November 8th.
THIS morning I awoke in the glow of sunshine; the air blew fresh and fragrant; never did I feel more elastic and enlivened. A brisker flow of spirits than I had for many a day experienced, animated me with a desire of rambling about the shore of Baii, and creeping into caverns and subterraneous chambers. Off I set along Chiaja, and up strange paths which impend over the grotto of Posilipo, amongst the thickets mentioned a letter or two ago; for in my present buoyant humour I disdained ordinary roads, and would take paths and ways of my own. A society of kids did not understand what I meant by intruding upon their precipices; and scrambling away, scattered sand and fragments upon the good people that were trudging along the pavement below. I went on from pine to pine and thicket to thicket, upon the brink of rapid declivities. My conductor, a shrewd savage Sir William had recommended to me, cheered our route with stories that had passed in the neighbourhood, and traditions about the grot over which we were travelling. I wish you had been of the party, and sat down by us on little smooth spots of sward, where I reclined, scarcely knowing which way caprice was leading me. My mind was full of the tales of the place, and glowed with a vehement desire of exploring the world beyond the grot. I longed to ascend the promontory of Misenus, and follow the same dusky route down which the Sibyl conducted Æneas. With these dispositions I proceeded; and soon the cliffs and copses opened to views of the Baian sea with the little isles of Niscita and Lazaretto, lifting themselves out of the waters. Procita and Ischia appeared at a distance invested with that purple bloom so inexpressibly beautiful, and peculiar to this fortunate climate. I hailed the prospect, and blessed the transparent air that gave me life and vigour to run down the rocks, and hie as fast as my savage across the plain to Pozzoli. There we took bark and rowed out into the blue ocean, by the remains of a sturdy mole: many such, I imagine, adorned the bay in Roman ages, crowned by vast lengths of slender pillars; pavilions at their extremities, and taper cypresses spiring above their balustrades: this character of villa occurs very frequently in the paintings of Herculaneum. We had soon crossed over the bay, and landing on a bushy coast near some fragments of a temple, which they say was raised to Hercules, advanced into the country by narrow tracks covered with moss and strewed with shining pebbles; to the right and left, broad masses of luxuriant foliage, chesnut, bay and ilex, that shelter the ruins of columbariums and sepulchral chambers, where the dead sleep snug, amidst rampant herbage. The region was still, save when a cock crew from the hamlets, which, as well as the tombs, are almost concealed by thickets. No parties of smart Englishmen and connoisseurs were about. I had all the land to myself, and mounted its steeps and penetrated into its recesses, with the importance of a discoverer. What a variety of narrow paths, between banks and shades, did I wildly follow! my savage laughing loud at my odd gestures and useless activity. He wondered I did not scrape the ground for medals, and pocket little bits of plaster, like other plausible young travellers that had gone before me. After ascending some time, I followed him into the piscina mirabilis, the wondrous reservoir which Nero constructed to supply his fleet, when anchored in the neighbouring bay. 'Tis a grand labyrinth of solid vaults and pillars, as you well know; but you cannot conceive the partial gleams of sunshine which played on the arches; nor the variety of roots and ivies trailing from the cove. A noise of trickling waters prevailed, that had almost lulled me to sleep as I rested myself on the celandine which carpets the floor; but curiosity urging me forward, I gained the upper air; walked amongst woods a few minutes, and then into grots and dismal excavations (prisons they call them) which began to weary me. After having gone up and down in this manner for some time, we at last reached an eminence that commanded the Mare Morto, and Elysian fields trembling with poplars. The Dead Lake, a faithful emblem of eternal tranquillity, looked deep and solemn. A few peasants were passing along its margin, their shadows moving on the water. The meridian sun played on the distant sea. I enjoyed the pearly atmosphere, and basked in the pure beams, like an inhabitant of Elysium. Turning from the lake, I espied a rock at about a league distant, whose summit was clad with verdure, and finding this to be the promontory of Misenus, I immediately set my face to that quarter. We passed several dirty villages, inhabited by an ill-favoured generation, infamous for depredations and murders. Their gardens, however, discover some marks of industry; the fields are separated by neat hedges of cane, and a variety of herbs and pulses and Indian corn seemed to flourish in the inclosures. I walked on, with slowness and deliberation, musing at every step, and stopping, ever and anon, to rest myself by springs and tufted bay-trees, when insensibly we began to leave the cultivated lands behind us, and to lose ourselves in shady wilds, which, to all appearance, no mortal had ever trodden. Here were no paths, no inclosures; a primeval rudeness characterized the whole scene.

