THE TRAVELS OF SCARMENTADO
I was born in Candia, in the year 1600. My father was governor of
the city; and I remember that a poet of middling parts, and of a most
unmusical ear, whose name was Iro, composed some verses in my praise,
in which he made me to descend from Minos in a direct line; but my
father being afterwards disgraced, he wrote some other verses, in
which he derived my pedigree from no nobler an origin than the amours
of Pasiphae and her gallant. This Iro was a most mischievous rogue,
and one of the most troublesome fellows in the island.
My father sent me at fifteen years of age to prosecute my studies at
Rome. There I arrived in full hopes of learning all kinds of truth;
for I had hitherto been taught quite the reverse, according to the
custom of this lower world from China to the Alps. Monsignor Profondo,
to whom I was recommended, was a man of a very singular character,
and one of the most terrible scholars in the world. He was for
teaching me the categories of Aristotle; and was just on the point
of placing me in the category of his minions; a fate which I narrowly
escaped. I saw processions, exorcisms, and some robberies.
It was commonly said, but without any foundation, that la Signora
Olympia, a lady of great prudence, had deceived many lovers, she
being both inconstant and mercenary. I was then of an age to
relish such comical anecdotes.
A young lady of great sweetness of temper, called la Signora Fatelo,
thought proper to fall in love with me.
I traveled to France. It was during the reign of Louis the Just.
The first question put to me was, whether I chose to breakfast on
a slice of the Marshal D'Ancre, whose flesh the people had roasted
and distributed with great liberality to such as chose to taste it.
This kingdom was continually involved in civil wars, sometimes for a
place at court, sometimes for two pages of theological controversy.
This fire, which one while lay concealed under the ashes, and at
another burst forth with great violence, had desolated these beautiful
provinces for upwards of sixty years. The pretext was, defending the
liberties of the Gallican church. "Alas!" said I, "these people are
nevertheless born with a gentle disposition. What can have drawn
them so far from their natural character? They joke and keep holy
days. Happy the time when they shall do nothing but joke!"
I went over to England, where the same disputes occasioned the same
barbarities. Some pious Catholics had resolved, for the good of the
church, to blow up into the air with gunpowder the king, the royal
family, and the whole parliament, and thus to deliver England from all
these heretics at once. They showed me the place where Queen Mary of
blessed memory, the daughter of Henry VIII., had caused more than five
hundred, of her subjects to be burnt.
From thence I went to Holland, where I hoped to find more tranquillity
among a people of a more cold and phlegmatic temperament. Just as
I arrived at the Hague, the people were cutting off the head of a
venerable old man. It was the bald head of the prime minister Barnevelt;
a man who deserved better treatment from the republic. Touched with
pity at this affecting scene, I asked what was his crime, and whether
he had betrayed the state.
"He has done much worse," replied a preacher in a black cloak; "he
believed that men may be saved by good works as well as by faith. You
must be sensible," adds he, "that if such opinions were to gain ground,
a republic could not subsist; and that there must be severe laws to
suppress such scandalous and horrid blasphemies."
A profound politician said to me with a sigh: "Alas! sir, this happy
time will not last long; it is only by chance that the people are so
zealous. They are naturally inclined to the abominable doctrine of
toleration, and they will certainly at last grant it." This reflection
set him a groaning.
For my own part, in expectation of that fatal period when moderation
and indulgence should take place, I instantly quitted a country
where severity was not softened by any lenitive, and embarked for
The court was then at Seville. The galleons had just arrived; and
everything breathed plenty and gladness, in the most beautiful season
of the year. I observed at the end of an alley of orange and citron
trees, a kind of large ring, surrounded with steps covered with rich
and costly cloth. The king, the queen, the infants, and the infantas,
were seated under a superb canopy. Opposite to the royal family was
another throne, raised higher than that on which his majesty sat. I
said to a fellow-traveler: "Unless this throne be reserved for God,
I don't see what purpose it can serve."
