Obrazy na stronie


charred stick when he removed it. The great crater was then in repose. At length we reached the spot where a vast fissure, somewhat lower than the crater, was emitting torrents of lava and sulphureous vapours. My blind friend would not be persuaded to remain behind, when the guide conducted us to any spot particularly perilous, and especially to one where fire and ashes were issuing from clefts in the rock on which we walked. He insisted on walking over places where we could hear the crackling effects of the fire on the lava beneath our feet, and on a level with the brim of the new crater, which was then pouring forth showers of fire and smoke, and lava, and occasionally masses of rock of amazing dimensions, to an enormous height in the air. A change of wind must inevitably have buried us, either beneath the ashes, or the molten lava. The huge rocks generally fell back into the crater from which they issued. The ground was glowing with heat under our feet, which often obliged us to shift our position. Our guide conducted us to the edge of a crater, where a French gentleman had thrown himself in, about two months previously. He had written some lines in the travellers' book at the hermitage on his ascent, indicative of the old fact, that “the course of true love never did run smooth."

The view of the bay of Naples, and of the distant city, from the summit of Vesuvius on a beautiful moonlight night, without a cloud in the sky, such as we had the good fortune to enjoy, was almost magic in its effect; such serenity and repose and beauty in perfect stillness, formed a striking contrast with the lurid glare of the red-hot masses that were emitted from the volcano, and the frightful bellowings of the burning mountain on which we stood.

I should have observed, there are, properly speaking, two summits, one westward, called Somma, the other south, Vesuvius. In 1667, an eruption had added two hundred feet to the crater's elevation. But in the present eruption a very large portion of this crater had fallen in.

We got back to Portici at three o'clock in the morning, and to Naples at four.

Lady Blessington has given some account of her " descents into the graves of buried cities.” In one of those visits to the remains of Herculaneum, I had the pleasure of accompanying her, when the admirable and erudite cicerone of her Ladyship was Sir William Gell.*

Among the English who frequented the Palazzo Belvidere, the following may be enumerated as the elite, or most highly esteemed of the visitors there :—Sir William Drummond, Sir William Gell, the Honourable Keppel Craven, Mr. William Hamilton, the British minister to the Neapolitan court; Colonel Chaloner Bisse, the Honourable R. Grosvenor, Captain Gordon, brother of Lord Aberdeen; Mr. Matthias, the author of “The Pursuits of Literature;" Lord Guilford, Count (now Prince) Paul Lieven, Lord Ashley, Mr. Evelyn Denison, Mr. Richard Williams, Signor Salvaggi, a distinguished littérateur; the Duc de Rocco Romano, Marchese Guiliano, Duc de Cazarano, Lords Dudley and Ward, Lord Howden, and his son Mr. Cradock; later, if I mistake not, Colonel Caradoc, the Honourable George Howard, the present Lord Carlisle, Mr. Millengen, the eminent antiquarian ; Mr. Charles Mathews, the son of the celebrated comedian ; Lord Ponsonby, Prince Ischitelli, Mr. J. Strangways, the brother of Lord Ilchester; Mr. H. Baillie, Mr. Herschel, the present Sir John Herschel, the astronomer; Mr. Henry Fox (now Lord Holland), Mr. J. Townsend (now Lord Sydney), Count de Camaldole, General Church, General Florestan Pepe, Mr. Richard Westmacott, the Duc de Fitz-James, Cassimir Delavigne, Filangiere (Prince Satriani), son of the well-known writer on jurisprųdence; Mr. Bootle Wilbraham, jun., the Abbé Monticeli, an eminent geologist; the Archbishop of Tarento, Sir Andrew Barnard, Signor Piazzi, a celebrated astronomer, the discoverer of the planet Ceres.

* Herculaneum was founded A.M. 2757, sixty years before the siege of Troy, about 3092 years ago. It was destroyed by the same eruption of Vesuvius, in the year 79 A.D., which buried Pompeii.

The buried cities remained undiscovered till 1641 years after their destruction.

