Etna Erupts: Lord Ossory’s diary for 1832

July 14, 2013 at 2:46 pm (books, diaries, europe, history, news, people, research, travel) (, , , , , , , , , )

These last few weeks I have had the pleasure of transcribing TWO diaries — thanks to Kildare and Pat. The miracle is that both came to me within days, and both cover the same 1832 trip take by Drummond Smith (Emma’s youngest brother), Lord Ossory (John Butler, later: the 2nd Marquess of Ormonde), and Edward Odell (of Carriglea).

I’ve written about this trip before, because Odell seemed to be confessing to a friend that he — and “Smith” — had determined to continue travelling, going on to Egypt, Asia Minor and Persia! DID MAMMA SMITH KNOW? was my burning question. Alas, she never got the chance to permit (or not) further travels: Drummond died in Palermo, aged only 20.

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Among the last scenery Drummond witnessed?

For a later post, will be the mystery of WHO transcribed Drummond’s 1832 journal and letters; the handwriting is not his – and seems to match none of his siblings either.

For this post, though, because I’ve been transcribing Lord Ossory’s fascinating account of being at Etna’s 1832 eruption, only days after it began (and that was on All Souls Day, November 2; Drummond died three days later, on the 5th of November), I wanted to take a look at his book account of the same.

* READ Lord Ossory’s published account, An Autumn in Sicily (1850)

I include here a handful of pages, comprising Ossory’s reaction to visiting the scene of Etna (click on the photos):
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Now, I’m not going to include everything Ossory wrote in the midst (or aftermath) of seeing Etna erupt; but I will give readers a glimpse of the immediacy of the journal, even compared to the same incident he later covered in his book. This is most of the entry for Saturday, 17 November 1832:

  Well might the place be called the Fondaco della {Nacilla?}, for I never was so tormented by fleas in all my life, or more glad to get up at ½ past 5. After eating some breakfast we got off at ¼ to 7. I walked the first part of the way. We got on very slowly on a most infernal road for four hours, up hill all the way, and to add to our pleasure we were enveloped in a thick mist, & small rain. It was extremely cold. We passed thro a Bosco of some of the only good trees I saw in Sicily. Oak. Ash & Beech. We could hear the gunning from Etna very distinctly Exactly like the previous day. Having forded the river Alcantara about ½ a dozen times, we got to Randazzo at 1 passing thro the small village of S. Domenico on the top of the hill. We went to the Fondaco  got some thing to eat and as carriages were to be got – the beasts were tired we unloaded  got into a thing drawn by three horses & rattled off to Bronte. The road was very good & we got on well. About 3 miles from Bronte we saw the lava running, & the trees on fire  The noise was very great. We performed the 12 miles in about two hours, & got there at 4. The inn had only one room about 12 feet by 9. They said they could put 4 or 5 beds into it if we wished. We only wished them good morning, & got a private house next door. the room was very clean but unfurnished the man having secured his goods in case of accidents.   We got a guide & set off to the Lava. An old stream reaches to within half a mile of Bronte. We walked over this for nearly 3 miles where the new lava was. The sight was a most extraordinary & fearful one. The stream was semicircular of about a mile in breadth, and advancing rapidly. The pace depends naturally on the lie of the ground but it is sure to get over every thing. It appeared to be about from 30 to 50 feet in depth. I do not know exactly how to describe the appearance of it. Perhaps the best idea may be formed by imagining a hill of about the height I have mentioned. The top of which is continually falling to the bottom & as constantly replaced. The lava is not liquid, but rolls down in large masses, & tho the outside is blackish, yet every stone that falls leaves a fiery trail behind for the moment. The noise of the falling lava resembled water. One block fell close to where we stood. It could not have weighed less than a ton. We lit segars from it. The stream advanced principally in two directions North & West. From the first no danger was apprehended but the second had its head straight for Bronte. We heard that several hundred people were employed at a sort of bastion to arrest it, but did not see it. I doubt if human means could resist it. The principal pattern of the whole was the idea that it gave  of irresistible force. It did not come on fast except comparatively. we went close to it & pushed out hot bits with our sticks but still on it came changing the whole face of the country. Making hills were [sic: where] valleys had been, changing the face of the country and overwhelming all the works of man, leaving all behind one black rough mass of hard & barren lava. The Borea whence it issued was not visible from the stream of Lava. Before leaving it, I took some observations as to the positions of trees to be able to judge of the process of it. As we returned to the town the appearance of the lava in the dark was beautiful. It had advanced already 10 miles from the Crater.

