Letters of Álvares de Azevedo: Part One (1840-1842) | Stephen Basdeo (Trans.)

The following letters were translated by Stephen Basdeo using the following critical edition of Álvares de Azevedo’s works:

Homero Pires, ed. Obras Completas de Álvares de Azevedo, 2 vols (São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1942), II, pp. 435–32

Photograph of Álvares de Azevedo
Álvares de Azevedo (Public Domain)

Letter I.[1]

Botafogo, 30 July 1840


I think you were doing well with Dad. Mr. Stoll[2] sends many compliments to you and Papa. Mama make to come and pick me up on Saturday.[3]

My dear Mama, from your very affectionate son,

Manuel Azevedo

Letter II.[4]

[not dated]

My dear Mamma,

I hope that you are quite well.

Yesterday I wrote a letter to Japiassú.[5] My love to dear Papa, my Uncle, my Sisters,[6] my Brother,[7] Mistress Maria da Gloria, Mr Flores, my Grand Mother, Mr Firmino, Mr my God Father, etc. I am the monitor for to make the boys speak French.[8] Mr Sigaud of the water,[9] Mr Gabiso the monitor of the bell, the pens and the ink, Mr Queixeramoby, Furtado and Antonio Januario are the general monitors.

All my masters are satisfied with me, principally Mr Donovan and Mr Stoll Vissola. You can believe that I am,

My dear Mamma, your very affectionate son,

 Manuel Antonio Álvares de Azevedo.

Letter III.

[not dated]


I hope you had a good time, like everyone else at home.

Tell papa to send me a dentist here to take out a tooth. Here’s this drawing for you.

I am, my dear Mother, your son,

M. Azevedo.

N.B. give my regards to all who ask after me.

Letter IV.[10]

Botafogo, 28 November 1840

My dear Papa,

I hope you are quite well, and Mamma, My Brother, and Sisters, and also my Uncle. Papa, I send you the letter of Saturday 17th of November. Mr. Japiassú is gone[11] on the 25th inst.[12] all the boys were crying for him. Mr. Japiassú said for to tell[13] you he could not go to bid you farewell, because he was in such a great hurry.

I am your affectionate son


Letter V.[14]

Botafogo, 30 January 1841

My dear Mamma.

I hope you are quite well. My cousin Ignacio has been very bad with a gathering in his ear and has had beeches[15] applied, so that he is now better. Ratton and Sigaud has the measles, Quixeramoby has the headache, my cousin Joseph the toothache so were all ill together. My loves[16] to my dear Papa, my Uncle, my Brother, Sisters, Mrs. Maria da Gloria, and Mr. Flores. It has been raining here since last Wednesday. Mrs. Lennon came here in the College for to serve[17] the boys, but she will not stop[18] as Mr. Stoll thinks she is to [sic] old.

My dear Mamma, I am your very affectionate son

Manuel Antonio Alvares de Azevedo.

Letter VI.

13 April 1842


I guess you have been well, I for my part have not enjoyed good health, after Monday I had bad indigestion and yesterday Dr. Geraldo told that I, along with Antonio Carlos, had gastric fever and since yesterday I am using the remedy.[19] Mr. Stoll told me to get up today at 9am.

My regards to everyone at home, principally Papa.

Goodbye, my dear mother.

I am your obedient son

M. Azevedo.

Letter VII.

Botafogo, 12 July 1842

My dear Mother,

I hope you have been well, and likewise everyone there at home. I received half that you sent from Jacinto at 10am precisely (by the clock here at college). News:—Margarida is going to be married Saturday with João Henrique de Araujo and she spent 500$000 only on the dress. Don’t forget to send for me on Friday because there is no college on Saturday.

Goodbye, my dear Mother.

I am your son,

M.A.A. Azevedo.

Letter VIII.

Botafogo, 19 September 1842

My dear Mother,

I am going to the house of D. Maria Amalia Japiassú, so even if you write to me I maybe will not be able to respond, but I gave orders for any letters to be forwarded there. I waited until midday but as nothing arrived I took my leave.

Goodbye, my dear mother, I hope you have been well, Papa also, and everyone who sends,

Your son,

Manuel Antonio Alvares de Azevedo.

Letter IX.

Botafogo, 19 September 1842

My dear Mother,

The fish-man still has not arrived here (the opposite), but there are still no clever people to call cum quibus. I am at Mr. Desembargador Japiassú’s house. I already ate, when there is something worth seeing I will write to tell you.

Your son,


n.b.—My regards to tout le monde.

Letter X.

Botafogo, 25 September 1842

My dear Mother,

I trust you have been well, just like Papa, who came to visit me here Wednesday.

