Giuseppe Giaquinto
Lord Hamilton and the chronicles of Vesuvius

William Hamilton was a leading figure of luxury and cultural life of 700 in Naples.Wrongly famous more for his marital misadventures than for his research and Maecenas activities, he gave an incredible boost for the European interest about Vesuvius and near territory. Once came in Naples as special British royalty guest in the Due Sicilie Kingdom, in 1764, he left the city at the beginning of the French revolution in 1798.

He was interested in many different things, from music to archeology to natural sciences. He made his lounge room a joining point where scientists and artists could meet and exchange their cultural ideology from Neapolitan and European culture. It was decisive for young travelers of the grand tour to receive his support to be accredited for the most relevant Neapolitan lounge room. He was an observant collector, he picked up thousands of archeological pieces, such as: jars, coins, jewelries that became the British museum’s center. His interest for the Vesuvius was relevant, only in the first 15 years of his stay in the Country, he did 250 climbs on Vesuvius, 58 of them up to the top of the crater and he described the observed phenomenon with wealth of details.

We can consider the dense netting of relationship the start’s date of the modern volcanology, first of them dates back to 1768; send from Lord Hamilton to the Royal Society of London. The relationship was illustrated by pencil’s drawing of the priest Antonio Piaggio.

Sir William Hamilton by David Allan

Sir William Hamilton by David Allan

In the 1772 his letters were published in a book: Observation on Mount Vesuvius, Mount Etna and others Volcanoes, but the publication of the Campi Phlegraei is more important: a strict description of the Campi Flegrei and the Vesuvius. This monumental opera kicked him, with all honors, in the wide group of the chroniclers of Vesuvius, that from the ancient Roman historians and naturalists it has large expanded. As in painting, also in literature the eruption in the 1631 represented a fundamental watershed: the descriptions move away from cold and analytics news to arrive, on the middle of the next century, to a mature description of earth’s phenomena, as in the case of Hamilton or Joseph Jerome Delalande, but also of human feelings in the presence of natural events so compelling.

There is a great difference between the marquis of Seignalay’s poor descriptions and Charles De Brosses and Johann Caspar Goethe ‘s colorful diary pages, father of famous Wolfgang or Charles Dupaty. From the pages of the latest some news are deduced about the past Vesuvius population’s morals and judgments as a foreigner can express. So it is delivered to us a picture of beggars who, having lost houses and lands in lava, they didn’t industrialize in no way but they fold on a primordial aggressive tourism activity: people that deceives to offer you any service, clumsy guides that force you to their service, battered conductors and strange buggies, suppliers of donkeys and mules (in order of use in relation to altitude of the crater to rich). De Brosses even complains he was forced to strange harnesses pulled by thugs while others, pushing from the back procured to him a fall face forward. The loud shooting was, at last, another Neapolitan’s unbearable feature: but what these delicate foreign tourists were! More philosophically detached is the Francois Renè de Chateaubrund’s story that, facing a so disruptive natural phenomenon, he reasons about human affairs’ miseries.

Others, like the writer and painter Elisabeth Vigrèe Lueburn, they are fascinated by Vesuvius, to go there even with the daughter Brunette: it begins the series of Vesuvius’s excellent lovers. A strange page about one of the many excursions also belongs to her.