From Spurgeon's Autobiography
A Traveller's Letters Home (continued)
We have been over the museum,full of frescoes from Pompeii, gleanings from the catacombs, pickings from the Appian Way, stealings from the baths of Caracalla and other places. Naples has taken away from Rome the best of the ancient statuary and treasures, and prepared a vast museum for the spoils. We saw thousands of precious things, enough for a year's inspection; but the Pompeian remains were the most important. There were surgical instruments exactly like those of the present day;cottage-loaves of bread, stewpans, colanders, ladles, and all cookery things just like our own. The safes for money were just like old plate-Chests. There were cotton, silk, and thread, in skeins and hanks, and large knitting and netting needles. Indeed, the people then had all we have now; even earthen money-boxes with a slit in the top, such as the children have in our country villages. There were plenty of proofs that the people were sinners, and of a scarlet dye, too. It was curious to see the colors in a painter's shop, the bottles and drugs of a Chemist, and the tools of other traders. We saw also a splendid collection of ancient gems and cameos, most costly and lovely. I never saw so many gathered together before.
We drove from the museum to the site of a new field of lava, which flowed down from Vesuvius last April. It is just beyond the houses of suburban Naples, and was very different from what I had expected. It had crossed our road, and passed on through a vineyard,this was one tongue of the stream. Then we crossed a second by a road made near it, and came to a village through which the largest stream had burned its way. It is a huge incandescent sea of the outflow of the volcano men were blasting and using pickaxes to open up the road which the flood had completely blocked. We were soon upon the lava; it has a surface like a heap of ashes, supposing that every ash should weigh a ton or two. It is still hot, and in some places smoking. I should have investigated it carefully, and with interest, only a horde of children, beggars, and women with babies gave us no rest, but continued crying, and imploring alms, and offering us pieces picked out of the mass. Much of the strange material is far too hot to hold, and our feet felt the heat as we walked across the surface. The stream has partly destroyed several houses, and cut the village in two; people are living in the half of a house which stands, the other half being' burned and filled up with the molten substance. Vesuvius, high above us, is only giving out a little smoke, and seems quiet enough. As I could never climb up to the crater, I think we shall be content to have seen this lava torrent.
Our hotel here is vast and empty; we have excellent rooms, and are thoroughly comfortable. There is music continually, and very fair music, too, though not so sweet as silence. Everybody makes all the noise possible, and quiet dwells beyond the sea. Rome is a sepulcher, this city teems with life. You are not out of the door a moment before you are entreated to have a carriage, buy fruit, fish, pictures, papers, or something. The side-streets swarm with people, who appear to live in them; there they eat, cook, work, catch fleas;, hunt over each other's heads like so many monkeys, etc., etc. It is like living in a museum; but as to the beauty and gracefulness of which we read so much, I cannot detect it, though really looking for it. Persons over forty look worn out, and females at that age are haggard; over that period, they are. ghastly and mummified. Macaroni hangs out, in some quarters, before the doors on lines to dry; and the flies, which are numerous upon it, give it anything but an attractive appearance. To-morrow, we hope to go to Pompeii. I am now thinking about next month's Magazine, and devoutly wish I could light upon a subject for an article,but my brain is dull.
We have seen Pompeii. We drove there, and it took us three hours, almost all of it between long lines of houses, like one continuous street. At the town of Resina, we passed Herculaneum, but did not enter it, as Pompeii is more worth seeing. Then we went through a town which has, I think, been seven times destroyed by Vesuvius, and is now crowded with people. There we saw the lava by the side of, and under the houses, hard as a rock; and the roads are generally paved with great flags of the same material. Though driving by the shore of the bay, we seldom saw the water, for even where there was no town, there were high walls, and, worst of all, off the stones the white dust was suffocating, and made us all look like millers. However, we reached Pompeii at last, and I can only say, in a sentence, it exceeds in interest all I have seen before, even in Rome. I walked on, on, on, from twelve to four o'clock, lost in wonder amid the miles of streets of this buried city, now silent and open to the gazer's eye. To convey a worthy idea of it to you, would be impossible, even in a ream of paper.
