The Endeavour Journal of Sir Joseph Banks/Some account of the Cape of Good Hope

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The Endeavour Journal of Sir Joseph Banks by Joseph Banks
Some account of the Cape of Good Hope

Notwistanding Hydrographers limit the Cape of Good Hope to a single point of Land on the SW end of Africa which is not the Southermost part of that immense continent I shall under that name speak of the Southern parts of Africa in general as far as Lat. 30..00 at least, which countrey was originaly inhabited by the Hottentots alone but is now settled by the Dutch, and from its conveniency of situation as a place of refreshment for ships sailing to and from India is visited perhaps by Europeans oftener than any other distant part of the Globe.

This tract of Land, vast as it is, is settled by the Dutch who have also people much farther in land if their accounts can be credited; they have upon the whole of it however only one town which is generaly known by the Name of the Cape Town. It is situated on the Atlantick side, about 20 miles to the Northward of the Real Cape, on the Banks of a bay shelterd from the SE wind by a large mountain level at the top, from whence both itself and the bay have got the name of Tafel or Table. It is of late years very much increasd in size and consists of about a thousand houses neatly built of Brick and in general whited over; the Streets in general are broad and commodious all crossing each other at Right angles; in the Cheif of them is a Canal on each side of which is a row of Oak trees which flourish tolerably well and yeild an agreable shade to walkers. Besides this there is another Canal running through the town, but the slope of the Ground is so great that both are obligd to be furnishd with sluices at the intervals of little more than 50 yards.

In the Houses the same poverty of inventions exists here as at Batavia: they are almost universaly built upon one and the same plan whether small or large; in general they are low and universaly they are coverd with thatch, precautions said to be necessary against the violence of the SE winds which at some seasons of the year come down from the Table mountain with incredible violence.

Of the Inhabitants a far larger proportion are real Dutch than of those of Batavia. But as the whole town in a manner is supported by entertaining and supplying strangers, each man in some degree imitates the manners and customs of the Nation with which he is cheifly concernd: the Ladies however do not follow their husbands in this particular but so true are they to the customs of fatherland that scarce one of them will stir without a Sooterkin or Chaufett ready to place under her feet whenever she shall set down; the Younger ones tho in general do not put any fire in them but seem to use them merely for shew. In general they are hansome with clear skins and high Complexions and when married (no reflextions upon my countrey women) are the best housekeepers imaginable and great childbearers; had I been inclind for a wife I think this is the place of all others I have seen where I could have best suited myself. Their servants are in general Malay slaves who are brought here from Batavia. To these they behave much better than the Batavians in consequence of which these Malays are much quieter, honester, more diligent and less wicked than those in that place, in instance of which I need only say that there was never known an instance of running Amoc in this place.

The Town is governd by a Governor and Council who are quite independent of Batavia. The Present Governor is Ryck Tulback. He is very old and has long enjoyd his present station with a most universal good Character, which is easily explaind in this manner: he is unmarried and has no connections which may make him wish to make more money than his Salary furnishes him with, consequently not entering into trade he interferes with no man, and not wishing to be bribd does always to the best of his abilities strict justice on all occasions.

The Climate tho not at all too hot for those who come from India would doubtless appear sufficiently warm could any one be transported immediately from England to this place; upon the whole it seems much of the same temperature as the Island of Madera tho scarce quite so hot, this I judge from the productions in general. During the whole Summer the air is frequently fannd by SE winds which come off the hills above the town with vast violence and during the time of their blowing, especialy at the beginning, are very troublesome to such as are obligd to be abroad in them by raising the Sand with which the whole countrey abounds and filling their eyes with it; nor are the houses quite free from its effects however close they are shut up, the Sand will find an entrance and in a short time cover every kind of furniture with a thick dust.

Inconvenient as this certainly is it however does not seem to have any effect beyond the present moment, tho the inhabitants must in the course of a summer inspire an immence quantity of this sand, which has been thought by some Physicians to be productive of Ulcers in the Lungs etc. etc.; yet Consumptions are diseases scarcely known here and the healthy countenances, fresh complexions and above all the number of Children with which all ranks of people here are blessd abundantly prove that the Climate in general is very freindly to the human constitution. Diseases brought here from Europe are said to be almost immediately cur'd but those of the Indies not so easily, which latter we ourselves experiencd, our sick recovering very little for the first fortnight and after that very slowly, so that after a months stay several of them were far from recruited.

