Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2014 Issue

The History of Paraguay, The Lying Fury of the Jesuits

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An 18th century Jesuit in the New World.

My good friend the Lying Fury is an old dignified lady with many untold prophets. I unexpectedly came across one of them the other day, while reading Histoire du Paraguay; the author wrote extensively about the lying fury of the Jesuits in what was then known as Paraguay. His name was Pierre-François-Xavier de Charlevoix (1682-1761), and he is very well known for his trilogy about the New World, featuring the histories of Saint-Domingue (Haiti), New France and Paraguay. A Jesuit himself, he wrote about Paraguay at a time when his congregation was under harsh criticism in Europe as well as in the New World.

 

 

Many historians had never set a foot in the remote lands they described, and only put together different testimonies collected in libraries—Charlevoix wasn’t one of those. As soon as 1705, our French Jesuit went to New France (Canada), where he remained for four years. And in 1720, he left for a long voyage through the New World that led him from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River to Saint-Domingue. His Histoire de l’Isle Espagnole, ou de St. Domingue (Paris, 1730) is based on the manuscript of another Jesuit, Father Le Pers, and his Histoire et Description Générale de la Nouvelle-France (Paris, 1744) is also partly composed of various testimonies, but he knew what he was writing about. As a matter of fact, these two works are highly valued among connoisseurs—much more than his Histoire du Paraguay (1756), which is yet illustrated with several folding maps drawn by the famous Mr Bellin.

 

Charlevoix had never been to South America either, and wrote his book from the memoirs of other Jesuits. “This work,” reads Les Trois Siècles de Notre Littérature (Amsterdam, 1773), “is, so to speak, the answer to many grievances directed at his Order regarding the famous Reductions of Paraguay.” Indeed, it could have been entitled History of the Jesuits in Paraguay. Of course, the Jesuits played a key role in South America, where they successfully created many apostolic Reductions (or settlements) among the Indians. They had a strong political position, too—the Spaniards resentfully saw their progress in South America, as they couldn’t enslave the Indians who had joined a Reduction. They were more than once overthrown by powerful enemies—until their ultimate downfall of 1767, related in the movie The Mission (1986). Blamed by the Spaniards who wanted to use their neophytes as slaves, accused of training the Indians to war and of secretly gathering a tremendous treasure, the Jesuits were portrayed as covetous people who didn’t really care about religion. Charlevoix endeavoured to justify their deeds in the New World, and thus became a prophet of the Lying Fury.

 

The Fury of the Jesuits

 

Founded in 1540 by Ignace de Loyola, the Society of Jesus—or the Jesuit Order— has probably bred the most learnt religious of all times thanks to long studies imposed on its members (15 years). As a matter of fact, the same Les Trois Siècles de Notre Littérature wrote about Charlevoix that he had the “style of a learnt man rather than of a religious,” reminding that he had “contributed for twenty years to the newspaper of Trevoux.” But the Jesuits didn’t stick to books; they were furious men in their own ways. Those who went to the New World to convert the Savages were animated by an uncommon fury that commands respect—even to those who remain critical about the colonization of the New World. They went through the virgin jungle of South America with a handful of guides only, sailed unknown rivers, crossed unhealthy morasses, ate and drank what they could find, toiled and suffered under the sun, endured diseases and hardship for weeks before reaching hostile lands populated by ferocious Indians who had never seen a white man before, and who were usually at war with any stranger—and sometimes ate those they captured. The Jesuits didn’t care, and they went to meet them without fear, playing music to temper their warlike mood. As soon as they faced these naked creatures, they treated them like disobedient children: they vehemently criticized their evil ways, read the Bible, and told them about Jesus Christ with words they couldn’t understand; then they destroyed their idols in front of their bewildered eyes! Within a few months, they could speak the language of the Indians, had translated them the Bible, erected a church in the middle of nowhere, and started to spread the Gospel in the wilderness. And these people conquered South America? This is almost unbelievable. Of course, the Reductions were sacked and destroyed several times, abandoned sometimes; and their neophytes (or disciples) scattered if not slaughtered; but they always rebuilt and repopulated them, as the Jesuits never got weary. Those who lost their lives in the process became martyrs, thus serving their Order even better—not even death could stop a furious Jesuit.

 

Monsters and Miracles

 

Charlevoix was a pretty good historian—especially for the 18th century. He tried to stick to facts, and to remain critical. But in this particular case, he felt compelled to faithfully report what his religious peers had written. These holy sources being untouchable, Charlevoix had no choice but to seriously relate some unlikely miracles. Regarding Father Montoya, he confessed: “The character of this Apostolic Man, the reputation he had in Spain of being one of the most learnt men of his time, his heroic actions and the reputation of sanctity he had in America (...) do not allow me to question the facts he has reported in a book printed before his eyes.” Sometimes, Father Charlevoix’ faith was challenged by his intelligence. For instance, he was a little bit sceptical about Father Loçano’s description of a tribe from the Chaco called the Collus: “It means ostrich-feet; they have thus been called because they have no calf, and because, except for their heels, their feet look like ostrich’s feet.” This might look awkward in society but it was probably a very convenient physical characteristic in the jungle. “They can run as fast as a horse,” concluded Charlevoix. The same Father Loçano also quoted a Paraguayan martyr, Father Osorio, who was positive about the fact that, stretching his arm, he couldn’t reach the head of the smallest Indian from a tribe of giants located near the Tarija River. But this is daily routine for the Lying Fury—and the Jesuits could do better.

