James' illustration of a palanquin

James’ illustration of a palanquin

Journal of a Voyage from Falmouth to Brazil and back

Sailed 11th August 1828 – Returned 9th Dec.r 1828

On Monday the 11th August 1828 at exactly five weeks after having entered the service (7th July) the Duke of York fired a Gun at 8A.M. and hoisted her private signal. Being told that we should not set sail till about 11 or 12 oClock I did not hurry myself – but having to speak to Mr Drew about some medicines which he had omitted to put into my chest I waited till past 9 in expectation of receiving these before sailing. I was soon however obliged to quicken my motions by the intelligence that the Duke of York was moving out of the Harbour. As this was wholly unexpected so proportionally great was my alarm – and with feelings of anxiety, which those only can fully understand who have been placed in a similar situation, I refused to wait for any thing – but proceeded instantly to a boat in waiting, thro a heavy swell – and in it I reached our vessel only a few moments before the captain. All was bustle and confusion. A small boat with a man in her was swamped and he escaped with a ducking. Next the Brazilian minister came on board under a salute from the guns of a Brazilian frigate called the Isabella and then in Falmouth Harbour laying in a variety of stores previous to sailing to the succour of Madeira.

When all the men cattle and provisions had been got on board active preparations were made for immediate moving – and in a short time our vessel gradually left the Harbour, at 10A.M. Early this morning the wind and weather promised to be as favourable to us as could be wished – but our hopes were greatly disappointed as the day advanced. For during the afternoon the wind became so high and so much against us that Captain Snell was doubtful whether or not he should return to the Harbour – but about 6 oClock P.M. he determined to proceed coute qui conte as he said. At ½ past 8P.M. we were off Lizard Point.

Tuesday 12th Aug.t – passed a restless night without sleep. Had great sickness for 3 or 4 hours without vomiting. This went off, but returned as soon as I got up. Today the wind changed in our favour and we made rapid progress. We are now out of sight of land – and nothing is presented to our view – but ‘coelum et mare.’ When reading a Jamaican paper today I observed the advertisement of a person who wished to purchase four slaves with incurable sore legs!!!!

Wednesday 13th Aug.t – the wind has changed still more in our favour, and we have been gradually increasing in our speed from 3, 4 to 8 knots an hour. At dinner few of our 17 Cabin Passengers (all Portuguese except two) appeared in consequence of sickness. All the party were very merry – and after dinner they sung a stanza of the constitutional hymn, which had a very pleasing effect.

I have only been slightly sea sick to day.

Thursday 14th Aug.t – I have seen [the largest waves to day], which I have ever witnessed. I also lost my cap when in consequence of the motion of the vessel I was forced against the side of it while at the same [time] a strong wind prevailed. Saw at a little distance some porpoises.

Friday 15 Aug.t – the wind moderated till at 1 oClock it was nearly calm. In the afternoon Cape Finisterre and a bold line of coast – nothing distinctly was seen – but only the shadowy outlines of lofty mountains. Average rate of sailing 5 miles an hour.

Saturday 16th – yesterday and to day the weather has been warmer. This morning the wind was better and we made 7 knots an hour throughout the day.

Sunday 17th – the sky is cloudy but the weather is warm. The wind is variable in force but blows from a quarter favourable to us. 6 knots an hour.

Arrival at Madeira

Monday 18th Aug.t – the wind is still aft. The sky still cloudy – saw a Russian and a Dutch vessel pretty near. Made 6 knots an hour.

Tuesday 19 – rate 6 knots an hour. The night being clear and the moon bright we saw Porto Santo, distant about 35 Miles from Madeira. Considerable anxiety was expressed by the Portuguese Gentlemen, who intended to land at Madeira, as to whether that island was still in favour of Don Pedro, or had declared for Don Miguel. They were anxious also on another account, because it was understood before we left England that Don Miguel had dispatched some frigates to blockade Madeira.

On the morning of this day (Wednesday 20 Aug.t) I got up at 5 oClock A.M. and when I came upon deck I found we were sailing between the islands called the Deserters and Madeira. The former are a cluster of bare and barren rocks, at the one end of which is a piece of rock of a peculiar shape resembling a vessel with her sails set, but seen at a great distance.

