1627. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 11 May 1809

1627. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 11 May 1809 ⁠* 

I suspected that the great I. de Joanes [1]  in the mouth of the Maranham was made far too large in the maps, & Pimental [2]  confirms me in this notion. This intimation I sent Arrowsmith [3]  together with a transcript of your paper. I suppose the main current of the river turns the corner & flows by Belem, for otherwise I do not see how the poor Friars whose adventure occasioned Teixeira’s expedition could have reached that city, by abandoning themselves to the stream. [4]  Frightened & in fact lost as they were, they must have been carried straight to the sea. – Aguirre’s story [5]  must be wholly omitted & merely referred to in a single sentence. It is far too long to be placed among the supplementary notes, & the interest would be lost by any farther abbreviation, as I have already reduced Pedro Simons [6]  narration one half at least. No account is given of the materials from which he wrote, – but Acosta [7]  says that a young man who was of the party became a Jesuit, & had written the history of what he saw, – to which history Acosta refers, – most probably P Simons this was P. Simons authority. I greatly regret that this historian did not publish his second volume which would have comprised the conquest of the Nuevo Reyno, a most important part of American history. [8]  Bogota & Tunju were little less civilized than Mexico & Peru, yet scarcely any notice is taken of them by later writers of them, nor of Yucatan, a country affording some very extraordinary facts in the history of the progress of society. The priests in Yucatan had books of what kind Heaven knows, but books they were – I suppose hieroglyphical: & the arithmetic was by scores instead of tens, the only instance Rickman, who is very learned in these things has ever heard of. [9]  You will see in my 8th Chapter that I have advanced, &, it seems to me, proved an opinion that men when once degenerated to savage have never been civilized by any other means than by a priesthood. [10]  It is briefly stated to show why the Tupi tribes [11]  were inferior to the Peruvians &c. You will find the whole Chapter full of curious matter, & it shall be sent you with all the rest, as soon as the 9th is printed, – the next sheet will compleat it.

I forgot in my last list [12]  to include a Latin History of the Cid lately published (whether written or edited, I know not) by Fr. Manuel Risco, the successor of Florez. [13]  The scarcer books in that lists were enumerated on a supposition that the French would have thrown them into the market – the rubbish, bad as it is, will be of use, – there is no building without it. It is always among rubbish that one makes discoveries. In the second Quarterly there will be a sketch of Portugueze literature, [14]  which the Editor requested of me. I shall get X about sixteen pounds for it, – which is xxxx as much again as it would have brought in any other shape. – & it is so mere a sketch as to forestall nothing. You will there detect my ignorance of Gil Vincente, [15]  – an author whom I consider as my greatest desideratum.

Frere’s conduct suprizes me, & I would fain persuade myself that you have been misinformed, – That Mr Glasse [16]  who has a fancy for the Deanery of Hereford called upon me last year, & left such a stink of rose-pomatum behind him, that all my windows were thrown open for the rest of the day to purify the room. My account of him to Bedford in whose name he had introduced himself, was – that he was aptly named Glasse, – inasmuch as you could see thro him.

I wish to read every thing respecting Vieyra [17]  as soon as possible tho it will be better not to touch upon his literary & religious character in the present work. That belongs more properly to the European history. The second volume will not cost me so much time as the first, for my printed authorities will speedily be reduced to R Pitta [18]  & Berredo, [19]  – but the first volume cannot wait for it without great loss. Arrowsmith I suppose is at work upon the map. Rickman & Capt Burney will look to this, both excellent map-makers, & the former taking as much interest in my work as if it were his own.

Herbert has had no return of the disease, & is no longer the little Lazarus that the blister left him. His tongue however indicates fever in the morning, & he is very pale – probably from the violent bleeding which was necessary. We thank Mrs H. for her enquiries. Except this uneasiness, – which I trust will soon pass away, we are going on well.


May 11. 1809.


