The diary of John Evelyn

Regular posts from the diary of John Evelyn

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Sunday 16 October 1644

We got to anchor under the Pharos, or watch-tower, built on a high rock at the mouth of the Mole ((“A mole is a massive structure, usually of stone, used as a pier, breakwater, or a causeway between places separated by water” – Wikipedia, GS)) of Genoa ((“ At first it was onely a little Fort for to help to bridle Genua, and it was built by Lewis the XII. of France ” (Lassels, Voyage of Italy, 1670, i. p. 84).)), the weather being still so foul that for two hours at least we durst not stand into the haven.

The Mole and Lanterna of Genoa, Detail from “Genova (Genoa)” by Braun and Hogenberg from Civitates Orbis Terrarum. 1572

Toward evening we adventured, and came on shore by the Prattique-house ((In this case, quarantine clearance or “prattique” was provided by the Lazaretto or Plague house in Genoa -GS)), where, after strict examination by the Syndics, we were had to the Ducal Palace, and there our names being taken, we were conducted to our inn, kept by one Zacharias ((Possibly Simon Zacarias – a ship’s pilot of this name was shipwrecked off Swan islands (Honduras) in 1610 or 1611.  He apparently also built a ship from the remains of the shipwreck to make his escape (Source) -GS)) has was , an Englishman. I shall never forget a story of our host Zachary, who, on the relation of our peril, told us another of his own, being shipwrecked, as he affirmed solemnly, in the middle of a great sea somewhere in the West Indies, that he swam no less than twenty-two leagues ((A unit of distance that is variable as it is based on the distance one can walk in an hour i.e., between three and six miles.  -AD)) to another island, with a tinderbox wrapped up in his hair, which was not so much as wet all the way; that picking up the carpenter’s tools with other provisions in a chest, he and the carpenter, who accompanied him (good swimmers it seems both), floated the chest before them; and, arriving at last in a place full of wood, they built another vessel, and so escaped! After this story, we no more talked of our danger; Zachary put us quite down.

“Genoa: A Sea View of the Lazaretto” from John Howard’s 1789 book “An Account of the Principal Lazarettos in Europe.”

Saturday 15 October 1644

Here, on the 15th, forsaking our galley, we encountered a little foul weather, which made us creep terra, terra ((“To coast or sail along the shore” -GS)), as they call it, and so a vessel that encountered us advised us to do; but our patron, striving to double the point of Savona, making out into the wind put us into great hazard; for blowing very hard from land between those horrid gaps of the mountains, it set so violently, as raised on the sudden so great a sea, that we could not recover the weather-shore for many hours, insomuch that, what with the water already entered, and the confusion of fearful passengers (of which one was an Irish bishop, and his brother, a priest, were confessing some as at the article of death), we were almost abandoned to despair, our pilot himself giving us up for lost. And now, as we were weary with pumping and laving out the water, almost sinking, it pleased God on the sudden to appease the wind, and with much ado and great peril we recovered the shore, which we now kept in view within half a league in sight of those pleasant villas, and within scent of those fragrant orchards which are on this coast, full of princely retirements for the sumptuousness of their buildings, and nobleness of the plantations, especially those at St. Pietro d’Arena; from whence, the wind blowing as it did, might perfectly be smelt the peculiar joys of Italy in the perfumes of orange, citron, and jasmine flowers, for divers leagues seaward. ((Evelyn seems to have been much enchanted by the fragrancy of the air of this coast, for he has noticed it again in his dedication of the “Fumifugium,” to Charles the Second. – AD.  From the dedication:

“Those  who take notice of the Sent of the Orange-flowers from the Rivage of Genöa, and  St.Pietro dell’Arena; the Blossomes of the Rosemary from the Coasts of Spain many  Leagues off at Sea; or the manifest, and odoriferous wasts which flow from Fontenay and  Vaugirard, even to Paris in the season of Roses, with the contrary Effects of those less  pleasing smells from other accidents, will easily consent to what I suggest: (i.e. that it is wise to plant sweet-smelling trees).”Miscellaneous Writings, 1825, p. 208.  –AD“))

