Account of the Bermudas
Now, mia cara Madre, I shall proceed to give you some account of the Bermudas which I have hitherto purposely deferred doing till I should be able to throw all the observations I made during our eight days stay, into one connected whole.
These Cluster of Islands which we have been visiting is known by the general name of the Bermudas. They are in number about 20 or 30 comprehending all those small islands which are covered with vegetation, altho’ uninhabited. The names of the principal and largest islands are S.t George’s (off which we lay) – Ireland – Somerset – S.tDavid’s – and above all Bermuda or Somers Island, where the Governor resides. The whole circumference of these Islands is rendered unsafe to mariners by numerous and extensive coral rocks, which at the same time prove an ample & efficient barrier against any external enemy without putting our Government to the labour and expense of erecting artificial fortifications – for where nature has done so much the precautions of art are supererogatory. As you will afterwards see, the possession of the Bermudas is not a gain, but an actual & heavy loss to our revenues – and nothing but the circumstance that they are, as it were, the keys to our West Indian Colonies, would be sufficient to justify our retention of them. In this light alone they acquire a factitious value, which will continue to be solid so long as we are Masters of the West Indies.
Roofs of Houses at S.t George’s Whitewashed – reasons why
The Capital or Metropolis of the whole is Hamilton, situated on Somers Island, where the House of Assembly sit – and next to it in point of size and importance is S.t George’s Town, with which, from several visits, I am better acquainted. S.tGeorge’s Town is built on an island of the same name, and lies close to the waters edge. One first peculiarity, which struck me as different from any thing, which I have yet seen, was that the sloping roofs of the houses were as carefully white washed as the walls themselves, so that with one glaring red exception, the eye met with nothing everywhere around but white – white – everlasting white. But it is wrong to condemn a practice, before we know the reason of its adoption, and a little delay before deciding our judgement and passing a sweeping censure, would serve to convince us that all is for the best. In this very case, two excellent purposes are accomplished by this universal white washing. 1st it is known that a white colour will absorb less heat than any other and will, consequently, contribute very remarkably to coolness, and what is synonymous with that in a hot climate, to comfort. 2ndly as the only water used here is the rain water, diligently collected, and carefully preserved the component parts of the white-wash are conducive to the better purification of the water. Altho’, however, a white colour contributes much to the coolness and comforts of the Inhabitants within, it must be confessed that it is equally productive of inconvenience and discomfort to the passers by, since nothing is more unpleasant & injurious to the eyes, than when they have to encounter on all sides, the furried rays of broiling Sun, reflected intensely from a white surface – owing to this circumstance I should imagine, that strangers coming here in the Summer would be peculiarly liable to attacks of Opthalmia & that of the worst kind.
Town of S.t George’s – Storehouses &.c
Such being the appearance of S.t George’s at a distance, which has led me to digress, allow me to bring you to a closer view.
The Town of S.t George’s is a very confined place, and in respect of size does not much exceed many of our large villages, which appellation might more appropriately be applied to it, were it not that the buildings are of a character superior to that, and besides it would offend the pride of the Bermudans to call it by so humble a name. The only large building, which I observed, was a very respectable Church, with an excellent four-face Clock. The common houses are either of wood made to imitate slates &.c or of stone, and in the interior are not destitute of comfort. There are no open shops, as with us, but you have every chance of finding what you may require in any part of the Town, as they are all Storehouses, and every Storekeeper is a Jamaican or a Geordie a’ things. Here, under the same roof, you will find wine – cards – iron tools – crockery wares – silks & Satins – medicines, and every other article of finery or utility, which are to be procured among us, only at the shops of those who deal exclusively in a certain line. This as the Irishman would say, is “mighty convanient,” but then you can seldom purchase any thing under less than double or treble the sum at which you could procure it at home – and the reason of this is that every thing here is imported, and as the islands lie considerably out of the general track of ships, the trade carried on is proportionally trifling. Thus tending to enhance greatly the price of whatever is imported.
