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Walter Lowrie

Enchanteded Island, 1953

I mention last the celebrated philosopher George Berkeley, who was in fact the first and the most distinguished modern man of letters who sojourned on Ischia and sang its praises. Berkeley was five years in Italy, making a tour so complete and so painstaking that it comprised all of the southern prov­inces and Sicily, and that at a time when travel was any­thing but easy. I note that on one of the easiest routes he was sixteen days going from Rome to Naples by post, and nine days on the return journey- a distance which can be travelled now in four hours. In his journal of the tour he devotes far more room to Ischia than to any other place except Rome. There is no evidence that he visited Capri. He reached Ischia in June 1717. There he spent the whole summer, and prob­ably the following winter. In the meantime he was for a
while in Naples and from there wrote to Alexander Pope a letter dated Oct. 22, N. S. 1717. Thirty-five years before the Gregorian Calendar, a papistical innovation, was adopted in England Berkeley used the New Style in dating all his documents in Italy. He wrote to Pope: "The island of Inarime is an epitome of the whole earth, containing within a compass of eighteen miles a wonder­ful variety of hills, vales, ragged rock, fruitful plains, and barren mountains, all thrown together in a most romantic confusion. The air is in the hottest season constantly refreshed by cool breezes from the sea... But that which crowned the scene is a large mountain rising out of the middle of the island (once a terrible volcano, by the ancients called Mons Epomeus),...  from which you have the finest prospect in the world, surveying at one view, besides several pleasant islands lying at your feet, a tract of Italy about three hundred miles in length, . . . the greater part of which hath been sung by Homer and Virgil, as making a considerable part of the travels and adventures of their two heroes. . . . The inhabitants of this delicious isle, as they are without riches and honor, so are they without the vices and follies that attend them; and were they as much strangers to revenge as they are to avarice and ambition, they might perhaps answer to the political notions of the golden age. But they have got, as an alloy to their happiness, an ill habit of murdering one another at first sight".