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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

1860. Robert Southey to Herbert Hill, 30 January 1811 ⁠* 

Is it certain that the Papel Forte is Vieyra’s? [1]  I am a good deal perplexed about it. The Collection of his letters is very defective for this period of his history. There is indeed but one which relates directly to the war of Pernambuco, & in this which is dated from the Hague Dec. 30. 1647 he says, Concertemos a Armada, estorvemos os mentimentos ao immigo, e en seguro o Cunctando restituit rem. [2]  This is altogether at variance with the Papel Forte, which yet cannot have been written much later. [3]  Vieira’s wretched biographer [4]  gives not a gleam of information upon his political life: he says that xxx he had seen several spurious works attributed to him, some of which were in direct opposition to his known sentiments. These I suppose to be the Arte de furtar, [5]  – the Noticias concerning the Inquisition, [6]  & {(perhaps)} the Papel Forte. Now it is very easy to understand if he did write the two former works, why he should not acknowledge them, or why the author (if they were not his) should have brought them out under his name. but I cannot perceive why any person should have forged the P. Forte. It seems to be discordant with his character & his opinions. Of the style I do not pretend to judge. the writer certainly does not appear to be el mismissimo Vieira en su mesma mesmedad, as Isla says in Fr. Gerundio, [7]  but his style like that of every man of genius differs very materially according to the subject. His sermons might be sworn to, & I have little doubt the A. de Furtar is his, but in state papers his peculiarities are not to be expected, & if you do not detect him in the matter it is in vain for a foreigner to seek any clue in the manner.

I hear nothing of the Valeroso Lucideno from Mr Stuart [8]  – But I find there is a hope of obtaining some of my desiderata from the Rio thro Wm May. [9]  I have sent him over some queries, & will send a general commission for MS: he may possibly meet with the Annaes da R. Janeiro, [10]  of which you began to form an abstract. My friend Abella is returning to Cadiz, & I have requested him to look for Montoya, [11]  Lozano [12]  & Xarque, [13]  which he may very likely procure. He has been of great service to me, & promises to write to me as often as his avocations will permit, & to send me all the papers that can be of assist me. The post which he returns to fill is that of Oficial de la Primera Secretaria de Estado de Negocios Extrangeros. [14] 

The prose Argentina [15]  is a work of no great value, & contained I think less original matter than was to be raked out of the octavas of my friend D. Martin Barco. [16]  Something however I found there & have inserted in the first volume. [17]  The author was Yrala’s [18]  grandson. some allowance was therefore to be made for family-feelings, & not a little for want of judgement. – This reminds me of the reviewal of my book in the Quarterly. I guess Reginald Heber to have been the writer. He wonders what can have caused the wise policy of the Portuguese in their colonies in making no distinction of breeds, – the solution is very easy; – not {so much} because they were more enlightened than the Spaniards, as because they were less populous, & no other system was possible. [19] 

Scott reviews Kehama for the next number. [20]  I have nothing ready for it, but am about to take Capt Pasleys book for a text, [21]  & preach a Crusade against Buonaparte. – Frere I understand thinks of vindicating himself against James Moore’s book, [22]  – this Gifford tells me as a secret. – He will find a vindication to his hearts desire in my xxxx second Register. [23] 


I have been again looking at that letter of Vieyras to the C. da Ericeira, [24]  which fragment as it unfortunately is, throws more light than any thing else on his political life. I cannot think that a man of so much more decision than the Kings ministers, & whose political views were all distinguished by their boldness, could be the author of the Papel Forte the character of which is force to deduce cowardly conclusions from petty statistical premises, like a Scotch whig of the present day, or a white-livered Whitbread [25]  etc. – I am strengthened in my disbelief by perceiving that when Vieyra sailed for Marahaõ, a notion prevailed that all his missionary zeal was affected, & that the object of his voyage was political, – nothing less than a design upon Potosi. This never could have been surmised of a man who was afraid of prosecuting the recovery of Pernambuco. There seems to have been a Latin life of Vieyra [26]  written before that provoking book of Andre de Barros. I wish I could discover it, tho like that blockheads, it would probably prove xxxxx a Jesuitical legend! – Few characters have ever interested me so much as this extraordinary man. His genius is not over-rated by his countrymen. that he was a profound statesman is apparent, & his liberality is shown by his conduct about the Jews, & how this genius, this wisdom, & this liberality should have coexisted with his false taste, his Catholic superstitions, & his own individual madness is indeed most curious. He was not indeed quite as mad as Joanna Southcote, – but he was just in the state of one of her four & twenty elders. [27]  I want the Provas to Seabra’s Ded. Chron. [28]  He hates Vieyra as a Jesuit, & has raked up the old calumnies against him.

I have been stealing a march to Brazil [29]  for these few days past. – It is long since I have heard how you are going on at Streatham.


Keswick. Jany 30. 1811.


