Esteemed Readers, we have reached the Canary Islands! Hurrah! We are sailing Northeast. It is too far from Siam yet, however the spirit of a true journey is with us:
Aboard the Oiseau, 13 March 1685
“…We are going to discover La Palma (Isle) belonging to the Canary Islands. They say there are good confitures there. Local mountains are covered with snow. The given altitude is 28 degrees 50 minutes.
Finally our heads are clearing up, vapours are being dissolved & we get used to the sea. We have begun learning Portuguese &, as I have noticed, in eight days nobody on board speaks French any more. Evenings will be dedicated to Astronomy. We do not need the Sun to contemplate the Moon & the stars. We already know the way of Saint Ja(s)ques, & the King David’s cart. We are going to sail by the other side of the star route neither you nor I even seen before. The Astronomic Maps by Father Pardies, which Father Fontenei uses so much, are a true delight for us: it is he who revised, corrected, extended them & had them printed; so it is always a joy for him to behold him brainchildren again. Our Jesuits are the best people in the world. All six of them keep the spirit alive. They possess consummate wisdom: it is swift, catching a thought instantly when they utter (something): from time to time they must ponder before speaking…& when they do they say good things & there is always something to learn from them.
We are sailing pretty well & tonight we can see la Palma yet…”
Aboard the Oiseau, 15 March 1685
“…We have reached the Northeast.Today we are at 25 degrees 49 minutes. It is not hot any more & the best thing is that we are sailing fast so in two days I will tell you a few words about the Tropics. We usually baptise all what we see around, but for us, those who have too many great views, to baptise (means to do that) just along the waterline.
The Portuguese runs rather well. We begin telling tambien/too. But listen to a sad adventure (of mine): I went to the rue de Saint Ja(c)ques seeking for Portuguese books. A good friend of mine introduced me Fernand Mendés Pinto & assured in this good intentions so I trusted most of the information he had given. I paid him eighteen livres (a good sum of money that epoch) believing that I would learn Portuguese by reading a pleasant book. The book was in folio, covered with the Morocco leather. I fetched it to him. Then I opened it & found out that it was translated into Spanish. That’s what happens in haste!…”
Dieu Vous Ait en Sa Sainte Garde,
Vostre l’Abbé de Choisy ”
Image: Beauvais, “Chinoiserie”, tapestry.