27 APRIL 1956, Page 28


THE LISBON EARTHQUAKE. By T. D. Kendrick. (Methuen, 210 Tuts account of one of the greatest natural disasters to overt a European city makes comforting reading, for it shows manko at its best and worst, and the best triumphs. The devastation wb,I overtook Lisbon on November 1, 1755, was quite appalling; t,w, waves and fire succeeded the earthquake and added to its liorfeF,1 The core of this opulent city was razed to the ground and probab, 15,000 people perished. Amidst the dying and the dead, the pa's, and regular clergy worked with exemplary fortitude but, 0"'; the immediate horrors were past, the Church proved to be severe handicap for Pombal in his heroic efforts to restart the sec' and economic life of the city. The crack-brained Jesuit, Malagrida, urged the Portuge.,i to put religious exercises before reconstruction, and his exhortations increased public hysteria. Catholic and Prnies°,1 alike had their explanations ready to hand for this catastroPL'Il Most agreed with Malagrida. The cause was Lisbon's .abomill3'j sins and not comets, stars, vapours, exhalations and other rotor,' phenomena,' and Lisbon's vaunted piety was but snow covel a .dunghill. Wesley saw in this wrath of God a just punistne. for idolatry, the Inquisition, and other monstrous perverab),,110,1 Unless there was an immediate repentance and reforms si London would ga the way of Lisbon, and Wesley hinted t.yd Halley's comet, expected in 1758, would bring England's merit doom. That the innocent should suffer with the wicked worriedtt), The Portuguese said they had been chosen for such exenWideir chastisement because God loved them and wished to give l'1.0 this mark of His distinction; the innocent suffered for the conl'

good. ,

Such lunatic ratiocination hindered Ponlbal's work and he ;10i forced to publicise as widely as he could the accepted explana`:# of earthquakes put forward by the most advanced seieertior circles—a severe and well-merited jolt to the obscurantism eL Jesuits. At the same time he pushed forward with ruthless en the building of a new Lisbon, better planned and more bcol than the destroyed city. The competence and vigour with which' ordinary Portuguese overcame the horrors of their experP„ 10 speak for the courage, endurance and sound sense of 1103,0 at large, as does the charity expressed in corn, picks, sh°'00 money, which poured in from Britain, Germany and 01,01 Science, reason, and hope were strengthened at the experts

" religious bigotry and apocalyptic prophecy.

Sir Thomas Kendrick has done a great service to the history; European thought in analysing the vast pamphlet literature'lv which the earthquake gave rise. The tedious lucubrations 0'tM theologians are distilled with such- urbanity and wit t.., fruits of e a laborious scholarship are presented most attra.do This wise, well-balanced, and learned book deserves to be

read, for it contains a profound moral. No matter how idiotic t or vociferously man blathers about the purpose of the univers... ;df proceeds heroically, and in spite of catastrophes, with the ordow arts of living.