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Journal of A Voyage to Lisbon by Henry Fielding

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shown here, they would have contracted the contempt of the whole
audience. To say the truth, from what I observed in the behavior
of the sailors in this voyage, and on comparing it with what I
have formerly seen of them at sea and on shore, I am convinced
that on land there is nothing more idle and dissolute; in their
own element there are no persons near the level of their degree
who live in the constant practice of half so many good qualities.

They are, for much the greater part, perfect masters of their
business, and always extremely alert, and ready in executing it,
without any regard to fatigue or hazard. The soldiers themselves
are not better disciplined nor more obedient to orders than these
whilst aboard; they submit to every difficulty which attends
their calling with cheerfulness, and no less virtues and patience
and fortitude are exercised by them every day of their lives.
All these good qualities, however, they always leave behind them
on shipboard; the sailor out of water is, indeed, as wretched an
animal as the fish out of water; for though the former hath, in
common with amphibious animals, the bare power of existing on the
land, yet if he be kept there any time he never fails to become a
nuisance. The ship having had a good deal of motion since she
was last under sail, our women returned to their sickness, and I
to my solitude; having, for twenty-four hours together, scarce
opened my lips to a single person. This circumstance of being
shut up within the circumference of a few yards, with a score of
human creatures, with not one of whom it was possible to
converse, was perhaps so rare as scarce ever to have happened
before, nor could it ever happen to one who disliked it more than
myself, or to myself at a season when I wanted more food for my
social disposition, or could converse less wholesomely and
happily with my own thoughts. To this accident, which fortune
opened to me in the Downs, was owing the first serious thought
which I ever entertained of enrolling myself among the
voyage-writers; some of the most amusing pages, if, indeed, there
be any which deserve that name, were possibly the production of
the most disagreeable hours which ever haunted the author.

Monday.--At noon the captain took an observation, by which it
appeared that Ushant bore some leagues northward of us, and that
we were just entering the bay of Biscay. We had advanced a very
few miles in this bay before we were entirely becalmed: we
furled our sails, as being of no use to us while we lay in this
most disagreeable situation, more detested by the sailors than
the most violent tempest: we were alarmed with the loss of a
fine piece of salt beef, which had been hung in the sea to
freshen it; this being, it seems, the strange property of
salt-water. The thief was immediately suspected, and presently
afterwards taken by the sailors. He was, indeed, no other than a
huge shark, who, not knowing when he was well off, swallowed
another piece of beef, together with a great iron crook on which
it was hung, and by which he was dragged into the ship. I should
scarce have mentioned the catching this shark, though so exactly
conformable to the rules and practice of voyage-writing, had it
not been for a strange circumstance that attended it. This was
the recovery of the stolen beef out of the shark's maw, where it
lay unchewed and undigested, and whence, being conveyed into the
pot, the flesh, and the thief that had stolen it, joined together
in furnishing variety to the ship's crew.

During this calm we likewise found the mast of a large vessel,
which the captain thought had lain at least three years in the
sea. It was stuck all over with a little shell-fish or reptile,
called a barnacle, and which probably are the prey of the
rockfish, as our captain calls it, asserting that it is the
finest fish in the world; for which we are obliged to confide
entirely to his taste; for, though he struck the fish with a kind
of harping-iron, and wounded him, I am convinced, to death, yet
he could not possess himself of his body; but the poor wretch
escaped to linger out a few hours with probably great torments.

In the evening our wind returned, and so briskly, that we ran
upwards of twenty leagues before the next day's [Tuesday's]
observation, which brought us to lat. 47 degrees 42'. The
captain promised us a very speedy passage through the bay; but he
deceived us, or the wind deceived him, for it so slackened at
sunset, that it scarce carried us a mile in an hour during the
whole succeeding night.

Wednesday.--A gale struck up a little after sunrising, which
carried us between three and four knots or miles an hour. We
were this day at noon about the middle of the bay of Biscay, when
the wind once more deserted us, and we were so entirely becalmed,
that we did not advance a mile in many hours. My fresh-water
reader will perhaps conceive no unpleasant idea from this calm;
but it affected us much more than a storm could have done; for,
as the irascible passions of men are apt to swell with
indignation long after the injury which first raised them is
over, so fared it with the sea. It rose mountains high, and
lifted our poor ship up and down, backwards and forwards, with so
violent an emotion, that there was scarce a man in the ship
better able to stand than myself. Every utensil in our cabin
rolled up and down, as we should have rolled ourselves, had not
our chairs been fast lashed to the floor. In this situation,
with our tables likewise fastened by ropes, the captain and
myself took our meal with some difficulty, and swallowed a little
of our broth, for we spilt much the greater part. The remainder
of our dinner being an old, lean, tame duck roasted, I regretted
but little the loss of, my teeth not being good enough to have
chewed it.

