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The innocents abroad, or, The new Pilgrim's progress

being some account of the steamship Quaker City's pleasure excursion to Europe and the Holy land ; with descriptions of countries, nations, incidents and adventures, as they appeared to the author







THEY pronounce it Pom-pay-e. I always had an idea that
you went down into Pompeii with torches, by the way
of damp, dark stairways, just as you do in silver mines, and
traversed gloomy tunnels with lava overhead and something
on either hand like dilapidated prisons gouged out of the
solid earth, that faintly resembled houses. But you do nothing
of the kind. Fully one-half of the buried city, perhaps, is
completely exhumed and thrown open freely to the light of
day; and there stand the long rows of solidly-built brick
houses (roofless) just as they stood eighteen hundred years ago,
hot with the flaming sun; and there lie their floors, cleanswept,
and not a bright fragment tarnished or wanting of the
labored mosaics that pictured them with the beasts, and birds,
and flowers which we copy in perishable carpets to-day; and
there are the Venuses, and Bacchuses, and Adonises, making
love and getting drunk in many-hued frescoes on the walls of
saloon and bed-chamber; and there are the narrow streets and
narrower sidewalks, paved with flags of good hard lava, the
one deeply rutted with the chariot-wheels, and the other with
the passing feet of the Pompeiians of by-gone centuries; and
there are the bake-shops, the temples, the halls of justice, the
baths, the theatres—all clean-scraped and neat, and suggesting
nothing of the nature of a silver mine away down in the
bowels of the earth. The broken pillars lying about, the doorless
doorways and the crumbled tops of the wilderness of walls,


Page 328
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 328. In-line Illustration. Image of pillars stickin out of the earth. The caption reads, "RUINS—POMPEII."] were wonderfully suggestive of the “burnt district” in one of
our cities, and if there had been any charred timbers, shattered
windows, heaps of debris, and general blackness and smokiness
about the place, the resemblance would have been perfect.
But no—the sun shines as brightly down on old Pompeii
do-day as it did when Christ was born in Bethlehem, and its
streets are cleaner a hundred times than ever Pompeiian saw
them in her prime. I know whereof I speak—for in the great,
chief thoroughfares (Merchant street and the Street of Fortune)
have I not seen with my own eyes how for two hundred
years at least the pavements were not repaired!—how ruts
five and even ten inches deep were worn into the thick flagstones
by the chariot-wheels of generations of swindled taxpayers?
And do I not know by these signs that Street Commissioners
of Pompeii never attended to their business, and that
if they never mended the pavements they never cleaned them?
And, besides, is it not the inborn nature of Street Commissioners


Page 329
to avoid their duty whenever they get a chance? I
wish I knew the name of the last one that held office in Pompeii
so that I could give him a blast. I speak with feeling
on this subject, because I caught my foot in one of those ruts,
and the sandness that came over me when I saw the first poor
skeleton, with ashes and lava sticking to it, was tempered by
the reflection that may be that party was the Street Commissioner.

No—Pompeii is no longer a buried city. It is a city of
hundreds and hundreds of roofless houses, and a tangled maze
of streets where one could easily get lost, without a guide, and
have to sleep in some ghostly palace that had known no living
tenant since that awful November night of eighteen centuries

We passed through the gate which faces the Mediterranean,
(called the “Marine Gate,”) and by the rusty, broken image
of Minerva, still keeping tireless watch and ward over the
possessions it was powerless to save, and went up a long street
and stood in the broad court of the Forum of Justice. The
floor was level and clean, and up and down either side was a
noble colonnade of broken pillars, with their beautiful Ionic
and Corinthian columns scattered about them. At the upper
end were the vacant seats of the Judges, and behind them we
descended into a dungeon where the ashes and cinders had
found two prisoners chained on that memorable November
night, and tortured them to death. How they must have
tugged at the pitiless fetters as the fierce fires surged around

Then we lounged through many and many a sumptuous
private mansion which we could not have entered without a
formal invitation in incomprehensible Latin, in the olden time,
when the owners lived there—and we probably wouldn't have
got it. These people built their houses a good deal alike.
The floors were laid in fanciful figures wrought in mosaics of
many-colored marbles. At the threshold your eyes fall upon a
Latin sentence of welcome, sometimes, or a picture of a dog,
with the legend “Beware of the Dog,” and sometimes a picture


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[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 330. In-line Illustration. Image of an open area surrounded by broken columns. The caption reads, "FORUM OF JUSTICE—POMPEII."] of bear or a faun with no inscription at all. Then you
enter a sort of vestibule, where they used to keep the hat-rack,
I suppose; next a room with a large marble basin in the
midst and the pipes of a fountain; on either side are bed-rooms;
beyond the fountain is a reception-room, then a little
garden, dining-room, and so forth and so on. The floors were
all mosaic, the walls were stuccoed, or frescoed, or ornamented
with bas-reliefs, and here and there were statues, large and
small, and little fish-pools, and cascades of sparkling water that
sprang from secret places in the colonnade of handsome pillars
that surrounded the court, and kept the flower-beds fresh and
the air cool. Those Pompeiians were very luxurious in their
tastes and habits. The most exquisite bronzes we have seen in
Europe, came from the exhumed cities of Herculaneum and
Pompeii, and also the finest cameos and the most delicate
engravings on precious stones; their pictures, eighteen or nineteen
centuries old, are often much more pleasing than the celebrated