It is also a matter of considerable difficulty to procure provisions, even at an exorbitant rate. There is here no market place, and almost the only article obtainable is fish. Beef or Mutton, or any other meat we got none – altho’ there certainly must be some, as we saw a few miserable cows grazing in the fields. Some poultry & a small number of eggs we were obliged to be content with. The only persons, perhaps, who suffer least from the privation of animal food are soldiers, and soldiers with their officers. To supply them there are certain Government Contractors, who being bound by a written agreement, under a heavy penalty, are interested in cultivating the variety of cattle, and, as I was told by a middy, these men furnish very excellent beef to the Naval Establishment. But for all merchant vessels &.c no such advantages are provided and they will stand a poor chance, should they be short of meat, and lay their account with replenishing their stores at Bermuda, and in particular at S.t George’s, which is incomparably the dullest place I have visited.
Population character of, at Bermuda
The Population of S.t George’s consists of Mulattoes, Blacks & Whites. The character of the natives is that of persons very proud & very ignorant – their whole ideas of Geography are confined to the narrow extent of the Bermuda islands, and their conversation is limited to the state of the weather, of the crops and of the whale fishing &.c They are also said to be insufferably lazy, and from a desire to avoid trouble they neglect to improve the land to the extent of which it is capable. Instead they don’t wish to be wiser than their forefathers, who, as they say, did very well, without “fashing” themselves about Improvements, which were no improvements at all. This character of the Bermudans may be correct or not, but I have heard it ascribed to them by different persons.
Blacks at Bermuda
Of the Blacks some are slaves, but most are free. They present a very different appearance from their fellow Brethren of Brazil, for all of them are fully clothed and many of them most respectably. In particular, I met with several young Black women, whose dress for elegance and expensive materials might well vie with those of our fashionable belles. It is somewhat particular that so many of them should wear a perfectly white dress in preference to one of any other colour, and perhaps their objects is to contract the jetty black of their skins, with the pure white of these garments.
As Ireland is the chief naval Establishment, so S.t George’s is the headquarters of the military, upon whom in a great measure its prosperity depends.
All Tank Water used at Bermuda
I shall now conclude with a few remarks on the islands in general. In them there are no springs of water, but all that is used is rain water, collected in tanks. It is therefore easy to conceive how grateful and necessary heavy showers will prove, and what calamitous effects would arise from a long general and long continued drowth. Every person has a tank or place prepared for the reception of the water, which is allowed to remain there for an indefinite time and only drawn when required. Some of these I have seen and the sight has been sufficient to put all my thirst to flight. There was the water looking as green as grass, with a dead animal or two floating about in it – and yet, the Black, at least, drew a quantity of this water, and quaffed if off with great apparent zest. I am inclined to believe that I owe both my attacks of illness to my drinking this tank water, while on shore, as we know that unwholesome water is a frequent cause of disease.
Productions of Bermuda – Arrowroot – Cedar
The productions of the Bermudas are, from the cause I have just mentioned, viz. their laziness, extremely few. I shall enumerate the principal. The best arrowroot is grown here, and in very large quantities. The plant does not grow to any great height, and consists of several long leaves, like the blades of very long grass. This part is thrown Away and as the name implies, only the root is made use of. I procured a specimen, of which this will give you some idea and here you see it is divided at short distance by a sort of ring-like band, or rather indenture. This part is mown down by a peculiar apparatus, is then thoroughly washed, & under goes certain processes, before it comes to the state in which you see it. Arrowroot is one of the Staple articles of export here, and more attention is paid to the cultivation of it than to any thing else.
Another production of importance is cedar wood. Nearly the whole of the island is covered with the trees which are small in size and very thinly planted. Of course, from the superabundance of it is it very cheap and used for every purpose. I am told however, that it is only the common white cedar, that grows here, and not the red kind which is infinitely more valuable.
The only other and valuable object of cultivation, that I know of, is the tree called the Palmetta, which has a solid trunk, its top is crowned with a sort of long & rather [thin] leaves, of which a superior species of straw is made. [See above sketch]. Those trees require no care, and as I was told, will bring in a profit of three or four Palmetta shillings each to the proprietor.
Straw hats and other articles made of this are in great request in the West Indies & America, on account of their durability and lightness.
Whale Fishery at Bermuda
Besides these different articles of consequence the Bermudans dabble a little in the whale fishery – but their success is comparatively trifling. During the present year, so many whales, called hump-backs, appeared, that their whole attention was drawn to them, while the arrowroot crops were completely neglected. In consequence of this we found that it bore a much higher price than we had expected, being 1/8 p.r lb.
