Week 14

Sunday 23d February – very fine weather. Moderate and foul winds.

Monday 24th – cloudy weather. Moderate and foul winds.

Tuesday 25th – calms and light winds. Fine weather.

Wednesday 26th – cloudy weather, fresh and favourable breeze. 6 vessels in sight, steering the same way as ourselves – all of which we beat hollow – chiefly Americans.

Thursday 27th – at 8 A.M. the wind came to the North.d obliging us to go to the South.d  At 11.30 A.M. saw the Island of Cuba. Light and more favourable winds, in the afternoon pretty close in shore, where we could perceive several large fires burning – Not yet in sight of the light-house of Habana. Fine weather.

Friday 28 Feb.y – very fine weather. Early this morning we were but a little distance from the Morro Castle which as you now know is situated at the entrance of the Harbour of Habana – but the wind blowing strong off the shore, we could not enter, & were compelled to lay off & on till some favourable change should take place. At 11 we were abreast of the Morro, whence we were hailed to know who we were, and after this ceremonial we were permitted to pass on. After proceeding but a very little way we came to anchor & furled our sails. Then carrying out our kedge anchor to some distance we dropped it & warped our vessel up to our station. As soon as this was accomplished the Master & self set off in our gig to wait upon the gentleman who had been appointed the first British Consul at Habana. On our way to his house, we called upon our old passenger M.r Liddle who we learnt had only arrived the day before from Belize. We found him in good health and we mutually expressed our pleasure at this unexpectedly meeting each other again. Having [made] our Commanders excuses and compliments to the Consul, we took our leave, and during the rest of the day perambulated the city, & renewing our recollections of former scenes. Every thing appeared as usual – only I complained more than before of the extreme badness of the streets. When we were tired we repaired to the store of our old friend S.r Tribarren where our Skipper purchased what he wanted in the way of provisions &.c

Saturday 1st March – at day light this morning the Master, M.r Meyer a German & self landed at the Dock Yard purposing to visit the market. Even at that early hour, when we arrived, the place was crowded and wholly filled with vegetables, fowls – fish & meat. Great ordered [sic] prevailed throughout & there was less noise heard than in our own markets. The supply also of every thing was good & abundant – and the prices reasonable enough in a country where dollars are as common as chuckie stanes. There were turnips cabbages – & indeed almost every vegetable we have galore – besides many peculiar to warm climates. The beef was cheap & excellent. The poultry rather dear but good of its kind. By half past 7 the market was empty – for then the sun was very powerful and the people could not stand it exposed as they were to its unrestricted influence.

By this time also our party were pretty well tired of perambulating the narrow pathways of the market, jostling & jolted every moment by rank-smelling blacks – smoking Spaniards & lousy Creoles. Our early rising & our walk had likewise sharpened our appetite, the cravings of which were now very importunate. To satisfy these, we retired nem: con: to a neighbouring Fonda q Posada, where we partook to repletion of very excellent Café au lait, and buttered baps. After this we were ready to repair on board & shift ourselves, for be it observed, we had come ashore unshaved, unwashed & with our jackets on. When we arrived onboard the Old Duke, we found they had not yet breakfasted, as we had expected – but we cared not – since for a sufficient reason, we had no appetite for the good things set before us on the table.

Apothecaries Hall at Habana

At noon we again landed in full fig, and during the whole day, gave no rest to the soles of our feet, walking here & there, not merely for pleasure but on business. We called at the Manufactories of Cabana & Silva to procure our supply of cegars (amounting in all to 40,000) – and witnessing more than 50 people employed solely in the making of cegars every day, & all day long. Then I went to an apothecary’s shop, which was one of the finest I had ever seen. That part where they dispensed the Medicines was of immense size & height – made altogether of mahogany highly polished – with an arched roof, beautifully divided into compartments, also formed of mahogany. As a whole the effect of the coup d’oeiul was most splendid, & far surprised any thing of the kind I had ever seen in Europe. The floor was of marble, of a diamond pattern. Through the gentleman who accompanied me, I was conducted thro’ 8 or 10 storerooms, very large & well filled. There was to be found every medicine & every surgical instrument used in Europe – and all in the highest condition. The medicines were obtained principally from the United States – and I found them in general to be twice as cheap as I could obtain them in England.

To complete this establishment, there was a very large – well appointed – & well kept Library of Medical, Philosophical, & Scientific books, disposed in very handsome glass cases. – & these books were in English, ffrench, & Spanish, & among them I recognised several very old acquaintances.

