Letter 11 from Alessandro Volta to George 3rd Earl Cowper

24 Dec 1781, Paris

By Gill Cordingley & Maria Porter

Volta had decided that he needed to make a an extensive tour of Europe and England to meet other scientists and to inform them about his ideas and work. This tour was self funded. His paper to the R.S. has been sent to England by Cowper.

While Volta remained in Paris waiting for calm weather for the Channel Crossing, he wrote to Cowper asking him to forward some introductory letters to useful contacts in England. Meanwhile a significant event happened at the Royal Society in London.

In January 1782 Volta’s paper on a condenser was published in the Society’s prestigious publication, The Philosophical Transactions. The title of the paper is:

Del Modo di Render Sensibilissima La piu Elettrica sia Naturale, sia Artificiale

(English Version) Of the Method of Rendering very sensible the weakest Natural or Artificial Electricity by Mr. Alexander Volta. Professor Experimental Philosophy in Como etc. etc.

Communicated by the Right Hon George Earl Cowper F.R.S. *

(* From the Website of the royal Society)

Altezza

Ho ricevuto la lettera di V.A. a Bruscelles con acclusa le due commendatizie. Pensavo di poterne far uso presto; ma veggendo la stagione troppo avanzata, e sgomentato dal viaggio di mare assai incomodo adesso ed anche pericoloso, coll’esempio di un Paquebotto perito ultimamente nel tragitto da Douvres a Ostenda, ho risolto di non andare per ora in Inghilterra, e di aspettare la ventura primavera. Mi sono dunque contenta di far un giro in Ollanda, e nel Brabante, dopo aver percorsa la Svizzera, e l’alto e il basso Piano fino a Dusseldorf. Da ultimo son venuto per Parigi con intenzione di passarvi l’inverno. Il mio arrivo è stato ieri l’altro. Sono ora solo, avendo lasciato la compagnia della Signa. Marchesa Villani e Sig. Colonello Colli ad Aquisgrana già da un mese e mezzo: li aspetto però quì tra non molto, e allora ci riuniremo.

Sentirò volentieri come V.A. ha trovato L’Eudiometro, che l’Ab. Re le deve aver mandato; ho procurato che fosse eseguito colla maggior attenzione. Desidererei ancora sapere se la mia memoria “Microelettroscopio o Condensatore” di Elettricità, come penso ora meglio di chiamarla, ch’Ella volea trasmettere a Londra, è stata poi prodotta alla Società Reale, e se ha incontrato. In tal caso potrò pubblicarla qui nel Giornale di Rozier.

Degnandosi V.A. di scrivermi, La prego di indirizzarmi le lettere àl’Hotel d’ Hollande, rue du Brouloy; le quali mi saranno più care se mi conteranno qualche comando. Con tal aspettazione pieno dell’alta stima ed ossequio che da molto tempo Le professo, mi rinnovo l’onore di dirmi di V. Altezza.

Parigi li 24 Xbre 1781

Umill.mo Obb.mo Servo

Alessandro Volta

Your Highness

I have received Your Highness letter with the enclosed letters of recommendations in Brussels. I thought I could use them soon but seeing the season too advanced, and dismayed by the sea voyage now very inconvenient and also dangerous, with the example of a packet boat* lately shipwrecked on the way between Dover and Ostend, I decided not to go to England for the time being and to wait for next spring. I therefore contented myself with touring Holland and Brabant, after travelling through Switzerland and the high and the low Plain as far as Dusseldorf. Lastly, I came to Paris with the intention of spending the winter here. I arrived the day before yesterday. I am now alone, having left the company, of the Marchesa Villani1 and Mr Colonel Colli2 in Aquisgrana3 already a month and a half ago: I am however, waiting for them here in a short while, and we will then be reunited.

I will be glad to hear how Your Highness found the Eudiometer, the Abbot Re must have sent you: I made sure that it would be executed with the greatest attention. I would also like to know if my dissertation on the “Microelectroscope or Condenser” of Electricity as I now prefer to call it, and that you wanted to send to London, has been shown to the Royal Society and if they have met. In that case, I will be able to publish it here in Rozier’s Journal.

Should Your Highness be kind enough to write to me, please address your letters to the Hotel of Holland, rue du Brouloy; and these will be even more dear to me if they contain any requests. With such expectation full of the high esteem and obsequy and I have been professing for a long time, I renew the honour of saying of signing myself once more.

Paris 24 December 1781

Your most Humble, Most Obsequious Servant

Alessandro Volta

* Packet boats made regular channel crossings with passenger, mail and diplomatic letters

1 Marchese Villani, and

2 Colonel Colli: travelling companions who shared the expenses of coach hire with Volta

3 Aguisgrana: the Italian name for Aachen/ Aix la Chapelle

This page was added on 10/07/2013.

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