The industry of the Dutch, so well known and so constantly exerted in all foreign settlements, has supplyd this place with a profusion of all kinds of European provisions. Wheat and barley is here as good as in Europe; hops however will not grow here so beer they cannot make even tolerable. Cattle are in great plenty and beef very tolerable, Sheep likewise in great plenty; both these the Native Hottentots had before the Dutch settled the place so they both differ a little in appearance from those of other places. The Oxen are lighter and more neatly made and have vast spreading horns; the Sheep instead of Wool are coverd with a kind of Substance between hair and wool, their tails are also very large--I have seen such as could not weigh less than 10 or 12 pounds and was told that they are often much larger. Of the Milk of their Cows they make very good butter but Cheese they know not how to make in any degree of Perfection.

Besides these they have Goats in plenty which however they never Eat, and hogs but these are less plentifull. Poultrey as Fowls, ducks, Geese etc. are in tolerable plenty; besides they have wild game, as hares exactly like ours in Europe, partridges of two kinds, Quails, Antelopes of many kinds, Bustards in general very well flavourd but rather drier than those of the same kinds in Europe.

As their feild[s] produce European Wheat and barley, so their Gardens produce the same kinds of vegetables as we have in Europe--Cabbages, turnips, potatoes, Asparagus, Brocoli etc. etc. are all plentifull and excellent in their kinds. Their fruits are also the same, Apples, Pears, oranges, Peaches, apricots and figgs etc. Of Indian fruits they have plantains, Guavas and Jambu but neither of these in any kind of perfection. Besides these their vineyards produce a great quantity of Wine which they range into many sorts, calling one Madera another Frontiniac etc. None of these are comparable to the wines which we commonly drink in Europe yet they are all light, well cur'd and far from unpalatable in taste, not unlike some of the light French and Portugese white wines. The famous Constantia, so well known in Europe, is made genuine only at one vineyard which is about 10 miles distant from the Cape town; near that however is another vineyard which likewise is calld Constantia, where a wine not much inferior to it is made which is always to be had at an inferior price. The common method of living is to lodge and board with some one of the inhabitants, many of whose houses are always open for the reception of Strangers; the prizes are 5, 4, 3, or 2 shillings a day for which all necessaries are found you according as your situation leads you to chuse a more or less expensive method of living, in what may truly be calld a profusion in proportion to the price you give. Besides this there is hardly an expence in the Place. Coaches are seldom or never usd but may be hird at the rate of 6 Rx or 1lb 4s a day, Horses are at 6s a day but the Countrey is not tempting enough to induce any one often to make use of them. Publick entertainments there are none nor were there any private ones owing to the measles which broke out about the time of our arrival; at other times I was told that there were and that strangers were always welcome to them if of any rank.

At the farther end of the high street is the Companies garden which is near 2/3 of an English mile in lengh; the whole is divided by walks intersecting each other at right angles planted with Oaks which are clippd into wall hedges, except in the center walk where they are sufferd to grow to their size. This walk therefore at all times of the day furnishes an agreable shade no doubt highly beneficial to the sick, as the Countrey is not furnishd with the least degree of shade nor has nature given one tree to the soil capable of producing it at least within several miles round the town.

Infinitely the largest part of this Garden is employd in producing Cabbages, Carrots etc. Two small squares however are set apart for Botanical plants which are well taken care of and neatly kept. At the time we were there the greatest part of the plants, as the annuals, Bulbs etc. were under ground; upon the whole however I am of opinion that the numbers now to be found there will not amount to above half of what they were when Oldenland wrote his Catalogue; indeed at that time it is possible that more ground was imployd for the purpose.

At the farther end of the Garden is a vivarium or Menagerie, supported also at the expence of the Company, where rare Beasts and birds are kept: here were Ostrigdes, Cassowaris, Antilopes of several kinds, Zebras and several other animals seldom or never seen in Europe, particularly that calld by the Hottentots Coedoe whose beautifull spiral horns are often brought over to Europe. This animal who was as large as a horse died while we were there but not before I had had time to get a description and drawing of him.

Near this enclosure is another for birds, in which were the Crownd Pidgeons of Banda and several more rare birds especialy of the Duck kind, of which were indeed a very fine collection. Both birds and beasts were very carefully and well taken care of.

It remains now after having describd the town and its environs to say a little of the Countrey about it: of this indeed I can say but little and even for that little am obligd to depend intirely upon hearsay, not having had an opportunity of making even one excursion owing in great measure to Dr Solanders illness.

