dinner to be laid; but we were soon driven in, not by the cold, but by the flaring of our tallow candles.

We were obliged to write our names down for the police, who are very busy and inquisitive. One man, whose name was just before mine, had added this poetical encomium on the inn: —

I mention by way of guidanza
For those who are going to Paestum,
They'll find at this inn, the 'Speranza,'
A good place to eat and to rest 'em.

I could not concur with this poet, so I added to my name this contradiction: —

On the 'Hope's' being such a good treat
We must both put our positive vetos;
We not only got nothing to eat,
But ourselves were ate up by mosquitos.

Naples, April 25th, 1830

Started at four o'clock in the morning from Salerno, and got to Paestum at eight. Tormented to death by beggars and ciceroni (often both characters in one), for in Italy everybody who shows a stranger about is a [345] cicerone, from Professor Nibby down to a Calabrian peasant. There is little beauty in the scenery of Paestum, but the temples amply repay the trouble of the journey. I agree with Forsyth that they are the most impressive monuments I have ever seen. The famed roses of Paestum have disappeared, but there are thousands of lizards 'nunc virides etiam occultant spineta lacertos.' No excavations have ever been made here, but they talk of excavating. There were some fine Etruscan vases found in a tomb at Paestum, which we did not see. The brute of a custode knew nothing of it, nor should I if I had not seen the model in the Museum afterwards. Thousands of Etruscan vases may be had for digging; they are found in all the tombs. The peasants have heaps of little carved images of terra cotta and coins, which they offer for sale. I believed they were fabricated, but a man I met there showed me two or three that he had turned up with his stick, so that they may be genuine. What treasures Naples possesses, and how unworthy she is of them! Paestum [1] long neglected, and Pompeii hardly touched! At Rome they are always digging and doing something, and though the Papal Government is neither active nor rich, I do believe they would not let this town (Pompeii, I mean) remain buried when a few thousand pounds would bring it all to light. There seem to be no habitations near Paestum, but there is a church, which was well attended, for the peasants were on their knees all round it; and while we were breakfasting (in a manger with the horses out in the air) they came out, strange-looking figures, rude, uncouth, and sunburnt, and without any of the finery which they generally wear on a Sunday.

Naples, April 26th, 1830

To the Museum; met the Dalbergs and Prince and Princess Aldobrandini, a good-looking

[1] The authorities of course can't agree when Paestum was built, and by whom, or whether one of the temples (the largest) was a temple or a basilica. The perfect state of these temples, particularly that called of Neptune, is the more remarkable because there are scarcely any vestiges of other buildings. Morier thought them inferior to the temples at Athens, but so they may well be; the Athenian temples are built of white marble from the Pentelic quarries, and highly ornamented by Phidias.

[346] daughter and two sons. They will have all Prince Borghese's estate. I only went into the Pompeii and Herculaneum part of the collections.

The lazaroni are very amusing. This morning four of them stripped stark naked under my window, put off in a boat, and thirty yards from the shore fished for cockle fish, which they do by diving like ducks, throwing their feet up in the air as the ducks do their tails. The creatures are perfectly amphibious; they don't care who sees them, and their forms are perfect. Then there are little lazaroni who ape the big ones. Met a christening this morning, and then a funeral. The wet nurse, full dressed, was carried in a sedan chair down the middle of the street, and the child, dressed also, held out of the window in her arms, and so she was going to church. The funeral was a priest's — a long file of penitents in white, carrying torches, a bier covered with crimson and gold, and the priest dressed in robes and exposed upon it, a ghastly sight, with a chalice in his hand and a book at his feet, other priests following, the cross borne before him. When young girls are buried in this way, they are gaily dressed with chaplets of flowers, a flower in the mouth, and flowers at their feet.

Rode to the race-course and round the hills; such views and such an evening! At seven o'clock I could see the houses at Sorrento, nineteen miles off on the other side of the Bay. Dined with Acton; none but English. In the evening went to Toledo, the Spanish Ambassador's. The Duc de Dalberg talked of an association to excavate at Calabria and Apulia. The Government reserves four places — Pompeii, Paestum, Stabiae, Herculaneum — for its own use, and anybody may excavate elsewhere who will be at the trouble and expense.