This unguarded expression was overheard by a grave Spaniard, and cost
me dear. Meanwhile, I imagined we were going to a carousal, or a match
of bull-baiting, when the grand inquisitor appeared in that elevated
throne, from whence he ruled the king and the people.
As I was going to bed in the evening, two members of the inquisition
came to my lodging with a figure of St. Hermandad. They embraced me with
great tenderness, and conducted me in solemn silence to a well-aired
prison, furnished with a bed of mat. There I remained for six weeks;
at the end of which time the Inquisitor, sent for me. He pressed me
in his arms for some time with the most paternal affection, and told
me that he was sorry to hear that I had been so ill lodged; but that
all the apartments of the house were full, and hoped I should be
better accommodated the next time. He then asked me with great
cordiality if I knew for what reason I was imprisoned.
I told him that it was evidently for my sins.
"Very well," said he, "my dear child; but for what particular sin?
I racked my brain with conjectures, but could not possibly guess.
He then charitably dismissed me. At last I remembered my unguarded
expression. I escaped with a little bodily correction, and a fine of
thirty thousand reals. I was led to make my obeisance to the grand
Inquisitor, who was a man of great politeness. He asked me how I
liked his little feast. I told him it was a most delicious one; and
then went to press my companions to quit the country, beautiful as
The impulse for traveling still possessed me. I had proposed to finish
the tour of Europe with Turkey, and thither we now directed our course.
I made a firm resolution not to give my opinion of any public feasts I
might see in the future. "These Turks," said I to my companions, "are
a set of miscreants that have not been baptized, and therefore will be
more cruel than the reverend fathers the inquisitors. Let us observe a
profound silence while we are among the Mahometans." When we arrived
there, I was greatly surprised to see more Christian churches in Turkey
than in Candia. I saw also numerous troops of monks, who were allowed
to pray with great freedom, and to curse Mahomet -- some in Greek,
some in Latin, and others in Armenian. "What good-natured people are
these Turks," cried I.
The Greek Christians, and the Latin Christians in Constantinople were
mortal enemies. These sectarians persecuted each other in much the
same manner as dogs fight in the streets, till their masters part them
with a cudgel.
The grand vizier was at that time the protector of the Greeks. The
Greek patriarch accused me of having supped with the Latin patriarch;
and I was condemned in full divan to receive an hundred blows on the
soles of my feet, redeemable for five hundred sequins. Next day the
grand vizier was strangled. The day following his successor, who was
for the Latin party, and who was not strangled till a month after,
condemned me to suffer the same punishment, for having supped with
the Greek patriarch. Thus was I reduced to the sad necessity of
absenting myself entirely from the Greek and Latin churches.
In order to console myself for this loss, I frequently visited a very
handsome Circassian. She was the most entertaining lady I ever knew in
a private conversation, and the most devout at the mosque. One evening
she received me with tenderness and sweetly cried, "Alla, Illa, Alla."
These are the sacramental words of the Turks. I imagined they were
the expressions of love, and therefore cried in my turn, and with a
very tender accent, "Alla, Illa, Alla."
"Ah!" said she, "God be praised, thou art then a Turk?"
I told her that I was blessing God for having given me so much
enjoyment, and that I thought myself extremely happy.
In the morning the inman came to enroll me among the circumcised, and
as I made some objection to the initiation, the cadi of that district,
a man of great loyalty, proposed to have me impaled. I preserved my
freedom by paying a thousand sequins, and then fled directly into
Persia, resolved for the future never to hear Greek or Latin mass,
nor to cry "Alla, Illa, Alla," in a love encounter.
On my arrival at Ispahan, the people asked me whether I was for white
or black mutton? I told them that it was a matter of indifference to
me, provided it was tender. It must be observed that the Persian empire
was at that time split into two factions, that of the white mutton and
that of the black. The two parties imagined that I had made a jest of
them both; so that I found myself engaged in a very troublesome affair
at the gates of the city, and it cost me a great number of sequins to
get rid of the white and the black mutton.
