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The original letters, which we have frequently had the pleasure of communicating to the publick,
have been in general written in different situations, and on desultery subjects.
The following is
the beginning of a regular serics of letters by a gentleman, who has all the qualities which taste, talents, fortune, and liberality can give, to make him a pleasant traveller.
Defiarture from America...storms in the ocean...lunar rainbow...streights of Gibraltar...island of Sicily... Ustica...Lifari islands...coast of St. Eusernia
...arrival at Mafiles...quarantine. Port of Naples, Feb. 1802:
You will, my dear friend, participate the satisfaction I feel in dating my letter from this place. . The dangers and hardships to which ships are exposed in a winter passage across the ocean have been this season uncommonly numerous. From the period of our departure till our arrival here, we have been devoted to the fury of successive tempests, with only short intervals of good weather. We were told upon our arrival that we were not alone in misfortune, that the winter had been very tempestuous, and that the shores of Europe were covered with wrecks. When in the latitude of the Western Islands, a most violent storm assailed us, which continued during two days with unabated violence. It cleared away in the evening, and I was witness to an appearance I had never before seen. The full moon was considerably elevated above the horizon, and her rays occasioned in the heavy cloud that was Vol. III. No. 1. A
subsiding a rainbow, which continued in the most perfect state for half an hour. The arc was entire, but the colours fainter than those produced by the sun. The agitation of the waves gradually dying away, the splendour of the moon, the dense clouds on which this bow appeared with majestick elegance, altogether formed a scene, the sublimity of which afforded me consolation for the storm which was past. The thirtieth day of our passage we saw the streights of Gibraltar, the pillars of Hercules, and the formidable rock, which, since its famous siege, must be deemed impregnable. A favourable wind gave the vessel a rapid passage through the streights. On one side of us were the shores of Europe, on the other those of Africa. Civilization and barbarity are here within sight of each other : Even the appearance of the shores was expressive of the different characters of the two regions ; the Spanish coast presented to view green fields, white buildings, and smiling cultivation ;
that of Barbary looked dark and gloomy. After getting thro’ the streights we saw two Swedish frigates with a convoy of forty or fifty sail of their countrymen. The wind was against them, and from what we afterwards experienced must have continued adverse to them for several days, during which they could not advance. The current, through the streights, runs constantly two or three miles an hour ; merchant vessels and heavy ships of war never attempt to pass out of the streights with a contrary wind, though sometimes they have been known to experience a delay of two months. The evening of the day we passed the streights the sky was covered with flying clouds, the night was obscure, and we were sailing with a gentle breeze, while the sea
was remarkably brilliant ; every
little wave that broke looked like a bank of snow reflecting the rays of the sun, while the passage of the vessel through the sea made the water all around her so luminous, that I could see to read as clearly as by day. This sparkling appearance of the waves is said to denote an approaching storm, though afterwards we experienced five or six days of the only fine weather we had during the voyage. During the night the vessel had gone fifty miles, and in the morning, when I came upon deck, the coasts of Spain were four or five leagues distant, and those of Africa still more. The mountains of Grenada seemed to be on the edge of the coast, and the shining appearance of their distant summits recalled to mind the splendid ačrial palaces of romance. After three days we passed by Cape Tarolaro on the island of Sardinia, and twenty-four hours afterwards saw the island of Sicily and
the singular fantastick forms of its capes and promontories. We tried in vain to get into Palermo ; the wind was fair to go to Naples, and the captain bore away. Soon after we passed the island of Ustica, which is in the route from Palermo to Naples, a vessel appeared behind us of suspicious aspect. Like frightened children in the dark, to whom every object is a sprite, every vessel we saw was a Tripolitan pirate, and the sight of breakers was less terrifick than that of a sail. The ship in question sailed better than ourselves, and was gaining fast upon us. Every one of the crew was anticipating the horrours of slavery, when a violent squall came upon us so suddenly,that for several minutes every one expected to see the masts carried away, even after the vessel was put before the wind. After an
hour, during which we had changed
our course and were going with great rapidity, the squall cleared away, and we saw no more of the vessel which had alarmed us. This propitious squall, though it threatefied us with destruction, was welcomed with great cordiality. How barbarous is the state of human nature . The sight of a vessel, on the dreary expanse of the sea, ought to be an object of the most pleasing sensations, and in moments of danger, alleviating the solitude of horrour, should inspire us with hope by knowing that others are participating the same danger ; yet such a sight is deprecated more than the wildest fury of the elements, and we greet the howling tempest that separates us from each other. The IRoxt day we were in the mouth of the bay of Naples, but the weather was cloudy and the land could only be seen partially. The captain thought himself to the northward of the island of Ischia,
