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Bahia

Bahia
James' illustration of a sedan chair

Friday 26th - land in sight when I went upon deck at 8 oClock. We sailed along the shore all [night] came to anchor at 4 oClock before the Town of S.t Salvador or Bahia. The country, long before we came this length, presented a most beautiful appearance – being covered with trees, and rising in gentle eminences. Fort Antonio which is also a lighthouse is the first object which tells us the town is at hand – for as yet nothing of it was seen. Turning round the fort, we perceived the fine Bay of All Saints, or Bay of Bahia. As you enter this Bay you have on the right hand, the main land, on which the town of S.t Salvador is situated, and on the left, but at a much greater distance, the island of Japorica.

The view of S.t Salvador is very striking – and by its white washed houses, and numerous spires of churches & Convents, raised expectations of scenery & beauty, which are far from being realised to the visitor who goes for the first time ashore. It is built on both sides of a pretty considerable eminence – one side of which only is seen by ships entering the bay. The top of it is crowned with houses and particularly with public buildings, and churches with handsome spires. Immediately below these, extending to the foot of [the] hill, or rather eminence, the ground is nearly free of erections – but is better occupied with the large spreading trees of a tropical climate, as the Banana &.c At the very foot of the hill there is a very long street, of nearly two miles in extent, presenting numerous warehouses in the direction of the sea. Nearly in the centre but in front of the Town is a large circular fort, which completely commands the S.t Salvador and the whole Bay.

It has been said, that an immense traffic used to be carried on at Bahia – but that it has much fallen off – While we were there there seemed to be a good deal of shipping, but not much of any considerable burden. Almost at the entrance of the Harbour Bay, we found three war-vessels stationed – viz. an English Man-of-war (the Ganges) of 84 Guns, commanded by Admiral Sir Robert Otway,[3] who has been here only 3 days, after a passage of eleven days from Rio de Janeiro. Next to her, but farther in the Bay, was a French frigate – and with her, a Brazilian.

Such were the appearances, which attracted our notice on our entering the Bay of All Saints. – and I come now to tell you, what we saw remarkable on shore.

Being anxious to procure some-things for Bill Martin, I went on shore late as it was. On a near approach to the line of houses along the shore, they reminded me very much of our large Manufactories – consisting of a long range, 2 or 3 stories high, with innumerable windows and no balconies before them – Alas my anticipations were soon disappointed. Instead of wide streets – clean houses – and handsome shops – I found nothing but a mass of dwellings closely huddled together – the Streets were extremely narrow – and offensively fetid in smell. The shops were no ways remarkable for elegance – on the contrary they were hardly entitled to the epithet of respectable.

Every place was crowded with white people and blacks – the latter of whom were by far the most numerous – indeed so much so that, as a matter of curiosity I counted 20 Black for 1 white. I observed that they [have] a peculiar way here of calling the Negroes – Instead of using words they, as if they disdained that uttered a peculiar sound which may be imitated by pronouncing ‘itchee.’ This practise seems almost universal and seems to have infected some of our party who delight themselves, in following it.

Not being able to find any of what I wanted (viz. tow, calico &.c) I left the place with no high opinion of it – but determined to reserve a decided opinion of it till I had made a more complete inspection.

Dock-Yard, Market & Town at Bahia or S.t Salvador

Saturday 27th Sept.r 1828 - early in the morning I went on shore again, with the Steward and Captain Williams. We landed at one of the dock Yards, where a large line-of-battle Ship was a building. This is the first I have ever seen on the stocks – and truly its size is most astonishing. The scene was not so bustling as a similar one in England would have been – Altho’ the Brazilians are excellent Ship Wrights, they are but slow workmen – and their maxim seems to be ‘Slow but sure.’ We saw near the shore, a practice different from that at Pernambuco – there white men were almost the only boatmen for passengers here there is not one such to be seen – all are Negroes.