The photograph I send shows the garden, with covered walk round it, and tank for live fish. In this street were several places for seats in the shade, made in. great semicircles, so that a score of persons could rest at once. Near the gate was the niche where the soldier was found who kept his watch while others fled. We could not think of going up and down all the streets; it would need many days to see all. The city was, I should think, a watering-place for the wealthy. No poor class of houses has yet been discovered. It was paved with great slabs, of stone, which are worn deeply with cart or chariot wheels. Across the streets were huge stepping-stones, just wide enough to allow wheels to go on each side; but either they had no horses to the cars in these streets, or else they must have been trained to step over. In some places were horsing-blocks, in others; there were holes in the kerbstone to pass a rope through to tie up a horse. The houses are many of theta palaces, and contained great treasures of art, which are now in museums, but enough is left in each case to show what they were. Frescoes remain in abundance, and grottoes, and garden fountains, and marble terraces for cascades of water. It is a world of wonders.
In one part of the city, a noble owner had let the corner of his house to a vendor of warm wines, and there, is his marble counter, with the holes therein for his warming-pots. Stains of wine were on the counter when it was first uncovered.
We saw the back parlor of a drinking-shop, with pictures on the wall of a decidedly non-teetotal character. There were several bakers' shops with hand-mills, the tops of which turned round on a stone, and ground well, no doubt. In one, we saw the oven, with a water-jar near it,in this place were found 183 loaves of bread.
In the doctors' and chemists' shops, when opened, they saw the medicines as they were when entombed, and even pills left in the process of rolling! In the custom-house were standard weights and measures. Soap factories have their evaporating-pans remaining. Oil vessels abound; and in one, made of glass, some of the oil may still be seen. Cookshops had in them all the stewpans, gridirons, and other necessities of the trade. We saw jewelers' shops, artists' studios, and streets of grocers' and drapers' shops, many with signs over their doors. The baths impressed me much, to they had been newly built when the awful tragedy took place, and look as if they were opened yesterday;a fine cold plunge-bath, with water carried high for a "shower", a dressing-room with niches for brushes, combs, and pomades,all of which were there, but have been removed to museums;and a great brazier in green bronze, with seats round it for the bathers to dry themselves;a warm bath, and a vapor bath all perfect, and looking ready for use to-morrow.
The Forum was vast, and had in it the facades of several magnificent temples, the remains of which reveal their former glory. The pedestals of the statues of the eminent men of the town remain with their names upon them. We saw the tragic and comic theatres, and the amphitheater which held 20,000 persons, in which the people were assembled when the eruption came, and from which they escaped, but had to flee to the fields, and leave their houses for ever.
In the Temple of Isis, we saw the places where the priests were concealed when they made the goddess deliver her oracles! We saw the lady herself in the museum, with a pipe at the back of her head, which was fixed in the wall, and served as, the secret speaking-tube. The priests of His were found dead at her shrine; one of them with an axe had cut through two walls to get out, but had not succeeded. Poor creature!
In a money-changer's house, we saw his skeleton, lying on its face, with outstretched arms and hands much money was found near him. In the barracks were sixty-three persons, soldiers' and officers' wives. Here were the stocks which had been used for the punishment of refractory soldiers.
In the Street of Mercury is a triumphal arch, on which stood a statue of Nero, found nearly perfect. Here, too, we noted a drinking-fountain, and a house with its exterior richly adorned with red frescoes. In a vast Hall of Justice were cells under the magistrates' bench; and in these, three prisoners were found, inside an iron ring which went round their waists. They were, perhaps, waiting to be brought up before the aldermen for some misdemeanor, and expecting to be fined "five shillings and costs," but they perished like their betters, and were summoned before a higher tribunal.
Out of so great a city, I suppose comparatively few were destroyed; so, as the bodies of these are found, they are preserved, especially if anything remarkable is to be seen in connection with them.
