[Letters and Correspondence 1833—Sicily]


Naples: April 17, 1833.
I write because I wish you to hear the last of me before you see me, and because you will not see me so soon as I said. Here I am at Naples on the 11th when I hoped to be at Syracuse. And I am going in a sailing vessel, and again in a sailing vessel from Palermo to Marseilles, so do not expect me till the very end of May. The steamer with 125 passengers went off yesterday morning, and I and my servant (who has been sixteen years in England in one family and is a trusty man) have got a passage in an English merchantman, the 'Serapis' of Yarmouth, which starts tonight or tomorrow morning.

Now all this seeming disappointment is a very good thing for me. First I avoid a very unpleasant passage in rough weather in a crowded vessel, for the sea was high yesterday. Next I escape what I always dreaded, the outpouring of passengers upon Sicily, who would make inn-room difficult, and raise the price of everything. My race against the Countess's people at Palermo is an experience of this evil. Lastly, I spend the bad weather here instead of at Messina, which is a great gain. Nor is my expense increased by waiting. By the sailing vessel I pay less than by the steamer. My only loss is that of time, which I grudge, first because I am impatient to get home, secondly because I had hoped to catch up Froude at Sens or Chartres. The season here is said to be most anomalous. Since Friday, when I went up Vesuvius, it has been very rainy, most of the days continual rain, and that {345} accompanied with a boisterous wind, and a vehemence of pour which I have not seen since leaving Corfu.

Naples, then, has been unfortunate, supposing it was set on pleasing me. Indeed I believe I have been too hard upon it; not that I can ever call the outlines of the bay fine, or Vesuvius anything but graceful, or the grand range on the Salerno side near enough or distant enough for a picture, but the colours are certainly indescribably beautiful—the blues, the indigoes, the browns, and the siennas. And again the people are heathen, certainly. I am much offended at the very irreverent exhibitions of the Crucifix, and of the souls in Purgatory—these struck me more because here we first saw them—which are stuck about as puffs are on the London walls. But I have really found the people very civil and good-natured, though they are knaves, and the popular and exoteric religion as pagan as you can fancy. They are very clever, and humorous. They are quite Punches. Just now a ragged boy persecuted me with a miserable whining for coppers, following me for a minute or so. When he found that would not do, he suddenly began to play a tune on his chin, with great dash and effect. All the boys are full of tricks more harmless than that of filching pocket-handkerchiefs, in which they certainly excel. You see when we were here before we were simple strangers, and these fellows knew a stranger at once; it was bad weather; we had seen finer scenery; in consequence we were reasonably disappointed. So I think we have been hard on this poor place, which I begin to like, if it were only out of remorse for having abused it. I have made the most of my rainy time, having been to Virgil's tomb, up to St. Elmo, and to the library, pictures and museum.

And I find their living much better than before. Perhaps the hotels are better than the restaurants; certainly we were wretchedly off before. It is not so now; their onions are like fine-flavoured apples. They never introduce garlic; oil they are not afraid of, but I do not dislike it. I was tempted to take a bit of tempting cheese the day before yesterday, and had in consequence a nightmare in bed, as follows:

First a weight and horror fell on me, after which I found myself in the tower at Oriel. It was an audit, and the Fellows sat round. Jenkyns and the Provost had been quarrelling [what a shame! I suppose they never did in their lives], and the latter had left the room, and Jenkyns to expedite matters had skipt on in the accounts and entered some items without {346} the Provost's sanction (the extreme vividness of all this was its merit; after waking I could hardly believe it was not true). I shook hands first with one Fellow then with another. At last I got a moment to shake hands with the gallant Dornford, who was on my right, with Denison, who stood next, and then Copleston [these were the new tutors in our place], who said: 'Newman, let me introduce you to our two new Fellows,' pointing to two men who stood on his right hand round the table. I saw two of the most clumsy, awkward-looking chaps I ever set eyes on, and they had awkward unintelligible names. With great grief of heart, but a most unembarrassed smiling manner, I shook hands with them and wished them joy, and then talked and chatted with the rest as if nothing had happened, yet longing to get away, and with a sickness of heart. When I got away at length, I could find no means of relief. I could not find Froude nor [J. F.] Christie. I wished to retire to the shrubberies, which were those of Ham [my Father had a house at Ham, near Richmond, from 1804 to 1807, and when I dreamed of heaven as a boy, it was always Ham]. 'There,' thought I to myself, 'on this seat or that arbour, which I recollect from a boy, I shall recover myself'; but it was not allowed me. I was in my rooms, or some rooms, and had continual interruptions. A father and son, the latter coming into residence, and intending to stand for some Sicilian scholarship. Then came in a brace of gentlemen commoners with hideous faces, though I was not a tutor, and, lastly, my companion with whom I travelled down here from Rome, with a lady under his arm (do what I will I cannot recollect who I thought it was—I saw him with a lady at St. Peter's on Good Friday). This was part of the dream, but only part, and all, I say, so vivid. What shall we say to a bit of cheese awaking the poetical faculty? I hope simply poetical, and not historical. Indeed I have grown calm out of spite, and am now so confident that Rogers has succeeded that I do not think about it.

I have letters of introduction to Messina, Catania, Syracuse, Palermo. I shall try at Messina for one for Girgenti, and then I shall be complete. But how I wish it was over—though I shall enjoy it much at the time—for I wish to get home.

Have I told you of the inconsistencies of these Southerners, of the delicacy and abundance of their table, and chamber linen so white, and the intolerable dirt of their carpets, so dirty that I dare not let my towel reach it? They have a fashion of {347} spitting about, too, to an excess perfectly incredible to an Englishman. They are ever at it. I have seen an elegantly dressed lady on the Pincio spit manfully; nay, rather I heard her, which made me look round to be sure; afterwards I watched and saw her. In the churches this is quite a feature. I have seen a woman at her prayers spit about, and a priest at the most sacred part of the service.

April 18.—Another day, being the seventh of the scirocco. The day is somewhat clearing.

Weather mends, but wind immovable. Slight shock of earthquake last night. We look towards Vesuvius with expectation, but it is thick in mist to the base.

Friday, April 19.—Half-past 7 A.M., the wind is fair. I am off suddenly.


Catania: April 25, 1833.
 … I arrived at this place this morning, and should like to give you an account of my proceedings, but I am lazy from being tired.

I was hastily summoned on the 19th from Naples, just as I had domiciled myself there. Indeed, I was so content with the place that I was sorry to have to move. The pleasantest time I have had abroad has been at Rome, when I was stationary, and my habitual love of repose made me glad that my passage to Sicily was delayed from day to day; but at last, early on the 19th, news came that the wind was fair, and by nine o'clock we were off in the 'Serapis.'

There were three other passengers, Frenchmen, well behaved, very talkative, and, I thought, humorous; but I follow French far worse than Italian. Their conversation with the Captain, a thorough Englishman, was amusing, each party speaking his own language. 'Capitaine, quante miglie o'clock?' This, I believe, meant 'How many knots are we going an hour?' The Captain was a match for them. 'The other bÔtiment' (speaking of a brig which had started with us) 'be aft this morning, gentlemen!' This sort of social intercourse sometimes went on for minutes. We did not arrive at Messina till 5 A.M. on Sunday. We were becalmed all Saturday near Stromboli; there had been a brisk breeze the day before, which made me very sick. On getting to Messina I attempted to achieve a service that day, but failed altogether. {348} The Straits looked more beautiful even, than before. I never saw anything equal to the colour of the sea and of the Calabrian coast. The steamboat went off for Catania between eleven and twelve. It was impossible to get passports till next day—Monday—and I did not start on my expedition till twelve o'clock; a loss of seven hours, which was a great inconvenience—but I am, in fact, tired; so I stop. [This was almost the beginning of my fever.]

