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drilled a small hole to the centre, and after having dropped in a few grains of gunpowder, and stopping them up by forcing in a screw, exceedingly well rivetted at the top, they set it on a pan of charcoal, in a large quadrangle of the College, which no sooner thereby heated, but with a terrible explosion it broke the ball into a thousand pieces. Now though this was common gunpowder, yet 'tis not the sulphur, but the nitre, which operates with this pernicity, and breaks all bands whatsoever. The sulphur and coal which enter into the composition and blacken the corns, are only (your Lordship knows) in order to its speedy kindling, adding little else to its force. The consideration whereof frees me from all questionings of the being and power of spirits (I mean intellectual ones), and of creatures and beings invisible. The dire effects of compressed and incarcerated air, when the turnkey fire (sulphur) unlocks the prison-doors, are not to be expressed but with astonishment; nor pass I by a windmill without wonder, to see a stone of that magnitude, and so ponderous, and of so many tons weight, whirled about with that swiftness by something which we do not see, and sometimes hardly feel, for a very little breath will set it going. Indeed it was to this pent-up vapour, that the ancient meteorologists attributed those cholics and convulsions of the earth; but they did not dream of nitre, which, though no more than air contracted, has so much the more violent operation when expanded, as inclines me to think it has raised all the famous fires we meet with, and not only the volcanos at present burning (such as Hecla, Vesuvius, iEtna, Stromboli, &c.) but perhaps most of the mountains of the world, which I fancy might have been thrust up by the force of subterranean fires. Powdered alabaster, chalk and sand being put into a vessel, and set on the fire, will (when hot,) boil and bubble up to some pretty and odd resemblances of such protuberances. Nor is it unlikely that where the hills are highest, the caves are as profound underneath them; and that there are vast ones under those Alps and Sierras from whence our rivers derive their plentiful streams, and have their supplies from some such capacious cisterns and hydrophylatia as Kircher mentions. Besides these, may there not also be many dry and empty cryptas, sometimes above, and sometimes beneath these water receptacles, where Vulcan and the Cyclops are perpetually at work? And that in process of time, the fire arriving at a bed of nitre and sulphur blowing up all incumbrances, not only causes these concussions, but frequently spew out great quantities of water? "lis evident that the very glebe and soil all about Naples is natural fuel, where I have in many places taken up sulphur vivwm, both under and above the surface. All the ground both under that noble city and country about it, sounds hollow like a tub. The hot baths, natural stoves, and other extraordinary things of this kind through all that territory, are the effects of subterranean fire, which, feeding on the bituminous and other unctuous and inflammable matter (which it copiously finds), when it comes once to meet with a stratum of nitre it forces up all above and about it, and makes that prodigious havoc, however thick, deep, and heavy, be the incumbent weight or matter. Thus did Vesuvius A.d. 1630, and now since (more terrible) at Catanea, ejecting stones and huge rocks of monstrous bulk; belching out flames and scattering ashes some hundred leagues distance from the eruption. Now when this nitre has done its execution, and one thinks it quite at rest (for so it seemed to be for about a thousand years, nay I think ever since the elder Pliny perished there *) emitting only a little smoke, it was all this while, it seems, lurking till it came to another stratum, and then up went all again; and thus 'tis evident have been made those deep and dreadful calderras both of Vesuvius and Etna. Whether at first these fires were kindled by lightnings from without (as your Lordship well conjectures), or from coruscations within, or by the collision of pyrites and other stones of the arched caverns, the prepared matter soon conceives a kindling, which breaking into a flame, rarifies the stagnant air that bursts those rocky bars, which, till it breaks out, puts oftentimes a country in those paroxysms and ague fits which we call earthquakes. The noise, explosion, and inconceivable swiftness of its motion, affecting so distant places in the same moment almost of time, shows through what recesses, long extended channels
* "For in this confidence they built cities and palaces, and planted vineyards and places of pleasure.—J. E."
and hollow passages (as in so many mines), this sulphurous nitre lies in train, ready for the linstock. These furnaces are douhtless the laboratories where minerals are concocted into metals, fluors sublimated, salts and juices condensed into precious stones, the several ferments imparting various qualities to earths and waters, and promoting vegetation. Nay, who knows (and I pray God we may never know) whether local Hell be not the central fire; or whether this vast terraqueous globe may not one day break like a grenado about our ears, and cast itself into another figure than the deluge did according to the ingenious Doctor's * theory?