On Wednesday took place an experience with the renowned fish-man; he went into the sea and came out saying that he was going to get seven more pounds, which he brought, and went into the water; he had a glass wheel around his head, which ended at the neck, from where he continued in Flanders foil, he had in his hand a box of foil where there were two bladders full of air and which had an elastic gum straw that went up to the mask, which was full of wind; Having entered the water, he stayed for two minutes, was hissed a lot, and wanting to give satisfaction to the public, he was answered with pushing (which I thought was badly done).

We later learned that he had done the experiments so badly because, having seen the weather somewhat bad, he started to drink. Just like that my mother you remember the man of the cork boots in Lisbon. If Mr. Beaudoin (so the fish-man calls himself) was sure of his own skills why the great need to try it out? And why not go to a deserted beach, such as Praia Vermelha, Praia Grande, Ponta de Arêa, Gragoatá, etc.? In short, my mother remembers the man with the cork boots.

When you send for me send me some other trousers to go home with because the cashmere ones are worn out on the knee.

My dear mother,

I am your son,

M.A.A. Azevedo.

p.s. My regards to all there at home and send me to tell me what they give me for my birthday. Send me shoes because mine are worn.

Letter XI.[20]

Botafogo, 20 October 1842

My dear mother.

I wish you well, as well as my Dad, my brother and my sisters. Give a kiss to Marie Françoise from me. I am doing well, even though I have a cold and a cough, which do not let me breathe, and all the more so as I have no handkerchief here at the College, and so being obliged, when I want to blow my nose, to blow my nose in my dirty linen. Having nothing more to say, I ask you for handkerchiefs and something for the cough. Regrets to all those who will ask for me.

Farewell, my dear Mother.

I am with great respect and also your very affectionate son,

M.A.A. Azevedo.

n.b.—I have written the letter in French so that I may have the answer in French too.


[1] Originally written in French—SB.

[2] Stoll was the Director of the College in Rio de Janeiro and in which Álvares de Azevedo studied between 1840 and 1844.

[3] The original French in this appeared to make no sense to Pires who remarked in a footnote that the original is ‘Maman faite venir a venir’ and that ‘we must remember that when these letters began to be written, it was by a nine year old boy’—SB.

[4] Originally written in English—SB.

[5] Dr Candido Ladislau Japiassú de Figueiredo e Mello, friend of the poet’s father. When the name of Ouvidor Japiassú was involved in the murder of Libero Badaró, committed in Sao Paulo on the night of 20 November 1830, the same Ouvidor had to flee that province, and then Alvares de Azevedo’s father “protected him in the escape and accompanied him to Cubatão, where they took a canoe and sailed along the coast to Rio de Janeiro, running the most serious dangers.” (Almeida Nogueira, A Academia de S. Paulo, Tradições e Reminisciencias, V. S. Paulo, 1908, p. 50). Vicente de Azevedo (Alvares de Azevedo, S. Paulo, 1931, pp. 22-3) and Escragnolle Doria (O Ouvidor Japiassú in Revista da Semana, 16 October 1937, an. XXXVIII, n. 45, p. 18) add that, in this terrible conjuncture, D. Maria Luisa Silveira da Motta, mother of the author of Macário, also accompanied her husband and friend.

[6] The poet’s sisters at this time were Maria Luisa and Marianna.

[7] The brother, Joaquim Ignacio Alvares de Azevedo, born 3 May 1836, graduated in Pernambuco, and published a book titled Poems (Rio, 1872). He was the father of the poet Manoel Antonio Alvares de Azevedo Sobrinho, autor of Vigilia das Armas (Rio, 1899) and Boas-Festas (Ouro Preto, 1894). Joaquim Ignacio passed away on 30 June 1873. There was an older brother also called Ignacio, born in 1833 and died in 1835.

[8] We have already stated that these letters were written by a nine year old boy. And for this reason was it that Alvares wrote — Mr. my God Father, and immediately after — monitor for to make, when he should have avoided the substantive Mr, and the preposition for.

[9] This must be Dr J.F.X. Sigaud, who in 1844 published the book Du Climas et des Maladies du Brasil.

[10] Originally written in English—SB.

[11] In place of ‘is gone’ should be written—‘went’.

[12] ‘Inst.’ abbreviation for ‘instant’—current.

[13] ‘said to tell’—not how it is written.

[14] Originally written in English—SB.

[15] ‘Beeches’ might have been misinterpreted from the original handwriting. It should read as ‘leeches’—bloodsuckers that are applied to a painful ear to make it better.

[16] Should be ‘my love’ and not ‘loves’, as the author wrote in letter number one.

[17] This should read ‘to serve’ without the preposition.

[18] This should be ‘stay’ instead of ‘stop’.

[19] The original Portuguese here is written awkwardly, using a combination of the past continuous and present simple. Azevedo, still young, must have been too ill to write correctly. I have retained the ‘awkwardness’ of the letter—SB.

[20] Originally written in French.—SB.