1489. Robert Southey to John Adamson, 12 August 1808

1489. Robert Southey to John Adamson, 12 August 1808 ⁠* 

Aug. 12. 1808.

Dear Sir,

I thank you for your translation, and will, by the first carrier, send off the plays of Ferreira and Quita, and the Saudades. [1] 

You have mistaken the meaning of Xarifalte. Portuguese orthography is very loose in any but modern authors, and it is sometimes necessary to hunt a word through every possible mutation of labial or guttural letters. Under gérafalte it is to be found, which is the ger-falcon of our ancestors.

The story of Iñez is, in any point of view, sufficiently atrocious, but the poets have not been true to history. It is expressly asserted by Fernan Lopez, [2]  that Pedro denied his marriage during his father’s life, and never affirmed it till some years afterwards: what is still worse, that Alfonso repeatedly asked him if she were his wife, and said that if she were he would acknowledge her as such. [3]  I am myself decidedly of opinion that she was not. The arguments against the fact of the marriage which Joam das Regas used at the election of King Joam I., [4]  are to me as satisfactory as those which he brought against its legality, if the fact had been proved, would have been in these days. I am sorry, also, to disbelieve the coronation of the dead body: there is not a word of it in the Chronicler, though he fully describes its removal from Coimbra, and the Portuguese nobles were not men who would have submitted to such a ceremony.

If your play be of modern date, Nicola Luiz [5]  is probably a modern author, and that removes all difficulty concerning him. There was a tragedy upon the same subject, published by Dr. Simmonds [6]  about ten years ago, which obtained considerable praise.

Your translation, I dare say, does justice to the original; had it been still unprinted, I would have noticed a few instances in which the proper names are mis-accented. What pleases me best in the play, is to perceive that the author has avoided the fault of Camoens, [7]  and not made his heroine talk about Hyrcanian tigers, and such other commonplaces which pass current for passion and for poetry.

I have seen the Fonte das Lagrimas; [8]  Link omits to mention that two beautiful cedars brush its surface with their boughs. I have also seen the tombs of Iñez and Pedro; they are covered with bas-relief, which ought to be accurately copied and engraved. [9] 

There is a shocking story of one of the children of Iñez, – the Infant D. Joam, who murdered his wife; [10]  it is a worse story than even the murder of his mother. If at any time chance should bring you this way, I shall have great pleasure in showing you all those facts of Portuguese history relating to your subject, which have occurred to me in the course of long and laborious employment upon the history and literature of Portugal.

I am, Sir,

Yours respectfully,

Robert Southey.


* MS: MS untraced: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850)
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), III, pp. 160–162. BACK

[1] 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). Antonio Ferreira (1528–1569), Inês de Castro (c. 1557); Domingos dos Reis Quita (1728–1770), Inês de Castro; Manoel de Azevedo Morato (dates unknown), Saudades de D. Ignez de Castro. Das ne convertida em, Loureiro. Glojsa a hum Soneto de Camoes (1716). BACK

[2] No. 3829 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library was Fernam Lopes/Fernão Lopes (c. 1385–1459), Cronica Del Rei Dom Fernando O Noveno Rei De Portugal, ‘a fine old MS., but stained and wormed in the margin, russia, gilt leaves’. BACK

[3] Inês Peres de Castro (1325–1355), the murdered lover of Prince Pedro (1320–1367). When, after the death of his father King Afonso IV (1291–1357), Pedro became king of Portugal in 1357, Inês was declared to have been his wife and crowned queen as a corpse. BACK

[4] João das Regras (13??-1404) was a Portuguese jurist who in 1385 provided arguments against the rival claimants to the throne of João (1358–1433), the illegitimate son of Pedro I by Teresa Lourenço. João was then chosen by the nobles as king, becoming João I. The new king rewarded João das Regras with titles and lands. BACK

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

[6] Charles Symmons (1749–1826; DNB), Inez, a Tragedy (1796). BACK

[7] Vaz de Camões (1524–1580), the author of Os Lusíadas, or the Lusiads (1572). BACK

[8] The ‘Fonte das Lágrimas’, which, according to the legend, originated from the tears shed by Inês de Castro when she was killed, is located close to a spring on the Quinta das Lágrimas estate in Coimbra. BACK

[9] Heinrich Friedrich Link (1767–1850), Travels in Portugal: and through France and Spain (London, 1801), p. 302. The tombs are at the Monastery of Santa Maria, Alcobaca. BACK

[10] Infante Dom John of Portugal (1349–1387) killed his wife Dona Maria Telles de Menezes (c. 1338–1379), suspecting her of adultery. BACK