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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 back, 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 several 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 owners.
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 here exceed all description; nothing could be heard but sighs and groans; I did not meet with a soul in the passage who was not bewailing the death of his nearest relations and dearest friends, or the loss of all his substance; I could hardly take a single step, without treading on the dead or the dying: in some places lay coaches, with their masters, horses, and riders, almost crushed in pieces; here mothers with infants in their arms: there ladies, richly dressed, priests, friars, gentlemen, mechanics, either in the same condition, or just expiring; some had their backs or thighs broken, others vast stones on their breasts; some lay almost buried
in the rubbish, and, crying out in vain to the passengers for succour, were left to perish with the rest.
At length I arrived at the spot opposite to the house where my friend, for whom I was so anxious, resided; and finding this as well as the contiguous_buildings thrown down (which made me give him over for lost), I now thought of nothing but saying my own life in the best manner I could; and in less than an hour got to a public-house, kept by one Morley, near the English buryingground, about half a mile from the city, where I still remain, with a great number of my countrymen, as well as Portuguese, in the same wretched circumstances, having almost ever since lain on the ground, and never once within doors, with scarcely any covering to defend me from the inclemency of the night air, which, at this time, is exceedingly sharp and piercing.
Perhaps you may think the present doleful subject here concluded; but, alas! the horrors of the 1st of November are sufficient to fill a volume. As soon as it grew dark, another scene presented itself, little less shocking than those already described; the whole city appeared in a blaze, which was so bright that I could easily see to read by it. It may be said without exaggeration, it was on fire at least in a hundred different places at once, and thus continued burning for six days together, without intermission, or the least attempt being made to stop its progress.
It went on consuming everything the earthquake had spared, and the people were so dejected and terrified, that few or none had courage enough to venture down to save any part of their substance; every one had his eyes turned towards the flames, and stood looking on with silent grief, which was only interrupted by the cries and shrieks of the women and children calling on the saints and angels for succour, whenever the earth began to tremble, which was so often this night, and indeed I may say ever since, that the tremors, more or less, did not cease for a quarter of an hour together. I could never learn that this terrible fire was owing to any subterraneous eruption, as some reported, but to three causes, which all concurring at the same time, will naturally account for the prodigious havoc it made. The 1st of November being All Saints' Day, a high festival among the Portuguese, every altar in every church and chapel (some of which have more than twenty) was illuminated with a number of wax tapers and lamps, as customary; these setting fire to the curtains and timber-work that fell with the shock, the conflagration soon spread to the neighbouring houses, and being there joined with the fires in the kitchen chimneys, increased to such a degree, that it might easily have destroyed the whole city, though no other cause had concurred, especially as it met with no interruption.
But what would appear incredible to you, were the fact less public and notorious, is, that a gang of hardened villains, who had been confined, and got out of prison when the wall fell, at the first shock, were busily employed in setting fire to those buildings which stood some chance of escaping the general destruction. I
cannot conceive what could have induced them to this hellish work, except to add to the horror and confusion, that they might, by this means, have the better opportunity of plundering with security. But there was no necessity for taking this trouble, as they might certainly have done their business without it, since the whole city was so deserted before night, that I believe not a soul remained in it, except those execrable villains, and others of the same stamp. It is possible some among them might have had other motives besides robbing, as one in particular being apprehended, (they say he was a Moor, condemned to the galleys,) confessed at the gallows, that he had set fire to the king's palace with his own hand; at the same time glorying in the action, and declaring, with his last breath, that he hoped to have burnt all the royal family. It is likewise generally believed that Mr. Bristow's house, which was an exceeding strong edifice, built on vast stone arches, and had stood the shocks without any great damage, further than what I have mentioned, was consumed in the same manner. The fire, in short, by some means or other, may be said to have destroyed the whole city, at least everything that was grand or valuable in it.
With regard to the buildings, it was observed that the solidest in general fell the first. Every parish church, convent, nunnery, palace, and public edifice, with an infinite number of private houses, were either thrown down or so miserably shattered, that it was rendered dangerous to pass by them.
The whole number of persons that perished, including those who were burnt, or afterwards crushed to death whilst digging in the ruins, is supposed, on the lowest calculation, to amount to more than sixty thousand; and though the damage in other respects cannot be computed, yet you may form some idea of it, when I assure you that this extensive and opulent city is now nothing but a vast heap of ruins; that the rich and poor are at present upon a level; some thousands of families, which but the day before had been easy in their circumstances, being now scattered about in the fields, wanting every conveniency of life, and finding none able to relieve them.
A few days after the first consternation was over, I ventured down into the city by the safest ways I could pick out, to see if there was a possibility of getting anything out of my lodgings, but the ruins were now so augmented by the late fire, that I was so far from being able to distinguish the individual spot where the house stood, that I could not even distinguish the street amidst such mountains of stones and rubbish which rose on every side. Some days after I ventured down again with several porters, who, having long plied in these parts of the town, were well acquainted with the situation of particular houses; by their assistance I at last discovered the spot; but was soon convinced to dig for anything here, besides the danger of such an attempt, would never answer the expense; but what further induced me to lay aside all thoughts of the matter, was the sight of the ruins still smoking,
from whence I knew for certain that those things I set the greatest value on, must have been irrecoverably lost in the fire.
On both the times when I attempted to make this fruitless search, especially the first, there came such an intolerable stench from the dead bodies, that I was ready to faint away; and though it did not seem so great this last time, yet it had like to have been more fatal to me, as I contracted a fever by it, but of which, God be praised, I soon got the better. However, this made me so cautious for the future, that I avoided passing near certain places, where the stench was so excessive that people began to dread an infection. A gentleman told me, that going into the town a few days after the earthquake, he saw several bodies lying in the streets, some horribly mangled, as he supposed, by the dogs; others half burnt; some quite roasted; and that in certain places, particularly near the doors of churches, they lay in vast heaps, piled one upon another. You may guess at the prodigious havoc which must have been made, by the single instance I am going to mention. There was a high-arched passage, like one of our old city gates, fronting the west door of the ancient cathedral; on the left hand was the famous church of St. Antonio, and on the right some private houses, several stories high. The whole area surrounded by all these buildings did not much exceed one of our small courts in London. At the first shock, numbers of people who were then passing under the arch, fled into the middle of this area for shelter; those in the two churches, as many as could possibly get out, did the same: at this instant the arched gateway, with the fronts of the two churches and contiguous buildings, all inclining one towards another with the sudden violence of the shock, fell down, and buried every soul as they were standing here crowded together.
Thus, my dear friend, have I given you a genuine, though imperfect, account of this terrible judgment, which has left so deep an impression on my mind, that I shall never wear it off. I have lost all the money I had by me, and have saved no other clothes than what I have on my back; but what I regret most, is the irreparable loss of my books and papers. To add to my present distress, those friends to whom I could have applied on any other occasion, are now in the same wretched circumstances with myself. However, notwithstanding all that I have suffered, I do not think I have reason to despair, but rather to return my gratefullest acknowledgments to the Almighty, who hath so visibly preserved my life amidst such dangers, where so many thousands perished: and the same good Providence, I trust, will still continue to protect me, and point out some means to extricate myself out of these difficulties.