Stevenson, W. B. (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 54
Stevenson, W. B.

by Edward Irving Carlyle
William Bennet Stevenson in the ODNB.

STEVENSON, W. B. (fl. 1803–1825), writer on South America, landed on the coast of Chili in the Indian district of Araucania about 1803, with the intention of travelling through the country. On proceeding to Arauco he found himself detained a prisoner on the pretext that war had broken out between Spain and England. Thence he was conveyed successively to Concepcion, Callao, and Lima, where he was confined in the gaol for eight months with the most abandoned criminals. His liberty was gradually extended, and he was permitted to reside in the town and to make excursions into the adjoining provinces. In 1808 he became private secretary to Count Ruis de Castilla, president and captain-general of Quito. On the outbreak of the revolution at Quito, where he was stationed, he joined the insurgents. In December 1810 he was appointed governor of the Esmeraldas with the title of lieutenant-colonel, and after the arrival of Lord Cochrane in 1818 he became his secretary and had a share in many of his naval operations [see Cochrane, Thomas, tenth Earl of Dundonald]. After twenty years' residence in South America he revisited England about 1824, returning to Peru about the end of 1825. The date of his death is not known.

While in England he published the results of his American experiences in a work entitled ‘A Historical and Descriptive Narrative of twenty years' residence in South America,’ London, 1825, 8vo. His book is of great value for the period immediately preceding the South American revolution. He used his unique opportunities for observation to advantage. Prescott, in his ‘History of the Conquest of Peru,’ praised his description of Lima, and made considerable use of his accounts of native manners and customs. Translations into French and German were published at Paris and Weimar respectively in 1826.

[Stevenson's Historical Narrative; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.; Monthly Review, 1825, iii. 66; Literary Gazette, 1825, p. 627.]

E. I. C.