April 29th, 1830

On Tuesday again to the Museum and the King's Palace; rather fine, good house, very ridiculous pictures of the royal families of Naples and Spain. The Duchess of Floridia's apartment (old Ferdinand's wife) is delightful; the rooms are furnished with blue satin and white silk, opening upon a terrace covered with orange-trees, [347] flowers, and shaded walks, and looks over the Bay. A few fine pictures, but not many. There is a bath, built after one of those at Pompeii.

From what I saw at the Museum, I see no reason to doubt that the ancients were as excellent in painting as in sculpture; there are some very exquisite paintings taken from Pompeii. Then we are not to believe that the best have been found, or that a provincial town contained the finest specimens of the art. Painted on walls, they appear deficient in light and shade, but the drawing and expression, and sometimes the colouring (allowing for spoiling), are very good. There are some Cupids playing at games, and driving chariots, very like the Julio Romanos in the Lanti Villa at Rome, which indeed were borrowed from the ancient frescoes discovered in the Baths of Titus. The bronzes taken out of Herculaneum and Pompeii are very interesting, because they display the whole domestic economy of the ancients, and their excellent taste in furniture, sacrificial instruments, &c., but there is nothing particularly curious in the fact of their pots and pans being like our pots and pans, for if they were to boil and stew they could not well have performed those operations with a different kind of utensils. However, all the people marvel at them; they seem to think the Romans must have been beings of a different organisation, and that everything that is not dissimilar is strange. What is really curious is a surgical instrument which was lately found, exactly similar to one invented thirty years ago in France. The lava would not touch bronze; the iron was always encrusted and spoilt, but the bronze things all look like new.

May 2nd, 1830

Went to the Lake of Agnano and the Grotto del Cane; very pretty lake, evidently the crater of a volcano; saw the dog perform; a sight neither interesting nor cruel; the dog did not mind it a bit, and the old woman must make a fortune, for she had eight carlins for it. The grotto is very hot and steaming; a torch goes out held near the ground, and when I put my face down the steam from the earth went up my nose like salts. Virgil's Tomb, which is very [348] picturesque, and from whence the common view of Naples is taken; there has been plenty of discussion whether it really is Virgil's tomb or not. Forsyth seems to doubt it, with one of his off-hand flings at the authority for its being so, a sort of 'Who the Devil, I humbly beg to know, is Donatus?' but there is tradition in its favour, the fact of Virgil having been buried here or hereabouts, and the honour being claimed by no other spot. When there is probability it is unwise to be so very sceptical: take away names, and what are the places themselves? Here not much, at Rome nothing.


Went a long and most beautiful ride up to the Camaldoli, from which the view extends over sea and land to an immense distance in every direction.

Thus was this place
A happy rural seat of various views.

The convent was once very rich, but the French stripped all the convents of their property, which they have never since recovered. It is remarkably clean and spacious. Each monk has a house of his own containing two or three little rooms, and a little garden, and they only eat together on particular days. The old man who took us about said he had been there since he was eighteen, had been turned out by the French, but came back as soon as he could, and had never regretted becoming a monk. He showed me a bust of the founder of their order (I think San Romualdo), and when I asked him how many years ago it was founded, he said, 'Perhaps 2,000.' I said when I became a monk I would go to that convent, when he asked very seriously if I was going to be a monk. I said, 'Not just yet.' 'Very well,' he said; 'you must pay 120 ducats, and you can come here.' We went down a road cut for miles in the mountain, very narrow and steep, through shady lanes, groves, and vineyards (with magnificent views), through Pianura to Pozzuoli, entering by the old Roman road and Street of Tombs. The columbaria in the Street of Tombs are the best worth seeing ejus generis of any. Went to the Temple of Jupiter Serapis, of which there are very curious remains.

[349] Hard by the reverent ruins
Of a once glorious temple, reared to Jove,
Whose very rubbish (like the pitied fall
Of virtue, most unfortunate) yet bears
A deathless majesty, though now quite rased,
Hurl'd down by wrath and lust of impious kings,
So that where holy Flamens wont to sing
Sweet hymns to Heaven, there the daw and crow,
The ill-voiced raven, and still chattering pie
Send out ungrateful sounds.

