Iracema, or Honey Lips; and Manuel de Moraes the Convert
London: Bickers & Son, 1886.
London: Bickers & Son, 1886. First English language edition. Finely bound by Boundey, Root & Son in half morocco over marbled boards. Top edge brightly gilt. Marbled endpapers. Internally a pleasing copy, unmarked but for a previous ownership stamp from the Catholic University of America Library to the lower first title. Collates vii, [1, blank], 101, [1, blank]; vii,138: bound without the original paper wrappers else complete. A pleasing copy of an important work, Isabel Burton's first translation into English of J. de Alencar, the father of modern Brazilian literature.
The daughter of British gentry and one of England's most influential Catholic families, Isabel Arundell Burton was educated and intelligent in her own rite. But her marriage to explorer Sir Richard Burton brought a new level of adventure to her life. Before their courtship even began, "Burton had become the first infidel to infiltrate Mecca as one of the faithful, and in an expedition to discover the source of the Nile, would be the first white man to see Lake Tanganyika. After being married, the Burtons traveled and experienced the world, from diplomatic postings in Brazil and Africa to hair raising adventures in the Syrian desert" (Lovell). It was during the couple's time in Brazil that Isabel learned of two indigenous writers, whose works were not available in English. The desire to spread these stories -- and their authors' names -- motivated the translation, as, likely, did Burton's encouragement of his wife to take on literary projects. According to the preface of Iracema, the book which bears Isabel's name alone as translator, " I cannot allow my readers to remain ignorant of the name Senhor J. de Alencar, the author of this and several other works; for he deserves to be as well known in England as in Brazil...He is their first prose and romance writer. His style, written in the best Portuguese of the present day...contains poetic and delicate touches, and beauty in similes, yet it is real and true to life...I cannot thank him sufficiently for having allowed so incompetent a translator to be the first to introduce him to the British public." Of course, the cache of having Isabel Burton take up the work increased the likelihood that the novel would be noticed and devoured by the English. And Isabel, in a spirit of cultural exchange, pushes for white Europeans to appreciate and engage with the beauty of another culture's literature. Though Burton performed her translations in 1865-1869, Iracema would not appear in print until 1886, in a combined issue with her and her husband's joint translation of Manuel de Moraes. Alencar, now considered one of the fathers of modern Brazilian literature, was a writer made accessible to English speakers thanks to Burton's own appreciation of his language and her desire to share it. Near Fine (Item #3374)