Friday, October 14, 2005

Earthquake at Naples

Extract of a Letter from Naples, giving an account of the Earthquake

Naples: July 26th, 1805, 12 o'Clock at night.

Have had a most dreadful earthquake; it took place about near a quarter-past ten. I was at the theatre, where I found myself suddenly rolling about in my chair, and the whole house apparently falling: judge of the confusion it occasioned. Everybody rushed to the door, and I was fortunate enough to be one of the first; several houses
had been thrown down, and many lives lost.

The front of the house next to Mr. Elliot fell down, and killed a man who was passing. On my return to my house I found the walls cracked, and in many places quite opened.

As the mountain remains quiet, only throwing out flames occasionally, we are afraid of a second shock. Elliot and his whole family mean to pass the night in their
carriages on the sea-shore: most of those who have carriages have followed his example; the squares are crowded with them. I am not determined what I shall do.

2 0'Clock a.m.—The streets are crowded with processions: nothing is heard but the howling of the lazaroni; everybody calling on St. Ann, for what reason I have not yet been able to learn. I believe the worst thing to do is to go to bed.

July llth.—We have had no return of the earthquake. I have been assured by several grave people that we are indebted to St. Ann's interposition for this, as she seems to be in the secret: a heretic may be pardoned in saying she might as well have prevented the first shock. Joking apart, we have had a very narrow escape. The shock was excessively severe, and lasted nearly a minute: had it continued with equal violence a few seconds longer, we should have had a repetition of all the horrors of the Lisbon earthquake in 1755.

There is scarce a house that has not been damaged more or less. There was nothing in the heavens that indicated the approach of this commotion; the day had been sultry, and was succeeded by one of those fine Italian nights unknown in the north; there was not a cloud to be seen in the horizon, nor a breath of air stirring. During the shock, and for some time afterwards, partial eddies of wind brought with them immense clouds of dust, hut they were soon dispersed; and the remainder of the night was as fine as the former part, nor is there a cloud to be seen this morning.

July 28th.—The whole town passed last night in the squares and open places, as a return of the earthquake was expected. It was the most horrible sight I ever beheld. Notwithstanding the immense crowds, a perfect silence prevailed, interrupted only by the crying of women and the singing of children, who paraded the streets in processions with flambeaux in honour of the Virgin. Not a smile was seen on any countenance; the fierce looks of the lazaroni increased the horror of the scene. The havoc is infinitely greater than was at first imagined. The houses destroyed are estimated at five millions of piastres; whole streets are in ruins.

The shock was so strong that the crew of the 'Excellent,' anchored at two miles from the shore, supposed that the ship had struck against the earth, and all the officers
|nd men were upon deck en chemise. It is supposed that not more than ninety people have been crushed at Naples.

July 29th —All remains quiet, but we are daily receiving reports from the environs that are truly distressing. Half of the town of Averca is destroyed. At Capua the barracks fell in, and killed or wounded seventy-three soldiers. The towns of Isernia (about sixty miles from hence) and Campo Basso are entirely destroyed. At Aventino they have lost eight hundred persons. At another town (the name of which I have forgot) the loss is upwards of one thousand. I will write again by the next post, that you may not be uneasy on my account. I am, however, in great hopes that all danger is over.

Naples: August 6th, 1805.— We have fortunately had no return of the earthquake: the slightest, in the present ruined state of the town, would bring the whole about our ears. The shock has been sufficiently great; - 'tis said twelve thousand persons have perished, though the government allows but five thousand. Forty-two towns or villages have suffered more or less, some of which are entirely destroyed. The town of Boiardo has totally disappeared, and a lake has been formed in its place. A new volcano is said to have burst out in the chain of the Apennines which runs behind Isernia; a fortunate event, which has, perhaps, saved us from the
renewal of the earthquake by giving vent to the volcanic matter, which from some secret cause had set in agitation the bowels ef the earth.

You may form some idea of the violence of the shock, from the circumstance of some persons being affected by it as by sea-sickness. The children of Sir Grenville Temple, who, from being ignorant of the danger, cannot be supposed to have been influenced by fear, were affected in this manner in common with several grown people. I myself did not feel any sensation of this sort, perhaps from having been
constantly in motion: the same cause prevented my feeling the second and third shocks, which took place at eleven and one o'clock the same night; but if my imagination does not deceive me, the earth has never ceased to tremble ever since the great shock. One wing of the house in which I live has been declared uninhabitable: my part has not suffered so much; but it will be necessary that it should undergo a thorough repair, being cracked from top to bottom, and the walls open in several places,

August 13th.—At seven o'clock last night we had a most furious eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The lava, a mile and a half in breadth, ran down to the sea a distance of seven miles in three hours, destroying vineyards, cattle, houses—in short, everything it met in its passage. The damage it has done is immense. The effect it produced when it came in contact with the sea was truly sublime; for one hundred yards round you might have boiled an egg in the water, so violent a heat did it communicate. Seven or eight old people only have perished.

Notwithstanding the destruction it has occasioned, I cannot but look upon it as a fortunate circumstance, as it has probably saved us from a repetition of the earthquake.


Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Lazaroni: The homeless idlers of Naples who live by chance work or begging; -- so called from the Hospital of St. Lazarus, which serves as their refuge. [Written also, but improperly, lazaroni.]

10:28 PM  

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