The island of Madeira itself was seen to great advantage when the rays of the rising sun played upon its numerous hills. That extremity of it which was next to us was rather rugged and barren – but as we gradually advanced,  the appearance of sensibility improved, until a scenery of beauty burst upon us, which was doubly heightened by its contrast to the dreary aspect of the deserters and by our having not been so near land for some days. The whole island seemed broken into innumerable hills and valleys – the former of which were almost wholly covered with vines. I never [saw] any place so irregular and yet so beautiful – and every thing appeared to give plain indications of a volcanic origin.

I was much pleased with the sight of a small village, situated on the shore, with its clean white-washed cottages and its homely Rustic Church.

Madeira – Squadron of Don Miguel

At a great distance we saw the Portuguese squadron of Don Miguel, keeping up some appearance of a blockade. But never have I conceived such careless conduct as theirs – their blockade was merely nominal – as fifty vessels might have entered with succours for Madeira, without let or hindrance. As it was we advanced up to the Town without question to the great joy of nine of our nine passengers who designed to land there. During the whole morning they had been in a continual ferment of spirits, being alternately agitated by preponderating hopes and fears. They all dressed themselves in plain clothes – until they should have ascertained in whose interest the Island was. For this purpose they hailed a man who was fishing in a small boat – and as soon as they found that the cause of Don Pedro was ascendant, they embraced each other and shouted out repeatedly “Viva Don Pedro Quarto” “Viva Don Pedro Quarto.

Anxiety and description of our passengers

All were now anxious for some news from the shore – for the captain, at ½ past 7 oClock A.M. had gone to the consul’s office, with the mail, along with a German Colonel our Passenger, and in the service of Don Pedro. About 12 oClock, some officers came on board – and then a sudden change was effected in the dress of our passengers. Those who were not formerly to be known as soldiers but by a certain military air, now appeared dressed in the uniforms of their respective corps with more or less splendour. And what a favourable change in their appearance it was in so short a time effected – for some who looked insignificant and mean in their plain dress – now looked like heroes. About 1 oClock they all left our vessel for the town – and shortly after the Ambassadors left us to pay a visit to the Governor, in a state barge – of which I cannot say much for splendour or beauty. As nine of our late companions have now left us it may not be improper to say a few words concerning some of them. One of the first in mark was a Colonel Schmalbach, a German and who seemed to have made war his study, from his youth. I know not how it is but he recalled to my mind the character of Dalgelly, as drawn by Scott – for he was a soldier of fortune and ready to serve that state or sovereign who should offer him the highest pay. [over written in pencil]  he was also one _____ trencherman & loved his bottle as well as his prototype.

Account of Passengers – appearances on shore

Cher Colonel appeared to be a man of a free & sociable temper – not an enthusiastic devotee to the cause of Don Pedro his present employer – but on that very account, he was the better calculated to moderate the ardour of the others, when it seemed likely to exceed the bounds of moderation. Take him altogether and you would call him a pleasant fellow in all companies. Among the rest of the nine there were none very remarkable for any peculiar trait of character – they were all warm constitutionalists – and their favourite song, which they repeated almost daily, was the constitutional hymn. I regret extremely, that my total ignorance of the Portuguese language prevented me from availing me of the advantage to be desired from their conversation. [over written in pencil] which was wholly carried on in that tongue – very Knavish. One of them was a Major – another captain – another lieutenant – and a fourth a Serjeant [sic] called Francisco.

Shortly after the departure of the Ambassador, a boat came off from the Shore, into which M.r E.d Williams myself and some of the miners went, with a view of proceeding to the town. The first thing which struck me as unusual was the extremely dark complexions of the boatmen, who were bareheaded – bare-legged – almost shirtless – but whose Robust & firm make indicated great power of exertion when their vocation should require it. Their boat was by no means so neat in its shape as ours are – and instead of having an opening in its edge for the convenience of rowing, the[y] had a wooden pin driven in, which passed thro’ a hole in a clumsy piece of wood (a) secured to the row [oar?] and with this apparently awkward apparatus their strokes were neither so long sweeping or powerful, as they are made to be by our Sailors. Obliged, however, to be satisfied with such oars as we could get, we gradually approached the land and obtained a nearer and nearer view – of the rocky sides of the island around which plants unknown to us clustered beautifully.