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Staunton upon Wye/ Hereford
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Island de Joanes. Southey was planning to publish a map with his History of Brazil (1810–1819) and was using his books on South America to check geographical accounts of the region. BACK

[2] Manoel Pimentel (1650–1719), The Brazil Pilot; or, a Description of the Coast of Brazil, Translated from the Portuguese of Manoel Pimentel … to which are added, Charts, of some of its most Considerable Ports (1809). This was no. 2331 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[3] Among Arrowsmith’s other productions were A Map of America (1804), which depicted North and South America. The second volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1817) contained Arrowsmith’s Map of Brazil and Paraguay with the Adjoining Countries. BACK

[4] 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. Cristóbal de Acuña (1597–1676?), a member of Texeira’s expedition, published Nuevo Descubrimiento del Gran Río de las Amazonas (1641). BACK

[5] Southey took from Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas (1559–1625), Historia General del Mundo del Tiempo del Rey Felipe II, desde 1559 haste su Muerte (1601–1612) the story of the ill-fated Amazon expedition of exploration conducted by Pedro de Ursúa (1526–1561) and Lope de Aguirre (c. 1510–1561). However, he omitted it from his History of Brazil and instead published it in the Edinburgh Annual Register for 1810, 3.2 (1812) and then separately as The Expedition of Orsua: and the Crimes of Aguirre (1821). BACK

[6] Pedro Simón (b. 1565), Noticias Historiales de la Conquistas de Tierra Firme en las Indias Occidentales, Primera Parte (1626), no. 3787 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[7] José de Acosta (1539–1600), a Spanish Jesuit missionary and naturalist who published Historia Natural y Moral de las Indias: Vida Religiosa y Civil de los Indios (1590), no. 3220 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[8] The second part of Simón’s history was not published until 1882–1892 by Medardo Rivas (1825–1901). BACK

[9] Southey had derived this information from Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas (1559–1625), Historia General de las Indias Occidentales o de los hechos de los Castellanos en las Islas y Tierra firme del Mar Oceano (1728). Southey cites the passage from Herrera (4. 10. 4) in his History of Brazil, 3 vols (1810–1819), I, p. 638, giving the verdict of a ‘friend, better acquainted with such subjects than I am’ (Rickman) that this is the earliest example of ‘vigesimal numeration’. BACK

[10] Chapter 8 of the first volume of Southey’s History of Brazil (1810). BACK

[11] An indigenous people of the Amazon. BACK

[12] For this, see Southey to the Herbert Hill, 2 May 1809, Letter 1624. BACK

[13] Enrique (or Henrique) Flórez de Setién y Huidobro (1701–1773), a Spanish historian and author of Espana Sagrada, Teatro Geografico-Historico de La Iglesia de Espana, a vast compilation of Spanish ecclesiastical history, of which twenty-nine volumes appeared in the author’s lifetime. It was continued after his death by the Spanish historian Juan Manuel Martínez Ugarte, known as Manuel Risco (1755–1801), who published volumes 30–42 of this work. The Spanish version of Risco’s history of the Cid was published as La Castilla, y el mas famoso Castellano Discurso Sobre el Sitio, Nombre, Extension, Gobierno, y Condado de la Antigua Castilla: Historia del Célebre Castellano Rodrigo Díaz, Llamado Vulgarmente el Cid Campeador. The editors have not traced a Latin version. BACK

[14] Southey reviewed Extractos em Portuguez e em Inglez; com as Palavras Portuguezas Propriamente Accentuadas, para Facilitar o Estudo d’Aquella Lingoa (1808) in the Quarterly Review, 1 (May, 1809), 268–292. BACK

[15] The Portuguese playwright and poet, Gil Vicente (c.1470-c. 1536), who produced many comedies and farces including Auto da Índia (1509) and Farsa de Inês Pereira (1523). Their rarity in print was caused by their suppression by the Inquisition. BACK

[16] George Henry Glasse (1761–1809; DNB), clergyman friend of Grosvenor Bedford’s who lived near Acton. Glasse, known for his short, tubby, stature, was an author and contributor to the Gentleman’s Magazine. BACK

[17] The Jesuit missionary, diplomat and preacher Antonio Vieira (1608–1697). BACK

[18] Sebastião da Rocha Pita (1660–1738), Historia da America Portugeza, desde o anno 1500 ate o de 1724 (1730). BACK

[19] Bernardo Pereira de Berredo e Castro (d. 1748), governor of Maranhão 1718–1722, author of Annaes Historicos do Estado do Maranhaō de sey Descivrunebtim, atè 1718 (1749). BACK

People mentioned