Our women, who began to creep out of their holes in the morning,
retired again within the cabin to their beds, and were no more
heard of this day, in which my whole comfort was to find by the
captain's relation that the swelling was sometimes much worse; he
did, indeed, take this occasion to be more communicative than
ever, and informed me of such misadventures that had befallen him
within forty-six years at sea as might frighten a very bold
spirit from undertaking even the shortest voyage. Were these,
indeed, but universally known, our matrons of quality would
possibly be deterred from venturing their tender offspring at
sea; by which means our navy would lose the honor of many a young
commodore, who at twenty-two is better versed in maritime affairs
than real seamen are made by experience at sixty. And this may,
perhaps, appear the more extraordinary, as the education of both
seems to be pretty much the same; neither of them having had
their courage tried by Virgil's description of a storm, in which,
inspired as he was, I doubt whether our captain doth not exceed
him. In the evening the wind, which continued in the N.W., again
freshened, and that so briskly that Cape Finisterre appeared by
this day's observation to bear a few miles to the southward. We
now indeed sailed, or rather flew, near ten knots an hour; and
the captain, in the redundancy of his good-humor, declared he
would go to church at Lisbon on Sunday next, for that he was sure
of a wind; and, indeed, we all firmly believed him. But the
event again contradicted him; for we were again visited by a calm
in the evening.

But here, though our voyage was retarded, we were entertained
with a scene, which as no one can behold without going to sea, so
no one can form an idea of anything equal to it on shore. We
were seated on the deck, women and all, in the serenest evening
that can be imagined. Not a single cloud presented itself to our
view, and the sun himself was the only object which engrossed our
whole attention. He did indeed set with a majesty which is
incapable of description, with which, while the horizon was yet
blazing with glory, our eyes were called off to the opposite part
to survey the moon, which was then at full, and which in rising
presented us with the second object that this world hath offered
to our vision. Compared to these the pageantry of theaters, or
splendor of courts, are sights almost below the regard of
children. We did not return from the deck till late in the
evening; the weather being inexpressibly pleasant, and so warm
that even my old distemper perceived the alteration of the
climate. There was indeed a swell, but nothing comparable to
what we had felt before, and it affected us on the deck much less
than in the cabin.

Friday.--The calm continued till sun-rising, when the wind
likewise arose, but unluckily for us it came from a wrong
quarter; it was S.S.E., which is that very wind which Juno would
have solicited of Aeolus, had Gneas been in our latitude bound
for Lisbon.

The captain now put on his most melancholy aspect, and resumed
his former opinion that he was bewitched. He declared with great
solemnity that this was worse and worse, for that a wind directly
in his teeth was worse than no wind at all. Had we pursued the
course which the wind persuaded us to take we had gone directly
for Newfoundland, if we had not fallen in with Ireland in our
way. Two ways remained to avoid this; one was to put into a port
of Galicia; the other, to beat to the westward with as little
sail as possible: and this was our captain's election.

As for us, poor passengers, any port would have been welcome to
us; especially, as not only our fresh provisions, except a great
number of old ducks and fowls, but even our bread was come to an
end, and nothing but sea-biscuit remained, which I could not
chew. So that now for the first time in my life I saw what it
was to want a bit of bread.

The wind however was not so unkind as we had apprehended; but,
having declined with the sun, it changed at the approach of the
moon, and became again favorable to us, though so gentle that the
next day's observation carried us very little to the southward of
Cape Finisterre. This evening at six the wind, which had been
very quiet all day, rose very high, and continuing in our favor
drove us seven knots an hour.

This day we saw a sail, the only one, as I heard of, we had seen
in our whole passage through the bay. I mention this on account
of what appeared to me somewhat extraordinary. Though she was at
such a distance that I could only perceive she was a ship, the
sailors discovered that she was a snow, bound to a port in Galicia.

Sunday.--After prayers, which our good captain read on the deck
with an audible voice, and with but one mistake, of a lion for
Elias, in the second lesson for this day, we found ourselves far
advanced in 42 degrees, and the captain declared we should sup
off Porte. We had not much wind this day; but, as this was
directly in our favor, we made it up with sail, of which we
crowded all we had. We went only at the rate of four miles an
hour, but with so uneasy a motion, continuing rolling from side
to side, that I suffered more than I had done in our whole
voyage; my bowels being almost twisted out of my belly. However,
the day was very serene and bright, and the captain, who was in
high spirits, affirmed he had never passed a pleasanter at sea.

The wind continued so brisk that we ran upward of six knots an
hour the whole night.