Remarks at Madeira

As we came pretty close to the buildings on the shore, they did not strike us at first as being peculiarly different from our own – and in as far as regarded them we might have fancied ourselves at home, had not every illusive effect been destroyed by a circumstance, which is never met with in my own native land and which indicated the particular state of the island – viz. the challenge of a sentinel, standing near the mouth of a loaded cannon. A little surprised at this – we examined a little more minutely and saw a fort, all bristling with cannon, by the side of which was every material necessary for firing and reloading. Having satisfied the vigilance of our Interrogator, we proceeded till almost at the place of landing and only a few yards from the last post, we were again hailed by a soldier, with a speaking trumpet. I cant say, that I felt very easy at this frequently challenging, being afraid, lest, if any mistake was made they would not be over scrupulous in firing into our boat.

Description of Town of Funchal

At last we reached the beach – which is one of the worst that I have ever seen, being formed of large clay–looking stones against which the sea dashed. Before landing on terra firma, we were obliged to be carried thro’ the surf on the backs of our Boatmen.

Imagine me, now placed for the first time in my life, on the territories of a foreign country. As was natural I examined every thing I beheld with curiosity and for your amusement my dear [Madre]. I shall put down the result of my examinations.

The Town of Madeira [written above] Funchal lies surrounded on all sides by hills – and on either side of it and in front of it are fortifications lined with artillery. In particular there are two of these built on two very small rock separated only a few yards from the main land. The only public building, on the shore as far as I learned, was The Governor’s Palace, which is tolerably large, but by no means splendid in its outward appearance. From the shore the Town extends backwards and up wards to the hill, which communicates to it a pretty effect. The last building up the hill is a church – called “Nossa Senhora de Monte” or “Our Lady of the Mountain.”

Streets and Shops at Madeira

M.r Williams and I passed thro’ an arch – leading from shore to the City and found as great a difference as possible in the men, houses – and manners, from what we had been accustomed to. I observed that their shops are not like ours – that is, they had not the goods exposed for show at the windows. On the contrary with one or two exceptions, the lower apartments of the houses were locked up and secured with strong bolts, being employed as I imagine for the purpose of ware-rooms. The upper storeys were very generally furnished with balconies or iron railings projecting some feet into the street. The effect of this arrangement is, that most of the streets are very dull – and not one had either the bustle or the gaiety of the meanest of our own. And yet I suspect, that we shall find the houses here more after the English fashion, than in Brazil – on consequence of the great resort to this place of the English – who are said to possess property in the island to so large an amount, that we have a frigate stationed for the express purpose of protecting our countrymen’s property. In several of the streets I met in with English signs – and we had breakfast in the British Hotel.

There are no public buildings in Madeira, which merit such praise for beauty or largeness of proportion – altho’ Churches, convents &.c do not seem to be lacking. Of the interior of these I can say nothing having never been in any of them.

Market place and Dress at Madeira

The fruit market is a nice, clean and airy place – quite in the English fashion. But its extent is by far too great, in proportion to the quantity of fruit brought thither, which when I visited it in the morning and forenoon was remarkable neither for extent nor variety!

The dress of the middling classes did not seem to differ from our own – except that handsome yellow leather boots were very generally worn. The lower classes dress as they best can – and I saw some who had wide trousers extending below the knee – and from the tops of the boots, the legs were bare. But in their hats or caps they are peculiar. In my opinion the shape of it indicates little taste and from the smallness of its size it seems rather to frustrate than to fulfil the purpose of covering & defending the head. It is of this form [very small sketch of an inverted cone] – and if you can picture to yourself a ‘fools cap’ such as we represent it, you will not be far wrong.

Warlike preparations – Illuminations &.c

In addition to their ordinary dress, great numbers were armed with bayonet and gun. Even boys, not above 12 or 14 were seen having a bayonet across their shoulders. Every thing indicated the near and expected approach of hostilities – altho’ I can’t say, that they at all displayed the clamorous enthusiasm which an English mob would have – nay have – displayed in the same circumstances. In our walks thro’ the Town, we were frequently encountered by bands of peasantry, all ragged, and armed only with a long iron spike, fastened to the end of a clumsy piece of wood.

On the night of our arrival; in consequence of the passengers, and intelligence which we brought, a illumination was made, which bore no more comparison to such an occasion among us than a father candle to the light of the Moon. There was no attempt at fanciful design or great ornamental. A few lights only showed their loyalty and attachment to the constitution. At dusk, the band of one of [the] regiments went to the palace and played the “Constitutional hymn” amongst repeated plaudits from the spectators – that done – they proceeded thro’ the streets to their barracks, which we were permitted to enter. In the square, formed by the sides of the barracks, we found some hundreds of soldiers drawn up under arms, and in the centre several officers, among whom we recognised our late passengers. One of them called the Major, was haranguing the troops when we arrived – and every sentence was received with loud shouts of “Vivo don Pedro Quarto” in which we were obliged to join, lest we should be suspected of being Don Miguelites, and run the risk of being torn in pieces. So frequent was this call upon our loyalty, that I felt some degree of hoarseness next morning.

