Volume 1, Chapter 21 -- Discovery of Madeira.[1]

Although the era of modern discovery certainly commenced under the auspicious direction of Don Henry of Portugal, who first conceived and executed the sublime idea of extending the knowledge and commerce of the globe, by a judicious series of maritime expeditions, expressly for the purpose of discovery; yet as Madeira is said to have been visited, and the Canaries were actually discovered and settled before that era, it appears necessary to give a previous account of these discoveries, before proceeding to the second part of this work.

Several authors have left accounts of the real or pretended original discovery of this island of Madeira, all of whom concur in asserting that it was first discovered by an Englishman. Juan de Barros, the Livy of Portugal, mentions it briefly in the first decade of his Asia. The history of this discovery was written in Latin, by Doctor Manoel Clemente, and dedicated to Pope Clement V. Manoel Tome composed a Latin poem on the subject, which he intitled Insulana. Antonio Galvano mentions it in a treatise of discoveries, made chiefly by the Spaniards and Portuguese, previously to the year 1550.[2] Manoel de Faria y Sousa, the illustrious commentator of Camoens, cites Galvano in illustration of the fifth stanza in the fifth book of the immortal Lusiad, and likewise gives an account of this discovery in his Portuguese Asia. But the earliest and most complete relation of this discovery was composed by Francisco Alcaforado, who was esquire to Don Henry the infant or prince of Portugal, the first great promoter of maritime discoveries, and to whom he presented his work. No person was more capable of giving an exact account of that singular event than Alcaforado, as he was one of those who assisted in making the second discovery. His work was first published in Portuguese by Don Francisco Manoel, and was afterwards published in French at Paris in 1671.[3] From this French edition the following account is extracted, because the original Portuguese has not come to our knowledge, neither can we say when that was printed; but as the anonymous French translator remarked, that "Don Francisco keeps the original MS. with great care," it may be concluded, that the Portuguese impression did not long precede the French translation. The French translator acknowledges that he has altered the style, which was extremely florid and poetical, and has expunged several useless and tedious digressions, etymologies, reflections, and comparisons; but declares that he has strictly presented, the truth and substance of the history, so as not to vary from it in the least, or to omit the smallest material circumstance.

It is remarkable that there is no mention whatever in any of the English histories of Machin, Macham, or Marcham, the supposed author of this discovery; so that Hakluyt was beholden to Antonio Galvano for the imperfect account he gives of that transaction.[4] By the following abstract the complete history becomes our own, and we shall be no longer strangers to an event which has for several ages, rendered an Englishman famous in foreign countries, while wholly unknown in his own. It must not, however, be omitted to observe, that some objections may be stated against the authenticity of this history, on account of certain circumstances which do not quadrate with the time assigned for Machin's voyage by the author. From these it is obvious, either that the relation given by Alcaforado is not genuine, or that it has been interpolated. How far this objection may be admitted, without prejudice to the authority of the whole story, must be left to the judgment of our readers; we shall only add, that so far as relates to Macham it agrees with the tradition of the inhabitants of Madeira.

According to Alcaforada, Juan Gonsalvo Zarco, a gentleman of the household of Don Henry, being sent out by that prince upon an expedition of discovery to the coast of Africa, made prize, in the year 1420, of a Spanish vessel filled with redeemed captives, on their way from Morocco to Spain. In this vessel there was one John de Morales, an experienced and able pilot, whom he detained as an acceptable present to his master Don Henry, and set all the rest at liberty. Morales, on being made acquainted with the cause of his detention, entered freely into the service of the prince, and gave an account to Gonsalvo of the adventures of Machin, and the situation and land-marks of the new discovered island, all of which he had learnt from certain English captives in the jails of Morocco, who had accompanied Macham, or Machin, in his expedition.

