1488. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 6–9 August 1808

1488. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 6–9 August 1808 ⁠* 

Frere’s translations are in the Printers hands, they form an appendix which will soon be printed, & in the course of three weeks I hope you will receive the volume. [1]  A portion of MS. is now lying at Longmans to be forwarded with it. You will perhaps think the affairs of the Plata & Paraguay are given too much at length. [2]  I was puzzled what to do about them, especially as when I began the Plata was the great object of public curiosity. But the discovery of the country, & whatever relates to its original inhabitants, will form a much more interesting part of the book than its mere civil history which is meagre, & barren of all beauty. Of Paraguay there will be very little more to say, except when the Jesuits appear, for after Yralas [3]  expedition to Peru, the Spaniards then turned their attention towards Tucuman, & we have nothing to do on that side of the Plata, – whereas the course of the Paraguay approaches so near to Mato grosso, that every <step of> discovery in that neighbourhood becomes curious, & to the purpose. The history of H Stadt [4]  seemed to me to paint so much of savage manners, & to show so much of the state of the Port. & French in those parts, that more would be gained than lost by making him the hero of the chapter. It is easily struck out if you think otherwise, & the essential parts arranged in another place. The chapter which immediately follows will compleat all that is to be said of this first race of savages, for the Aymures [5]  who were a far more terrible people did not come from the interior till a later period, & the Tapuyas will be spoken of in connection with the French. [6]  The Relacoēs Annuaes [7]  have a great deal of curious matter about the former, & about the latter Maurice supplied Joz Laet with much information which he inserted in xx editing Maragraves posthumous papers. [8] 

I am now about Texeira’s voyage. [9]  The story of the suppression of Acunās book [10]  comes from Gomberville, the Frenchman who translated it. I do not give any credit to it. Manuel Rodriguez says the book was become scarce because few copies were printed, – a sufficient reason. The information obtained by that voyage was of most consequence at Para, & it was of no consequence there whether the book was suppressed or not, while any of Texeiras party were alive or any of their papers preserved. As this is an authentic <account> of the Great River, & not like Orellanas half-fable, [11]  it will be proper to weave into it whatever additional circumstances can be found, – except such as relate to xxx a later period. Condamine [12]  supplies something, & your Diaries of Fr. Xavier Ribeiro [13]  more.

A letter has reached me this evening from John Adamson of Gateshead, Durham, asking me if I can give him any account of Nicola Luiz, [14]  whose tragedy of Inēz de Castro he bought at Lisbon, & has lately translated. [15]  I can find this name nowhere except in Murphy [16]  who calls him the P. Plautus. [17]  Where he learnt this I cannot by any means discover, – & am half inclined to suppose that Antonio Ferreiras [18]  play may have been published under this fictitious name, – for if it were a real name it would surely be found either in Nic. Antonio, the Mappa de Portugal or the Academys Catalogue. [19] 

H.K Whites Remains [20]  were to be sent you with the large paper poems & Anthology.  [21]  The second edition of this book has sold off in two months, & a third is <now> printing as fast as two presses can supply it. What a strange beast is the Public! This poor boy published a little volume of poems, xx nobody bought them, & he might have drudged away the rest of his life in an Attorneys Office if Simeon & Wilberforce had not given him 30 £ a year, [22]  because he was running mad with Calvinism. He works & prays himself fairly to death, – & now all the world are crying out what a prodigy, – tho they had neither eyes to see, nor understandings to comprehend, nor hearts to acknowledge this while it could do him any good! – They serve geniuses just as they do venison, – hunt it down while it is living, & then offer it up with all due honour.

Three of your MSS here would make a good & saleable volume as Travels in the heart of S America – the voyage in the Madeira – the Rio Negro – & to the Lago de Xarayes. [23]  They supply great materials for improving the map. Harry I think might translate them, & get a good sum for so doing; with a map to each voyage which you could enable Arrowsmith to make, such a quarto volume as this, at this time might be sold for 150 – or 200 pounds – & it would in no way forestall my work, or prevent the use which I make of these materials.

Hervas says strange things of the language of the Araucans, as being more artificially constructed than any other, & yet bearing greater marks of being a primitive tongue. [24]  I should like to see Falkners [25]  grammar, for if one half of what Hervas affirms may be believed the history of this language is as inexplicable as that of the Greek: In Chiloe a new language has grown up of which the words are all Spanish, & the grammar syntax Araucan. The Guarani & Tupi [26]  grammars would be of very great service if it were possible to procure them. The languages of N America seem to be far more barbarous, than the Southern ones. the polyglot grammar & vocabulary which Hervas promises would afford materials for thoroughly investigating the history of languages, if they should ever be executed, however imperfect the execution in many instances must needs be: but I dare say his work will never be compleated – Spain has a long war upon her hands, & literature & every thing else must be at a stand till that is terminated.