Herculaneum had been successively ruled by the Etruscans, Oscians, Samnites, Greeks, and, when destroyed, by the Romans. The original founder was said to be the Theban Hercules. Portici and Resina are built over the buried city.

The situation of the villa Belvidere—the lovely prospect from the terrace that communicated with the principal saloon—the classic beauty of the house, the effect of the tasteful laying out of the grounds—the elegance of the establishment, and the precious objects of modern art, of an ornamental kind, of bijouterie, porcelain, ivory, gems of great rarity, and vases of exquisite form and workmanship, and relics too of antiquity, of great value, collected by Lady Blessington throughout Italy, or presented to her by connoisseurs and dilettanti like Gell, Millengen, Dodswell, and Drummond—it would be difficult to exaggerate the merits of, or to describe adequately the effects of; so many excellences were combined in the admirable tout ensemble of that villa, when it was the abode of the Countess of Blessington.

Who ever enjoyed the pleasures of her elegant hospitality, in that delightful abode, and the brilliant society of the eminent persons by whom she was habitually surrounded there, and can forget the scene, the hostess and the circle, that imparted to the villa Belvidere some of the Elysian characteristics that poetry has ascribed to a neighbouring locality ?

Difficulties with the proprietor of this mansion obliged the Blessingtons to quit their Neapolitan paradise on the Vomero, for the Villa Gallo, situated on another eminence, that of Capo di Monte, the end of March, 1825; and there they remained till February the following year.





The Blessingtons and their party having made Naples their head-quarters for upwards of two years and a half, took their departure the end of February, 1826, and arrived at Rome the beginning of March following.

The departure for Naples was sudden, and the cause for that suddenness is not explained in the journals of Lady Blessington.

The Blessingtons arrived in Rome from Naples the beginning of March. They remained in Rome till about the middle of the month, and then set out for Florence.

We find them in the month of April in that city, where Lord and Lady Normanby were then entertaining the inhabitants with theatricals. They remained in Florence nearly nine months. In December they were once more at Genoa, but he who had made their previous sojourn there so agreeable, was then numbered with the dead. Before the close of the month, we find them established at Pisa, where they had the pleasure of meeting the Duc and Duchesse de Guiche.

Lady Blessington had met Lord John Russell in Genoa. She had known his lordship in England, and thought very highly both of his intellectual powers and the amiability of his disposition. With the exception of the Duke of York, who was an especial favourite of her Ladyship-Lord Grey, and perhaps Lord Durham, none of the persons who frequented the abode of the Blessingtons in St. James's Square, were spoken of in such warm terms of regard and esteem by Lady Blessington, as Lord John Russell. She thus speaks of him in her Naples diary :*

“ He came and dined with us, and was in better health and spirits than I remember him when in England. He is exceedingly well read, and has a quiet dash of humour, that renders his observations very amusing. When the reserve peculiar to him is thawed, he can be very agreeable; and the society of his Genoese friends having had this effect, he appears here to much more advantage than in London. Good sense, a considerable power of discrimination, a highly cultivated mind, and great equality of temper, are the characteristics of Lord John Russell ; and these peculiarly fit him for taking a distinguished part in public life. The only obstacle to his success, seems to me to be the natural reserve of his manners, which, by leading people to think him cold and proud, may preclude him from exciting that warm sentiment of personal attachment, rarely accorded, except to those whose uniform friendly demeanour excites and strengthens it; and without this attraction, it is difficult, if not impossible, for a statesman, whatever may be the degree of esteem entertained for his character, to have devoted friends and partisans, accessories so indispensable for one who would fill a distinguished role in public life.

" Lord John Russell dined with us again yesterday, and nobody could be more agreeable. He should stay two or three years among his Italian friends, to wear off for ever the reserve that shrouds so many good qualities, and conceals so many agreeable ones; and he would then become as popular

* The Idler in Italy, Par. Ed. 1839, p. 370. VOL. I.


« PoprzedniaDalej »