On setting off from Messina I felt amused and almost ashamed of the figure I was cutting. I was chief of a cavalcade consisting of a servant, two mules, and several muleteers (though the latter were soon reduced to one, who was to go with us through), and when I happened to catch a sight of my shadow, the thought of my personal equipments, at least as regards my hat and my coat, was still more perplexing. My neckcloth was the only black thing about me, yet black without being clerical. Nor had I any such exuberance of spirits as would bear me up against the ridiculousness of my exterior. I was setting out on an expedition which would be pleasant in memory rather than in performance. I have been much annoyed at the delay of the passports which threw me out of my projected itinerary. Inns are not to be found every mile here as in England and, though I had been told I should certainly find accommodation at the twentieth mile from Messina, yet my muleteer, when questioned, contradicted himself. Nor was I satisfied with him; the baggage kept coming off, and we had frequent stoppages; and the weather, too, threatened, and I felt being alone—not because of the solitude, but because a tour is the best time for turning acquaintances into friends, and I was losing a great opportunity. Nor was there much in external objects to divert me from these depressing thoughts. The coast is beautiful, but is better seen from the sea than from a road. The lower hills were covered with vines and mulberries; those above them with corn and olives. We passed various fiumaras—dry, of course; one of them was about 250 paces, had two rapid brooks still alive in it. There were flags growing on the edge of time sea. At Ali the hills receded; and you saw Etna, looking very near and white. At length we ended the twenty miles. I never got through a walk so easily, and found an inn at San Paolo, and got a room and bed much better than I had expected, though there was no glass in the windows and plenty of fleas. So ends Canto the first. {349}

Canto the second. Tuesday was a great success. We set off between five and six, and had twelve miles to go to breakfast at Taormini. As we approached, the country got more and more striking.

Syracuse: April 27.
The two last miles we diverged from the road up a steep path, and soon came to the ancient stone ascent leading to Taurominium. I never saw anything more enchanting than this spot. It realised all one had read of in books about scenery—a deep valley, brawling streams, beautiful trees, the sea (heard) in the distance. But when, after breakfast, on a bright day, we mounted to the theatre, and saw the famous view, what shall I say? I never knew that Nature could be so beautiful; and to see that view was the nearest approach to seeing Eden. O happy I! It was worth coming all the way, to endure sadness, loneliness, weariness, to see it. I felt, for time first time in my life, that I should be a better and more religious man if I lived there. This superb view, the most wonderful I can ever see, is but one of at least half a dozen, all beautiful, close at hand. One view is at the back of the theatre, with a view of Calabria and the Messina side of Sicily. Another is going out of Taormini on the descent. The landlady of the fondaco asked me if I was going to Paris, and begged me to take a letter to her daughter, which I have done.

And so I went off to Giarre. There first I went through time river-beds. The hills receded—Etna was magnificent. The scene was sombre with clouds, when suddenly, as the sun descended upon the cone, its rays shot out between the clouds, and the snow, turning the clouds into royal curtains, while on one side there was a sort of Jacob's ladder. I understood why the poets made the abode of the gods on Mount Olympus.

And now I have told you nearly everything pleasant up—to this date—the 27th (except that the frogs between Giardini and Giarre, which are louder even than those at Albano, are the most musical animals I have hitherto met with—they have a trill like a nightingale). I am hitherto disappointed in birds and flowers. I never thought this expedition was to be one of pleasure only, for I wished to see what it was to be a solitary and wanderer. On Monday night I had little sleep, and on Tuesday none from the fleas. I counted quarter after {350} quarter all through the night at Giarre, and there were noises in the next room which annoyed me. The fleas were innumerable, and they bite with a sting. In England we have no idea what a Sicilian flea is. On Wednesday I resolved to see the famous chestnut-trees, and so to go to Nicolosi under Etna. I went to see them as evidence of the wonderful fertility of the soil. From Nicolosi the ascent of Etna is made. The whole distance is not more than twenty-two miles, though very fatiguing. The distance from Giarre to the chestnuts is about six—a precipitous ascent over and along the beds of torrents. I was disappointed in them [they are nothing but roots, cut level with the ground]. We breakfasted in a house where was a sick man, who was attended by a village doctor. We were told it was three hours' march from thence to Nicolosi; it proved to be five; it is along fields of lava, very curious, certainly, but very hot with the sun on them—and curious conical hills, of the finest, richest light-brown earth, which seem dimpled by every breath of air, and lying in heaps as if turned out of a cart and left there.

At length we came to Nicolosi, where I had come in order to determine the possibility of going up Etna, as you never get right intelligence at a distance. I found every discouragement. The snow lay as it had lain two months before, and I was told I should have to walk for nine hours up and down, taking in the cone, half that time in the night, and all in the cold; and the leaves were not out, and there was nothing to see. And, on looking over the book of names of those who had ascended, everything was discouraging. One said, 'I have endured extreme fatigue, and advise no one to follow my example.' Another, 'Better be wise late than never. If you have been a fool in coming, do not be twice a fool in going up.' However, I think I should have attempted it, except that I had strained my leg in walking (but do not give this as the reason; the season is the straightforward reason), and my servant was tired.

The discomfort of the so-called inn was excessive; it was the most forlorn place I ever was in. It was a ground floor; one window and no glass; three doors with planks gaping to the external air; brick floor in pieces, and filthy walls. Mrs. Starke took me in by talking of 'reposing' before going up Etna. In addition, my spirits of wine failed, and I could not dress my dinner. I had lived on almost nothing for two days, and my servant had gone out to take care of himself. I {351} lay down on my so-called bed, and thought of the sick-room at Ealing, and my mind felt very dry, and I thought, 'What if I should lose my reason?' and I was in dreadful irritation from the renewed attacks of the fleas. And I was altogether out of sorts. And the bed was on a board, and the bed things looked dirty, and I fancied it would all come to pieces in the night. But my servant came in and poached me some eggs, and threw down water under my bed against my enemies, and I lay down to sleep by eight or nine o'clock, and slept very soundly for eight hours, and got up on Thursday quite strong, with the happy prospect of walking in to breakfast to the comfortable town of Catania; and the morning was fine, and the road (twelve miles) a pleasant descent the whole way; and I lodged myself very happily there, and, though weak, I was recruited.

And now here I am at Syracuse, miserable again; and I seem to think I shall never get home—that is, though quite well, I cannot realise it. I still think of the 121st Psalm.


Syracuse: April 27, 1833.
My last letter (to Harriett), which I have just finished, left me safely disposed of at the Corona d'Oro at Catania; there I subjected myself to a thorough wash and amused myself with looking over the travellers' names in the host's book, and their praises of himself. My knee and the blisters on my feet, and my considerable languor, hindered me moving about much; but I called on Froude's friend, Signor C. Gemellaro, and he is to show me the medals of Sicily and Magna GrŠcia on my return to Catania from this place on the morrow (i.e. yesterday), Friday, by speronaro.

A speronaro is a large boat used in these seas running, e.g. from Malta to Sicily, from Sicily to Naples, &c. This was about thirty-five feet long, and in all had fourteen persons aboard. At the stern some hoops held up an awning some four feet high, the rest of the boat was open. Since our passports were made out for Syracuse; we were not allowed to land at any other place. We could, indeed, have got to Syracuse that night, but not till after sunset, and then we should not have got pratique till next morning. We had no provisions with us, though luckily some wine, hearing the wine of Syracuse was {352} inferior; but the boatmen gave us a bit of bread apiece. Luckily I had taken my cloaks with me.

At six o'clock we pulled to the shore about six miles off Syracuse—a lonely spot; and when for five minutes I got out upon the rocks, and saw the beautiful clearness of the water and felt the mildness of the evening, I quite congratulated myself on having an adventure with so little trouble. So we laid down, I wrapped up, and sleeping soundly a long while, very uncomfortable as everything was, including my companions—my next-door neighbour being the first vulgar Italian I have met with—and miserable as was my torment from fleas. At midnight we hoisted sail, and with some little wind slowly coasted on to Syracuse, where we arrived between three and four, but could not obtain pratique till between seven and eight this morning.