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rubbish of the old masters of three centuries ago.
They were well up in art. From the creation of these works
of the first, clear up to the eleventh century, art seems hardly
to have existed at all—at least no remnants of it are left—and
it was curious to see how far (in some things, at any rate,) these
old time pagans excelled the remote generations of masters
that came after them. The pride of the world in sculptures
seem to be the Laocoon and the Dying Gladiator, in Rome.
They are as old as Pompeii, were dug from the earth like
Pompeii; but their exact age or who made them can only be
conjectured. But worn, and cracked, without a history, and
with the blemishing stains of numberless centuries upon them,
they still mutely mock at all efforts to rival their perfections.

It was a quaint and curious pastime, wandering through this
old silent city of the dead—lounging through utterly deserted
streets where thousands and thousands of human beings once
bought and sold, and walked and rode, and made the place
resound with the noise and confusion of traffic and pleasure.
They were not lazy. They hurried in those days. We had
evidence of that. There was a temple on one corner, and it
was a shorter cut to go between the columns of that temple
from one street to the other than to go around—and behold
that pathway had been worn deep into the heavy flag-stone
floor of the building by generations of time-saving feet! They
would not go around when it was quicker to go through. We
do that way in our cities.

Every where, you see things that make you wonder how old
these old houses were before the night of destruction came—
things, too, which bring back those long dead inhabitants and
place them living before your eyes. For instance: The steps
(two feet thick—lava blocks) that lead up out of the school,
and the same kind of steps that lead up into the dress circle of
the principal theatre, are almost worn through! For ages the
boys hurried out of that school, and for ages their parents
hurried into that theatre, and the nervous feet that have been
dust and ashes for eighteen centuries have left their record for


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us to read to-day. I imagined I could see crowds of gentlemen
and ladies thronging into the theatre, with tickets for
secured seats in their hands, and on the wall, I read the imaginary
placard, in infamous grammar, “Positively No Free
List, Except Members of the Press!
” Hanging about the
doorway (I fancied,) were slouchy Pompeiian street-boys uttering
slang and profanity, and keeping a wary eye out for checks.
I entered the theatre, and sat down in one of the long rows of
stone benches in the dress circle, and looked at the place for
the orchestra, and the ruined stage, and around at the wide
sweep of empty boxes, and thought to myself, “This house
won't pay.” I tried to imagine the music in full blast, the
leader of the orchestra beating time, and the “versatile” So-and-So
(who had “just returned from a most successful tour
in the provinces to play his last and farewell engagement of
positively six nights only, in Pompeii, previous to his departure
for Herculaneum,”) charging around the stage and piling
the agony mountains high—but I could not do it with such a
“house” as that; those empty benches tied my fancy down to
dull reality. I said, these people that ought to be here have
been dead, and still, and moldering to dust for ages and ages,
and will never care for the trifles and follies of life any more
for ever—“Owing to circumstances, etc., there will not
be any performance to-night.” Close down the curtain. Put
out the lights.

And so I turned away and went through shop after shop and
store after store, far down the long street of the merchants,
and called for the wares of Rome and the East, but the tradesmen
were gone, the marts were silent, and nothing was left
but the broken jars all set in cement of cinders and ashes: the
wine and the oil that once had filled them were gone with
their owners.

In a bake-shop was a mill for grinding the grain, and the
furnaces for baking the bread: and they say that here, in the
same furnaces, the exhumers of Pompeii found nice, well
baked loaves which the baker had not found time to remove
from the ovens the last time he left his shop, because circumstances
compelled him to leave in such a hurry.


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In one house (the only building in Pompeii which no woman
is now allowed to enter), were the small rooms and short beds
of solid masonry, just as they were in the old times, and on
the walls were pictures which looked almost as fresh as if they
were painted yesterday, but which no pen could have the
hardihood to describe; and here and there were Latin inscriptions—obscene
scintillations of wit, scratched by hands that
possibly were uplifted to Heaven for succor in the midst of a
driving storm of fire before the night was done.

In one of the principal streets was a ponderous stone tank,
and a water-spout that supplied it, and where the tired, heated
toilers from the Campagua used to rest their right hands when
they bent over to put their lips to the spout, the thick stone
was worn down to a broad groove an inch or two deep.
Think of the countless thousands of hands that had pressed
that spot in the ages that are gone, to so reduce a stone that is
as hard as iron!

They had a great public bulletin board in Pompeii—a place
where announcements for gladiatorial combats, elections, and
such things, were posted—not on perishable paper, but carved
in enduring stone. One lady, who, I take it, was rich and
well brought up, advertised a dwelling or so to rent, with
baths and all the modern improvements, and several hundred
shops, stipulating that the dwellings should not be put to
immoral purposes. You can find out who lived in many a
house in Pompeii by the carved stone door-plates affixed to
them: and in the same way you can tell who they were that
occupy the tombs. Every where around are things that reveal
to you something of the customs and history of this forgotten
people. But what would a volcano leave of an American city,
if it once rained its cinders on it? Hardly a sign or a symbol
to tell its story.

