The accounts left by travelers to Brazil are usually informative and often entertaining. To the readers of yesteryear they conveyed visions of a sunny and exotic land once confused with paradise. To later historians they provide a delightful source of details and insights. The inquisitive English contributed heavily to that travel literature, particularly in the last century. This book, the Portuguese translation of Narrative of a Voyage to Brazil, is the first of an impressive library of such literature on Brazil during the nineteenth century. It is the diary of Thomas Lindley and contains his impressions of and experiences in Bahia in 1802-1803. The author was in an unusual position. Accused of contraband, he was being investigated and charged by the colonial government. His enforced stay provided him an excellent opportunity to observe Salvador in its waning colonial days.
Happily, Lindley tried to meet as many people as possible, and he introduces his reader to plantation owners, bureaucrats, military officers, and priests. One of the most fascinating figures is Francisco Agostinho Gomes, bibliophile, naturalist, philosopher, an inspiration behind the revolt of 1798 and one of the most enlightened men in Brazil. Strangely—and sadly—very little is known about him. Lindley’s account contains one of the few descriptions of this savant who spoke both French and English and owned a remarkable library with books by Buffon, Lavoisier, Alembert, William Robertson, and Thomas Paine. Lindley predicted that Brazil’s independence was not far off, and in several passages scattered through the diary indicated why he thought so. Appended to the diary are two long and informative descriptions of the provinces of Pôrto Seguro and Bahia.
The Narrative enjoyed a certain degree of popularity when it first appeared in 1805. The following year French and German editions came off the press, and in 1808 a second English edition was issued. Although many of Brazil’s foremost historians from Varnhagen onward commended the book, this present edition is the first in the Portuguese language. The Bahian historian Wanderley Pinho wrote a brief introduction, and Américo Jacobina Lacombe provided ample and useful notations.