From all that I have seen of the Bermudas, I consider them the dullest places in the world, & the last to which I would think of retiring for pleasure.
Sunday 14th June – after being detained by an adverse wind 8 days in Bermuda, we, at length, the wind having changed, succeeded in getting the Packet towed out, early in the morning. In the forenoon the breeze was moderate but unfavourable. In the afternoon it fell a calm. Weather fine.
Monday 15th – fine weather – strong and favourable breeze. Course N 9º W. Distance 88. Lat.e 33º 42’ N. Long. 64º 48’ W. Chron. 64º 47’45” W.
Tuesday 16th – weather cold and squally – Wind blowing half a gale but favourable. In the afternoon sky cleared up & the wind changed against us. Course N 13º W. Dist. 146. Lat.e 36º 4’ N. Long. 65º 20’ W. Chron: 65º 35’15” W.
Wednesday 17th – fine weather – wind unfavourable all day. In the evening inclinable to calm & much thunder & lightning. Course N 38º E. Dist. 93. Lat. 37º 17’. Long. 64º 7’ W. Chron: 64º 11’45”.
Thursday 18 – nearly a calm all night & forenoon today. At noon the breeze sprung up, but was variable. Saw a bark & brig. Much thunder & lightning. Caught 16 dolphins.
Course N 14º E. Dist 28 Lat. 34º 44’. Long. 64º 16’ W Chron. 63º 29’
Friday 19th June – forenoon cloudy – much rain – fine fair wind, which however, changed against us at 6 oClock. Nearly all of wind at night foul.
Course N 21º W. Dist 96. Lat. 39º 39’. Long. 64º 46’. Chron. 62º 50’
Saturday 20th – fine weather. Strong & favourable breeze.
Course N 20º E. Dist 80. Lat. 40º 54’ N. Long. 64º 12’ W. Chron. 62º 50’ W.
Arrive at Halifax
Sunday 21st – strong and favourable breeze. Weather cloudy in the forenoon but cleared up afterwards. At 5 oClock made Sambro Light house, to the leeward of which, owing to the haziness of the atmosphere, we had gone, before we were aware. At 10 oClock P.M. we came to anchor in Halifax Harbour at which time also the Capt. went on shore with the mail.
Monday 22nd – I was much pleased to learn this morning that we are to be detained till Wednesday at 5 P.M. Had we arrived tomorrow our sailing would have been Saturday. The cause of our being detained, when we had expected to be packed off immediately since we had exceeded the three weeks allowed us from the time of our first touching at and finally leaving Halifax, was that the Mail for the Interior of the country started this night, & would not return till Wednesday, and besides that the Governor was out of town – at Windsor about 45 miles distant.
Altho’ sorry that we had not had a quick passage to and from Bermudas, and thus have been enabled to spend a longer time at Halifax, we determined to make the best use of the spare time, which we had. The Captain, M.r Geach and myself went ashore partly on duty and partly to see the sights. I shall not enter into the minutiae of what we saw day after day, but put the very little I have to say into one general account.
Theatre at Halifax
As we were passing along the Streets, we by chance perceived a play Bill, in which it was announced that a M.r Young was to enact the part of Scilius, in the Tragedy of Virginius. From various circumstances I was induced to believe that this was our late passenger – and upon enquiry I found that I was not mistaken. As soon as we were assured of this we all felt anxious to witness his performance, and that of the rest of the actors, who were almost all Amateurs, & chiefly Gentlemen, belonging to the military service. It was at length agreed that we should each take a Box ticket, and give up a sort of engagement, which had been made, that we should go about 2 miles to M.r Howe’s the Post Master here. The tickets were accordingly purchased – an Card of apology sent to M.r Howe, – and at ½ past 7 P.M. we were in front of the only Theatre in Halifax, which required no objection of its external appearance. It was simply made of wood, perfectly unadorned but rather distinguished by its extreme plainness. It was built at the expense of the Officers of the army, with some little aid & cooperation from the Inhabitants of the Town. At each door of the Pit and Boxes, for these are the only two divisions of the house, soldiers are posted for the purpose of receiving tickets or money. To reach the Boxes, we had to ascend a flight of wooden steps which led us to the Interior of the House. Of course it is of an extremely small size, but very acceptable. The boxes were nothing more or less than benches running in a semi-circular form, with boards traversing it at suitable spaces, so at to entitle the place to the name it box. The pit seemed small and ‘cosie’, but in its arrangements like most other Pits. In the Orchestra, the numerous band of the regiment played most delightfully and indeed contributed in a very considerable measure to the pleasure of the Evening.
