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Pernambuco

Pernambuco
James' illustration of a Mausoleum

Saturday 20 Sept.r - exactly four weeks after quitting Teneriffe, we have reached Pernambuco. At 6 oClock this morning I got up and had a good view of the Town of Pernambuco, from the deck. In the distance it looks well – and I shall be able to say whether a view will come up to the expectations formed from the distant one. The whole coast is by far means so high as I had expected – but the very contrary. At nine oClock the Captain went on shore with the mail accompanied by three of the passengers.

Some time after what is called the 2nd gig was prepared for the reception of the Ambassador, who proposed to go on shore – Along with him went all the other passengers, who wished to land – and I among the rest, For some mile or less after leaving the Packet, the swell of the Sea was exceedingly great – at one time we sank down between two billows so low as only to be able to see the topmast of the Duke, whilst next we rode upon the back of a huge billow. At last we rounded the Reef of Pernambuco, consisting of a ridge of rocks, which extend abreast almost the whole of the town and over which the sea dashed with awful fury. Behind this reef, the seas are perfectly calm and Smooth, and this place affords an excellent anchorage for vessels. On a line with and at one of the extremities of that reef, there is likewise the light house of Pernambuco – and a small fort. The former is founded on the shore not on a rock – is of no great height - and furnished with three revolving lights – viz. two shades of white and a deep red.

After passing this dangerous place, we approached near the shore and saw opposite us two pretty extensive forts all bristling with cannon. Sailing past these we came to wooden platforms where we landed, many of us for the first time in the New World. And truly it might be called a new world to us – for every thing around was strange to our European (or rather English) eyes. We were first of all struck with the immense numbers of Blacks, who seem to be in the proportion of three to one. The houses too which seemed to be magnificent in the distance were after all common enough in their appearance –

Thro’ several streets of tolerable houses – and many a winding alley and dirty lanes we arrived at the English Hotel, kept by a Mr. Smith who has also a Grocer’s shop at a little distance from his house. The building of the Hotel was massy and consequently heavy – The steps leading up to the higher or fashionable region into which we were ushered were not likely to give way before a small weight – they were substantial for that - and the balustrade of them were also solidly constructed, and badly ornamented.

After seeing His Excellency safely deposited in a large apartment without any carpet M.r E. & M.r B Williams set out on a voyage of discovery. In several of the streets, thro’ which we went, we observed on the roofs wooden gutters for the reception of the rain – but instead of conducting the water to the common sewer by long hollow tubes down the sides of the houses - they had a short hollow tube projecting almost into the middle of the street, thro’ which of course water would be plentifully discharged upon any unlucky wight who might chance to be immediately under these.

The lower apartments of all the houses are occupied by Shopkeepers – they have no windows but two or three large doors, where the windows ought to have stood. The upper stories are used by the families of the rich and noble. It is exactly contrary here to what we think at home, for the higher the rooms are the more pleasant and more fashionable they are. Most of the houses are five or 6 stories high – and are all built of rough Stones and roofed with tiles. Strange to me – I saw not a single chimney – all the meal is prepared either at the rear lot of the houses – or in an outhouse. This fact shows, that they have no cold weather here, sufficient to require fire places.

There are very few of the houses which are without balconies to the windows, all above the under flats, these balconies are of all Sizes and shapes – some are light and elegant serving as real ornaments to the houses, other are heavy and clumsy disfiguring, where they were intended to beautify. Most of the windows open and shut like doors and are wide and large for the free admission of air, which is so grateful to the feelings of all persons in this country.

I cannot much commend much either thro’ elegance or grandeur of the Shops. Only a very few were entitled to be compared to the second-rate shops in London – and none at all came up to our first-rate.

The goods are generally displayed at the Shops door – and of what is displayed there seems much of British Manufacture.

I saw no public buildings, deserving of particular mention – the Churches, with their bells and towers were the most conspicuous.