Juvat arva videre,
Non rastris, hominum non ulli obnoxia curæ.

The idea of going almost out of the wood, soothed the tone of mind into which a variety of affecting recollections had thrown me. I formed conjectures about the promontory to which we were tending; and, when I cast my eyes around the savage landscape, transported myself four thousand years into antiquity, and half persuaded myself, I was one of Æneas's companions.
After forcing our way about a mile, through glades of shrubs and briars, we entered a lawn-like opening at the base of the cliff which takes its name from Misenus. The poets of the Augustan age would have celebrated such a meadow with the warmest raptures; they would have discovered a nymph in every flower, and detected a dryad under every tree. Doubtless, imagination never formed a lovelier prospect. Here were clear streams and grassy hillocks; leafy shrubs, and cypresses spiring out of their bosom:

Et circum irriguo surgebant lilia prato
Candida purpureis mista papaveribus.

But, as it is not the lot of human animals to be contented, instead of reposing in the vale, I scaled the rock, and was three parts dissolved in attaining its summit, a flat spot, covered with herbage, where I lay contemplating the ocean, and fanned by its breezes. The sun darted upon my head, I wished to avoid its immediate influence; no tree was near; the pleasant valley lay below at a considerable depth; 'twas a long way to descend. Looking round and round, I spied something like a hut, under a crag, on the edge of a dark fissure. Might I avail myself of its covert? My conductor answered in the affirmative; and added that it was inhabited by a good old woman, who never refused a cup of milk, or slice of bread, to refresh a weary traveller.
Thirst and fatigue urged me speedily down an intervening slope of stunted myrtle. Though oppressed with heat, I could not help deviating a few steps from the direct path to notice the uncouth rocks which rose frowning on every quarter. Above the hut, their appearance was truly formidable: dark ivy crept among the crevices, and dwarf aloes with sharp spines, such as Lucifer himself might be supposed to have sown. Indeed, I knew not whether I was not approaching some gate that leads to his abode, as I drew near a gulph (the fissure lately mentioned) and heard the deep hollow murmurs of the gusts which were imprisoned below. The savage, my guide, shuddered as he passed by to apprise the old woman of my coming. I felt strangely, and stared around me, and but half liked my situation. To say truth, I wished myself away, and heartily regretted the green vale. In the midst of my doubts, forth tottered the old woman. "You are welcome," said she, in a feeble voice, but a better dialect than I had heard in the neighbourhood. Her look was more humane, and she seemed of a superior race to the inhabitants of the surrounding valleys. My savage treated her with peculiar deference. She had just given him some bread, with which he retired to a respectful distance bowing to the earth. I caught the mode, and was very obsequious, thinking myself on the point of experiencing a witch's influence, and gaining, perhaps, some insight into the volume of futurity. She smiled at my agitation and kept beckoning me into the cottage.
"Now," thought I to myself, "I am upon the verge of an adventure." O Quixote! O Sylvio di Rosalva! how would ye have strutted in such a situation! What fair Infantas would ye not have expected to behold, condemned to spinning-wheels and solitude? I, alas! saw nothing but clay walls, a straw bed, some glazed earthen bowls, and a wooden crucifix. My shoes were loaded with sand: this my hostess perceived, and immediately kindling a fire in an inner part of the hovel, brought out some warm water to refresh my feet, and set some milk and chesnuts before me. This patriarchal politeness was by no means indifferent after my tiresome ramble. I sat down opposite to the door which fronted the unfathomable gulph; beyond appeared the sea, of a deep cerulean, foaming with waves. The sky also was darkening apace with storms. Sadness came over me like a cloud, and I looked up to the old woman for consolation. "And you too are sorrowful, young stranger," said she, "that come from the gay world! how must I feel, who pass year after year in these lonely mountains?" I answered that the weather affected me, and my spirits were exhausted by the walk. All the while I spoke she looked at me with such a melancholy earnestness that I asked the cause, and began again to imagine myself in some fatal habitation,

Where more is meant than meets the ear.

