‘Dear Brother’ part 2. From the Alps to Naples, Sicily and Malta via Rome, Pompeii and Herculaneum (January to May 1785)

Charles Cadogan writes to his brother the Rev William Bromley Cadogan from Naples. Part of his itinerary is the social and cultural trail typical of a Grand Tour, but Cadogan the ex-soldier is a bit of an adventurer, taking a 12-hour voyage from Sicily to Malta in a rowing boat during a heavy storm, and updating his sister-in-law Jane Cadogan nee Bradshaw on his mountain-climbing, once with a bandit escort. He also picnics in the crater of Vesuvius, shown in the image as witnessed by Joseph Wright of Derby the previous decade.


Naples January 4 1785

Dear Brother,

With the Compliments of the Season I write you this to inform you that I found your last of November 17 here on my arrival which was the 15th Ultimate. You was right in your conjectures about Rome, for it is as impossible for a person to dash thro’ it, as it is for him to fly. I stayed a full fortnight there, and only had time to get just such a general Idea of the Numberless wonders both of Modern and antient times, as to determine me to spend 2 or 3 Months there before return to England.

This is also a wonderfull place, or rather its environs are so. The town itself except the great street of Toledo is beastly, but the Key (on which I live in an Excellent Hotel with a noble view of the Bay) Mt Vesuvius which is all red hot every night, Portici, Pausilippo and the rest of the town on the Lea Coast, one of the most wonderfully delightful Things scenes I ever saw. The Carneval is now begun, and the town full of Plays, masquerades, Operas, Pickpockets etc etc; In short it is quite a mad place. I have seen two underground Towns, you know I mean Herculaneum and Pompeii, which in the 79thyear of the Christian aera, were buried under the Eruptions of Mt Vesuvius. The Ruins of antient Roman buildings aqueducts etc on the west side of the Town are also very numerous, together with sulphurous springs. In short ½ the Country is a Volcano, and no man can form an Idea of it, without giving himself the trouble of coming and seeing it. This even I am Connoisseur enough to see.

Pray tell Mrs Cadogan that it is next to certain that Major Scott late of the 6thRegiment and I shall take the following tour together, and leave this in about 2 Months. I leave my Carriage (which by the bye is an excellent one) and the present Part of my baggage (taking nothing but a Portmanteau with me) under the care of Sir William Hamilton. I embark for Carthagena Thence to Gibraltar, thence to Lisbon, Thence to Madrid, thence to Barcelona, thence thro’ the little Cantons in Switzerland (asking Gray-tonens how he does in my way) (and which is the only part of that Country I have not yet seen) to Schaffhausen. Thence I go down the Danube to Vienna by Munich. From Vienna to Constantinople thro’ Greece, seeing the fine remains of Athens and Corinth’ Then over to Smyrna, where we shall embark for Malta. There perform quarantine and come through Sicily and Calabria, seeing fine remains of antiquity as well as the effects of the late earthquakes back to Naples. My next will probably be from somewhere in Spain. Suppose you embark and meet me at Gibraltar. The Bottom of a Vessel is surer than that of an airballoon.

I direct this to Chelsea, as you said in your last you should be there. When I change my Direction, I’ll tell you . My  Love to Mrs C. and Compliments to all friends. I never got Vatas’s letter but wrote to him the other dat. From your very affectionate brother CH Cadogan


Naples March 5 1785

Dear Brother

I am in daily hopes of a letter from you before I embark for Palermo. I go the first fair wind. I have now taken a thorough view of the Principal Curiosities in and about this Place, have even been at Pestum 60 miles down the Country where there are the magnificent Ruins of three antient Tempples. I will venture to call this a most wonderfull Country, and to assert that no one can form a true Idea of the Curiosities it produces except he sees them. Sicily, Malta, and that Part of Sicily and Calabria affected by the late earthquakes are equally deserving attention. This determines me to compleat the View of these Parts by one thorough one of the abovenamed Countries. I shall be about 2 months absent from hence, and then mean to make off for Vienna. I take Cottrell and an Italian servant with me, leaving my Chaise and the main of my Baggage here.