We passed two bridges, of wood, which were very good, and were lined on either side, with good seats, to which hundreds of apparently respectable and well dressed people repair to enjoy the cool of the evening.

While parading thro’ the streets we saw many things remarkable besides the houses &.c In one street we met in with nearly a hundred slaves, of all ages, size & sexes. Their only clothing was a piece of some Stuff, wrapped around their middle – Their heads were completely shaved, and persons presented all the different shades [but ‘shapes’] from fatness to leanness - All were engaged in making the materials for hats & baskets – and I could discover in none of them the signs of excess grief. This we imagine to be the slave market, where for money, you may obtain the entire disposal of men, women, or children – These slaves are almost the only “beasts of burden” employed for the conveyance of goods in the city – for I never saw a single cart or horse. I was surprised at the immense weight they carry & that too in the hot parts of the day – and their approach is always announced, by their singing. Suppose they are six of them. Then three will chant some words to a mournful [song], and the others three will answer – These are the simple means employed to lighten their heavy labours.

You must imagine that, because I tell you, that I saw no horses used for the conveyance of goods in the city there must of course be no horses – By no means – There were plenty of small and indifferent breed which brought large bales of cotton from the country, to the ware-houses in Town.

In several places there were numbers of Black women, who alone openly sold fresh fruit – The oranges, Bananas – Yams – Cocoa Nuts – Mangoes &.c The chief fruits here at this season are oranges and cocoa nuts. The former are peculiarly large and sweet – and are sold at a vintine (1-d) for three or four very sizeable ones – The latter were, as far as I know good of their kind and sold at a penny the piece. The trees on which they grow are very ornamental, being high without leaves or branches, till near the tops where they open’d out in a beautiful manner. In one particular place there is a particularly large number – and it is call’d ‘Cocoa Nut Island.’

The Bananas are a small fruit 5 or 6 inches in length of the shape [very small sketch of a banana lying on its back - not copied] growing in bunches on one stalk. They have a sweetish insipid taste and I don’t much like them. The Mangoes are about the size of a pigeon’s egg – with a skin like that of a peach. Their taste is delicious, resembling the strawberry precisely in flavour.

I may mention that when crossing one of the bridges we observed a curious mode of catching fish. The man stood over the parapet holding in his hand a long rod to which was fastened a line some yards in length, having a piece of iron, at the end turned up so as to answer the purpose of 4 hooks. This was cast into the water without any bait and every [minute] or so, it was haul’d out with a sudden jerk, in the expectation that when in the act of being drawn out it would catch hold of some one or more of the numerous fish that were swimming about. Many throws required to be made before he was successful enough to catch one – but ‘improbus labaor omnia vincit.’

Quarrel at Pernambuco

Returning at 4 oClock P.M. intending to set off in our boat, we found that a quarrel had arisen between some of our men, which could not be appeased without fighting. To it they fell. 1st. – Barker against the Steward and afterwards, when he [had] beaten him against Joe Bradley, whom he also got the better of, as he was extremely tipsy. Altogether it was a most disgraceful scene and what was more it afforded much mirth to the cowardly Brazilians at the expense of our men. After all we could not get enough of hands to go off to the packet until 6 oClock when the Captain being informed of the disturbance, said that, if  the men did not go instantly on board, that he would send to the Consul, for a guard to put them in prison. This threat soon produced submission and after a sufficiency of time we arrived on board in safety.

