Sir Francis Ronalds and his Family

Sir Francis Ronalds' Travel Journal: Sicily - Messina

"We had some idea of taking Tunis & Carthage in our way to Syracuse, Catania & Messina but have been deterred by the reports about the Plague on the Africa Coast, they say 100 people died in a day at Tunis"




"sprawling upon our uncomfortable bed of sand we could not help thinking of our homes, our arm chairs, our Books, our friends and asking why we gave ourselves so much trouble to come away from them and to stay away from them so long"

Messina Augt 18th [1819]

We had some idea of taking Tunis & Carthage in our way to Syracuse, Catania & Messina but have been deterred by the reports about the Plague on the Africa Coast, they say 100 people died in a day at Tunis which occasions the quarantines in Sicily and every where else to be very long. We sailed from Palermo therefore for this Place on the evening of the 4th inst at 8 o'clock in a Speronaro (a long open boat which carries native Sails and which can be rowed when she can't sail). Our passage was very good. We spent a considerable part of the night of the 5th on the sands of Capo Peloro waiting for the current down the Faro to Messina to become favourable for us but it was too dark to see the famous Scylla and her dogs did not howl loud enough to disturb our Rest. Whilst we were there sprawling upon our uncomfortable bed of sand we could not help thinking of our homes, our arm chairs, our Books, our friends and asking why we gave ourselves so much trouble to come away from them and to stay away from them so long. These reflections struck me more forcibly than my friend for he has no mother or other relations whom he cares so much about as I do, but I excused and consoled myself with the idea that I shall now soon turn to northward again and that although travelling is very hard work both for body and mind in this season particularly, I should reproach myself for not having completed my project when it would be too late or at least imprudent perhaps to put it in execution.

The sand contains a great deal of Mica which gives it rather a singular shining appearance by the light of the Moon. Some Mineralogists say that it is the immediate product of an ancient eruption of Etna & thus that it has been brought here by means of the stream from places where it fell or that it is the destruction of larger masses of volcanic matter washed here by the stream, but Mica in either case is not often found in volcanic matter I believe except in very minute particles because it is so easily fused.

"On arriving at Messina at about 5 in the morning we were all turned into a sort of pound like stray cattle and could by no means escape from our Confinement untill the head Jack of the health office had finished his sleep and his breakfast at about 9 am"

We found the night cold and were glad of our cloaks, yet the thermometer did not descend below 78, the heat we had borne all day stirred up in the little boat caused us to feel so cold I suppose. On arriving at Messina at about 5 in the morning we were all turned into a sort of pound like stray cattle and could by no means escape from our Confinement untill the head Jack of the health office had finished his sleep and his breakfast at about 9 am, and our passports were carefully examined and suffered after paying a few Tari's to go about our business. Our first business was to seek lodgings of course in which we succeeded very well at the Ville di Paris where we have already been nearly two weeks and shall stay some time longer, but the following conversation with my whig will perhaps comprise the principal part of my lucubrations here.

Hocus &c. Good morning Whig = What? = Come, you are scarcely awake, I'm sorry to disturb you so early but we have so much to do today that we must begin as soon as possible = Why can't you bring me to you oftener instead of hurrying me over the places so much? = I must request you not to ask me these kind of questions, it is necessary. Basta cosi. Take my arm = No, it's too hot. You seem comfortably lodged = Yes and cheaply. They told me at Naples that Sicily was a dear place, now you see I have here a good room and I have a dinner of 5 or 6 dishes & Wine & fruit and a good breakfast for only about 6 shillings a day.

New and earthquake-damaged buildings in Messina

But what do you think of this Harbour and of this immense row of buildings which line the town side of it and the View of the Calabrian coast and of the Faro? = You put me too many questions at once. I much first consider them separately and then put them all together. I can be no judge of Harbours you know, it seems to me a good large place for the ships to swim about & I see it is deep enough even at the side for them to come close enough to discharge their cargoes on the Quay, I suppose you call it a very fine convenient harbour = Yes but they say the approach to it is not convenient on account to the dangers of Charybdis, we shall presently go to the fearful Charybdis and you will hear more about it = The Row of Buildings would delight me very much if they were finished, I can see only one finished front. How long is it? = A mile I believe. The Architecture is simple, elegant, & convenient & altho' it is a great work it is executed so far with a scrupulous adherence to the original magnificent design = I hope it will be finished some day but I am disgusted with the base purposes to which many of these ground floors are appropriated and at the filth and rubbish which defaces them = They are the effects of poverty principally I believe but no where in Italy or Sicily can you discover that neatness and strict attention to cleanliness in the street which we are so much accustomed to; even in France their finest edifices are often the most despoiled = Now we come to a few ruins of old houses = Those remain in precisely the same state in which they were left by the great Earthquake of 1783. You see the poor Messinese have profited by their most sad experience and have built their new houses with arched entrances &c &c. I have made a sketch from this spot where the old and new Buildings are contrasted. The same plan has been adopted throughout the whole new Town nearly = Your last questions were about the Calabrian Mountains & the Faro were they not? = Yes. = I don't know what to say about them. I have seen much finer views of Mountains. If the Faro were a long river I would admire it very much but it is not a river nor a Sea = Well now put all these objects together = Taken all together I am enchanted

