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Ramage in South Italy The nooks and By-Ways of Italy  Wanderings in Search of its Ancient Remains and modern Superstitions By Craufurd Tait Ramage LLD 

Naples, 28 April 1828

I do not leave the Kingdom of Naples as soon as I intended as I have still a number of interesting points to visit.  I do not expect to be in Rome until 10 June from which place I shall write you at that time.  We have had a slight eruption of Vesuvius as you may have seen in the newspapers; it is now finished and everything is again tranquil.  It was a most magnificent spectacle on the summit of the mountain.    I ascended twice and was very lucky in arriving at the time it was most active in discharging liquid fire and stone.  It was truly terrific in the interior of the crater.  The depth of the crater is about 400 feet and fire was discharging from an opening in the bottom with a noise far exceeding anything that can be conceived.   The ashes and stones -red-hot- rose above our heads to the height of 1,000 feet and had the wind changed a few points, they would inevitably have come upon us.    Before we ascended we saw several fall in the direction we must mount by, and this alarmed us a little and so frightened our guides that they refused to go up with us.    I had Franklin with me but was obliged to return to leave him at the Hermitage.   My two companions proceeded and I again met them at the top of the crater.  At the moment we were there, we saw a part of the opposite side of the mountain give way and fall in from the inward working of the volcano.  it was rather an alarming moment as we could not be sure that our side might not give way too.  We continued about an hour till we saw its force gradually exhausted and the mountain become comparatively tranquil.   We descended and arrived in Naples safely about 2 o'clock in the morning.    I consider myself extremely lucky in seeing one of the most sublime phenomena of Nature.  I had scarcely seen before this time any smoke from the mountain and could have no idea of the irresistible force of a volcano in action.  On the 2nd of February I witnessed the effects of a still more tremendous power of Nature - an earthquake on the island of Ischia about 16 miles from Naples.   It was by mere accident that we had not experienced its effects as well as seen them.  I overslept myself (I never was a good riser in the morning) and delayed our party for an hour.    We arrived at Ischia at 12 noon and found the island in the utmost consternation from the shock of an earthquake that had taken place an hour before we arrived.  We were at first not inclined to believe it and proceeded to examine the spot - a little village (Casillichio) - where the shock had been strongest.   Then indeed we saw only too evidently its dreadful force.  There was not a house in the village that had not sustained more or less damage; above 40 were completely destroyed and had buried, it was impossible to say, how many inhabitants.  The survivors were displaying images of the most frantic despair.  Some had lost a mother - others children, and one poor man said he had lost a wife and mother and 3 children.   The streets were deserted and the inhabitants were seen in the neighbourhood (unread) waiting with terror lest there should be a repetition of the shock.  We passed hurriedly through the midst of desolation, fearful lest a breath of wind should overthrow some of the overhanging walls.  It was our intention to have remained at Ischia, about ¼ mile from this village, during the night but the people were unwilling to receive us and as we were unable to be of any especial use to the poor wretches who had suffered, we determined to make our way back to Naples.  On returning Dr Henderson¹ and myself drew up a representation of the misery of the sufferers - The English, who are ever ready to assist the distressed, came forward with the utmost promptness and in 2 weeks we had collected upward of 200 sterling.   On Saturday the shock was felt, and on Thursday I returned to Ischia with the Hendersons to discover in what manner the funds we expected to get could assist the sufferers.  We got a list from a clergyman of the parish, a most respectable man, of those who suffered most, and with his assistance Sir Henry has distributed the sum we collected.  We remained at the village 2 days and examined more minutely the damage that had been sustained.

¹Author of History of Ancient Wines see Norman Douglas, Alone

 

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