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December 1831

December 1.--There are two good libraries, on a different plan and for different purposes--a modern subscription library that lends its own books, and an ancient foreign library which belonged to the Knights, but does not lend books. Its value is considerable, but the funds unfortunately are shamefully small; I may do this last some good. I have got in a present from Frere the prints of the Siege of Malta, very difficult to understand, and on loan from Mr. Murray, Agent of the Navy Office, the original of Boiardo, to be returned through Mr. Murray, Albemarle Street. Mr. Murray is very good-natured about it.

December 2.--My chief occupation has been driving with Frere. Dr. Liddell declines a handsome fee. I will want to send some oranges to the children. I am to go with Col. Bathurst to-day as far as to wait on the bishop. My old friend Sir John Stoddart's daughter is to be married to a Captain Atkinson. Rode with Frere. Much recitation.

December 6.--Captain Pigot inclines to take me on with him to Naples, after which he goes to Tunis on Government service. This is an offer not to be despised, though at the expense of protracting the news from Scotland, which I engage to provide for in case of the worst, by offering Mr. Cadell a new romance, to be called The Siege of Malta, which if times be as they were when I came off, should be thankful[ly received] at a round sum, paying back not only what is overdrawn, but supplying finances during the winter.

December 10, [Naples].--I ought to say that before leaving Malta I went to wait on the Archbishop: a fine old gentleman, very handsome, and one of the priests who commanded the Maltese in their insurrection against the French. I took the freedom to hint that as he had possessed a journal of this blockade, it was but due to his country and himself to give it to the public, and offered my assistance. He listened to my suggestion, and seemed pleased with the proposal, which I repeated more than once, and apparently with success. Next day the Bishop returned my visit in full state, attended by his clergy, and superbly dressed in costume, the pearls being very fine. (The name of this fine old dignitary of the Romish Church is Don Francis Caruana, Bishop of Malta.)

The last night we were at Malta we experienced a rude shock of an earthquake, which alarmed me, though I did not know what it was. It was said to foretell that the ocean, which had given birth to Graham's Island, had, like Pelops, devoured its own offspring, and we are told it is not now visible, and will be, perhaps, hid from those who risk the main; but as we did not come near its latitude we cannot say from our own knowledge that the news is true. I found my old friend Frere as fond as ever of old ballads. He took me out almost every day, and favoured me with recitations of the Cid and the continuation of Whistlecraft. He also acquainted me that he had made up to Mr. Coleridge the pension of £200 from the Board of Literature[499] out of his own fortune.

December 13, [Naples].--We left Malta on this day, and after a most picturesque voyage between the coast of Sicily and Malta arrived here on the 17th, where we were detained for quarantine, whence we were not dismissed till the day before Christmas. I saw Charles, to my great joy, and agreed to dine with his master, Right Hon. Mr. Hill,[500] resolving it should be my first and last engagement at Naples. Next morning much struck with the beauty of the Bay of Naples. It is insisted that my arrival has been a signal for the greatest eruption from Vesuvius which that mountain has favoured us with for many a day. I can only say, as the Frenchman said of the comet supposed to foretell his own death, "_Ah, messieurs, la comète me fait trop d'honneur_." Of letters I can hear nothing. There are many English here, of most of whom I have some knowledge.

December 25, [Bay of Naples].--We are once more fairly put into quarantine. Captain Pigot does not, I think, quite understand the freedom his flag is treated with, and could he find law for so doing would try his long thirty-six pounders on the town of Naples and its castles; not to mention a sloop of ten guns which has ostentatiously entered the Bay to assist them. Lord knows we would make ducks and drakes of the whole party with the _Barham's_ terrible battery!

There is a new year like to begin and no news from Britain. By and by I will be in the condition of those who are sick and in prison, and entitled to visits and consolation on principles of Christianity.

December 26, [Strada Nuova].--Went ashore; admitted to pratique, and were received here.[501] Walter has some money left, which we must use or try a begging-box, for I see no other resource, since they seem to have abandoned me so. Go ashore each day to sight-seeing. Have the pleasure to meet Mr.[502] and Mrs. Laing-Meason of Lindertis, and have their advice and assistance and company in our wanderings almost every day. Mr. Meason has made some valuable remarks on the lava where the villas of the middle ages are founded: the lava shows at least upon the ancient maritime villas of the Romans; so the boot of the moderns galls the kibe of the age preceding them; the reason seems to be the very great durability with which the Romans finished their domestic architecture of maritime arches, by which they admitted the sea into their lower houses.[503]

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We were run away with, into the grotto very nearly, but luckily stopped before we entered, and so saved our lives. We have seen the Strada Nuova--a new access of extreme beauty which the Italians owe to Murat.

The Bay of Naples is one of the finest things I ever saw. Vesuvius controls it on the opposite side of the town.

I never go out in the evening, but take airings in the day-time almost daily. The day after Christmas I went to see some old parts of the city, amongst the rest a tower called Torre del Carmine, which figured during the Duke of Guise's adventure, and the gallery of as old a church, where Masaniello was shot at the conclusion of his career.[504] I marked down the epitaph of a former Empress,[505] which is striking and affecting. It would furnish matter for my Tour if I wanted it.

    "Naples, thou'rt a gallant city,
    But thou hast been dearly bought"--[506]
So is King Alphonso made to sum up the praises of this princely town, with the losses which he had sustained in making himself master of it. I looked on it with something of the same feelings, and I may adopt the same train of thought when I recall Lady Northampton, Lady Abercorn, and other friends much beloved who have met their death in or near this city.

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FOOTNOTES:

[499] By "Board of Literature" Scott doubtless means the Royal Society of Literature, instituted in 1824 under the patronage of George iv.; see _ante_, vol. i. pp. 390-91. Besides the members who paid a subscription there were ten associates, of whom Coleridge was one, who each received an annuity of a hundred guineas from the King's bounty. When William IV. succeeded his brother in 1830, he declined to continue these annuities. Representations were made to the Government, and the then Prime Minister, Earl Grey, offered Coleridge a private grant of £200 from the Treasury, which he declined.

The pension from the Society or the Privy Purse of George iv., which Mr. Hookham Frere told Sir Walter he had made up to Coleridge, was one hundred guineas.

[500] Afterwards Lord Berwick.

[501] The travellers established themselves in the Palazzo Caramanico as soon as they were released from quarantine.

[502] A brother of Malcolm Laing, the historian.

[503] An account is given by Sir William Gell of an excursion by sea to the ruins of such a Roman villa on the promontory of Posilipo, to which he had taken Sir Walter in a boat on the 26th of January.--_Life_, vol. x. pp. 157-8.

[504] For a picturesque sketch of Naples during the insurrection of 1647 see Sir Walter's article on Masaniello and the Duke of Guise.--_Foreign Quarterly Review_, vol. iv. pp. 355-403.

[505] See Appendix iv.: "A former Empress." Sir Walter no doubt means the mother of Conradin of Suabia, or, as the Italians call him, Corradino,--erroneously called "Empress," though her husband had pretensions to the Imperial dignity, disputed and abortive. For the whole affecting story see _Histoire de la Conquête de Naples_, St. Priest, vol. iii. pp. 130-185, especially pp. 162-3.

[506] A variation of the lines on Alphonso's capture of the city in 1442:--

"And then he looked on Naples, that great city of the sea, 'O city,' saith the King, 'how great hath been thy cost, For thee I twenty years--my fairest years--have lost.'"

--Lockhart's _Spanish Ballads_, "The King of Arragon."

Sir Walter Scott