Said she, "Your features are wonderfully like those of an unfortunate young person, who, in this retirement....." The tears began to fall as she pronounced these words; my curiosity was fired. "Tell me," continued I, "what you mean; who was this youth for whom you are so interested? and why did he seclude himself in this wild region? Your kindness to him might no doubt have alleviated, in some measure, the horrors of the place; but may God defend me from passing the night near such a gulph! I would not trust myself in a despairing moment....." "It is, said she, a place of horrors. I tremble to relate what has happened on this very spot; but your manner interests me, and though I am little given to narrations, for once I will unlock my lips concerning the secrets of yonder fatal chasm. I was born in a distant part of Italy, and have known better days. In my youth fortune smiled upon my family, but in a few years they withered away; no matter by what accident. I am not going, however, to talk much of myself. Have patience a few moments! A series of unfortunate events reduced me to indigence, and drove me to this desert, where, from rearing goats and making their milk into cheese, by a different method than is common in the Neapolitan state, I have, for about thirty years, prolonged a sorrowful existence. My silent grief and constant retirement had made me appear to some a saint, and to others a sorceress. The slight knowledge I have of plants has been exaggerated, and, some years back, the hours I gave up to prayer, and the recollection of former friends, lost to me for ever! were cruelly intruded upon by the idle and the ignorant. But soon I sank into obscurity: my little recipes were disregarded, and you are the first stranger who, for these twelve months past, has visited my abode. Ah, would to God its solitude had ever remained inviolate! It is now three-and-twenty years," -and she looked upon some characters cut on the planks of the cottage -- "since I was sitting by moonlight, under that cliff you view to the right, my eyes fixed on the ocean, my mind lost in the memory of my misfortunes, when I heard a step, and starting up, a figure stood before me. It was a young man, in a rich habit, with streaming hair, and looks that bespoke the utmost terror. I knew not what to think of this sudden apparition. 'Mother,' said he with faltering accents, 'let me rest under your roof; and deliver me not up to those who thirst after my blood. Take this gold; take all, all! Surprise held me speechless; the purse fell to the ground; the youth stared wildly on every side: I heard many voices beyond the rocks; the wind bore them distinctly, but presently they died away. I took courage, and assured the youth my cot should shelter him. 'O! thank you, thank you!' answered he, and pressed my hand. He shared my scanty provision. Overcome with toil (for I had worked hard in the day) sleep closed my eyes for a short interval. When I awoke the moon was set, but I heard my unhappy guest sobbing in darkness. I disturbed him not. Morning dawned, and he was fallen into a slumber. The tears bubbled out of his closed eyelids, and coursed one another down his wan cheeks. I had been too wretched myself not to respect the sorrows of another: neglecting therefore my accustomed occupations, I drove away the flies that buzzed around his temples. His breast heaved high with sighs, and he cried loudly in his sleep for mercy. The beams of the sun dispelling his dream, he started up like one that had heard the voice of an avenging angel, and hid his face with his hands. I poured some milk down his parched throat. 'Oh, mother!' did he exclaim, 'I am a wretch unworthy of compassion; the cause of innumerable sufferings; a murderer! a patricide!' My blood curdled to hear a stripling utter such dreadful words, and behold such agonising sighs swell in so young a bosom; for I marked the sting of conscience urging him to disclose what I am going to relate. It seems he was of high extraction, nursed in the pomps and luxuries of Naples, the pride and darling of his parents, adorned with a thousand lively talents, which the keenest sensibility conspired to improve. Unable to fix any bounds to whatever became the object of his desires, he passed his first years in roving from one extravagance to another, but as yet there was no crime in his caprices. At length it pleased Heaven to visit his family, and make their idol the slave of an unworthy passion. He had a friend, who from his birth had been devoted to his interest, and placed all his confidence in him. This friend loved to distraction a young creature, the most graceful of her sex (as I can witness), and she returned his affection. In the exultation of his heart he showed her to the wretch whose tale I am about to tell. He sickened at her sight. She too caught fire at his glances. They languished; they consumed away; they conversed, and his persuasive language finished what his guilty glances had begun. Their flame was soon discovered, for he disdained to conceal a thought, however dishonourable. The parents warned the youth in the tenderest manner; but advice and prudent counsels were to him so loathsome, that unable to contain his rage, and infatuated with love, he menaced the life of his friend as the obctacle of his enjoyment. Coolness and moderation were opposed to violence and frenzy, and he found himself treated with a contemptuous gentleness. Stricken to the heart, he wandered about for some time like one entranced. Meanwhile the nuptials were preparing, and the lovely girl he had perverted found ways to let him know she was about to be torn from his embraces. He raved; and rousing his dire spirit, applied to a malignant daemon who sold the most inveterate poisons. These he presented, like a cup of pure iced water, to his friend, and to his own affectionate father. They drank the draught, and soon began to pine. He marked the progress of their dissolution with a horrid firmness. He let the moment pass beyond which all antidotes were vain. His friend expired; and the young criminal, though he beheld the dews of death hang on his parent's forehead, yet stretched not forth his hand. In a short space the miserable father breathed his last, whilst his son was sitting aloof in the same chamber. The sight overcame him. He felt, for the first time, the pangs of remorse. His agitations passed not unnoticed. He was watched: suspicions beginning to unfold he took alarm, and one evening escaped; but not without previously informing the partner of his crimes which way he intended to flee. Several pursued; but the inscrutable will of Providence blinded their search, and I was doomed to behold the effects of celestial vengeance. Such are the chief circumstances of the tale I gathered from the youth. I swooned whilst he related it, and could take no sustenance. One whole day afterwards did I pray the Lord, that I might die, rather than be near an incarnate demon. With what indignation did I now survey that slender form and those flowing tresses, which had interested me before so much in his behalf!
