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Martin Dobrizhoffer

Missionary, b. in Graz, Styria, 7 Sept., 1717; d. in Vienna, July 17, 1791

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Dobrizhoffer, MARTIN, missionary, b. in Graz, Styria, September 7, 1717; d. in Vienna, July 17, 1791. He became a Jesuit in 1736, and twelve years later set out for the missions of South America, where he labored among the Guaranis and the Abipones for eighteen years. On the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Spanish possessions in 1767, he returned to his native land. The Empress Maria Theresa frequently sent for Dobrizhoffer than she might hear his adventures from his own lips; and she is said to have taken great pleasure in his cheerful and animated conversation. He is the author of a work in three volumes entitled “Historia de Abiponibus, equestri bellicosaque Paraguiana natione” etc. (Vienna, 1783-1784), a German translation of which, by Professor Keil of the University of Pesth, was published in Vienna the same year. This work is of great ethnological value. In the preface he says, “A seven years residence in the four colonies of the Abipones has afforded me opportunities of closely observing the manners, customs, superstitions, military discipline, slaughters inflicted and received, political and economical regulations, together with the vicissitudes of the colonies”. He further declares that what he learned amongst the Paraguayans in the course of eighteen years, what he himself beheld in the colonies of the Indians and the Spaniards, in frequent and long journeys, through woods, mountains, plains, and vast rivers, he sets forth, if not in an eloquent and brilliant narrative, certainly in a candid and an accurate one, which is at least deserving of credit. In the course of the work, Dobrizhoffer frequently takes occasion to refute and expose the erroneous statements of other writers respecting the Jesuits in Paraguay, and the malicious calumnies by which the ruin of their institutions in that country was unhappily effected. The English translation (An Account of the Abipones, an Equestrian People of Paraguay, London, 1822), commonly ascribed to Southey, is the work of Sara Coleridge, daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who judged it a performance “unsurpassed for pure mother-English by anything I have read for a long time”. Dobrizhoffer in 1773 was appointed preacher to the Court in Vienna, a post which he held till his death.



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