In one of these long Pompeiian halls the skeleton of a man
was found, with ten pieces of gold in one hand and a large key
in the other. He had seized his money and started toward the
door, but the fiery tempest caught him at the very threshold,
and he sank down and died. One more minute of precious


Page 334
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 334. In-line Illustration. Image of a pedestal supported by gryphons amid broken pillars. The caption reads, "HOUSE—POMPEII."] time would have saved him. I saw the skeletons of a man, a
woman, and two young girls. The woman had her hands
spread wide apart, as if in mortal terror, and I imagined I
could still trace upon her shapeless face something of the
expression of wild despair that distorted it when the heavens
rained fire in these streets, so many ages ago. The girls and
the man lay with their faces upon their arms, as if they had
tried to shield them from the enveloping cinders. In one
apartment eighteen skeletons were found, all in sitting postures,
and blackened places on the walls still mark their shapes
and show their attitudes, like shadows. One of them, a
woman, still wore upon her skeleton throat a necklace, with
her name engraved upon it—Julie di Diomede.


Page 335

But perhaps the most poetical thing Pompeii has yielded to
modern research, was that grand figure of a Roman soldier,
clad in complete armor; who, true to his duty, true to his
proud name of a soldier of Rome, and full of the stern courage
which had given to that name its glory, stood to his post
by the city gate, erect and unflinching, till the hell that raged
around him burned out the dauntless spirit it could not conquer.

We never read of Pompeii but we think of that soldier; we
can not write of Pompeii without the natural impulse to grant
to him the mention he so well deserves. Let us remember
that he was a soldier—not a policeman—and so, praise him.
Being a soldier, he staid,—because the warrior instinct forbade
him to fly. Had he been a policeman he would have
staid, also—because he would have been asleep.

There are not half a dozen flights of stairs in Pompeii, and
no other evidences that the houses were more than one story
high. The people did not live in the clouds, as do the Venetians,
the Genoese and Neapolitans of to-day.

We came out from under the solemn mysteries of this city
of the Venerable Past—this city which perished, with all its old
ways and its quaint old fashions about it, remote centuries ago,
when the Disciples were preaching the new religion, which is
as old as the hills to us now—and went dreaming among the
trees that grow over acres and acres of its still buried streets and
squares, till a shrill whistle and the cry of “All aboard—last
train for Naples!
” woke me up and reminded me that I belonged
in the nineteenth century, and was not a dusty mummy,
caked with ashes and cinders, eighteen hundred years old.
The transition was startling. The idea of a railroad train
actually running to old dead Pompeii, and whistling irreverently,
and calling for passengers in the most bustling and
business-like way, was as strange a thing as one could imagine,
and as unpoetical and disagreeable as it was strange.

Compare the cheerful life and the sunshine of this day with
the horrors the younger Pliny saw here, the 9th of November,
A. D. 79, when he was so bravely striving to remove his


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mother out of reach of harm, while she begged him, with all a
mother's unselfishness, to leave her to perish and save himself.

`By this time the murky darkness had so increased that one might have believed
himself abroad in a black and moonless night, or in a chamber where all the
lights had been extinguished. On every hand was heard the complaints of women,
the wailing of children, and the cries of men. One called his father, another his
son, and another his wife, and only by their voices could they know each other.
Many in their despair begged that death would come and end their distress.

“Some implored the gods to succor them, and some believed that this night was
the last, the eternal night which should engulf the universe!

“Even so it seemed to me—and I consoled myself for the coming death with the
reflection: Behold, the World is passing away!

After browsing among the stately ruins of Rome, of Baiæ,
of Pompeii, and after glancing down the long marble ranks of
battered and nameless imperial heads that stretch down the
corridors of the Vatican, one thing strikes me with a force it
never had before: the unsubstantial, unlasting character of
fame. Men lived long lives, in the olden time, and struggled
feverishly through them, toiling like slaves, in oratory, in
generalship, or in literature, and then laid them down and
died, happy in the possession of an enduring history and a
deathless name. Well, twenty little centuries flutter away,
and what is left of these things? A crazy inscription on a
block of stone, which snuffy antiquaries bother over and tangle
up and make nothing out of but a bare name (which they spell
wrong)—no history, no tradition, no poetry—nothing that can
give it even a passing interest. What may be left of General
Grant's great name forty centuries hence? This—in the
Encyclopedia for A. D. 5868, possibly:

Uriah S. (or Z.) Graunt—popular poet of ancient times in the Aztec provinces
of the United States of British America. Some authors say flourished about A. D.
742; but the learned Ah-ah Foo-foo states that he was a cotemporary of Scharkspyre,
the English poet, and flourished about A. D. 1328, some three centuries ofter
the Trojan war instead of before it. He wrote `Rock me to Sleep, Mother.' ”

These thoughts sadden me. I will to bed.