"They are cleaver industrious active people forming a great contrast with those dirty idle drones who... sit gaping & cross legged all day & who call themselves gentlemen. I mean the low order of priests"

Lighthouse near Charybdis

= This castle which we are passing through a part of is [blank] and these [?] are called the Porto Salvo = What comfortable little Cottages the fishermen have here. I am surprised to see their little enclosures or courts facing the sea planted with a fine spreading vine or two and figs, and also the barks of those fine handsome trees which shield them from the almost insufferable rays of the Sun growing apparently in the very sand of the Sea and so very close to the Sea. Give me the Paints, I must just sketch this one, I cannot manage figures or I would draw that fine stout brown legged fellow sitting mending his net under his own Fig tree with no other clothing than a pair of short clean[?] drawers or trousers and a snow white shirt. = The fishermen both here and at Palermo seem to me to constitute quite a different race of beings from the other inhabitants, they live together in what may almost be called towns of their own as is this Porto Salvo and La Pace about 2 miles further on. They are cleaver industrious active people forming a great contrast with those dirty idle drones who carry their vacant stupid countenances to the shop doors and coffee houses where they sit gaping & cross legged all day & who call themselves gentlemen. I mean the low order of priests. But I will get a boat.

Now, are you ready, don't loose time over so trifling a subject, you may sketch at the light house if you are in the humour where you can get an excellent view of the Town and harbour. = How far have we to go to Charibdis? = We are there now = What do you mean? We have not yet come half a mile. Some pun I suppose I don't take = This is the famous Charibdis. = Which? = This low sandy shore on which stands the light-house. = And where is Scylla? = far beyond that furthest point of the Calabrian Coast. 12 miles distant, you can't see it = Well I cannot make out your joke at all, explain = I am not joking I assure you. This spot is positively that which is called Charibdis or Charybdis which was so celebrated for its terrors by Homer and Virgil and other Poets & historians both ancient and modern even Fazello & Buffon, and which is even now said to be so dangerous for the navigation of this part of the Straits. Don't you perceive that our boat has turned round about. Look at the water, you see it has rather a turbulent appearance. = I can see nothing but a few little whirligigs rather larger than those one makes in a Cup of Tea by stirring it. But Mr Conjurer if it is not a question relating too closely to your Art (which I am almost afraid it is) Pray Sir, how far could you shoot an arrow from a Bow without the aid of Hocus Pocus or Houkerinikous? = Ha Ha, Sly-Boots. You have heard my view spouting Homer and he has told you what Circe says to Ulysses viz that he might comprise both these rocks (as she calls them) in a Bow-shot. Ulysses had certainly a happy knack at drawing a long bow. But his poet draws a much longer bow. However some say that Earthquakes may have caused some differences in the distances of these places and think that the great caverns which swallowed up ships &c &c at Charybdis may have been filled up by the sand &c [?] by the current. = Pugh! Pugh! All stuff don't cram.

"the [sword]fish is struck, away he goes, he shews them some play... Now he begins to grow sick, here he comes. They will have him along side the boat in a minute. = Poor fellow"

