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Book n, Naples by setting to work as though he had to win his Classical bread by the sweat of his brow. He laboured harder on Ahch^olo- ^jje sj0pes 0f Vesuvius than an exceptionally diligent crafts
G1STS AND * A * O
ExpLoiKRa. man would labour in a factory—had Naples possessed any. Within four years he ascended the famous mountain twenty-two times. More than one of these ascents was made at the risk of his life. He made, and caused to be made, innumerable drawings of all the phenomena that he observed, showing the volcanic eruption in all its stages, and under every kind of meteorological condition. He formed too a complete collection of volcanic products, and of the earths and minerals of the volcanic district. When he had studied Vesuvius under every possible aspect, he went to Etna.
The results of these elaborate investigations were sent, from time to time, to the Royal Society (of which Mr. Hamilton was made a Fellow, after the reading of the first of his papers in 17G6), and they were published in the Philosophical Transactions, between the years 1766 and 1780. They were afterwards collected, and improved, in the two beautiful volumes entitled Campi Phlcgraii, and were lavishly illustrated from the drawings of F. A. Fabkis, who had been trained by Hamilton to the work.* The collection of volcanic geology and products was given to the British Museum in 1767.
These geological labours had been diversified, at inThk tervals, by the collection of a rich archaeological museum,
and by the establishment of a systematic correspondence on antiquarian subjects with men of learning in various parts
* In a copy of this work now before me, the original drawings are bound up with the engravings, and later drawings are added. They serve to show that Sir William's scientific interest in the subject lasted as long as his life.
of the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. This correspondence Bookii,
,,«.,. . 1, , . Chap. II.
had for its object, not merely the enrichment of his own Clamical Museum, but the awakening of local attention throughout Gists^'d" the country to its antiquities and history; matters which ElPLOaiKa had theretofore been but too much neglected—in the Neapolitan fashion.
One of the earliest and choicest acquisitions made by Hamilton in the early years of his residence at Naples was a collection of vases belonging to the senatorial family of Porcinari, many of which had been gathered from sepulchres and excavations in Magna Grsecia. This purchase, made in 1766 and afterwards largely increased, may be regarded as the substantial beginning of the noble series of vases now so prominent a part of our National Museum.
Thus had been formed, by degrees, at Naples, a museum which, at the beginning of the year 1772, included seven hundred and thirty fictile vases; a hundred and seventy-five terra-cottas; about three hundred specimens of ancient glass (including three of the most perfect cinerary urns known, at that time, to have been discovered); six hundred and twenty-seven bronzes, of which nearly one-half illustrated the arms and armour of the ancients; more than two hundred specimens of sacrificial, domestic, and architectonic, instruments and implements; fourteen bassi-relievi, busts, masques, and inscribed tablets; about a hundred and fifty miscellaneous pieces of ancient ivory, including a curious series of tessarao; a hundred and forty-nine gems, chiefly scarabaei,- a hundred and forty-three personal ornaments, of various kinds, in gold; a hundred and fifty-two fibulas in various materials; and more than six thousand coins and medals, comprising a considerable series from the towns of Magna Graecia.
Book Ii, The first fruits of this noble collection was the publiClasbical cation, commenced in the year 1766, of the work entitled
Antiquites Etrusques, &c, with admirable illustrations, and Eiplomes. wjt}1 a descriptive text, written in French by D'hanTitm oTM Carvillb. The first edition of this costly book was issued 'Aimo.uiTa3 at Naples. It naturally attracted great attention. No such collection of fictile vases—in their combination of number and beauty—had been theretofore known.
The two volumes published at Sir William's cost in 1766, were followed by two other volumes in 1767. All of them were executed with great care and with lavish expenditure. But the later edition, printed at Florence—long afterwards—is in many points superior.*
Whilst the volumes were still incomplete, Mr. Hamilton circulated proof plates of the work with great liberality. Some of these proofs were lent to our famous English potter, Josiah Wedgwood, and gave a strong impulse to Meteyard, his taste and artistic zeal. But they excited an eager wfrta? l°nging f°r access to the vases themselves, as the only satisP. 72. factory models.