Monday.--In the morning our captain concluded that he was got
into lat. 40 degrees, and was very little short of the
Burlings, as they are called in the charts. We came up with them
at five in the afternoon, being the first land we had distinctly
seen since we left Devonshire. They consist of abundance of
little rocky islands, a little distant from the shore, three of
them only showing themselves above the water.

Here the Portuguese maintain a kind of garrison, if we may allow
it that name. It consists of malefactors, who are banished
hither for a term, for divers small offenses--a policy which they
may have copied from the Egyptians, as we may read in Diodorus
Siculus. That wise people, to prevent the corruption of good
manners by evil communication, built a town on the Red Sea,
whither they transported a great number of their criminals,
having first set an indelible mark on them, to prevent their
returning and mixing with the sober part of their citizens.
These rocks lie about fifteen leagues northwest of Cape Roxent,
or, as it is commonly called, the Rock of Lisbon, which we passed
early the next morning. The wind, indeed, would have carried us
thither sooner; but the captain was not in a hurry, as he was to
lose nothing by his delay.

Tuesday.--This is a very high mountain, situated on the northern
side of the mouth of the river Tajo, which, rising about Madrid,
in Spain, and soon becoming navigable for small craft, empties
itself, after a long course, into the sea, about four leagues
below Lisbon.

On the summit of the rock stands a hermitage, which is now in the
possession of an Englishman, who was formerly master of a vessel
trading to Lisbon; and, having changed his religion and his
manners, the latter of which, at least, were none of the best,
betook himself to this place, in order to do penance for his
sins. He is now very old, and hath inhabited this hermitage for
a great number of years, during which he hath received some
countenance from the royal family, and particularly from the
present queen dowager, whose piety refuses no trouble or expense
by which she may make a proselyte, being used to say that the
saving one soul would repay all the endeavors of her life. Here
we waited for the tide, and had the pleasure of surveying the
face of the country, the soil of which, at this season, exactly
resembles an old brick-kiln, or a field where the green sward is
pared up and set a-burning, or rather a smoking, in little heaps
to manure the land. This sight will, perhaps, of all others,
make an Englishman proud of, and pleased with, his own country,
which in verdure excels, I believe, every other country. Another
deficiency here is the want of large trees, nothing above a shrub
being here to be discovered in the circumference of many miles.

At this place we took a pilot on board, who, being the first
Portuguese we spoke to, gave us an instance of that religious
observance which is paid by all nations to their laws; for,
whereas it is here a capital offense to assist any person in
going on shore from a foreign vessel before it hath been
examined, and every person in it viewed by the magistrates of
health, as they are called, this worthy pilot, for a very small
reward, rowed the Portuguese priest to shore at this place,
beyond which he did not dare to advance, and in venturing whither
he had given sufficient testimony of love for his native country.

We did not enter the Tajo till noon, when, after passing several
old castles and other buildings which had greatly the aspect of
ruins, we came to the castle of Bellisle, where we had a full
prospect of Lisbon, and were, indeed, within three miles of it.

Here we were saluted with a gun, which was a signal to pass no
farther till we had complied with certain ceremonies which the
laws of this country require to be observed by all ships which
arrive in this port. We were obliged then to cast anchor, and
expect the arrival of the officers of the customs, without whose
passport no ship must proceed farther than this place.

Here likewise we received a visit from one of those magistrates
of health before mentioned. He refused to come on board the ship
till every person in her had been drawn up on deck and personally
viewed by him. This occasioned some delay on my part, as it was
not the work of a minute to lift me from the cabin to the deck.
The captain thought my particular case might have been excused
from this ceremony, and that it would be abundantly sufficient if
the magistrate, who was obliged afterwards to visit the cabin,
surveyed me there. But this did not satisfy the magistrate's
strict regard to his duty. When he was told of my lameness, he
called out, with a voice of authority, "Let him be brought up,"
and his orders were presently complied with. He was, indeed, a
person of great dignity, as well as of the most exact fidelity in
the discharge of his trust. Both which are the more admirable as
his salary is less than thirty pounds English per annum.

Before a ship hath been visited by one of those magistrates no
person can lawfully go on board her, nor can any on board depart
from her. This I saw exemplified in a remarkable instance. The
young lad whom I have mentioned as one of our passengers was here
met by his father, who, on the first news of the captain's
arrival, came from Lisbon to Bellisle in a boat, being eager to
embrace a son whom he had not seen for many years. But when he
came alongside our ship neither did the father dare ascend nor
the son descend, as the magistrate of health had not yet been on
board. Some of our readers will, perhaps, admire the great
caution of this policy, so nicely calculated for the preservation
of this country from all pestilential distempers. Others will as
probably regard it as too exact and formal to be constantly
persisted in, in seasons of the utmost safety, as well as in
times of danger. I will not decide either way, but will content
myself with observing that I never yet saw or heard of a place
where a traveler had so much trouble given him at his landing as
here. The only use of which, as all such matters begin and end
in form only, is to put it into the power of low and mean fellows
to be either rudely officious or grossly corrupt, as they shall
see occasion to prefer the gratification of their pride or of
their avarice.

