A Voyage to the East-Indies

An Account of the Isles of Madagascar, and Mascareigne, of Suratte, the Coast of Malabar, of Goa, Gameron, Ormus, and the Coast of Brasil, with the Religion, Customs, Trade, &c. Of the Inhabitants, as also a Treatise, of the Distempers peculiar to the Eastern Countries.
To which is Annexed an Abstract of Monsieur de Rennefort's History of the East-Indies, with his Propositions for the improvement of the East-India Company.

Written Originally in French,
LONDON, Printed for D. Browne, at the Black-Swan without Temple-Bar; A. Roper, at the Black-Boy; and T. Leigh, at the Peacock, both in Fleet-Street, 1698.



1.1. PART. I.

[Page 23]

1.1.1. CHAP. IX.
Of their Feasts,

THe common Food of the Inhabitants of this Island Dauphine or Madagascar, is Rice boil'd with Salt and Water, which serves them instead of Bread; not but that the Ground will bring forth good Wheat, but the laziness of those, who should cultivate it, deprives them of the advantage of this so useful Commodity. They are great Eaters.They are all in general vast Eaters; nevertheless if a Famine happens, they are able to endure it with a prodigious Constancy, as when on the other hand they are at liberty to eat their fill, six of them will eat a good Ox at a Meal.

[Page 24]

In their Feasts they observe the following method; in the middle of the Assembly, which lie all round about upon the Ground, they set a good quantity of boiled Rice; then they lay a whole Ox, (or sometimes two or three, according to the number of the Guests) extended upon his Hide, which serves instead of a Dish; every one cuts a good piece for himself where he pleases, which having put upon a Wooden Stick, he holds it a little to the Fire, and so devours it before it be half roasted.

There is good store of Grapes in this Island, but they make seldom any Wine of them; nay, the Negroes will scarce touch them to eat; for before the French came into the Isle, they look'd upon them as Poison. Hydromel.They make their Drink out of Honey, which they call Tenteb, and their Wine Chictenteb, which signifies as much as Honey Wine, or as we call it, Hydromel: The French rarely use any other, and prefer it before Wine.

In each Village there is a large publick Hall, open on all sides, covered only on the Roof, where they put upon any Solemn occasion, a great Vessel with this Hydromel, containing three or four Hogsheads, according to the Number of People inhabiting the Village, and the Rohundrian having ordered a proportionable quantity of Beef and Rice to be brought thither, he himself follows in Person, and thus entertains his Subjects from Morning till Night.

[Page 25]

1.1.2. CHAP. X.
Of Locusts Crocodiles and Camelions.

THere is scarce any body so ignorant, but what knows, how God Almighty in former ages made use of Locusts to afflict the Aegyptians, and to reduce Pharaoh to Obedience; the same Providence does also to this day, send this Plague at certain times among the Inhabitants of Madagascar, where they sometimes are to be seen in such prodigious Numbers, that they lay that part of the Country, were they pass, quite desolate, and occasion such a Famine, that the Cattle die for want of food, it being not the custom of the Negroes, to lay any thing for future use. I was once my self an eye-witness of such a dreadful inundation, which happening in the Month of February, began at six o' Clock in the Morning, and continued till Noon, there was such an infinite Number of them, as that they fill'd the whole Air, and quite darkned the Sky. Yet notwithstanding, that it was a very serene and ear day, these few Hours were sufficient to destroy all the Fruits of the Earth. They are no bigger than in France, but they fly much further; they are driven along by the Wind, and it is a good chance if the Wind happens to blow them towards Sea, where they commonly find their Graves the Salt Water; some are of Opinion, that they are carried hither from the Continent of Africa, but cannot agree with this Opinion, by reason of the vast distance of the African Coast from the Isle of Madagascar. The Negroes eat them, to revenge them elves, as they say, upon their Carcasses, for the Evils they make them endure; and I have seen some [Page 26] French eat them, with as good an Appetite, as Blacks, who all affirm, that they are of a very good taste.