What's that fellow perched on the top of the mast in the boat for like an old crow looking out on a tree? = He is one of the paternity of Fishermen who take the Sword Fish. He is watching the approach of a fish by the appearance of a little streak which it makes by its track in the Water. Now he spies one and is giving notice to his companions in little boats below you see by singing out to them as loud as he can and he will continue his Song as well as to point towards the fish untill he comes near enough to be harpooned by the men in the little boats, who are rowing with all their might in the directions which he points out to them. There is another looker out in each of the little boats you see whose business it is to watch the motions of the man on the mast and to direct the rowers and also to look for the fish himself when they get near enough. You may also perceive that a large plank is laid across the little boat projecting about a yard and a half beyond the sides and that the oars which are very long have their fulcrum at the ends of that plank. This contrivance is to facilitate (Ah the fish has gone down, they have lost him), this contrivance (here comes another, Tally ho my Boys, it's as good sport as coursing is it not), this contrivance is to facilitate the (see how he dodges them), to facilitate the sudden turning of the boat. Bless us, how he dodges them, but they are round in a moment. Now they come up with him, the harpoon and line fastened to it is all ready - Whiz - the fish is struck, away he goes, he shews them some play; you see he has taken out a great length of line already, when the harpoon has entered him the pole detaches itself from the barbed point and the barb only remains fastened to the line. Spallanzani says that the sword fish has been known to pierce the side of the boat after being struck but I think he crams. Now he begins to grow sick, here he comes. They will have him along side the boat in a minute. = Poor fellow. = Aye, poor fellow, tagliata di spada Sigr Marinaro. We'll carry it home and hang it up like a rewards lunch[?] = Poor fellow, he is soon dead; how long do you think he is? = I think about 6 feet without the sword = and the sword 2 feet, about = About = Andiamo, can I see Scylla now? = Yes, very distinctly, it stands just beyond that point, we are about 8 miles off. Those 2 rows of cottages on each side the Church on the Sicilian Shore are almost all inhabited by fishermen of the sword fish and other fishermen, the place is called La Pace. You see there are a great many more boats with the high masts & the men on the Top with their satellites of small boats attending them in the same way as those we have just seen = Is there any particular season for taking the sword fish? = Yes [blank]. = And is it a good dish? = With a good sauce it is, but rather too firm and not very wholesome. =

You are taking me a long way I hope there is something more worth seeing at Scylla than we found at Charybdis = It is a much more picturesque object certainly, but like the other derives its interest principally from the Fables of the Poets, however judge for yourself, this is the best distance to see it from about a half a mile. Draw it & take this rocky projection of Calabria for your fore ground = The Castle on the top seems to have been battered a great deal was that done at the time when the French and English armies were encamped on these two opposite coasts in view of each other? = No, the ruin you see was occasioned a short time ago by a stroke of lightning = I can see no very great source of danger to ships even here. = No, but I believe the current sets upon the rock sometimes violently & I have heard that it has frequently dashed vessells upon it = Those rocks I am now sketching are the dogs or monsters which surround the Fairy Queen I suppose = Yes. Now we will take a row round to see the other side and pass the town which is on this side in the Bay, and then "Come with me and we will go, Where the rocks of Coral grow" = What are they labouring so hard at in that Boat. = They are Coral fishers, you see they have placed their boat in the middle of the stream nearly opposite La Pace, we will soon be close to them, they have just drawn up their nets, observe their form; these two pieces of wood about 5 feet long placed perpendicularly across each other carry at their four ends four pieces of old net and in the middle is fastened a large stone to sink them and a line to draw them up again. When this simple machine arrives at the bottom they draw it up only a small distance and drop it at another spot, thus after 6 or 8 repetitions of the same [?] a quantity of coral which grows upon the rock at the bottom becomes entangled in the pieces of net and torn off and brought to the top as you have just seen = I understand perfectly[?] and will take this piece = Do. It is not very fine coral that they get in these straits, they send it to Leghorn where it is manufactured in various ways. For the mode of its formation or growth turn to Spallanzani or some other Book = The depth must be enormous here = Yes about [blank] feet. = I should like just to land at Reggio before we return = We have not taken passports for Reggio at Messina = Passports for Reggio! So very small a distance = They are necessary but there is nothing at all worth seeing, it is a mere heap of modern ruins occasioned by the great earthquake. =

Capo Peloro and its fortifications

"The Governor is a very old Soldier who prides himself greatly upon his activity, when we went over the fortifications he skipped up and down all the steps he came to like a dancing monkey to shew us his agility"