But, my Lord, from philosophising and conjecture I am rambling I know not whither, when all that I would signify is my full assent to your Lordship's reasoning; verily believing the cause of earthquakes to proceed from the ingredient mentioned, mutually enkindled, and then, in searching vent, tears all up, where it finds the obstacle and shaking all about it. 'Tis observable that Egypt and the lower regions seldom feel these concussions, whilst the mountainous countries are most obnoxious, as most cavernous; especially in hot climates. Sad instances of this are the yet ruins of Old Antioch, Smyrna, &c, and in our days Ragusa, Benevento, Smyrna again, and that terrible one of Jamaica, which had its operation and was felt as far as England but a few days since. All the mountainous countries of Sicily and Greece and along Dalmatia's side are hollow, perhaps for thousands of miles, even under the very sea itself; as I believe from Vesuvius to Etna, and thence to other further remote mountains and volcanoes, perhaps as far as Iceland, China, and the Andes of Peru, which are full oipicos, whereof Potosi (that inexhaustible magazine of silver and other metals) seems to be no other. Those furious ravages may also probably have made so many rugged rocks, cliffs, hiatuses and peloponesuses, and have separated those many islands, and scattered, nay, as it were, sowed about the ocean, and divided from the continent; and what if raised in the very sea itself, as the Terceras were, and Teneriffe in the Grand Canaries, not to insist on the new mountain near the
• Dr. Burnet of the Charter-House.
Baise: So that, my Lord, I am in no distress at all to solve this phenomenon, at least to my own satisfaction. But when all is said, though all proceed from natural causes, yet doubt I not their being inflicted and directed by the Supreme Cause of causes, as judgments upon a sinful world; and for signs of great calamities, if they work no reformation: if they do, of chastisements. Upon these accounts I look on them as portentous and of evil presage, and to show us that there is no stability under heaven, where we can be safe and happy, but in Him alone who laid the foundations of the earth, the rock of ages that shall never be removed, when heaven and earth shall pass away.
As to our late earthquake here, I do not find it has left any considerable marks; but at Mons 'tis said it has made some demolitions. I happened to be at my brother's, at Wotton, in Surrey, when the shaking was, and at dinner with much company; yet none of us at table sensible of any motion. But the maid who was then making my bed, and another servant in a garret above her, felt it plainly, and so did my wife's laundry-maid here at Deptford: and, generally, wherever they were above in the upper floors, they felt the trembling most sensibly, for a reason I need not explain to your Lordship. In London, and particularly in Dover Street (where my son's house is), they were greatly affrighted. But the stories that go about in this neighbourhood, by many who are lately returned from Jamaica, are many, and very tragical. I doubt not at the next meeting of Gresham College (which will now shortly be after their usual recess during summer), we shall have ample and authentic histories and discourses on this subject from several places of their correspondents. I cannot, in the meantime, omit acquainting of your Lordship with one very remarkable, which we have received here from credible hands: that during this astonishing and terrible paroxysm, multitudes of people, running distractedly out of their tottering houses, and seeing so many swallowed up and perishing, divers of them espying the minister of the town at some distance ran and compassed him all about, desiring him to pray for them, as immediately he did, all falling on their knees, when, all the ground about them suddenly sinking, the spot only upon which they were at prayer remained a firm and steady island, all the rest of the contiguous ground turning into a lake, other places into gulphs, which drowned and buried all that stood upon them, and which were very many. And now, my Lord, 'tis time to implore your pardon for this tedious paper, together with your blessing.
From John Evelyn to his Brother.
Dover Strut, 5th Jan.*
The occasion of my writing at present, is from a visit made me this evening from Sir Richard Onslow. After the common civilities were passed between us, he informed me that his coming to me at this time, was to desire I would acquaint you with the late Chief Baron Montague's intention of disposing of Baynard's, and his offering it to him as lying so conveniently to his estate in that part of Surrey. But that he should be very tender in dealing for it, if it should in any sort be to the prejudice of one, for whom he had so great a respect, and which he would endeavour to preserve to our family. I told him, that I was sure you would own this expression as a signal instance of his great civility, as became you. As for Baynard's, I presumed he could not but know the injury had been done you by my sisters, in taking that estate so unhandsomely from you, without any colour of justice or cause given. Sir Richard, however, pressed me to write to you about it, and that you please to let him know your convenience, and whether with your good liking, he might be encouraged to proceed with Mr. Montague; for that he had promised to return him a positive answer within ten days. I assured him I would write to you by the very first opportunity, and that I did not question but you would speedily command me to wait on him with your answer, and, in all events, acknowledge this great mark of his friendship and neighbourly respect. What safe title Mr. Montague could make to what he
* The date of this letter is uncertain; but it seems most likely to belong to 1692, when Evelyn was residing in Dover Street.