We saw the digging still going on, and the mounds of removed, rubbish were like high railway embankments. No roofs remain, but spouts for the rain-water are there in great abundance; they are in the. form of dogs' and lions' heads and other quaint devices. No stables have yet been uncovered; but the carts, which stood at the inn doors, have left their iron tires, the skeletons of the horses, and their bits, to bear witness to their former existence. Skeletons of dogs and cats were there, and in a pan was a sucking pig prepared and just ready for roasting! I saw also a pot on a tripod, or trivet, which, when discovered, actually had water in it! I feel ashamed to write so badly on such a theme, but I cannot do better. It is too vast a task for me, and I fail to recollect a tithe of it. I must cease writing to-night, but I continue to breathe loving assurances to my sweet wifey.
We have been in a steamer to the Island of Capri, calling at Sorrento on the way;a glorious excursion, but we failed in our great object, which was, to see the Blue Grotto. The sea was too rough to permit entrance, as the opening is only three feet high, and no one can get in except during smooth water, and when the wind is from a certain quarter. However, vie stayed a couple of hours on the island, which is precipitous, so I did not climb, but sat on a balcony, enjoying the marvelous, scene. We reached Naples late, for the boat was slow; but first the sunset, and then the moonlight, gave us two charming effects, to which Vesuvius added by booking almost continuously. This little trip served as a pleasant rest and refreshment after the toil and the dust of Pompeii.
To-day, we have had a long and splendid drive to the other side of the bay. First along the quay, then through a tunnel almost half a mile long, and then skirting the bay, by road to Puteoli, where Paul landed;we saw the spot (as is supposed), and the commencement of the Appian Way which he followed till he reached Rome. At Puteoli, we first went into the crater of the Solfatara, a semi-extinct volcano, which has not been in eruption since 1198, when it destroyed ancient Puteoli. It is grown over with shrubs and small trees. A man throws down a big stone, which makes it all sound, and shows you that the whole vast area is hollow. You are fed to a great hole in the side of the hill, whence pours out, with the roar of an engine blowing off steam, a great quantity of sulphureous vapor. All around is; brimstone, and with a long kind of hoe a man rakes out bits from the mouth of the huge oven. The ground is very hot, and an odor, which is anything but dainty, prevails. You can go right up to it with perfect ease and safety. The vapor is; said to cure gout, but one must stand in it some time every day for a month! When Vesuvius is Furious, Solfatara subside so there seems good evidence that the two, though twelve miles apart, are vents of the same fires. We looked down on the Temple of Serapis; it has been up and down, and in and out of the sea several times, as; the restless coast hats risen or fallen. It is now out of water, but is remarkable rather for its history than for its present beauty.
The drive home was by the sea, and we could perceive buildings down at the bottom, under the clear blue water. These have been brought down by the depression of the land upon which they stood, owing to earthquakes. We crossed a lava torrent which had come from Monte Nuova, and then we went on by our former road though Puteoli, till we left it to return to Naples without traversing the tunnel. This road took us up on one side of the promontory of Posilippo, whence we saw Ischia, Puteoli, Baize, and Misenum; and then we went down the other side, with Capri, Sorrento, Vesuvius, and Naples, all in full view. We were quickly down among the grand equipages which fill the Riviera di Chiaia; and, dashing along as fast as any of them, we were soon at the hotel door; and, since table d'hôte, I have been writing this long narration for you. The air here is balmy, the atmosphere dry, the heat great in the sun, but bearable in the shade. Mosquitoes are fewer and less voracious than in Venice. Everything is restorative to the system, and exhilarating. Even the beggars seem to be happy. None are miserable but the old women and the priests. Organs are far too plentiful, and music of all sorts is ad nauseam. Of religion, I have only seen one trace, namely, the towing down of everyone when "the host" was being carried under an umbrella to some sick person, Beggar's swarm, and dealers in little wares assail you at all points, and will not cease their importunities, To-morrow will be the Sabbath, and in this I rejoice, for rest is sweet, and sweetest when made "holiness to the Lord." I send tons of love to you, hot as fresh lava. God bless you with His best blessings!
