An Autobiography: Herbert Spencer - Vol. 2

By Herbert Spencer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XLII.
A TOUR IN ITALY. 1868. ÆT. 47.

BEYOND the usual interests which attracted me to Italy as a country in which to pass an interval of relaxation, there was an unusual interest: Vesuvius was in eruption. This fact determined not only my choice of Italy as a recruiting ground, but also the route I chose. Already the emission of lava and vomiting of molten fragments had been going on for a month or more; and I feared the eruption might cease before I reached the place if I delayed on the journey. I therefore went to Marseilles and thence took steamer for Naples.

This was during the first days of March; and early in the morning of the 6th, I think it was, the passengers were, in response to a request made over night, called on deck to see the dull red glow of the long lava-stream, then visible at a distance of some 20 miles, amid the scarcely decreased darkness. The sight was impressive; and it was strange to remember it afterwards on observing that by day the lava-stream appeared to emit no light at all.

My first day at Naples, where we arrived before the bustle of the streets had commenced, was passed in an uninteresting way--lying on the bed in a state of exhaustion. I had been rendered fit for nothing, partly by

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