"No sooner did he perceive the change in my countenance, than sullenly retiring to yonder rock he sat careless of the sun and scorching winds; for it was now the summer solstice. He was equally heedless of the unwholesome dews. When midnight came my horrors were augmented; and I meditated, several times, to abandon my hovel and fly to the next village; but a power more than human chained me to the spot and fortified my mind. I slept, and it was late next morning when some one called at the wicket of the little fold, where my goats are penned. I arose, and saw a peasant of my acquaintance leading a female strangely muffled up, and casting her eyes on the ground. My heart misgave me. I thought this was the very maid who had been the cause of such atrocious wickedness. Nor were my conjectures ill-founded. Regardless of the clown who stood by in stupid astonishment, she fell to the earth and bathed my hand with tears. Her large blue eyes gleamed between long eye-lashes, her bosom was more agitated than the waves, and whiter than their foam. Her trembling lips with difficulty enquired after the youth; and, as she spoke, a glow of conscious guilt lightened up her pale countenance. The full recollection of her lover's crimes shot through my memory. I was incensed, and would have spurned her away; but, she clung to my garments and seemed to implore my pity with a look so full of misery, that, relenting, I led her in silence to the extremity of the cliff where the youth was seated, his feet dangling above the sea. His eye was rolling wildly around, but it soon fixed upon the object for whose sake he had doomed himself to perdition. I am not inclined to describe their ecstasies, or the eagerness with which they sought each other's embraces. I indignantly turned my head away; and, driving my goats to a recess amongst the rocks, sat revolving in my mind these strange events. I neglected procuring any provision for my unwelcome guests; and about midnight returned homewards by the light of the moon which shone serenely in the heavens. Almost the first object her beams discovered was the guilty maid sustaining the head of her lover, who had fainted through weakness and want of nourishment. I fetched some dry bread, and dipping it in milk laid it before them. Having performed this duty I set open the door of my hut, and retiring to a neighbouring cavity, there stretched myself on a heap of leaves and offered my prayers to Heaven. A thousand fears, till this moment unknown, thronged into my fancy. I mistook the shadow of leaves that chequered the entrance to the grot, for ugly reptiles, and repeatedly shook my garments. The flow of the distant surges was deepened by my apprehensions into distant groans: in a word, I could not rest; but issuing from the cavern as hastily as my trembling knees would allow, paced along the edge of the precipice. An unaccountable impulse would have hurried my steps. Dark clouds were driving athwart the sky, and the setting moon was flushed with the deepest crimson. A wan gleam coloured the sea. Such was my terror and shivering, that, unable to advance to my hut or retreat to the cavern, I was about to shield myself from the night in a sandy crevice, when a loud shriek pierced my ear. My fears had confused me; I was in fact near my hovel and scarcely three paces from the brink of the cavern: it was thence the cries proceeded. Advancing in a cold shudder to its edge, part of which was newly crumbled in, I discovered the form of the young man suspended by one foot to a branch of juniper that grew ten feet down. Thus dreadfully did he hang over the gulph, from the branch bent with his weight. His features were distorted, his eye-balls glared with agony, and his screams became so shrill and terrible that I lost all power of affording assistance. Fixed, I stood with my eyes riveted upon the criminal, who incessantly cried out, 'O God! O Father! save me if there be yet mercy! save me, or I sink into the abyss!' I am convinced he did not see me; for not once did he implore my help. My heart was dead within me. I called out upon the Lord. His voice grew faint, and as I gazed intent upon him, he fell into utter darkness. I sunk to the earth in a trance; during which a sound like the rush of pennons assaulted my ear: methought the evil spirit was bearing off his soul. I lifted up my eyes, but nothing stirred: the stillness that prevailed was awful.