When Wedgwood wrote to his friend and partner, wed*TM*to Bentley;—'Mr. Hambleton, you know, has flattered the foM.^1770. old pot-painters very much,' one feels that for the moment that excellent man's prepossessions had been rubbed a little, against the grain. But he shows directly that there is no real intent to impeach the Editor's honesty in the matter. He has, no doubt,' adds Wedgwood, 'taken his designs from the very best vases extant,' which was precisely what it was his duty to do, since selection was the task in hand, not the publication of seven hundred specimens.
* That superiority, however, is only partial. The original Naples edition, along with many errors, contains much valuable matter omitted in the reprint.
This Collection—far more remarkable than any, of its Bookii, kind, which had yet come to England—was brought over cl'lw"'^ in 1772, and offered to the Trustees of the British Museum. An appeal was made to Parliament, and the first grant of public money, worthy of mention, was now made in order to its acquisition. The sum given to Mr. Hamilton was eight thousand four hundred pounds.
How soon one of the incidental results of the acquisition returned to the Public much more than its cost—leaving out of account altogether the best returns which accrue from such Collections—is among the familiar annals of our commerce. Josiah Wedgwood told a Committee of the House of Commons that, within two years, he had himself brought into England, by his imitations of the Hamilton vases in his manufactory at Etruria, about three times the sum which the Collection had cost to the country.
At the beginning of the year 1772 Mr. Hamilton was
° ° •* PLORATION9
made a Knight of the Bath. He returned to Naples soon Atpomh-.ii after the transfer of his antiquities to the Museum, and ere t^it" long he was busily engaged in new explorations at Pompeii and at Herculaneum. He sent to the Society of Antiquaries, in 1777, an interesting account of the discoveries at Pompeii, which is printed in the fourth volume of the Archaologia. At Herculaneum he employed, during many years, Father Antonio Piaggi to superintend excavations and make drawings, and gave him an annual salary equal to a hundred pounds sterling, after vainly endeavouring— at that time—to urge on the Neapolitan Government its own duty to carry on the task in an adequate manner for the honour of the nation, and to publish the results of the explorations for the general benefit of learning.
Sir William's services as an ambassador were rendered with zeal and with credit, as opportunity offered. But the Book ii, opportunity, in his earlier period, was comparatively rare, ci AsslcAi. It was, perhaps, despite the proverb, not altogether a happy Arch.*olo. thing for Naples that its annals were tiresome. The rust Kxi-u>Rit«3. of inactivity showed itself there, as so often elsewhere, to be much more fatal than the exhaustion of strife. Certainly, to the ambassador, it was a personal misfortune that, when the affairs of Naples became really momentous to Englishmen, the vigour and the will of earlier days were then departing from the man whose energies were at length to be put to the test in the proper sphere of his profession. Meanwhile, and in his prime, he had but—from time to time—to make routine memorials as to matters of individual wrong; to heal breaches between one Bourbon and another; and to secure the neutrality of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies during the war which grew out of the struggle in America. Such matters made no great inroad upon the pursuits of the naturalist and the antiquarian.
Labour on the mountains, in the excavations, and in the study, had been, now for many years, relieved by congenial friendships. There had been an improvement in the tone of Neapolitan Society since Hamilton's first appearance. And all that was best in Naples had gathered round him. To English travellers his hospitalities were splendid and unremitting. But in 1782 the circle lost its mistress. Seven years before, Sir William and Lady Hamilton had been bereaved of a daughter—their only child. In 1783 occurred the dreadful earthquake in Calabria, the greatest calamity of the century save that at Lisbon.
Among the scientific correspondents in England with whom Sir William Hamilton kept up an intercourse was Sir Joseph Banks, then the President of the Royal Society.