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before we left Rome, about two months ago ; it was, how, ever, but inconsiderable in comparison of other eruptions, there having been no bursting of the crater, or of the side of the mountain, as in the eruption 1767, so well de:scribed by Sir William Hamilton; but only a boiliug over of lava from the mouth of the volcano, and that not in excessive quantity ; for it had done no damage to the vineyards or cultivated parts of the mountain, having reached no farther than the old black lava on which soil had not as yet been formed. I was surprised to see this lava of the last eruption still smoking, and in some places, where a considerable quantity was confined in a kind of deep path like a dry ditch, and shaded from the light of the sun, it appeared of a glowing red colour. In other places, notwithstanding its being perfectly black and solid, it still retained such a degree of heat, that we could pot stand upon it for any considerable time, but were obliged very frequently to step on the ground, or on older lava, to cool our feet. We had advanced a good way on a large piece of the latest lava, which was perfectly black and hard, and seemed cooler than the rest; while from this we looked at a stream of liquid lava, which flowed sluggishly along a hollow way at some distance. I accidentally threw my eyes below my feet, and perceived something, which mightily discomposed my contemplations. This was a small stream of the same matter, gliding to one side from beneath the black crust on which we stood. The idea of this crust giving way, and our sinking into the glowing liquid which it covered, made us shift our ground with great precipitation ; which one of our guides observing, he called out, Animo, animo, signori;' and immediately jumped on the incrustation which we had abandoned, and danced above it, to shew that it was sufficiently strong, and that we had no reason to be afraid. We afterwards threw large stones of the heaviest kind we could find, into this rivulet, on whose surface they floated like cork in water ; and on thrusting a stick into the stream, it required a consider,
able exertion of strength to make it enter. - About this time the day began to overcast; this destroyed our hopes of enjoying the view from the top of the mountain, and we were not tempted to ascend any farther.
Sometime after, I went to the summit with another party ;-but I think it fair to inform you, that I have no thing new to say on the subject of volcanos, nor any philosophical remarks to make upon lavas. I have no guess of what time may be necessary for the formation of soil, nor do I know whether it accumulates in a regular progression, or is accelerated or retarded by various accidents, which may lead us into infinite errors, when we calculate time by such a rule. I have not the smallest wish to insinuate that the world is an hour older than Moses makes it; because I imagine those gentlemen whose calculations differ from his, are very nearly as liable to be as mistaken as he because an attempt to prove it more ancient, can be of no service to mankind; and finally, because, unless it could at the same time be proved that the world has acquired wisdom in proportion to its years, such an attempt conveys an oblique reflection on its character; for many follies may be overlooked and forgiven to a world of only five or six thousand years of age, which would be quite unpardonable at a more advanced period of existence, Having forewarned you that I shall treat of none of those matters, but simply describe what I saw, and mention perhaps a few incidents, none of which, I confess, are of great importance, I leave it in your choice to ascend the mountain with me, or not, as you please.
Having proceeded on mules as far as on the former occasion, we walked to that part of the mountain which is almost perpendicular. This appears of no great height, yet those who have never before attempted this ascent, fatigue themselves here much more than during all the rest of the journey, notwithstanding their being assisted " by laying hold of the belts which the guides wear about their waists for that purpose. This part of the mountain appearing much shorter than it really is, people are tempt ed to make a violent effort, in the expectation of surmounting the difficulty at once; but the cinders, ashes, and other drossy materials, giving way, the foot generally sinks back two-thirds of each step, so that besides the height being greater than it appears, you have all the fatigue of ascending a hill three times as high as this is in reality, Those, therefore, who set out too briskly at first, and do not husband their strength at the beginning, have reason to repent their imprudence, being obliged to throw many a longing look, and make many a fruitless vow, before they, with the wretched guide who lugs them along, can arrive, panting and breathless, at the top; like those young men who, having wasted their vigour in early excesses, and brought on premature old age, link themselves to some ill-fated woman, who drags them, tormenting and tormented, to the grave.