* Address: To/ The Reverend Herbert Hill/ Streatham/ Surry
Postmarks: [illegible] Clock / FE 2 / 1811 FNn; E / 2 FE 2 / 1811
MS: Keswick Museum and Art Gallery
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), II, pp. 208–211. BACK

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

[2] Cartas do P. Ant. Vieyra da Companhia de Jesu, 3 vols (Lisbon, 1735–46), I, p. 8; ‘Let us organize our forces and hinder the enemy’s victualling and by temporizing he saved the state.’ Southey’s copy was no. 3773 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[3] Vieira’s Papel Forte (1648) urged the cession of Pernambuco to the Dutch as the only means of obtaining peace in the war between Portugal and the Netherlands of 1634–1654. BACK

[4] André de Barros (1675–1754), Vida do Apostólico Padre António Vieyra (1745). Southey owned an edition of 1746, no. 3313 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[5] Arte de Furtar (1652). Now attributed to the Jesuit Manuel de Costa (1601–1667), but at this time thought to be by Vieira. Southey’s copy was no. 3772 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[6] Vieira’s report Notícias recônditas do modo de proceder a Inquisição de Portugal com os seus presos led to a papal enquiry and to the suspension of the Inquisition in Portugal for five years, 1676–1681. The Noticias were published in 1821. BACK

[7] Jose Francisco de Isla y Rojo (1703–1781), Historio del Famoso Predicador Fray Gerundio de Campaza, alias Zotes (Madrid, 1758), p. 190; ‘the great Vieyra himself, in his very identical identity’. Southey’s cites the fictional Gerundio as a by-word for a user of convoluted and ultimately nonsensical language. BACK

[8] Charles Stuart, Baron Stuart de Rothesay (1779–1845; DNB), envoy at Lisbon 1810–1814. Southey was hoping to obtain a copy from him of 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] William Henry May (1785–1849), John May’s youngest brother and business partner in Brazil. BACK

[10] Annaes da Imprensa Nacional do Rio de Janeiro (1808–1822), an annual account of the National Press established in Rio de Janeiro in 1808 (the first printing press in Brazil). BACK

[11] Antonio Ruiz de Montoya (1585–1652), Conquista Espiritual hecha por los Religiosos de la Compañia de la Jesus en la Provincias del Paraguay, Parana, Uruguay, y Tape (1639). BACK

[12] Pedro Lozano (1697–1752), Historia de la Compañia de la Jesús de la Provincia del Paraguay (1755). BACK

[13] Francisco Xarque (1609–1691), Insignes, Missioneros de la Compañia de Jesus Paraguay (1687). BACK

[14] i.e. a post in the Foreign Office. BACK

[15] The merchant Thomas Kinder (c.1781–1846) had lent Southey a manuscript of Ruy Diaz de Guzman (1558–1629), La Argentina, y Historia de las Descubrimento de las Provinicas de la Rio de la Plata (1612). Southey had a copy made by his brother Tom; no. 3836 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[16] The Spanish cleric, writer and explorer Martín del Barco Centenera (1535–c.1602). He was chaplain to the expedition of Juan Ortiz de Zárate (c. 1521–1575) to the Rio de la Plata in 1572. His ‘verse Argentina’, Argentina y Conquista del Rio de la Plata (1602), is credited with making first use of the country’s name. BACK

[17] History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), I, 149. BACK

[18] Domingo Martinez de Irala (c. 1509– c. 1556), Basque conquistador, Governor of the Rio de la Plata 1537–1556. BACK

[19] The first volume of the History of Brazil (1810) was reviewed by Heber in the Quarterly Review, 4 (November 1810), 454–474. Southey responds especially to Heber’s argument that ‘The race of man … is decidedly improved by mixture’ and his comparison of Portuguese treatment of indigenous people with the ‘brutal neglect and impolicy’ meted out to native Americans by the British (470–471). BACK

[20] The Curse of Kehama (1810), reviewed by Scott in Quarterly Review, 5 (February 1811), 40–61. BACK

[21] Sir Charles William Pasley (1780–1861; DNB), Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire (1810). Southey’s review was deemed by Gifford to be ‘perfectly incorrect and dangerous’ with the result that the version published in the Quarterly Review, 5 (May 1811), 403–457, was much altered by Croker, in consultation with Gifford and Murray; see Jonathan Cutmore, The Quarterly Review Archive. BACK

[22] As minister-plenipotenitary to the Spanish Central Junta, Frere played a key role in deciding British military strategy in the Peninsula. He had been blamed for the disastrous campaign that culminated in the retreat of British troops under Sir John Moore (1761–1809; DNB) to Corunna. Moore’s actions had been in obedience to Frere’s orders and contrary to his own judgement. Frere had been criticised in A Narrative of the Campaign of the British Army in Spain (1809), written by Moore’s brother James (1762–1860; DNB). BACK

[23] For Southey’s account of the controversy, including the parliamentary debates on Moore and Frere’s conduct, Edinburgh Annual Register, for 1809, 2.1 (1811), 86–108. BACK

[24] Luís de Meneses, Conde da Ericeira (1632–1690), solider, politician and historian. Southey is referring to Vieira’s letter mentioned in the first paragraph. BACK

[25] The radical MP Samuel Whitbread (1764–1815; DNB). BACK

[26] It is not clear which book Southey might be referring to here. BACK

[27] The inner circle of followers of Joanna Southcott, their number chosen to reflect Revelation 4: 4. BACK

[28] The Portuguese minister José Seabra da Silva (1732–1803). His Deducçao Chronologica e Analytica (1767) included attacks on Vieira and other Jesuit missionaries. Southey later obtained a copy, no. 2599 in the sale catalogue of his library. He was particularly interested in the ‘Provas’, or references. BACK

[29] The second volume of the History of Brazil, published in 1817. BACK

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August 2013