Letter of Charles S. Peirce to his wife Melusina Fay
(Messina, 15.09.1870)


Spanish translation & annotations


On Steamer going to Messina
1870 Sep. 15

Before going to Volo people said so much to me of the imprudence of going there at this season on account of the fever & also of the number of robbers in the country that I didn’t feel at all sure I should ever come away. However here I am. I found both dangers had been exaggerated. It is true there is a great deal of fever there and also that people are afraid to walk a mile from the town without arms, but a daily dose of quinine keeps off the former & the road to Larissa is lined with soldiers. I also heard that there was no carriage road to Larissa but that turned out false, so that my getting a saddle in Constantinople was perfectly unnecessary. The moral is that they don’t know so much about Thessaly in Constantinople as they pretend.

Being landed in Volo –an odd looking town, neither Turkish nor European- I asked for Mr. Gialópoulo to whom I had a letter, and was taken to his house where I put up. He was a nice old gentleman very cordial & a friend of Sophocles. His house being enough like all Greek houses I will describe one for all. You enter the yard through a door in a strong stone wall & the house is on one

side & various sheds etc. on the others. The steps of the house lead up onto a piazza on the second story where the eating is done & also the washing of the person what little there is. The apparatus for washing consists of an oil can holding about a quart of water & a slop bowl. You pour out the water & wash your hands in the stream. Off the piazza are the chambers. Each has an oriental sofa upon which you sit Turkish fashion having slipped off your shoes. If the room has a bedstead it is a sign of cleanliness if the legs are each in a little tin can into which water being poured it is supposed the bugs cannot get in or out. A room may contain one bed so mounted & another beside it spread right on the floor. At night the theory is that the windows must be shut; I suppose because nightgowns are not in use. The eating is marvellous & very bad. One of the best dishes is a baked quince which is hollowed out & stuffed with meat like a mince pie, the whole having tomato sauce poured over it. It’s pretty good. The wine tastes very strongly of rosin & is very astringent. But the grapes surpass any I ever tasted. They are wonderful & I must have eaten nearly the entire crop I should suppose. On the whole I don’t think Thessaly is very nice.

My movements being hurried I did not have time to communicate with the relations of Sophocles


who are distant 10 hours from Volo. I was very sorry for that. If I go back in December I shall try to see them. The scenery is beautiful in Thessaly. Olympus is very grand, Ossa is a very fine mountain & Pelion is picturesque. The moonlight nights are superb. Two I was out all night. A third I sat out till a late hour with some young fellows on the shores of the bay which was perfectly lovely & they sang in Greek remarkably well.

Sunday — Here I am in Messina. Strange how entirely different the whole physiognomy of the place is from anything I have seen yet. The streets quite unlike any I had seen in England or Germany are still more unlike those of Thessaly & those of Turkey. They are handsome & clean streets & the third story of the houses is always very high something like this.

Many balconies. Prices exhorbitant. General aspect of the place joyous. Especially the hand organs which are great things like cottage pianos wheeled about on a handcart by one man very rapidly while another walks by the side & turns the handle. A crowd of boys, dancing & turning somersaults accompanies it. It gives one some strange impression of the antique. The hotel where I am is extremely dirty. They have a wine here which strong resembles Tokay. It is called Muscato di Siracusa or Malvasia. If John Blake has it I think it would be the best thing for you. It is probably quite expensive for they charged one 6 cents for a large glass of it this morning. If I can get some cheap perhaps I shall send some home.


To go to Athens involved I found such a long stay at Volo that with deep regret I cut it. But I may perhaps return there yet. The difficulty is that time now presses sadly. If I do not go to Athens I am still a whole week behind my time, and I may of course be still further delayed. Moreover I desire to go to Geneva very much to see a pendulum there for determining the force of gravity. I begin now to feel the shortness of my time acutely at the same time that I am often quite homesick & long to be home & ordinary sights bore me dreadfully unless they are seen without any trouble. Moreover my conversation is now so extremely limited that I do long to get where I can talk. I hoped to find a letter here from Amy at least but there is none. I have sent to Naples by telegraph to have any letters forwarded inmediately & I shall then no doubt get one from father which will enable me to determine whether I ought to go back to Athens or not. The temptation is so great that I think I shall go yet the reasons for not going are also very weighty. I wanted dreadfully to go to Egypt but that was of course out of the question. In regard to the war I am quite as ardent a German as ever but I still continue to predict another year of war. Paris will not be so easily taken. All the time I have been travelling now 3 months. I have only lost 2 things. One was a German phrase book I left on the steamer Deutschland & the other a pipe-case on the boat coming from Volo to here. The boat was very pleasant & I approach civilization again with pleasure. When I get to Naples I suppose I shall be in comfort once more. There is nothing at all to see in Messina & I am delayed here a day only because being Sunday my banker wouldn’t give me any money. Tomorrow to Taormini. Next day Catania. Next 2 days Etna. Then Siracuse. Our rendezvous was to be Paris. If I am left to guess where it is to be now I shall guess Berlin & go there.

Traducción de Sara Barrena (2008)
Una de las ventajas de los textos en formato electrónico respecto de los textos impresos es que pueden corregirse con gran facilidad mediante la colaboración activa de los lectores que adviertan erratas, errores o simplemente mejores transcripciones. En este sentido agradeceríamos que se enviaran todas las sugerencias y correcciones a sbarrena@unav.es
Proyecto de investigación "La correspondencia europea de C. S. Peirce: creatividad y cooperación científica (Universidad de Navarra 2007-09)

Fecha del documento: 2 de julio 2008
Última actualización: 14 de septiembre 2017
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