Reported On This Day 280 Years Ago (August 4 1739): Extreme heat in Italy thought to be cause of sudden deaths

A front page of a Belfast News Letter from the summer of 1739
A front page of a Belfast News Letter from the summer of 1739
Share this article

From the Belfast News Letter of July 24 1739 (which is August 4 in the modern calendar):

Rome, June 20. N.S.

As there are several sudden deaths every day among the harvest people that work in the neighbouring country, and no symptom is observ’d to precede by the falling of a drop of blood from the nose, the governor of this city has, by the Pope’s order, forbid any of the bodies to be interr’d, till they have been open’d and examin’d by the physicians, to find out the cause of those accidents, which have been hitherto ascrib’d to the excessive heat of the weather.

A nun arriv’d here lately in a trooper’s habit, and went immediately to the Quirinal palace, where falling on her knees to the Pope, she complain’d that she had been carry’d by force into a nunnery, and praying for his holiness’s disposition from her living any longer in that state, which was absolutely contrary to her disposition. The Pope order’d the cardinal vicar to examine her, and to send her afterwards to the nunnery del Santo Spirito, till he thinks fit to pass judgment on the case.

ITALY. Leghorn, June 27.

The French troops make great progress every day towards reducing the malecontents of of Corsica, and those that stand out are so divided that they murder one another without mercy. Mean time ‘tis still said that the Genoese republick intends to yield up the island to the court of Spain for the sake of don Philip. [France was helping Genoa defeat Corsican rebels]


Raishon, June 26.

The Evangelick body have sent a new memorial to the Emperor, setting forth, that the protestant states of the Empire are very sensibly mortified to see that all the pains they have hitherto taken, to obtain redress of their religious grievances, have been in vain; that those grievances, far from decreasing, augment every day; and consequently, become thereby more difficult to accommodate; that the constitutions of the Empire are violated in this respect; and that the frequent breaches made in the treaty of Westphalia these several years past, made them justly apprehend that the protestants would by degrees be turn’d out of churches and schools they possess in the Roman catholick states of the Empire, out of which they must afterwards be obliged to retire themselves. [This report shows that the Treaty of Westphalia, which in 1648 had ended the extraordinarily violent Thirty Years’ War between Catholic and Protestant states, was still the template for European relations almost a century later]

Vienna, July 4 N.S.

The Grand Vizier [Ottoman leader] has sent a letter to the British and Dutch ambassadors, that while he makes his court to the maritime powers, he has no opinion of France; because he declares, ‘That he does not think her mediation can avail, to persuade the contenting powers to lay down their arms, and that it would be at least convenient that it should be supported by that for his Britannick majesty, and their high mightinesses.’

[The Turks were in a war with Russia and Austria, and France was seen as a possible mediator]