Oh, for Drummond’s thoughts on this same scene… I was rather of two minds about Lord Ossory, even before reading his Drummond-deathbed-account: Ossory erased Drummond Smith from his published account, making mention only of one travel companion, Edward Odell. I’d love to know if Emma or Maria, Fanny even, or Eliza — and most especially Spencer Smith, who caught up with Ossory & Odell in early December 1832 — ever came across An Autumn in Sicily.
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special thanks
To Ann in Ireland, for first glimpse of Ossory’s diary
To Kildare, for Lord Ossory’s diary
To Pat

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Drummond Erased?

October 24, 2010 at 10:45 am (news, people, places) (, , , , , , , , , )

Although, writing-wise, I’m back in the 1810s, all this vital information coming in about the 1830s has me digging deeper about this trip of Drummond, Mr Odell and Lord Ossory.

In 1850, having obtained his title upon the death of his father in 1838, the 2nd Marquess of Ormonde published a memoir of this very journey: An Autumn in Sicily. The preface makes for interesting reading:

“My fellow-traveller, Mr. Odell, and I, proposed, on our return from our tour, to publish in conjunction a volume descriptive of it, of which he undertook the compilation. From various causes [yes, like the death of Drummond Smith!] the work was laid aside by him, after some sheets had been struck off. In the course of last winter [ie, 1849], when on a visit at his residence, I saw them, and thinking it a pity that the mass of notes which he had collected should, as well as the plates…, remain useless, I obtained his permission to carry off and make use of the entire of the materials, with full power to preserve, alter, and omit, as I thought proper.”

Drummond is “omitted” alright!

Even if it would be a bit of a “downer” in such a travel memoir to mention an illness and death, why make it sound — from the start — like only two travelled? What did these men have to hide?

By 1850 Mrs Smith had died; only Aunt Emma still survived from the older generation. Charles, Charlotte, Augusta — and of course Drummond — were gone from the sibling generation.

“I must ever look back to the summer of 1832 as one of the pleasantest portions of my life,” reminisced the Marquess, still Lord Ossory in that long ago summer. “Young — in the enjoyment of robust health — with means sufficient for every reasonable want, and with a companion with whom I was, and had long been, on the most intimate and friendly terms…”

A companion; Ossory means Odell, but they travelled as a threesome. Where is Drummond in this memoir???

“[O]n a fine evening towards the end of July I found myself in the Dover mail, on my way to Calais, whither my companion, with the carriage and baggage, had gone twelve hours previously. I rejoined him…, and we started at once, taking the line through Belgium, which caused us some delay, as on the Prussian frontier we found a sanitary cordon established, in consequence of some cases of cholera having occurred, or been reported”.

Cholera? There were outbreaks everywhere in the 1830s, including England. I have to assume that whenever the threesome split, as in this mention of the Dover mail and Ossory’s “companion” going ahead with the baggage, that Drummond would have been travelling with Odell. I’m not sure how well Drummond knew Lord Ossory; he’d known Odell since their Harrow schooldays.

What did the remaining Smith siblings — Emma, Fanny, Spencer, Eliza, Maria — think about this book?

Ormonde continued his youthful journey:

“We arrived at Naples on the 20th of August, and our preparations for the voyage to Messina and subsequent journey were soon complete. The weather, however, was very unfavourable…. On the 31st the wind became fair, we were all ready, and in the evening took leave…, and got under way for Paestrum.”

Emma’s diary — some of its comments obviously written in after the fact, after the receipt of certain letters — also lays out Drummond’s travels: July 6, he goes to Town [London] with Odell. Spencer, in London, “bid good bye to dear Drummond” on the 9th. The next day he goes “abroad with Mr Odell  & Lord Ossory—”

Emma notes his crossing into Italy on July 28; and the following day her newest child, son Charles Edward, is christened; his sponsors include Drummond.

Drummond “entered Rome — this day at 1/2 past 7 P.M.”, is the diary entry for 15 August. The next day, Arthur Currie proposes to Charlotte, and is accepted. Drummond’s letter dated “ROME” arrives on 4 September 1832. Undoubtedly, this is how Emma received the news of the party’s entry into the city.

Her diary then begins to have retrospective entries of a more peculiar nature: mapping out Drummond’s illness, and the dates upon which Mr Odell wrote the letters he sent to the unsuspecting family back in England.

October 22: “Drummond left Trapani quite ill”; October 26: “Drummond reached Palermo very ill after a two days journey in a litter”; October 30: Drummond was “better but not strong & obliged to give up going up to Etna”. The next day Odell begins a letter, intended for Mrs Smith, advising her that “Drummond was dangerously ill with fever”. When he finishes the letter on November 1, All Saints Day, he can conclude that “a favorable change had taken place & Drummond thanks be to the Lord God pronounced by the Physicians quite out of danger—“.

Then, what must have been difficult for Emma to pen into her diary, but so great was the urge to record this minutiae (although she writes this in on November 4’s entry, the family did not know of his last hours until one month later): “Mr. Odell again wrote — Drummond’s strength seemed going   he had continued in nearly the same state for 3 days — Inflammation in the Chest & head had taken place & suppurations in his ear & mouth — His neck & arms had been blistered  His mind was collected — but no hopes were entertained of his recovery—”  The family receive this letter on the 27 of November, on the cusp of preparations for the wedding of Charlotte to Arthur Currie; the wedding, of course, is postponed. It was also approaching Charlotte’s birthday!

Odell’s next letter arrives two days later; Emma’s entry ends, “– Strength seemed going–”

And Lord Ormonde’s book?

There are entries dated October 17, 18, 19; he chatters on about the ruins of “Selinuntine” on the 20th.

“October 21. — The wind awoke me about midnight, and shortly after, as I lay ruminating, the door of the tent was blown in. … [T]he next moment… I found myself kneeling under heavy rain, the tent having been blown right over.”

Ormonde’s book has the party arriving in Trapani on October 23; on the 24th he notes that their “servant” was “too ill to leave his bed”. How many ill persons on this trip at this point?! Odell wasn’t well; Drummond of course. Is this “servant” in reality Drummond? why the two-day difference right here, from what Emma reported (culled from Odell’s letter) and Ormonde’s, which obviously comes from carefully-kept journals. More entries for October 25, 26, 27, as they journey to Palermo. October 28 opens a new chapter: Palermo described in historical detail.

When the next chapter opens, time has advanced to “November 11.” Six days after Drummond’s death! Why the missing days? How interesting that the last sentence of the previous chapter mentions that “servant”: “Our servant had joined us from Trapani, much pulled down by his illness, but quite fit to take to the road again, and we wound up the last evening by a general card-leaving on all our acquaintance.”

The obvious remedy for all this discussion would be a perusal of the ORIGINAL journals of John Butler, Lord Ossory, later the 2nd Marquess of Ormonde.

A little digging unearthed Ormonde papers at the National Library of Ireland. Of 27 items belonging to the 2nd Marquess is one journal, entitled “Tour in Italy, especially of Sicily”. Hurray! BUT: it’s dated July-September 1832. Where is its second half, October-December???

Why was Drummond “erased”? Was has happened to the “end” of the Ossory-Odell-Smith/Servant Sicilian tour journal?

Read Lord Ormonde’s published account yourself at Books.Google.

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