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Skizze meiner Reise nach Brasilien von Nanette D'Érouvray. Meinen Freunden und Bekannten gewidmet.
4to. German manuscript on paper. Title-page, 188 numbered pp. Contemporary green half calf with gilt cover borders and giltstamped red spine label.
A substantial, unpublished South American travel manuscript: the earliest known account of Brazil written by a woman. Nanette (Anne) d'Erouvray, daughter of the head gardener at the Bavarian castle of Schleißheim, Ludwig d'Erouvray, accompanied the Bavarian princess Amélie de Leuchtenberg (1812-73, granddaughter of Napoleon's first wife Joséphine), to her new home in South America when she wed Emperor Pedro I of Brazil. The 17-year-old Amélie had married the ill-reputed Pedro by proxy in Munich on 2 August 1829; she would first set eyes on her husband in Rio de Janeiro. The spirited Nanette, then in her mid-20s, was one of the servants at Leuchtenberg Palace who volunteered for the passage to and life in Brazil, and on the 4th of August she left her native Bavaria with the princess. The young woman describes the overland journey to Ostend in Belgium, where the bride and her entourage of thirteen are received by a Brazilian countess. A steamship takes them out to sea, where they transfer to the Imperial frigate "Imperatriz". Nanette describes the conditions on board - of the roughly 600 passengers, a mere 16 are women - as well as the piteous treatment of the slaves and the boisterous celebration that attends the crossing of the equator. They arrive in Rio on October 16. With a critical eye Nanette records all that she encounters in Brazil: the brash soldiers, the jaundiced and scheming courtiers, the unfamiliar and sometimes unpalatable food, and the ubiquitous mosquitos, mites, worms and other pests and parasites. Repeatedly she deplores the lot of the slaves whose constant ill-treatment is conspicuous to her everywhere. The city of Rio de Janeiro is portrayed as narrow, filthy, and poorly paved, while nearby Santa Cruz is said to be well-administrated. Nothing, however, impresses the writer so deeply as the beauties of the South American flora and fauna which present themselves to her at São Cristóvão before her very window: "It was spring when we arrived here, and nature stood before us rejuvenated, in all the splendour and glory ever possible in this hot clime. Colourful parrots, lustrous hummingbirds, and purple flamingos all swayed from the blossoming twigs of the sweet-smelling orange and lemon trees. And all these wonders, such as Europeans are never granted to see in their homeland, I could admire daily from my window, and for nothing in the world would I have traded this room, which constituted my place of exile whence I retreated when seized by homesickness" (p. 83). Her admiration for the scenic attractions of the Brazilian countryside only increase during a long, exhausting and frequently dangerous expedition to the province of Minas Gerais that leads the party as far as Ouro Preto. Immediately upon their return on 17 March 1831, the Imperial family and their entourage are made aware of the political turmoils that have already gripped the streets of the capital and which are to precipitate the national crisis leading to Pedro's abdication. Nanette describes only her own observations, her fears of open revolution, expressly refraining from giving any background on the politics of the conflict, which - as she writes - may easily be gleaned from published accounts. At dawn on the morning of 7 April, the Imperial family and the Bavarian train fly from Brazil, leaving behind the five-year-old son Pedro, from the Emperor's first marriage, as successor. Taken on board the British warship HMS "Volage", they reach Cherbourg in June. While Nanette also describes the return voyage and the journey home to her beloved family in Freising, the bulk of the manuscript is very clearly devoted to her soujourn in Brazil - a noteworthy fact, as servants' travel reports not uncommonly devote more space to the journey than to the places visited. The manuscript constitutes an important source for the second marriage of Pedro I and for the alliance between the Brazilian Imperial family and the Bavarian noble family of Beauharnais-Leuchtenberg. The only eyewitness account hitherto known was the "Travel Journal of Count Friedrich von Spreti: The Brazilian Imperial Wedding of 1829" (ed. by Heinrich v. Spreti and Suzane v. Seckendorff; privately published in Munich, 2008). Pedro had previously been married to Archduchess Maria Leopoldine of Austria, who had died in 1826 following a miscarriage and years of ill-treatment by her philandering husband. After his attempt to make a fresh start with Amélie suffered such a disastrous political setback, the couple ultimately established themselves in Portugal as the Duke and Duchess of Braganza, Pedro dying in 1834 and Amélie surviving him by nearly 40 years.
Binding somewhat rubbed and stained in places; spine professionally repaired. Interior shows some browning, but a well preserved and well legible manuscript throughout. A full transcription of the German text is available.