Leaving this scene of ‘busy idleness,’ we wended our way to the market, where we saw fruits – grain – poultry and fish for sale. Some of the articles were either extremely dear or the reverse. Pineapples, which are so dear a luxury with us, are to be procured in their proper season, for 1 penny to 7 pence – all excellent of their kind. Oranges also are cheap enough, and Bananas and sugar cane of which you may [have] as much as you will take for 1 vintine. But hens & other small poultry are dear – I heard them asking 2/6 a piece – and for a large, fat turkey, about 5 shillings. I did not however see the market to advantage either for the quality or the quantity of the articles – for the proper market hour was 11 oClock A.M.

From the market we went to a store house, where we tasted some rum at 2½ Gallons for a Spanish dollar (4/2). Having seen a few other things not worth mention.I went on board again, but soon returned with our Master M.r Geach, M.r E. W.ms & Capt.n Williams. And as we had already seen sufficient of the lower regions (or cowgate) of the Town we went by a very steep ascent difficult to be accomplished without making two or three slips, up to the better and more fashionable part.

The view from the top of the eminence, extending as it does, over the whole Bay and as far as the island of Japorica on the opposite side, is superb and vast. The houses here are also of a better order of architecture – the streets are wider and more attention is paid to freer admission of air, and the absence of bad smells. Compared with the size of the place, the number of religious houses is very great - but notwithstanding this they are rather magnificent in their decorations.

I have seen but very few monks walking in public and as far as I know no nuns at all. Almost the only one I observed seemed to have great respect paid to him, for as he passed along the people took off their hats – and the soldiers, who by the by are blacks, presented arms, as if to an officer.

In the upper quarter of the town there a[re] more gardens than below - but none of them appeared to be attended to, with that care and anxiety which characterise more of our English gardens. They are contented of the trees, left to nature, blossomed & produced fruit in their proper season – but as to the beauty and elegance which a proper arrangement of their peculiar advantages in respect of trees and plants – and weeds and noxious plants are often permitted to grow up in close contact with the ornaments of their gardens.

Black Women at Bahia

Proceeding along in our peregrinations, we stumbled upon – a great number of black women washing and drying clothes. All were talking even when employed in various ways – and in this I verily believe they only resemble the rest of womankind. They don’t seem at all to be down hearted but the very reverse, for whenever we attempted to address them in bad Portuguese they made themselves very merry at our expense. We were much surprised at what we saw them do – for we met many, having jars of this shape [illustration of lidded jar, wide at the top narrowing towards the base] - capable of holding many gallons of water – which they carried on their heads, without any support from their hands, up & down places remarkably steep; and what might almost be called precipices. Nothing, I am persuaded, but constant practice, at the risk of innumerable falls, could have enabled them to do this. As might be expected from the excessive heat, and the laborious nature of their work, they had not on any superfluity of clothes – but on the contrary they left almost the whole upper part of their body exposed to the gazer’s eyes. Among the rest of the Black women we saw one of a delicate and weakly habit, whose body neither altogether black, nor altogether white, but having large patches of white, irregular in shape, on a black ground. Prompted by curiosity, we stopped to ask some questions, by which means we had a full view of her – and certainly a more frightful and disagreeable sight I have seldom witnessed.

After a long while under the burning sun, and after taking some refreshments in a ‘Casa de Pasto,’ or Eating House, we Set on board, at 6 oClock. Soon after that we had a grand display of fireworks consisting chiefly of sky rockets. I saw the same spectacle at Pernambuco – and I am told it is very general over the Brazils to let off fire works every night as an expiation of their sins, or as if in this way they sent off their sins to Heaven.