Visit to Olinda

Sunday 21 Sept.r 1828 - at 8 oClock A.M. M.r R. W.ms [and] Captain Martyn Williams, belonging to the mining Company went again on shore. We determined to have a day off and see as much as possible of the town and country. In pursuance of this resolution we set out for Olinda a small but situated town, about three miles distant from Pernambuco, with which it is sometimes called as being synonymous. We had however greatly overrated our strength and our capability of enduring the heat – for hardly had we walked half a mile under a burning sun, and upon soft sand, when we began to feel fatigue and hot. We nevertheless persevered – and endeavoured to divert our attention from ourselves to the pretty country around. For the first time, I have seen great numbers of human bones whitening on the sands – where they acquire a cleanness & polish which the anatomical in vain endeavours to impart to his preparations. We saw numerous green lizards crossing the roads – and countless land crabs boring away in the ground. At length, wearying and nearly overpowered by the heat, we anchored at a public house having an English Jack before it. This we supposed to be kept by an Englishman – but we found that it was occupied by a Portuguese, who did not understand one word of English, and who did not know what his sign meant. Between us three we managed to ask for ‘Vinho’ wine, ‘Agoa’ water, Geneva, ‘Laranjas’ oranges.

After refreshing ourselves we went out to see the place. It is considerably above the level of Pernambuco, and consequently, more romantic. Except in one or two large houses, there was not a bit of glass, but the windows and doors were in this fashion [illustration of square with latticework].

That is, they were formed of cross bars of wood which freely admitted the air - & I should suppose the rain also. We still saw a disproportion between the whites and blacks, the latter being the more numerous.

Thinking that we should not be able to accomplish our backward journey on foot – we endeavoured to procure horses – but finding that impossible we agreed for a passage in a Canoe, at the rate of a Milrei (4d) for us three. These canoes, of which there are not a few are composed of the trunks of large tree, hollowed out, and having seats placed afterwards. The one we hired would have held with ease a dozen people – and it was propelled by the united exertions of two stout blacks, who with strong poles in their hands, moved us forward by pushing these against the ground. The pleasure of this mode of conveyance was very great compared with the inconvenience of walking or riding – the motion was so easy – and there was no rolling at all. The good numbers of boats of the same description as ours passed us on the way.

At 3 oClock we returned to our Inn to dine, where we had an excellent roast Turkey – roast Mutton &.c with abundance of Port wine for About 3/6 each.

After dinner we took a stroll and in the course of it, popped into a Church, which stood invitingly open: When I entered, I was surprised at the magnificence of it. There seemed to us three or four different shrines, each with an image of some saint in them, before whom were some dozens of silver candle sticks with wax candles nearly a yard long stuck in them. But beyond all other in magnificence was one shrine, placed at the end of the church. Before it nearly an 100 wax candles were set a blaze while we were there – and between each silver candlestick were placed crowns of artificial flowers, which added to the effect. On the ceiling was beautifully painted, the patron saint, drawn by 5 red cords, which passed thru’ the 5 wounds of Christ to be attached to his body. Shortly after we entered, several women & men came in, who knelt on a carpet fronting exactly the magnificent shrine – but I observed two of the lower orders laughing and talking too much, while on their knees & before commencing their manner of praying, I was never more struck with the conviction that the Roman religion was nothing but rank Idolatry, as when these poor people did round a silver or a wooden image.

About 5 oClock the Abbot with his monks came into a inclosed space in the centre of the church, and all took the seats prepared for them there. Of course we understood nothing of what was said – but we consider their conduct as somewhat strange. One Man, stood at a table, before the Superior and after reading some words from a large parchment in his hand, called over some names – those called advanced one by one to the Abbot, before whom they knelt down and kissed his hand. To each of them he said something in a loud enough tone which caused repeated and loud bursts of laughter among the assembled spectators – conduct apparently inconsistent with the holiness of the place and the sacredness of the day & service. When he had finished what he had to say to each they rose up – shook the Abbot’s hands and departed to their places.

After the, ceremony a monk came in with a large bundle of wax candles of about the length of a man, unlighted – then one of the younger brothers (for some were very young, mere lads) went and lighted his taper before one of the images – and returned to his place again that the rest may light theirs from his. Among the monks were many fine men – who might have formed excellent Merchants, soldiers &.c but who were in their present station totally useless. After all the tapers had been lighted, three men came in from a side door, two on each side, having an immense silver candlestick in their hands while the centre one bore a most elegant image of Christ on the Cross, made of silver – and supported at the top of a Silver pillar 1½ yards long. As soon as these came into the middle of the friars, they immediately began to chant some of the penitential Psalms – not all at once but a few here and there. They then issued out of this church in full procession, bearing tapers and went into another church adjoining close to the one they left.