To the ruins of the Amphitheatre, from the top of which there is one of the finest views I ever saw of the Bay of Baiae and the islands; and then to the Solfaterra. The ruins scattered about Naples (those at Pozzuoli, for instance) are far more extensive than most of those at Rome, but partly 'carent quia vate sacro,' and partly because there are no well-known names attached to them, the ground is not so holy, and little is said or thought about them. If these temples were at Rome, what an uproar they would cause! The Solfaterra is remarkable as a sort of link between the quick and the dead volcanoes; it is considered extinct, but the earth is hot, the sulphur strong, and at a particular spot, when a hole is made, it hisses and throws up little stones and ashes, and exhibits a sort of volcano in miniature, but the surface of the crater is overgrown with vegetation. The road to Naples by the convent of the Jesuits and Chapel of St. Januarius is the most beautiful I ever saw, particularly towards sunset, when the colouring is so rich and varied. It lies over a crest commanding a prospect of the mountains on one side and the sea on the other.

Quid mille revolvam
Culmina visendique vices.

May 3rd, 1830

We sailed across the Bay to Resina, to see Herculaneum, the old and new excavations. At the new there are only seven or eight men at work; the old are hardly worth seeing. So much earth and cinders are mixed with the lava in the new part, that they might excavate largely if they would spend money enough; at present they have only [350] excavated one or two houses, but have found some bronzes and marbles. The houses are laid open, just like those at Pompeii.

The next day Morier, Watson, and I set off to ascend Vesuvius; we rode on donkeys from Salvatore's house to the bottom of the last ascent, which was rather less formidable than I expected, though fatiguing enough. Another party went up at the same time: one man of that party, Watson, and I walked up alone; the others were all lugged up. They take the bridles off the donkeys and put them on the men; the luggee holds by this tackle and the guide goes before him. After infinite puffing and perspiring, and resting at every big stone, I reached the top in thirty-five minutes. It was very provoking to see the facility with which the creatures who attended us sprang up. There was one fellow with nothing on but a shirt and half a pair of breeches, who walked the whole way from Resina with a basket on his head full of wine, bread, and oranges, and while we were slipping, and clambering, and toiling with immense difficulty he bounded up, with his basket on his head, as straight as an arrow all the time, and bothering us to drink when we had not breath to answer. I took three or four oranges, some bread, and a bottle of wine of him at the top, and when I asked Salvatore what I should pay him, he said two carlins (eightpence English). I gave him three (a shilling), and he was transported. It was a magnificent evening, and the sunset from the top of Vesuvius (setting in the sea) a glorious sight —

For the sun,
Declined, was hastening now with prone career
To the ocean's isles, and in th' ascending scale
Of heaven the stars, that usher evening, rose.

The view, too, all round is very grand; the towns round the Bay appear so clear, yet so minute. I had formed to myself a very different idea of the crater, of which the dimensions are very deceitful; it is so much larger than it appears. The bottom of the crater is flat, covered with masses of lava and sulphur, but anybody may walk all about it. At one end stands what [351] looks like a little black hillock, from which smoke was rising, as it was from various crevices in different parts; that little hillock is the crater from which all eruptions burst. The mountain was provokingly still, and only gave one low grumble and a very small emission of smoke and fire while we were there; it has never been more tranquil. The descent is very good fun, galloping down the cinders; you have only to take care not to tumble over the stones; slipping is impossible. The whole ascent of the mountain is interesting, particularly in that part which is like a great ocean of lava, and where the guides point out the courses of the different eruptions, all of which may be distinctly traced. We got to the Hermitage just as it was dark; there was still a red tint round the western horizon, and the islands were dimly shadowed out, while the course of the Bay was marked by a thousand dancing lights. Salvatore has especial care of the mountain under the orders of Government, to whom he is obliged to make a daily report of its state, and he is as fond of it as a nurse of a favourite child, or a trainer at Newmarket of his best race-horse, and delights in telling anecdotes of old eruptions and phenomena, and of different travellers who have ascended it.

Two years ago an English merchant here laid a bet of 200 napoleons that he would go from Resina [2] to the top in an hour and a half. Salvatore went with him, and they did it in an hour and thirteen minutes. The Englishman rode relays of horses, but the guide went the whole way on foot, and the best part of the ascent had to drag up his companion He said it nearly killed him, and he did not recover from it for several weeks; he is 53 years old, but a very handsome man. He said, however, that the fatigue of this exploit was not so painful as what he went through in carrying the Duke of Buckingham to the top; he was carried up in a chair by

[2] From Salvatore's house at Resina to the top of the mountain is seven miles; from the Hermitage to the top, 3⅓. It is a mile and 200 feet from the bottom of the ascent (on foot) to the top, 800 feet from the point we first gain to the bottom of the crater; the inner crater (or black hill, as I call it) is 230 feet high and 180 feet in circumference. The miles are Neapolitan miles, about three-fourths of an English mile.

