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Henry Koster
Travels in Brasil 1809-1815

Koster, Henry, Travels in Brazil, 1st edition, Longman, Hust, Rees & Brown, London, 1816
Our transcription respects the spelling and line breaks of the original.

Henry Koster, an Englishman born in Portugal, rented land in Pernambuco, bought slaves and began his new life as a brazilian fazendeiro. He was known in Brazil as Henrique Costa. He returned to England in 1815.


  Oftentimes I have sat at night upon the threshold of the door,
after all my people had retired to their habitations; they have sup-
posed that I was asleep; then I have heard the wispering in the
negro huts, and have observed some one leave his house, and steal
away to visit an aquaintance, residing at some distance; or there has
been some feast or some merry-making, thus late at night, thus concealed.
Neighbouring negroes have been invited, and have crept in during
the evening unperceived. It is on theses occasions that plans for
deceiving the master are contrived; in these sweet unpermitted
meetings, the schemes are formed. Then the slave owner who is
aware of such secret practices, and reflects, must feel of how little
avail are all his regulations, all his good management. The slave has a
natural bias to deceive him who holds him in subjection. A man
may love the master whom he may at pleasure leave; but to be tied
down, and as a duty enjoined to esteem, fails not in most instances
to rouse contrary feelings, to awaken a sense of pleasure rather than
of pain, in counteracting the wishes, and in rendering nugatory the
determinations of him who commands.

[Describes the dances of the Indians.]


  The free people of colour too would sometimes dance, but they
only asked permission from me, and they held their merry-making at the
door of one of their own huts. Their dances were like those of the
African negroes. A ring was formed; the guitar player sat down
in a corner, and began a simple tune, which was accompanied by
some favourite song, of which the burden was often repeated, and
frequently some of the verses were extempore, and contained inde-
cent allusions. One man stepped out in the centre of the ring,
and danced for somes minutes, making use of lascivious attitudes,
until he singled out a woman, who then came forwards, and took her
turnin movements no less indecent, and thus the amusement con-
tinued until day-break. The slaves would also request to
be permitted to dance; their musical instruments are extremely
rude: one of them is a sort of drum, which is formed o a sheep
skin, stretched over a piece of the hollowed trunk of a tree; and
another is a large bow with one string, having half a coconut shell
or of a small gourd strung upon it. This is placed against the
abdomen, and the string is struck with the finger, or with a small bit of
wood. When two holidays followed each other uninterruptedly, the
slaves would continue their noise until day-break.

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