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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 3

1251. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 28 December [1806] ⁠* 

My dear Rickman

Ecce iterum Crispinus! —  [1] 

The thin little folio by Antonio Galvão, [2]  which the Capitaneus was so glad to find, – you will know it by the dismal way in which the leather of the binding has stained the leaves, & by the still more dismal wooden portrait, – & if you see it at a glance, a little thin new volume, the lettering of in a faint greenish or blueish stain, being a Portugueze Poem called Caramurú [3]  – its subject the settlement of Bahia by the Portugueze, [4]  & the reason why I want it is a hope to be directed by the notes to the authors authorities: but give yourself no trouble in hunting for it.

This will be my plan. [5]  First a general geographical chapter. Then the discovery by Cabral [6]  in which the appearance of the nation is described – the voyage thither in the following year of A. Vespucius in which their cannibalism appears. [7]  such accounts then of the first settlements as can be gleaned from the P. writer till 1556 – when the history of that poor Johannes Stadius [8]  comes in whom you will remember by his resolute determination to die with his beard on, & also gracissimus dentium doloribus! [9]  In the history of a new country travellers & adventurers must hold the place of Kings & Generals – & my friend Hans Staad (so I conceive his name to have been) throws great light upon what had been done in the country. the state of the colonists, & of the French interlopers, then also the customs of the natives come naturally in. I abominate the Scotch method of sorting & seperating this from the main narration, giving me plumbs & suet & flour seperately instead of a plumb pudding. At the end of all these shall be a philosophical chapter concerning the nation. After Hans’s dismal history immediately the Jesuits enter, & the French are expelled, & I see straight on to the entrance & expulsion of the Dutch. After that the order will be more difficult – but the clue will unravel when I get there then will be the Jesuit system to develope – extending to Paraguay, the commercial growth of the country – the Mamalukes & the discovery of the mines & of the interior.

Here is a fine campaign before me – I like the prospect well, & shall begin it chearfully. The black letter title page is already a preexisting ειδωλον [10]  in my mind, what will & will soon become a thing in existence.

God bless you


Sunday 28 Dec.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ 28 Decr. 1806.
MS: Huntington Library, RS 97
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 431–432.
Dating note: dating from JR’s endorsement; RS gives ‘Sunday’ which was 28 December in 1806. BACK

[1] From Juvenal’s (fl. AD late 1st century and early 2nd century) Satire 4, line 1. Meaning ‘Here’s Crispinus again’, it implies another unwelcome appearance by someone. Rufrius Crispinus (d. AD 66) was also the butt of Juvenal’s Satire 1. Southey writes to request further books for his proposed history of Brazil; see also Southey to John Rickman, 27 December [1806], Letter 1249. BACK

[2] Antonio Galvão (1490–1557), Tratado que Compôs o Nobre & Notauel Capitão Antonio Galuão, dos Diuersos & Desuayrados Caminhos, por onde nos Tempos Passados a Pimenta & Especearia veyo da India às Nossas Partes, & assi de Todos os Descobrimentos Antigos & Modernos, que são Feitos até a Era de Mil & Quinhentos & Cincoenta.... (1563). BACK

[3] José de Santa Rita Durão (1722–1784), Caramuru: Poema Épico do Descobrimento da Bahia (1781). BACK

[4] Bahia is in the north-eastern part of Brazil on the Atlantic coast. It was claimed as a Portugueze territory by explorers in 1500. BACK

[5] The prospective flight of the Portuguese court to Brazil (occurred 29 November 1807) prompted Southey, at his uncle Herbert Hill’s request, to begin a history of Brazil, using papers sent him by Hill and stored by Rickman; see Southey to John Rickman, 23 December 1806, Letter 1247. BACK

[6] Pedro Álvares Cabral (c. 1467/1468-c. 1520), Portuguese navigator and explorer who landed at Bahia in 1500 and is credited with having discovered Brazil. BACK

[7] Amerigo Vespucci (1454–1512) an Italian explorer and navigator, who participated in several voyages to South America between 1499 and 1502. In accounts he made of his second, 1499, voyage, in 1502, Vespucci suggested that cannibalism was practised by the Indians of Trinidad. BACK

[8] Hans Staden (c. 1525-c. 1579), a German member of a expedition up the de la Plata river, who in 1552 was captured by the Tupinambá people of Brazil. Escaping to Europe in 1555, Staden published a German account of his travels in 1557, claiming to have witnessed cannibalism. His narrative was translated into Latin and in 1593 was incorporated in Theodor de Bry (1528–1598), Collectiones peregrinatiorum in Indiam orientalem et Indiam occidentalem (1590–1634). BACK

[9] ‘Most grateful for tooth ache’. BACK

[10] ‘Image’. BACK

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August 2013