 

His Mysterious Ways

 

All Jesuits, and hard believers, are advised not to read the rest of this paper; or to show compassion toward its lost author, who confesses that many of the miracles evoked in Histoire du Paraguay remind him too much of his dear Lying Fury. According to the doctrine of Saint Augustine, underlined Charlevoix, it would have been more glorious for the Jesuits to achieve so much without the help of God, so why pretend? But the task was too hard, and the Savages too savage. “And God had no other view with these miracles,” claimed Charlevoix, “than to inspire confidence in these peoples. (...) Everything remained to be done among such vicious people, who were dumb to the point that they hadn’t kept any trace of natural religion. Miracles were necessary.” Okay, that sounds reasonable. Let’s see what we have here.

 

Divine Gangrene

 

In 1587 some heretic English captured five Jesuits near the Bay of Rio de la Plata. One of them, animated by a pagan fury, started to mash down some Agnus Dei—some small boxes blessed by the Pope and featuring a lamb holding a cross on the cover—while cursing the Pope. This was too much for Father Ortega, who jumped on the sinner, furiously grabbing his foot; pushed away, he was about to be put to death when the sinner started to bawl: he was feeling an extraordinary pain in his foot. His concerned friends took a look at his leg, and realized he had gangrene! “They cut off his leg, but it was already too late; the sick expired the very same day,” reported Charlevoix. Serves him right.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>The Tragedie of Julius Caesar.</i> London, 1623. 1st appearance in print, Complete from the First Folio. Sold for $175,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Zane Grey, Inscribed photograph album depicting Grey and party at Catalina, fishing, and in Arizona. $700 to $1,000
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Eric Taverner, Salmon Fishing...London: Seeley, Service & Co., 1931. $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> The Gentleman Angler. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Ken Robinson, Flyfishers' Progress. [London: The Flyfishers' Club, 2000. $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> G. H. Lacy, North Punjab Fishing Club Angler's Handbook. Calcutta: Newman & Co., 1890. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> J. Harrington Keene, Fly-Fishing and Fly-Making for Trout, etc. New York, 1887. $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Arthur Macrate, The History of The Tuna Club, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California, 1948. $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Joseph D. Bates Jr. Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing. Harrisburg, PA: The Stackpole Company, 1966. $800 to $1,200
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Paul Schmookler and Ingrid V. Sils. Rare and Unusual Fly Tying Materials: A Natural History. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Herbert Hoover, Fishing For Fun - And To Wash Your Soul. New York: Random House, 1963. $400 to $600
  • <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 372: Martin Luther King Jr. March for Freedom Now! Placard. Chicago, 1960. 28 x 22”. $3,000 to $6,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 567: Warhol, Andy. Tate Gallery Exhibition Booklet, Signed on the Cover by Warhol. Tate Gallery, 1971. $700 to $900
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 72: Mitchell, Margaret. <i>Gone With the Wind.</i> New York: The Macmillan Co., 1936. First edition, first issue. $4,000 to $5,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 468: Photo Archive Documenting the 1930s—50s Chicago Jazz and Night Club Scene. A significant collection. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 143: Dr. Seuss. <i>Oh Say Can You Say.</i> 1979, First Edition, Signed. $200 to $300
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 285: [Maps] Thomas G. Bradford. <i>A Comprehensive Atlas, Geographical, Historical & Commercial.</i> Boston: William D. Ticknor, 1835. First Edition. $1,600 to $1,800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 69: Herman Melville. <i>Moby Dick, or The Whale</i>. New York: Random House, 1930. First Kent Trade Edition. $400 to $600
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 295: John James Audoban. Group of 148 Lithographs from the Birds of America. Philadelphia: J.T. Bowen, ca. 1840s. $600 to $800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 54: Langston Hughes. <i>One-Way Ticket.</i> New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949. First edition. $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 7: Ray Bradbury. <i>The Martian Chronicles.</i> With a Wine Label Signed by Bradbury. Garden City: Doubleday, 1950. First edition $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 121. Frank L Baum. <i>The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.</i> Chicago: George M. Hill Co., 1899, 1900. First Edition. $4,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 369. [Declaration of Independence] Peter Force Engraving of the Declaration of Independence. One page; 29 x 26”. From the "American Archives" 1837-1853 series of books. $15,000 to $20,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.

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