Actress Emma Fielding reads Gillian Darley's 'Vesuvius, The Most Famous Volcano in the World'.
Dormant since 1944, but still a potential threat to the thousands who live at its foot, Vesuvius has produced its own literature, imagery and scientific insights.
The Romantics were particularly intrigued by its mysterious violence and the German writer and polymath, Goethe, visited the volcano in 1787.
The sight of Vesuvius erupting one evening was completely overwhelming for him.
No subsequent scene would ever provide such a combination of thrilling and spiritual calm, 'the emotions and the senses in complete equilibrium'.
The poet, Shelley, who was fond of invoking volcanoes for their political message, climbed Vesuvius with his wife, Mary.
The intensity of the experience brought him close to a breakdown and he wove his impressions of the volcano into his famous play, Prometheus Unbound.
Scientists, Humphrey Davy and Michael Faraday, celebrated the defeat of Napoleon with a huge, euphoric midnight feast on the slopes of the volcano, accompanied by toasts to 'Old England' and the singing of 'God Save The King' and 'Rule Britannia'.
They were followed by Charles Dickens, who finally managed to visit Vesuvius in 1845.
He undertook a memorable moonlit climb, accompanied by his wife and daughter, and a 'rather heavy' gentleman from Naples, whose ascent required a lifting party of fifteen men.
But scientists, poets and writers were not alone in their fascination with Vesuvius.
It was starting to inspire novels, plays, and recreations of the volcano itself the world over, as the general public was increasingly drawn to its marvels.
Abridged by Olivia Seligman.
Additional readings by Simon Tcherniak
Producer: Olivia Seligman
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.
Shelley and Dickens visit the volcano and scientists Faraday and Davy feast on its slopes.