There is a change in the Annual Review. King Arthur is deposed & Thomas Rees [27]  (the brother, whom you saw at Longmans) reigneth in his stead: a fitter man, for Arthurs mineralogy & botany which he understands thoroughly, were of little use in such a department, & he wanted method & every thing else – I have told Rees to send me nothing except books of travels, & those I shall take for the sake of reading them. – I have begun to put together my own memoranda made in Portugal; – with your corrections & amendments they will make a good book. I should like to append to it a brief history of the Factory; [28]  this would be interesting to all persons who have been connected with it. When the papers have grown to bulk sufficient for a parcel they shall travel to you, – if we should not meet before that time.

We have lost time in assisting the Portugueze, & Wellesley [29]  will be in more danger than Junot. [30]  Yet I think the P. will fight well fight well in English company – & it is not impossible that a second battle may be won in the neighbourhood of Aljubarrota, [31]  not less glorious than the first.

God bless you


Aug. 9. 1808.


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Staunton upon Wye/ Hereford/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/298
Postmarks: [illegible]
Seal: [illegible]
MS: Keswick Museum. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 480–483.
Dating note: Internal evidence as to the arrival of a letter from John Adamson (Letter 1487) suggests that this letter was begun on the evening of 6 August. BACK

[1] Three of Frere’s translations from the Poema del Cid were appended to Southey’s edition of the Chronicle of the Cid. Frere had been Britain’s ambassador to Portugal while Southey’s uncle had lived there; from 1808–1809 he was ambassador to Spain. BACK

[2] Southey refers to the manuscript of the first volume of his History of Brazil (1810). BACK

[3] Domingo Martínez de Irala (c. 1509-c. 1556), a Spanish conquistador who explored the Paraná and Paraguay Rivers and later became governor of Paraguay. BACK

[4] Hans Staden (c. 1525-c. 1579) was a German adventurer shipwrecked off South America and captured by the Tupinambá people of Brazil. In his True History, first published in German and then, in Latin in the collection of voyages edited by Johan Theodor and Johann Israel De Bry, Peregrinationes (1598–1613) (where Southey found it), he claimed to have witnessed cannibal feasts. BACK

[5] The Aymures or Guaymures were reputed by Portuguese writers to be fierce savages who ate their own children. Southey discusses them in chapter 8 of the first volume of his History. BACK

[6] This tribe of Indians is discussed in chapter 13 of the first volume of his History. BACK

[7] The Jesuit Relations of their missions in South America, published annually from 1632 in Latin, French and Italian. BACK

[8] Georg Marcgrave/Georg Marggraf (1610–1648). Born in Saxony, Marggraf went to Brazil in 1638 in the expedition of the Dutch led by John Maurice/Johan Maurits of Nassau (1604–1679). Marggraf’s papers on natural history were published, after his death, with editorial input from Joannes de Laet (1581–1649) as part of the work of the expedition’s physician Willem Piso/Willem Pies (1611–1678) in the Historia Naturalium Brasiliae (1648). BACK

[9] Pedro Teixeira (d. 1641) was a Portuguese explorer who became, in 1637, the first European to travel up the entire length of the Amazon, an expedition which helped extend Portuguese colonial possessions there at the expense of Spain. BACK

[10] Cristóbal de Acuña (1597–1676?), a member of Texeira’s expedition, published Nuevo descubrimiento del Gran Río de las Amazonas (1641), translated into French as Relation de la Riviere des Amazones. Avec un dissertation sur la riviere des Amazones pour servir de Preface (1682). The translator, Marin le Roy de Gomberville (1600–1674), claimed that King Philip IV of Spain (1605–1665), to whom Acuña presented the work, wanted it suppressed because its geographic information might aid the recently-independent Portuguese in taking the Amazon basin as their colony. The English translation was Voyages and Discoveries in South America (1698). BACK

[11] Francisco de Orellana (1511–1546) died during a disastrous expedition, on which only 44 of 300 men survived, navigating the Amazon. His exploits were described in Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo (1478–1557), Historia general y natural de las Indias (1542). BACK

[12] Charles Marie de La Condamine (1701–1774), a French mathematician involved in an expedition to South America who, in 1543, completed a four month raft journey down the Amazon. He published a narrative of the expedition: Journal du voyage fait par ordre du roi a l’équateur (1751). BACK

[13] Francisco Xavier Ribeiro Sampaio (1741–1812?), colonial official, wrote a manuscript Diário da uma Viagem que em visita e correciçáo das povoaçóes da Capitania de São José do Rio Negro fez o Ouvidor (1775). BACK

