Wrath of God: The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 by Edward Paice - review by Jonathan Keates

Jonathan Keates

Seismic Shift

Wrath of God: The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755


Quercus Books 280pp £20 order from our bookshop

The Lisbon earthquake is the most famous natural disaster in European history. In the space of little more than an hour on the morning of 1 November 1755, while much of the city’s population was at Mass for the feast of All Saints, three distinct tremors, followed by a forty-foot tidal wave, reduced the Portuguese capital to a heap of rubble, completely destroyed the port of Setúbal further south, and ravaged towns along the coastline of the Algarve. ‘So Dreadfull was ye Seen,’ wrote an English merchant to his father, ‘it is almost impossibell to Discribe it to you in Less you where Eye Witnesses, the Lord grant you neaver may.’

The shock, nowadays calculated at 8.7 on the Richter scale, was felt across the whole landmass of western and northern Europe. In Seville, forty monasteries collapsed and the cathedral bell tower, La Giralda, was seen to ‘crumple like a sheet of paper’. In Scotland the waters of Lochs Ness and

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

The Art of Darkness

Cambridge, Shakespeare

Follow Literary Review on Twitter