Archdeacon Froude had given me a letter to the Consul here—Syracuse—and he has been of essential service to me in all matters; in seeing sights, getting passports, &c.; all which is a most tedious business here. The weather, however, has been against me. The scirocco has at length come down in profuse rain, and I can only be thankful that today was not yesterday, when I was in the speronaro; indeed, there is no day on which I could have so well borne it since I set out. As it is, it has only had the effect of lowering my spirits and of making my visit here uncomfortable. I have seen the fountain of Arethusa, and rowed up the Anapus to gather the papyrus and to see the remains of the Temple of Minerva, which are indeed magnificent, and looked at the remaining columns of Jupiter Olympius. I have been coming over Thucydides, particularly yesterday, and this morning in the boat, and am at home with the whole place; only I have not seen the theatre and amphitheatre, which, being Roman, I care little for. Glad to go back to Catania early tomorrow morning. My intention was to have remained here all Sunday, and, independent of my rule not to travel needlessly then, the inn is comfortable enough, and the place so interesting as to make one wish it; but time wind is out of my power, and, since-it may change on Monday, and is now fair for Catania, I ought not to run the risk of being detained here an indefinite time, or of another night adventure. I will here set down some verses which I composed last night in the boat. Yon will see that they want ease and spirit. Anxiety is the great enemy of poetry. In the 'Hermes' I had no foreboding care. {353} Well, it will be all over when you get this, and the time is not long, I do not mind saying all this to you, when you will read it as a dream of the night, if God so will. I often think of Cowper's two lines, 'Beware of desperate steps,' &c.

But for the verses, here they are:

Say, hast thou tracked a traveller's round,
Nor visions met thee there,
Thou could'st but marvel to have found
This blighted world so fair?

And feel an awe within thee rise,
That sinful man should see
Glories far worthier Seraphs' eyes
Than to be shared by thee?

Store them in heart! thou shalt not faint
'Mid coming pains and fears;
As the third heaven once nerved a Saint
For fourteen trial-years [Note 1].

My servant taken from Naples is a very active, useful man, but he knows of course nothing of the ways and means of this country, and I am really roughing it. Yet I am not unwilling to do so; for I shall gain a lesson, so God does but sustain me. In retrospect all bodily pain vanishes, and mental impressions (which have been chiefly pleasant) endure. Taurominium will outlive Giarre, as Egesta Calatafimi. It follows, however, that I heartily wish it over; but this I have wished ever since I left England, as you know. I have great comfort in knowing I have your prayers, and of others at home; in this thought I seem to have a pledge of safe-conduct. I begin to dread the voyage from Palermo to Marseilles in a foolish way. The day makes me sad and stupid. The great harbour is now before my eyes, the Olympieium, the Anapus, Epipoke, all drenched in wet; and here the Consul has just come to tell me that the passport people are laying their heads together to keep me here another day or extort money. So you see I am in strife and contention.

Catania: April 30.
Things improve with me this evening, but really I have gone through more fatigue and vexation since I last wrote than ever I did in my life.

I resume where I left off [April 27]. There were three {354} Englishmen at the hotel at Syracuse, who had come from Malta on their way overload from India. They introduced themselves, and asked me join their dinner party, which I did, and went there in the evening to a great assembly for the celebration of the marriage of the son of a judge with a Russian Consul's daughter. The boudoir in which the ceremony was performed (we came too late for it) was splendidly fitted up. I went in traveller's dress, thinking, goose as I was, to be incognito, and merely a sightseer. You may fancy we were all lions. Though by no means a brilliant party, it was such a contrast to ancient Syracuse, that I thought of the Corfu ball. Somehow altogether Syracuse is more like Corfu and the Ionian towns than anything I have seen since: narrow streets, low houses, misery visible; and next morning when I went to catch a glimpse of the amphitheatre before starting, its being a garrisoned town reminded me still more forcibly of Corfu.

When we descended into the plain we had two rivers to ferry over, and the road was bad. To increase our perplexity we were told that the neighbourhood of the second river was infested with robbers; and to put the finishing stroke to our trouble, when we got near it (at half-past eight), with a moon, but a hazy one, we lost our way, our guide being quite at fault. However, by the good hand of God, we found it again, and got here safe by half-past ten (I use a strong expression), more dead than alive, from the jolting of the mule, which at one time I urged to between five and six miles an hour. I took some soup and went to bed, and had a remarkably good night. However, in the course of this day [April 30] some feverishness had come on; but now, thank God, it is gone away, and Signor Gemellaro tells me I shall have no roads like those I have traversed. So my spirits have risen, and I purpose to start for Girgenti, to reach it by Saturday.

If I may speak of what has happened as over, for I am not yet sure that I am what I ought to be, I would say I do not see how I have been injudicious, only unfortunate.

The only question is whether I was right in going on a Sunday, and whether this wrong step has not brought all this upon me?

My servant is a treasure—very sharp-witted and ready—an old campaigner, having served through the Peninsula, a sailor in his earlier days, domesticated in England, yet a perfect Neapolitan in language. He cannot read or write. The place I slept at my first night was the ancient Thapsus. {355} EpipolŠ is neither beautiful nor romantic, but striking as resembling huge human works, walls, &c. From Agosta we first passed over wild heath, then cornland, then wood, then we descended to the sand; and then the darkness came on. I cannot tell what. [We lost our way by getting between the river and the sea, and so crossing the former without knowing it, since it has no mouth, but is swallowed up by the sand. We got among shepherds' tents under Mount Etna, the dogs barking at us.] I like what I see of the people; dirt, with simplicity and contentment. This I found both at the creek and at Agosta. The English seem much thought of. We had a slight earthquake this morning—the day close and hazy, as at Naples on a similar event.

The tone of the last two letters to his sisters shows that Mr. Newman was already under the influence of the fever that prostrated him for many weeks in Sicily. The following letter of a much later date was valued by his correspondent as 'a particularly interesting' one, in which he gives the account of his Sicilian sickness.


Palermo: June 5, 1833.
With what joy did I see in 'Galignani' yesterday that you were one of us. It was quite a chance I saw it. I had some days before looked over the papers of the last six weeks, having seen none during that time; and yesterday the person who lent them me said: 'There may be one or two yet which you have not taken—hunt over the heap again.' I took home four to read, and, as I was poring over some article on politics (I believe), the wind blew over the page, and I was arrested by the title of 'University Intelligence.' The first words were 'F. Rogers,' &c.

And now I suppose you are wondering what I do now at Palermo; and perhaps my friends at Oxford have been wondering, unless they have sat down in the comfortable conclusion that I am imprisoned here for want of a vessel. I only hope the Rose Hill people are not uneasy. I have not been weather-bound or shipless, taken by the Barbary pirates, or seized as a propagandist of Liberalism. No; but, you will be sorry to hear, confined with a very dangerous fever in the very {356} centre of Sicily for three weeks. I will give you an account of it, if my hand and my head let me. Only do not mention it till you hear I am at home, which I trust will be in about a fortnight or three weeks. I sail, please God, in a Marseilles vessel on Saturday next, the 8th, whence I shall despatch this to you.

This season has been remarkable for rain in this part of the world, as Froude, if he is returned, has perhaps told you. At Catania, Dr. Gemellaro told me that there sometimes fell only seven inches of rain in the wet months, but that this year there had fallen thirty-four. In consequence, a bad fever, of the nature of the scarlet, was epidemic; which I did not know, nor should have thought of perhaps, if I had. The immediate cause of my illness seems to have been my expedition from Catania to Syracuse; but doubtless I was predisposed to take injury from any bad state of the atmosphere, by the sleepless nights and famished days (though few) which I had had immediately before. Sicilian couches abound in the most inveterate enemies of slumber, and my provisions—for you get none at the inns—though they ought not, were affected by the weather, or were in themselves bad. (I bought them at Naples.) And about Etna the transitions from heat to cold are very rapid and severe—in the same day I was almost cut in two, and exhausted with the scorching and dust of lava, though I believe I never got chilled. And in many places they have no glass in the windows, and the shutters do not fit tight, which is bad of a night. Now you will say, how was it I alone suffered all this of all Sicilian travelers? Why, to tell the truth, the way to avoid it would have been to have taken a Sicilian regular lionizer and purveyor, who would have avoided all difficulties; but this for one person is very expensive, and it falls light on several. I had a Neapolitan servant, a good cook (I had bought my provisions before I took him, and they seemed good), but knowing nothing of Sicily. I knew a great deal of Sicily from others—everyone was giving me advice to do things they had not tried themselves. It was from one of these plans I suffered. Now all this, that I have put down in the last half-page, sounds so gauche, that I beg you would keep it to yourself; for it is a gratuitous exposure on my part, and only takes up room in my letter, as you will see front what follows.

Everyone recommended me to go from Catania to Syracuse in a speronaro (by water). The distance by land and sea is forty miles—by land the road is indescribably bad, especially {357} after rain—and the distance too long for mules in one day, and there is no inn on the road. The time by sea was unanimously declared by different persons to be seven hours—the boatman said five. Dr. Gemellaro so fully acquiesced in these statements as to allow of my making an engagement with him for the middle of the day on which I was to set out from Syracuse on my return. I set out for Syracuse by 7 or 8 A.M. Well, when we were about half-way, a scirocco sprang up, and by degrees it became evident we could not reach Syracuse that night. We made for Thapsus, and slept in the boat off the peninsula. On my return, which I made by sea from the probability of the scirocco continuing, and the probable state of the road, the same ill luck attended me. The wind changed, and I slept in the boat. Next morning we made for Agosta (all we could do), the ancient Hybla. (Megara HyblŠa—whence the honey.)—We arrived by 8 A.M. at Agosta. Delays of obtaining pratique, passport, &c. &c., kept us till 3 P.M., when we set forward on mules for Catania with the belief that the distance was twenty-two miles. By the time it grew dusk we had gone fourteen miles, and descended to the water's side; when to our dismay we learned we had eighteen miles before us, three rivers to ford or ferry, a deep sand to traverse for half the way, and the danger of being plundered. To complete the whole, when we got to the most suspicious part of our journey our guide lost his way. However, he found it again, and alarms are nothing when they are over, but half an hour was a substantial loss. We got to Catania between eleven and twelve at night. The sun had been broiling during the day—the night was damp. I must add, that the first day I was in the speronaro I had had no food for twenty-four hours—having of course taken no provision with me—that at Syracuse I had eaten very little, and only a breakfast on the day of this fatiguing journey; and, out of the three nights, I had slept only one, and that but a little. I am ashamed of the minuteness with which I am telling all this—but my head is not yet entirely my own.

From my return to Catania I sickened. When the idea of illness first came upon me I do not know, but I was obliged on May 1 to lie down for some time when I had got half through my day's journey; and the next morning I could not proceed. This was at Leonforte, above one hundred miles from Palermo. Three days I remained at the inn there with the fever increasing, and no medical aid. On the night of the third day I had a {358} strange (but providential) notion that I was quite well. So on the next morning I ordered the mules, and set off towards Girgenti, my destination. I had not gone far when a distressing choking feeling (constriction?) of the throat and chest came on; and at the end of seven miles I lay clown exhausted in a cabin near the road. Here, as I lay on the ground, after a time, I felt a hand at my pulse; it was a medical man who by chance was at hand, and he prescribed for me, and enabled me by the evening to get to Castro Giovanni (the ancient Enna). At first I had difficulty in getting a lodging—had it been known I had the fever I suppose it would have been impossible, for numbers were dying of it there, at Girgenti, and, I believe, everywhere. However, at last I got most comfortably housed. I did not then know what was the matter with me, I be1ieve, but at Leonforte I had thought myself so bad that I gave my servant directions how to convey news of my death (should it be so) to England, at the same time expressing to him a clear and confident conviction that I should not die. The reason I gave was that 'I thought God had work for me.' I do not think there was anything wrong in this, on consideration.

At Castro Giovanni I was immediately bled—an essential service—but with this exception it seems as if nature recovered herself; but not till the eleventh day, during which time the fever was increasing, and my attendants thought I could not get over it. Since, I have gained strength in the most wonderful manner. My strength was so prostrated, I could not raise myself in bed or feed myself. The eighth after the crisis I began to walk about (with help). On the twelfth I began a journey of three days to Palermo, going one day sixty-two miles; and here, where I have been these ten days, I have surprised everyone by my improvement (though I cannot run yet; the weather is very relaxing). When I came here I could not read nor write, nor talk nor think. I had no memory, and very little of the reasoning faculty. My head had been quite clear (at least at intervals) during the early part of my illness, and I had all through the fever corresponded with the doctor in (really very good) Latin; but a letter from home was brought me, containing letters from five persons, and I pored through it to find news of your election, you unworthy fellow, which it did not contain. This threw the blood into my head, which I have not yet quite recovered.

And now you will say my expedition to Sicily has been a failure. By no means. Do I repent of coming? Why, certainly {359}I should not have come had I known that it was at the danger of my life. I had two objects in coming—to see the antiquities and to see the country. In the former I have failed. I have lost Girgenti and Selinunti, and I have lost the series of perfumed gardens through which the mule track near Selinunti is carried. But I have seen Taormini, and the country from Adern˛  to Palermo, and can only say that I did not know before nature could be so beautiful. It is a country. It passes belief. It is like the Garden of Eden, and though it ran in the line of my anticipations (as I say), it far exceeded them.

I continually say En unquam [Note 2], being very homesick.

June 17.—At last our vessel is nearing Marseilles. I hope to send you a newspaper from London or Oxford to announce my arrival.

The day before this letter was finished, 'Lead, kindly Light' was written, and, however familiar to many, perhaps most, readers, it should have its place here.

Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene,—one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and, lost awhile.

June 16, 1833: in the Straits of Bonifacio [Note 3]. {360}


Palermo: June 9, 1833.
Here I am waiting day after day and week after week for a vessel, and very anxious lest you should be uneasy about me. Had I written to you via Naples when I first came here, though the letter would have been three weeks in getting to you, you would have heard in good time. I write now, though late, but I heartily hope I shall be at home before you read this. The captain of a Sicilian vessel promises to sail for Marseilles tomorrow.

Then, again, I am told that calms are common at this time of year—twelve or twenty days—but I run the chance. The average time is six days.

I have two letters written for H. and J., one of which I have destined for the post at Marseilles; the second is unintelligible without the first. [One went from Marseilles, the other from Lyons.] My further adventures when we meet, please God, by word of mouth—a more pleasant way. Excuse my scrawl; this place is very hot. I have enjoyed myself here very much, have been a good deal on the water. The breezes are most refreshing; there is a delightful public garden and terraces, and I know one or two of the merchants, who are very kind. From Catania to Palermo I passed through a country which baffles description. I never saw such a country before; it was a new thing.

I was very idle in verse-making till June, when I made a start, and have done one every day since June began, having done only three in April and May.

In much longing, for I am home-sick.
J. H. N.

P.S.—I have received the quinquipartite letter—you, H., J., Williams, and Christie.

On the address of this quinquipartite letter, which lies before the Editor, is written: 'This is the letter that came up to me at Castro Giovanni, and which I tried to read after the crisis of my fever, with the hope of learning about Rogers's election, till I threw the blood violently into my head, and it all seemed like a dream.—J. H. N.' {361}


Lyons: July 1.
I trust when you receive this I shall not be far from you. Really it seems as if some unseen power, good or bad, was resisting my return. The thought of home has brought tears in my eyes for the last two months. God is giving me a severe lesson of patience, and I trust I am not altogether wasting the opportunity of discipline. It is His will. I strive to think that, wherever I am, God is God and I am I. It is only forty-eight hours' journey from Marseilles here (200 miles), yet on arriving here last night I found my ankles so swollen and inflamed, that I have judged it prudent to remain here a day, though in a miserable dirty inn, yet the best in Lyons. I have the prospect of confinement in my bedroom all day, with the doubt whether I shall be able to proceed tomorrow, for at present it is with difficulty and pain that I hobble across the room. Rest is the great remedy, I suppose. So it is a simple trial of my patience. I am quite desolate. I am tempted to say, 'Lord, heal me, for my bones are vexed.' But really I am wonderfully calm, and I trust from right principles. Thwarting awaits me at every step. I have had much of this ever since I left Naples. I earnestly hope that tomorrow will end your doubts and anxieties about me by the receipt of my letter from Palermo on June 9.

I have said nothing about France, which is truly la belle France in all externals. I am enchanted with it.

[No letter was received in England from me between May 7 and July 1—eight weeks. In the letter dated April 15 and received in England on May 7, I said I was waiting at Naples for a wind to take me in a sailing vessel to Messina.—J. H. N.]

Mr. Newman arrived at his Mother's house at Iffley on July 9, 1833. On July 11 he wrote to Mr. Keble.


