1281. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 3 March 1807

1281. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 3 March 1807 ⁠* 

My dear Rickman

Galvam [1]  & Caramuru [2]  may come at your leisure in a box with the M.S.S. which it would not be prudent to hazard by sea in the general removal. [3]  There are the nine volumes on the shelf below stairs – two or three which I am not very well acquainted with in the cupboards there, – & one upstairs in the bookcase beyond the fireplace – a folio, bound but not lettered – which is very stupid & very unsightly.

Of books relating to South America I recollect a folio parchment Chronicle History of the Augustinians in Peru – purporting to be a first volume. [4]  such books being usually printed volume by volume. Hist: of Peru by <Z>Garate <Carate> 1 thin folio [5]  – & another by Diego Fernandez two thin ones [6]  – they stand side by side in the bookcase beyond the fireplace – & another Hist. of the same country by Pedro Cieça – a small thick volume bound in something more like dried lemon peel than any thing else – & not lettered. [7]  this is probably down stairs. Ther I am in no hurry for any of these; – but at your full leisure – (of which heaven knows you have little enough) they may as well come with the MSS. If they should not fill the box put in any thing Spanish or Portugueze.

I did a good months work in February. My friend Hans [8]  is got safe home to his country, – I go next to the Paraguay with a lyar called Cabeza de Vaca, – who worked miracles in Florida & brought home that foolish story of there always being a race of hermanphrodites there who were the undertakers – I dare say you have seen a picture of them – The man went governor to the Revis Plata (may I not call it the Plata at once – & so drop the silver etymology & – the single word becomes a mere name as it should be without any meaning.) & was sent back to Spain by the soldiers.  [9]  He wrote his own commentaries, & there is a German adventurer by name Hulderic Schmedel [10]  who was there at the same time & writes on the other side – so the truth is to be got at between them. After his expulsion a party made their way to Peru being the first march across the continent in that direction. I think my title must be Brazil & Paraguay. [11]  Here is a History of Paraguay by the Jesuit Charlevoix [12]  which is of all lying books the most impudent. I know not where to look for authority when Schmidel [13]  leaves me. There is however one comfort in historifying that no time needs be lost. While I wait for material for one part I can proceed with another.

You will receive a book from Our Fathers which are in the Row [14]  – which I dare say will put me in a cold sweat, & cost me sundry of those interjections which are vulgarly called oaths, before I have cut the leaves open; it being, by the few pro sheets which have sent me one of the very worst printed books that ever was seen. You will observe that I have xxx given the merit of this in the preface to G CBedford, as being his due; As some of my books have been too good to sell, I hope this will be more fortunate as the same objection certainly cannot apply to it.

There is a Spanish poem among my books which ought to have some Brazilian matter in it I forget its title – but it one of the small quartos rather thicker than usual – in dark binding – & relating the life of one whose name was Diaz or Dias – & I think – but am not sure – Pedro Diaz. [15]  A rude wooden cut upon the page represents him having his throat cut or his brain knocked out by the French – for I believe he was one of the forty Jesuits whom they took on their way to Brazil & murdered them all. If the Capitaneus discovers this in his search let it come in the box. Think what a delight it will be to me to have all my books about me at last – ranged round a better study than I could ever afford to have elsewhere. A journey to London every other year will enable me to do all that needs to be done there.

Remember me to Mrs R.

God bless you


[MS torn]rch 3. 1807.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ 3 March 1807
MS: Huntington Library, RS 105. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Duarte Galvão (1435–1517), Chronica del D. Affonso Henriques primero, D. Sancho, I & II, D. Affonso II & III, e Dom Diniz, Sexto Rey de Portugal (1727–1729). BACK

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

[3] Southey was planning to have his books shipped to Keswick; see Southey to John Rickman, 23 February [1807], Letter 1278. BACK

[4] Antonio de la Calancha (1584–1654), Coronica Moralizada del Orden de San Augustin en el Peru, con Sucesos Exemplares en Esta Monarquia (1638). No. 3322 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[5] Augustin de Çarate (dates unknown), Historia del Descubrimiento y Conquista del Peru (1577). No. 3326 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[6] Diego Fernandez (c. 1520-c. 1581), Historia del Peru (1571). No. 3381 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[7] Pedro de Cieça de Leon (c. 1520–1554), La Chronica del Peru (1554). No. 3196 of the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. 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] Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (c. 1488/1490-c. 1557/1559). A Spanish adventurer who was part of an expedition intended to conquer Florida. Shipwrecked in 1528 off Texas and captured by Indians, de Vaca eventually returned to Europe in 1537 and published an account of his adventures, La Relación in 1542, in which he recorded seeing men dressed as women and performing women’s tasks, while living with men. He returned to America in 1540 as governor of the Rio de la Plata, but was arrested and returned to Spain in 1545, where he published his Comentarios (1555), criticising the colonists. BACK

[10] Ulrich Schmiedel (?1510–1579?), a German mercenary in the service of Spanish conquistadors who travelled up the river Plate from Buenos Aires into the interior of Peru and Bolivia. Schmiedel was the author of Viaje al Río de la Plata (1534–1554). BACK

[11] It was published as the History of Brazil (1810–1819). BACK

[12] Pierre Francois-Xavier de Charlevoix (1682–1761), Histoire de Paraguay (Paris, 1756). BACK

[13] See note 10. BACK

[14] That is, the firm of Longmans in Paternoster Row, sending a copy of Southey’s and Grosvenor Bedford’s Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807). BACK

[15] Pedro Dias (1548–1571) was a Jesuit killed by pirates on his way to Brazil in 1571. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)
Paternoster Row, London (mentioned 1 time)