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Record number: WCP350

Sent by:
Richard Spruce
Sent to:
Alfred Russel Wallace
10 October 1852

Sent by Richard Spruce, Panuré, Sao Jeronymo [Sao Jeronimo], Brazil to Alfred Russel Wallace [none given] on 10 October 1852.

Record created:
01 June 2002 by Lucas, Paula J.
Verified by:
22/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline (All except summary checked);


Re. the political situation in Barra; reaction to news in London papers; voyage by river from San Gabriel to San Jeronimo; collecting specimens of ferns; plans to travel with Agostinho; servants; Sir Robt Humbugck (sic: Schomburgk)

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  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP350.350)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/3/25
Copyright owner:
Copyright of the Richard Spruce Literary Estate.
Record scrutiny:
22/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

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Panuré (vel, si mavir, Saí Jeronymo)

10. Oct[ober] 1852.

My dear friend,

I wished to write to you ere leaving Saó Gabriel, but I had no opportunity of forwarding a letter. Do you know that since you left we have had no more Correios. I have only just received news that the Manuel Pedro who accompanied you to the Barra has returned after an absence of more than 5 months. The President foi – se embora [Portuguese for "went away"] & left no one in charge of the state, so that no Correios were dispatched "nor no nothing" done that should have been done. The infant Province which had not learnt to go without help is already on its last legs. The officials in the Barra have chupado ["sucked"] all the money in the Treasury, and those in the centro must get on as well as they can without pay, including in the same latter category soldiers of all grades. It is not impossible that some one of these days we shall be getting up a revolution of our own.

I write now more particularly to forward you a letter addressed to you which has just reached me from Pará, enclosed along with some of mine. I cannot write to you as I would -- I am much excited by news just rec[eive]d in a batch of Examiners & other papers (though they reach only to the beginning of February -- thoughts of old England drive all others out of my head -- perhaps even now it "stands not where it did". I hope youll all fight for your homes if necessary -- I wish I were by to help you, & that I had a hundred lives to give for my country.

You will however expect something about my own doings since we parted. Shortly after you left S. Gabriel my hunter fell sick and after lying a fortnight in his hammock without any amendment, I allowed him to go to his mother to be cured. Then came the festa of Saó Gabriel which last about a month. During this time no [[2]] one would either hunt or fish, the ferteiros living almost entirely on carrion and ipadú. I had still another man but he knew not how to shoot, and I was reduced to go into the forest early in the morning in quest of parrots & japús [?] for my dinner. I was mostly successful, but once on 3 rainy days when I was somewhat indisposed I passed the whole time on xibé [root food]. Think of this when you are enjoying your tea and short-cake. The Commandante was no better off than myself. For the last two months of my sojourn at S. Gabriel I did scarcely anything in the way of collecting. It is true it was the worst season of the year -- nothing was in flower wither in the gapó or in the forest. I am here at S. Jeronymo at a capital season. What a great deal I c[oul]d do were I in the midst of our industrious people, & how often do I sigh to see fine things withering away which I have no time to preserve! -- Yet I do not regret now having staid some time in S.Gabriel, for I got many ferns in the Caatingas there which I do not find here, and I think they were more numerous.

I have not yet said anything of my voyage. It cost me 5 days with 13 men to reach S. Joachim from S. Gabriel. I left on Aug[ust] 21 when the river had fallen very little and the cachoeiras [waterfalls] were most furious, so that there was nothing for it but espia [?] all the way. The entire voyage lasted 18 days, but once [1 word illeg.] the Haupes I did not hurry my men, as I found abundant materials to occupy one of the banks, and went about a good deal in my mentarium [armamentarium?]. What most surprised me was to see so little gapó -- I have many times stepped off the toloa [?] of my canoe upon terra firma. It is only on some islands a little below this place that there is any breadth of inundated land.