I proceeded as far as China, in company with an interpreter, who assured
me that this country was the seat of gaiety and freedom. The Tartars had
made themselves masters of it, after having destroyed everything with
fire and sword.
I happened unluckily to be seized by the clerics. They represented
me to his Tartarian majesty as a spy of the pope. The supreme
council charged a prime mandarin, who ordered a sergeant, who
commanded four shires of the country, to seize me and bind me with
great ceremony. In this manner I was conducted before his majesty,
after having made about an hundred and forty genuflections. He asked
me if I was a spy of the pope's, and if it was true that that prince
was to come in person to dethrone him. I told him that the pope was
a priest of seventy years of age; that he lived at the distance of
four thousand leagues from his sacred Tartaro-Chinese majesty; that
he had about two thousand soldiers, who mounted guard with umbrellas;
that he never dethroned anybody; and that his majesty might sleep in
Of all the adventures of my life this was the least fatal. I was sent
to Macao, and there I took shipping for Europe.
My ship required to be refitted on the coast of Golconda. I embraced
this opportunity to visit the court of the great Aureng-Zeb, of whom
such wonderful things have been told, and which was then in Delphi.
I had the pleasure to see him on the day of that pompous ceremony in
which he receives the celestial present sent him by the Sherif of
Mecca. This was the besom with which they had swept the holy house,
the Caaba, and the Beth Alla. It is a symbol that sweeps away all
the pollutions of the soul.
Aureng-Zeb seemed to have no need of it. He was the most pious man in
all Indostan. It is true, he had cut the throat of one of his brothers,
and poisoned his father. Twenty Rayas, and as many Omras, had been put
to death; but that was a trifle. Nothing was talked of but his devotion.
No king was thought comparable to him, except his sacred majesty Muley
Ismael, the most serene emperor of Morocco, who always cut off some
heads every Friday after prayers.
I spoke not a word. My travels had taught me wisdom. I was sensible
that it did not belong to me to decide between these august sovereigns.
A young Frenchman, a fellow-lodger of mine, was, however, greatly
wanting in respect to both the emperor of the Indies and to that of
Morocco. He happened to say very imprudently, that there were sovereigns
in Europe who governed their dominions with great equity, and even went
to church without killing their fathers or brothers, or cutting off the
heads of their subjects.
This indiscreet discourse of my young friend, the interpreter at once
translated. Instructed by former experience, I instantly caused my
camels to be saddled, and set out with my Frenchman. I was afterwards
informed that the officers of the great Aureng-Zeb came that very night
to seize me, but finding only the interpreter, they publicly executed
him; and the courtiers all claimed, very justly, that his punishment
was well deserved.
I had now only Africa to visit in order to enjoy all the pleasures of
our continent; and thither I went to complete my voyage. The ship in
which I embarked was taken by the Negro corsairs. The master of the
vessel complained loudly, and asked why they thus violated the laws
of nations. The captain of the Negroes thus replied:
"You have a long nose and we have a short one. Your hair is straight
and ours is curled; your skin is ash-colored and ours is of the color
of ebon; and therefore we ought, by the sacred laws of nature, to be
always at enmity. You buy us in the public markets on the coast of
Guinea like beasts of burden, to make us labor in I don't know what
kind of drudgery, equally hard and ridiculous. With the whip held over
our heads, you make us dig in mines for a kind of yellow earth, which
in itself is good for nothing, and is not so valuable as an Egyptian
onion. In like manner wherever we meet you, and are superior to you in
strength, we make you slaves, and oblige you to cultivate our fields,
or in case of refusal we cut off your nose and ears."
To such a learned discourse it was impossible to make any answer. I
submitted to labor in the garden of an old negress, in order to save
my nose and ears. After continuing in slavery for a whole year, I was
at length happily ransomed.
As I had now seen all that was rare, good, or beautiful on earth, I
resolved for the future to see nothing but my own home. I took a wife,
and soon suspected that she deceived me; but, notwithstanding this
doubt, I still found that of all conditions of life this was much the