The forts & Batteries of Messina seem very extensive = They are, they were much extended and strengthened by the English but are now almost dismantled. The Governor is a very old Soldier who prides himself greatly upon his activity, when we went over the fortifications he skipped up and down all the steps he came to like a dancing monkey to shew us his agility. This nearest fort which we are just passing forms the termination of the tongue of land which constitutes the outward sides of the harbour, it is called S Sebastiano, the other nearer the Lighthouse [blank]. You are glad to have got back I dare say = Indeed I am, the heat is intollerable. Who is that you bowed to? = My Physician Dr Cocco = What's the matter with you? = Nothing = Yet you employ a Physician! = When we arrived here we had no acquaintance or letters except to my Banker so being in want of a little information &c and hearing that Dr Cocco was the great savant of the Place, I sent for him and complained of a pain in the waistcoat = And what does Dr Coc - Cocco say is the matter = He says there is a slight enlargement of the Spleen = O Ho, the spleen, I'll tell Peter, nuts for the Squirrel. = I don't care. Dr Cocco comes to see me almost every morning and after a few matter of course enquiries we immediately talk about the Lions of Messina, Minerals &c &c. He's a good sort of man and is very usefull to us, and his fees very moderate indeed compared with english Doctors, almost nothing.

Here come the Giants, we must make haste to get into our balcony & out of their Way. = What Giants? = Those 2 figures on horseback almost as high as the top of this 2nd floor are effigies of Zancle & Rhea whose history you may find out for yourself. They are carried as you see by 40 or 50 men to each throughout the Town every year at the Festival of the Vara or of the Santa Maria della Lettera. This is the last day of the Festival & I chose to bring you today that you might see the Procession of the Vara &c. On the first three days we had Pony runs in our street (the Strada Ferdinando). They were similar to those which take place at the Carnival at Rome I suppose & elsewhere. The Ponies were decorated with ribbands stuck on by means of little plasters of pitch, and bladders and little balls furnished with sharp points were suspended in such manner from their sides as to perform the office of spurs. The Ponies were started from one end of the street by the discharge of a cannon and although most of them were made to run per force of the fright and torment they suffered, yet a few of the best certainly shewed some Pluck and afforded passible sport. They carried no riders. On the evening of the first day the Toledo or principal street was illuminated by lamps attached to boards painted in imitation of Columns, Obelisks &c at about 20 ft distant from each other on each side the street, and a Temporary galley was erected on the Piazza S Giovanni such as was formerly used in combats with the Turks which was also illuminated. The second day and evening passed in the same way. On the Third evening a most splendid illumination of the interior of the fine old Gothic Cathedral with Wax tapers was added.

Now when we have dined we will go to see the procession in a Balcony of the Pallace of the Marquis [blank] in the Toledo. We are received sans ceremonie you see, have you a good place. We are just in time. Here come the 2 wax candles which are presented as an offering to the Mother of God by the magistrates of the Town. = It is a very great gift I think, they must be at least 20 feet high and 4 round and it seems as much as 10 men to each can do to carry them but why do they walk backwards? = In order that they may face the Cross which comes next. But here is the grand machine. The Vara, Observe it well. =

Did I take your jog rightly in accepting the sacrament. = Quite, if you had not you would have committed a great blunder but what have you done with it. = Slipped it into Dr Cocco's pocket what else could I do with it? = Poor Dr Cocco, it contains a quantity of cream and sugar within a very thin shell of sugar, if it is not already broken it will certainly never resist the pressure of his hand when he wants his snuff Box in his Handkerchief. = What did you think of the Company. = If one wanted any proof besides one's own eyes (as travellers sometimes do) that the number of fine women is very small in Palermo & Messina, one might divine it from observing the very great sensation which a decent face & figure makes and the very great consequence which a belle assumes in society. = Have you done? = Yes =

Festival of the Vara:
"Upon the whole it was a most barbarous, shocking spectacle and the most striking instance of blind superstition I ever saw"