It is the Sabbath, quiet and restful. We have had a delightful service, and I have written for my note-book and the Magazine; so there will be a little less for my dear one, but there is nothing new to tell. I have been so grandly well all this time that I do not know how to be grateful enough, and my heart is light because you are better; my soul is at rest, my spirit leaps. I am indeed a debtor to Him who restoreth my soul. Blessed be His holy Name for ever and ever! We are very quiet, for there are no other visitors in the house; we have the best rooms, nice beds, well-curtained from mosquitoes. There is a house between us and the sea, but we can see the bay on each side of it, and Vesuvius if we go out on the balcony. The climate is like Heaven below, and cannot but be a medicine to the sick. I send you a photograph of a slave who was found in Pompeii close behind his master, and carrying a bag of money, both of them endeavoring to escape. It is a perfect model, covered with incrustations.
I have also sent the photograph of a grotto, or rather, ancient fountain in mosaic, which is in one of the houses.
They used to put a lamp inside the grotesque heads. Water fell in a little cascade down the steps. It seems in odd taste, but there are several such in the gardens of the buried villas.
To-morrow we hope to be travelling; God be with thee, mine own, and give thee peace and healing! My heart is everywhere and ever thine.
Again in Rome. Waking somewhat early this morning, I have risen to write to mine own darling wife. The fact is, I am afraid there will be a gap in the correspondence, and I shall be very sorry if it turns out to be so. Just as we left Naples, the rain began to descend, the warmth was gone, and we had a cool, if not a cold journey here. The fall in the temperature seemed to affect me, and I had a very disturbed and uncomfortable night. I am, however, so grateful for my long spell of rest, night by night, that this does not depress me, although I hoped that I was getting beyond the reach of such restless hours.
Florence.By an unfortunate mistake as to train, we were prevented from leaving Rome early this morning, so we have done a little more sight-seeing. One of our party is of the Mark Tapley school, and always persuades us that any hitch in our plans is a capital thing, and could not have happened better. We went off to Santa Maria Maggiore, and there saw the various chapels, and precious stones, and rare marbles, and bronzes, etc., etc. The old verger was so eloquent, in Italian that I made out nearly all he said. Then we went to the Borghese Palace, and saw long rooms of pictures, mostly saints and virgins. In these rooms were two sweet little fountains of water, and glasses; for the visitors to drink from. This is a private palace, but the public are always welcome. Then we found our way to the Jesuits' Church, where there was uncovered a silver statue of Loyola, of price, less value for the gems set in it, and the masses of lapis lazuli. Afterwards, we sat on the Pincian till the rain came, and it has poured down ever since, making our journey to this place a more weary one than usual. Everything is shrouded in mist, mildewed and funereal, except the young waterfalls, which leap like lions' whelps from Bashan, and laugh, and fling themselves about in their glee.
Genoa.We left Florence on Friday, and the day was fine, so that we greatly enjoyed the journey over the mountains to Bologna. Then it is a dull road to Alessandria, which we reached about six o'clock. Thence to Genoa should take two hours and a-half; but, in ascending the Maritime Alps, there was snow, and the engine crawled along, and at last stopped altogether. Think of it,going up hill, and stopping! The steam was put on, and the wheels revolved, sending out a shower of sparks, but the train did not stir. Then came men with spades to clear away some snow, and after a while the carriages moved, we gained the top of the hill, and ran down all right, getting into Genoa about 10 p.m. A long, tiresome day.
This morning, expecting to leave for Mentone at twelve o'clock, we hear that the line is broken in four places, and no train goes except at eight am., so we are here till Monday. It rains, and has rained all night in torrents. We must wait, and then go on in great uncertainty and sure discomfort. Never mind! it will serve me for illustration, no doubt. Dr. Jobson, a Wesleyan minister, has had an hour's happy chat with me, and very much interested me. He is a holy, liberal-hearted soul, and we enjoy a conversation together, so it is not all dullness. It is beginning to clear up while I am writing, so perhaps we may get a walk. I have had restful nights this week, and. am still really much better, but the damp and cold try me a good deal.
Sabbath.This day, which we have been forced to spend here, has not been an unhappy one, but a sweet day, most calm and bright. The rain cleared off yesterday about four o'clock, enabling us to wander through the narrow streets of Genoa la Superba, and to enter several of the churches. My indignation was stirred beyond measure when, upon looking into the confessional boxes,* I read the directions to the priest as to the questions he should ask the penitents. These were printed in Latin, and referred to those unmentionable crimes which brought fire upon Sodom, and are the curse of heathendom. To see young maidens kneel down to be asked such questions as these, made me wish that every priest could be cut off from the face of the earth as unfit to live, and I most deliberately invoked upon them all the righteous vengeance of an insulted God! Since I came away, my more sober reflections fully endorse my indignant wrath. How can the Lord endure all this? Truly, His patience is great.