Friday 14 October 1644

The next morning, we coasted in view of the Isle of Corsica, and St. Remo, where the shore is furnished with evergreens, oranges, citrons, and date trees; we lay at Port Mauritio. The next morning by Diano, Araisso, famous for the best coral fishing, growing in abundance on the rocks, deep and continually covered by the sea. By Albenga and Finale, a very fair and strong town belonging to the King of Spain, for which reason a monsieur in our vessel was extremely afraid, as was the patron of our bark, for they frequently catch French prizes as they creep by these shores to go into Italy; he therefore plied both sails and oars, to get under the protection of a Genoese galley that passed not far before us, and in whose company we sailed as far as the Cape of Savona, a town built at the rise of the Apennines: for all this coast (except a little of St. Remo) is a high and steep mountainous ground, consisting all of rock-marble, without any grass, tree, or rivage, formidable to look on. A strange object it is, to consider how some poor cottages stand fast on the declivities of these precipices, and by what steps the inhabitants ascend to them.

The rock consists of all sorts of the most precious marbles.

Thursday 13 October 1644

In the morning, we were hastened away, having no time permitted us by our avaricious master to go up and see this strong and considerable place, which now belongs to a prince of the family of Grimaldi, of Genoa, who has put both it and himself under the protection of the French. The situation is on a promontory of solid stone and rock. The town walls very fair. We were told that within it was an ample court, and a palace, furnished with the most rich and princely movables, and a collection of statues, pictures, and massy plate to an immense amount.

“Veue de la Ville et Forteresse // De Monaco” by unknown artist. Source: BnF. 1695-1713.

We sailed by Menton and Ventimiglia, being the first city of the republic of Genoa; supped at Oneglia, where we anchored and lay on shore.

Thursday 12 October 1644

and, having procured a bill of health (without which there is no admission at any town in Italy), we embarked on the 12th.

We touched at the islands of St. Margaret and St. Honorat, lately retaken from the Spaniards with great bravery by Prince Harcourt ((Henri de Lorrain, Count of Harcourt, recovered the isles of St Margaret and St Honorer in 1637.  The islands had been taken by the Spaniards in 1635 – GS)). Here, having paid some small duty, we bought some trifles offered us by the soldiers, but without going on shore. Hence, we coasted within two leagues of Antibes, which is the utmost town in France. Thence by Nice, a city in Savoy, built all of brick, which gives it a very pleasant appearance toward the sea, having a very high castle which commands it.

“Monaco-capo-di-san-spirito-und-nizza” by Matthäus Merian. 1650. Source: Unknown.

We sailed by Morgus, now called Monaco, having passed Villa Franca, heretofore Portus Herculis, when, arriving after the gates were shut, we were forced to abide all night in the barge, which was put into the haven, the wind coming contrary.

Tuesday 10 October 1644

The next day, we lay at Périgueux ((This does not make sense – Périgueux is at least 600km away from the previous day’s town and it seems that Evelyn was on his way to Cannes, which according to the diary he reached the following day.  It seems unlikely that Evelyn would have been able to do this – perhaps more likely that this entry is placed in the wrong date -GS)) , a city built on an old foundation; witness the ruins of a most stately amphitheatre, which I went out to design, being about a flight-shot from the town; they call it now the Rolsies. There is also a strong tower near the town, called the Visone ((From Vesuna, its old Roman name. –AD)), but the town and city are at some distance from each other. It is a bishopric; has a cathedral with divers noblemen’s houses in sight of the sea. The place was formerly called Forum Julij, well known by antiquaries.

“L’église St Front à Périgueux. Dordogne” by Nicolas-Marie-Joseph Chapuy.18th century. (St Front replaced the original cathedral Saint-Étienne de la Cité)

10th October, 1644. We proceeded by the ruins of a stately aqueduct ((There is a large aqueduct within the town -GS)). The soil about the country is rocky, full of pines and rare simples.

Saturday 8 October 1644

We went then to visit the galleys, being about twenty-five in number; the capitaine of the Galley Royal gave us most courteous entertainment in his cabin, the slaves in the interim playing both loud and soft music very rarely. Then he showed us how he commanded their motions with a nod, and his whistle making them row out. The spectacle was to me new and strange, to see so many hundreds of miserably naked persons, their heads being shaven close, and having only high red bonnets, a pair of coarse canvas drawers, their whole backs and legs naked, doubly chained about their middle and legs, in couples, and made fast to their seats, and all commanded in a trice by an imperious and cruel seaman. One Turk amongst the rest he much favoured, who waited on him in his cabin, but with no other dress than the rest, and a chain locked about his leg, but not coupled. This galley was richly carved and gilded, and most of the rest were very beautiful.

