John Singer Sargent -- Letters  (Frontpage)

John's letter to Ben del Castillo 1869

May 23rd, 1869

Dear Ben,

I wrote a letter to you some days ago before we left Naples, but it has gotten mislaid and I cannot find it. We are staying at the Hotel Cocumella which was once a convent and at every door on the bricks there is Riposo, or Pace, or Silenzio. The day after we arrived at Naples, we went to the old town of Pozzuoli and Baiae and on the way we went to the Crater of Solfatara a volcano near Pozzuoli. We also saw the caverns of the Cumaean Sybil, on the banks of the Lake Avernus. The Museum of Naples is very fine and more interesting than either the Capitol or Vatican at Rome, because all the bronzes and frescoes from Pompeii and Herculaneum are there.

We went to Pompeii a few days ago by railroad only three quarters of an hour from Naples. It is very interesting and you see the houses of Glaucus and the heroes of Bulwer’s “Last days of Pompeii.”

These houses are very well preserved and the walls of the rooms are generally covered in frescoes, but they have taken away the finest frescoes to the Museum of Naples. In the house of Diomed you see the cellar where Julia his daughter and a lot of women were suffocated, and we saw the oven were 81 loaves of bread were found, which have been taken to the museum, they are enough cooked by this time. You are not allowed to give anything to the guide who shows you about, and they sell photographs of Pompeii to you instead.

Day before yesterday we sailed for the Island of Capri 14 miles off. We went first to see the Blue Grotto the entrance of which is so small that you get into a boat and lie down in the bottom of it. But when you are in it is very large. The light all comes from the water, which is of a light blue and is reflected on the roof. From Blue Grotto we went to the Villa Tiberius, which is perched up on a peak about 1360 feet above the sea, and a little lower down is a place called Salto di Tiberius used to throw off his victims into the sea. The we saw the natural arch which is very fine.

After you left Rome, Ma gave me a large album of white Roman binding to stick photographs in, and I have stuck in about 60 of Rome and a great many of Naples. I have a good many old Greek and Roman poets, and I am trying to get the first Caesars. I will get some photographs of the Museum at Munich, where there are some very beautiful statues.

We will leave Sorrento on Monday, Day after to-morrow, and we will be seven days getting to Munich. The first night we will spend in Rome, the second at Ancona, the third at Padua, the fourth Botzen, Innsbruck, Munich, and from Munich we will go to Carlsbad in Bohemia for waters for Papa.

Madame Darij told me to thank you for her, about your kind message as to the health of her quadrupeds, Diana and Adone, who are alive and kicking. Before we left Rome Mr. Darij gave me 28 coins and some intaglios and he gave Emily also some intaglios, but to Violet he gave two oil pictures, 23 coins and a lot of intaglios, one of which she has had set in a ring.

Mamma and Papa send their love to your father and mother, and hope they will write soon, Emily send her love to you and your father and mother, and give mine too, and accept a great deal for yourself.

I am your affectionate friend,

J S. Sargent

P.S. – Address to Poste Restante, Carlsbad, Bohemia