Mentone.We came here yesterday from Genoa, and a very interesting journey it was. We left Genoa at eight o'clock, and went on all right till ten, when we all had to get out, for the road was destroyed. We walked down a lane, then over a bridge, then down on. the other side, and up the embankment, and got into another train. In this case, the bridge of the railway was broken by a torrent, and a break indeed it was. In due time, we went on; but, in an hour or so, came to a dead halt, and had to get out again. This time the walk was long, and the way went through a vineyard, and up a steep bank. Crowds of men and boys clamored for our luggage, and followed us all the half-mile we had to trudge. We had to wait forty minutes till another train came; and then, when We scrambled in, they quietly shoved us out of the way, and made us sit still for forty minutes more. We went on at little, only to stop again; and, at last, at Porto Maurizio, we had the carriages pushed by men over a dangerous place, and then hooked on to another train. However, we reached Ventimiglia safely at about seven o'clock, and then had an hour to wait to have dinner. We left there at 8 p.m., and arrived here at 7:20 p.m., this last being the greatest feat I ever performed! To travel for twenty minutes, and then to lind the clock forty minutes behind the time at which you started, is a gain not to be despised;the explanation is that Roman time is used at Ventimiglia, and Paris time at Mentone. The day was fine, and though the way was long, the adventures made the hours pass away merrily, and our Mark Tapley friend was quite in his element. We are at a most comfortable hotel, and everyone tries to please us. The landlord knew me at once, and shook hands heartily, saying, "How do you do, reverend? I am very glad to see you!"
To-day, while I was lying on the beach, and. Mark Tapley was slyly filling our pockets with stones, and rolling Mr. Passmore over, who should walk up but Mr. McLaren, of Manchester, with whom I had a long and pleasant chat. We are to go to Monaco to-morrow together. He has three months' holiday. I am glad I have not; but I should wish I had, if I had my dear wife with me to enjoy it. Poor little soul! she must suffer while I ramble. Two clergymen have had a long talk with me this evening. It began by one saying aloud to the other, "I hear Mr. Spurgeon has been here." This caused a titter round the table, for I was sitting opposite to him. Mentone is charming, but not very warm. It is as I like it, and is calculated to make a sick man leap with health. How I wish you could be here!
We have had another day here of the sweetest rest. We drove to Monaco and back, and saw to perfection the little rocky Principality. Its lovely gardens and promenades are kept up by the profits of the gaming-tables, which are in a far more sumptuous palace than those at Baden-Baden, which we saw together years ago. We had Mr. McLaren with us and went in and watched the players. One gentleman monopolized our attention; he was a fine-looking Englishman, like an officer. He lost a pile of money, and went out apparently most wretched and excited. Soon, he came in again, and changed bills for 3,000 francs, and began playing heavily. He won, and got back his bills; and when we left, we saw him come out; I could only hope that God had delivered him, and that he would be wise, and never go to the table, again. It is a vortex which sucks in a vast number of Victims day by day. What moths men are if the candle be but bright enough!
Yesterday, Mr. and Mrs. in tiller went with me to Dr. Bennet's garden, and I had a most profitable conversation with him, one to be remembered for many a day with delight. Dr. Bennet came up, and I was amused to hear Muller teaching him the power of prayer, and recommending him to pray about one of the terraces which he wants to buy, but the owner asks a hundred times its value. Dr. B. thought it too trifling a matter to take to the Lord; he said that Mr. Muller might very properly pray about the Orphanage, but as to this terrace, to complete his garden,he thought he could not make out a good case about it. Mr. M. said it encouraged people in sin if we yielded to covetous demands, so he thought the Dr. might pray that the owners should be kept from exorbitant claims; but Dr. B. said that, as ignorant peasants, they were very excusable for trying either to keep their land, or to get all they could from an Englishman whom they imagined to be a living gold mine! The spirit of both was good; but, of course, the simple, child-like holy trust of Muller was overpowering. He is not a sanctimonious person; but full of real joy, and sweet peace, and innocent pleasure.