Those who wish to view Mount Vesuvius to the greatest advantage, must begin their expedition in the evening; and the darker the succeeding night happens to be, so much the better. By the time our company had arrived at the top of the mountain, there was hardly any other light than that which issued by interrupted flashes from the volcano.
Exclusive of those periods when there are actual eruptions, the appearance and quantity of what issues from the mountain are very various ; sometimes, for a long space of time together, it seems in a state of almost perfect tranquillity ; nothing but a small quantity of smoke ascending from the volcano, as if that vast magazine of fuel, which has kept it alive for so many ages, was at last exhausted, and nothing remained but the dying embers, then, perhaps, when least expected, the cloud of smoke thickens, and is intermixed with flame; at other times, quantities of pumice stone and ashes are thrown up with a kind of hissing noise. For near a week the mountain has been more turbulent than it has been since the small eruption, or rather boiling over of lavá, which took place about two months ago; and while we remained at the top,
the explosions were of sufficient importance to satisfy our curiosity to the utmost. They appeared much more considerable there than we had imagined while at a greater distance; each of them was preceded by a noise like thunder within the mountain ; a column of thick black smoke then issued out with great rapidity, followed by a blaze of flame; and immediately after, a shower of cinders and ashes, or red hot stones, were thrown into the sky. This was succeeded by a calm of a few minutes, during which nothing issued but a moderate quantity of smoke and flame, which gradually increased, and terminated in thunder and explosion as before. These accesses and intervals continued with varied force while we remained.
When we first arrived, our guides placed us at a reasonable distance from the mouth of the volcano, and on the side from which the wind came, so that we were no way incommoded by the smoke. In this situation the wind also bore to the opposite side the cinders, ashes, and other fiery substances, which were thrown up; and we ran no danger of being hurt, except when the explosion was very violent, and when red hot stones, and such heavy substances were thrown like sky-rockets, with a great noise and prodigious force, into the air ; and even these make such a flaming appearance, and take so much time in de scending, that they are easily avoided.
Mr. Brydone, in his admirable account of Mount Ætna, tells us, he was informed, that, in an eruption of that mountain, large rocks of fire were discharged, with a noise much more terrible than that of thunder ; that the person who informed him, reckoned from the time of their est elevation till they reached the ground, and found they took twenty-one seconds to descend; from whence he concludes their elevation had been seven thousand feet. This unquestionably required a power of projection far superior to what Vesuvius has been known to exert. He himself measured the height of the explosions of the latter by the same rule ; and the stones thrown the highest, never took above nine seconds to descend; which, by the same me
thod of calculating, shews they had risen to little more than twelve hundred feet.-A pretty tolerable height, and might have satisfied the ambition of Vesuvius, if the stones of Ætna had not been said to have mounted so much higher. But before such an excessive superiority is granted to the latter, those who are acquainted with Mr. Brydone will recollect, that they have his own authority for the one fact, and that of another person for the other.
After having remained sometime at the place where they were posted by the guides, our company grew bolder, as they became more familiarized to the object. Some made the circuit of the volcano, and by that means increased the risk of being wounded by the stones thrown out. , Your young friend Jack was a good deal hurt by a fall, as he ran to avoid a large portion of some fiery substance, which seemed to be falling directly on his head.
Considering the rash and frolicsome disposition of some who visit this mountain, it is very remarkable that so few fatal accidents happen. I have heard of young English gentlemen betting, who should venture farthest, or remain longest, near the mouth of the volcano. A very dreadful event had nearly taken place while our company remained. The bank, if it may be so called, on which some of them had stood when they looked into the volcapo, actually fell in before we left the summit of the mountain. This made an impression on all present, and inclined them to abandon so treacherous a neighbourhood. The steep hill of dross and cinders, which we had found it so difficult to ascend, we descended in a twinkling; but, as the night was uncommonly dark, we had much trouble in passing over the rough valley between that and the bermitage, near which the mules waited. I ought to be ashamed, however, to mention the fatigue of this expedi. tion ; for two ladies, natives of Geneva, formed part of the company. One of them, big with child, accompanied her husband as far as the hermitage, and was then with difficulty persuaded to go back ; the other actually went to the summit, and returned with the rest of the company.