If the Chapel we first [entered] was fine, the second was magnificent. The whole ceiling, sides, & in fact every where could lay it on was gilded with gold, which imparted to the ‘tout ensemble’ a splendid edifice. Innumerable paintings were disposed in various compartments – and at one end of the Church – was a shrine all over with gold before which the whole of the monks both black white & grey knelt, while some of them repeated after the Abbot in a loud voice what I supposed to be a Latin prayer.

When this was finished the procession went back a little till they arrived at a door which led to a Mausoleum. It was of immense length and on each side were seen places which I am sure served for the prayer of the monks. The places were of this form, three lying one above another and numbered [see illustration above].

As soon as a monk dies he is conveyed to one of these places which (say N.o 33) which is always built up after the body is put in, and only opened to admit another tenant of the tomb. Along this long charnel house the friars arranged themselves, with the Superior at their head. Before the latter stood an officer of the order, holding a large Silver fire pan, with live coals in it, upon which he every now & then cast perfume from another silver vessel, which he had. Meanwhile the Abbot dressed in particular robes, read from a book, whilst some of the monks responded, and at intervals musical instruments played doleful dirges and some were heard clapping their hands - In the centre of the place was a coffin, covered with a fine black velvet pall. Around it the Abbot unattended went and thrice he waved the perfume pan at the four sides of the coffin, and there he seemed to be casting something upon it from a silver tute__ but we are entirely ignorant of what was signified by these ceremonies.

It was now pretty late, and as the Captain had ordered the boat to go off in the evening, we were obliged unwillingly to forego the satisfaction of our curiosity by seeing the conclusion of the funeral ceremonies.

When we returned to the Hotel [we learned] that the Boat had gone about 2 oClock, and had not come ashore again, altho’ it was about 7 oClock P.M. Not expecting that it would come now that it was so late, we agreed to go to the ‘Teater’ ‘Nacionale’. If we had been in England, we should have thought it wrong to spend the Evening of the Sabbath in such an improper manner, but as we came to see the manner of the people, and as we judge there would be some difference between a week-days & the Sundays performance, we decided upon going.

The hour of commencing was 8 oClock P.M. and the price of admission to the pit was 2 Pataes or 3/8 (each patai = to 16d.) We were among the earliest of those who came – and were admitted into the ‘Plateia’ or pit before the Theatre was lighted – and at first sight I took it to be no better than a barn. When a few candles were lighted it was seen to be a small size – the pit was divided into two portions – the Boxes were very small and very paltry, and yet they charged 7 Pataes for a seat there. Before each Box was a small mean looking mirror to reflect the light of a wax candle – placed before it. The seats in the pit were numbered – an excellent plan by which every one is secured in his proper seat without any risk of loosing it – but I did not like so to see soldiers planted in different parts with fix’d bayonets to keep order. Some of our sailors, who were in the galley – bawled out as they would at home! ‘A Horn pipe for the Miners’ &.c but were soon silenced by effective interference of the military. Very few were in the Galley or pit, and still fewer in the Boxes – The Curtain presented a view of Pernambuco painted (or rather daubed in the most wretched stile imaginable & no more to be compared to ours than a Man in the Moon. The only good thing was the music which, as far as I can trust myself to say, was excellent. The play was ‘Don Juan,’ which has been so often represented on our boards. The acting of one or two of the Performers was pretty fair – that of the rest abominable.

In the course of the play it was easy to see, that great deviations had been made from the English story. Instead of being carried off by the devils at the end, he repents and is again received into the bosom of the Holy Catholic Church, as clean and as pure, as if he had never perpetrated any murders, nor committed no adulteries.

The after piece was a very short trifle, and only remarkable for the monstrous thick legs of the only female dancers – but who was nevertheless, much applauded I concurred.

