Matkin finds Bahia exceptionally beautiful and describes
the tropical paradise:
21st from Bahia
I have been on shore & had a good walk about the town &
into the country. I was more surprised at the luxuriant vegetation
than with anythging else here. The Creepers & Tropical plants
grow as thick as a jungle, and the flowers & trees are beautiful.
The Banana tree is the most prolific of all in the world, and I
believe it bears 15 times more abundantly than Wheat. The Cocoa
Nut Palm & Bread Fruit Trees are most handsome, the latter also
bears most plentifully & the Fruit i svery pretty, & about
as large as a Child's head, the rind being irregularlike Maize when
ripe. Guavas, Custard Apples, and Alligator pears also grow here
to perfection, & Pine apples to an enormous size. The Birds
& Butterflies are magnificent, I think Humming Birds most attractive,
they are like flying gems, and their plumage shines like gold, perching
on to flowers as bees, & some of them are no larger if it were
not for their tails. I shall bring some stuffed ones home with me
from Rio Janeiro....
The social conditions, however, belie this idyllic setting:
part of these negroes are slaves, and are let out for hire by their
masters for about 6d per day. We had about 60 of them getting in
our coal, while the ship's Company went on leave, and they got in
200 tons a day. They live chiefly on Manioc flour, the same root
from which Tapioca is made. Bahia is a well built town, the houses
are of stone, & 5 or 6 storeys high, but the streets are very
narrow, & stink fearfully, the negroes empty all their refuse
&c into the streets from the top story, and if ever you come
here bye sure to walk in the middle of the street. No wonder that
Yellow Fever makes such havoc in this country, when the streets
are so narrow & badly drained.
He continues describing the town, expressing some distaste for the area's
predominant religious presence:
is not very wide, but nearly 6 miles in length, & I never was
in such a place for churches, which of course are all Roman Catholics,
and such gaudy rubbishy affairs inside, all candles, pictures and
gilding. There is a Cathedral which is a little better than the
churches, inside & out as well, but even that is nothing compared
to one of our own at home.
Some good international relations are also practiced at
of us is a large American Man of War called the "Lancaster"
but their men are not allowed on shore, as half of them ran away
at Rio; they are paid very irregularly and bolt at every good opportunity.
As far as we have gone in this ship the deserters have been the
very worst among the ship's company. The American Admiral was on
board yesterday looking over the ship; & we have had a great
many visitors off to the ship. Our Brass Band plays "Hail Columbia"
after "God Save the Queen" every evening at 8 o'clock.