The year of this extraordinary adventure is not mentioned by Galvano, who only says, that in 1344, Pedro IV. reigning in Arragon, the chronicles of his age reported, that about this time the island of Madeira was discovered by one Macham, an Englishman. It must be confessed that an objection arises against this history which is not easily removed. We are told that, immediately after the death of Macham, his companions sailed over to Morocco, and that Morales was in prison when they arrived. Supposing the discovery by Macham to have been made about 1344, as related by Galvano, from the Castilian chronicles, Morales must have been no less than seventy-six years a prisoner when redeemed, and when he was detained by Gonsalvo in 1420. Herbert places the adventure of Macham in 1328, which would increase the captivity of Morales to ninety-two years. Alcaforado places the event in the reign of Edward III. of England, which began in 1327 and ended in 1378; Even supposing it to have happened in the last year of Edward, Morales must have remained forty-two years in captivity; which is not only highly improbable, but is even contrary to the sense of the historian, who supposes but a small space to have elapsed between the two events; besides, the records quoted by Galvano are said expressly to assert that Macham went himself into Africa, whence he was sent to the king of Castile. This last circumstance may have been invented by the Spaniards, to give them a better title to the island of Madeira: But the former objection remains in full force, and can only be obviated by supposing that either Morales advanced a falsehood in asserting, that he had the account of this discovery from the English themselves, instead of learning it from the other slaves, among whom the tradition might have been current for many years after the event; or Alcaforado may have mistaken the report of Morales in this particular. The following is the substance of the narrative, as given by Alcaforado.

In the glorious reign of Edward III. Robert a Machin, of Macham, a gentleman of the second degree of nobility, whose genius was only equalled by his gallantry and courage, beheld and loved the beautiful Anna d'Arfet.[5] Their attachment was mutual, but the pleasing indulgence of ardent hope gratified and betrayed the secret of their passion. The pride of the illustrious family of d'Arfet was insensible to the happiness of their daughter, and they preferred the indulgence of their own ambition to the voice of love. The feudal tyranny of the age was friendly to their cruelty, and a royal warrant seemed to justify the vanity of her parent. The consolation of an ingenious mind supported Machin under confinement, and enabled him to seek after redress without yielding to despondency. On his release from prison, he learned that the beloved cause of his persecution had been forced to marry a nobleman, whose name he could not discover, but who had carried her to his castle near Bristol. The friends of Machin made his misfortune their own, and one of them had the address to get introduced into the service of the afflicted Anna under the character of a groom. The prospect of the ocean during their rides, suggested or matured the plan of escape and the hope of a secure asylum counteracted the imagined dangers of a passage to the coast of France. Under pretence of deriving benefit from the sea air, the victim of parental ambition was enabled to elude suspicion, and embarked without delay, in a vessel procured for the purpose, along with her lover.

In the successful completion of this anxious design, Machin was alike insensible to the unfavourable season of the year, and to the portentous signs of an approaching storm, which in a calmer moment he would have duly observed. The gradual rising of a gale of wind, rendered the astonished fugitives sensible of their rashness; and, as the tempest continued to augment, the thick darkness of night completed the horrors of their situation. In their confusion, the intended port was missed, or could not be attained, and their vessel drove at the mercy of the winds and waves. In the morning they found themselves in the midst of an unknown ocean, without skill to determine their situation, and destitute of knowledge or experience to direct their course towards any known land. At length, after twelve anxious mornings had dawned without sight of land, with the earliest streaks of day an object dimly appeared to their eager watchfulness in the distant horizon, and when the grey haze, which had alternately filled them with hope and despondency was dissipated by the rising sun, the certainty of having discovered land was welcomed by a general burst of joy. A great luxuriancy of trees of unknown species, was soon observed to overspread the land, whence unknown birds of beautiful plumage came off in flocks to the vessel, and gave the appearance of a pleasing dream to their unexpected deliverance.

[Illustration: Chart of North Western Africa]

The boat was hoisted out to examine the new found island, and returned with a favourable account. Machin and his friends accompanied their trembling charge on shore, leaving the mariners to secure the vessel at an anchor. The wilderness and rich scenery of the adjacent country possessed great charms to these thankful guests, just escaped from apparently inevitable destruction. An opening in the extensive woods, which was encircled with laurels and other flowering shrubs, presented a delightful retreat to the tempest-worn voyagers; a venerable tree of ancient growth offered its welcome shade on an adjoining eminence, and the first moments of liberty were employed in forming a romantic residence, with the abundant materials which nature supplied all around. The novelty of every object they beheld, induced curiosity to explore their new discovery, and they spent three days in wandering about the woods, when the survey was interrupted by an alarming hurricane, which came on during the night, and rendered them extremely anxious for the safety of their companions, who had been left in charge of the vessel. The ensuing morning destroyed all prospect of being ever enabled to get away from the island; the vessel had broke from her moorings by the violence of the storm, and was wrecked on the coast of Morocco, where all on board were immediately seized as slaves.

