DELLON, Charles (Gabriel), Dellon’s Account of the Inquisition at Goa. Hull: Printed by Joseph Simmons for I. Wilson, 1812.
Condemned: April 24, 1690.
§6: Books that scorn or ridicule the Church or Catholic dogma in any way;
§8: Books which declare duels, suicide, or divorce as licit, or that deal with Freemasonry.
Charles Dellon was a French adventurer who, in the early 1670s, settled in one of the territories under Portuguese rule on the west coast of India (Damão, north of modern-day Mumbai). As a result of both cross-cultural incompetence and an unfortunate misunderstanding with the local Portuguese governor, he was reported as a heretic by several colonists to local agents of the Inquisition. Before being sent to the the Holy Office of the Inquisition at Goa, he was first imprisoned in a “noisome and dark dungeon” (27) for four months. Through the help of friends and well-wishers he managed to survive these extremely inhumane and unsanitary conditions. Nevertheless, he was later to undergo further suffering in the form of more time in vermin-infested prisons in transit to Goa and then, after his initial interrogation, solitary confinement as he awaited his fate at the hands of the territory’s Grand Inquisitor. Throughout this ordeal, a very possible outcome for Dellon – one of which he was acutely aware – was to be publicly burned at the stake at the Inquisition’s most infamous procedure, an Act of Faith (auto-da-fé).
Charles Dellon was incarcerated, repeatedly interrogated, and threatened with execution under the Holy Office of the Inquisition at Goa for almost four years before managing, incredibly, to be released. He then returned to France and, several years later, wrote the account of his ordeal. Despite the magnanimity he offers to his erstwhile persecutors — “It is…the abuse only, of which I complain” (2) — his text was condemned by the Index. It is possible that the nature of this book as an exposé of gross injustice committed by the Church was enough to incur an interdiction, but this would be mere conjecture. Referring back to Canon 1399, one supposes that the official ruling may have been more related to the following explicit passages: “I attempted to put an end to my existence by fasting” (76); “I had not forgotten that self-destruction is prohibited, and had not any intention to rush into eternal ruin; but I had no wish to live, and so much desire to die, that my reason was disturbed” (80); and,
Being rendered quite desperate, I pierced both arms, until I fainted from weakness, and fell on the floor in my blood, which flowed into every part of the room; and assuredly, if the special providence of God had not caused my door to be opened…I should have miserably lost my life and soul. (84)
Regardless of how Dellon’s narrative paints a horrendous picture of the harshness of the Portuguese Inquisition, so many mentions of suicide in any context must have rendered the decision to condemn this particular text a foregone conclusion.