[352] twelve men, and the weight was so enormous that his shoulder was afterwards swelled up nearly to his head. When the Duke got down he gave a great dinner (on the mountain), which he had brought with him to celebrate the exploit. Salvatore said that he continues to write to many scientific men in various parts of Europe when anything remarkable occurs in the mountain, and talked of Buckland, Playfair, and Davy. We got down to Resina about half-past nine, and at ten embarked again and sailed over to Castel-a-Mare, where we arrived at one o'clock.

The next morning Mr. Watson and I got a six-oared boat (with sails) and went to Sorrento. Castel-a-Mare and the whole coast are beautiful. Landed a mile from Sorrento, and walked by a path cut in the rock to the Cocomella, a villa with a magnificent prospect of the Bay exactly opposite Naples.

Placido lunata recessu
Hinc atque hinc curvas perrumpunt aequora rupes.
Dat natura locum, montique intervenit imum
Litus et in terras scopulis pendentibus exit.

Then to the town to see the curiosities, which are the Piscine, Tasso's house, and some very romantic caverns in a wild dell under the bridge at Sorrento; all very well worth seeing, but Tasso's house was locked, so we could not get to the terrace. Just as we arrived at Sorrento we found they were performing a ceremony which takes place there every year on the 1st of May, and there only — the benediction of the flowers, the ushering in the may.

With songs and dance they celebrate the day,
And with due honours usher in the may.

It was in the Archiepiscopal church, which was gaily adorned with hangings of various colours, gold and silver and flowers, full of people, all in their best attire. A priest in the pulpit opposite the Archbishop's throne called on the representatives of the different parishes (seven in number), who advanced in succession, each bearing a huge cross fifteen or twenty feet high, entirely made of flowers, and adorned with [353] garlands and devices, all likewise of the most brilliant flowers, and, as each came up, a little cannon was fired off. They were blessed in succession, and then deposited around the throne of the Archbishop, who, after this ceremony was concluded, went up to the altar and celebrated High Mass. They told me that this festival had taken place at Sorrento from the remotest time.

After seeing the Piscine we went into a garden above, where there was a profusion of orange and lemon trees, loaded with ripe fruit; the oranges we pulled off the trees and ate; they were excellent, and as red as Morella cherries —

Whose fruit, burnished with golden rind,
Hung amiable, Hesperian fables true,
If true, here only, of delicious taste.

We could not stay long at Sorrento, and were four hours rowing across the Bay to Naples. Dined with Hill at the Villa Belvidere (a delicious villa on the Vomero), with a large, tiresome party, principally English.

Yesterday the miracle of the blood of San Gennaro was performed, and of course successfully; it will be repeated every morning for eight days. I went to-day to the Cathedral, where San Gennaro's silver bust was standing on one side of the altar, surrounded by lights, and the vessel containing the blood on the other. Round the altar were ranged silver heads of various saints, his particular friends, who had accompanied him there to do him honour, and who will be taken this evening with him in procession to his own chapel. Acton and I went together, and one of the people belonging to the church seeing us come in, and judging that we wanted to see the blood, summoned one of the canons, who was half asleep in a stall, who brought out the blood, which is contained in a glass vase mounted with silver. It liquefies in the morning, remains in that state all day, and congeals again at night. A great many people were waiting to kiss the vessel, which was handed to us first. We kissed it, and then it went round, each person kissing it and touching it with his head, as they do St. [354] Peter's foot at Rome. San Gennaro and his silver companions were brought in procession from one of the other churches, all the nobility and an immense crowd attending. I had fancied that the French had exposed and put an end to this juggle, but not at all. They found the people so attached to the superstition that they patronised it; they adorned the Chapel of St. Januarius with a magnificent altarpiece and other presents. The first time (after they came to Naples) that the miracle was to be performed the blood would not liquefy, which produced a great ferment among the people. It was a trick of the priests to throw odium on the French, and the French General Championnet thought it so serious that he sent word that if the blood did not liquefy forthwith the priests should go to the galleys. It liquefied immediately, and the people were satisfied. Acton told me that nobody believed it but the common people, but that they did not dare to leave it off. It is what is called a false position to be in, when they are obliged to go on pretending to perform a miracle in which no men of sense and education believe, and in which it is well known they don't any of them believe themselves. Miracles, if sometimes useful and profitable, are sometimes awkward incumbrances. Drove round the obscure parts of the town, and through dense masses of population, by the old palace of Queen Joan and the market place, which was the scene of Masaniello's sedition. He was killed in the great church (in 1646).