There are a great number of Crocodiles in the Lakes and Rivers of this Island; the Inhabitants call them Crocodiles.Jacaret, which renders the passages by Water very dangerous, because they will attack the People in their Canots; to prevent which, Negroes make a great Noise as they are passing the Lakes, which keeps them at a distance. This is an Amphibious Animal, as well as the Tortoise, it does not differ from the Lizard, but only in bigness. There are some of thirty or fourty Foot long at the least Noise, they make the best of their way towards the Water, where they shelter themselves. We once kill'd one in the Indies, where they are as frequent as in Madagascar. At our approach, it look'd steadfastly upon us, neither would he go from the place, till we discharged our Fuzee at him which wounded him under the Scales, as good luck would have it, for their Scales are inpenetrable; later he found himself Wounded, he run from us making not the least stop, till after he had run forty paces, his Spirits beginning to fail, he stood still making a most terrible Noise with his Jaws, the undermost of which is unmoveable; at last we dispatch'd him, and Prince Onitri, of whom we shall have occasion to speak hereafter, ordered him to be fetcht from thence.

Experience has sufficiently convinced us, that what has been related concerning the Crocodile, how they draw the Passengers into the Snare, in order to surprize and devour them, is a meer Fable as is also what has been invented concerning their Spittle, which they leave behind them: As soon as they are got a shoar, their natural Courage, Activity and Strength leaves them.

Of this, we saw an instance in a young Frenchman, who Washing himself one day in a certain Lake, called the Sweet Lake, was all on a sudden surprized and attack'd by a Crocodile, who seized [Page 27] him by the Leg. Notwithstanding the painfulness of his Wound, he did not loose Courage, but recollecting himself as well as he could, he watch'd his opportunity so well as to take hold of the Crocodile's upper Jaw, which being a long moveable he dragg'd him thus, with an incredible resolution, to the Shoar of the Lake. He had receiv'd 6 Wounds in this Engagement with the Crocodile, and lost abundance of Blood, but was by the help of proper Remedies afterwards perfectly restored. That which indeed most contributed towards the obtaining this Victory, was, that this Crocodile was none of the biggest.

Crocodiles in great esteem with the Negroes.The Negroes consider the Crocodile no otherwise than a Devil, they Swear by him when they intend to assever any thing for a real Truth. If there be any Contest betwixt two Parties, they appear on the Shoar of a Lake or River; he that as to confirm the Truth of his Affirmation by Oath, plunges himself into the River, Conjures and Prays the Jacaret, to be Arbitrators betwixt him and his Enemy, and to decide their Quarrel; to let him Live if he speaks Truth, and to devour him instantly if he affirms any thing contrary to it. And this they make use of for a Tryal of the Guilt or Innocency of him who thus commits himself to the decision of the Crocodile in the Water.

Before I conclude this Chapter, I must say something concerning the Camelion.Camelion. This is a little Creature, not unlike a Lizard, but its Back somewhat rounder and higher, and its Head not so broad. Its Skin is so transparent, that it receives and reflects the same Colour with those things upon which it is found; among all other Colours the Black makes the most lively impression upon it; but it retains neither any longer than it is near the same thing, from whence it had derived its Colour.

As I had often heard it affirm'd positively for Truth, that it lived upon nothing but the Air, I [Page 28] had the Curiosity to open several of them, which I found full of Flies, Live upon Flies.from whence I conjecture, that these are their ordinary Food and Nourishment.


1.2. PART II.

[Page 200]

1.2.1. CHAP. XXVI.
Of the Inhabitants of Brasil.

NOT to entangle my self here in a tedious digression, and distinction of the Inhabitants of this Country; I will only tell you in a few words, That the Native Brasilians are to this day, Idolaters; That they are much addicted to Witchcraft, or at least are reputed so to be; they are very superstitious, have neither Temples nor Feasts, and adore the Devil. Their Hair they wear of a great length, their Complexion is swarthy, they go Naked, are naturally Brave and Nimble, and never forgive an Injury. Their Arms are only a few Arrows, which instead of Iron, are provided with a bone of a Fish at the end; and if any of them make use of Iron, they are such as have got it by the conversation with the Europeans. They are not unskilful in Husbandry, but are more addicted to Hunting and Fishing. They eat all sorts of Flesh, and as they never lay up any Provisions for future use, so they endure Famine upon an occasion with an unparallell'd constancy. They are naturally Warlike, and always at Wars with one another; such of their Enemies as they take Prisoners, they Fetter, and publickly kill them, and so eat them. Brasilians eat their dead Friend.They don't even interr their dead Friends, but devour them, even sometimes before the breath is out of their Bodies. For if they judge their Friends past all [Page 201] hopes of recovery, they kill them for fear they should grow lean before they die; and because they would husband their Dead Friends to the best advantage, they dry their Bones, which they beat to Powder, and make up in a kind of a pap, and so eat it. When the Europeans upbraid them with their Cruelties, they return us for answer, that we are a Company of impious wretches, who suffer our Friends and Parents to be consumed in the Earth by the Vermine, when we might with more reason afford them our Belly for their Burying-place.