Not withstanding Sen[o]r Limas tale about Tuchauar Joaôs complaints of my paying ill, I had no difficulty in getting men. I sent to S. Jeronymo asking for 8 men to join me on the 20th of Aug[us]t, and they appeared on the 15th. I arranged other 5 to aid me in the cachoeiras from the neighbouring [1 word illeg.]. When I reached the port of S. Joachim Jeronymo Sen[o]r Joaô was rhe first to welcome me and to [[3]] honor me by "proving" my cachaça [liquor].

Saõ Jer[ony]mo is now very lively. There are two broncos constructing large canoes -- Chugas & Amansio. It is pleasant to have their society but they occupy nearly all the male population in cutting timber &c. so that there is no one left to fish, & the land is not very "farta" [abundant] just now. The people complain of having passed a dismal winter -- "naô se-achin nada para se-comer".

How long I may stay here I know not -- I ought to stay 12 or perhaps 15 months -- but in that time I sh[oul]d have to go to Marabitanus or somewhere to see planks for making more boxes. I am now arranging with Agostinho to accompany him as far as Jauarate-cachoeira (only) in about a fortnight & I do not propose staying there more than 2 or 3 weeks. If I go to the Juruparí (from which the Lord deliver you) it will be in January with Jesuino.

My head is sadly atrapalhado ["jumbled"] this morning -- I ought to have told you that I am inhabiting a quarto in Agostinhos house -- I have in fact had the house to myself till three days ago when he returned from the Barra. I have 3 Indians in my service but they are "vadios" [bums; lazy] and I really think I sh[oul]d be better off (in the way of "comeres" ["eating"]) were I alone. I am often reminded of a saying of old Elives the miser "If you have one good servant you may look to have your work done -- if you keep two it will be only half done, & if you keep three you may do it yourself." The other morning I called to my "head man""Basilio! suche me esta gassaba con agua." A few moments afterward, I heard Basilio calling to his second "O Lorenço! o patuaô diz para tu hir buscar agua"; and immediately afterwards bawls out Lorenço "O Hiruáia irure y pahá". And if the poor Hiruáia had not executed the command, the patron w[oul]d have had to do it himself.

My first excursions around S. Jeronymo were by water to the cachoeiras all of which I have explored in search of Carurús. The "estrada grande" is singularly barren, but a caatinga lying North of it, and another on the S.[outh] side of the river have afforded me much novelty.

[[4]] The weather has been for some time (days) very fine & sunny, and butterflies are everywhere abundant.

I have a letter from Henrique -- he does not recount anything of moment. The American Official de Marinha has gone it seems up the Purús, but I know not what are the objects of his travel. Did you meet with him?

When you write pray tell me if Sir Rob[er]t. Humbugck says anything in his Jounrals (pub[lishe]d by Geog.[logical] Soc[iet]y) of the vegetation of the Rio Negro.

The new Director of the Uaupés (Jesuinco) has just returned from a visit to the alturas of the river. He seems to have accomplished nothing. His object was to induce the people to come out of the igarapés & settle in mallocas on the banks of the river. "No!" said they, "the Government invites us to do that merely that it may seize on us more easily para o serviço". Up to snuff, arent they? "You dont catch old birds with chaff" -- a proverb of which you (as an ornithologist) will appreciate the full force.

This is a miserable letter to send to a friend at such a distance, but really I cant write anything better just now. Pray write to me soon and tell me everything which you think may interest a poor fellow buried alive in these forests. I sh[oul]d like to know your "parecer" on political matters; and dont forget to tell me how your collections & yourself reached England, and especially what progress you are making in the English tongue & whether you can by this time make yourself understood by the natives. -- Truly & sincerely I trust that you escaped the dreaded "peote" [?] in Pará.

Your faithful friend and [1 word illeg.] companion through this wilderness | Rich[ar]d Spruce. [signature]

Lima has lately returned from the Barra & writes to me that he will be here bby the end of the month to go as far as the Carurú cachoeira. He seems to have quarreled with Henrique in the Barra -- he has such a long tongue & so unconquerable a habit of gritándo (as he calls it) [yelling] that he alienates all his friends.

Agostinho sends you "muitas lembranças". [many memories]

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