[Ladies] at Halifax
When we entered we beheld rather an unusual sight, viz. all the ladies crowded together by themselves in the centre of the Boxes, with hardly a sprinkling of Gentlemen, 2 or 3 being the amount of those, who were interspersed among them You will easily conceive that we had thus a most favourable opportunity of seeing the fair ones of Nova Scotia to perfection. The opinion to be formed as to their beauty might be doubtful, but as to their general good looks, there could hardly be one dissentient voice. Here and there you would find a very handsome and pretty girl, and every where you saw those who would be entitled to high commendation even among us!!
Performance at Halifax – M.r Young our late passenger
By 8 oClock the Boxes and Pit were filled nearly to overflowing with a well dressed assemblage of favourably disposed auditors – for many of them were the personal friends and acquaintances, whilst all know the names of the Actors. In a short time the curtain rose and the play commenced. And, really, considering that the Actors, with one single exception, all amateurs, the manner in which they played their parts was highly creditable to their Histrionic talents, and would not have disgraced the metropolitan boards. The chief characters were very well sustained, – the voices – the action – and the expression of feeling, seldom exceeded (out stepped) or fell short of the modesty of nature. I was rather disappointed at the display made by M.r Young, who, however, was repeatedly applauded by his well wishers. His recitation was very good – his enunciation distinct and open – but there prevailed throughout his whole acting, such a degree of stiffness, absence of feeling and passion – such an inanimation of countenance, when his situation as a lover and a patriot, might be expected to call forth the liveliest expression of his tender feelings of affection for his mistress or of devoted ardour to his country – that all his excellencies in other parts could not counterbalance. As a piece of recitation his attempt would certainly have merited great praise – in that light it might be perfection itself – but when all go to see acting, we naturally expect something more, that the illusion of the situation and the characters may be kept up, by the excellent & apparently natural representation of the actors, and it was exactly in this something, that M.r Young entirely failed. Much certainly was to be conceded to him from the peculiar circumstance, under which he appeared – for the gentleman who had originally studied the part of Scilius, had been obliged to decline, and M.r Young had kindly undertaken it at only 2 or 3 days notice. And I have no doubt, that had he been allowed a longer time for study & preparation he would have acquitted himself in as superior a style as any other of the performers.
Short Account of After-Piece at Halifax
The Tragedy of Voiginius was followed by some tolerable singing from a Miss George and a M.rs Gill, neither of whom have any great pretensions to good acting. The whole concluded with a piece called ‘Three and the Deuce, or which is he?’
Three Brothers, so much alike in form, in feature, and in dress, that which is which t’will puzzle you to guess. The story is founded upon a wonderful similarity existing between three Brothers, of widely dissimilar characters, which renders it impossible even for their servants and friends to tell which is which. The Eldest Brother is named Pertinax Single and his soul is wrapped up in the stiff dogmas of the School. His language is pompous, inflated, and marked by an affected attempt at logical precision – and to all this the severe strictness of his dress fully corresponds. The second Brother, Peregrine Single, is a complete fop whose attention is wholly engrossed by his tailor, his perfumier and his Goldsmith – who cannot rest for a moment but is continually lacking occasion for giving vent to his lively animal spirits. The Youngest Brother is an idiot, and is known by the name of Percival Single. At the commencement of the piece, few or none are acquainted with the circumstance of all the Brothers living in the same neighbourhood – and hence arises the short laughable mistakes. These principal characters were sustained by a M.r H Brown a professed Actor and Brother in law to Charles Kemble. His acting was rich and admirable – the various points of each were pertinently represented, and accurately set up – and the illusion was kept up to the end of the Chapter, which was concluded at ½ past 8 oClock at which time we retired to the Packet much pleased with our evening’s amusement.
