2610. Robert Southey to Henry Koster, 3 June 1815

2610. Robert Southey to Henry Koster, 3 June 1815 ⁠* 

Keswick, 3 June, 1815.

My dear Sir,

You need not doubt that I should be much gratified by seeing my Hist. of Brazil [1]  in a Portuguese translation, and much more so by its being your work than if it were that of a stranger: – but I am altogether incompetent to judge of what you have done, never having written in Portuguese. You are of course aware that it would require something more than verbal correction from a native; a great deal would be to be expunged as heretical, and not a little on the score of its political freedom. Still the general tone of the work is much in favour of the Portuguese, for the long attention which I have given to their history and the whole of their literature has given me a sort of intellectual naturalization among them; – and when the needful castrations were made, neither the Government nor the people would have cause to be offended with the disposition of the writer.

Should you persevere in this undertaking the only advice I can give you is to refer to the cited authorities wherever any speech or letter or saying is introduced in the text, as you will then find the original expression, and the translation will thus have that native raciness which the English wants. The readiest way of doing this would be to make me a visit when the work was in forwardness, for here the books are, and I could probably turn to any passage in a few minutes. Should you go on with it, the sheets of the second volume shall be sent you as far as they are printed, which in the course of a week or two will be to the end of the Pernambucan War. [2] 

Joam Fernandes Vieira [3]  was married, and when the insurrection began his wife was on the point of lying in. But whether he left children or not I do not know. Angola did not kill him, for he was living in 1678, and dedicated the Castrioto Lusitano [4]  to the Regent Dom Pedro. [5]  It is remarkable that Raphael de Jesus promised a second part of his history, which was to relate what he did after the war on Pernambuco: but that second part never appeared, and from the documents of Portuguese history may almost be said to end about that time.

You will probably be able to correct some errors in my work, which no diligence can avoid, when local knowledge is wanting.

The Conde of Arcos [6]  seeing that I wanted Anchieta’s Grammar [7]  sent me a copy from the public library at Bahia, when they had a duplicate, and lent me the Valeroso Lucideno. [8]  It is perhaps the only instance in which a book was ever lent across the Atlantic, from Bahia to Keswick! I returned it thro the same channel by which it reached me and shall not fail to show my sense of the civility by sending them my History of the Peninsula War [9]  as soon as it is printed.

Remember me to as many of your family as may be at home, and believe me, my dear Sir,

Yrs very truly,

Robert Southey.


* MS: Instituto Historico e Geografico Brasileiro, Rio de Janeiro; text taken from Sousa-Leão
Previously published: Joaquim de Sousa-Leão, ‘Cartas de Robert Southey a Theodore Koster e Henry Koster, anos de 1804 a 1819’, Revista do Instituto Historico e Geografico Brasileiro, 178 (1943), 46–47. BACK

[1] History of Brazil (1810–1819). Henry Koster’s translation was not published. BACK

[2] The Mascate War (or ‘War of the Peddlers’) in Pernambuco, Brazil in 1710–1711. This passage appeared in History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), III, pp. 85–107. BACK

[3] Joao Fernandes Vieira (c. 1613–1681), leader of the Brazilian forces against the Dutch in Pernambuco 1645–1654. He became Captain-General of Paraiba (1655–1657), Captain-General of Angola (1658–1661) and finally took command of all fortifications in North Eastern Brazil (1661–1681). In 1643 he married Mary Caesar (dates unknown), daughter of Francisco Berenguer de Andrada. BACK

[4] Raphael de Jesus (1614–1693), Castrioto Lusitano (1679), no. 3621 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[5] Pedro II (1648–1706), Regent of Portugal 1668–1683, King of Portugal 1683–1706. BACK

[6] Marcos de Noronha e Brito, Conde dos Arcos (1771–1828), Governor General of Bahia 30 September 1810–26 January 1818. BACK

[7] José de Anchieta (1534–1597), Arte de Grammatica da Lingoa mais Usada na Costa do Brasil (1595). This was no. 1530 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library, inscribed by him: ‘This singularly rare and curious book was sent to me from the Public Library of Bahia de Todos, or Santos, by desire of the Conde des Arcos, then Governor of that Captaincy.’ BACK

[8] Manuel Calado (1584–1654), Valeroso Lucideno e o Triunfo da Liberdade (1648), a first-hand account of Brazil during the period of Dutch rule. BACK

[9] History of the Peninsula War (1823–1832). BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 2 times)


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