[14] The author remains obscure to literary historians: he has been identified as Nicolau Luis da Silva (1723–1787), author of chapbook comedies. BACK

[15] Adamson was the translator of Donna Ignez de Castro, a Tragedy, from the Portuguese of Nicola Luiz, with Remarks on the History of that Unfortunate Lady (1808). BACK

[16] James Cavanah Murphy (1760–1814), Travels in Portugal; Through the Provinces of Entre Douro e Minho, Beira, Entremadura, and Alem-Tejo, in the Years 1789 and 1790. Consisting of Observations on the Manners, ... Trade, Public Buildings, Arts, Antiquities &c. of that Kingdom (1795). In this work Murphy credits Nicola Luiz as the only author of a Portuguese tragedy on the story of Inês Peres de Castro (1325–1355), the murdered lover of Prince Pedro (1320–1367), who, when he became king of Portugal in 1357, was declared to have been his wife and crowned queen as a corpse. BACK

[17] Meaning the ‘Portugueze Plautus’, an allusion to the Roman playwright, Titus Maccius Plautus (c. 254 BC–184 BC). BACK

[18] Antonio Ferreira (1528–1569), Inês de Castro (c. 1557). BACK

[19] See Southey to John Adamson, 6 August 1808, Letter 1487. Southey refers to Nicolás Antonio (1617–1684), Bibliotheca Hispana Vetus (1696); João Baptista de Castro (1700–1785), Mappa de Portugal (1745). BACK

[20] The Remains of Henry Kirke White, of Nottingham (1807), which were edited by Southey. BACK

[21] The new 1808 edition of Southey’s 1797 Poems and the Annual Anthology (1799–1800). BACK

[22] Charles Simeon (1759–1836; DNB) and William Wilberforce (1759–1833; DNB) had been recorded in Remains as having contributed £20 and £30 per annum respectively to Henry Kirke White’s education. BACK

[23] Southey came to own these manuscripts himself: the sale catalogue of his library lists as no. 3849 ‘Miscellaneous: – Voyage up the Madeira in 1749, with a MS. map – Relaciaon da Guerre e Successos de Mato Grosso desde 1759 ate 1764 – Noticias do Lago Xarayes – Memoria de Observaçoens Physico Economicas acerca da Extraccaon do Oiro das Minas do Brazil, por Man. Ferreira da Camara; in 1 vol. half bound calf , 4to’. No. 3859 was a copy of Francisco Xavier Ribeiro Sampaio’s Diário da uma Viagem que em visita e correciçáo das povoaçóes da Capitania de São José do Rio Negro fez o Ouvidor (1775). BACK

[24] Lorenzo Hervás y Panduro (1735–1809), Catalogo de las Lenguas de las Naciones Conocidas (1800–1805). The Araucans were the Indian nations that dominated what is now the central part of Chile. They fought successfully against conquest by the Spanish in the sixteenth century and against subjugation within independent Chile for much of the nineteenth century. Southey praised them in his ‘Song of the Araucans During a Thunder Storm’, published in the Morning Post, 1799. See Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793–1810, gen. ed. Lynda Pratt, 5 vols (London, 2004), V, Selected Shorter Poems, ed. Lynda Pratt, pp. 372–374. BACK

[25] Thomas Falkner (1707–1784), an English Jesuit whose papers were published as A Description of Patagonia and the adjoining Parts of South America (1774). BACK

[26] Indian tribes of the Amazon in Paraguay and Brazil. BACK

[27] Thomas Rees, Unitarian minister and writer on theological history, brother of Owen Rees, partner with Longman, publisher of the Annual Review. BACK

[28] The British factory in Lisbon, where British merchants carried on their businesses. BACK

[29] Arthur Wellesley, later to become Field Marshall and 1st Duke of Wellington, sailed in July with an expeditionary force to Portugal. He would spend the next six years fighting Napoleon’s armies in Iberia. BACK

[30] Jean-Andoche Junot, 1st Duc d’Abrantès (1771–1813), the French general in command of the invasion of Portugal in 1807. Junot was made Governor of Portugal after taking Lisbon at the end of 1807. BACK

[31] The Battle of Aljubarrota (1385), fought between Portugal and Castile, and resulting in a decisive victory for the Portuguese. BACK

People mentioned

Aikin, Arthur (1773–1854) (mentioned 2 times)
Rees, Owen (1770–1837) (mentioned 2 times)
Adamson, John (1787–1855) (mentioned 1 time)
Rees, Thomas (1777–1864) (mentioned 1 time)
Wellesley, Arthur (1769–1852) (mentioned 1 time)
Arrowsmith, Aaron (1750–1823) (mentioned 1 time)