Fruit Market

On the second day after our arrival at 7 oClock A.M. M.r E. W. and myself went on shore – visited the market where we had some grapes for 3 & 4 pence the pound. We might if we pleased, have purchased very cheaply ripe figs, newly pulled. We next went to a Butcher’s shop where the Steward bought excellent beef, for 3 vientines (or 3d) a pound. The wine cellar of the Merchant was our next place of resort – where I purchased a gallon of Brandy for one dollar and a half (that is about 6 shillings) – and also a gallon of best Madeira for the same price. Being near breakfast time, we adjoined to the British Hotel, where we satisfied our hunger with tolerable bread – so so butter, good tea – and ham, at the expense of 2 pistorines (or 2 shillings each). At 12 oClock we brought down all our things to the boat and reached the Duke of York, a quarter of an hour before the captain, who came on board with the mail.

Remarks – Curious Inscription

Before leaving Madeira I shall mention one or two things, which I have omitted concerning it. Passing along one of the main streets, I met with an inscription, the sentiment expressed by which surprised one not a little. It was this “Miserimus est qui inimico caret” that is, “He is most miserable who has no enemy”. Whether this legend expresses the opinions and character of the inhabitants of Madeira, or only of the particular individual (a nobleman of ancient family) over whose house it was placed, I know not – but I am inclined to think the latter supposition to be true.

Respect paid to English

It was subject of peculiar pride to us as Englishmen to see and to experience in our cases, the respect in which our nation is held and treated by the Madeirans. Of this I shall relate two or three instances – and first one of which we were informed by our Steward. It seems the wine merchant, from whom we made our purchases, had on the day of our arrival, and even a very short time before our landing, been committed to prison on the charge of being a rank Miguelite. Fortunately indeed for him, Westcott our Steward, had received his direction and had been recommended to deal with him. In consequence of this the instant he went on shore, he took his way to the merchant’s house – and finding how ill matters stood with him, he repaired to the proper authorities and his application was attended with the release of the person in less than a hour after he had been put into confinement.

The second instance of respect for the English occurred to M.r E. Williams (the captains nephew) and myself. In the course of our peregrinations thro’ the Town, we arrived at a place where a battery was erected. It was necessary either to pass along this battery and thus save ourselves much trouble, or return back the way we came. On asking a sentinel whether we might be allowed to pass, he demurred till he had informed the Officer in Command. He having been told (owing to their mistaking my cap &.c) that we were English officers – instantly and in a flattering manner, gave us permission to pass – whilst the soldiers there ____lly touched their caps as we went along –

But the third example, which I have to mention, was very decisive. You must understand that at eight oClock P.M. no person is allowed to leave the city – and to leave the shore in a boat after that hour (when it was dark) would likely have been attended with a salute from one of the cannons on the battery, which was close at hand. Our Steward, having had to make more purchases, than he could accomplish before 8 oClock P.M. was detained till ½ past none. Captain Martyn Williams (who had the charge and superintendence of the miners on board) M.r Edw.dWilliams, and myself were along with him and consequently in the same predicament. What was to be done? Either to remain on shore all night – or go to the palace and request permission to be allowed to shove off. The latter alternative was adopted – and M.r E. the Steward and myself repaired to the Palace where M.r E. W. acted as our spokesman in french [sic]. When we first asked liberty to pass our application was flatly negatived – but when it was understood that we belonged to the Packet – and when besides some of our passengers came up to second our request – all difficulties were immediately smoothed and we set off, under the very mouth of a cannon, which would have sunk us at once, if it had been fired. And here I may remark, that no custom-house officer on this occasion ever came to examine what we were taking along with us – nor, altho’ frequent trips were made backwards and forwards during the day, and altho’ much wine and brandy were carried on board, did we ever see one officer to challenge us.