though he was to the southward of Capra ; and instead of running as he thought into the bay of Naples, he was running down the gulf of Salerno. A storm came on towards night of the most furious kind, such as the sailors call white squalls. The flashes of lightning were extremely vivid, and the utmost exer. tions were used to clear the land. The next day the Lipari islands were in sight, and the vessel was tossed about on mountainous waves, I have observed, that the seas are much shorter, according to the sai. lors’ expression, in the Mediterra, nean than in the ocean ; and the only advantage of a storm in the former is, that the swell subsides sooner after the storm is past. But it is a treacherous sea to navigate, and fraught with more perils to navigation than the ocean. Violent squalls often arise very suddenly, and I was convinced that the mode of rigging vessels in the fashion of poleacres is well calculated for this sea. They are enabled to drop their sails all at once, when a vessel with a mast in three pieces might be dismasted before she could take in sail. At night, when the vessel was not more than four leagues from Stromboli, I observed it burning. It threw out flames to the height apparently of twenty feet; this would last a few minutes, and thus it continued the whole night at intervals. During the day it appeared smoking, but owing to the distance and the light I could see no flames. Whilst beating off this island, and trying to regain the bay of Naples, another storm drove us upon the coast of Calabria. I do not know any Juno that I have offended, but Æolus did not torment the Trojan hero more than myself, and very often I thought of Virgil's ancient description of the storm.
Una Eurusque Notusqu ruunt crtbergut procellis,
The vessel was at one time waterlogged, the sails were torn to pieces, the foremast sprung, and with only a close-reefed fore top sail, we tried to keep off the shore ; no one had any hope that we should be able to do this long, and every preparation was made to be ready to save ourselves when the vesscl struck, which thro' the whole night was constantly expected. When day light came the shore was still a league distant. The gale had moderated, and the swell began to lessen ; we were now near the bay of St.Eusernia. After five or six days beating about, we again found ourselves opposite the bay of Naples, in the same place where we had been more than a fortnight before. The weather was pleasant, but the wind determined to vex us to the last moment; and though we were only two hours sail from the port, we did not arrive till the next day. My pleasure on arriving was much increased by contemplating the beauties of this bay, of which description has so often attempted in vain to give an idea, The second day of this month the vessel was anchored within the mole. Though we had made a winter passage of sixty days, from a country perfectly healthy, the ingenuity of the health-office thought proper to impose a quarantine of twenty days upon the vessel. Being now in a place of safety, after having escaped so many dangers, I consider this as the last vexation of the voyage, and endeavour to Support it patiently, as it will soon terminate ; though I have so long enjoyed the society of the captain and mate that I begin to grow tired of it. The latter asked me the other day, with a silly hesitating grin, to guess how much money he hal spent since our arrival. I confessed my inability to fix any sum. “Why we have been here only ten
MY own opinion always has been, that the present state of illumination and refinement will be succeeded by second darkness and Cimmerian night, equally gloomy with the cloud raised by the crush of the Roman empire. The reply of those to whom the idea was suggested uniformly has been, imfossible ; the art of printing renders such fears groundless. I answer : the art of printing itself may become exclusively the engine of wickedness, of vice, of folly, of irreligion. If the fashion or madness of the times should produce a relish for corrupted food, we may be filled with writings to satiety, yet swallow nothing but poison ; what infinite mischief has the press produced in our own days In France, the vehicle of every crime, it has been the easy propagator of blasphemy, of massacre, of anarchy. Whether it shall finally be a blessing or a curse, must depend on the taste of mankind ; and if that taste be vitiated, and feeds upon venom, the more it consumes the sooner will we perish. The press, without, morals will not preserve civilization ; and immorality will make it the vehicle of barbarism. -
What do the common people now read 3...newspapers; and what
do newspapers contain 3...false news, false principles, false morals, endeavoured to be impressed on the publick by contending parties, without the least regard to truth, to virtue, or publick utility ; and who are the compilers of these vehicles of instruction (the only lessons learnt by the vulgar) often the low
est, and vilest, and most ignorant of
mankind. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle taught the Athenian people. The people of London are taught by the compilers of newspapers, the engines of the mob or of the gourt. That the common people ought not to be taught to read, as is said by some, is justly thought a monstrous position, yet it might be rendered true, if all they read tend to mislead and to darken them. Does the press improve their civilization ? that press which pours forth every day, for the in provement of our young men, the scenes of a brothel, illustrated with drawings ; and for its maidens, the delusions of a novel, or the evidence of a trial for adultery 2 Query, whether the publications of morality and religion, numerous as they are, countervail the advantage which Satan derives from the art of printing 2 . ...