“Esclave turc” by Rembrandt. 1629. Source: BnF.


After bestowing something on the slaves, the capitaine sent a band of them to give us music at dinner where we lodged. I was amazed to contemplate how these miserable caitiffs lie in their galley crowded together; yet there was hardly one but had some occupation, by which, as leisure and calms permitted, they got some little money, insomuch as some of them have, after many years of cruel servitude, been able to pur- chase their liberty. The rising-forward and falling- back at their oar, is a miserable spectacle, and the noise of their chains, with the roaring of the beaten waters, has something of strange and fearful in it to one unaccustomed to it. They are ruled and chastised by strokes on their backs and soles of their feet, on the least disorder, and without the least humanity, yet are they cheerful and full of knavery.

“Vüe de leglise de S. Victor de Marseille” by Antoine Meunier. 1791. Source: BnF.

After dinner, we saw the church of St. Victor, where is that saint’s head in a shrine of silver, which weighs 600 pounds. Thence to Notre Dame, exceedingly well – built, which is the cathedral. Thence to the Duke of Guises Palace, the Palace of Justice, and the Maison da Roi; but nothing is more strange than the great number of slaves working in the streets, and carrying burdens, with their confused noises, and jingling of their huge chains. The chief trade of the town is in silks and drugs out of Africa, Syria, and Egypt, and Barbary horses, which are brought hither in great numbers. The town is governed by four captains, has three consuls, and one assessor, three judges royal; the merchants have a judge for ordinary causes. Here we bought umbrellas against the heats, ((Umbrellas, at this date, though used abroad, were unfamiliar in England. “Temperance and an umbrella must be my de- fence against the heats,” writes Edward Browne (Sir ThomasBrowne’s eldest son) from Venice in 1665.] Coryat describes them thus in 1608 :—“ Also many of them [the Italians] doe carry other fine things of a far greater price, that will cost at least a duckat, which they commonly call in the Italian tongues umbrelloes, that is, things that minister shadow unto them for shelter against the scorching heate of the sunne. These are made of leather something answerable to the forme of a little cannopy, & hooped in the inside with divers little wooden hoopes that extend the umbrella in a pretty large compasse. They are used especially by horsemen, who carry them in their hands when they ride, fastening the end of the handle upon one of their tliighes ; and they impart so long a shadow unto them, that it keepeth the heate of the sunne from the upper parts of their bodies” (Crudities, 1776, i. 135).] –AD)) and consulted of our journey to Cannes by land, for fear of the Picaroon Turks ((Barbary pirates who were active in most of coastal Europe at the time – GS)), who make prize of many small vessels about these parts; we not finding a galley bound for Genoa, whither we were designed.

Friday 7 October 1644

We had a most delicious journey to Marseilles, through a country sweetly declining to the south and Mediterranean coasts, full of vineyards and olive-yards, orange trees, myrtles, pomegranates, and the like sweet plantations, to which belong pleasantly-situated villas ((The bastides or country-houses of Provence. –AD)),  to the number of above 1500, built all of freestone, and in prospect showing as if they were so many heaps of snow dropped out of the clouds amongst those perennial greens. It was almost at the shutting of the gates that we arrived. Marseilles is on the sea-coast, on a pleasant rising ground, well-walled, with an excellent port for ships and galleys, secured by a huge chain of iron drawn across the harbour at pleasure; and there is a well-fortified tower with three other forts, especially that built on a rock ((Fort St. Nicolas. –AD)); but the castle commanding the city is that of Notre Dame de la Garde (([The church of Notre Dame de la Garde was rebuilt in 1864 on the site of a former chapel of 1214 –AD)). In the chapel hung up divers crocodiles’ skins.

“Vue de l’Hôtel de Ville de Marseille du côté du Port. N° 18” Artist unknown. 1750. Source: BnF.

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