Oriel: July 11, 1833.
I have come in a week from Lyons; I was up six nights out of the seven. {362}


My dear Vicar,—[Chaire, polu chaire] and again [polu chaire]. How delightful it is to think of your being amongst us again, particularly after your being so long unheard of!


Bath: July 13, 1833.
I heard this morning, I need not say with how much thankfulness, that you have passed through London towards Oxford. Nor need I tell you how much I felt on hearing indirectly that you had been so dangerously ill in the heart of a nearly barbarous country, nor even the anxiety one could not but feel at your long absence … I have thought much of Mrs. Newman and of your sisters, and of the suffering they must have undergone … I shall think of you tomorrow, when, I suppose, you will be at St. Mary's. If you have judged me worthy, it will greatly delight me to hear something of what passed in your mind during all you have gone through. It is not curiosity—considering it the case of one so dear to me, and I think you will not fear from me that vulgar publication of feelings uttered in the confidence of friendship, which is one disgrace of our age.

It is not unlikely that this letter may have lived in Mr. Newman's mind, and put him upon writing at a later date what he could recall of his illness in Sicily. The following is a paper of recollections, dreamy and uncertain, of the incidents of his fever, written, as the reader must observe, at considerable intervals of time. There are breaks in the narrative, which may be understood as indicating passages too private for print or scrutiny of strange eyes.

A friend whose judgment may be relied upon, on being consulted by the Editor, has written on this remarkable paper, 'There is a great deal about his illness, and a good deal that goes into minutiŠ and special feelings in illness. But he so plainly always looked on the fever in all its features as a crisis in his life, partly judgment on past self-will, partly a sign of special electing and directing favour, that the prominence given to it is quite accounted for by those who knew him, and explains why all these strange pictures of fever are given.' {363}


[August 31, 1834.]—I have wished for some time to write in this book an account of my illness in Sicily [in May 1833], for the remembrance is pleasant and profitable. I shall not be able to recollect everything in order, so my account may be confused, running to and fro ...

Again, I felt it was a punishment for my wilfulness in going to Sicily by myself. What is here to be noticed is its remarkable bearing on my history, so to call it. I had been released from College business and written a book which I felt on the whole was worth publishing. Suddenly, I am led to go abroad; the work being still in MS. When out, I could not but feel that something of service was in store for me. I recollect writing to [John F.] Christie to this effect, that, nevertheless, if God willed me a private life, the happier for me; and I think I do feel this, O my God! so that, if Thou wilt give me retirement, Thou wilt give me what I shall rejoice and prefer to receive, except that I should be vexed to see no one else doing what I could in a measure do myself. Well, in an unlooked-for way I come to Sicily. From that time everything went wrong: I could almost fancy it was on that day that I caught my fever. Certainly I was weak and low from that time forward, and had so many little troubles to bear that I kept asking almost impatiently why God so fought against me. Towards the end of the next day I was quite knocked up, and laid down at Nicolosi on the bed with the feeling that my reason perchance might fail me. Then followed my voyage from Catania to Syracuse and back, and then to Adern˛ , where the insects for the first time ceased to plague me. I had noticed feverish symptoms in me the foregoing day [i.e. I could not eat at Catania on April 30], and that night being almost choked with a feeling which at the time I attributed to having taken some ginger with my supper. However, I have got into the narrative here, without meaning it. What I wanted first to speak of was the providence and strange meaning of it. The fever was most dangerous; for a week my attendants gave me up, and people were dying of it on all sides; yet all through I had a confident feeling I should recover. I told my servant so, and gave as a reason (even when semi-delirious, and engaged in giving him my friends' direction at home, and so preparing externally for death) that 'I thought God had some work for me.' These, I believe, were exactly {364} my words, and when, after the fever, I was on the road to Palermo, so weak I could not walk by myself, I sat on the bed on the morning of May 26 or May 27 profusely weeping, and only able to say that I could not help thinking God had something for me to do at home. This I repeated to my servant, to whom the words were unintelligible of course. Now it certainly is remarkable that a new and larger sphere of action had opened upon me from the very moment I returned. My book ['Arians'] indeed was not published for some months; but long before that I was busy. Immediately on my return I heard that Keble was going to preach an assize sermon on the times, and it was preached on the very first Sunday after my return; then it was printed. Close upon this—I suppose, within a fortnight of my return—I suggested to Palmer, Keble, and Froude an association for tracts. In August I wrote and printed four; then followed the address to the Archbishop, which with the tracts quite occupied me during Michaelmas Term, in the course of which (Nov. 5) my work was published. Then followed my sermons, published in February or March of this present year. Then, in Easter Term, the resistance of the Dissenters' University Admission Bill, in which I was much concerned.

Now for the particulars of my illness. On Thursday, May 2, I started from Adern˛—the scene was most beautiful—hills thrown about on all sides, and covered with green corn, in all variety of shades, relieved by the light (raw sienna) stone of the hills. The whole day the scene was like the garden of Eden, most exquisitely beautiful, though varying, sometimes with deep valleys on the side and many trees, high hills with towns on the top as at S. Filippo d'Argir˛, Etna behind us, and Castro Juan before in the distance. On the whole, I suppose I went forty-two miles that day on my mule, but with great pain. I set out walking, the mules coming after, and fell to tears thinking of dear Mary as I looked at the beautiful prospect. When I got to Regalbuto I was obliged to lie down for an hour or so. I cannot tell whether I thought myself ill or not. With much distress I proceeded, taking some wine at S. Filippo, and, I believe, elsewhere [I recollect with difficulty dismounting, and crawling with my servant's help to a wine-shop, and sitting on a stone], till in the evening I got to Leonforte.

Here [at Leonforte] I lay, I believe, without sleep, and next morning, when I attempted to get up, I fell back and was too ill to do so. (This is the best of my recollection.) {365}

[December 28, 1834.]—I believe I must have been somewhat [not light-headed but] scarcely myself the day before on my journey, else surely my indisposition would have been forced upon my mind by my frequent stoppings and restings. I fancy I had but one wish—to get on; that my troubles at Syracuse had quite taken away my present enjoyment of what I saw, and that I looked at everything but as the matter for future retrospective pleasure, which indeed was my original view in coming here. Well, after some time, a great personage having gone from the other inn, I managed to dress and get down there ... I think it was Friday, May 3, that I began to think what I could take to do me good ... I thought and thought, till it struck me camomile would do me good [as being a tonic and stomachic.—March 8, 1840]. I had seen some growing wild at Corfu, and, remembering this, bade my servant inquire. There were no shops in the place, much less a chemist's; but it so happened that camomile was a familiar medicine with the common people, and each house had it, so he got some. At first he made me some tea of the leaves, which was very rough, and I had some comparison for it, I believe, at the time, but I forget what. Next he made me some with the flowers, which I thought beautiful, and was certainly very refreshing. I consider it was owing to this (under Providence) that I was enabled ultimately to proceed on my journey. I recollect thinking at last I had found out what was the matter with me, and the whole night I passed in that distressing way ... which I used often to do at home before I went abroad. I told my servant so, and bade him feel my pulse. He said it was fever. I said, 'Oh no! I know myself better.' As I lay in bed the first day, many thoughts came over me. I felt God was fighting against me, and felt—at last I knew why—it was for self-will. I felt I had been very self-willed, that the Froudes had been against my coming; so also at Naples the Wilberforces, perhaps the Neates and Andersons. I said to myself, 'Why did no one speak out, say half a word? Why was I left now to interpret their meaning?' Then I tried to fancy where the Froudes were, and how happy I should have been with them in France, or perhaps in England. Yet I felt and kept saying to myself, 'I have not sinned against light,' and at one time I had a most consoling, overpowering thought of God's electing love, and seemed to feel I was His. But I believe all my feelings, painful and pleasant, were heightened by somewhat of delirium, though {366} they still are from God in the way of Providence. Next day the self-reproaching feelings increased. I seemed to see more and more my utter hollowness. I began to think of all my professed principles, and felt they were mere intellectual deductions from one or two admitted truths. I compared myself with Keble, and felt that I was merely developing his, not my, convictions. I know I had very clear thoughts about this then, and I believe in the main true ones. Indeed, this is how I look on myself; very much (as the illustration goes) as a pane of glass, which transmits heat, being cold itself. I have a vivid perception of the consequences of certain admitted principles, have a considerable intellectual capacity of drawing them out, have the refinement to admire them, and a rhetorical or histrionic power to represent them; and, having no great (i.e. no vivid) love of this world, whether riches, honours, or anything else, and some firmness and natural dignity of character, take the profession of them upon me, as I might sing a tune which I liked—loving the Truth, but not possessing it, for I believe myself at heart to be nearly hollow, i.e. with little love, little self-denial. I believe I have some faith, that is all; and, as to my sins, they need my possessing no little amount of faith to set against them and gain their remission. By-the-bye, this statement will account for it, how I can preach the Truth without thinking much of myself. Arnold, in his letter to Grant about me, accuses me among others of identifying high excellence with certain peculiarities of my own—i.e. preaching myself. But to return. Still more serious thoughts came over me. I thought I had been very self-willed about the tutorship affair, and now I viewed my whole course as one of presumption. It struck me that the 5th of May was just at hand, which was a memorable day as being that on which (what we called) my ultimatum was sent in to the Provost; and that on the third anniversary I should be lying on a sick bed in a strange country ... I recollected, too, that my last act on leaving Oxford was to preach a university sermon against self-will … Yet still I said to myself, 'I have not sinned against light.'

