Martin Dobrizhoffer - Encyclopedia

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MARTIN DOBRIZHOFFER (1717-1791), Austrian Roman Catholic missionary, was born at Gratz, in Styria. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1736, and in 1749 proceeded to Paraguay, where for eighteen years he worked devotedly first among the Guaranis, and then among the Abipones. Returning to Europe on the expulsion of the Jesuits from South America, he settled at Vienna, obtained the friendship of Maria Theresa, survived the extinction of his order, composed the history of his mission, and died on the 17th of July 1791. The lively if rather garrulous book on which his title to remembrance rests, appeared at Vienna in 1784, in the author's own Latin, and in a German translation by Professor Krail of the university of Pest. Of its contents some idea may be obtained from its extended title: Historia de Abiponibus, Equestri Bellicosaque Paraguariae Natione, locupletata Copiosis Barbararum Gentium, Urbium, Fluminum, Ferarum, Amphibiorum, Insectorum, Serpentium praecipuorum, Piscium, Avium, Arborum, Plantarumaliarumque ejusdem Provinciae Proprietatum Observationibus. In 1822 there appeared in London an anonymous translation sometimes ascribed to Southey, but really the work of Sara Coleridge, who had undertaken the task to defray the college expenses of one of her brothers. A delicate compliment was paid to the translator by Southey in the third canto of his Tale of Paraguay, the story of which was derived from the pages of Dobrizhoffer's narrative: "And if he could in Merlin's glass have seen By whom his tomes to speak our tongue were taught, The old man would have felt as pleased, I ween, As when he won the ear of that great Empress Queen."

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