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the explosions were of sufficient importance to satisfy our curiosity to the utmost. They appeared much more considerable there than we had imagined while at a greater distance; each of them was preceded by a noise like thunder within the mountain ; a column of thick black smoke then issued out with great rapidity, followed by a blaze of flame; and immediately after, a shower of cinders and ashes, or red hot stones, were thrown into the sky. This was succeeded by a calm of a few minutes, during which nothing issued but a moderate quantity of smoke and flame, which gradually increased, and terminated in thunder and explosion as before. These accesses and intervals continued with varied force while we remained.
When we first arrived, our guides placed us at a reasonable distance from the mouth of the volcano, and on the side from which the wind came, so that we were no way incommoded by the smoke. In this situation the wind also bore to the opposite side the cinders, ashes, and other fiery substances, which were thrown up; and we ran no danger of being hurt, except when the explosion was very violent, and when red hot stones, and such heavy substances were thrown like sky-rockets, with a great noise and prodigious force, into the air ; and even these make such a flaming appearance, and take so much time in de scending, that they are easily avoided.
Mr. Brydone, in his admirable account of Mount Ætna, tells us, he was informed, that, in an eruption of that mountain, large rocks of fire were discharged, with a noise much more terrible than that of thunder ; that the person who informed him, reckoned from the time of their greatest elevation till they reached the ground, and found they took twenty-one seconds to descend; from whence he concludes their elevation had been seven thousand feet. This unquestionably required a power of projection far superior to what Vesuvius has been known to exert. He himself measured the height of the explosions of the latter by the same rule ; and the stones thrown the highest, never took above nine seconds to descend; which, by the same me
thod of calculating, shews they had risen to little more than twelve hundred feet.--A pretty tolerable height, and might have satisfied the ambition of Vesuvius, if the stones of Ætna had not been said to have mounted so much higher. But before such an excessive superiority is granted to the latter, those who are acquainted with Mr. Brydone will recollect, that they have his own authority for the one fact, and that of another person for the other.
After having remained sometime at the place where they were posted by the guides, our company grew bolder, as they became more familiarized to the object. Some made the circuit of the volcano, and by that means increased the risk of being wounded by the stones thrown
Your young friend Jack was a good deal hurt by a fall, as he ran to avoid a large portion of some fiery substance, which seemed to be falling directly on his head.
Considering the rash and frolicsome disposition of some who visit this mountain, it is very remarkable that so few fatal accidents happen. I have heard of young English gentlemen betting, who should venture farthest, or remain longest, near the mouth of the volcano. A very dreadful event had nearly taken place while our company remained. The bank, if it may be so called, on which some of them had stood when they looked into the volcano, actually fell in before we left the summit of the mountain. This made an impression on all present, and inclined them to abandon so treacherous a neighbourhood. The steep hill of dross and cinders, which we had found it so difficult to ascend, we descended in a twinkling; but, as the night was uncommonly dark, we had much trouble in passing over the rough valley between that and the hermitage, near which the mules waited. I ought to be ashạmed, however, to mention the fatigue of this expedi. tion ; for two ladies, natives of Geneva, formed part of the company. One of them, big with child, accompanied her husband as far as the hermitage, and was then with difficulty persuaded to go back ; the other actually went to the summit, and returned with the rest of the company. Before we set out for Naples, we were refreshed, at & little inn at the bottom of the mountain, with some glasses of a very generous and palatable wine, called Lachrima Christi ; and experienced the truth of what an Italian poet observed, that the effects of this wine form a strong contrast with its name.
