We anchored in Funchal Roads, island of Madeira, on Saturday the lath of October, without experiencing any remarkable event.
When approaching the island of Madeira, it exhibits to the eye a strikingly beautiful and picturesque view. The uneven surface of the hills, covered with plantations of vines, and various kinds of herbage, with the exception of partial spots burnt up by the heat of the sun in the dry season, displays a singular perspective, which, with the beautiful appearance of the interspersed villas, churches, and monasteries, form an arrangement both exquisite and delightful.
After being visited by the boat of health, our party proceeded on shore in the evening; and upon being made known to the house of Messrs. Murdoch, Masterton, and Co. were politely invited to breakfast the ensuing morning.
At our appearance, in conformity with our appointment, we were introduced into the breakfast parlour by Mr. Wardrope, one of the acting partners, to his lady and sister, who received us with engaging civilities and attention.
After our friendly meal, we perambulated the town of Funchal, and attended chapel, which so far from being a house of devotion, presented to our contemplation a rendezvous for intrigue and the retirement of a conversazione.
Funchiale or Funchal, takes its derivation from Funcho, signifying in the Portuguese language, Fennel; it is situated at the bottom of a bay, and may be considered disproportionate to the island, in extent and appearance, as it is ill built, and the streets remarkably narrow and ill paved. The churches are decorated with ornaments, and pictures of images and saints, most wretchedly executed: I understand, however, that a much better taste is displayed in the convents, more especially that of the Franciscans, in which is a small chapel, exhibiting the disgusting view of human skulls and thigh bones lining its walls. The thigh bones form a cross, and the skulls are placed in each of the four angles.
Nature has been very bountiful in her favours to Madeira; its soil is rich and various, and its climate is salubrious and versatile; it abounds in natural productions, and only requires the fostering hand of the husbandman to produce every necessary, and almost luxury, of life. Walnuts, chesnuts, and apples, flourish in the hills, almost spontaneously, and guanas, mangoes, and bananas, in wild exuberance. At the country residence of James Gordon, Esq. where we dined, and met with the most distinguished hospitality, I saw a most surprising instance of rapid growth; a shoot of the tree, called the Limbriera Royal, started up, perpendicularly from the trunk, to a height of nearly thirty feet, from the month of January to that of October: it is, however, to be observed, that the branches were lopped off, and it is supposed the juices of the trunk communicated to this stem.
Corn of a very good quality grows in this island, and might be produced in plenty, but the inhabitants, whose characteristic is idleness, neglect its culture, and thereby subject themselves to the necessity of relying upon foreign imports. Their beef, mutton, and pork, are remarkably good, and they have game in the mountains.