Among the correspondence between Soane and Rowland Burdon (c.1757-1838) of Castle Eden, County Durham, conducted between April 1780 and May 1835, there is a small sheet of writing paper with rough drawings and notes by Soane, not dated, but made when in Sicily between 29 April and 23 May or 4 to 20 June 1779. This memento was sent to Soane on 2 February 1819 in a letter (SM Priv.Corr.III.B.2.14) which began:(p.1) My Dear Soane / You set me to look into my / Notes of our Sicilian tour for Prince Palagonia for / such was the name of the monster-making Prince at / the Bagaria; & entre autres behold one of those Hob- / goblins, which bears your signature, & was produced, / as well as I can recollect at Catania. Of Palagonia, / I can tell you no more, than that He was shut up, / about the period of our Visit, by his Relatives, who had / a cloud of witnesses to prove his insanity. As I go to / day to M: Russells, I venture to disobey you for the / sake of presenting you with your Note on "Semicircular / domes on an Octangular plan"; for the benefit of my fellow / students in Architecture, to whom you are going to / read lectures I presume; where I should like to be your / (p.2) candle-snuffer. - I am much pleased with the call / you have made on my recollection; for it has brought / back to my mind some very pleasant scenes, in / which we partook. - I hope it will do the same / by you ...'Bagaria' refers to the Villa Palagonia, Bagheria, Palermo, Sicily. Built in 1705 from designs by Tommaso Napoli and visited by Soane and Burdon. Lecture VI of Soane's Royal Academy lectures (given in 1819) has a reference to the Villa Palagonia as an example of bad taste, 'the inside is as whimsical and fantastical as the out'.Soane's sketches and notes (pen and pencil on laid secretary paper, 215 x 155) enclosed in SM Priv.Corr.III.B.2.14Literature. P. du Prey, John Soane’s architectural education 1753-80,1977, pp.208-36 (Sicily); D.Watkin, Sir John Soane: Enlightenment thought and the Royal Academy lectures, Cambridge, 1996, pp.238, 350-1 (Villa Palagonia); J.Ingamells, Dictionary of British and Irish travellers in Italy, 1701-1800, 1997; G.Darley, John Soane, 1999, pp.43-9 (Sicily); D.Cubitt, A.L.Mackley and R.G.Wilson (eds.), The Great Tour of John Patteson 1778-1779, published by the Norfolk Record Society, volume LXVII, 2003, pp.264-5 (Villa Palagonia), passim (Sicily).
Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation