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

2537. Robert Southey to James Burney [c. written between late December 1814 and early 1815]⁠* 

I have a thick 12ms volume, containing more than a modern quarto, of geographical & statistical accounts of the Spanish progression in S America {of the whole viceroyalty of Peru}, which were printed during a succession of years at the end of the Lima Almanack. [1]  x below the latest xxxx xxx xxxx. In the volume I collect find these scanty facts respecting the Buccaneers

The town of Cañete has not recovered from what it suffered in the earthquake of 1687, & from its saccage by a pirate. It had been very flourishing before

The town of Pisco was una poblacion muy Buena [2]  before it was sacked by English pirates in 1685. & injured & partly inundated in the earthquake of 1687 [3] 

Huàut{r}a [4]  (as well as I can read an ill-printed word) – a town sacked in 1686 by the pirate Eduardo David. [5] 

Santa Maria de la Parrilla, a town en otro tiempo muy poblado [6]  destroyed by English Pirates 1685. The inhabitants then removed two miles from the sea upon the river. Where they suffered from an inundation in 1761

Santiago de Miraflores de Sana. sacked Match 4. 1686 by the Pirates who afterwards sacked Casma – Santa (Maria de la Parrilla) – Huaura, Pisco, & Huayaquil lo que la atraso mucho. [7]  But a heavy rain of many days continuance & an inundation of the river destroyed it entirely March 15. 1720. In consequence of this Lambayeque became the capital of the province, & is now (i-e some fifty years ago) one of the most populous & flourishing places upon the whole coast containing 7000 inhabitants, the whole province having only 2000 more

Payta, a pueblo, or village, sacked & burnt by Anson. 24 Nov. 1741. [8] 

x Concerning the loss of the Wager [9]  in 1741 the writer says – All this coast as far as the Cabo de Pilares same North & South. And it is not accurate that which Capt Cheap affirms that the cause of his being lost was the error of the charts which lay down the coast in the direction North & South, whereas they ought to have laid it North East & S. E. For this point has been newly confirmed, & thus what he asserts are is rather for an excuse for his own error, that a truth which ought to be followed.


At the end of El Marañon y Amazonas by P. Manuel Rodriguez 1684 [10]  is an Indice Chronologico Pernano y del V Rey no de Granada. in which there are these notes

1591 fourteen of Cavendish’s [11]  men taken, of whom 12 were hanged & the other two kept prisoners

1594 Richard Aquines an Englishman entered by the Straits & was taken in battle by D Beltran Castro de la Cueva. [12]  This must be Hawkins [13] 

1595 An English pirate called Guateral infested the coast of Tierra Firma. Speaking of Drakes death he says his mother brought him forth on board ship at sea, & it was remarkable enough (fue harto) that he should have died ashore. [14] 

1616 A pirate called William Fzeten [15]  (so printed from some manifest error of the press, & God knows for what) enterd the S Sea & explored the coasts without making any robberies or attempting any, for he seemd only to come exploring

1618. There entered the city of S Thomé de la Guayne an English Pirate called Gualteri Reali, who killed some people there, & plundered all that he could find [16] 

x 1624 A number of English landed at Guayaquil, [17]  & were repulsed in that port, it being garrisoned by troops who had been sent there from Quito, & who obtained a victory muy applaudia [18] 

x 1640. This year the Armada de Barloventi [19]  was established, muy deseada contra los Cosarios, [20]  for the security of commerce & navigation of the Isles de Barloventi y de Tierra Firma.

1670 Morgans [21]  capture of Panama. Much private property was saved. “forces came from Lima & from Quito to dislodge him, but he was gone, & so the cost & the trouble were thrown away.”

The same year an English pirate in a frigate of 40 guns entered the S Sea & landed in the port of Valdivia [22]  & D Carlos Enriquez Clerck [23]  who was taken & sent to Lima

1680 The Pirates who had entered by Darien, [24]  being only 150 men in a ship which they took on the coast of Panama did great damage along the coast of Peru. they took a bark & its crew which went out from Gravesend, they sacked Coquimba & other small places & caused a great expence in a fleet which went out from Callao to sack them without having the fortune luck to chasten them, or {even} see them, according to the account of those who were went in their search

x 1682. Clerk (above mentioned) executed at Lima (strangled) he had been sent by the English of Jamaica to spy the whole coast of Peru

1683. 18 May Vera Cruz [25]  sacked by 800 Pirates under Lorencello a native of Celanda (Zeeland?) married in the Canaries


