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LONDON CRITICAL JOURNAL.
ART. I.-NAPLES, POLITICAL AND LITERARY.
1. Memoires Historiques, Politiques, et Litteraires sur le Royaume de Naples. Par M. Le Comte Grégoire Orloff, Senateur de l'Empire de Russie, avec des Notes et Additions, par Amaury Duval, Membre de l'Institut Royal de France. 5 Vols. 8vo. Paris, 1821.
2. Précis Historique sur les Revolutions de Naples et Piedmont, 1820 et 1821. Par Comte D****. 8vo. Paris, 1821.
3. Memoirs of the Secret Societies of the South of Italy, particu larly the Carbonari. Translated from the original MS. London, 1821.
BEFORE we enter into the various topics of Count Orloff's elaborate work, or touch upon the subjects treated in the two other books whose titles are prefixed to our article, we must be allowed to linger a while amidst some of the recollections which the word "Naples" awakens in our minds. Those who have visited the southern metropolis of Italy, and those who are yet strangers to that delightful country, will, perhaps, be equally disposed to accord us the indulgence.
A magnificent chain of hills, forming a semicircular line, encloses a vast expanse of waters. Of this line the eastern and western boundaries are the celebrated promontories of Misenus and Minerva. The whole extent of coast is beautifully indented with bays, while the gigantic heights of Pausilypus boldly project into the gulph, dividing it into two parts nearly equal.
It is scarcely possible not to survey such scenes with the mind as well as the eye: they recall at the same instant the great vicissitudes of polity and empire, and those more awful vicissitudes
VOL. XIX, NO. XXXVII,
which have changed the face of external nature. It was here that the masters of the world erected the luxurious villas, where they respired from the cares of state and the tumults of ambition. These delicious retreats rivalled the magnificence of Rome. Baths, theatres, galleries of sculpture and painting, splendid libraries, combined all that could delight the senses or inform the understanding: nor could a region more adapted for recreation or repose than the shores of Naples have been chosen. A serene climate, a cloudless sky, a landscape where nature seems to stretch herself out in ease and luxuriance, tepid springs ministering alike to health and enjoyment;—such were the seductions that drew the elder Romans from the smoke and din of the metropolis. Down to the sea every hill was decorated with magnificence. Misenum extended itself to Baiæ; Baiæ to Puteoli. By degrees, edifices, both public and private, presented to the eye one continuous city from Misenum to Surrentum. Strabo has preserved the name of the towns which formed this beautiful chain. They were chiefly Misenum, Baiæ, Dicæarchea or Puteoli, Neapolis, Herculaneum, Pompeii, Stabiæ, and Surrentum. Of these places enough subsists even now to attest their former greatness. Separated only by short distances from each other, each of them had its theatre, its cir-, cus, its forum, its temples. Every house was decorated with images of bronze and marble, every floor with mosaic pavements, every wall with arabesques and frescoes.
But these splendours were to be soon extinguished. Nature had already given the voluptuous inhabitants of these favoured climes her most terrific warnings. Concussions of the earth were frequent some years before the time of Pliny; but Vesuvius had hitherto indicated no signs of eruption. The surrounding district was fertile; and every part of its circumference, when Strabo saw it, was clothed with vines and olive-trees. It was in the first year of the reign of Titus, the 79th of our era, that this tremendous volcano burst forth, and Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Stabiæ, were buried in its ashes. The calamity, however, did not extend to the western side of the gulph, and Naples remained uninjured. From this period, however, it is evident, that the Romans ceased to frequent this beautiful country. Juvenal speaks of Cuma as being already deserted. From the same period also, it appears that similar disasters successively happened. In some places, the sea, by a sudden incursion, claimed to its empire many of the proudest monuments of art and opulence, which once embellished the coast. The whole aspect of the country attests a long series of desolations. The Lucrine lake, whose oysters were so much esteemed by the gourmands of antiquity, has wholly disappeared.