The afflicted Machin found this last calamity too severe for his terrified and afflicted companion to endure. Her susceptible mind and tender frame, overcome by the severity of the scenes she had gone through, and oppressed by consciousness of having deviated from her duty, sunk under her afflictive situation. From the moment it was reported that the vessel had disappeared, she became dumb with sorrow, and expired after a few days of silent despair. This heavy stroke was too much for the inconsolable lover to support; though watched over with the utmost solicitude by his afflicted friends, all attempts to administer consolation were entirely fruitless, and he expired on the fifth day after the death of his beloved mistress. With his parting breath, he earnestly enjoined his surviving companions, to deposit his body in the same grave, under the venerable tree, which they had so recently made for the victim of his temerity; and where the altar which had been raised to celebrate their deliverance, would now mark their untimely tomb.

Having performed this painful duty, the surviving companions of these unfortunate lovers fixed a large wooden cross over the grave, on which they carved the inscription which Machin had composed to record their melancholy adventures; and added a request, that if any Christians should hereafter visit the spot, they might erect a church in the same place, and dedicate it to Christ. Having thus accomplished the dictates of friendship and humanity, the survivors fitted out the boat, which had remained ashore from their first landing, and put to sea with the intention of returning if possible to England; but either from want of skill, or owing to the currents and unfavourable winds, they likewise were driven on the coast of Morocco, and rejoined their former shipmates in slavery among the Moors.

This story is reported in a somewhat different manner by Galvano already mentioned. According to him, one Macham, an Englishman, fled from his country, about the year 1344, with a woman of whom he was enamoured, meaning to retire into Spain; but the vessel in which the lovers were embarked, was driven by a storm to the island of Madeira, then altogether unknown and uninhabited. The port in which Macham took shelter is still called Machico. His mistress being sea-sick, Macham landed with her and some of the people, and the ship putting to sea, deserted them. Oppressed with sickness and grief at seeing herself in this hopeless state of exile, the lady died; and Macham, who was extremely fond of her, constructed a chapel or hermitage dedicated to Jesus the Saviour, in which he deposited her remains, and engraved both their names, and the cause of their arrival, on a rude monument which he erected to her memory. He afterwards constructed a boat or canoe, which he hollowed out from the trunk of a large tree, in which he, and those of his companions who had been left on shore along with him, passed over to the opposite coast of Africa, without the aid of oars, sails, or rudder. He was made prisoner by the Moors, who presented him to their king, by whom he was sent to the king of Castile.

Madeira, in the Portuguese language, or Madera in Spanish, signifies wood; and this island derived its name from the immense quantity of thick and tall trees with which it was covered when first discovered. One of the two capitanias, or provinces, into which this island is divided, is named Machico, as is likewise the principal town of that district, supposed to have originated from the traditionary story of the misfortunes of Macham; the other capitania, with its principal town, the capital of the island, is named Funchal, from Funcho, the Portuguese term for Fennel, which abounds on the adjoining rocks.

[1] Astley, I. 11. and 586. Clarke, Progress of Maritime Discovery, I. 167. Although in our opinion a mere romance, we have inserted this story, because already admitted into other general collections.--E.
[2] This work was printed in 1560, and was translated by Hakluyt: There is an abstract of it in Purchas his Pilgrims, II. 1671, and it will be found at the commencement of the second part of this Collection.--E.
[3] In small duodecimo and large print, under the title of Relation Historique de la Decouverte de l'Isle de Madere: containing 185 pages, besides twelve pages of preface.--Clarke.
[4] Clarke, Progress of Maritime Discovery, I. 167.
[5] In a note, Mr Clarke says the name of this lady has been supposed by some writers to have been Dorset, corrupted by a foreign orthography into D'Orset, and thence into D'Arfet. It may have been D'Arcy.--E.


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