I was exceedingly pleased with all I saw and sincerely thanked the gentleman of the establishment for the gratification I had received & their politeness – & was glad that I could say with truth that for elegance, completeness, & the toute ensemble I had seen nothing equal to this.

Sunday 2nd March – according to our regulations we ought to have set sail by daylight this morning, having received our Mail at 8 oClock last night – but we were prevented from doing so by the North wind blowing, which rendered it both dangerous and impracticable for us to pass thro the Gulf of Florida. If others were, I at least was not sorry at our detention & so the weather being fine I went on shore in the forenoon, accompanied by the Master & M.r Mayer our passenger. Had I not known that this day was what we call & what we observe as Sunday, I should never have known it from the external appearance of things. Almost all the shops were open & business was carried. What was less in the way of employment was made up in the way of amusement. During the day all the Churches are shut & those who wish to pay their devotions might seize the opportunity very early in the morning, or if they are then too lazy to get up, must wait till the evening, after sunset. We perambulated the street, in all directions making such remarks as the objects & the moment suggested. By two oClock we were somewhat hungrish & in order to satisfy the cravings of appetite, we very gladly adjourned to a large American Table d’Hote, where we enjoyed a most delicious coolness, whilst we were waiting for the signal of the bell, in a large , airy, but very scantily furnished room. At a quarter to three our party, as well as a dozen Yankees were all seated at table, where we [were served] soup, roast mutton, a turkey – pigs feet – green peas – hash – yams – new potatoes – and a bottle of claret between two persons. I ought not to forget to mention that we had plenty of ice, which is to be had at Hot Habana all the year round, being contracted to be supplied from the United States. We were all very comfortable – but I eat the less on this account – that I occupied myself in noticing the behaviour of the Yankees, of which I had heard very much – I saw little for my pains. The conversation was unusually languid – no mutual civilities of the table were interchanged. If any of the Jonathans wished to have a portion of any dish which he could not reach, instead of sending his plate to be helped, he sent for the dish & carved for himself. After the solid comestibles had been removed, oranges, preserves, & various sweetmeats were put down, of which each partook according to his pleasure, and immediately rose up and went his way in silence. We all did the same – and after paying our score we went to the store of M.r Trilarren, and waited there till the arrival of that gent. With two volantes which he had hired for us. These were two very handsome – gigs, capable of holding two persons each, open in front, except when you wished to put a piece of cloth to exclude the wind, rain, or dust – & having a black fellow in front riding, in immense jack-boots. These volantes were remarkably well hung, & had very little jerk. Away then we went thro’ the streets in grand  style, and passing thro’ one of the city gates one came upon the Alameda, or pressio, or promenade, which we did not however stop to examine, purposing to return at a fitter opportunity, when we should see all the wealth. Fashion and beauty of the place congregated together more for shew than health. Our time being very limited, we stopped not to admire the excellent Botanical gardens immediately adjoining.

Orphan Hospital at Habana

Our purpose was to pay a visit to the madness House, which I had heard much commended – and I was the more pleased to do this, because it was quite in my line. The way to it was long, about three miles – and the route to it led thro’ the suburbs and past several other establishments equally creditable to the humanity & the heart of the Habanese. I shall only mention one in particular viz. the Orphan Hospital, a very large building in which are accommodated upwards of 100 fatherless human beings, who but for this admirable institution would have been left to steal or starve, as might best be. For the support of the Hospital abundant funds are derived from various sources. – as from the charitable donations of private individuals – from a certain sum paid on every barrel of flour imported in addition to the King’s duty – & from the confiscation of the meal of those in the Market who were light weights.

There the poor orphans are fed, clothed, & instructed in the common branches of knowledge. As their inclination leads them, they are taught the different handcrafts & when they are launched forth into the world, they receive a certain sum to set them agoing in the path of life. As I passed I received much pleasure in noticing the numerous young girls, looking out at the windows, with cheerful countenances and cleanly and decently attired.

Suburbs of Habana – A Spanish Bedlam

I said we passed thro’ the suburbs. These were bad enough – in general low, mean & filthy – with here and there a very respectable house. They seemed to be constructed chiefly of wood, covered with plaster – and I was given to understand that this was only the case here, since no houses but of stone were permitted to be erected in the city. As we see in our own country, in our country villages near towns & to which the townsmen resort, there were almost as many tippling – cegar – & eating houses as those of any other description. The same curiosity to see who were passing prevailed & hardly a house could be perceived, which had not its inmates at the doors or windows.