Sunday at Bahia

Sunday 28th Sept.r 1828. Early in the forenoon, water for the ships use came along side – and nearly the whole day was occupied in putting it properly on board, so that, all hands being employed I did not go ashore to see the churches. At 4 oClock – I accompanied M.r Geach first on board H.M.S. the Ganges, & then to the Consul’s House. As we passed along, the Streets which yesterday were full of bustle and business, were now deserted & quiet – and in the upper part of the Town, numerous ladies elegantly dressed, leaning over the balconies, which were all hung with tapestry or silks beautifully embroidered. None of them were entitled to the epithet of pretty or beautiful – and their dress & youth were their only recommendations. Our notice was particularly attracted by a stout jolly, practical black woman, who dressed in a White negligee, richly adorned with lace, paced proudly along the Street. [Round] her neck was suspended a beautiful gold watch and various gold chains. Her head was surmounted with a fine white Turban – and her bare black feet were thrust into slippers of a white satin. Over all was cast loosely a bad shawl edged with costly fur. This was not the only black woman, whom we saw stylishly dressed – for there were many – but she far exceeded all the others.

Sedan Chair

On our return to the ship, we accidentally fell in with two small, paltry carriages, drawn by four horses each – and on one of the horses (or to speak more correctly ponies) rode a black servant in a plain livery, and wearing a cocked Hat, while another in a similar dress walked by the side. From the rarity of these vehicles I am persuaded, that those which passed us were considered as the ‘ne plus ultra’ of perfection – altho’ to speak the truth they would have been laughed at by an English fashionable, if tried to be put into comparison, with her commodious & elegant equipages. The common mode of conveyance is by palanquins which are here to be met with in great numbers. They are however entirely different from what I have described those at Madeira to be. I shall endeavour to present you with the figure of one [see illustration].

It consists of a long Box A, the upper part or top of which is formed of wood, covered with cloth or some kind of stuff. Below this to the very bottom, there is nothing but, a covering, forming curtains which open & shut at pleasure, and also a common chair for the accommodation of the person carried. These sedans are to be met with in several places and many of them were elegant and beautiful, while all without exception seemed to be good.

Leave Bahia

It was with regret that we were obliged to hurry on board with the Mail – and at 6 oClock P.M. we weighed anchor and set sail for Rio de Janeiro. I soon found that one of our passengers from Pernambuco had left us at Bahia, and I also learned from M.r Geach, that a family, consisting of ten, had wished to take their passage with us, but that it had been impossible to accommodate them, as they wished to have the whole after cabin to themselves. The weather, during the night was stormy and the wind adverse.

Monday 29th Sept.r 1828 - sailed 48 miles. At one light winds and cloudy weather.

Tuesday 30th Sept.r - distance 39 miles. Weather unsettled.

Wednesday 1st October 1828 - fine cool day. Saw large numbers of dolphins sporting around the ship, and caught two of them. The Dolphin is a very beautiful kind of fish – their head is of a peculiar shape, and their skin is tinged with various colours. When in the agonies of death, the colour varies very much, from light to dark, from blue to yellow &.c Sailed 53 miles.

Thursday 2.d October - in the morning weather variable and at noon we had the heaviest showers we have experienced during the whole voyage. The wind is very changeable, sometimes sinking into a calm, and again rising to a fresh breeze. Sailed 76 miles.

Friday 3 Octob.r - fine day – heavy pitching of the vessel. Sailed 99 miles.

Friday [sic] 4th Octob.r - Day very dry and rather warm. Obliged to make a long tack during the night to avoid running foul of the Abrohlos or Brazil shoals, which lie about 400 miles from Rio. Saw for the first time, but not very distinctly a tolerably large whale – also a bird called the Tropical bird, or by the Sailors the Boatswain, on account of his tail. This bird of the size of a large pigeon – of a white colour, with a peculiarly slender tail, somewhat like a small wand. Distance gone over 44 miles.

Sunday 5th October fine day – wind nearly aft. Distance today 153 – a large brig in sight all the afternoon.

Monday 6 October – day fair & cool breeze not so brisk as yesterday night but the pitching of the vessel, yesterday and today has been far greater that at any other period of our voyage. Distance sailed over 162 Miles.