Dobrizhoffer was born in Frymburk (Friedberg), Bohemia. 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 suppression of his order, and wrote the history of his mission. He died in Vienna in 1791.
The lively if rather garrulous book on which his claim to fame 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 Paraquariae natione, locupletata copiosis barbarorum gentium, urbium, fluminum, ferarum, amphibiorum, insectorum, serpentium praecipuorum, piscium, avium, arborum, plantarum aliarumque ejusdem provinciae proprietatum observationibus
In 1822 there appeared in London an anonymous English 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.”
||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (February 2014)|
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Dobrizhoffer, Martin". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.