We had plenty of time to make these observations, since the roads were but so so, precluding all fast driving – but scarcely lessening the probability of a capsize & the chance of a broken leg or neck.

At last we reached our proposed destination & alighted. The Spanish Bedlam was a long, one storied house, with a handsome front, supported on pillars & accessible thro’ a small plot of ground, railed in & planted with flowers. At the end of this plot, you began to ascend a handsome & short flight of steps which brought you under the portico, where your attention was immediately attracted to an inscription over the principal entrance in Spanish, implying that building had been erected to Promote the interests of humanity & to lessen if not remove one of the maladies to which that humanity was incident and ending with that often quoted passage Mens Sana in corpore sano. Having read this inscription, and paid a tribute of fellow sympathy with those to whose care it referred, you entered a very lofty anteroom, where many men & women were assembled to see their friends who were among the patients. To the right & to the left were doors, leading into the interior of the building & separating in the middle, the visitors from the visited, was a large space, with immensely strong iron bars from the roof to the floor, with interstices between, to enable persons on each side of them to see & converse with each other. I had expected that our progress would have ended here – but no, our guide being acquainted with some of the officials, we were permitted to enter by the door on the left hand, which led us to a small room filled with various apparatus used in the establishment – and having another door at the opposite end, secured with a strong iron bolt & lock. This door being opened for us, we found ourselves in a large open square paved throughout with stone, & having a few palm trees & almond trees in the centre. All around this square a covered piazza ran, supported on very handsome pillars, where the patients could take a walk, out of the influence of the sun’s rays. Here also were the doors leading to the apartments of the insane – large & strong – & their apartments generally contained a bed – table – & several chairs. The effect of the toute was most soothing and delightful – and far surpassed my previous conceptions. Besides the whole was cleanliness itself – no a slur – no a particle of dirt was visible.

At the farthest end of this square was a stone partition, & at the left hand side of it a small door way, by which you entered another & similar square – equally nice & clean – but not so very fine. The pillars were small & of wood – the apartments were intended to contain numerous occupants & these of the poorer class. To the eye the difference was very perceptible & clearly pointed out two distinct classes of patients – the rich and the poor.

We had now gone the whole length of the building, and had reached the gardens, which we entered. These were pretty extensive, with many neat walks & abounding in flowers & vegetables, reared & tended by the patients themselves. Every thing was in the most beautiful order – and the thought occurred to me how strange it is that men, who cannot manage their own thoughts, should yet be able to observe so much method in the disposition of plants & flowers in regular beds. I understand the patients are obliged to work in the garden and that the most beneficial consequences have resulted from the healthful exercise of the body & more cures accomplished than under the old system of seclusion & idleness. What is the most extraordinary thing of all is that the principal gardener is a maniac, whom we saw perambulating about with an air of immense importance & satisfaction, decked out in a regimental coat with various ribbons disposed her & there according to his wayward fancy. This man, so long as he is employed about the gardens (for he has a gardener) is quite peacable, and sufficiently competent to perform all the duties of a gardener – but no sooner is he removed from this station, than he becomes quire furious & continues so, till he is returned to his beloved flowers & plants.

After seeing all the garden, we took notice of several other places. We visited the baths – these are excavations in a room set apart (& containing three similar baths) lined with brick, & so large that when full, you can enjoy a good swim. You descend to the bottom by a flight of steps. In each are two stop-cocks for admitting either hot or cold water at pleasure. Sometimes instead of filling up the baths, the patient is secured fast immediately under the cocks, when the water is permitted to fall in a continued stream on his naked head.

We inspected also the rooms where some undergo solitary confinement – & where others are condemned to suffer punishment. These rooms I was told are seldom required, the number of furious maniacs being so very small. I believe not more than four at present – I mean among the men, for we saw none of the females. This proportion is indeed remarkably small, being about one in 40 – but then all those persons are here confined who are idiots – perfectly harmless – & whom in our country we permit to go at large.

Besides working in the garden, many of the poor patients, as well as some of the richer, are employed in doing various light tasks as sorting & packing coffee &.c and they are permitted to receive a certain portion of their earnings, which enables them to enjoy the luxury of cigars, of which they are passionately fond.

Having seen every thing which is generally shown to visitors we retired the same way we had entered, repeating with sincerity our “mucho gratias” to the officials & before leaving put a peso in the box, placed at the entrance to receive the contributions of the compassionate & charitable.

Read on …