Nice.In this; place we have been put up four flights of stairs, and, alas! into very cold rooms. I woke in the night, and felt as, it I were freezing in a vault, and my ankles were in great pain. I was much cast down; and, on getting out of bed, found the carpet and floor both very damp. I had a very bad night, and am now in much pain in the left foot. Yet I believe I shall get over it soon, and I mean to have no more of these climbings up stairs, and sleeping in horrid cells. Nice is a very grand place, and I am sorry we left Mentone to come to it. But I must not write in a grumbling vein. Here have I had nearly five weeks of good health, and have grown stronger every day; why should I care for one little relapse? We will be off to Cannes and Hyeres, and. see what God has in store for us. He will deal graciously with me as He has ever done.
Cannes.I was too ill yesterday to write. After the deadly chili of Thursday night at Nice, I felt the gout coming on, but resolved to escape from that inhospitable hotel. An hour brought us here, but it rained mercilessly, and all around was damp and chill. I got upstairs into beautiful rooms, but had to go to bed, which I have only left for a moment or two since, while it was being arranged. My left foot is badly swollen, and the knee-joint is following suit. I have had very little sleep, and am very low; but, oh, the kindness of these friends! They sit up with me all night by turns, and cheer me with promises. I hope I shall get home in time for Sunday, but have some fears of it. Do not fret about me, I may be well before this reaches you; and if I am, I will telegraph and say so. I have every comfort here but home, and my dear wifey's sweet words. I am sad that my journey should end so, but the Lord's will be done!
Two days later.I have had a heavy time of pain, my dearest, but am now better. God has changed the weather;yesterday was warm, to-day is hot, so we think it best to hurry on, and, if possible, have a coupé-lit right through to Paris. I feel well in myself, but the knee will not bear me, though I think I should be as strong as a horse after a day or two of this weather. How much I have to thank the Lord for! Such kind friends! They have proved their love beyond all praise. I was never alone. Even the femme de chambre pitied "pauvre monsieur," and did her best for me. I hope now to get home in time for Sunday. My soul loves you, and longs to see you.
Paris.In the hope that one more letter may reach you before I come personally, I give myself the delight of writing it. The telegram will have told you that, at the very prudent advice of the doctor, I left Cannes at 3.15 on Tuesday in a coupé-lit to travel direct to Paris. It has proved a very wise step. A lady lent her Bath-chair to take me to the station, and porters lifted me into the carriage. There I had a nice sofa-bed and every convenience. I lay there with great comfort till we reached Marseilles; then came the night, and I had hoped to sleep, but the extreme oscillation of the train quite prevented that. Once only I dozed for a few minutes, yet I was kept restful till six o'clock, when my dear friends got me some warm soup, and I had a refreshing wash. Then, all day long, I was at peace till 6 p.m. From Lyons, the country is flooded all along the road; we seemed to ride through a vast river. I naturally felt the chill of this, and my knees complained. Near Paris it rained hard, and at Paris heavily. After much stress and difficulty, I was put into a cab, and we drove to this hotel. I went to bed immediately, and slept on, on, on, till eight o'clock the next morning, awaking then refreshed, and, happily, none the. worse for the long journey. I meant to stay in bed all day, and sent my friends out, so that I might not always be a drag upon them; but, at about noon, I rose and dressed, and when they came in, I had flown,to a sitting-room and a sofa by a cozy fire! I can walk now a little, and hope to be all right for Sunday. Bless the Lord, O my soul; and may He bless thee, too, my dear heart of love! I hope to have a coupe, and to-morrow lie down again while travelling, and so home to my tender wifely. Who could hope to escape rheumatic pains when all the world is wet through to the center? It must not grieve you that I suffer, but you must rejoice that I escaped so long. Why, even rocks might feel this marvelous, long-continued wetting! I am indeed grateful to God for His goodness; still, "there's no place like home." This brings great loads of love all flaming. God bless thee ever!