« AnteriorContinuar »
attended with some circumstances still more dreadful than the former. On a sudden I heard a general outcry, “ the sea is coming in, we shall be all lost.” Upon this, turning my eyes towards the river, which in that place is near four miles broad, I could perceive it heaving and swelling in a most unaccountable manner, as no wind was stirring. In an instant there appeared, at some small distance, a large body of water, rising as it were like a mountain. It came on foaming and roaring, and rushed towards the shore with such impetuosity, that we all immediately ran for our lives as fast as possible; many were actually swept away, and the rest above their waist in water at a good distance from the banks. For my own part, I had the narrowest escape, and should certainly have been lost, had I not grasped a large beam that lay on the ground, till the water returned to its channel, which it did almost at the same instant, with equal rapidity. As there now appeared at least as much danger from the sea as the land, and I scarce knew whither to retire for shelter, I took a sudden resolution of returning back, with my clothes all dripping, to the area of St. Paul's. Here I stood some time, and observed the ships tumbling and tossing about as in a violent storm; some had broken their cables, and were carried to the other side of the Tagus; others were whirled round with incredible swiftness; several large boats were turned keel upwards; and all this without any wind, which seemed the more astonishing. It was at the time of which I am now speaking, that the fine new quay, built entirely of rough marble, at an immense expense, was entirely swallowed up, with all the people on it, who had fled thither for safety, and had reason to think themselves out of danger in such a place : at the same time, a great number of boats and small vessels, anchored near it, (all likewise full of people, who had retired thither for the same purpose,) were all swallowed up, as in a whirlpool, and never more appeared.
This last dreadful incident I did not see with my own eyes, as it passed three or four stones' throws from the spot where I then was, but I had the account as here given from several masters of ships, who were anchored within two or three hundred yards of the quay, and saw the whole catastrophe. One of them in particular informed me, that when the second shock came on, he could perceive the whole city waving backwards and forwards, like the sea when the wind first begins to rise; that the agitation of the earth was so great even under the river,
that it threw up his large anchor from the mooring, which swam, as he termed it, on the surface of the water; that immediately upon this extraordinary concussion, the river rose at once near twenty feet, and in a moment subsided; at which instant he saw the quay, with the whole concourse of people upon it, sink down, and at the same time every one of the boats and vessels that were near it, were drawn into the cavity, which he supposes instantly closed upon them, inasmuch as not the least sign of a wreck was ever seen afterwards. This account you may give full credit to, for as to the loss of the vessels, it is confirmed by everybody; and with regard to the quay, I went myself a few days after to convince myself of the truth, and could not find even the ruins of a place, where I had taken so many agreeable walks, as this was the common rendezvous of the factory in the cool of the evening. I found it all deep water, and in some parts scarcely to be fathomed.
This is the only place I could learn which was swallowed up in or about Lisbon, though I saw many large cracks and fissures in different parts; and one odd phenomenon I must not omit, which was communicated to me by a friend—who has a house and wine-cellars on the other side the river, viz., that the dwelling-house being first terribly shaken, which made all the family run out, there presently fell down a vast high rock near it; that upon this the river rose and subsided in the manner already mentioned, and immediately a great number of small fissures appeared in several contiguous pieces of ground, from whence there spouted out, like a jet d'eau, a large quantity of fine white sand to a prodigious height. It is not to be doubted the bowels of the earth must have been excessively agitated to cause these surprising effects; but whether the shocks were owing to any sudden explosion of various minerals mixing together, or to air pent up, and struggling for vent, or to a collection of subterraneous waters forcing a passage, God only knows. As to the fiery eruptions then talked of, I believe they are without foundation, though it is certain, I heard several complaining of strong sulphureous smells, a dizziness in their heads, a sickness in their stomachs, and difficulty of respiration, not that I felt any such symptoms myself.
I had not been long in the area of St. Paul's, when I felt the third shock, which though somewhat less violent than the two former, the sea rushed in again, and retireil with the same rapidity, and I remained up to my knees in water, though I had gotten upon a small eminence at some distance from the river, with the ruins of several intervening houses to break its force. At this time I took notice the waters retired so impetuously, that some vessels were left quite dry, which rode in seven fathom water; the river thus continued alternately rushing on and retiring several times together, in such sort, that it was justly dreaded Lisbon would now meet the same fate which a few years before had befallen the city of Lima; and no doubt had this place lain open to the sea, and the force of the waves not been somewhat broken by the winding of the bay, the lower parts of it at least would have been totally destroyed.