The Dutch say that they have settled the Countrey inland as far as 2200 miles, at least so far it is to the most distant habitations of Europeans; how far it may be however upon a straight line north and south is hard to say nor do they pretend to guess. Supposing it however the shortest distance possible, it is sufficient to prove the infinite and indeed to an European almost inconceivable barrenness of the Countrey in general, that the mere supplys of food should make it necessary for men to spread themselves over such an immense tract of countrey in order to find fertile spots capable of producing it. How far distant such spots are from each other may be concluded from what one farmer told us while there, on being askd why he brough[t] his young children with him to the Cape from whence he livd 15 days journey, and told that he had better have left them with his next neighbour. Neighbour? said he, my nearest neighbour lives 5 days Journey from me.

Nor does the Countrey immediately in the neighbourhood of the Cape give any reason to Contradict the idea of immense barrenness which must be formd from what I have said. The Countrey in general is either bare rock, shifting sand or grounds coverd with heath etc. like the Moors of Derbishire, Yorkshire etc. except the very banks of the few rivulets, where are a few plantations cheifly employd if well shelterd in raising Garden stuff, and if rather less so in vineyards; but if expos'd nothing can stand the violence of the winds which blow here through the whole summer or dry season. During my whole stay I did not see a tree in its native soil so tall as myself; indeed Housekeepers complain of the Dearnes of firewood as almost equal to that of provisi[o]ns, nothing being burnt here but roots which must be dug out of the ground. What indeed proves the influence of the wind in prejudice to vegetation is that a stem not thicker than my thumb will have a root as thick as my arm or leg and thicker they never are. As their distant settlements are directly inland and the whole coast either is or is thought to be totaly destitute of Harbours their whole Communication is carried on by Land carriage. Waggons drawn by Oxen are employd in that service; they are however very light and the Cattle so much more nimble than ours in Europe that they assurd us that they sometimes traveld at the rate of 8 miles an hour. Traveling is also very cheap: as there are no inns upon the road every one must carry his own provision with him, and the Oxen must live upon the Heath or ling which they meet with upon the road and this indeed they are accustomd to do. But great as these conveniencies are the people who come from afar must do little more than live, as there is no trade here but for a few articles of provision which are sent to the East Indies, and curiosities, so they can bring nothing to market but a little butter, such skins of wild beasts as they have been able to procure, and some of them a few kinds of Drugs. There remains nothing now but to say a word or two concerning the Hottentots so frequently spoken of by travelers, by whoom they are generaly represented as the outcast of the Human species, a race whose intellectual faculties are so little superior to those of Beasts that some have been inclind to suppose them more nearly related to Baboons than Men. Notwistanding I very much desird it I was not able to see any of their habitations, there being none as I was universaly informd within less than four days journey from the Cape in which they retaind their original Customs. Those who come to the Cape, which are in number not a few, are all servants of the Dutch farmers whose cattle they take care of and generaly run before their waggons; these no doubt are the lowest and meanest of them and those alone I can describe.

These were in general slim in make and rather lean than at all plump or fat, in size equal to Europeans, some as tall as 6 feet and more; their eyes not expressive of any liveliness but rather dull and unmeaning; the colour of their skins nearest to that of soot owing in great measure to the Dirt which by long use was ingraind into it, for I beleive that they never wash themselves; their hair curld in very fine rings like that of Negroes or a Persian Lambs skin, but hanging in falling ringlets 7 or 8 inches long. Their Cloths consisted of a skin, generaly of a sheep, under which for decency sake the men wore a small pouch and the women a broad leather flap fastned round their wastes by a belt, which in both Sexes was richly ornamented with beads and small peices of Copper; besides this both sexes wore necklaces and sometimes bracelets likewise of beads, and the women had round their legs certain rings made of Leather very hard which they said servd to defend them from the thorns with which the countrey every where abounds; under their feet some wore a kind of Sandal of wood or bark but the greatest number went intirely unshod. For bodily qualifications they were strong and appeard nimble and active in a high degree.

Their language which appears to an European but indistinctly articulated has this remarkable singularity, in that in the pronouncing a sentence they Click or Cluck with their tonges at very frequent intervals, so much so that these cliks do not seem to have any particular meaning except possibly to divide words or certain combinations of words. How this can be effected unless they can click with their tongues without inspiring their breath appears mysterious to a European, and yet I am told that many of the Dutch Farmers understand and speak their language very fluently. Almost all of them however speak Dutch which they do without clicking their tongues or any peculiarity whatsoever.