Now let me tell you what "I say I saw" in order that we may compare our Ideas of this famous Vara and so correct each other's account of it. = Well said, begin. = Its figure taken alltogether was a cone with a very large base, which cone was divided into 4 stages or platforms - = Three = Four = Three, Whig. = Four. Hell you Signr Conjurer, let me go on. = Well Dr Cocco promised this morning to get me an engraving of it, we can see by that, if it did not happen to be in his pocket just now. = The lowest stage was occupied principally by a coffin or sarcophagus in which the Vergine was represented by a young lady with her face chalked, reclining on the point of Death & surrounded by the 12 apostles, who were children fixed to a large horizontal wheel constantly going round very slowly. About this were clouds, and then came the second stage which bore Suns & Moons & Stars and some very little children to represent angels stuck upon the rays of the Suns which constantly revolved in perpendicular planes. The third stage was occupied by a celestial globe stuck round with more poor little angels and revolving horizontally, then came the Fourth stage, the Fourth - = Go on = The Fourth stage, in the middle of which stood God, a comely youth enough with a great flaxen beard spouting Latin & holding on the palm of his right hand Jesus Christ represented by a young girl with a pair of silver unmentionables, and God seemed to be in the act of shoving him or it up into heaven. There were plenty of Clouds between all the stages. = Well Whig, I believe you are right, the 3rd & 4th stages are so close to each other and so involved in Clouds that my sight might have been a little Beclouded. I thought God stood upon the great Bear on the celestial Globe. What made you unwell = Oh it almost sickens me again to think of those poor little angels and apostles, some seemed to be quite dead and others in the greatest agony & others laughing at them. = These are the different effects which the constant rotary motion of the wheels or the swinging motion at so great a height of the machine or both combined produce on them, they make some go to sleep, others very sick, others worse than sick, and on others it induces laughter. I have heard that there have been instances of some having died, and that their parents have rejoiced in the events thinking that their souls were immediately transported into the real Heaven = Shocking indeed! How could God manage to support Christ by one hand extended as he did = A Bar of Iron concealed in his sleeve assisted him and his legs as well as those of apostles and Angles are all cased in Iron which must of course cramp them and add much to their sufferings. = Upon the whole it was a most barbarous, shocking spectacle and the most striking instance of blind superstition I ever saw. You might laugh at it, I could not. = Jesus Christ will go round the town to collect a few coppers at every house tomorrow, but I shall not be at home to him. = Do pray talk on some other subject. =

"there is an inscription at Syracuse testifying that a certain Marchioness brought into the world [blank] children at one birth... a lady in Germany once produced Three Hundred and fifty children at one birth all of whom lived for some time. = Now I am thinking her very gratefull. = Such says he is the extraordinary quality of the Sicilian air, as well as the Air of some other spots"

Well you will be better amused now. The Corso you see is already illuminated and crowded with all ranks, Carriages are not allowed in it = The mixture is so great that I could almost imagine myself at a Masquerade, and it is better than a masquerade because there are no masks. Really, this is a good thing. Lots of Wallflowers. = Don't you think Whig that there are a great many ladies in the interesting state? = Ye - Ye - Yes, some certainly. = On my first walk in the Corso I could not help remarking this circumstance and I have ever since made it a particular object of attention. Fazello, the great authority of all Travel writers in Sicily who is not yet quite drained (he still furnishes them with a good story now & then) happened to lie on the General's table the other day & I was curious to see what he says on this subject. He states that there is an inscription at Syracuse testifying that a certain Marchioness brought into the world [blank] children at one birth and after observing that this is not the most remarkable instance on record relates many others, but concludes by affirming with the most perfect confidence that a lady in Germany once produced Three Hundred and fifty children at one birth all of whom lived for some time. = Now I am thinking her very gratefull [sic]. = Such says he is the extraordinary quality of the Sicilian air, as well as the Air of some other spots. Now I am thinking that our new colonists in America ought to take this quality of Air into account before they quite fix themselves, since population and consequently labour is so scarce. How gratefull would Mr Birkbeck's new settlement feel to a lady endowed with such wonderfull [sic] powers! = Come, Come quite enough of your friend Fazello. You have faged me about most unmercifully today & I can see nothing fresh, people walk up and down with just as grave faces as at Vauxhall, let me go. =

"the Mother of God descended from Heaven and sent a letter by S. Paul to the Messinese containing her compliments and declaring her intention of taking them under her special guardianship, which letter is still preserved"

The fire works are just beginning. = O I don't care about fire works, I can see fire works at home, but let me ask only one more question. How originated this Festival of the Vara. = It is also (as I have told you I believe) called the Festival of the Sante Vergine della Lettera. On one ever memorable 15th of August the Mother of God descended from Heaven and sent a letter by S. Paul to the Messinese containing her compliments and declaring her intention of taking them under her special guardianship, which letter is still preserved, & the Festival was instituted in Commemoration of the event. In respect to the origin of the Vara (corrupted from Bara and very improperly so termed) some say that a Monk dreamt a Dream one day of Heaven, of the Vergine, of Christ, &c &c & being as ingenious as he was holy contrived this Vara and contrived also to persuade his fellow citizens to subscribe a large sum of money for the purpose of having it built. He said it resembled exactly what he saw in his dream. (Some think he also dreamt of gold as the Machine did not cost quite a 5th part of the sum subscribed but they are strongly suspected of heresy.) Others say that is was invented by the great Mathematician Maurolico. I am extreemly sorry not to have seen or shewn you the Festival of Sa Rosalia at Palermo which is far superior to this. I waited there a fortnight for it but the Saint in politeness to the Prince Leopold did not chuse to make her procession untill his arrival, who was expected every day. You may find a very glowing and animated account of it in Brydone but only recollect that all his accounts are very glowing. Now my dear Whig, I have to beg your pardon for detaining you and fatiguing you so much today. I shall not be ready for you again untill I get to Catania so fare thee well, I wish I could jump over the seas with you to take a peep at home. Farewell.