* Address: For/ Capt Burney
Endorsement: R. Southey
MS: Morgan Library, MA 38
Dating note: This letter contains the ‘notices’ about the ‘Buccaneers’ compiled by Southey for Burney’s use; see Southey to John Rickman, 4 November [1814], Letter 2496. A letter to John Rickman of 16 December 1814 (Letter 2518), records that Southey had been thwarted in his plan to put together the ‘memoranda’ for Burney ‘this evening’ by the unexpected demand for a Laureate ode. The ‘notices’ were probably compiled and sent shortly after this, giving a date of between c. late 1814 and early 1815. BACK

[1] Descripcion de las Provincias Pertenecientes al Arzobispado de Lima (n.d.), no. 3645 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. This compilation had been sent to Southey by Murray; see Southey to John Rickman, 1 August 1810, Letter 1797. BACK

[2] i.e. well-populated. BACK

[3] Pisco was almost destroyed in a tsunami triggered by the 1687 earthquake. BACK

[4] Probably Huaral in central Peru. BACK

[5] The English pirate Edward Davis (fl. 1682–1693; DNB). In 1685–1687 he carried out a series of raids on coastal settlements in western South America. BACK

[6] ‘at this time well-populated’. BACK

[7] ‘The which fact delayed it considerably.’ BACK

[8] The British naval officer and politician George Anson, Baron Anson (1697–1762; DNB) led the sacking of the coastal city of Paita, 13–15 November 1741. BACK

[9] HMS Wager, a 28-gun ship, was wrecked off the coast of south Chile on 14 May 1741. A group of the survivors mutinied, abandoned the ship’s captain David Cheap (d. 1752) and his supporters, and headed back to England. Some of them survived the journey. Cheap and his followers also made it home, arriving two years after the mutineers. A court martial resulted. BACK

[10] Manuel Rodriguez (1633–1701), El Marañon y Amazonas (1684); a history of expeditions along the river, making use of first-hand accounts. Southey’s copy was no. 3627 in the sale catalogue of his library. BACK

[11] Thomas Cavendish (bap. 1560, d. 1592; DNB), leader of an expedition to Brazil. BACK

[12] Beltran de Castro y de la Cueva (fl. 1590s), a well-connected Spanish nobleman, related to the Dukes of Albuquerque. BACK

[13] Richard Hawkins (c. 1560–1622; DNB), English seaman, whose ship, the Dainty, was captured by the Spanish in 1594 after raiding the western seaboard of Spanish South America. He was not released until 1602. BACK

[14] Sir Francis Drake (1540–1596; DNB). He was born at Crowndale, near Tavistock, Devon, and died on board ship at Porto Bello. ‘Guateral’ here presumably refers to Drake, who was raiding Tierra Firma, or Panama, in 1595. BACK

[15] Possibly a reference to the Dutch expedition led by Jacques Le Maire (1585–1616) and Willem Schouten (d. 1625), which rounded Cape Horn in January 1616 and sailed up the coast of Chile before crossing the Pacific. BACK

[16] Sir Walter Raleigh’s (c. 1554–1618; DNB) ill-fated expedition to South America. The capture of Sao Tome on the Orinoco, against government instructions, led to Raleigh’s execution. BACK

[17] This attack was actually by a Dutch fleet, led by Jacques L’Hermite (or le Clercq) (c. 1582–1624), which had been given the task of raiding Spanish ships and establishing a Dutch colony on the west coast of South America. BACK

[18] ‘much applauded’. BACK

[19] i.e. the Fleet of the Windward Islands in the Caribbean. BACK

[20] ‘greatly desired to fight the pirates’. BACK

[21] The privateer and colonial governor Sir Henry Morgan (c. 1635–1688; DNB), who captured and sacked Panama City in December 1670. BACK

[22] A Royal Navy expedition, led by Sir John Narborough (bap. 1640–1688; DNB), Captain of HMS Sweepstakes, to establish trading links with South America. At Valdivia he was compelled to leave four of his crew behind as hostages, an action for which he was much-criticised. BACK

[23] Narborough’s secretary, Charles Henry Clerk (d. 1682). BACK

[24] A reference to the raiding expedition led by Bartholomew Sharpe (fl. 1650s-1690s; DNB) to Panama and the western coast of South America in 1680–1682. BACK

[25] The city of Vera Cruz in Mexico was sacked on the night of 17–18 May 1683 by a combined force led by the Dutch pirates Laurens de Graaf, alias Laurencillo, (c. 1653–1704) and Nikolaas van Hoorn (c. 1635–1683). BACK

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August 2013