In general they have more false shame (Mauvais Honte) than any people I have seen, which I have often had occasion to experience when I have with the greatest dificulty persuaded them to dance or even to speak to each other in their own Language in my presence. Their songs and dances are in Extremes, some tolerably active consisting of brisk musick and quick motions generaly consisting of distortions of the body with unnatural leaps, crossing the legs backwards and forwards etc. and then again as dull and spiritless as can be imagind, one of which consists intirely of Beating the earth first with one foot and then with the other without moving their place at all, to the Cadences of a tune furnishd with little more variety than the Dance.

Smoaking is a custom most generaly usd among them, in doing which they do not as the Europeans admit the smoak no farther than their mouths but like the Chinese suck it into their Lungs, where they keep it for near a minute before they expire it. They commonly mix with their Tobacco the leaves of Hemp which they cultivate for that purpose or Phlomisleonurus which they call Dacha. Their food is the same as that of the farmers, cheifly bread and coarse cheese, but they are immensely fond of spirituous liquors and will never fail to get drunk with them if they have an opportunity.

This little and no more of the customs of this much spoke of people Had I myself an opportunity of seeing. From the Dutch indeed I heard much, of which I select the following.

Within the boundaries of the Dutch settlements are many different nations of Hottentots differing from each other in customs very materialy. Of these some are far superior to others in arts in general, however all live peaceably with each other seldom fighting, except those who live to the Eastward who are much infested with people calld by the Dutch Bosch men, who live intirely upon plunder, stealing the Cattle of the Hottentots but never openly attacking them. They are armd however with Lances or Assagays, arrows which they know how to poison, some with the juice of herbs others with the poison of the Snake calld Cobra di Capelo, and stones which some particular tribes know so well how to throw that they will repeatedly strike a dollar or crown peice at the distance of 100 paces. Besides this they train up Bulls which they constantly place round their Crawls or towns; in the night these will constantly Assemble and oppose either man or beast that aproaches them, nor will they desist till they hear the voices of their masters, who know how either to encourage them to fight or in an instant make them as tame and tractable as their other Cattle. Some Nations know how to melt and prepare Copper, which is found among them probably native, and make of it broad plates with which they ornament their foreheads; others again, indeed most, know how to harden bitts of Iron which they procure from the Dutch and make of them knives of a temper superior to any the Dutch can sell them.

Their cheif people, many of whoom have a large quantity of Cattle of their own, are generaly clad in the skins of Lions, Tygers or Zebras etc. which they know how to fringe and ornament very prettily, especi[a]ly the Women who as in all other Countreys are fond of dress. Both sexes grease themselves very frequently but never use any stinking grease if they can possibly get either fresh mutton suet or sweet butter, which last made by shaking the milk in a bag made of skin is generaly usd by the richer sort. The Ceremony of the Preist giving his Matrimonial benediction by a plentifull sprinkling of Urine often repeated I heard confirmd. The Dutch however universaly denied their having seen women whose legs were wrappd round with Sheeps gutts, which it has been supposd were to be a part of their food. Their Monorchides or semicastration was in general totaly denied; some however said that among the nation who knew how to melt copper were some who had undergone this ceremony, and that these were their best warriors and the individual people who so well knew how to throw stones.

In regard to the Sinus Pudoris, that grand Quaere of Natural historians, Many whoom I askd both Dutch and Malays declard positively that it did not at all exist, and several of these Assurd me that they had during intrigues with Hottentot women had an opportunity of knowing which they had made use of. One however declard that something he had met with but what it was he could not tell; and above all a physician of the place declard that he had curd many Hundred Hottentot women of venereal Complaints, and that he never saw one without what he describd to be fleshy or rather skinny appendages proceeding from the upper part of the Labia, in appearance somewhat like Cows teats but flat which hung pendulous; these were very various in lengh, in some scarce half an inch, in others three or four; that those, which were the only particularities he knew of in those women, he apprehended to be what a[u]thours have calld sinus pudoris, tho some have describd it as a large skin equal to a garment for all purposes of decency, and others have thought it to be no more than an elongation of the Clytoris in those women, which does not exist in those women at all more remarkable than in Europeans.

A table of the Value of Money Supposing a Styver Dutch equal to a penny Sterling.

                        £  S  D

A Guinea                00 18 00
half of Do              00  9 00
a Crown peice            0  4  0
half of Do               0  2  0
a Shilling               0  0 10
a Louis D'Or
a French Crown              4  6
a Ducat                     9  0
a Ducatoon                  6  0
a Skilling                  0  6
a Dubblechey                0  2
a Stuiver                   0  1
an Imperial Rixdollar       4  0
Alberts Do                  6  0
Danes Rixdollar             4  0
Spanish Dollar              4  6
a Quarter of Do             1  0