The Portugueses in Brasil.The Portugueses in Brasil, live here for the most part after the same manner as they do in other places, where they have settled their Colonies. They have very good Forts in several parts of the Country. They compel the Neighbouring Brasilians to obey them, and are so well provided in their Garrisons as not to stand in fear either of the Brasilians or Europeans, in case they should come to Attack them.

Whenever any of the Portugueses have the misfortune to fall into the hands of the Wild Brasilians, whether by the chance of War, or any other mishap, they receive the same treatment as we have mentioned before; and these on the other hand retaliate upon such, as they become Masters of, the Cruelties committed against their Country-Men, and in lieu of one Death, make them to undergo what is a thousand times worse, I mean, the most cruel Slavery in the World; all what is left for the Brasilians to do in this case is either voluntarily to submit to the Portugueses, or, if they find themselves not strong enough to resist them, to fly and shelter themselves in more remote Countries.

The Portugueses prompted by an Ambition to extend their borders, send constantly abroad their Parties, who by degrees, as they Conquer these Barbarians, curb them by some Forts, which they Build in their new Conquests. Whilst I was there, I was credibly informed that they had extended [Page 202] their Conquests above 80 Leagues deep into the Country. They are very careful in instructing the Brasilians, both Free and Slaves in the principles of the Christian Religion; and there are some among the Portugueses who have Married these Barbarian Women, who tho' otherwise of a good Complexion and handsome enough, yet in their Behaviour sufficiently shew the remnants of that Barbarous Blood from whence they drew their offspring, and by which they are easily distinguish'd from the Portuguese Women.

The Slavery in Brasil.The vast number of Slaves used by the Portugueses in Brasil, and the Hardship wherewith they are treated, not having a sufficient allowance for their sustenance, and being to be Punished in a most severe manner for the least fault, proves the occasion of great disorders and outrages, which are committed by the Slaves, both in City and Country. They are for the most part Negroes, brought thither from Angola, and the Guinea Coast, their chief Employment being to work in making of Sugars, and Planting of Tobacco. They are brought to Market in whole Droves, where they are Bought and Sold no otherwise than we do our Cattle. Those who have great Plantations have several hundreds of them at a time, who are under the tuition of certain Commissaries, who are sometimes more cruel than their Masters. Those who have no Grounds of their own, give their Slaves leave to work where they can, provided they pay them a certain Tax Monthly or Weekly. Those who work in their Master's Ground being used with so much severity, if they fail to perform their Task, and the rest being commonly overtasked by their Covetous Masters, this makes them Rob and Steal whereever they come in the Country, and being reduced to despair, they often revenge themselves upon others for the Torments they are forced to endure at home.

If these Vagabond Slaves render the High-ways in the Country very dangerous, it is no less troublesome [Page 203] to walk the Streets at Night in the Cities; where, notwithstanding all the precautions, and the severe Punishments inflicted upon all such as are Convicted of these Crimes, they commit frequent Robberies in the Streets.

This is a selection from the original text


famine, food, nourish, rice, river, water

Source text

Title: A Voyage to the East-Indies

Author: Gabriel Dellon

Publication date: 1698

Edition: 2nd Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Early English Books Online at http://eebo.chadwyck.com/home. Bibliographic name / number: Wing (2nd ed.) / D943A Bibliographic name / number: Arber's Term cat. / III 93 Physical description: [30], 248, 43 p. Copy from: British Library Reel position: Wing / 180:01

Digital edition

Original author(s): Gabriel Dellon

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) title page,part I, ch 9, 10; Part II, ch 26.


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

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Genre: Britain > non-fiction prose > travel narratives and reports

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