"The moon looked stained with streaks of blood; her orb, hanging low over the waves, afforded a sickly light, by which I perceived some one coming down that white cliff you see before you; and I soon heard the voice of the young woman calling aloud on her guilty lover. She stopped. She repeated again and again her exclamation; but there was no reply. Alarmed and frantic she hurried along the path, and now I saw her on the promontory, and now by yonder pine, devouring with her glances every crevice in the rock. At length perceiving me, she flew to where I stood, by the fatal precipice, and having noticed the fragments fresh crumbled in, pored importunately on my countenance. I continued pointing to the chasm; she trembled not; her tears could not flow; but she divined the meaning. 'He is lost!' said she; 'the earth has swallowed him! but, as I have shared with him the highest joy, so will I partake his torments. I will follow: dare not to hinder me!' I shrunk back. Like the phantoms I have seen in dreams, she glanced beside me; and, clasping her hands above her head, lifted a steadfast look on the hemisphere, and viewed the moon with an anxiousness that told me she was bidding it farewell for ever. Observing a silken handkerchief on the ground, with which she had but an hour ago bound her lover's temples, she snatched it up, and imprinting it with burning kisses, thrust it into her bosom. Once more, expanding her arms in the last act of despair and miserable passion, she threw herself, with a furious leap, into the gulph. To its margin I crawled on my knees, and there did I remain in the most dreadful darkness; for now the moon was sunk, the sky obscured with storms, and a tempestuous blast ranging the ocean. Showers poured thick upon me, and the lightning, in clear and frequent flashes, gave me terrifying glimpses of yonder accursed chasm. – Stranger, dost thou believe in the great Being? in our Redeemer? in the tenets of our faith?" I answered with reverence, but said I was no catholic. "Then," continued the aged woman, I will not declare before an heretic what were the sacred visions of that night of vengeance!" She paused; I was silent. After a short interval, with deep and frequent sighs, she resumed her narrative. "Daylight began to dawn as if with difficulty, and it was late before its radiance had tinged the watery and tempestuous clouds. I was still kneeling by the gulph in prayer when the cliffs began to brighten, and the beams of the morning sun to strike against me. Then did I rejoice. Then no longer did I think myself of all human beings the most abject and miserable. How different did I feel myself from those, fresh plunged into the abodes of torment, and driven for ever from the morning! -Three days elapsed in total solitude: on the fourth, some grave and ancient persons arrived from Naples, who questioned me, repeatedly, about the wretched lovers, and to whom I related their fate with every dreadful particular. Soon after I learned that all discourse concerning them was expressly stopped, and that no prayers were offered up for their souls." With these words, as well as I recollect, the old woman ended her singular narration. My blood thrilled as I walked by the gulph to call my guide, who stood aloof under the cliffs. He seemed to think, from the paleness of my countenance, that I had heard some gloomy prediction, and shook his head, when I turned round to bid my old hostess adieu! It was a melancholy evening, and I could hardly refrain from tears, as, winding through the defiles of the rocks, the sad scenes which had passed amongst them recurred to my memory. Traversing a wild thicket, we soon regained the shore, where I rambled a few minutes whilst the peasant went for the boatmen. The last streaks of light were quivering on the waters when I stepped into the bark, and wrapping myself up in an awning, slept till we reached Puzzoli, some of whose inhabitants came forth with torches to light us home. I was vexed to be roused from my visions; and had much rather have sunk into some deep cave of the Cimmerians than returned to Naples.

Letter I ::: Letter II ::: Letter III ::: Letter IV ::: Letter V ::: Letter VI ::: Letter VII ::: Letter VIII ::: Letter IX ::: Letter X ::: Letter XI ::: Letter XII ::: Letter XIII ::: Letter XIV ::: Letter XV ::: Letter XVI ::: Letter XVII ::: Letter XVIII ::: Letter XIX ::: Letter XX ::: Letter XXI ::: Letter XXII ::: Letter XXIII ::: Letter XXIV ::: Letter XXV ::: Letter XXVI ::: Letter XXVII
Additional letters, I-VII
An Excursion to the Grande Chartreuse in the year 1778