Letter to Mrs. Lydia Swain
October 23-24, 1870
Mss 12: S-gl Series A S-S 2 Folder 14
My dear friend,
It is some time now since I wrote you. My last letter to you was written at Malta. We have been traveling almost incessantly since then and my mind has not been in a writing mood at all. This is the first really favorable time I have had for a long time. It is Sunday and a quiet Autumn like any, from the window we look out upon the sea.. The island of Capri looms up through the soft atmosphere of the bay. This is a day very much like our own Autumn days at home and it seems to lessen the distance between us, the leaves are falling and the distance is covered with the soft smoke like haze that we have so much and all objects seen through it have that warm copper color that is so peculiar to the season.
Since I wrote you many days crowded with interest have passed, days that have left a deep strong impression upon my memory. I cannot describe to you the pleasure one feels when sitting on the grass in the shadow of some old ruined palace or temple, something perhaps built long before the time of Christ while all about you the vines climb around and over broken columns of marble or ———- And often over the remains of what might have been beautiful statues .
The island of Sicily is indeed classical ground and nowhere can you go without feeling the influence of its early history.
We left Malta on the 11th for the island of Sicily. The passage across was stormy and I suffered from sea sickness but fortunately it was not a great distance and it soon became quiet when we reached “Syracuse”. We stopped long enough to get out there and see the old part of town and it is indeed old! There are the remains of old Palace-Temple erected to the Gods and Goddesses. In many, in fact, in nearly all what was once the finest palaces now live the poorest people of the town. It is a queer sight to see the poor ragged and tattered beggars through the magnificent doorways and arches, but it is the old story and from it one cannot help learning something that will remain with you always.
After leaving Syracuse we went to Catania, a city also very old built at the foot of Mt. Etna. Catania was founded 750 B.C. It is built of lava from the volcano. In 1669 the town was nearly all destroyed by Mt. Etna and 27,000 persons perished.
The thing that charmed us particularly at Catania was the country around the city, there were vines running along all the walls and houses and there were a great variety of trees but the olive was the most plentiful. It is a beautiful tree reminding one very much of our willow only the foliage is even more gray in color.
We stayed two days and made some sketches and then moved on toward Messina to which town there is a railroad.. When nearly half way there we go out at Taormina and went to see the old Roman Theater which is the most
Evening of the 24th
I took this letter with some others in my pocket today to our bankers to get our mail and was delighted to find some letters awaiting us. One from Anna and another from Miss Ella telling me all about you and also about what was going on about home generally.
There was a most charming letter from Miss Katie Tallman and a few very acceptable lines added by Miss Mary- then there was a little letter from my sister Lizzie that gave me the much desired information I wished to have- that they were all well at home. And then I had some letters from other friends. So they have put some life into me.
Please say to Miss Katie that I will write her very soon and give her my thanks.