The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire eBook

Charles W. Morris
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 432 pages of information about The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire.
than concerning my uncle’s death; with that, therefore, I will put an end to my letter.  Suffer me only to add, that I have faithfully related to you what I was either an eye-witness of myself, or received immediately after the accident happened, and before there was any time to vary the truth.  You will choose out of this narrative such circumstances as shall be most suitable to your purpose; for there is a great difference between what is proper for a letter and a history:  between writing to a friend and writing to the public.  Farewell.”

In this account, which was drawn up some years after the event, from the recollections of a student eighteen years old, we recognize the continual earthquakes; the agitated sea with its uplifted bed; the flames and vapors of an ordinary eruption, probably attended by lava as well as ashes.  But it seems likely that the author’s memory, or rather the information communicated to him regarding the closing scene of Pliny’s life, was defective.  Flames and sulphurous vapors could hardly be actually present at Stabiae, ten miles from the centre of the eruption.

That lava flowed at all from Vesuvius on this occasion has been usually denied; chiefly because at Pompeii and Herculaneum the causes of destruction were different—­ashes overwhelmed the former, mud concreted over the latter.  We observe, indeed, phenomena on the shore near Torre del Greco which seem to require the belief that currents of lava had been solidified there at some period before the construction of certain walls and floors, and other works of Roman date.  In the Oxford Museum, among the specimens of lava to which the dates are assigned, is one referred to A. D. 79, but there is no mode of proving it to have belonged to the eruption of that date.


A second letter from Pliny to Tacitus (Epist. 20) was required to satisfy the curiosity of that historian; especially as regards the events which happened under the eyes of his friend.  Here it is according to Melmoth: 

“The letter which, in compliance with your request, I wrote to you concerning the death of my uncle, has raised, it seems, your curiosity to know what terrors and danger attended me while I continued at Misenum:  for there, I think, the account in my former letter broke off.

‘Though my shocked soul recoils, my tongue shall tell.’

“My uncle having left us, I pursued the studies which prevented my going with him till it was time to bathe.  After which I went to supper, and from thence to bed, where my sleep was greatly broken and disturbed.  There had been, for many days before, some shocks of an earthquake, which the less surprised us as they are extremely frequent in Campania; but they were so particularly violent that night, that they not only shook everything about us, but seemed, indeed, to threaten total destruction.  My mother flew to my chamber, where she found me rising in order

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The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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