Tuesday 23rd June – this day proved very disagreeable, being cloudy and attended with much rain, so as to compel us to leave the Town, where we were and go on board.
Drive out to M.r Young’s Country House – Scenery
Wednesday 24th – this morning a thick fog prevailed, which soon cleared up. At 12 oClock the day was fine, and the Captain, M.r Geach and myself went on shore to the Post Office, where we learned that we were further detained, till tomorrow at noon. On our return we were received by M.r Young, at whose non appearance hitherto we had wondered – not a little and were inclined to give him but small credit for shewing civility to those who has shewn civility to him. After making an apology for his dilatoriness, he remained to dinner, and afterwards we accompanied him to his house, and had some refreshments there. About 5 oClock M.r Young having procured the loan of a large gig, drove us out to his country house, distant 6 miles from Halifax. I was much delighted with the ride. We found the roads pretty good, and the country presenting very diversified features. Here some enclosed fields – here were immense quantities of trees, thro’ which the roads were formed, and there again an open space perfectly bare. In our progress we had a fine view of the termination of the Harbour – which being narrow at one point appeared as if it were one vast lake of sheet of water, surrounded by pretty elevated land covered with wood. Commanding an excellent prospect of this really beautiful scene rose the rustic cottage of M.r Young, for the absolute possession of which, together with 35 acres of wood, he had given only £200. It was of wood, and seemed to have been erected some years back. By M.r Young’s directions, alterations were about to be made, which as far as we understood them, would improve it very much internally, and add to its internal comfort.
Unpleasant conclusion of our Excursion – Overturn of the Gig
After inspecting what had already been done in the way of improvements we again mounted our vehicle and wended our way back to Halifax. When about 2 miles on, the horse became rather restive, and we all got out for a short distance, when we once again resumed our seats & all went on well. We were comfortably chatting together & thought no more of any darkening clouds, which were to close in the heavens of the day, than the Man in the Moon. And here we had another instance to prove, that, in the midst of life there is (danger of death). On we went, till we came to a steep descent which led to the Town. M.r Young proceeded with all due caution but in vain. The horse, it appears, had not been completely broken in – in the descent, the gig pressed upon him from behind – this rendered him restive, & he started. Such was the velocity with which we hurried on that, had we been carried to the bottom of the steep [descent], or even to any distance, we must either have been dashed in pieces against the walls of the houses, or by the fall of the horse, have been thrown with such violence on the Streets as to have left no chance of escaping with out fractured limbs, if even without loss of life itself. But most providentially the horse turned to a side Street, where lay a large quantity of bricks, against which the Gig upset. All this was the work of a moment – the descending the Steep – the almost immediate unruliness of the horse and our final overturn were events which followed each other in such rapid succession, that I was hardly sensible of the time elapsed between the first and the last. The side of the Gig on which I sat, came to be the under one at the time of our accident – and I instinctively rose up, and succeeded in my attempt to catch hold of the superior side of the Gig by which means not only was my fall broken, but I was also able to save myself from the kicking of the horse. In a few seconds afterwards I found myself (praise be to God) safe and sound, under the ample covering of the overturned Gig, in the midst of a soft bed of dirt & filth! When I recovered my recollection [I] endeavoured to discover the situation of the rest. M.r Geach was lying with the whole weight of the vehicle lying upon his breast – the Captain had escaped nearly in the same way as myself, with a few bruises, whilst M.r Young, our driver, had been thrown from his seat, when in the act of jumping out, and had received a severe contusion on the inside of the thigh, with the additional misfortune of having his New London Frock Coat torn to rags, and his trowsers completely spoiled.
After we had all been rescued from our dangerous situation, it was found that M.r Geach was the greatest sufferer, having received a severe internal bruise in the lower part of the chest. We immediately went on board, having left M.r Young to the care of his brother, and I took the necessary steps to prevent the expected occasion of inflammation & fever. And now, when I consider all the circumstances, I feel astonished at our almost miraculous preservation & hope that this event will never be forgotten, but that the recollection of it will prove an incentive to be [grateful and obedient to GOD who has – Thus mercifully spared us].
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