Letter to Mrs. Lydia Swain
November 3, 1870
Mss 12: S-g 1, Series A, S-s 2, Folder 15
Naples Nov 3d 1870
My dear friend,
I suppose after Anna’s earnest request that I should take “ a little more pains if I wished people to read my writing or write my letters on white paper” I must brush up my penmanship, as I cannot write on white paper as my eyes are not strong and that hurts them more than anything else.
I am ever so much obliged to you all for that “company letter” and yesterday another letter came written by Mrs Hoag. She commenced it while she was in the Catskill Mts and finished it while she was visiting you in New Bedford.
Letters will come safely and directly to me now without difficulty.
Every day for a week it has rained until the “land of the vine & the fig tree is losing its reputation with us and as for the wonderful “Italian Sky” we don’t see any of them. It is just such weather as we have at home at this season – that is- when it rains and we (at home) have such long continued rain storms. Today however we received a little encouragement by getting a glimpse of a small piece of blue sky- to go to “Pompeii & Herculaneum”, so off we started and were blessed with little patches of sunshine all the way. The drive there is not particularly interesting as the road is inclosed on each side by high walls and you are very effectively prevented from getting a view of the surrounding country. The mountains at the north of Vesuvius were covered with snow that had fallen some time during the night. We reached Pompeii about noon and entered the old city by the “street of the tombs”, named so from the great number of tombs along its sides. They were richly ornamented. The finest was the one called the tomb of “Diornedes” near his villa- which by the way was one of the finest houses in the town. I cannot give you by written description any idea of the richness of the frescoes or the mosaic floors: from prints I have seen I expected to find the frescoes of a very inferior order- very crude in color & badly drawn- on the contrary I was quite charmed with them and wish I could spend a week there copying them. Of course the richness of the coloring owes something to time. The excavations are going on very slowly the Government does not appropriate much yearly and it is only occasionally that private individuals give something for the purpose. You can judge how slowly the work goes as they have been at it over a hundred years and not one third of the town has been excavated as yet. The Museum here in Naples is filled with Bronze and Marble Statues- Vases of the most beautiful shapes & all kinds of articles that explain perfectly the manners & customs of the people and the high degree of cultivation they had attained. When I return I shall enjoy giving you descriptions of things that I know will interest you particularly.
On our way back we stopped at “Herculaneum” but was disappointed in it. The theatre was the principal feature. A long distance under ground and just like the old Roman theatres of which the country is full. The weather being so stormy we have not done much sketching out of doors this week; but we would go out and look at the things we wanted and then return home and do them from memory. If this bad weather continues we shall hurry up and go to the East as soon as possible. We shall probably cut short (just a little) our visits to Amalfi & Sorrento but will stay a week in Rome.
We both have colds and my left shoulder is rather heavy with rheumatism. As soon as we have a little sunshine it will put us right again.
At this very moment we are sitting by a fire in the grate, writing our letters. I suppose you have had it cold enough for sometime, to have fires in the grate in your own cozy room. I often call you up before me sitting there with your knitting in your accustomed place in the rocking chair. There I have the advantage of you, you never can tell where I am. But- I say to myself- if you are still in the flesh- I can calculate the difference in time and tell with great certainty where you are. I am glad that you have given Anna a vacation doubtless she needed it very much, considering the loss of her sister in connection with her keeping so closely to the house. And then I know you are not sorry to have Miss Ella with you again. I wish she might be with you more. I wish it were possible for me to drop quietly in upon you some morning while you were enjoying your coffee.
Since we left Tangier we have had no good coffee- the people don’t seem to know how to make it here. On Monday or Tuesday next we start for Amalfi. I will write you while we are there with love to those you know I wish to have it.
I remain ever yours