Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Adeline Seward, September 8, 1859

  • Posted on: 10 November 2021
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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Adeline Seward, September 8, 1859



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Distributor:Seward Family Digital Archive

Institution:University of Rochester

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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Adeline Seward, September 8, 1859

action: sent

sender: William Seward
Birth: 1801-05-16  Death: 1872-10-10


receiver: Frances Seward
Birth: 1844-12-09  Death: 1866-10-29

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: amr 

revision: jxw 2021-02-08


Page 1


Editorial Note

William Henry Seward’s series of travel letters in 1859 are organized and listed by the date of each entry.
Steamer Hydarsse Thursday Sept.
My dear Fanny, We left Messina at four on Tuesday
afternoon, and at five we sat down to dinner the great
event of the day at sea, as indeed it too often is
on land. After sitting at the table near an hour and
an half I became quite sure that we must be near
to Reggio and as night was approaching it would
be wise to get a sight of Mount Etna. I was
in the middle of a long row of passengers hemmed
in by the table in part, the cabin wall behind and
I could not get out without disturbing them. The Italians
at first thought of refusing to let me pass but at last
with much ill temper gave way. I was just in time
to see Reggio and take my last view of Continental
Italy. Etna now on the opposite side a majestic
mountain towering above the masses which surround it
Page 2

but it is now free of snow and I could see neither
fire nor smoke issuing from its cavern. You are aware
that it alternates with Vesuvius, is active when
that other mountain is at rest, and at rest when Vesuv-
ious is disturbed. Night came on, I could not
see Syracuse, and indeed the Island of Sicily now
disappeared under black clouds which threatened
us with a hurricane.
At eight o,clock yesterday
morning we looked into Malta, never was traveler
more disappointed than I. I had expected to
see a garden – but Malta is a rock, a white
rock. A large one indeed and yet a very small
island, fifteen miles by eight or nine. The sun poured
down such a fevered heat upon it that I almost looked for
it to melt. As we approached we found Malta to
be one universal fortification. Here and there a bush or
shrub seems to have found a foot hold but there is
no verdure and no shade. I went athor ashore
landed under an arch, ascended passing Bable sentries
entered the city (La Vallette) it is called, and
not Malta) on a port-cullis and after climbing
up two hundred or three hundred feet found an
English hotel and breakfast. Malta is the
cleanest town I ever saw, an absolute contrast
Page 3

to all the continental towns I have seen. After break-
fast I found the American Consul W Winthrop
Birth: 1808-11-28 Death: 1869-07-03

a kinsman of Robert G. Winthrop
of Massachusetts
and had I had happened to fall in there on their
anniversary of their
Birth: 1807-11-25 Death: 1897-01-19
wedding day. Of course I accepted
their invitation to dinner. I spent the morning in
studying the city and the Island. Malta has never
enjoyed I think a naturality of its own. An important
^military^ position in the mediterranean midway or nearly so
between the African and the European coasts, Malta
was doomed to witness and suffer by the conflicts
between the Carthagians and the Romans. Later
it was overcome by the Arabs and long possessed
by them, rescued from them by the Crusaders
and made the for a long time the out post of
Christendom. In the 16th century it had fallen
into the Fren German Empire and was then given
by Charles V
 Death: 1558-09-21
. to the order of the Templars of St.
John, a great military order of Knighthood all composed
of heroic men of all nations which had been
engaged during the Crusades and had long
been established on the Island of Rhodes

who were now driven from it by the Turks
Page 4

Here in Malta the Knights remained until 1792 having
survived the Religious wars of the Cross and Covenants
The English Government under Henry VIII ^had^ confiscated
the property of the order in England, other nations
had shave it of its powers. The French Revolution in
1793 confiscated its property in France and
finally Bonaparte
Birth: 1769-08-15 Death: 1821-05-05
invaded the Island and
expelled the order from it. In the long wars
of the French Revolution it fell into the hands
of the English who regard it as the chief
security for their empire in India


– I visited the
palace where I found the armour and coat of arms of
each of the Grand Masters
of the order and an
multitude of monuments and pictures commemorating
the conflicts between the Christians and the Ma-
hamodens, and the Church of St. Johns is exceedingly
interesting as a monument of medieval times and
events. I was received kindly by the Governor
Birth: 1803 Death: 1874-02-06

and parted with him and our Consul with much
regret – at five oclock. Now having been transferred
to another steamer I am under an African seaman
and surrounded by African associates and persons. The
of the Pacha
Birth: 1822 Death: 1863-01-18
^of Egypt ^ is a passenger. So are
two dozen of his horses. The ports flowers every thing
have a look tropical have a tropical look. The most popular
man on board is a black but handsome burly man
, who he is I
dont know
Page 5

But before I dismiss Malta I want tell you a few more
things about it. Its claims inhabitants are very numerous, nearly
all natives, a bright intellectual people – of Arabic derivation
but now Catholics and assimilated to the Italians. The
costumes of the ladies are singularly modest and graceful
the language is one found only on that Island. The people claim
for it that is the Ogygetes of Homer the seat of the fabled
Goddess Calypso. But the Island seems scarcely to
deserve the praise for beauty which the Poet ascribes.
Its climate is delicious, being It has always a genial
sun and generally fine sea breezes. It is this Malta
whe on whose coast Paul was shipwrecked and
in which he tarried three months. They show you the
very spot of the scene of the disaster, and almost the
fire place at whose side he shook off the viper that
fixed itself on his hand.
It is only our sky and sea that are earnestly
African – our passengers are largely Greeks, and
Italians. Here are half a dozen ^Italian^ men of some order
with a Benedictine
going on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem

A large number of the passengers are Greeks
Here and there a passenger is sitting cross legged and
smoking opium. The black man I spoke of is an East
Indian officer in the Royal Household of Oude – There
is one English man
of the Indian service with two Coolies

I am the only American. I lose much by my inability to
converse with these representatives of the East. Their dresses their beards
and manners are affected. I would like to know whether they are mere children.