I cannot describe my full misery on this Saturday, May 4. My door would only lock, i.e. no mere clasp, but with a key; my servant was a good deal away, and thus locked me in. My feelings were acute and nervous in a high degree. I forced myself up to keep my mind from thinking of itself, I kept counting the number of stars, flowers, &c., in the pattern of {367} the paper on the walls to occupy me. Just at this time (before or after) the miserable whine of Sicilian beggars was heard outside my floor, the staircase communicating with the street. Who can describe the wretchedness of that low, feeble, monotonous cry? which went on I cannot say how long (I unable to do anything) till my servant released me after a time. Now in my lowest distress I was relieved first by some music from some travelling performers, who were passing on (I believe) to Palermo. [N.B.—I had seen a bagpipe, to my surprise, between Catania and Palermo.] The music was, I believe, such as harp and clarionet. And now I think it was that my servant proposed a walk. He had talked much of some handsome fountain at the end of the town, but I put off seeing it, I believe now, and we walked out in the S. Filippo road, and then turned up a lane on the south (i.e. the left hand). There I sat down on a bank under a fig-tree (the leaves, I believe, were out), and wondered how it should be that I was there; it was the evening. I forget what else I thought of or saw. (I think this walk was on this day, yet somehow have sometimes a notion that the ride on the mule which is to come presently was today.) My servant wished to get on, I believe, naturally enough. [February 6, 1842, we had a speculation about having a litter made, in which I might be carried to Palermo.] He thought me dying, and told me a story about a sick officer he had attended on in Spain, who left him all his baggage, then got well. I did not see the drift of the story at the time. I gave him a direction to write to if I died (Froude), but I said, 'I do not think I shall. I have not sinned against the light,' or 'God has still work for me to do.' I think the latter.

[Sunday, March 1, 1835.]—During the Friday May 3 and Saturday May 4 I had eaten nothing or very little. I could not swallow. On the Sunday May 5 I was eating every half-hour all through the day. A fancy came upon me, either the Saturday or Sunday night, that I was quite well, and only wanted food; and I quite laughed with myself through the night at the news I should have to tell in England, how shameful it was and how ridiculous I had been to have missed seeing Girgenti from such a neglect. One of these nights, Saturday (I think), I was awake all night. (My servant slept in the room. I forget when first.) I recollect asking him whether he said prayers—he said, yes. I had had a plan of reading to him on Sundays, and had hoped to do it on the {368} Sunday I supposed I should pass at Girgenti. I recollect [on the Saturday] the dreamy view I had of the room, with the wretched lamp. I dreamed of the buildings of Catania. Well, on the Sunday I kept eating all day. I do not think I knew it was Sunday. However, in the evening (if it was Saturday), we went out on our mules towards Palermo for a ride. It was very fine scenery. As we came back there was a Sicilian family of the upper rank with servants, &c., lounging outside the town near the steep parapet of the cliff. I recollect asking some questions about them, and somehow so strongly connecting them with the notion of its being Sunday that I certainly thought it was Sunday, whether it was or no. That evening I determined to set off next morning for Palermo. I had a strange feeling on my mind that God meets those who go on in His way, who remember Him in His way, in the paths of the Lord; that I must put myself in His path, His way, that I must do my part, and that He met those who rejoice and worked righteousness, and remembered Him in His ways—some texts of this kind kept haunting me, and I determined to set out by daybreak.

Before setting out on Monday the 6th I drank some toast-and-water which my servant made. We set out almost before sunrise. Scarcely had we got half a mile, when I felt very weak (I believe), and said I must have something to eat. I said I must have some chicken (on which I had lived the day before). My servant remonstrated—the things were just packed up. I was peremptory, and he was obliged to undo the baggage and get it. I forget what was on my mind. As I went on again a great thirst came on. I began sucking some most delicious oranges which were on the wayside, very large and fine. I kept thinking what I should be able to say to my mother and sisters about the fineness of these oranges—not sweet or tart, but a fine aromatic bitter. (I believe they were very fine. My servant said so; they were very large.) It was not thirst I felt, but a convulsive feeling of suffocation almost about my throat—very distressing. At last I took to eating the leaves of the trees as I went on. I said I must have water. I imputed it to the toast-and-water, which I was sure was bad. The bread had been harsh for some time and I said it was very rough bread. This I think was the notion which the feeling in my throat gave me. Several miles passed and no water—no house. At last a cottage to the right—but no means of getting anything. We were {369} going through a level (high, I suppose), with Castro Giovanni before us. I recollect (then, I believe) debating whether it was worth while to turn aside thither; it was four miles out of the way. We saw the outline of the buildings and a temple or castle. My servant was told by the muleteer it was Roman work, I think. There were few trees or beauty of scenery near the road. Caltanisetta, on the other side (the right), I forget whether I saw it now or in the afternoon, in my further progress.

This was seven miles from Leonforte. It might be between six and seven o'clock. I set off before five, and we went about three or four miles an hour. At length I was taken some little way to the right to a hut, I think it was a tent, where I got some water and rested. There was no floor, only the ground. Under Etna, where we lost ourselves, I noticed high black cones, like collections of hop-poles; and I think shepherds were in them; we heard dogs. This might be something of the same kind. My blue travelling cloak was spread under me, and I lay down at length. How long I lay—hours probably—I do not know. In the course of the day I recollect a man came in to the good people there, who were of different ages and sexes, and as far as I understood him, asked for money to pray souls out of purgatory. How in my then state I could understand his Sicilian I do not know. I recollect asking my servant whether a bad man had not come in; and he said no, a very good man. As I lay when I opened my eyes, I saw the men and women, young and old, hanging over me with great interest, and apparently much rejoiced to see me a little better. At length, as I lay, I felt fingers on my pulse. [Sunday, September 6, 1835.] It was a medical man who was visiting persons ill of the fever (I believe), near, and some one had told him there was a sick person, a foreigner, close by, and he came. I forget what he said. I was almost stupid at times. I think he recommended to give me a drink of camomile, lemon, and sugar, every now and then, and to get to Castro Giovanni. It was most refreshing. After a time, I do not know the time of day, someone said an English party was passing. It turned out to be a diligence on the way to Palermo. A thought came across me that if I were dying, I might let my friends know the last of me, and I insisted on speaking to them. My servant remonstrated. I was very earnest, commanded him, and could almost fancy I rose, or opened my travelling bag, or bade him {370} carry it, or something or other. At length I got my way, and one of the party made his appearance. They were not English; but this man, a German, could speak English. I gave him the letter of introduction I had to Mr. Thomas (?) at Palermo, and begged him to say I forget what; and thanked him most fervently, and felt much relieved, though it was not much which I did, or he promised. After a time, I suppose towards the evening, I managed to be put sideways, and held on the mule, and so set off for Castro Giovanni or Juan. The parting with the poor people in the tent was very affectionate. I asked their name and said I would mention it in England. (I have forgotten it.) My servant burst into tears, though I should not have thought him especially tender. It was, I suppose, four miles to Castro Giovanni, and uphill, very steep. When we got there we could get no room; nothing appeared possible but some damp and dark place, which my servant would not consent to. Some friars (in brown?) passed by, and I entreated my servant to ask them to take me into a monastery. At length I got a very nice comfortable room in the house of a man of some property who let lodgings. I was put to bed; the medical man who had felt my pulse and was (they say) the chief in the place was out of the way, and they brought, in another, who was said to be inferior, but I made much of him. He had moustaches and a harsh voice.