Chi fu, de contadini il più indiscreto,
Che à sbigottir la gente,
Diede nome dolente,
Naples. Your account of our friend's state of health gives me much concern; the more, as I cannot approve the change he has made of a physician. You say, the doctor, una der whose care he is at present, has employed his mind so entirely in medical researches, that he scarcely displays a grain of common sense when the conversation turns on any other subject; and that, although he seems opinionative, vain, and ostentatious in his profession, and full of false and absurd ideas in the common affairs of life, yet he is a very able physician, and has performed many wonderful cures. Be assured, my dear sir, that this is impossible ; for medical skill is not like the rod of an enchanter, which may be found accidentally, and which transfers its miraculous powers indiscriminately to a blockhead or a man of sense. The number of weak, gossipping men, who have made fortunes by this profession, do not prove the contrary. I do not say that men of that kind cannot make fortunes; I only assert they are not the most likely to cure diseases. An interest with
apothecaries, nurses, and a few talkative old ladies, will en
* What inconsiderate fellow, to terrify people, could first give the mournful name of tears to that wine, which, above all others, renders the heart glad, and excites cheerfulness?
able them to do the first ; but a clear understanding, and a considerable share of natural sagacity, are qualities essentially necessary for the second, and for every business which requires reflection. Without these, false inferences will be drawn from experience itself; and learning will tend to confirm a man in his errors, and to render him more completely a coxcomb.
The profession of physic is that, of all others, in which the generality of mankind have the fewest lights, by which they can discern the abilities of its professors; because the studies which lead to it are more out of the road of usual education, and the practice more enveloped in technical terms and hieroglyphical signs. But I imagine the safest criterion by which men, who have not been bred to that profession, can form a judgment of those who have, is, the degree of sagacity and penetration they discover on subjects equally open to mankind in general, and which ought to be understood by all who live in society. You do not mention particularly what has been prescribed by either; only that the former physician seemed to rely almost entirely on exercise and regimen, whereas the present flatters our friend with a speedy cure, by the help of the pectoral and balsamic medicines which he orders in such abundance, and which he declares are so efficacious in pulmonary consumptions.
Having lamented with you the mournful events which render the name of that disease peculiarly alarming to you, and knowing your friendly solicitude about Mr. I do not wonder at your earnest desire to know something of the nature of a distemper with which he is threatened, and which has proved fatal to so many of our friends. But I am surprised that you
have not chosen a more enlightened instructor, when you have so many around you.
. Though conscious that I have no just claim to all the obliging expressions which your partiality to my opinions has prompted you to make use of, yet I am too much flattered by some of them, to refuse complying with your request. My sentiments, such as they are, will at least
have the merit of being clearly understood. I shall observe your prohibition, not to refer you to any medical book : and shall carefully avoid all technical terms which you so much abominate. With regard to your shewing my letter to any of the faculty; if you find yourself so inclined, I have not the smallest objection : for those who have the greatest knowledge in their profession, are best acquainted with its uncertainty, and most indulgent to the mistakes or errors of others.
Alas, my friend ! how is it possible that physicians should avoid mistakes ? If the ablest mechanic were to attempt to remedy the irregular movements of a watch, while he remained ignorant of the structure and manner of acting of some of the principal springs, would he not be in danger of doing harm instead of good ? Physicians are in the situation of such a mechanic; for, although it is evident that the nerves are the organs of motion and sensation, yet their structure is not known. Some anatomists assert they are impervious cords ; others, that they are slender tubes, containing a fluid. But what the nature of this fluid is; whether it serves only to nourish the nerves themselves, or is the medium by which they convey feeling and the power of motion to other parts, is not ascertained even by those who argue for its existence; far less is it explained in what manner ideas, formed within the brain, can, by the means of solid cords, or by a fluid contained in tubes, communicate motion at pleasure to the legs and arms. We are ignorant why the will, which has no influence over the motion of an animal's heart, should find the feet obedient to her dietates ; and we can no more explain how a man can move one leg over the other by volition, or the mere act of willing, than how he could, by the same means, move Ossa on the top of Olympus. The one happens every moment, the other would be considered as a miracle; but they are equally unaccountable. While parts so infinitely essential to life are not understood, instead of being surprised that so many diseases baffle the