Character of our Wine Merchant

Altho’ I have already made mention of the wine merchant – I find I have omitted something there, with respect to him. He appeared to be extremely gratified for our fortunate interference in his behalf. He repeated[ly] embraced the Steward, M.r E. & myself according to the fashion of the country – and these embrace[s] is nothing more or less than a good close hug. He entertained us with grapes and wine in tumblers – & it was of an excellent [vintage].  His warehouse was comprised in an upper and lower story of great length and width – each of which was perfectly crammed with large wine and brandy casks. It appeared from his own accounts that he had been a soldier for 10 or 12 years – and his tall upright deportment certainly bore him out in his story. He spoke English with great fluency and correctness – but his partner, a little, jolly man knew nothing of any other language than his native Portuguese. It was most amusing to us to see the anxiety to know what we were talking about, expressed in the countenance of the latter – especially if he thought we were conversing on the existing state of affairs – and he never rested till he had received an explanation.

During one of our numerous visits to the merchant, he entered pretty openly upon his own particular case. He pretended to us, that he had not been imprisoned only because he did not choose to make himself hoarse with calling out “Vive don Pedro Quarto.” I was unjustly confined (said he) without any proofs. I merely would not join in so often in the popular cry and I defy any one to say that he ever heard me shouting “Viva don Miguel” No, never – I am a man of actions, not of words – if my duty and my country require it, I am ready to bear my part manfully in the contest, which is to be expected to-day or to-morrow – for some gun-boats have gone out [to] attack the Portuguese squadron. All this was attended with much heat & gesticulations – but he failed to convince us that he was not a Miguelite, because had he been a sincere adherent of Don Pedro’s he would never have refused to join the populace in wishing success to the cause of legitimacy & loyalty, as shewn in the claims of Don Pedro.”

Leaving now this political discussion; I have only a few things further to observe concerning Madeira.

Monks – Washing mode of at Madeira

I saw only three monks – two of whom were furnished with a most capacious rotundity of belly – and the third was a stout strong man – but not to like Aldermen, as the two former were. It would appear indeed as if providence had blessed the little food, of which they partook in a most wonderful degree – and truly we may charitably suppose that they have often fasted in compliance with the rules of their order and that in this also they have fulfilled the command of our Saviour that we should not appear to fast and to be mortified in the flesh – but rather fast in secret, and appear unto men to be glad and live well.

The crowns of these friars are shaven – which I observe to be the case as their heads were uncovered.

I saw no nuns as far as I could recognise them by their dress.

While standing on the shore waiting for our boat, I was witness to the mode of washing practised here – which is totally different from ours – The clothes were pretty closely wrapped up and laid on a stone close by which was a small stream of water. This water was constantly laved on the clothes – while the owner, at one time thumped on the clothes with another stone, so that they were between two – at another time she lifted the clothes in her hand and dashed them repeatedly against the undermost stone, greatly to the tear and wear of them as I should imagine.

Palanquins &.c

On the second [day] after our arrival I saw the Captain and one or two of our passengers go to the country in palanquins answering in their purpose our sedan chairs but very different in form and the mode of carrying. They were of the shape or as near it as I can give it …

There is a long pole A B each end of which is supported by a palanquin bearer, passes thro the ring at the top L and by this simple apparatus the whole machine with its contents is easily carried about. C C is the upper part of the palanquin and is provided with a curtain, to screen the head & face from the sun – the lower and longest D, D, D is intended for the reception of the body and legs of the occupier – it is completely open and exposes the person to the gaze and curiosity of the passers by.

I saw a mother suckling her child who was completely naked – and the sight was to my eyes by no means a pleasant one.

I wonder how I have left to the last to mention that all that part of the island which we saw was one continuous vineyard. Oh the immense quantities of grapes hanging in the most tempting luxuriance every where around us. At 3 or 4 vintines a pound (3 or 4) we had excellent grapes.

Leave Madeira and reach Teneriffe

Thursday 21 Aug.– having received on board the Captain with the Mail – a M.r Webb with a Spaniard his humble companion and an Irishman his servant for Teneriffe we started about 1 oClock. Our good fortune still attended us – for on the day of our arrival at Madeira a calm came on – but soon after the mail was brought on board, the breeze sprung up in our favour and we went out at the rate of 8 knots an hour. The weather is delightful but rather warm.

Friday 22 Aug.t – 7 knots an hour – weather cloudy in the morning but cleared up in the afternoon. At dinner a Mr Moone an English passenger to Rio said to Mr Geach our Master, ‘Mr Geach you are not Master of the Ship as you are falsely called – otherwise you would prevent it rolling? Why can’t you prevent it?’ Why to be sure said Senor Ashevedo a Brazilian, clearly because he is not Master of the Rolls.

Read on … Teneriffe