Now I do not know how to relate what comes. I shall recollect so irregularly, and medical and other circumstances so mingled together; and there were some things I do not like to put on paper. First, they determined to take blood from me. I preferred my instep to my arm, thinking they might not be skilful. They struck once, and I think again, and no blood came. I thought myself going. (I cannot quite tell whether or not I am colouring this, so let me say once for all that any descriptions of my feelings should be attended all through with 'I believe,' for I have half-recollections—glimpses which vanish when I look right at them.) My servant was so distressed he fainted away. At last the blood came. I had three incisions. It was very like cupping. They took away four ounces—little enough. Mr. Babington, to whom I told it afterwards, said it could do me no good; but they said they were afraid to do more, I seemed so weak. I cannot tell whether I was myself the next morning. I have vague recollections of medicine being given me more than once, with an injunction to close me with cold lemonade. My {371} servant was for warm tea; I insisted on the lemonade, and made a formal complaint to the doctor that he (Gennaro) changed the prescriptions (and I would not see Gennaro for a while). I corresponded with the doctor in Latin. I have the papers still with me. He, I suppose, was no deep Latin scholar, and pretended my Latin was nonsense; but it is very good, particularly considering I was so ill. I was light-headed these days, and barely recollect things. I was not still a moment, my servant said afterwards, and was flushed in the face. They called it a gastric fever. It was very destructive there. Persons were dying daily, and at Girgenti and at Trapani (?) as I learned afterwards. It was attended commonly … with what they called cholera, but not in my case ... I don't know how long it lasted; perhaps from Catania to Adern˛ (May 1 or 2 to May 11?) ...

I have some notion that the other complaint lasted five days. I was in pain ... They gave me over for a week, but my servant said he thought I should get well, from the avidity with which I always took my medicine. The fever came to a crisis in seven, nine, or eleven days—mine, I believe, in eleven. I had some miserable nights; the dreamy confusion of delirium—sitting on a staircase, wanting something, or with some difficulty, very wretched, and something about my Mother and sisters. How I dreaded the long nights, lying without sleep, as it seemed, all through the darkness. I wanted to get some one to sit up with me, but did not succeed. Indeed, it was with difficulty I got nurses. The principal one said to Gennaro (as he told me afterwards), and he to her, 'Well, we must go through with it, and if we catch the fever, we catch it.' Gennaro slept in the room. I got the muleteer to sit up with me. The heat, too, was miserable. I suspect I ought to have been kept quite cool. I was reduced to the lowest conceivable weakness, not being able to raise my hand to my head, nor to swallow. I had macaroni, &c., but nothing agreed; biscuits, some I liked. (When I first got there, there were some camomile flowers on the table near the bed, which were most refreshing, and I begged they might not be removed.) I continually had most oppressive almost faintings; I suspect the heat had much to do with it. They had nothing but vinegar to relieve me, which the muleteer with his great bullet tips of fingers (so I recollect I called them, while he administered it with them) applied to my nose in the middle of the night. When I got better I used to watch for the day, and when light {372} appeared through the shutter, for there was no blind or curtain, I used to soliloquise: 'O sweet light God's best gift,' &c. By-the-bye, I discharged the muleteer after some days with a quarrel (he going before the magistrates) between him and me, through Gennaro, about wages depending on working and stopping days, in which I got somewhat the worse, as might be expected. My continual faintness was most distressing by day, afterwards. A continual snuffing up vinegar was the only thing which kept me up. I wanted cold water to my head, but this was long afterwards. The doctor and Gennaro would not let me. I managed to outwit Gennaro by pretending to dab my temples with vinegar, and so held a wet cloth to them. He used to bathe with vinegar temples, ears, nose, face, and neck (?).

A fair was held in Castro Giovanni after a few clays, and [March 8, 1840, Littlemore] I think I was much annoyed with the great noise which this fair caused. It was under my window. It was a great fair, I believe, and there were to the best of my recollection lodgers in consequence, or guests, in the next room (through the folding doors)—three, according to my impression, who talked. What distressed me most was the daily Mass bell (I suppose it was in a neighbouring church). I used quite to writhe about, and put my head under the bedclothes, and asked Gennaro if it could be stopped. He answered with a laugh of surprise that it should not annoy me, and of encouragement, as if making light of it. I have since thought they might suppose it was a heretic's misery under a holy bell. Gennaro ruled me most entirely. I was very submissive, and he authoritative. The master of the house was very civil. He heard I liked music, and he got some performers to play to me in the next room. It was very beautiful, but too much for me. What strange, dreamy reminiscences of feeling does this attempt at relation raise! So the music was left off. When I was getting well, all sorts of maladies came upon me. One which came, or which I fancied, was determination of blood to the head. I had a notion it was mounting, mounting; that it had got as high as my ears, &c. I got an idea that sleep would bring it on, that I ought not to sleep, and I did all I could to resist it. A cough came on, a wearisome continual cough, for some hours every day in the evening. I spit a good deal. At length they would not let me, saying it would hurt me. They made an issue in my arm for it, which took it off, I think. {373} Even at Lyons I had profuse cold sweats at night. I had a notion that I had got inflammation of the chest, and recollecting that at Brighton in 1829 Dr. Price had said he would not leave my Mother till she could draw a deep breath without pain, I was ever drawing deep breaths, and felt pain at the bottom of my chest.

When the doctor came in the early part of my illness, he used to strike his head on feeling my pulse and say, 'A-ah! a-ah! debil, debil!'

When I was getting better I walked about the room to gain my feet, first leaning on my servant and a stick. But even when I was come to Palermo I could not get out of the carriage by myself, and for some time walked with a stick; improving rapidly, so that one of the servants about the inn said—I think, in English—'Come, sir, cheer up; you will get quite young again.' After walking about the room a little of a day, my servant got me to walk a little in the next room, through the folding doors, partly to amuse me, for it was the time I thought I had inflammation of the chest, and at length he got me with great difficulty downstairs (down the stone steps) and took me out and seated me in a chair—I think under my window, looking across somewhat of a space, so I seem to think, to a pillar which he said was Roman. As I sat in the chair, I could not command myself, but cried profusely, the sight of the sky was so piercing. A number of poor collected about me to see me; I had made them a present already, at my servant's suggestion, as a thank-offering. The chief Lady Bountiful of the place had died of my fever during my illness. I heard of her state from day to day, and at last of her death. The bell at length went for her funeral. One day I was able, with Gennaro's help, to get as far as the Cathedral. I suppose it could not be far. I walked up the aisles. It was Norman, to the best of my recollection. I remember nothing but thick heavy capitals. The day before setting off for Palermo, for which I was very impatient, we went out a little in a close carriage.

When I was getting better, and lay in bed thinking, the events of my life came thick before me, I believe, but I could not recollect the state of things, e.g. I could not tell if Dr. Nicholas was alive or not. I had all sorts of schemes how I was to make money to pay my extra expenses from my illness. And I thought a good deal of my book on the Arians, and how it might be improved, and re-arranged parts—and I almost {374} think I eventually adopted some of these suggestions. I think it was on one of these early days of my illness—no, it must be rather when I was getting well, for I fancy it connected with the rush of blood to my head—that I called for a pencil and paper, and, as it were, composed the verses (since in the 'Lyra') beginning 'Mid Balak's magic fires.' When I got to Palermo (I think it was) I found to my surprise that I had already composed them at Messina. The immediate cause of the rush of blood to my head was receiving a letter from home; it came up from Palermo, and I think this was from five correspondents. I pored over it, small writing, without my glasses, with great avidity, hoping to see the news of the Oriel election, but it was not there … It seemed like a dream or absurdity how I should ever get to England again. As to the Oriel election, I first saw the news of it in a 'Galignani' at Palermo, and on seeing that Rogers was elected, I kissed the paper rapturously.