Of this kind, likewise, is that power which is lodged with other
officers here, of taking away every grain of snuff and every leaf
of tobacco brought hither from other countries, though only for
the temporary use of the person during his residence here. This
is executed with great insolence, and, as it is in the hands of
the dregs of the people, very scandalously; for, under pretense
of searching for tobacco and snuff, they are sure to steal
whatever they can find, insomuch that when they came on board our
sailors addressed us in the Covent-garden language: "Pray,
gentlemen and ladies, take care of your swords and watches."
Indeed, I never yet saw anything equal to the contempt
and hatred which our honest tars every moment expressed
for these Portuguese officers.

At Bellisle lies buried Catharine of Arragon, widow of prince
Arthur, eldest son of our Henry VII, afterwards married to, and
divorced from Henry VIII. Close by the church where her remains
are deposited is a large convent of Geronymites, one of the most
beautiful piles of building in all Portugal.

In the evening, at twelve, our ship, having received previous
visits from all the necessary parties, took the advantage of
the tide, and having sailed up to Lisbon cast anchor there, in a
calm and moonshiny night, which made the passage incredibly
pleasant to the women, who remained three hours enjoying it,
whilst I was left to the cooler transports of enjoying their
pleasures at second-hand; and yet, cooler as they may be, whoever
is totally ignorant of such sensation is, at the same time, void
of all ideas of friendship.

Wednesday.--Lisbon, before which we now lay at anchor, is said to
be built on the same number of hills with old Rome; but these do
not all appear to the water; on the contrary, one sees from
thence one vast high hill and rock, with buildings arising above
one another, and that in so steep and almost perpendicular a
manner, that they all seem to have but one foundation.

As the houses, convents, churches, &c., are large, and all built
with white stone, they look very beautiful at a distance; but as
you approach nearer, and find them to want every kind of
ornament, all idea of beauty vanishes at once. While I was
surveying the prospect of this city, which bears so little
resemblance to any other that I have ever seen, a reflection
occurred to me that, if a man was suddenly to be removed from
Palmyra hither, and should take a view of no other city, in how
glorious a light would the ancient architecture appear to him!
and what desolation and destruction of arts and sciences would he
conclude had happened between the several eras of these cities!

I had now waited full three hours upon deck for the return of my
man, whom I had sent to bespeak a good dinner (a thing which had
been long unknown to me) on shore, and then to bring a Lisbon
chaise with him to the seashore; but it seems the impertinence of
the providore was not yet brought to a conclusion. At three
o'clock, when I was from emptiness, rather faint than hungry, my
man returned, and told me there was a new law lately made that no
passenger should set his foot on shore without a special order
from the providore, and that he himself would have been sent to
prison for disobeying it, had he not been protected as the
servant of the captain. He informed me likewise that the captain
had been very industrious to get this order, but that it was then
the providore's hour of sleep, a time when no man, except the
king himself, durst disturb him.

To avoid prolixity, though in a part of my narrative which may be
more agreeable to my reader than it was to me, the providore,
having at last finished his nap, dispatched this absurd matter of
form, and gave me leave to come, or rather to be carried, on shore.

What it was that gave the first hint of this strange law is not
easy to guess. Possibly, in the infancy of their defection, and
before their government could be well established, they were
willing to guard against the bare possibility of surprise, of the
success of which bare possibility the Trojan horse will remain
for ever on record, as a great and memorable example. Now the
Portuguese have no walls to secure them, and a vessel of two or
three hundred tons will contain a much larger body of troops than
could be concealed in that famous machine, though Virgil tells us
(somewhat hyperbolically, I believe) that it was as big as a

About seven in the evening I got into a chaise on shore, and was
driven through the nastiest city in the world, though at the same
time one of the most populous, to a kind of coffee-house, which
is very pleasantly situated on the brow of a hill, about a mile
from the city, and hath a very fine prospect of the river Tajo
from Lisbon to the sea. Here we regaled ourselves with a good
supper, for which we were as well charged as if the bill had been
made on the Bath-road, between Newbury and London.

And now we could joyfully say,

Egressi optata Troes potiuntur arena.

Therefore, in the words of Horace,

--hie Finis chartaeque viaeque.

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