Friday, February 5, 2010

Mount Vesuvius - March 12, 1850

In 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.  In a letter to her mother dated March 12, 1850, Caroline Crane Marsh describes a contemporary eruption of Mount Vesuvius earlier in that year.  She first relates her impressions of the city itself "...visited the old cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum... wandered through the streets and houses of these once buried cities with strange and even overwhelming feelings... many a beautiful fountain and many a rich mosaic floor still bear witness to the taste and wealth of the former proprietors."

Caroline then writes of the eruption.  "On our return from Paestum we found Vesuvius throwing out more smoke and flame than usual and a day or two after we were told that a current of lava had burst forth from the side of the mountain...." She describes the ash fall as "like snow upon our carriage" and the lava flow as "a wall of fire from 10 to 20 feet in height moving slowly onward laying low in it's stately march the smiling vineyards and the stately trees."  Caroline sums up her experience with the conclusion "Never again do I expect to witness anything so awfully sublime."

Caroline was the wife of George Perkins Marsh (Dartmouth College Class of 1820 and envoy to Turkey, 1849-1853).  This letter forms part of a small collection which details her travels while in Europe and the Middle East.  Ask for Mss 001009 to read the rest of her account.

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