[March 25, 1840 (Littlemore).]—I think I have forgotten to say that I had continual pains in the early part of my illness in a way which was very uncommon with me. Also I should mention some fantastic dreams I had when I was getting well, which I barely recollect now. One, that I was introduced to the Russian Court, and that I began talking to the Empress; and then I bethought myself, 'How ill-mannerly! In the case of great people, one should not speak, but be spoken to.' Another, that one army from Reggio was crossing the strait to another at Messina, and taking a town. I was in the one or the other, French or English, I think. Another was an army coming up heights to Castro Giovanni. These dreams about armies might be partly suggested by a visit of three magistrates to me, who talked about the quartering of the English at Castro Giovanni; the occasion of their coming was a quarrel I had with my doctor. When I found myself getting well, I was greatly impressed with his skill and very grateful. I wished to make him presents over and above his pay. I gave him or the master of the house a pocket compass, thermometer, a Virgil and, I think, some other Latin books, and perhaps some other things. The doctor took a fancy to something which Gennaro thought too expensive to part with, or, as I fancy from the event, wished the master of the house to have. He took it away with him, and my servant took the matter before the magistrates, who accordingly, partly perhaps from curiosity, paid me a visit. I did not {375} understand a word they said, though Gennaro interpreted some things. By-the-bye, on my falling ill, all my knowledge of Italian, such as it was, went, while Latin remained. One of the three was an ecclesiastic, and I do not know why, but I stared at him in a strange way, till my servant, thinking it would hurt me, forbade me briskly. I got my property back, and then Gennaro wished me to give it to Aloysio, the master of the house, but I would not. I was visited at the beginning of my illness by a priest; and told my servant, when half light-headed, I wished to dispute with him. I was also visited by the brother of my landlord, who asked and obtained of me a yellow wash-leather, such as they rub plate with. There was some one else in the early part of my illness whom in my Latin with the doctor I called probus homo; he might have been the husband of my inferior nurse.

And now I have said everything pretty nearly that I can recollect of this illness. I set off from Castro Juan on May 25, Whitsun Eve. I mistook, by-the-bye, and calculated it a week wrong. For at Palermo a week after, I fancied it was Whit Sunday, whereas it was Trinity. On the Sunday before, I was well enough to know that it was Jemima's birthday, and fancy that I revived about the 17th; but the crisis must have been earlier. By-the-bye, I should have acknowledged the great honesty of all my attendants. Gennaro had charge of clothes, money—everything. I lost nothing. A large sum of money came to me from Palermo in dollars safe. He paid nothing without asking my leave; and though he had coveted all my effects, if I died, yet even then he wished them formally bequeathed to him. My watch, and indeed everything I had, was at the mercy of a number of persons. No English consul was nearer, I suppose, than Girgenti. To proceed I set off on the 25th, and had great compunctions about travelling through the Sunday (next day), but at last overcame them. I travelled through an exquisitely beautiful country, part of it, however, by night. My joy was too great for me at first. I never saw such a country—the spring in its greatest luxuriance. All sorts of strange trees—very steep and high hills over which the road went; mountains in the distance—a profusion of aloes along the road. Such bright colouring—all in tune with my reviving life. I had a great appetite, and was always coaxing (as I may call it) Gennaro for cakes. Here, by-the-bye, I should record my feelings of returning appetite after the illness. As I got better at Castro Giovanni he used to give me {376} an egg baked in wood ashes and some tea for breakfast, and cakes. How I longed for it! And when I took the tea, I could not help crying out with delight. I used to say, 'It is life from the dead!' I never had such feelings. All through my illness I had depended on Gennaro so much I could not bear him from the room five minutes. I used always to be crying out, for I don't know how long together, 'Gen-na-ro-o-o-o-o-o!' They fed me on chicken broth. I did not take beef broth or beef tea till I got to Palermo, and that gave me something of the ecstatic feelings which the tea had given. I get to Palermo the third day, May 27, having (I think) on the 26th rested at a sort of inn where the landlord came and looked at me. I was very weak. When I got up the morning of the 26th or 27th I sat some time by the bedside, crying bitterly, and all I could say was that I was sure God had some work for me to do in England. This, indeed, I had said to Dr. Wiseman at Rome, but though sincerely said, the words were not pointedly said; but in answer to the question how long we stayed there, I said that we had work at home. I wish I could see my letter to Christie; I must ask him for it. But now my pulse was intense and overpowering, and my servant of course could not understand me at all. But to proceed to Palermo. I was lodged at Page's hotel—the hostess Ann Page, who had married, I think, an Italian or Sicilian. She was very eager to please me, and begged me to recommend her house at home. She was a motherly sort of person, and made me sago and tapioca, &c. The merchants (wine merchants) were very civil. At first they thought me dying. I was so very weak, and could not speak except drawling. I used to go on the water every day, and that set me up. I revived day by day wonderfully. I was there nearly three weeks, till June 13. It was a very trying time, yet perhaps I should not have been strong enough before that time—and to go by myself! I composed a Lyra a day, I think, from the day I got thieve. Hay-making was going on while I was there. I went up to the Monte Pellegrino; I went to the Hydra cave, &c.; but I made very little use of my time, expecting to sail almost daily, and home-sick and much disappointed at the delay. I went a great deal into the public garden, called, I think, the Villa Reale, and along the beach outside, sitting in the seats. However, they told me I must not go out in the middle of the day, though in the shade. Sometimes there were sciroccos and very trying, the wind like a furnace. The clouds were {377} blue, the tawny mountains looking wondrous. I dined besides at the merchant's, at Mr. Thomas's, a merchant living two or three miles out on the Monreale road—a married man. The day before I sailed I met there Mr. Page of Ch. Ch. I called on the German who had passed and come out to me when I lay in the cabin on the road under Castel Juan. My conveyance in which I had come to Palermo came from Palermo. All this time I knew my friends in England were in a state of anxiety, but I had no means of communicating with them. My 'private diary' for 1833 gives many daily details.

I left Gennaro at Palermo; he was to go back to Naples to his wife and family. Since, I have heard he is in Lord Carrington's family in England. He was, humanly speaking, the preserver of my life, I think. What I should have done without him I cannot think. He nursed me as a child. An English servant never could do what he did. He had once been deranged, and was easily overset by liquor. I found him so at Palermo, though he denied it. He once or twice left me a whole day, or a long while.

When we parted, I fancy I gave him about 10l. over and above his wages and a character written. Before I had given him anything, he began to spell for something; but what he thought of was an old blue cloak of mine, which I had had since 1823; a little thing for him to set his services at—at the same time a great thing for me to give, for I had an affection for it. It had nursed me all through my illness; had ever been put on my bed, put on me when I rose to have my bed made, &c. I had nearly lost it at Corfu—it was stolen by a soldier, but recovered. I have it still. I have brought it up here to Littlemore, and on some cold nights I have had it on my bed. I have so few things to sympathise with me that I take to cloaks.—[March 25, 1840.]

[April 24, 1874.—I wonder I have not mentioned how I simply lost my memory as to how I came to be ill and in bed, and how strangely, by little and little, first one fact came back to me, then another, till at length I realised my journey and my illness in continuity.]

[Littlemore: March 25, 1840.]—The thought keeps pressing on me while I write this, what am I writing it for? For myself I may look at it once or twice in my life, and what sympathy is there in my looking at it? ... Who will care to be told such details as I have put down above? Shall I ever have in my old age spiritual children who will take an interest? {378} How time is getting on! I seem to be reconciling myself to the idea of being old. It seems but yesterday that the Whigs came into power; another such tomorrow will make me almost fifty—an elderly man. What a dream is life! I used to regret festival days going so quick. They are come and they are gone; but so it is. Time is nothing except as the seed of eternity.


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1. Lyra Apostolica 'Taurominium.'
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2. Virg. Ecl. i. 68.
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3. 'I was aching to get home; yet for want of a vessel I was kept at Palermo for three weeks ... At last I got off in an orange boat, bound for Marseilles. Then it was that I wrote the lines, "Lead, kindly Light," which have since become well known. We were becalmed a whole week in the Straits of Bonifacio.'—Apologia, p. 35.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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