London: T. Vernor, 1787. 8vo. vi, 424 pp. FIRST EDITION. Recent cloth; spotting throughout both volumes with minor tear on lower blank corner on Aa4 in Vol. I. A good copy with illegible signature dated 1818 at top of title page. Item #15141
First edition of a series of letters written during the author’s time in Portugal (1778-1779) describing the current political and social climate of the country. The common thread throughout a majority of the letters is Costigan’s disapproval of the Portuguese government and resulting society. In one of his letters to his brother Charles, he writes: “My last, if I mistake not, has furnished you with an irrefragable proof, that it is a period of peculiar danger to the wellbeing of any state, when the whole acting and executive power is exclusively lodged in the hands of a single man, however great and extensive his talents may be” (I, p. 61).
This is a very important work for the noting the foreign point of view of Portugal at a particularly sensitive time in the country’s history. The year before the author arrived, Maria Francisca succeeded her father, King Joseph, to the throne. She had been a fervant detractor to the Prime Minister, the Marquis of Pombal, who had been the de facto ruler of Portugal for over a quarter century. Although the queen retained many of the Marquis’ other ministers, she restored most of the privileges of the nobility and clergy, and released many of Pombal’s political prisoners. This time period was also one of cultural renovation, though tainted by political instability.
There is little known of Costigan (fl. 1778-1814); the title page states that he was a Captain of the Irish Brigade. It has been suggested in several bibliographies that Costigan is a pseudonym of Coronel (or General) Ferrière, who was at the time on active service, and was using this method to criticize the administration (Innocencio, XIX p.180).