May 4th, 1830

To the Museum, and saw the mummies which have been unrolled; they are like thin, black, shrivelled corpses; hair and shape of face perfect, even the eyelids. The canvas fold in which they are wrapped quite fresh-looking; the best preserved is 3,055 years old. Amongst the bronzes there is a bust of Livia with a wig. Dined with Toledo, the Spanish Minister. The women put their knives into their mouths, and he is always kissing his wife's hand — an ugly little old woman. Toledo was Romana's aide-de-camp.

May 5th, 1830

To Cumae, and dined at the Lake of Fusaro [355] with the Talbots and Lushingtons; not a pretty lake, but the country near it pretty enough. A splendid sunset, with real purple. 'Lumine vestit purpureo.'

May 7th, 1830

In the morning to the Chapel of St. Januarius, to see the blood liquefy. The grand ceremony was last Saturday at the Cathedral, but the miracle is repeated every morning in the Chapel for eight days. I never saw such a scene, at once so ludicrous and so disgusting, but more of the latter. There was the saint, all bedizened with pearls, on the altar, the other silver ladies and gentlemen all round the chapel, with an abundance of tapers burning before them. Certain people were admitted within the rails of the altar; the crowd, consisting chiefly of women, and most of them old women, were without. There is no service, but the priests keep muttering and looking at the blood to see if it is melting. To-day it was unusually long, so these old Sibyls kept clamouring, 'Santa Trinita!' 'Santa Vergine!' 'Dio onnipotente!' 'San Gennaro!' in loud and discordant chorus; still the blood was obstinate, [3] so the priest ordered them to go down on their knees and to say the Athanasian Creed, which is one of the specifics resorted to in such a case. He drawled it out with his eyes shut, and the women screamed the responses. This would not do, so they fell to abuse and entreaties with a vehemence and volubility, and a shrill clamour, which was at once a proof of their sincerity and their folly. Such noise, such gesticulations. One woman I never shall forget, with outstretched arm, distorted visage, and voice of piercing sharpness. In the meantime the priest handed about the phial to be kissed, and talked the matter over with the bystanders. 'E sempre duro?' 'Sempre duro, adesso v' e una piccola cosa.' At last, after all the handling, praying, kissing, screaming, entreating, and abusing, the blood did melt, [4] when the organ struck up, they

[3] I dined at Hill's; sat next to the Duchess de Dalberg, talked of the miracle, which she told me she firmly believed. I fancied none believed it but the lowest of the people, and was (very foolishly) astonished; for what ought ever to produce astonishment which has to do with credulity in matters of religion?
[4] Illarum lacrymae meditataque murmura praestant, — Juvenal, 6.

[356] all sang in chorus, and so it ended. It struck me as particularly disgusting, though after all it is not fair to abuse these poor people, who have all been brought up in the belief of the miracle, and who fancy that the prosperity of their city and all that it contains is somehow connected with its due performance. The priests could not discontinue it but by acknowledging the imposture, and by an imaginative people, who are the slaves of prejudice, and attached to it by force of inveterate habit, the acknowledgment would not be believed, and they would only incur odium by it; there it is, and (for some time at least) it must go on.

Went up to Craven's villa (this is the villa at which the amour between the present Queen of Naples and Captain Hess was carried on), and sat there doing nothing in the middle of flowers, and sea breezes, and beautiful views. To comprehend all the luxury of the bel far niente one must come to Naples, where idleness loses half its evil by losing all its enervating qualities; there is something in the air so elastic that I have never been at any place where I have felt as if I could make exertions so easily as here, and yet it is a great pleasure to sit and look at the Bay, the mountains, the islands, and the town, and watch its amusing inhabitants. At least half an hour of every morning is spent at my window, while I am dressing, watching the lazaroni, who fish, work, swim, dress, cook, play, and quarrel under it. At this moment the scene is as follows: — Half a dozen boats with awnings and flags moored off the landing-place, a few fishing-boats with men mending their nets, three fellows swimming about them, two with red caps on perched upon the wall playing at cards, two or three more looking on, one on the ground being shaved by a barber with a basin (the exact counterpart of Mambrino's helmet), and two or three more waiting their turn for the same operation — always a certain number lounging about, others smoking or asleep.