Pray tell Mrs Cadogan I shall have many as bad Passes or worse and more fatiguing than Mt Cenis, That I shall travel over the Island on Mules and under the Protection of the Banditti perfectly safe and that I don’t doubt of giving you a satisfactory account of my Voyage, dated here about the Middle of May. I have been here near three months, and independent of the Curiosities, the Place and Country afford, have spent a most gay time. I have frequented nothing but balls, Masquerades and Operas. The King gave one himself. I have been three times at the top of Mt Vesuvius, and have dined in the Crater. Sir William Hamilton who has given me recommendations to all the principal People in Sicily and Malta, assures me that Mt Vesuvius will appear like a Molehill after I shall have been up and seen Mt Aetna.

I shall collect and purchase just a few of the Natural Curiosities here and in Sicily by way of a mere Specimen, and what I can carry away with me. This….be very bulky. [the paper is torn in places] There have been a …. English here, and the main are here ….. Pembroke has been gone some time. Lady Clarges and Miss Carter, Lord and Lady Hampden etc etc are going very soon. My Love to Mrs Cadogan and Compliments to all friends not forgetting Vatas. Why does not the little Monkey write to me? From Dear Brother your ever most affectionate CH Cadogan

Naples May 26 1785

Dear Brother,

I got back here on Sunday last after a most delightfull Tour to Sicily and Malta. I left this the 18thof March, the very day before which I got the Letter you speak of I must defer till we meet again enumerating to you the Particulars of this Voyage, as indeed those of my former ones, Paper not being spacious enough to contain them. I was most Hospitably received at Palermo, where the Viceroy would hardly ever let me dine out his house. After staying there 11 days, I went to Trapani, by the Noble Antique Temple of Segestum. At Trapani I went up Mt Eryx, famous formerly for the Temple of Venus Erycina and her Pidgeons. But of the Temple and the Pidgeon House there are very inconsiderable remains.

From Trapani we went to Sirjente (old Agrigentum) where there are magnificent remains of Antiquity, of the Country the most beautifull and fertile I ever saw. Here we stayed 5 days, and then went to Sicata (antient Gela) where we stayed 1, and then embarked for Malta where we stayed 13 days.

We got over in 12 hours, and had a storm astern most the way. I was dead sick, and had I not been so, should have been greatly alarmed for my Safety, we were in a Boat with six rowers called a Sparonara and had 80 miles across the Canal. But the Malthese among many other excellent qualities produced by that noble spirit of independence that reigns among the Knights, are by much the safest and best sailors in the Mediterranean. The little Island is most curious, and the Knights most Hospitable in every respect.

From Malta we reached Cape Passaro 60 miles in 13 hours, and had a rather boisterous Passage. Hence we went on Mules to Syracusa. Hence to Catania. From hence we ascended the grandest mountain by much since I have been abroad on the 7thInstant. I can’t give you a better Idea of the heighth of Aetna, than by telling you we were obliged to walk 8 miles over the snow in order to reach the Crater, which we did just at Sun rise and consequently marched all night. We concluded our Tour by seeing the ruins of Messina and Calabria, which are beyond all Description. We touched at Stromboli in our way back to Naples. This is a Volcano in the midst of the Sea.

I hope this will meet you before you set out for Scotland. I wish you a pleasant Tour and rejoice much at your having settled all you attain to your mind. I received Vatas’s last Letter and answered it. The winter has been as long and as mild for this Climate as it has in England. I am glad to hear such good Tidings of the Grey Place. My best Compliments to Vatas, the Lovedays and all friends. I wish the Latter joy of a Male Heir.

I set out for Vienna. You shall hear of my farther motions from thence. I think I told you in my last to direct to me à Vienne en Autriche.

My Love to Mrs C. She may perceive I have not left off Mountain climbing. Tell her the Banditti turned out just what I thought, and that I was escorted by one only well armed.

Your ever most affectionate CH Cadogan

Parliamentary Archives CAD 4/4-6


Image Vesuvius from Portici by Joseph Wright of Derby (c) Huntingdon Library and Art Gallery, San Marino.

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