At 12 oClock entertainment ended and we department to the Hotel. A few yards from the theatre we were not a little alarmed at one of the sentinels, placed before a prison, calling out & then making a piest with his bayonet at Capt.n Williams. We found afterwards, that we had been walking too near prison walls, where no persons are allowed to come – and that having made no answer to the sentinels challenge he had become irritated & alarmed in the way he did. As we passed along the streets we met soldiers stationed instead of watchmen, with loaded muskets over their shoulders.

At length we reached the Hotel, where we found all to be asleep but succeeded at last in awakening them by loud knocking. On inquiring we were told that every bed in the house was occupied – and that we must shift as well as we could. There being 8 or 10 of us, we descended to the eating room, and endeavoured to procure a sleeping place in various ways – I first tried two chairs – but they were very unpleasant. One of our men procured a coverlet some where, upon which Capt.n Wms & I lay down on the floor with a common matt _____ & a coat folded up for a pillow. In the morning (Monday 22 Sept.r) felt all sore & unrefreshed – and determined never to have such a bed again, if I could possibly help it. At half past we partook of a hearty breakfast of Beef-steaks & Coffee, and ½ past eleven we set off for the packet.

Character of Sen.r Borges

As one of or Cabin Passengers, Sen.r Borges, son of the Collector of Customs left us here, I shall take this opportunity of saying something respecting him. He seemed to be a young man of about 24 years of age – he understood English well, but spoke it very incorrectly, yet so as to be understood. He has resided 2 years & a half in England – has visited Scotland & Ireland – and has expressed himself extremely partial to our country & its institutions. He was possessed of the vice common to most Portuguese I have seen, viz. gambling. During our voyage to Madeira, he suggested constantly in playing with our military passengers and altho’ we were only 8 days on our passage, he lost upwards of £50 entirely by games of chance. After leaving Madeira he engaged our cabin passenger Mr. E Williams to try vingt-un with him for a very small sum. At this amusement he had [various?] turns of fortune – but he never lost above £5 – and when we reached Pernambuco, he owed M.r W about £2. It was suspected that he had been sent home, on account of his extravagance – but I think that notwithstanding this characteristic he could be niggardly without scruple. For example, he gave our Cook, for the six weeks he was with us, Patai (16d.) In understanding and extent of information, he as one of the common order as far as I saw – he was neither very pleasant nor disagreeable company but indifferent. There is one part of his conduct which, unless satisfactorily cleared up, says much against his moral feelings – and that is with M.r Frances, another of our passengers – M.r Frances had paid a considerable share of the money lost at Madeira, for M.r Borges, by which means he saved him from being scouted for not paying his debts of honour. Well, one would have thought that the first object of his arrival would be to repay by the very first opportunity the money lent. But no – altho’ we were 50 hours at Pernambuco when he saw the Gentleman dining at his fathers house, he never offered to refund – and the only charitable excuse, that can be made is that having been so very extravagant while in England, he was afraid to ask his father for more – but proposed soon to remit the necessary sum to Senh.r Frances in Rio de Janeiro.

He forgot likewise to pay M.r E. Williams – but he certainly treated both these gentlemen with abundance of civility by inviting them to dine &.c at his fathers house or palace.

Leave Pernambuco

At ½ past 1 oClock same day (Monday 22 Sept.r) having received on board as passengers 3 Gentlemen – 2 servants - & 4 ladies we made ready for moving - while the anchor was pulling up, part of the machinery gave way and the windlass struck one of our men – Bill Martin, several times, occasioning great injuries to the leg. – We also parted the small bower cable 6 fathoms from the anchor.

Tuesday 23rd Sept.r – sailed 32 miles. Fine pleasant weather.

Wednesday 24th - sailed 156 miles, light winds & fine weather.

Thursday 25th Sept.r - sailed 85 miles. During the early part of the day it inclined to a calm, but at three oClock the wind began to become brisker.