May 8th, 1830

Rode with a large party to Astroni, where they dined, but I did not. There were the Lushingtons, Prince and Princess Dentici (he is at the head of the Douane), Madame and Mademoiselle Galiati (she is remarkably pretty), [357] Count (I believe) and Countess Rivalvia, her uncle, Lord A. Chichester, Count Gregorio, and a Mr. Stuart. The park, or whatever it is called — for it is the King's chase and full of wild boars — is one of the most beautiful and curious places about Naples. Milton's description of the approach to Eden applies exactly to Astroni; if ever he saw it it is likely that he meant to describe it —

To the border comes
Of Eden, where delicious Paradise,
Now nearer, crowns with her enclosure green,
As with a rural mound, the champaign head
Of a steep wilderness, whose hairy sides,
With thicket overgrown, grotesque, and wild,
Access denied; and overhead up grew
Insuperable height of loftiest shade,
A sylvan scene, and as the ranks ascend
Shade above shade, a woody theatre
Of stateliest view.

It is an immense crater of a volcano, the amphitheatre quite unbroken, and larger than that of Vesuvius, but covered with wood, and the bottom with very fine trees of various sorts and with fern — very wild and picturesque. There are several little hillocks, supposed to have been small craters; but although it is proved that this was a volcano from the lava under the soil and from its shape, there is no mention of it as an active volcano, and nobody can tell how many thousand years ago it was in operation. The King, with his usual good taste, is cutting down the finest trees, and has made a ride round the bottom, which he has planted with poplars in a double row, spoiling as much as he can all the beauty of the place. They dined in a shady arbour, made on purpose with branches of trees bound together, and on beds of fern, were very merry, pelting each other with oranges and cherries, and dealing about an abundance of manual jests.

Evening. — I have taken my last ride and last look at Naples, and am surprised at the sorrow I feel at quitting it, as I fear, for ever. Rode again to Astroni with Morier, and walked through the wood and tried to scale one of the sides [358] of the mountain, but lost the path, and could only get half-way up; it is the most beautiful place about Naples. Came back by the Strada Nuova, and saw for the last time that delicious Bay with its coast and its islands, which are as deeply imprinted on my memory as if I had passed my life among them. To-night I have stood once more by the shore, and could almost have cried to think I should never see it again —

The smooth, surface of this summer sea —

nor breathe this delicious air, nor feast my eyes on the scene of gaiety, and brilliancy, and beauty around me. Nobody can form an idea of Naples without coming to it; every gale seems to bring health and cheerfulness with it, and appears 'able to drive all sadness but despair.'

Naples, they tell me, does very well for a short time, but you will soon grow tired of it. To be sure, I have been here only three weeks, but I liked it better every day, and I am wretched at leaving it. What could I ever mean by thinking it was not gay, and less lively than Genoa? To-night, as I came home from riding, the shore was covered with lazaroni and throngs of people, dancing, singing, harping, fiddling — all so merry, and as if the open air and their own elastic spirits were happiness enough. I suppose I shall never come again, for when I have measured back the distance to my own foggy country, there I shall settle for ever, and Naples and her sunny shores and balmy winds will only be as a short and delightful dream, from which I have waked too soon.

Index Previous Next

Meet the web creator

These materials may be freely used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with applicable statutory allowances and distribution to students.
Re-publication in any form is subject to written permission.

Last modified 12 January, 2016

The Age of George III Home Page

Ministerial Instability 1760-70

Lord North's Ministry 1770-82

American Affairs 1760-83

The period of peace 1783-92

The Age of the French Wars 1792-1815 Irish Affairs 1760-89

Peel Web Home Page

Tory Governments 1812-30

Political Organisations in the Age of Peel

Economic Affairs in the Age of Peel

Popular Movements in the Age of Peel

Irish Affairs
Primary sources index British Political Personalities British Foreign policy 1815-65 European history
index sitemap advanced
search engine by freefind
23 September, 2009