September 12th

Will you believe that I have now been two months in Sicily without having yet seen Etna? The Delay has been partly occasioned by our having promised to wait the return of Sir Fredk Henniker from Palermo who is to accompany us as far as Syracuse. I have been ever and anon anxiously peeping through my Telescope in hopes of seeing his Speronaro double Capo Peloro for these 5 days past, except when I have been mineralizing in the neighbourhood on a Donkey or rather with a donkey to carry my Stones (which has been my principal amusement during the greater part of the time I have spent here). I really think that the Scenery about Messina almost equals what I have seen in Switzerland and somewhat resembles it, the principal difference arising only from the difference of herbage. The Indian fig or Prickly Pear (as we call it which seems to flourish in all its pride) produces a novel and singular though not a very picturesque affect.

"In short they seemed generally speaking a d--d lazy, dirty, idle set of fellows. What were these people once!... I think the chief defect after that of want of active labour is the little regard which they pay to the sorts of Cattle, fruit, Vines &c &c and the little attention paid to the proper renewal and succession of trees &c &c"

Sometimes I entered cottages of the peasants to rest and converse as well as their and my bad Italian mixed with Sicilian would permit, but I never found them particularly Courteous or hospitable except when they expected to be paid for their civilities. On one occasion I got a sound scolding for allowing the pot to boil over whilst my Padrona went to gather me some grapes but I was proud of the adventure remembering the story of King Alfred. I found none of the fine open countenances, none of the cheering rustic simplicity, none of the high health and cleanliness of our Peasants (how proud it makes me), perhaps the Squirrel might have succeeded better. To me many of the poor little stunted half born children seemed to have Sore heads and a sad squalid dirty appearance, so that I dared not touch them, and their Mama's seemed to knock them about most unmercifully. The subject of conversation which appeared to please my Padroni most was the luxuriance of their soil, they pride themselves highly as indeed do all Sicilians on the almost spontaneous fertility of their soil and feel no or very little pleasure in [?] the labour of their own hands. In short they seemed generally speaking a d--d lazy, dirty, idle set of fellows. What were these people once! If nature were assisted by art she would present the Sicilians with the very finest of her productions, as it is she only presents them with Abundance. I have not yet drank very fine Wine in Sicily, nor eaten fine meat, nor fine fruit of any kind. The only thing they have fine is Bread. I think the chief defect after that of want of active labour is the little regard which they pay to the sorts of Cattle, fruit, Vines &c &c and the little attention paid to the proper renewal and succession of trees &c &c. A Vine is a Vine, let the grape be what it may and an old fig, an Olive even, so much degenerated occupies its ancient spot untill it rots and dies and even longer sometimes. But these are also the effects of their disgusting laziness. I have no agricultural science, I never pretended to any, but I should have no common sense if I could not see this.

In one of my evening strolls by the sea I saw an immense number of luminous Polipi which they call Meduse fosforiche from some slight resemblance to the Medusa head. They were remarkably brilliant & preserved their phosphorescence in my hand which became after touching them a little swelled and inflamed. Spallanzani, who gives a very long account of the Polypus and some curious & original observations and experiments, does not mention this poisonous property which they possess although it is very well known that they sometimes attach themselves to people whilst bathing and create considerable swellings. I had no apparatus for conveying them home for further examination and those I took in my handkerchief soon broke to prices and lost their phosphorescence in the course of 2 or 3 Hours. I spent almost a whole night once in looking at them and trying to discern their habits &c in the sea but can add nothing material to Spallazani's descriptions. They appear to begin to be luminous sometimes voluntarily and sometimes involuntarily but always either at the moment of their arriving at the surface of the water or at the moment of leaving the surface or when they are moved whilst at the surface. Two conditions seem therefore necessary to the production of the phosphorescence viz the contact of Atmospheric air and Motion of their parts. I should like to have ascertained whether the phosphorescence would occur or continue after having been excited in common air, in Nitrogen and other gasses in order principally to know whether Oxygen is essential to it. But having no opportunity of getting apparatus here, what could I do?