The master of a vessel, which arrived here just after the 1st of November, assured me, that he felt the shock above forty leagues at sea so sensibly, that he really concluded he had struck upon a rock, till he threw out the lead, and could find no bottom, nor could he possibly guess at the cause, till the melancholy sight of this desolate city left him no room to doubt of it. The two first shocks, in fine, were so violent, that several pilots were of opinion, the situation of the bar, at the mouth of the Tagus, was changed. Certain it is, that one vessel, attempting to pass through the usual channel, foundered, and another struck on the sands, and was at first given over for lost, but at length got through. There was another great shock after this, which pretty much affected the river, but I think not so violently as the preceding, though several persons assured me, that as they were riding on horseback in the great road leading to Belem, one side of which lies open to the river, the waves rushed in with so much rapidity, that they were obliged to gallop as fast as possible to the upper grounds, for fear of being carried away.
I was now in such a situation, that I knew not which way to turn myself; if I remained there, I was in danger from the sea; if I retired further from the shore, the houses threatened certain destruction; and, at last, I resolved to go to the Mint, which being a low and very strong building, had received no considerable damage, except in some of the apartments towards the river. The party of soldiers, which is every day set there on guard, had all deserted the place, and the only person that remained was the commanding officer, a nobleman's son, of about seventeen or eighteen years of age, whom I found standing at the gate. As there was still a continued tremor of the earth, and the place where we now stood (being within twenty or thirty feet of the opposite houses, which were all tottering) appeared too dangerous, the court-yard likewise being full of water, we both retired inward to a hillock of stones and rubbish: here I entered into conversation with him, and having expressed my admiration that one so young should have the courage to keep his post, when every one of his soldiers had deserted theirs, the answer he made was, though he were sure the earth would open and swallow him up, he scorned to think of flying from his post. In short, it was owing to the magnanimity of this young man that the Mint, which at this time had upwards of two millions of money in it, was not robbed; and indeed I do him no more than justice, in saying, that I never saw any one behave with equal serenity and composure, on occasions much less dreadful than the present. I believe I might remain in conversation with him near five hours; and though I was now grown faint from the constant fatigue I had undergone, and having not yet broken my fast, yet this had not so much effect upon me as the anxiety I was under for a particular friend, with whom I was to have dined that day, and who, lodging at the top of a very high house in the heart of the city, and being a stranger to the language, could not but be in the utmost danger; my concern, therefore, for his preservation, made me determine, at all events, to go and see what was become of him, upon which I took my leave of the officer.
As I thought it would be the height of rashness to venture back through the same narrow street I had so providentially escaped from, I judged it safest to return over the ruins of St. Paul's to the river side, as the water now seemed little agitated. From hence I proceeded, with some hazard, to the large space before the Irish convent of Corpo Santo, which had been thrown down, and buried a great number of people who were hearing mass, besides some of the friars ; the rest of the community were standing in the area, looking, with dejected countenances, towards the ruins : from this place I took my way to the back street leading to the palace, leaving the ship-yard on one side, but found the further passage, opening into the principal street, stopped up by the ruins of the Opera House, one of the
solidest and most magnificent buildings of the kind in Europe, and just finished at a prodigious expense; a vast heap of stones, each of several tons weight, had entirely blocked up the front of Mr. Bristow's house, which was opposite to it, and Mr. Ward, his partner, told me the next day, that he was just that instant going out at the door, and had actually set one foot over the threshold, when the west end of the Opera House fell down, and had he not in a moment started
ack, he should have been crushed into a thousand pieces.
From hence I turned back, and attempted getting by the other way into the great square of the palace, twice as large as Lincoln's Inn Fields, one side of which had been taken up by the noble quay I spoke of, now no more; but this passage was likewise obstructed by the stones fallen from the great arched gateway: I could not help taking particular notice, that all the apartments wherein the royal family used to reside, were thrown down, and themselves, without some extraordinary miracle, must unavoidably have perished, had they been there at the time of the shock. Finding this passage impracticable, I turned to the other arched way which led to the new square of the palace, not the eighth part so spacious as the other, one side of which was taken up by the Patriarchal Church, which also served for the Chapel Royal, and the other by a most magnificent building of modern architecture, probably indeed by far the most so, not yet completely finished; as to the former, the roof and part of the front walls were thrown down, and the latter, notwithstanding their solidity, had been so shaken, that veral large stones fell from the top, and every part seemed disjointed. The square was full of coaches, chaises, horses, and mules, deserted by their drivers and attendants, as well as their
The nobility, gentry, and clergy, who were assisting at divine service when the earthquake began, fled away with the utmost precipitation, every one where his fears carried him, leaving the splendid apparatus of the numerous altars to the mercy of the first comer; but this did not so much affect me, as the distress of the poor animals, who seemed sensible of their hard fate, some few were killed, others wounded, but the greater part, which had received no hurt, were left there to starve.
From this square, the way led to my friend's lodgings, through a long, steep, and narrow street; the new scenes of horror I met with