The Stolen Boy

Texas Indian Captivity

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182. HOFLAND, Barbara [Wreaks] H[oole]. The Stolen Boy. A Story, Founded On Facts. By Mrs. Hofland.... London: A.K. Newman and Co., n.d. [ca. 1842-1843]. [i-v] vi [1, blank], [9] 10-179 [1] pp., engraved title and engraved frontispiece. 12mo (15 x 9.3 cm), publisher’s original red roan over marbled boards, spine extra gilt and lettered “Stolen Boy,” edges sprinkled. Upper joint weak and slightly rubbed, minor shelf wear, light abrasion to upper cover, corners bumped, frontispiece and title moderately water stained (remainder of text fine), overall a very good copy of a book in fragile format. Title with contemporary ink ownership inscription. At foot of half title, “London-Darling & Son, Printers, 31, Leadenhall Street.” At foot of p. 179, “Darling & Son, Printers, 31, Leadenhall-street, London.” The title is listed on the ad leaf at end, selling for 2 shillings, 6 pence. Dated from ad at end which lists Godmother’s Tales, published in 1842. Rare in any condition.

Engraved Plates

The Stolen Boy [lower left] E. Burney Del. [lower right] Engraved on Steel by S. Springsguth. Frontispiece. Border to border plus imprint below lower neat line (without title, quote below, etc.) 8.7 x 6.5 cm.

The Stolen Boy An Indian Tale. by Mrs. Hofland Author of The Clergyman’s Widow, Merchant’s Widow, Sisters Good Grandmother, Affectionate Brothers, Panorama of Europe, Daughter in Law, Barbadoes Girl, Blind Farmer, Young Crusoe, Young Northern Traveller, & &. London. Printed for A.K Newman & Co. Sheet size: 14.4 x 9 cm. Engraved title.

     “New Edition” (first edition, London, 1829 or 1830? with 168 pp; the Dublin Literary Gazette, No. 10, March 6, 1830, p. 158, gives the following notice in its “List of New Books”: “Hofland’s Stolen Boy, 18mo. 2s. 6D. half-bound.”) Ayer, Supplement 67. Elise Marienstras, “Depictions of White Children in Captivities Narratives” in American Studies International, Vol. 40, No. 3 (October 2002), p. 45. Tate, The Indians of Texas: An Annotated Research Bibliography 2295. Streeter 1107J (locating only the NYPL copy):

This is the many times printed story of the capture near San Antonio, Texas, of a Spanish boy, Manuel del Perez, by the Comanche Indians, and his escape two or three years later, and his journey across Texas and along the Red River to the settlement at Natchitoches.... Recorded here [on p. 159 in the present edition] is a reference to Audubon’s visit to the Red River country. “To the reader” states that “the Story of the Stolen Boy is founded on facts, which were communicated to the writer by Mr. Parker, a gentleman now in this country, but who resided at Natchitoches at the period of the boy’s return, where the circumstances created considerable sensation among all classes of the community who became acquainted with the extraordinary escape of the boy.” The preface continues, “The following Story, in its principal incidents, was published in the Juvenile Souvenir for 1828....” It seems probable that the first separate issue was printed not long after the original publication, probably by 1829, with dated editions in one form or another to as late as 1844, and also an undated edition. It was printed in New York as early as 1830. The undated “New Edition,” London, in 172 pages [present edition], is taken from its listing as No. 67 in the Supplement of the Newberry Library Narratives of Indian Captivities. There are no other entries for this Hofland account in the Newberry list and no entries for it in Sabin. It is too late for inclusion in R.W.G. Vail’s The Voice of the Old Frontier, Philadelphia, 1949. There is an article on Mrs. Hofland and a list of her writings in the Dictionary of National Biography.

     Streeter in the introduction to his bibliography of Texas points out this work as especially desirable: “What are known as “Indian Captivities” have a fascination for many, especially if they are fact rather than fiction. There are eleven entries here for Mrs. Hofland’s The Stolen Boy. A Story, Founded on Facts.” This fairly conventional children’s novel recounts the story of Manuel’s three years in Comanche captivity after his kidnapping from his parent’s home near San Antonio, Texas. It ends when Manuel escapes to Natchitoches and is finally reunited with his parents in Savannah, Georgia, on his twelfth birthday. Native Americans are portrayed somewhat complexly, first through the eyes of white adults, then through the eyes of Manuel the child, and finally through their own eyes. Depending on which point of view is employed, they are depicted as mostly savages, as humans with contradictory characteristics, or as noble savages. Some of the details in the story are unusual or striking. John James Audubon, for example, makes a literal walk-on appearance in the Red River country when Manuel spots him from afar seeking bird specimens in the woods. The novel also contains what is an early, if not the earliest, depiction in Western fiction of a Native American baby with colic (pp. 28-30), which Manuel cures with a few peppermint candies.

    Barbara Hofland (1770-1844) was forced to write because of financial circumstances. Left a widow at an early age, she suffered a series of financial reverses and upon her marriage to artist Christopher Hofland, turned to her pen to produce income. Several of her works were quite popular. This story was first published in abbreviated form in the JuvenileSouvenir (1828) and in book form in London, [1829?]. The book was probably written and published to satisfy growing public appetites for stories and information about Texas and the West. The work was republished in English many times (including a miniature edition as Little Manuel, the Captive Boy, [1831?]) and translated into French, Spanish, and German. For more on Hofland, see DNB.

    The frontispiece, an early Texas engraving, shows Manuel the captive who has been tied to a tree while Comanche boys are having sport at his expense, the object of which is to see who can throw his hatchet closest to him without striking him. The scene depicts the moment at which one of the boys accidentally strikes Manuel in the leg.


Sold. Hammer: $500.00; Price Realized: $612.50.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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